By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Poor moral choices can be made by people of either gender, especially when it comes to behaviors involving divorce. Divorces can bring out the worst in people, and many believe that that is an understatement. There are angry wives seeking a divorce who cause their husbands to be incarcerated, simply because they have the ability to do so. And there are husbands who punish their wives by not allowing them to ever remarry. This, of course, is known as the agunah problem, where wives separated from their husbands are still chained to them, unable to remarry, because their husbands have refused to grant them a get, a Jewish divorce document.
The agunah problem has given rise, of late, to a new trend in how some people handle halachah. More and more, when facing obstinate husbands refusing to grant their wives a get, some rabbis are opting for a rather controversial method of relieving the problem. They are granting “Jewish annulments” of the original marriage.
The issue, however, is mired in controversy, where leading rabbis are aghast at both the ease and the extent of the annulments being granted. There … Read More >>
The horse is out of the barn. There are no rules anymore. Everything goes. Making it up as you go along.
These are among the clichés that came to mind when reading the many articles penned by those promoting and defending the decisions of two liberal Orthodox high schools to allow their female students to lay tefillin during morning services at school.
Notwithstanding the ruling of the Rema (OC 38:3) that one must protest any attempt by women to lay tefillin, notwithstanding the words of the Vilna Gaon (ibid.) that it is forbidden for women to lay tefillin, notwithstanding the elaboration of the Aruch Ha-Shulchan (OC 38:6) wherein the phrase “we do not permit” is applied to the notion of women laying tefillin, notwithstanding age-old accepted halachic consensus and practice that women do not lay tefillin, and notwithstanding the fact that no major halachic authority was consulted – these liberal Orthodox high schools decided that their female students may indeed lay tefillin.
As the Aruch Ha-Shulchan and others have explained, men do not keep their tefillin on all day and they instead limit their tefillin time to Tefillas Shacharis, due to the comprehensive bodily and mental purity that must be maintained while tefillin are worn. Since men are halachically required to lay tefillin, they have no choice and must keep their tefillin on at least for the morning prayers, after which the tefillin are customarily removed in deference to their sanctity, which could be offended should there be a lapse in bodily or mental purity. Women, on the other hand, are not required to lay tefillin, and they therefore should not do so, lest they be subject to a compromised state of bodily or mental purity while wearing tefillin. To lay tefillin and voluntarily expose the tefillin to potential offense of their sanctity due to such a lapse is discouraged or prohibited; hence do women not lay tefillin, explain the poskim. The poskim specifically differentiate between other mitzvos such as shofar, sukkah and lulav, from which women are exempt but may nonetheless voluntarily perform, and tefillin, whose voluntary performance may engender a prohibited offense of their sanctity.
Those who recently took to promoting and defending the notion of their female students laying tefillin argued that since even men are distracted with iPhones and secular reading materials while wearing tefillin, it is clear that we no longer adhere strictly to the purity requirement for laying tefillin, and women should therefore be no different:
But since nobody really does it the right way – as the Halacha cautions us – why are women any different from men in this respect? Just look at all the men who are consulting their I phones, or reading, during parts of the davening, while wearing tefillin– if that isn’t hesech ha-da’at, what is? So, essentially, we are all deficient in the scrupulous care of the body and the mind that is necessary for tefillin. If women, therefore, want to take the mitzvah of tefillin upon themselves, why is it any different from Sukkah and lulav and shofar
and many mitzvot that are time-caused which women accept upon themselves and, according to Ashkenazic practice, make brachot over those mitzvot? Why exclude them because of deficiencies in practice which men have too?
Others who recently endorsed the idea of their female students laying tefillin argued that since there are sources that do not object to women laying tefillin, female students who seek to lay tefillin as an expression of their sincere religiosity should not be prevented from doing so:
I felt it appropriate to see this as a legitimate practice albeit different than our communal practice – but one that has halakhic justification. As such, I granted the two girls permission in the context – in a tefilah setting – of a group of girls who were supportive of their practice. I felt it appropriate to create space at SAR for them to daven meaningfully. I explained this to our students in this way: it is a halakhically legitimate position despite it not being our common communal practice. But since there is support for it, I would be willing to create such space in the school. I did not, in so doing, create new policy nor invite any female student who wanted to don tefillin to do so.
Both of the above arguments are fundamentally flawed. While men in the congregation of the rabbi who proffered the first argument above may indeed be distracted with their iPhones and secular reading materials during Shacharis and while donning tefillin, from whence does one receive license to provide a wholesale dispensation from the purity requirements of wearing tefillin and thereby overturn half a millennium of p’sak in order to permit women to don tefillin, based on this newly-created dispensation?
The second argument relies on the fact that there exist halachic opinions that do not object to women laying tefillin; hence, there is a reliable basis for women who have a sincere religious desire to lay tefillin. Although halachic precedent and practice for at least half a millennium dictate otherwise, and although no poskim were consulted, those behind this decision have pointed to sources that justify their decision, while overriding the accepted sources on the matter.
Being consistent with this approach, let’s imagine if the letter from this school’s principal read as follows:
Continue reading → Women and Tefillin: A Study in Breached Boundaries
As much as I enjoy reading Jonathan Rosenblum’s column in Mishpacha each week, I find it painful. Comparing my own poor attempt at communication with the richness of his thought and expression always leaves me feeling inadequate.
Last week was no different. How many people in our community would have thought of introducing a column with a reference to Alain Finkielkraut? Many in our community whose secular (non-)education came through our day schools criticize writers for Mishpacha for using “Artscroll English.” Among them, many surely believe that Finkielkraut must be the inventor of a new condiment for hot dogs.
Jonathan, however, doesn’t pander to the lowest educational common denominator. His writing always attempts to not only stimulate and educate, but also to elevate. There are almost always some subliminal messages thrown in, gently prodding a community to make small changes in its thinking.
To succeed in that, he has to limit what he can say. I am not subject to the same intensity of limitation, so I can take what he says to the next level. Which is what I feel compelled to do in regard to the column at hand.
Jonathan reacted to a … Read More >>
A fantastic recent essay in the New York Times brought to mind a fantastic Talmudic narrative. The latter [in Tamid 32b] describes the would-be world-conqueror Alexander the Great approaching the gates of the Garden of Eden. When denied entry (insufficient righteousness the grounds), he asks for, at least, a souvenir and is given an eyeball (or, perhaps, a skull’s eye-socket).
Seeking to somehow gauge the odd gift, he places it on one pan of a scale, with gold and silver in the other pan. The precious metal pan rises. And it continues to do so, no matter how much gold and silver he adds. Asking the rabbis accompanying him what is happening, they explain that the eye represents the impetus for human desire; it is that which sees and wants, and is never satisfied. He is skeptical but the rabbis then prove their point by placing some dirt, a reminder of the reality of mortality, atop the eye. Its pan then rises high, outweighed by, unconcerned with, oblivious to, all the precious metal.
All of us have likely desired to possess something we don’t. But I have always been confounded by the spectacle of very wealthy people consumed … Read More >>
Whoever the “Letters” editor of Hamodia may be, I prefer to think that he/she is more clever than obtuse. It is the only way I could understand the reaction to a reader other than wimpy silliness.
The reader took offense at some reference in the paper’s coverage of the passing of Ariel Sharon. Apparently, the article’s author lost all of his religious bearings, and made reference to the former Prime Minister as z”l – of blessed memory.
What could this author have been thinking? We know that Sharon made no pretense of halachic observance. If he was not frum, there should be no reason why we should find any berachah in his remembrance at all! Therefore, the reader took Hamodia to task: “Even though the writer attempts to describe him as a very proud Jew, it seems to be quite irrelevant when the proud one is actually not practicing what he’s proud of. Hamodia, being an orthodox paper with Torah values should of (sic) not honoured an unorthodox person with this title.”
The reader has a point. When Sharon ignored orders and led his troops across the Suez Canal within striking distance of Cairo, thereby singlehandedly turning the … Read More >>
by Steven Pruzansky
The controversy du jour deals with the high school girls and their tefillin, and it has prompted the usual litany of responses. Once again, what passes for psak in the Modern Orthodox world is little more than cherry-picking the sources to find the single, even strained, interpretation of a rabbinic opinion in order to permit what it wants to permit or prohibit what it wants to prohibit. The preponderance of poskim or the consensus in the Torah world matters little; fables – like Rashi’s daughters wearing tefillin – carry more weight.
No honest reading of the sources could ever give rise to a statement such as “Ramaz would be happy to allow any female student who wants to observe the mitzvah of tefillin to do so.” Happy? Tell it to the Rema or to the Aruch Hashulchan. And what about the prohibition of lo titgodedu – of not having contradictory practices in the same minyan (e.g., some girls wearing tefillin and others not)? And what of the statement being made to the traditional girls – that their service of G-d must somehow be inferior to that of their peers who are on a “higher” … Read More >>
It’s rare that I simply refer to another article, but “I am Orthodox, and Orthodox is me” speaks for itself. I think the piece is stronger because the writer is both relatively unknown, and a woman. She truly speaks for us all when she says “those stereotypes about ‘the Orthodox’ are talking about me.”
Apologies for causing an unwarranted adrenalin surge in some of our readers who may be hostile to our Israeli cousins. This will not be an expose about black-hatted people on the dole squandering public funds at upscale clothiers. Most charedim in Israel never heard of The Gap. But then again, most of them don’t know enough about the other gap, the one we are going to talk about. And it does make a catchier title than “Are They All Really Resha’im, Part Two,” which is what the piece is really about.
You may know the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) by its colloquial name, Machon Lev, after the founder of the venerable institution of applied science, Prof. Zev Lev z”l, a former ben-bayis of Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky z”l. JCT students combine Torah learning and the pursuit of their academic careers. In other words, it has been mostly avoided by charedim, at least until recently. JCT took a leadership position in not only welcoming charedi students, but in creating special options for them that would respect their sensitivities and needs.
On one particular day, six JCT students were selected to be interviewed by Rabbi Shai Piron, Israel’s … Read More >>
In a recent article in HaAretz, reprinted here on Cross-Currents, Rabbi Avi Shafran offered several explanations why there seems to be an Orthodox “animus” against President Obama. He discounts theories like racism and Obama’s social liberalism before arriving at the one he prefers: a lack of hakaras hatov — gratitude.
I have always greatly respected Rabbi Shafran and his writing, and consider him a personal mentor. And I think it is unquestionably true that some people have made “over the top,” irrational criticisms — not that I feel that these reactions are unique to the Orthodox Jewish community, or unique to our current president. But on balance, I think Rabbi Shafran must revisit not only that social liberalism, but the very areas in which he feels our thanks are due, in order to understand why there is so much negativity about the Obama presidency from Orthodox Jews.
Here’s what I wrote about Obama’s election, in November 2008:
I believe that getting America to the point of electing a black President was one of America’s finest hours. — Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein, November 12.
He beat me to it, as I was going to make a similar comment. … Read More >>
(The article below appeared earlier this month in Haaretz. I share it here with that paper’s permission.)
The gabbai at the shul I usually attend on Shabbos is something of a comedian. When I was recently called to the Torah, he offered the traditional “Mi Sheberach” and added a blessing for “ha-president” – which he quickly qualified by adding: “Not Obama – the president of the shul.”
I interjected “yes, Obama.” Nearby congregants gasped.
They shouldn’t have. The Mishneh teaches us that Jews should pray for the government, as governments are what prevent people from acting on their worst instincts. For many years, every American Orthodox synagogue included a special prayer for the president and vice president, a practice that, for some reason, has fallen into disuse.
But beyond the Jewish obligation to express hakaras hatov, “acknowledgement of the good,” to the leaders of their lands, I believe that the current occupant of the White House well deserves our special good will.
That is not, I know, the common stance in the Orthodox world. I have been puzzling over that fact for five years.
A registered Republican since I could vote, I shared in the skepticism and concern … Read More >>
by Yaakov Rosenblatt
A couple of weeks ago, while visiting family in New Jersey, I picked up a copy of The Lakewood Voice (Dec 25), a hand-out magazine comprised of news and advertisements. The cover story was about Lakewood Mesivtas. There was an informative article about why entry bechinos are delayed until Tu B’Adar. And there was a description of three types of bechinos an 8th grade boy might receive. The first option is a bechina in which the boy is asked to prepare a piece of Gemara. The second, considered more difficult, is where the boy is questioned at random on the Gemara he learned year to date. The third type of bechina, considered most challenging, is where the boy is asked questions he cannot answer. In that case, the tester isn’t expecting an answer, but is probing to see how the young man’s mind works.
I was surprised that there wasn’t a fourth option: a written test with questions on the entire body of information learned, middle school to date, including gemara, chumash, halacha, and yedi’os klalios. This would give the school a clear recap of the boy’s academic level.
Philosophically, a coming-of-age transition which … Read More >>
Believe whatever you want about the Israeli Rabbinate’s rejection of Rabbi Avi Weiss’ testimonial letters, the principle behind the invalidation is sound and important. It applies – and is in fact used – against people on the right in the very same manner. What may be the most important function of the Rabbanut – the protection of yuchsin – is stronger because of it.
A major power struggle rages on before us. On the one hand, the Rabbinate came clean and acknowledged that they had indeed spurned Rabbi Weiss’ declarations of the Jewishness of people known to him, on the basis of what other US rabbis told them about his halachic innovations. On the other are Rabbi Weiss’ natural allies on the left – Open Orthodoxy, the International Rabbinic Fellowship, and YCT in the US, and Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, Maale Gilboa and (surprisingly, at least to me,) Tzohar in Israel. Many of them would like to topple the Rabbinate altogether, seeing it as too right-wing, and replace it with a more user-friendly (sounds good) and halachically liberal (sounds fraught) rabbinate.
Some of the charges are contradictory. Rabbi Weiss’ supporters claim that it is charedim who are out to … Read More >>
I used to have a chavrusah, or study partner, with whom I learned Torah annually.
Usually for about an hour or two.
In a different city each year.
The text we studied was rather complex and challenging – the exquisitely concise (and often exquisitely confounding) glosses of the 18th-century Torah luminary known as the Vilna Gaon to the Shulchan Aruch’s section on the laws of mikva’os, or ritual baths. That complex material was a major focus of my study-partner’s analysis for many years. I was just “tagging along.” Once a year.
The reason for the infrequency of that study partnership was that my partner, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg – a formidable Torah scholar, writer and the editor of the Intermountain Jewish News – lives in Denver, and I reside in New York. We would meet, though, each year at a gathering of Jewish journalists sponsored by an organization that held its annual get-together in one of various cities across the country.
When Reb Hillel would arrive at the convention hotel, one of the first things he would do was to contact me to arrange a good time to sit and study a bit. I well recall … Read More >>
The very first time we meet Moshe Rabbenu after his infancy, he “went out to his brothers,” which Chazal understand to mean that “he set his eyes and heart to feel their pain.” I offer the following in that vein. It is an unredacted version of a letter I received by email about a week ago from an old friend. It will be painful for many to read; it will get others angry. I think that the potential gains in some of us feeling the pain of others is worth the risks involved.
Rashi was one of our great commentators in the chumash and other Jewish books which we have been learning for hundreds of years. Today a young boy who received his 1st ‘Tzav Giyus’ or in the rest of the world, outside Israel, it’s called the ‘draft’ notice. The 16 3/4 year old sabra spent the first few weeks after his arrival into this world in Jerusalem classified by the doctors who perform miracles as agents of HKBH, as a ‘pag,’ or in the terms in the rest of the world, a ‘premie.’
The month of his birth was Adar 1, as in 1997, there was as … Read More >>
If you’ve been following the saga of the “Women of the Wall” and the “Women for the Wall,” you know that WOW is doing everything it can to bolster its numbers and coverage. W4W has made them into a non-story, by expressing with eloquent silence that far more Israeli women oppose them than stand with them (by a margin of hundreds, if not thousands, to one), and simultaneously completely getting rid of the rambunctious young men who previously did such a great job of playing into WOW’s hands and PR efforts.
Most recently, a group called “Moving Traditions” shipped three teenage American girls off to Israel to join WOW. Needless to say, they knew little of the issues — one of them had not even heard of WOW prior to the contest that earned her a ticket. They were also kept from any contact with women representing the other side of the story, which resulted in W4W leader Ronit Peskin writing an open letter to one participant.
Ms. Peskin posted a comment to the Facebook wall of Moving Traditions, indicating that she had written this letter. Moving Traditions basically laughed off the idea that she might be able … Read More >>
Even now that the recent much-celebrated Limmud gathering in the historic cathedral town of Coventry, West Midlands, England has concluded, the celebration continues, at least in many Jewish media.
The popular Jewish event, which attracts people from all segments of the Jewish universe (and some, like the Reverend Patrick Morrow, who led a Limmud session at this year’s, from the non-Jewish one), is always loudly lauded as an opportunity to access a broad gamut of theologies and practices that have Jewish devotees.
But this year’s Limmud conference, at least to the media, was particularly exultation-worthy, as one of the attendees was Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the current chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, the first person holding that position to grace the proceedings with his presence.
Much, unsurprisingly, was made of that first. Rabbi Mirvis was warmly welcomed by those in attendance, and his speech was parsed by the press with the determination of high school teachers seeking puns in Shakespeare, in a quest to find hints of disdain on the rabbi’s part for the religious leaders of the more traditional Orthodox British community, who made clear that the rabbi’s attendance at Limmud was ill-advised.
Aside from celebrating and … Read More >>
At the United Reform Jewry’s recent biennial gathering in San Diego, the mood was gloomy. “Reform Judaism tries for a ‘reboot’ in face of daunting challenges,” read the Jewish Telegraph Agency report. “Reform Movement, Seeking to Stem Decline, Eyes Religious Pluralism in Israel,” proclaimed the Forward headline.
Only the even more astonishing hemorrhaging of the Conservative Movement has obscured the decline of Reform movement. Until recently, Jews asked about their religious affiliation tended to use “Reform” as a synonym for “minimal.” So the numbers of Reform Jews appeared to be holding steady or even growing. No more. In the recent Pew study, the fastest growing segment of American Jewry consisted of those responding “None” when asked their religious identity.
The median age of Reform members is 54 years old, and only 17% of members say that they attend religious services even once a month. President of UJR, Rich Jacobs, lamented at the bicentennial that 80% of the movement’s youth are gone by the time they graduate high school. Even at the Reform convention, the area of the hall marked for those in their 20s and 30s was, according to the Forward, notably compact. Those who did attend were primarily … Read More >>
Below is the text of a self-explanatory letter to the editor of the New York Jewish Week; it is published in this week’s issue of that paper.
December 21, 2013
Rori Picker Neiss (op-ed, December 15) is “shocked” at my response to your reporter, who asked me for the rationale of esteemed rabbinical authorities’ opposition to pre-nuptial agreements focused on a future divorce. I explained that “there is a concern that introducing and focusing on the possible dissolution of a marriage when it is just beginning is not conducive to the health of the marriage.”
Ms. Picker Neiss contends that such focus is already introduced, in the traditional ketubah. I don’t know what version of the ketubah she is citing but the time-honored, halachically mandated one contains no mention whatsoever of divorce.
The pledge of support that the ketubah references remains in place in a case of divorce, or of the husband’s death. But that is simply a peripheral implication of the ketubah, which simply lists the husband’s obligations to his wife.
And so to compare the ketubah to the “prenup” used by some today is comparing apples to aufrufs.
Ms. Picker Neiss is entitled to embrace the … Read More >>
For the want of a single word – like the nail of the horse’s shoe – kingdoms can be lost. Israel’s enemies look towards the French version of UN Security Council 242 for the definite article missing in the English version that would imply that Israel should withdraw from all territory occupied in the June 1967 war.
Sometimes, transmigrating a simple word or two can be just as crucial. How many people were enticed by the mistranslation of עלמה in Yeshaya 7:14 as “virgin,” while Mishlei 30:19 shows it to mean something quite different?
A recent mistranslation of a pair of words in an important passage in Rav Kook affords readers an opportunity to closely inspect one of the elements that sets Open Orthodoxy apart from the rest of the Orthodox community, and explains its defection from mesorah itself.
Several writers have responded to Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz’s “Five Reasons Being an Orthodox Rabbi Compelled Me to Support Gay Marriage.” (Rabbi Yanklowitz is a frequent poster boy for Yeshiva Chovevei Torah.) The best I have seen was penned by frequent Cross-Currents contributor Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer. No need to beat a dead horse, even if it is trying to … Read More >>
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, whose dispatches are widely reproduced both here in the United States and abroad, reported today on British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis having become the first sitting British chief rabbi to address the annual Limmud conference, a gathering of multi-denominational and non-denominational Jewish leaders and laymen. By attending and being featured as a speaker, the JTA informs us, he was “defying the opposition of prominent haredi Orthodox rabbis in England.”
Fair enough. Those charedi leaders have a longstanding and principled opposition to Orthodox rabbis participating in “multi-denominational” panels, rosters and such, since doing so perforce promotes the notion that all “rabbis are rabbis,” equals in belief and scholarship, and that all self-defined “Judaisms” are part of the Judaism of our ancestors.
But the JTA report puts it thus:
“The critics had said the conference, which draws thousands of participants from all walks of Jewish life, represented a danger to British Jewry by suggesting it was acceptable for observant Jews to associate with less or non-observant Jews.”
How a Jewish news agency can think for even a moment that charedi Jews – with their innumerable and rabbinically-endorsed outreach organizations and efforts, personal friendships and study-partnerships with “less … Read More >>
Several weeks ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting Detroit (well, Oak Park, a suburb, and a solvent one), where two of our daughters and their husbands and their children live.
Oak Park, and Southfield, which abuts it, are home to a wonderful, vibrant and multifaceted Orthodox Jewish community. The two neighboring cities, within walking distance of each other, boast (figuratively speaking; the residents are a modest bunch) an abundance of shuls and shteiblach, a large and flourishing yeshiva and Bais Yaakov, a yeshiva gedola, a Kollel – and all the requisite kosher shopping and dining amenities to boot. And housing, to put nice icing on a scrumptious cake, is extremely affordable.
One of the cake’s delectable ingredients is a “Partners in Torah” night of study that takes place each Tuesday night at Beth Yehudah, the local yeshiva, where Jews of all stripes learn Torah for an hour with study-partners from the Orthodox community. Hundreds of pairs of men, on one side of a large room, and women on the other, delve into Jewish texts together. It’s an inspiring sight (and sound).
Our recent trip, though, didn’t include a Tuesday, so we missed that weekly event. … Read More >>
When the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael, Rav Aharon Feldman shlit”a, called to offer me a review copy of the journal Dialogue, there could only be one answer, of course. But having read it, all I can say is — get it. All the rest is, as they say, commentary [no, no slight intended to the journal by that name]. Each article deserves to be called “required reading” in Jewish thought.
The introductory article is a speech given to Israeli generals by Rav Feldman, explaining in detail the Chareidi worldview, its view on Torah learning, and why the idea of a draft or other mandatory service outside yeshiva poses an existential threat. Then a section of five articles, entitled “A Call to Spiritual Arms,” discusses “the seeming dissonance between the external and internal manifestations of Yiddishkeit in our community and its members’ lives.” Rav Feldman discusses those who are “observant” without being truly religious on the inside, a phenomenon otherwise known as “Orthopraxy,” and how to escape it. Eytan Kobre, perhaps best known for his acerbic wit and dismantling of the heterodox in the pages of Mishpacha, here looks inwards at the trends towards Orthodox conspicuous consumption and otherwise … Read More >>
When I thanked Rabbi Dovid Bleich for the gift of his just-released new book, he remarked, “You’ve probably read everything in it already.” While his intent was self-deprecating, it was really a testimony to the power of his thought, and the utility of The Philosophical Quest: Of Philosophy, Ethics, Law and Halakhah (Maggid Books, 2013). Indeed, I had read most of the chapters, reprints from assorted texts, periodical, and law journals. I had read them not because they were there and I am a Rabbi Bleich groupie, but because I was slated to speak formally or informally on various topics, and Rabbi Bleich was the go-to person who had weighed in convincingly on all of them.
An article on different approaches to identity in both philosophy and halacha became a mini-unit in my spring course at Loyola Law School. A paper I delivered at Pepperdine on the seven Noachide laws and Natural Law drew heavily from a Rabbi Bleich article. Both are included in this new volume.
Many people believe that the issue of an independent moral sensibility outside of the dictates of halacha is one on the issues that divides the yeshivah world from the Modern Orthodox … Read More >>
A strong paranoid streak has been embedded in the American psyche from nearly the first arrival of Europeans on these shores. We need only think of the Salem Witch Trials and much else that followed in the past three-hundred years. The staying power of American paranoia was documented by Richard Hofstadter, one of the country’s leading historians, and by other writers. In fact, this phenomenon does not require scholarly detection, as there is evidence of its existence in our daily lives.
We encounter American paranoia at the airport, including the lunatic requirement that we take off our shoes and the equally inane requirement that we discard bottles of liquid before we board. On top of all of this, there are the machines that photograph our bodies and the excessive pat-downs that have become so routine that one wonders whether Transportation Security Administration employees are trained in sexual perversion.
Ever since 9/11, things have gotten much worse and in the same way that the paranoid streak is embedded in our collective psyche, gratuitous invasions of our privacy are also being tolerated. We seem to be sold on the notion that without invasive measures, the security of this country will be … Read More >>
It may be the ultimate father-son male bonding tool. Think of it as tossing around a glatt kosher football, but first having to make a brachah on the activity. Daf Yomi 4Kids allows children to share in their fathers’ participation in the immensely popular global learning protocol.
The brainchild of Rabbi Michael Fine, a mechanech in Ottowa, Daf Yomi 4 Kids is a full-color workbook issued once a month. Two pages are devoted to each daf. Typically, they will include some focus on a halacha, factoid, or anecdote from that page, presented in language entirely suited for kids. Additionally, several of the following will appear: simple review questions linked to the page; games related to the content; a new vocabulary word; some mussar point developed from the daf; an elaboration upon some concept touched upon by that day’s learning. It is wonderfully illustrated.
Is this yet another attempt to dumb down the learning of gemara? Will we next see “Bavli For Toddlers?” Hardly. Daf Yomi 4 Kids does not attempt to teach the daf. It does artfully seize upon the inclination of kids to emulate their dads, and to want to participate in something grown-up. Daf Yomi … Read More >>