It didn’t really happen this way. But perhaps it should. A reader who must remain anonymous for professional reasons contributed this analysis:
Yesterday, US State department spokesperson, Jan Psaki expressed concern over the high civilian death toll in Gaza during the latest round of hostilities. She said that Israel can do far more to protect civilians than it has done to date. There were no specific suggestions offered, although Israel would certainly welcome any advice on how to further reduce civilian casualties. In addition to warning civilians to evacuate before targeting a specific area, Israel has called off bombing missions with targets already locked in sights, out of fear of harming civilians who at times were deliberately led there by Hamas.
Now, let’s see how the US measures up to Ms. Psaki’s expectations. According to Palestinian sources, 80% of the 248 people killed during the first 10 days of fighting were civilians. That would mean – even if true, which was never the case in the past – 198 civilians were killed in 10 days. While estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq vary greatly depending on the source, the official Iraq War Logs of the US Army … Read More >>
Read with pride the letter of Colonel Ofer Winter, Commander of the storied Givati Brigade, sent to his troops as they massed near Gaza, poised to enter.
[Hat-tip to Harvey Tannenbaum, Efrat]
The past weeks have not been easy, to put it mildly. I cannot recall a similar period in which HKBH placed us on a fast-moving roller-coaster, carrying us to and from such emotional peaks and valleys in so short a space of time. Eighteen days of anxious prayer and the finding of common cause with so many Jews, followed by the let-down of tragic discovery. The bursting of the bubble of national unity by both the words of an inauthentic Yaakov, and the treacherous, murderous actions of Jewish yedei Esav that heaped shame upon our sorrow. The anxiety of waiting under siege from what might rain down from the sky, while brooding over the consequences of what we all expect will be the next moves on the ground – already anticipating the condemnation certain to come from the world community. Like Yaakov Avinu, we are afraid of the prospect of being killed, and vexed by the prospect of having to kill others – but prepared for both.
No profundity here. Just some disjoint observations, mostly from others, about recent events, written half as catharsis, half as informational to anyone who has not come across some of these items.
No … Read More >>
Too long went by without a new issue of Klal Perspectives, a journal that always provoked animated discussion about matters vital to the Orthodox community. The Summer 2014 issue is devoted to the state of boys’ high school chinuch, and marshalls the opinions of some of the most respected names in secondary Torah chinuch in the West.
Why the long delay since the previous issue? Did the editorial board run out of steam? Did the readership lose interest? None of the above. Below you will find a more accurate (although perhaps not more satisfying) explanation in the Foreword to the issue. (I know the guy who wrote it….) Following it are the summaries of the individual contributions.
The editors hope that not only will this issue stimulate vigorous discussion, but that the contributors will be brought though it to closer personal contact. Perhaps, through working together, they might develop practical solutions to some of the problems discussed.
Matters of great worth and significance, says Maharal (Gevuros Hashem, Chapter 30), cannot spring up willy-nilly. They take time to develop. They grow slowly, from darkness to light. While Maharal teaches this in regard to things of great supernal value, the … Read More >>
Dear Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali:
We are grateful that we do not have to face your families. We would have to say something – and we can’t. Can we tell them that we share their loss? If we feel a huge void, can it compare to the dark, cavernous expanse of their loss?
We cannot really grasp what our world has lost by losing you. We do not have the words to describe it, nor explain it. We might, however, be able to articulate what we have gained, what you left us, Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali.
Many critics – including friendly critics – of the Jewish State have argued that Israel has turned into a soul-less country. Sometime after the June War, Israeli society went off in all sorts of different directions. A new generation grew up that knew neither the pioneering spirit of Israel’s founders, nor the bubble of bravado that enveloped them after the stunning victory over the Arab armies in 1967. Israel struggled with poverty, absorption of immigrants, the stratification of income. It tired of sending its sons and daughters off to the front to fight barbarians, only to return to homes under siege … Read More >>
I don’t recall another such occasion in my lifetime. I am not a regular participant in Yom Kippur Katan. But BEH, I will certainly try this afternoon. It is not so unusual for us to hear generalized calls for more davening and mitzvos at a time of tzarah. It is not so usual for different parts of the community to all settle on the same form of avodah she-balev. Today it has happened. The calls to daven Yom Kippur Katan came from R Ahron Leib Shteinman and R Chaim Kanievski in the haredi camp, from R Chaim Druckman, an icon of the Dati-Leumi world, and R David Stav, calling on all Tzohar-related rabbanim and shuls to take part as well.
Remarkably, the Daf Yomi community is now learning Taanis, which deals in no small part with fixed forms of special tefilah response by the entire community to various crises.
May the tefilos of a tzibbur longing for Divine rachamim be answered swiftly.
They davened in Knesset last week for the three bochrim. Men and women, separate. With a mechitzah. Mi k’amcha Yisrael.
Virtually the entire Jewish community was united last week in its concern for Eyal, Naftoli and Gilad. It took a kippah-wearing twelve year-old shocking the judges on America’s Got Talent to give us back the Jewish dissension we can’t seem to do without. Josh Orlian’s debut as a stand-up comedian was only as strong as his act was salacious, which was risqué enough to charm the judges – and set off a fire-storm of disagreement. Should we embrace Josh for making Orthodox Jews so very much a part of the American mainstream, or curse the parents that laughed at his humor, rather than forcing him to wash out his mouth with (kosher) soap?
We should not forget a third option – at least for those who sensed that this was no kiddush Hashem, to put it mildly – which is to pinpoint just what was objectionable about his performance. We are at a teachable moment; the lesson is one that is part of the mission statement of the Jewish people.
Let’s first turn to the counterargument: as off-color as his humor was, it was tepid stuff compared to what American adults – and kids – deal with all the … Read More >>
In a manner reminiscent of the way a woman takes over all the space in the closet once a guy gets married, the women have taken over the TikvahYeshiva website. Which is a good thing. If you check, you will see that Tikvah literally lost no time at all in making sure there was a quality program for women to complement the one it is running for men. In fact, the women’s program begins at the same location on the very day that the men pull out – hopefully intellectually supercharged after their week. It unfortunately usually takes much longer in our community for people to provide separate-and-not-equal opportunities for frum women. The rapidity with which they put together a quality program gives testimony to Tikvah’s investment in the haredi community.
The focus is slightly different – the role of political theory and practice in Orthodox life – and the length of the seminar is shorter, reflecting the reality that more men can get away from their families than women! The women’s seminar is equally star-studded, though. I’m not complaining about my faculty, but I wouldn’t mind hearing from Ruth Wisse of Harvard.
The deadline for applications to … Read More >>
One excerpt from a letter to rabbis of the RCA from Mrs. Rachelli Sprecher Frankel, mother of Israeli hostage Naftali Frankel:
We trust the Rabbis will talk about Eyal, Gil-ad & Naftali in their Drashot this Shabbat. (Arvut is such a Tikun for Parashat Korach.)
בע”ה אל כביר לא ימאס תפילת רבים
Need we say more?
In the pain we all share in the uncertainty over the Shvuyei Tzion, some have been moved to publish suggestions that are silly, obnoxious, and reprehensible. Unless, of course, they were made by genuine prophets. But we remember what the gemara says about the incidence of prophecy in modern times…
The following by Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim, struck me as particularly well-thought out and expressed:
In the wake of our great pain over the kidnapping of the three innocent teens, a desire has arisen within the Nation to understand why this had happened. The desire to understand is good and upright, but – at the same time – we need the humility and intellect to realize that we do not know everything.
Some claim that this has happened because the government wants to draft Yeshiva students. Others claim that it is on account of anti-religious legislation. But what we should say is: We do not know.
We must be very careful, since it is quite possible that in assigning guilt one violates the prohibition of “Ona’at Devarim” (distressing others). As the Gemara in Baba Metzia (58b) says, one may not speak to one who is … Read More >>
There are better ways for the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) to express unity with Jews in Israel than to join them in short-sighted and counterproductive actions. That, apparently, is exactly what they are about to do if they accept the iREP proposal to limit the Rabbanut’s historic oversight of halachic matters of personal status. By applying a band-aid to a wounded patient in Israel, JFNA may leave Jewish intergroup cooperation here in the US in a comatose state.
JFNA’s board of trustees is slated to vote on June 9th on a proposal by a coalition of non-Orthodox groups to address their dissatisfaction with the Rabbanut’s use of halachic standards in areas of conversion, marriage, and divorce. The iREP proposal (Israel Religious Expressions Platform) reportedly will not call for the undoing of the Rabbanut, but will advocate affirmative steps. It will embrace personal liberties and choice , and as a first step, get behind calling for civil marriage.
There is no question that many Israelis are unhappy with either the Rabbanut’s halachic guidelines or its style of doing business. They bypass the system by a quick trip to Cyprus for a civil ceremony. They will … Read More >>
After some initial hesitation, I am ready to declare the much-lamented “Monsey Summit” a complete success. Definitely much-lamented. Some lament the bombastic name; others lament the fact that it took place altogether. But much lament and hand-wringing.
For me, it was a bee trap. Ever hang one of those low-tech bee traps outside the sukkah? I have nothing against bees. I respect their industry and utility. I just don’t like them flying kamikaze runs against my guests. So occasionally I hang one of those traps, put in the bait, and wait with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’d rather that all the neighborhood bees flew south for the winter. On the other, I feel pretty useless until one or more takes a wrong turn and flies into the trap, its last stop on the way to Bee Heaven. A trapped bee is evidence of a successful campaign to upgrade the comfort level of the sukkah.
Monsey Summits work the same way. As I wrote previously in what has become a topic of controversy, I walked into the meeting with minimum expectations and two intentions. I believed that people who claim that they are in pain and … Read More >>
A while back, I wrote with pride and expectation about the Tikvah Yeshiva Fellows program, to be held mid-August on Long Island. We’ve been putting together faculty, while processing the applications. Since the time of that writing, we’ve secured the involvement of Rav J David Bleich, shlit”a, as well as R. Meir Triebetz (Machon Shlomo), Yonoson Rosenblum and Avi Shafran. It is shaping up as a not-to-be-missed opportunity for thinking yeshiva-educated men to match wits with bright peers, spend time with seforim usually overlooked during the zman, and explore issues of tzibur and our relationship with the non-Jewish world.
Besides staying resident for the week of the program, R Rosenblum will be giving a two-day workshop on effective writing, including critique of each participant’s work.
Tikvah has provided two respected names in the area of contemporary conservative thought. One of them, Vincent Philip Munoz, was cited in the Supreme Court decision about prayer at town meetings.
Meanwhile, the promise of a parallel program for women has born quick fruit. The program will follow on the heels of the men’s program at the same location.
Applications are still being accepted. If you know any yeshiva-oriented students looking for … Read More >>
First, from Cross-Currents own poet laureate, Rabbi Yossi Huttler:
Sefirah (between the bookends)
so now after
to the end
of the account
to where we chose
and were Chosen
we the bride
and You chosson
Next, my all-time favorite, from Chaim Nachman Bialik. I once read parts of the original, which is far more beautiful, at a meeting at Knesset, as part of an Agudah delegation. Bialik learned in Volozhin before he left big-time, but remained conflicted about his connection to tradition. Some claim that as part of his disenchantment with his peers about how far they had gone, that he returned to putting on tefillin daily at the end of his life
Should you wish to know the Source, From which your brothers drew… Their strength of soul… Their comfort, courage, patience, trust, And iron might to bear their hardships And suffer without end or measure?
And should you wish to see the Fort Wherein your fathers refuge sought. And all their sacred teasures hid, The refuge that has still preserved Your nation’s soul intact and pure And when despised, and scorned, and scoffed, Their faith they did not shame?
And should … Read More >>
And a different kind of charedi-Tzahal cooperation.
As we get closer to Shavuos, I thought it might be interesting to see the different ways our readers love Torah. According to some of the machshavah seforim, the mon of the Wilderness contained all flavors because it came through the Sar HaTorah. Torah as well contains all kinds of intellectual delights, and pleases the soul’s pallate according to the way it is approached and prepared.
I’ve designed a little exercise that might demonstrate the different flavors our readers find within Torah study. Imagine that you were going to be exiled, alone, to a South Pacific island. Among other survival gear, you were given permission to take along just one sefer (or set of seforim) whose original publication date was someplace in the last 300 years. What would you choose to take on the island?
My choice is predictable for anyone who has read my handling of the issue of basic Torah competence. I would take the Dzhimitrovsky edition of the Ketzos HaChoshen. That’s the one with the great notes, introducing all the lomdishe (Litvaks only allowed on my island!)
Please share your choice with the CC community, and show how different personalities find fulfillment of their Torah … Read More >>
I had not intended to write about the meeting a week ago Sunday between a group of Jews who left observance, and another group taken from the traditional community. Originally, the participants had all agreed to keep the meeting under wraps. Noise, self-congratulation in the press, grandstanding – these are proven ways of deep-sixing a new, delicate and complex venture. Somehow, the rules got changed, and the word is out. By now, there have been so many varied reports about the “summit” that I must add my voice to those who have already spoken.
It was the non-traditional group that requested the meeting, and it did not prove difficult to find traditional counterparts who were more than willing to participate. Rabbi Eliyahu Fink ably presided over putting the two groups together. The traditional delegates did not volunteer (nor could they, since no one knew about such a meeting), but were asked to join. The meeting was going to be small, confidential (so people could speak openly), and focused.
I agreed to participate, even thought it meant hopping on a red-eye from the West Coast right after Shabbos. Two objectives stood before me. Firstly, the OTD delegates were Jews … Read More >>
If you haven’t yet realized that the shemitah year is around the corner, you will probably find out this Shabbos. The parshah of Behar, with its early invocation of the laws of shevi’is, should be the perfect time to turn our attention to the mitzvos that will soon be upon us.
Before dissension and acrimony overtakes us – with heated discussion about which seforim are deleting references to which gedolim who supported the heter mechirah – I would recommend a fascinating book to get us into the spirit of the season. Rebels in the Holy Land: Mazkeret Batya – An Early Battleground For the Soul of Israel makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging read.
Author Sam Finkel is a man on a mission. He seeks to undo the historical revisionism that treats the First Aliyah with indifference or contempt, largely because of the growth of the Old Yishuv, which was seen by later writers as nothing more than a bunch of schnorrers living on the dole of the chalukah system. The real Israelis, according to customary wisdom, were the New Yishuv chalutzim of the First Aliyah, and the progressive and more cosmopolitan immigrants of the Second Aliyah. … Read More >>
A reader brought to my attention an article on Ynet penned by one Tzipora Gutman entitled “We Haredim Should Stand For Israel’s Fallen Soldiers.” Ms. Gutman, described in the tag line as “the director of the Adi Center in Bnei Brak and an activist in the haredi community,” describes a minor epiphany at which she understood the pain of those who see others failing to observe the moment of silence for the korbanos of Tzahal. She understands full well that many in the haredi world object to the importing of what they see as a distinctly non-Jewish form of observance, since the “moment of silence” idea does not appear to be sourced in anything Jewish. The law – at least Jewish law – therefore does not have anything positive to say about this new ritual. Still, she argues, haredim ought to go along with the practice (as most reportedly do!), because we are encouraged not to make the legal bottom line our standard, but to go lifnim mi-shuras ha-din / beyond the letter of the law.
I respectfully disagree. I don’t see why such participation should be considered beyond the letter of the law. To me (in my … Read More >>
You are going to have to read this excerpt from an article by Dov Lipman, even if he is unpopular with much of our readership, especially since he is only quoting Mishpacha. It appears in today’s Times of Israel. Don’t hug the messenger if you don’t want, but don’t shoot him either.
The Haredi newspaper, Mishpacha, sponsored a poll to determine the attitudes of secular Israelis towards Haredim. They hired one of Israel’s top pollsters, Mina Tzemach, to do the research.
Here are some of the results:
1) 72% of secular Israelis believe that the Haredim do not contribute to the Jewish nature of Israel. 2) 67% believe that the IDF is obligated to provide Haredim who serve with all of their religious needs to make sure that their lifestyle is not impacted negatively by their army service. 3) 82% are willing to hire Haredim to work in their companies. 4) 93% believe that there must be dialogue between the secular and Haredim to preserve unity in Israeli society. 5) 52% feel that Haredim and secular living side by side in the same areas will lead to better relationships between these populations. 6) 77% know Haredim personally and 83% … Read More >>
Friday saw the launch of a program that will be exciting to yeshiva men with unfulfilled intellectual leanings, to Klal Yisrael, and to this author, who will be given an opportunity to pay back a debt many decades old.
The Tikvah Fund (TF) announced that it is now accepting candidate applications for the Tikvah Yeshiva Fellowship Program, to be held August 10-17 at the Glen Cove Mansion on Long Island. The program is designed for talmidei yeshivos between the ages of 20-30 who are possessed of enough intellectual curiosity to want to spend a week with some stellar presenters from both the Torah and secular communities, exploring issues of the relationship of the Torah Jew to the betterment of general society.
The Tikvah Fund, in its own words, “ [is]aimed at men and women who wish to influence the intellectual, religious, and political life of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.” It leans heavily to classic conservative thinking on political and economic issues. To help create a new generation of Jewish leadership, it organizes seminars and fellowships that bring icons of American intellectual achievement to talented Jewish participants. The current list of presenters at one of … Read More >>
I know that I am not alone in feeling that the last few weeks have been particularly trying to yeshiva-educated people who nonetheless recoil from some of its rhetoric, and all of the divisiveness that it has generated. Witnessing a different model helps restore some optimism for the future.
I was privileged to experience a different spirit a week ago when I served as scholar in residence at the BAYT in Thornhill, Ontario. Its physical size would predict that it belongs in Texas, not Toronto. (It is the largest shul in Canada, and I believe the second largest anywhere in North America. Joe Tannenbaum a”h who knew a few things about construction designed it large.) That translates into over 800 member families, nine different minyanim on Shabbos morning. Enough people come together at mincha on Shabbos to rate as an asifa. The building brings together members of a black kollel and a white kollel, who get along with each other and even participate in joint events.
As a visiting speaker, I am sensitive to the varied personalities of communities and shuls. There are places where people will come over and tell you how great you were, even … Read More >>
My semi-annual machshava shiur (for women, but suitable for all kinds of chromosomal construction) is available for free download as a .wav file, or here as an mp3.
[Ultimately, it is not about women or tefillin - it is about the very nature of halachic process. Rabbi Mayer Twersky, a rosh yeshiva at RIETS, grandson of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt"l, and Harvard graduate, offers reasoning so compelling that I believe it should not be missed. It was first published on Torahweb.org, and is reproduced here with permission.]
May Orthodox Rabbis Permit Women to Don Tefillin ?
The Ruling of the Ramo and Modern Reaction
ואם הנשים רוצין להחמיר על עצמן מוחין בידן and if the women wish to act stringently [and don tefillin] we rebuke them (Ramo, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 38:3) Recently, some rabbis have publicized and implemented their view that women wishing to don tefillin should be accommodated, contra Ramo’s ruling. A firestorm of controversy has ensued. But seemingly there is ample justification for their position.
The argument runs as follows. What, in effect, have these rabbis done? To best serve their students/congregants they have, simply, sensitively aligned themselves with the Rambam, et al, whose view, contra Ramo, allows women to don tefillin. Surely, the view of Rambam, et al is valid.
The nominal argument continues. Times have unquestionably changed. We … Read More >>