The Shalah HaKadosh’s take on Shavuos would appear to be tailor-made for those who hang around the blogosphere, whether as authors or consumers. His idea might strike some terror in the hearts of some of us, which would not be a bad idea. Citing the Tolaas Yaakov (R Meir ibn Gabai, the early 16th century mekubal whose work was also cherished by the Maharal), he writes:
Just as on Rosh Hashanah Hashem wishes to providentially scrutinize Man’s actions…He similarly does so on the day of the giving of the Torah. This, too, points to the Creation of the world; on it, He oversees the running of the world, judging it on the fruit of trees…We have already explained that the fruit are the souls that sprout from Hashem’s Tree. The judgment of Shavuos is on the Torah that was given on that day, from which they were mevatel themselves.
Maybe this should remain a short posting.
We routinely turn away contributors of “pure” halacha and hashkafa pieces. Not that our regular contributors undervalue them. To the contrary, I believe that every one of our authors consider pure Torah pieces more valuable than any of our blogging activity. However, we tell ourselves that readers will have no trouble finding a full assortment of quality Torah pieces elsewhere. What we try to do at Cross-Currents is slake the thirst of many – for better or worse – for treatments of applied Torah, or the intersection between Torah thought and the unfolding of events in the world around us.
A review of a new volume of teshuvos would then seem to be out of character for Cross-Currents treatment. It would be that, were it not for their extraordinary author, Rav Asher Weiss, shlit”a. As we shall see, both the scope of his work and the ease with which he addresses the complexities of cutting-edge issues are breaths of fresh air to people who have not given up on a Torah enthusiastically and confidently confronts the world at large.
The personality of the author entirely predicts this work. Rav Weiss is upbeat, optimistic, and accessible. His appeal does not … Read More >>
The Jimmy Carter debacle may tell us more about the values and principles of our community than we bargained for. Subgroups that believe they have little in common seem to behave – or misbehave – in similar fashion.
By the time Carter appeared at Cardozo Law School to accept an award from the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the event had earned the condemnation of the ZOA, the National Council of Young Israel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the ADL. These organizations had little choice. Carter, alongside Desmond Tutu, has been among the most damaging public figures to the Jewish State. He gave the “apartheid” calumny a good name; he has been vociferously anti-Israel and flirted with Hamas terrorism. As a paid shill of the Saudis who support him, this is hardly unexpected. The fact that he is a puppet jerked back and forth by his handlers does not, unfortunately, put a dent in the high-profile damage he does to Jewish interests.
This was not merely an issue of Jewish pride dictating that, in today’s world, an Israel-hater is a Jew-hater, and Jewish institutions ought not be seen as supportive of honoring those who hate us. Carter is far … Read More >>
The coalition government government’s plan for drafting charedim should give rise to some sighs of relief, and some guarded optimism. That is not likely to happen, because it is just not the way charedim in Israel react (at least publicly), and because there are definite grounds for concern.
It could have been much worse. Hence, the sigh of relief. Non-charedi Israels were determined to address the financial burden they believe is placed upon them by a huge community that is underemployed and expanding. Something was going to happen. As one major Torah figure said (privately, of course), “After decades of treating them like garbage, we should be surprised when they want to treat us the same way?” Many feared that the plan would be draconian and counterproductive. If it went too far, it would undo all the quiet progress that has already been made providing alternatives for those who do not find it within them to spend their time in productive, full-time learning and want to enter the work-force, or serve in Tzahal. While the public rhetoric in the community strenuously opposes both, literally thousands are voting with their feet. Programs to provide academic and vocational skills to charedi … Read More >>
With President Obama set to touch down in a few hours, it is understandable that much of the attention here is focused on how his arrival and subsequent moving around the city will paralyze traffic in Yerushalayim during some of the busiest days of the year.
Like everything else about this beautiful country, special Jewish touches put everything in a different perspective. The city center is festooned with signs and American flags. The municipality would like the city to sparkle. Or at least not do the opposite. It has been stymied in this effort, however, by the fact that there is far more garbage overflowing the bins than at other times. There is nothing they can do about Pesach cleaning. It seems that everybody is cleaning for Pesach, and the signs of all that labor are evident in the street.
Another topic of conversation is the Presidential menu. He is staying at the King David. Some things take priority even over the President of the United StaTES. The kitchen has already been turned over for Pesach, and the President will not be able to eat chametz.
It is not clear yet whether he will eat gebrockts.
A commenter wrote the following:
Dovid2 also wrote the following: “Don’t tell the others also learn the same gemarot, Rambams, and Kethos. They just couldn’t hold the candle to the b’nei yeshiva of any of the above mentioned litvishe Torah centres.”
That too, is, if not a myth, but a common mistake in charedi circles. They define “learning” to mean the type of learning done in the yeshivish world, and then assert that the learning in charedi circles is superior to non charedi circles. With all due respect to him, I’ve seen R. Adlerstein make the same mistake on this blog. The reality is that they’re mistaking quantity for quality, but even beyond that, it’s a question of how you define real learning. I daven in a standard yeshivish shul, and every week I hear divrei Torah from visting roshei yeshivas that are all but gibberish. Unfounded assertions abound, the same themes over and over, antectodes used as proofs, etc. I gain virtually nothing from this. But there is also a Harvard-educated, YU rabi in town to whom people flock, and whenever I hear him I come away with a new insight. By the same token, I gain more … Read More >>
The idiom osiyos machkimos/ letters enlighten appears innumerable times in rabbinic literature. It usually means that the one using the phrase has read the original of an argument, and finds it more enlightening than a paraphrase or synopis. Alternatively, it might be an appeal that the reader should study the fuller original form of an argument.
Somewhere along the way, I had a rebbi who used the phrase quite differently. He would urge us to take notes onthe shiur, claiming that the writing of those letters – not the reading of them – would make us wiser.
Decades later, I have no doubt that he was correct. Forcing oneself to turn mental rumination into visible output helps turn cerebral chaos into organized thought, and fixes that thought in our memories.
This may all go the way of the dodo bird. Schools across the country are mandating keyboarding skills by the fourth grade, but dropping cursive – what we used to call handwriting. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal tells the story of move away from the increasingly irrelevant skill of writing cursive (which used to be taught because it does not require lifting the pen … Read More >>
For the really bored, I offer two shiurim on Pesach for download. The first was given last Thursday evening as part of a three part series at Cong. Kehilas Yaakov in LA, with a different speaker each week focusing on one mechaber’s Torah on the Haggadah. I led off with an hour on Maharal. The crowd of men and women was a knowledgeable one, and I mixed in lots of Yeshivish, Aramaic, etc, as well as leaving many terms untranslated.
On Tuesday at noon, BEH, I hope to give my annual machshava shiur for women, and will post the results if I remember to turn the recorder on.
UPDATE: I just received word from Dropbox that they suspended my public links for “generating excessive traffic.” I am open to suggestions for workarounds or alternatives.
2nd Update: Thanks to LaCosta’s suggestion, I tried Box.com and have a new link to the Maharal shiur.
Kiddush Hashem happens – even in the New York Times. David Brooks’ appreciation of the Orthodox community will be talked about this Shabbos. So will the heart-wrenching translation of the letter of thanks that Nachman Glauber a”h wrote to his parents on the day of his chasuna. (Nachman was killed earlier this week by a hit-an-run driver, along with his wife, on the way to a prenatal exam.)
The appearance of both pieces was not a random occurrence. Both pieces took savvy people who think about kiddush Hashem proactively, as perhaps we all should. Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik took David Brooks on a tour of Pomegranate in Flatbush, and made sure to provide the proper context and significance to what Brooks observed. The Glauber letter was submitted to the Times, and submitted to a more-than-friendly address there – Joe Berger. Someone in Williamsburg (my guess is R Niederman, who is a pro) understood the potential of scoring a point about what the Torah tells us about kids and hakoras hatov for parents, and knew where in the Times to go with it.
BH we have some people who do more than put out fires of scandal. … Read More >>
Even as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s efforts to put together a coalition founder on the issue of inclusion of charedi parties, the acrimonious debate continues. Doubtless, readers have had their fill of both attacks on all things charedi (not just draft exemptions), as well as all kinds of defenses.
The piece that follows is different, both in style and in its source. It doesn’t conclude anything. It just asks questions of charedim. Put simply, it asks charedim to apply the same standard to themselves that they do to others. The same technique could easily be flipped. DL and secular Jews could be similarly asked to look at their own behavior with the same critical eye with which they look upon charedim.
The bottom line is that no possible meeting of the minds ever takes place without each party putting themselves in the position of the other, and trying to understand things from their perspective.
The source is unusual in that is a call for soul-searching coming from within the charedi world. The author learned in Ponovezh, is a Rosh Kollel in Yerushalayim – and is also the Rav of Netzach Yehudah, the charedi army battalion. Furthermore, the original Hebrew version … Read More >>
No need to pass the envelope. To this judge, there is not much of a contest. The clear winner in multiple categories is Torah Live.
We in the Torah world are hardly Luddites. But because we are rooted in a strong culture with built-in anchors and protection, we don’t get swept along quite as quickly as others. This means that it often takes time before we awaken to the true import of cultural changes around us.
Many of us still do not grasp how much the shift to visual (as opposed to textual) learning has been for anyone under fifty. Even those of us who are eager to try new techniques find that we can’t compete with the sheer sophistication of what is available in general culture – the stuff to which our students unconsciously compare the best of our presentations.
Dan Roth is a creative genius, nothing less. He has married that genius to the Torah sophistication of a true ben Torah with years in the Mir and semicha. It would be an understatement to call his full library of presentations cutting edge. They are beyond cutting edge. They are so good, that they compete effortlessly with … Read More >>
For most of us, two ideas dominate the connection between Purim and Pesach. Some of us remember the Rashi, whose “marbim besimcha” includes both Adar and Nisan. Others pragmatically take note of the kickoff of the serious avodah of preparing for zman cheiruseinu with the PPPPP – the post-Purim, pre-Pesach panic.
Now, there is another way to memorialize the kesher between these events:
[Hat tip to Dovi Adlerstein, Dallas]
What would have surprised Israel’s founding fathers more: the growth of an observant community many believed was destined to disappear in short order, or its intrusion into the very non-hallowed halls of government? The new Knesset has thirty-nine members who consider themselves Torah observant. The previous cabinet already had a majority of members who called themselves shomrei Shabbos. What is an old-time Tel Aviv secularist to think?
The surprises cut both ways. Just when we thought we had thoroughly digested Yair Lapid’s challenge to the Torah community, another member of Yesh Atid offers stirring inaugural address to Knesset. Dr. Ruth Calderon will make us rethink the role Torah study plays in bringing people closer to Yiddishkeit.
Cross-Currents readers did a good job picking apart Yair Lapid’s speech at Kiryat Ono. They flagged his historical inaccuracies and simplifications; they questioned whether he was sincere or pandering. Other readers, however, made a strong case for a very different reaction. However he meant his words, they claimed, they landed on a vulnerable place. Has not the charedi community become strong and secure enough that it cannot enjoy the luxury of giving only on its own terms? Should not it have … Read More >>
A recent article in Mishpacha (“Making it Work, January 3, 2013) provided advice to young men on the cusp of leaving kollel and entering the job market. The article was a good beginning in publicizing the need for making vocational guidance available to all.
While any valid advice is better than none at all – which unfortunately is still what many of our young people are provided – the article stopped short of spelling out some realities of the job market. Several Cross-Currents readers submitted reactions to the Mishpacha piece, hoping to continue the discussion. I selected two of them, both by frum professionals who also own many hours of hands-on experience in guiding frum young adults who are entering the job market. Both convey some frustrations and apprehensions that deserve a hearing. Both provided strong reasons for having to remain anonymous if they are going to continue serving the community as mentors. While we generally turn down anonymous submissions, we felt that there was room for an exception here.
The first submission:
Making It Work: A Rejoinder
(1) The article begins by painting a context of a kollel yungerman who now needs to make a parnasah which includes … Read More >>
He was as direct, forceful and iconoclastic in death as he was in life. Not halachically committed during his lifetime, he ensured that an entire world would understand that the core of his self-definition was his Jewishness.
His rabbi was Orthodox, but he never represented himself as observant. Yet, he sat shivah for a parent at Gracie Mansion. Not given to backing down from a position because of what others would think, he treated Torah differently. Thus, when the media once learned that he had choked at a restaurant, he created a white lie around the incident. The offending food had been pork, but he explained later that far be it for him to publicly advertise his disregard for this most basic requirement of kashrus. He evidenced thereby the midah of shame/ boshes that the gemara in Yevamos tells us is one of the three national characteristics of authentic Jews.
When his rabbi tried to find him a more traditional Jewish place of interment, he turned down several alternatives, preferring not to leave Manhattan, and to park himself among the common folks in Washington Heights.
He selected the text for his tombstone … Read More >>
A year ago, my topic at an AJOP session, “The Top Ten Reasons Frum People Are Unhappy With Their Yiddishkeit” was considered mildly controversial. We went back and forth about whether it should be made available, post-convention.
A year later, much of it has made it into the public domain through the voices of others. Frum outlets, including Klal Perspectives, have not shied away from sharing the concerns and apprehensions of many people.
Nonetheless, several readers have inquired about the availability of the recording. It may be that they would like to get me banned somewhere. If so, please do. It will be good for book sales of my latest sefer, Nesivos Shalom. In any event, AJOP has included that session in their list of presentations available for download.
“It’s not as complicated as Torah.”
That’s Liberman, not Lieberman. Aaron, the basketball player at Northwestern who plays for a Division I team with kippah and tzitzis, and is spending lots of time learning more sophisticated moves and plays than he has till now. Full story in the New York Times.
[Thanks to Yehuda Adlerstein]
[Editor's note: An earlier post provided the video link to Yair Lapid's presentation to the haredi law track at Kiryat Ono College. Realizing that many readers were eager to evaluate the message without investing a half-hour's worth of time to watch the video, I obtained an English- language transcript of the speech, through MakomIsrael.org which created the English subtitles for the video. Our thanks to Robbie Gringras of Makom for making the transcript available.]
There was a competition in Israel for Israeli-ness that lasted over a century, since the second wave of immigration, and in the end you won.
We lost and you won.
For decades it was a Mexican standoff, where each one waits for the other guy to give in,about which Avi Ravitsky, a religious man, wrote: “The status quo was based on the false assumption” which was accepted by both sides, “that the opposition camp was doomed to dwindle away “and perhaps even disappear.”
I know that’s what the Haredim thought about the secular, that they’re doomed to extinction. But that’s what we thought about you, too, that you’re a sort of living museum, like the Ramat Gan Zoo. There’s a … Read More >>
Here are two items to think about, without getting too political. The first depicts a one person’s experience of Israel’s first elections after statehood, in 1949. It is arguably true that things were different then. In fact, what separates different camps within the Orthodox world is articulating just what has changed. The second is a link to a speech that the biggest surprise winner in yesterday’s election gave last March in front of a haredi crowd, before Yair Lapid became a candidate. Reasonable people might disagree about what to believe concerning a speech given by a politician. Nonetheless, many of our readers will find themselves identifying with the essential upshot of his argument, even while finding the historical development somewhat wanting. After winning a stunning 19 seats, some of us are going to be scrambling to get a handle on the man and his vision.
A Recollection of Israel’s First Election (thanks to Caren May)
The following item was taken from the diary of Rabbi Moses Yekutiel Alpert of blessed memory who was a teacher in the Etz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem and lived from l917 – 1955. Due to his knowledge of foreign languages and his sterling character … Read More >>
Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.
Ein mayim elah Torah. The water that slakes the ultimate inner thirst is Torah. The annual convention of the Association of Outreach Programs (AJOP) a week ago was awash with Torah. Hundreds of motivated and capable baristas of our life-giving elixir were on hand, serving up chizuk to each other. There was plenty of Torah to drink
A year ago, AJOP’s indomitable leader, Rabbi Yitzchok Lowenbraun, thought of opening the doors of this kiruv gathering to the FFB world. He reasoned that kiruv workers had done much of the heavy lifting in thinking through the issues, and formulating responses that made Torah life attractive to the uninitiated. Those same responses should be valuable in making Torah attractive to “lifers” who for various reasons found themselves in need of some passion and enthusiasm in their avodah. The inreach program last year was a sellout, and he expanded it this year to include a Shabbos before the program for kiruv workers began. He also invited in a wonderful national program of inreach to Orthodox students on campus, called Jewish Learning Initiative on … Read More >>
With gratitude to HKBH, I announce the publication of an English-language treatment of Nesivos Shalom by the Slonimer Rebbe. Like my sefer on Maharal, this is not a strict translation, but a distillation and adaptation of parts of the Rebbe’s sichos on the parshah. I’m self-publishing, which means it is not so likely that you will find it in your local seforim store (except in Los Angeles, and others who wish to follow suit). You will have to order it from CreateSpace
Dear Reb Yoel,
You should take great satisfaction in the discussion generated by your cogent and respectful submission. What ever else divides us, we both love Torah Judaism and the Jewish people. We both agree that an essential part of dealing with the problems that beset any sizable community is open and frank discussion. I hope that good things will come from the challenging questions that you posed, and from some of the ideas that they will spawn.
The very fact that you were able to reach across the divide between our subgroups (what an awful thing, to have to talk about divisions between Torah Jews!) is empowering and positive. I hope that I can return the favor, and you can help me publish some of the observations I have about standards and phenomena in your hashkafic neighborhood that are perplexing to me. Perhaps we can take this process to the next step, and converse publicly in real time in the same spirit of brotherly concern, absent the usual admixture of one-upmanship common to such dialogue.
I will try to address your questions serially, to the best of my ability. In some cases, the question will be better … Read More >>
Snatching victory from the jaws of media negativity is always a good idea. In this case, the good idea was entirely my colleague’s, Rabbi Abraham Cooper. When people pointed to the recent Pew study that showed one billion people who claim no religious affiliation and snickered about the future of religion, he figured we could turn it around a bit, and score a few points for the Prophets of the Hebrew Scripture – and for the Jewish people. The Washington Post apparently agreed. Our piece is an op-ed today.
One of my sons became proficient at generating sentences that usually appear on the back of wine bottles, e.g. replete with faint overtones of mahogany,cherry blossoms, and car deodorizer. (Personally, I like wine that tastes like wine.) Some of you connoisseurs may detect overtones of the Besht, the Sfas Emes and others in this piece, although well disguised. (Conveying the emes of Torah to the general world community is still a work in progress.) Without prejudice as to the intentions of wine label creators, in this case you would be correct.
[YA - Rabbi Ilan Feldman’s contribution to the new issue of Klal Perspectives continues attract the most attention. Our plan at KP is to collect both letters and longer responses to the issue, and publish them as a separate, special issue.
Some responses can’t or shouldn’t wait. Rabbi Michael Broyde is a neighbor of Rabbi Feldman’s in Atlanta. He communicated a strong caveat to Rabbi Feldman’s piece to which I was privileged to be included. (Full disclosure: both of them are friends of mine.) I urged both of them to share the exchange; they both agreed. They have edited the original only slightly to make it better understood by readers. My guess is that it will stir up some healthy debate.]
Ilan, I read your piece today in Klal Perspectives and I enjoyed it very much. It was well written and persuasive and made a few excellent points — it was very very nice. Congratulations!
I write a criticism of it in two parts, not because I did not agree with what it said, but because I thought it was missing two central issues which temper it.
First, I think that you think that many people … Read More >>
Not everyday do you get a call from a Torah personality asking you to spend more time on the internet, rather than less. But that is just what happened to me a few days ago.
I can’t mention his name. Nor can I tell you how he happened to come across a story that touched his curiosity. Once he read it – or, more accurately, once he saw reader reaction to it – he was so disturbed that he asked me to write about it, since he couldn’t do so himself.
Akiva Finkelstein is an 18 year old from Bet El. An honor student in a dati Leumi school, he trained for eight years, and became Israel’s welterweight champion, and representative at an international competition in Armenia. Scheduled to fight motza’ei Shabbos, a change in the rules demanded that he be weighed in on Shabbos itself. His father flew in to help argue the case for him, and convinced the powers that be that Akiva could not get on the scale, but it would be OK if the officials lifted him on to the scale. At the appointed hour, the overall boss balked at this in a … Read More >>