Who is normal?

How do you say “motherhood and apple pie” in Hebrew? This was an exercise we were given in a translation class. The best idiomatic rendering among the responses was — “Tzionut” in quotation marks (pronounced while making quotation mark signs with two fingers on each hand). Tonight I thought about the phrase “motherhood and apple pie” – in the best sense of the idiom – when I attended (as a fly on the wall) the founding conference of a new group called “Beit Hillel” formed by rabbis and female scholars in the Israeli religious-Zionist sector.

You can read the founding principles on their website. They include the eternity of Torah, total adherence to halacha, seeing a religious value in the state of Israel (Tzionut without quotation marks), seeing themselves as an integral part of Israeli society, viewing modernity positively as long as it coincides with Torah, and promotion of an open public conversation that is measured and tolerant. I went as a curious observer because the conference took place in a hotel across the street from where I live in Kiryat Sanz, Netanya.

Some of the statements made at the conference have me ruminating about various … Read More >>

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Shark Feeding Frenzy

When my husband was a flight surgeon on the US Air Force base in Guam, he witnessed a feeding frenzy by sharks. Daily, a huge garbage truck would gingerly back up to the edge of a cliff, and dump the waste into the Pacific. In 40 seconds sharks made mincemeat of the garbage, leaving disposable dishes floating. In another 20 seconds those were also disposed of by sharks. If you can’t go to Guam, you can see a shark feeding frenzy on the Discovery Channel. Or you can follow the current media frenzy against haredim in Israel.

Perhaps this is what Rabbi Chanina had in mind when he stipulated, “Pray for the welfare of the government, for without fear of governmental authorities people would swallow each other alive” (Pirkey Avot 3:2).

Here are examples of the media frenzy.

(a)Yair Lapid showed a video in December on Israeli TV, which featured the most extreme peripheral haredim whose behavior is considered outrageous by almost all haredim and ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

(b)The NYTimes has blown out of proportion issues related to controversies in Beit Shemesh, on buses, and at conferences. On December 28 the weekday NYTimes gave wide … Read More >>

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Only in Israel

Note stack of books & Shavua HaSefer HaIvri in right margin

We have something in Israel that I think exists no where else in the world. It is Hebrew Book Week. Instituted in 1926 in Tel Aviv, today it has grown to dozens of open-air book fairs in most of the cities and towns. The radio and tv stations feature readings by authors, the bookstores provide deep discounts, the lucrative Sapir Prize is awarded to the book judged best of the year. To celebrate the opening of Book Week, the front page of the Hebrew daily, Maariv, featured short stories by two authors about their experiences with Book Week. Where else would a book week be front-page news? One of the authors was Rabbi Haim Sabato known abroad for his fiction (the latest being From the Four Winds) and in Israel also for his Judaica writings and teaching at the yeshiva in Maale Adumim. He was the first Sapir Prize recipient 11 years ago. The fuzzy line separating life from fiction is the subject of his front page story. My translation follows.

It’s Just a Story?

by Haim Sabato

I met him … Read More >>

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Vehi SheAmda, How do you pronounce it?

How do you sing the paragraph in the Hagaddah Vehi SheAmda? Is it Vehi SheAmda LavoSeinu (Ashkenazic) or LavoTeinu (Sefardic) pronunciation ? In Israel a duet, that has BOTH pronunciations simultaneously has become very popular. Yonatan Razel, a Sephardi, sings it Lavoteinu. Along with him is Yaakov Shwekey singing Lavoseinu, in his usual Chassidic–Ashkenazic accent, even though he is from a Syrian–Jewish family. (BTW, Shwekey has a new album Libi BaMizrach, in a Sefardic accent, an example of hafuch al-hafuch).

In the aforementioned duet for the Pesach passage Shwekey sings Ashkenazic. What is symbolic is that Shwekey and Razel make beautiful music together, each maintaining his own identity and accent. You can hear their “legendary performance of Vehi SheAmda at Caesaria”

Although I have reservations about the razzle-dazzle of Razel/Shwekey in Caesaria, the fact that this was the site where the Romans once tried to destroy Judaism is something to ponder.

A similar Sefardi-Ashkenazi duet took place last week. One of the world’s top Ashkanazi cantors, Hazzan Yitzhak Meir Helfgot, sang at a hazanut concert accompanied by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in Tel Aviv’s bastion of secular culture, the Mann Auditorium. Hazzan Helfgot sang … Read More >>

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Shop ’till You Drop

How would you explain the Shabbat laws in Israel to a group of visiting mid-career journalists, Jewish and non-Jewish Americans? Led by University of Southern California Professor Diane Winston, nine mid-career journalists will be writing daily pieces and posting to a variety of outlets, including The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Politics.com, NPR, The Los Angeles Times and religious dispatches. This is a return visit to Israel on the theme “Religion, Ethnicity and Coexistence.” I was asked to explain what the organizers have termed the “Secular v. Religious: Sabbath Wars” on Sunday evening Mar. 13 (7 Adar II). I will suggest that the journalists refer to this cross-currents blog to read the discussion that, hopefully, will ensue below.

In Israel there is legislation to ensure observance of the Jewish Sabbath (almost no buses run, stores are supposed to be closed,etc.). Some are against or simply ignore these laws. The journalists will meet with individuals from both sides to understand the complexities of the Sabbath Wars. I am to speak opposite Anat Hoffman (of the Reform Israel Religious Action Committee)

My question to readers of this post is how best to approach the debate? Here are some … Read More >>

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Haredim & Higher Education

Haredi demonstration that the Post used to illustrate oped on haredim in the workplace

At first I wanted to blame the Jerusalem Post. The Post attached a pretty nefarious photo to David Newman’s oped “The yeshiva and the workplace” (October 26). The Post illustrated this upbeat article on increased academic and vocational education in the haredi sector, with a photo of hundreds of black-hatted (hated?) haredim at a demonstration.

Why didn’t they illustrate the article with a photo of one of the many new places for academic and vocational studies in the haredi sector that Ben-Gurion University Professor Newman praises in his essay? For example, he writes that “the most notable institution is the Haredi College in Jerusalem which was set up and headed by the daughter of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef” for academic studies by haredi men and women.

A photograph of that College would have been more appropriate than the protest demonstration photo-op, a picture that has become a cliche.

Then I realized I should blame myself. Perhaps the Jerusalem Post photo archives does not have photos of haredim studying in the many new colleges. Therefore, I am sending the Post a … Read More >>

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Pro-choice in Emanuel

I went to observe the 20,000 haredim who demonstrated in Bene Brak on Thurs. 5bTamuz (17June) and read about the 100,000 in Jerusalem who quietly protested against a ruling of the Israel Supreme Court. This led me to ruminate on the Amish sect in Wisconsin and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme. In the 1972 Wisconsin vs. Yoder case, an Amish parent, Jonas Yoder, was fined $5 for not following the state’s compulsory secondary education laws. But the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision, finding that the benefits of universal education do not justify violation of the freedom of religion clause in the First Amendment. In the U.S., the Supreme Court affirmed the parents’ right to educate their children according to their lights. But in Israel the Supreme Court did the opposite: the justices denied this right to parents in the Israeli town of Emanuel, fined them, and began to imprison over sixty mothers and fathers for a fortnight.

One quarter in hasidic track are Sefardim The Supreme Court and the secular media tried to paint the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) Ashkenazi parents in the Emanuel school as racists bent on segregating their daughters from girls of Sefardi … Read More >>

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Six!

What would Haaretz readers do without haredim? In this Friday’s paper (23bIyar,May 7) there were at least six articles on haredim, five negative and one very positive. (Friday’s Haaretz attempts to be equivalent in importance to the Sunday NYT.) The top story on the front page of the news section was by Aluf Benn, and had a large, color photo of opposition leader Tsipi Livni with a two-inch high headline in otiyot kiddush levana quoting her: “Likud and Kadima must join against Haredim.”

If you have time to read only one of the six, read the one that was the top story on the front page of the second section (opinions and features).

It was by the same journalist as the aforementioned article. Aluf Benn wrote a long, positive article on the hundreds of haredim serving and excelling in the Israeli army.

Here is one typical quote:

Maj. Gen. (res.) Eliezer Shkedy viewed this as a key mission. He instructed the Air Force rabbi …. to promote integration of Haredim. The rabbi wasn’t sure how people who had never studied mathematics or English would be able to handle the sophisticated technology of F-16 warplanes. Shkedy … Read More >>

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Gender Agenda of the RCA

The Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America met this week and on the agenda was gender. This reminded me of another conference of professionals, the Arizona Engineers’ Society (l’havdil) which I attended as a civil engineer when we lived in Phoenix in 1981. On their agenda was the question of whether someone who had no degree in engineering, but worked for years in the field, could list himself or herself in the phonebook as an engineer. It turned out that the phonebook company claimed that they were not in the business of checking credentials, and anyone could list himself/herself as an engineer even without a degree, and even without any experience. This drove home for me the fact that the label you give yourself, the label other people give you, and the label a professional organization gives you may vary widely.

The discussions in the RCA, and here on cross-currents, about ordaining women sent me back to reread portions of a kuntres printed in Altona in 1819, Eleh Divrey haBerit, a collection of 22 responsa containing arguments objecting to Reform innovations. As I hold a 1969 reprint of this book in my hands, one aspect stands out in particular. … Read More >>

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Holocaust/Independence Day nexus that can perplex us

TO sit /stand/walk/be silent/ recite Psalms/ study? These are the choices you have to make if you are in Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day which the government in 1951 established the week after Pesach, with all the problematics involved. On Holocaust Day I found myself on the train to Beer Sheva at 10 am when the sirens are sounded all over Israel calling for 2 minutes of standing silence. Since no sirens are sounded in the middle of the Negev desert, I wondered what would happen. At 9:55 the conductor announced that the train soon would come to a halt for several minutes of silence, and so it was. Standing, I recited Tehillim and peered over my Psalter to see what the young Beduins in my car were doing, and indeed they too stood, respectfully silent. Once in Beer Sheva I went to hear writer Rabbi Haim Sabato, who was invited to speak at Ben-Gurion University on his latest historic novel, just out in English as From the Four Winds. The hero is a Holocaust survivor, Moshe Farkash, whose real-life diary was the basis for From the Four Winds. R. Sabato spoke about himself in 1956 … Read More >>

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“Never gave Purim baskets like those”

Each year we try to cut down on the number of mishloach manot/shalach manos we send, and either give more matanot l’evyonim to the needy, or find indigent Jews who really need mishloach manot . As inspiration, I reread a chapter about real mishloach manot in the historical novel by Rav Haim Sabato, Boi HaRuach, a bestseller in Israel two years ago. This month it came out in English as From the Four WInds translated by Yaacob Dweck, Toby Press (and available on amazon, bookstores,etc). The chapter about mishloach manot can be a lesson for all of us and it is on the Hadassah Magazine website’s Purim section: “Making the Rounds in Beit Mazmil” a Jerusalem immigrant neighborhood in the 1950s. I added five discussion questions which you can see if you scroll down to the bottom of the excerpt. Try the link in question 5, to the Hungarian cake for Purim described in the excerpt. The chapter and questions might enrich your seudat Purim or Shabbat Zachor table talk. As the child Haim in the chapter says at the end,

When we were done, I hurried home to Mother. I had never participated in such … Read More >>

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Egged and the Wheels of Justice

29bShvat 5770 Laughter broke the tense atmosphere of the Israel Supreme Court session on Thursday Feb.4 (20bShvat) when both sides, those in favor of gender-separated seating on Mehadrin buses and those against, reacted with smiles to the quip by Justice Elyakim Rubinstein. The session had started with a lengthy discussion about whether to put signs on the buses saying that anyone can sit where he or she wants, but as a courtesy on these lines men are requested to sit in the front and seats in the back are reserved for women. In Hebrew, one term for signs is “tamrurim.” After twenty minutes of arguments by the two sides about the efficacy of such “tamrurim” Justice Rubinstein remarked in Hebrew with a smile,

“I guess what we have here is “bechi tamrurim” — crying over signs,

a pun on the phrase from Jeremiah 31:14 where bechi tamrurim refers to matriarch Rachel’s crying bitterly (related to maror meaning bitter)..

I sat through the court session and, with Adar coming up, decided to record the humor and the jokes, which I will emphasize below. What occasioned the argument about signs was the surprising position taken by … Read More >>

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Blowing shofar in a striped prisoner uniform

Blowing shofar – in striped prison uniform

A controversy in cross-currents.com two years ago led to a remarkable interview I was privileged to record recently. Erev Rosh Hashana, Sept.10,2007 I posted my translation of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Meisels’ description of his blowing shofar in Auschwitz. Others have also translated the Hebrew description given by R. Meisels in his Mekadshei Hashem, among them R.Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer “Rosh Hashanah in Gehinnom, Auschwitz 1944,” in Artscroll’s revised A Path Through the Ashes). You can read my translation in cross-currents “Sounding the shofar in Auschwitz”

Quite a bit of controversy and skepticism ensued, raising questions about the shofar blowing in Auschwitz. A dozen comments appeared on Sept.18,2007 – “Spiritual or physical hunger?”

Because of the doubts I decided I would try to find and record some kli rishon testimony. Recently, I succeeded finding an eye-witness: Rav Yeshaya Glick. I persuaded him to let us video his first-person testimony. R. Glick writes about the shofar blowing in his recently published book Mamchishkim Hoshianu (available so far only in Hebrew from the author, 49 Sorotzkin St,Jer). I went to interview him and recorded him retelling the episode. He was fourteen years old. He … Read More >>

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The Hora, the Hassidic Tune, and the Memorial for Fallen Soldiers

“That’s a premier Israeli folksong,” claimed someone from the audience when my co-translator and I showed a video of a Sanz hassidim singing a piyut sung at Seudah Shlishit on Shabbat. I ruminated on this tune today, as I recited Psalms during the “minute of silence” on Remembrance Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers. This piyut came to my attention because it is mentioned on the last page of Rav Haim Sabato’s autobiographical novel on the Yom Kippur War, Adjusting Sights. A Yom Hazikaron radio interview with Rav Sabato is in the archives of Galey Zahal (scroll to the bottom and go to p.6), Remembrance Day, “V’Chai Bahem: Faith and Memory.”

The comment, “That’s a premier Israeli folksong” was made when my co-lecturer and I analyzed how Hillel Halkin handled challenges in translating into English the final passage in Adjusting Sights. (The book was also made into a movie ) In the book’s final page the aforementioned nigun to the piyut E-l Mistater is the thread that connects Rabbi Haim Halberstam of Sanz (b.1793), with his great grandson, the late Sanz-Klausenburg Rebbe during the Shoah. The tune then encompasses the yeshiva hesder soldiers in the … Read More >>

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Two unusual leaders:Satmar Rebbe today and R.Tuvia Geffen 1935

I was at a study-seminar in Nahariya when I received a phone call 1 am Friday, erev Shabbat Hagadol from New York. “We have an emergency,” said one of the editors of Mishpacha Magazine. Could I help them find an expert translator to translate from English to Hebrew the cover story of the Pesah issue, which had to go to print Motzei Shabbat. It was a cover story, an interview with the current Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum. After a flurry of transatlantic phone calls a translator was found – the very scholar, Rav Yitzchok Frankfurter, who conducted the interview and wrote it in English. He worked for twelve hours straight, and translated it himself. I found the interview fascinating – and you can read it in English (and in Hebrew) in the Pesah issue #254 of Mishpacha:”A Glimpse of Greatness.” My narrow view of Satmar has completely changed after reading this cover story. Especially impressive is the fact that the Rebbe wears two streimels (streimlach?), that of Rosh Yeshiva deeply involved in teaching and learning, and that of the leader of his community. In the same issue is an article by my sister and myself: “The … Read More >>

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Can an AAA support Shas?

Tu Bishvat,eve of Israeli elections.

About seven years ago a journalist colleague confronted me during a coffee break. “Are you a Neanderthal? How could you support the Shas party?” I invited her to come to Netanya to visit kli rishon some Shas institutions. A few weeks later she took up the gauntlet and came with a photographer to write an article (about Neanderthals?) I took her to the Beit Margolit girl’s elementary school, that had grades 1 to 5; to thriving kindergartens in deprived neighborhoods that were boosting children from the entire religious and non-religious spectrum; to the hessed store of “fellafel Yael”; to Rabbi Moshe ben Moshe’s outreach to marginal youth; to an interview with R. Ovadia Yosef’s daughter Adina BarShalom who founded the Haredi College in Jerusalem. When my journalist friend submitted her article to the Jewish Exponent, they returned it to her and said it was too positive, too glowing to be true, and asked her to rewrite it! She stood her ground and it was published. She doesn’t vote for Shas, but she did change her opinion. “Seeing is not the same as hearing” – is chazal’s phrase describing Moses’ wrath upon seeing Bnai … Read More >>

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Chabad in Mumbai, Viewed from Israel

5 b Kislev. Today the funerals were held for the kedoshim murdered in Mumbai. I happen to be staying at the Jerusalem home of my brother who is very active in Chabad. We came from assimilated Jewish American homes. He affiliated himself with Chabad in his Austin college days, and raised his seven children to aspire to be “shluchim” and live lives of noble service, as exemplified so beautifully by R. Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, Hy”d. My brother and I listened to a derasha by R. Gavriel that is now on the internet and which R. Gavriel gave exactly 4 years ago when he spoke at the Conference of Shluchim in Brooklyn in 5765 (2004). R.Kotlarsky introduces him in Yiddish, and R.Gavriel himself speaks in Hebrew. It was around the time of parashas Toldos/Vayetze as it is now, and R. Gavriel cited the Rebbe who pointed out that at the end of Toldos Jacob is sent on “shlichus.” In the first verse of Vayetze (Gen.28:10) Jacob goes “Harona” (to Haron) and the midrash and Zohar point out that he is sent out of the Holy Land to a place that is “haron … Read More >>

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Ever change your mind?

Ever change your mind after reading something? In the course of translating an essay I was stimulated to rethink a principle I once held dearly: suspicion and avoidance of large crowds. I believed that babies and small children had no place in crowds since they don’t understand what is going on and may disturb. And we know how mass gatherings can be used for nefarious as well as efficacious purposes.
But while translating an essay on Hakhel by Rabbi Haim Sabato from Hebrew to English, I reevaluated my opposition to crowds. (BTW two ceremonies in remembrance of the Hakhel took place during Hol Hamoed Sukkot). I changed my mind on the issue of crowds due to an insight of the Malbim that R. Sabato cites in his essay on HakhelContinue reading → Ever change your mind?

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Yad Vashem & the Pomegranates of Rosh Hashana

The place:Liberated Theresienstadt. Date: May 1945. Hanna, a survivor, recalls:

“I thought to myself: ‘I am now free. I am actually free to do whatever I want.’ But I had nowhere to go. I had no one. Where could I go? There was no one to guide me. I was completely detached. I belonged to no one. I had just turned 13. At that moment I decided to come to Eretz Israel. I wrote to the uncle, Yitzhak Rosner, who had come on aliya before the War, asking if he would take me in, as my family no longer existed. I wanted to belong to someone. I wanted to belong to my nation.”

These words were narrated by Hanna Rosner Bar-Yesha in a new film that can be purchased online in Hebrew or English from Yad Vashem (by contacting Naama Shik naama.shik@yadvashem.org.il tel.011-972-2-6443654). I saw a preview of “She Was There and She Told Me:the Story of Hanna Bar-Yesha” at a summer study session initiated by the Zachor Holocaust Education Center of the Michlala, in Bayit vGan, under the direction of historian Esther Farbstein and coordinated with Yad Vashem International School head Shulamit Imber.

… Read More >>

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The late Tommy Lapid and Dylan Thomas

29 b Iyyar
For several years I was a part-time, self-appointed, undercover agent, infiltrating the Shinui party organization in Netanya. I thought about this on Sunday, 27 bIyyar, when during a two-hour drive south I listened to several radio programs devoted to the Shinui party head, Yosef Tommy Lapid, who had passed away that morning and whose funeral was to be the following day. There were interviews with those who knew the late Tommy Lapid including R.Arye Deri, R. Israel Eichler, and Ruth Sirkis (who collaborated with him on Paprika, a [kosher!] cook book of Hungarian dishes.)

Back in the 2003 election, when Lapid’s Shinui party garnered 15 Knesset seats on an anti-clerical platform, I had become curious, and wanted to understand what were the main beefs that Shinui voters had against religious Jews. So I began attending the local party meetings, incognito. I discovered that ….. Continue reading → The late Tommy Lapid and Dylan Thomas

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The prayer for bread on Passover

11 bNissan I have been searching the internet for the prayer to say upon eating bread on Pessah, and I found it by Googling “zachor Michlalah movies.” There you can see/hear the late Reb Yonah Emanuel who was a teenage inmate in Bergen-Belsen during the Passover of 1944 when the prayer over bread was recited. He reads the entire prayer (it is not a bracha) over bread and describes Pessah in that death camp in this 3 minute segment of a longer DVD. The reason for my search: The recent controversy over selling hametz in the public square during Passover in Israel. I translated the prayer for bread during Passover into English at the end of this posting.

The controversy and court decision (by a national religious judge!) that permits selling bread in Israel during Passover reminded me of two Seder meals sixty-something years ago.

Passover 1943, Konin Concentration Camp

Before describing Pessah of 1943 in the Konin concentration camp in Poland, Rabbi Yehoshua Aronson gives us, in his memoirs, this startling description of a new arrival, one Dr. Hans Knopf.

“In the summer of 1942 a limousine came … Read More >>

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Vive la difference -Merkaz HaRav

He entered the lioness’s den and came out unscathed.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Weiss of Merkaz HaRav Kook, Rosh Yeshiva L’Tzeirim was interviewed by Ilana Dayan three days after the terror attack, on her regular Sunday TV program. Secular Ilana Dayan usually plays hardball so it was surprising that Rav Weiss agreed. He displayed the sterling qualities that make him a leader: sensitivity, deep faith despite grief, patience and complexity. Parts of the interview were broadcast the next day on a haredi radio station. R. Hillel Fendel translated the interview into English “Faith Through Tears.” It is a good idea to skim the English translation first, the better to understand the Hebrew of Rav Weiss.

The interview, in Hebrew, can be seen and heard.. If you read some of the 150 comments posted beside the interview, you will see what a Kiddush Hashem this was.

“What makes Merkaz Harav unique?” was the question posed to me by several American Beis Yaakov seminary girls here for their gap year as we stood on the sidewalk outside of Merkaz HaRav. On the seventh day of the shiva for the eight precious masmidim of Yeshivat HaRav Kook, there was an evening of eulogies at the Yeshiva. Knowing there would be an overflow crowd the yeshiva set up screens in the street so those of us who could not get inside could watch/listen. The previous writers have expressed eloquently what all segments of the Orthodox world have in common with Merkaz HaRav. I think it is also important to touch on what makes Merkaz HaRav unique.

I have been pondering this question for two decades. Continue reading → Vive la difference -Merkaz HaRav

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Was the Holocaust Sui Generis?

10th of Tevet

“Those who say that suffering such as this has never befallen the Jewish people are mistaken. There was torture comparable to ours at the destruction of the Temple and at Beitar….”

As we approached the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, I reread some of the writings of Rabbi Kalonymos Kalmish Shapira, the Piaseczner Rebbe (pronounced Pia-sech-ner) who made the above observation in 1942 in Warsaw.

How many of us are able to rethink and reevaluate our positions? The Piaseczer did. The historian Esther Farbstein devotes a full chapter to the Rebbe in her comprehensive book Hidden in Thunder: Perspectives on Faith, Halachah, and Leadership During the Holocaust.

She details “a gradual change” in the Rebbe’s views by examining the collection of sermons he left behind. “The Rebbe stopped seeing the events as merely another chapter in the saga of suffering, but as something comparable to the worst catastrophe in Jewish history: the destruction of the Temple.”

In November 1942, “witnessing the brutal deportations and the emptying ghetto, he added a note stating unequivocally that what his generation was experiencing was unprecedented”:

“Only such torment as … Read More >>

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Tuesday: non-haredim discuss haredim

Would you like to be a fly on the wall while a battery of secular and modern Orthodox academic experts are discussing the dynamics of change in the haredi world? If so, then today Tuesday 3 bKislev you can view and listen to the conference (live in Hebrew) taking place at this link for the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem at their website

Here are some highlights for Tuesday, Israel-time. 9-11 am Changes in the public sphere; Consumerism as a political strategy;Limits to consumerism:the case of wigs; The eruv in a multi-cultural society;Chareidim from the ghetto to the Israeli suburbs 11:30am to 1:30pm Volunterrism and medical help (Zaka, genetic testing, philanthropy) 2:30 to 4 pm Education and communication; “An orphaned generation seeks a mother: The mesoret of Sarah Schenirer as a means of post-Holocaust rehabilitation”; Children’s heroes; Forbidden and permitted media among haredi women/ Final session 4:30 to 6:30pm Halacha, Theology and Education; lectures on Rav Eliashiv shlita, R Shlomo Volbe ztzl; haredi girls’ educaiton between opennessa nd conservation; theological discussion in popular literature. Even if you don’t get to view the conference, just reading the list of topics (there is another list for Monday’s sessions) gives … Read More >>

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Spiritual or physical hunger?

I was terribly saddened by the memoir of R.Tzvi Meisels, ztz”l describing his blowing shofar in Auschwitz in 1944. I have, however, questions which really bother me.

So began a challenge from Dr.Tzvia Greenfield, who lives in the HarNof haredi neighborhood of Jerusalem (and ran on the Meretz ticket in the last election). I translated the episode into English (it turns out there are other translations) from the hundred Rabbinic Memoirs edited by Esther Farbstein.

Tzvia Greenfield continues her questioning:

The description of the Shofar blowing of Rabbi Meisels is undoubtedly heartbreaking. But why do you, Esther Farbstein or even (if I may say so) Rabbi Meisels himself assume that the weeping, shouts and begging of the young prisoners on the block awaiting their imminent execution had anything to do at all with his shofar blowing or with Rosh-Hashana in general? Don’t you think that their heartbreaking crying and yelling was the natural result of their horrible fear from their imminent demise rather than from the sound of the shofar? Did they even HEAR the shofar?? Why attribute their behavior to the shofar blowing rather than simply to their incredible anxiety from death? … Read More >>

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