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 >>
I was on Israel English-language TV last week debating the army draft issue with Yochanan Plessner, the head of the government committee established to make recommendations on the issue in the last Knesset. The moderator began by asking me: “More and more Israelis are asking themselves whether it’s fair that young men like Yochanan Plessner [who served in an elite combat division] should go off at the age of eighteen, risk their lives, endure great hardship, in order to defend us – all of us – while at the same time eighteen year old yeshiva students are exempted from that burden. Rabbi Rosenblum, is that fair?”
I have heard chareidi debaters counter this argument: Well, is it fair that we have to do all the Torah learning for the country?
It’s safe to say that argument has never convinced a single non-chareidi. Not just because of the emotional response – How many yeshiva bochurim are killed in the tents of Torah? – but because it misses a fundamental distinction: Yeshiva bochurim are doing what they most want to do. IDF recruits are acting under legal compulsion
The argument of “equality of burdens,” in short, cannot be easily dismissed, on … Read More >>
An anonymous submission in honor of Purim — Adapted from Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. I p.75
The casual observer of the story of Purim will often overlook and/or misunderstand some of the most crucial aspects of the narrative. Take, for example, the chronology of the story. Although the tale of the Book of Esther is often told inside of a quarter of an hour, the actual story spanned more than nine years.
The Book of Esther famously begins with the feast of Achashverosh, which occurred during the third year of his reign. Our sages reveal (Megilla 12) that Mordechai prohibited the Jewish People from attending this feast. However, this was not due to restraints of the Jewish dietary law, as many assume. Strictly kosher food was available, and one of the two chief butlers at the feast was none other than Mordechai himself (Rashi ibid). Yet, Mordechai prohibited the Jews from attending. The Jewish People did not heed this directive from the generation’s Torah Leader and they attended, facing no repercussions.
Then, nine years later, in the twelfth year of Achashverosh’s reign, Mordechai refused to bow to Haman because of the idol Haman would wear on his neck. … 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]
A number of years ago, a neighbor of mine, a business professional, shared a secret and a request. He told me that he had been found guilty of a crime – a dishonest financial reporting to the federal government – and was awaiting sentencing. He fully admitted that he had acted wrongly and offered no excuse for what he did. My neighbor is a kind, reasonable, family-oriented and charitable person. I drew on what thespian talents I had cultivated many decades earlier in high school, and feigned not being shocked.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” was all I could say. Then came the request. “Could you write the judge a character reference letter?” he asked.
“Of course,” I answered, without hesitation. My neighbor’s punishment would have great impact on his future, his family and his friends. Here was a good man who did a bad thing. The judge knew about the bad thing; the least I could do was describe the good man.
And so I did, the next day. I’ll never know whether my letter, which acknowledged the crime and sought only to provide an honest assessment of my neighbor as a person, had any effect. He was … Read More >>
After giving it serious and prayerful consideration, and despite the many urgings and importunings from my supporters around the world during this Purim season, I must regretfully announce that I am not a candidate to succeed the recently resigned Pope Benedict. Although I possess a large number of extra yarmulkes of all colors and shapes, including many red ones, I do not feel suited for this role – even though I must admit that people who know me best do find me rather infallible. There are several reasons for this decision:
The ceremony for choosing me would perforce include the traditional white smoke emanating from the Vatican chimney. The doctor has told me to avoid smoke at all costs. All my encyclicals are out of service. My last encyclical is missing one of its eight wheels, thus encumbering me with its slow pace. I tried bi-cycles and tri-cycles, on which I did fairly well, but when I climbed on to the traditional Vatican en-cyclical, I kept falling off — which is worse than falling from grace, and quite demeaning for the papacy, especially with those long robes. As for those long white robes, they would all need to be … Read More >>
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 >>
[This week’s posting is a shortened version of a piece I wrote a number of years ago. I thought it might merit recirculation. – AS]
A typical offering included a close-up of the deformed face of a Jewish man above the legend “The Scum of Humanity: This Jew says that he is a member of God’s chosen people.” Another displayed a cartoon of a vampire bat with a grotesquely exaggerated nose and a Jewish star on its chest. In yet another, a Jewish butcher was depicted snidely dropping a rat into his meat grinder and, elsewhere in the issue, the punctured necks of handsome German youths were shown bleeding into a bowl held by a Jew more gargoyle than human. At its peak in 1938, print runs of Hitler henchman Julius Streicher’s vile tabloid Der Sturmer ran as high as 2,000,000.
“All our struggles are in vain,” Streicher told a Nazi student organization in 1935, “if the battle against the Jews is not fought to the finish. It is not enough to get the Jews out of Germany. No, they must be destroyed throughout the entire world so that humanity will be free of them.”
We approach the … Read More >>
After davening the other day and not in the main shul, a couple of fellows — one of them a medical doctor — asked whether I shared their assessment that President Obama is 1) a die-hard fundamentalist Muslim, 2) an anti-Semite and 3) obviously a hater of Israel whose policies are aimed at destroying the Jewish State. They were shocked that I did not share their view. I was not shocked to hear what they had to say because, sadly, such sentiments are increasingly heard within the Orthodox community. We are in the grip of heavy doses of paranoia and heavy doses of hatred. What makes the reality worse is that both the paranoia and the hatred are dynamic. What is being expressed today is more extreme than what had been expressed previously and what is being expressed today is likely to be mild by comparison with what will be said tomorrow.
What I am referring to is not the taking of conservative positions on a host of public issues. It is understandable and, from my perspective, correct that on a range of social issues, religious Jews do not accept liberal positions. It is also understandable, even though I … 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 >>
by Rabbi Meir Goldberg
I wrote this article in December as a response to the Klal Perspectives Kiruv edition, and specifically the article by Rabbi Ilan Feldman. I first sent it out to Kiruv Rabbis via listserves, and after hearing much positive feedback, I submitted a condensed version to Mishpacha Magazine, which was more understandable to those not involved in Kiruv.
I prefer the original since it touches on many important issues relating to Kiruv, and it is more passionate as well.
The older generation of kiruv (Jewish outreach) professionals often waxes poetic of the kiruv glory days, which began sometime after the Six-Day War and ended in the early 90s. Rav Noach Weinberg’s dream of changing the world was, to a large extent, successful: tens of thousands became frum, and so many more were reconnected in some meaningful way to their heritage. Over the last 15 years, the secular Jewish landscape and the kiruv response has changed. As a result, the editors of Klal Perspectives, an online magazine, asked 17 kiruv leaders to write about current outreach efforts, how success is measured, and whether kiruv has run its course due to assimilation and the … Read More >>
Like the repeatedly pummeled victim of depraved bullies who decides it might just be best to stay away from the schoolyard during recess, Israel recently opted to not show up to be judged by the United Nations Human Rights Council, a body with venerated members like Congo, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Malaysia and Qatar.
The UN body and a number of individual countries, including the United States, pleaded with Israel to not be the first country to refuse to appear for an HRC “Universal Periodic Review.” But the Israeli government, in its chutzpah, decided to just say no to presenting itself for assault yet again by a group that has demonstrated a deep and troubling fixation on one political dispute in a world in which, elsewhere, authorities routinely amputate body parts, blithely murder citizens, incarcerate innocent people without trial and look the other way as human beings are enslaved and sold like sides of beef.
The New York Times, predictably, did its own huffing, munificently conceding that the HRC is “not without faults” but asserting all the same that the Middle East’s only stable and free democracy was showing “an unwillingness to undergo the same scrutiny as all other … 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 >>
Well-informed, they say, is well-prepared; and knowledge is power. An exception, though – at least in the judgment of some – seems to be when Jewish women in Israel are contemplating ending their pregnancies.
When an Israeli magazine announced it would bestow an award on a group called Efrat, “pro-choice” advocates (seldom have “scare quotes” been so appropriate) howled in outrage.
Efrat provides women with information about abortion, as well as financial support for mothers-to-be who are under economic pressure to terminate their pregnancies. The group’s detractors characterize it as preying on women at an emotionally vulnerable time.
Efrat, however, does not parade with offensive placards in front of medical facilities like some American groups. Nor does it seek to shame women in any way. Its goal is simply to advance “a woman’s right to free choice,” by providing expectant women who want it with accurate information about medical matters and the development of the lives growing within them; it also offers needy such women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term things like food packages, cribs and strollers. The group claims that, since its founding in 1977, 50,000 babies were born as a result of … Read More >>
Every once in a while, you need a reminder that what we consider normal neighborly relations — isn’t. Rabbi Adlerstein posted about Jewish Chesed after Hurricane Sandy, two months ago. But here is an example closer to home.
On Friday night, shortly after candle lighting, a family heard the smoke detector go off. Although they quickly tried to put out the fire, this proved impossible — the fire department was called, and the house probably won’t be ready for their return until the end of this week.
Only one member of the family was lightly injured. The fire department had difficulty ascertaining who the child’s mother was, and kept asking who these neighbors were who were caring for the child as if she were their own.
After a fire, the Red Cross gives money and food for a few days and little care packages, and they also pay for hotel rooms for two days while families arrange where they will stay. In this case, they didn’t show up until Saturday night. When someone asked them why, the representative explained that they knew that the community would provide the family with food and accommodations over the Sabbath, so there … Read More >>
[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 >>
Even with protective cover from Senator Charles E. Schumer – as determined a defender of Israel as there ever was – and even speaking only for myself, I hesitate to address the overwrought reaction in some corners to President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. I don’t want to be labeled an anti-Semite too.
Not that there wasn’t or isn’t cause for some concern about Mr. Hagel. He is famously on record as having once referred to AIPAC as the “Jewish lobby,” and in the past questioned the wisdom of too hastily employing military force against Iran. But such things – you might want to sit down – do not an anti-Semite or unconscionable isolationist make.
At least not to reasonable eyes. Unfortunately, some tend to the visceral rather than the rational in such matters, prisoners of their own preconceptions. Despite the clear and ample evidence to the contrary, they just can’t stop pegging the president as less than committed to Israel’s wellbeing, and can be counted on to shoot at anything that moves if Mr. Obama set it into motion. So Mr. Hagel was immediately judged by some as bad for Israel, if for no … 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 >>
American politicians tainted by scandal and forced to resign their positions usually explain that they want “to spend more time with their families.” Issam al-Aryan, a top advisor to Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, who recently tendered his own resignation said he is overly “occupied with my work as head of the Freedom and Justice Party bloc in the Shura Council.” He must not lack for family time.
The scandal that attached itself to Mr. al-Aryan was that he had publicly invited Israeli Jews of Egyptian descent to return to their erstwhile home. “Egypt,” he told Jews who had fled Egypt over the years, “is worthier of you than Israel,” which, he explained, is a “racist, occupying entity.”
There was no rush of Egypt-born Israelis to take up Mr. al-Aryan’s offer, or for that matter any evidence of even a single Jewish individual who was enticed by the prospect of leaving a modern, prosperous country, not to mention his ancestral homeland, for a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated pit of poverty and political upheaval. What did come quickly, though, was the backlash against the Egyptian politician for his impudent invitation.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan, for example, lambasted Mr. al-Aryan, insisting that “Egyptian … Read More >>
We’ve just been through an extensive discussion about a single offhand remark, made privately to Rabbi Adlerstein, concerning a single comment on a single website, read uncharitably, from which we then extrapolate an entire “train of thought” which, with no further evidence, we are to assume is endemic to the charedi community — and whether that Torah personality’s offhand remark should have been made publicly, and further, whether the failure to make said remark publicly reflects a fear of Gedolim to speak their minds. The best reaction to this was probably that of the writer using the moniker kman: “Maybe it’s just me, but we have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.”
Having just quoted someone who contributed using a moniker, I’m going to criticize the practice. There is a discussion about anonymity that is long overdue, but that one wasn’t it.
Put succinctly, I think the use of pen names has reduced the overall quality of comments and level of dialogue of this journal. This is not universally true, but I believe that if one weighs the cost and benefit, anonymous comments have done more harm than good.
A few months ago, I prevailed … Read More >>
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 >>
I was heartened by the responses I received to my essay last week, in which I suggested that Jews of good will on each side of the issue of women’s prayer groups at the Kosel Ma’aravi make an effort to empathize with those on the other.
Even as someone who wishes to see the Jewish religious tradition of millennia upheld at that holy spot, I still consider it important to try to appreciate how women used to women’s or mixed-sex services might feel in a segregated national Jewish prayer area where the only group services are men’s. And I expressed my hope that those women, too, will try to put themselves in the shoes of men who embrace halacha and thus may not hear women’s voices raised in song. Where such empathy might lead was not my point; the empathy itself was.
I heard, among others, from several non-Orthodox rabbis who (even though they prefer a different setup at the Kosel than I) expressed their appreciation for what I wrote. Heartening too was that I didn’t receive a single communication from anyone in my own charedi community eschewing empathy for those unlike us. (Perhaps that shouldn’t have been surprising, … Read More >>
By Yoel Finkelman
[Editor’s Note: As mentioned a few days ago, Dr. Yoel Finkelman submitted a thoughtful but challenging reaction to an earlier piece that spoke of an anonymous Torah Voice. Others will certainly disagree, but I firmly believe that we fail in our mission if we cannot listen to tough criticism couched respectfully. We need either to refute it, or to concede and change when problems are pointed out to us. The best criticism often comes from people outside our arba amos. I hope to find the time in a few days, BEH, to pen a response, unless readers beat me to making whatever points I plan to make.]
Dear Rabbi Adlerstein,
Once again, I find myself impressed with your writing and with your recent post about the significant Torah personality who took his community to task. A young observant man, an amateur boxer and Israeli champion, refused to take part in a Shabbat weigh-in and was disqualified from an international tournament. Rather than appreciate the mesirut nefesh, some lambasted him for ever getting involved in boxing. That Torah personality challenged the community’s small-mindedness and lack of bein adam lechaveiro. He boldly insisted that God has granted people … Read More >>