A private business owner in Seattle has been told that he will face fines and penalties if he refuses to bake “wedding” cakes for deviant couples in violation of his religious faith. If it’s “racist” to discriminate against deviant couples having a “wedding,” then it’s wrong for a Rabbi to refuse to marry them, as well.
An entire hour of machshavah, delivered on the first day of Chanukah at the Yachad Kolel, without having to endure a single original thought of mine. That’s because it is entirely a collection of ideas from much deeper thinkers. The two halves are built on R Goldvicht, zt”l and Maharal. But there are important cameo appearances by Ramban, Malbim, the Gra, the Bahir, R Hutner, R Dessler, R Soloveitchik, R Yaakov Galinsky, Christopher Hitchens and Matthew Arnold. Except for the last two, an all-star cast.
Addendum: Apparently there are people who would prefer an audio-only version, missing out on a terrific opportunity to watch a bobbing head in front of a paroches for an hour. Bowing to the pressure, it is now available as an mp3 download.
Earlier this year, I wrote about how easy it now is to become a Reform or Conservative Rabbi, with the advent of $8000 online ordination. An enterprising woman from Detroit has managed to take things to the next level, serving as a Rabbi at a prominent Reform temple having “never trained as a rabbi,” much less receiving ordination.
But here’s the kicker: it took the congregation years to recognize that their “rabbi” had no training. She had become a “rabbinic associate” in 2008 and was expected to begin her studies, which she stated that she had completed last year — an ordination ceremony was held at the temple in May 2012. And they only found out because their board president contacted the institution she claimed to have attended in order to arrange for a second ordination ceremony there at the school — at which point he learned she had never even enrolled.
Perhaps it’s a nitpicking side point, but contrary to what the board president said to the press, the institution whose distance-learning course she was to take is not, in fact, affiliated with the Reform movement at all. ALEPH is the “Alliance for Jewish Renewal,” founded … Read More >>
Celebrated attorney Alan Dershowitz has petitioned Israeli President Shimon Peres to intervene in what Haaretz characterizes as “the case of the apparent blacklisting of Rabbi Avi Weiss by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.” That is to say, the conclusion of the Rabbinate that Rabbi Weiss’s conversion standards are markedly beneath their own.
Mr. Dershowitz wrote Mr. Peres that the rabbi at issue is “one of the foremost Modern Open Orthodox rabbis in America” (no argument there, although “Open Orthodoxy,” as has been well revealed, is a misnomer) and – the lawyer’s apparent coup de grâce – “one of the strongest advocates anywhere for the State of Israel.”
The attorney goes on to bemoan the “chasm between the Jews of the United States and the religious institutions in Israel” which he characterizes as “baseless religious tyranny.”
As to Mr. Dershowitz’s authority to pronounce on matters religious, some earlier words of his:
“I am… certain that the miraculous stories that form the basis of most religious beliefs are myths. Yet I respect the Bible and enjoy reading and teaching it. Indeed, I find it even more fascinating as a human creation than as a divine revelation. I consider myself a committed … Read More >>
Sarah Shapiro’s plagiarism suit against Naomi Ragen reached its denouement in the Israeli Supreme Court last week when Ms. Ragen withdrew her appeal of the judgment entered by the Jerusalem District Court in Shapiro’s favor. Withdrawal of the appeal left intact the District Court’s injunction barring Ragen from reprinting her novel Sotah in any language without removing material appropriated from Shapiro’s memoir Growing with My Children.
In return, Shapiro agreed to donate 97,000 shekels – her portion of the damages award against Ragen, after payment of attorney’s fees – to two charity organizations,Yad Eliezer and Yad Sarah.
As is her wont, Ragen claimed vindication by the three-judge panel, despite the fact that she remained without the 233,000 shekels awarded by the District Court to Shapiro and her attorneys, and is still subject to an injunction against reprinting Sotah. If that constitutes victory in Ragen’s view, one wonders what would be defeat.
In any event, Ms. Ragen will be back in court soon defending against another plagiarism action, this one brought by Mrs. Sudy Rosengarten. Rosengarten claims that Ragen interpolated her short story “A Match Made in Heaven” (which was published in the anthology Our Lives I edited by Shapiro) … Read More >>
Tablet magazine carries the story of Isaac Theil (which is on the NY Daily News, as well), who was innocently riding home to Brooklyn on the Q train when a young black man (tired from a long day at college, it turns out) fell asleep on his shoulder. For 30 minutes. Theil’s response? “He must have had a long day, let him sleep.” Theil thought nothing of it, got off at his stop and went home.
Not so, the passenger across the way, who thought this was an incredible act of kindness. He or she snapped a photo and posted it to an Internet sharing site, where it became an overnight sensation — nearly 5,000,000 views and counting.
I hope other people are also kind of wondering why this is such a big deal. I’m pretty sure the same has happened to me, and the most I would do is try to move him without waking him. Wouldn’t you be embarrassed to wake somebody up? It’s just that we are told to be careful about gezel shayna, disturbing someone’s sleep.
It reminds me of a letter that was in Ami magazine last week, from a Rabbi … Read More >>
A lengthy op-ed in the New York Times today by one Susan Katz Miller celebrates intermarriage and the raising of children of intermarrieds in both Jewish and non-Jewish traditions. Her family “celebrates Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana, Sukkot, Simhat Torah, Hanukkah, Passover and many Shabbats… We also celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls, Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter.”
Ms. Katz and her Episcopalian husband want their children “to feel equally connected to both sides of their religious ancestry.”
“Perhaps,” she writes, “having been given a love for Judaism and basic Hebrew literacy in childhood, they will choose at some point in their lives to practice Judaism exclusively. That would be good for the Jews. Or perhaps they will choose to be Christians or Buddhists or secular humanists who happen to have an unusual knowledge of and affinity for Judaism. That would also be good for the Jews.”
Neither, however, would be good for the Jews. Ms. Katz, “the granddaughter of a New Orleans rabbi,” was “raised Reform Jewish” by her own “Episcopalian mother and… Jewish father.”
Times, indeed, are strange. Geraldo Rivera and Stella McCartney (Paul’s daughter) are halachically Jewish. But Susan Katz Miller is not.
Some of the first stirrings and concerns about the Pew Report appeared right here in Cross-Currents, led by Dr. Marvin Schick. He followed up with conversations with the conveners of the study. Now, he has taken those concerns to a wider public in Tablet Magazine, drawing on his reputation and experience as a serious researcher for decades.
His fans are proud.
While one calendric oddity has grabbed national attention, another one seems to have gone unnoticed. Except on Cross-Currents.
Thanksgivukkah has entered the American vocabulary, for a short period of notoriety. This year will be the first, and likely the last, time that Thanksgiving will be celebrated on Chanukah. The conjunction has tickled people’s imaginations, launched a Facebook page, produced fusion recipes unheard of since the days of Poccayente, and provoked the ire of Colbert. Somehow, in the rush to make turkey-laced latkes, a different mishmash comes and goes without comment. Yesterday marked the major festival of Eid ul-Adha, the Muslim celebration of Akeidas Yishmael. (Their version differs a bit from ours. They claim we tampered with the texts to insert our own favorite son candidate in a lead role.) Is it coincidental that it fell this year in the week that Jews will read of Akeidas Yitzchok? I think not.
The identity of the protagonists is not the only difference in the story. Checking the Quran 37:102, my eye caught a few words, and I wondered if they were significant.
When he grew enough to work with him, he said, “My son, I see in a dream … Read More >>
By Sharon Rais-Tessler
[Editor's Note: OK, I have a weakness for creative writing]
I am a doctor I am not G-d I know I’m not But I was taught That man is G-d What I decide What I do What I did Is always right Because I am G-d I know I’m not I am a lowly messenger Shelechus is all I do A sheleach is all I am G-d’s will flows Through my head Through my heart Through my hand Each day I rise And pray That today My shelechus will be right I will be a sheleach For only good Only good decisions Will I think Only compassion Will I feel Only with steadiness Will I perform I am not G-d I know I’m not All I know All I need to know Is Hashem is with me
Dr. Sharon Rais-Tessler is a mother, grandmother, and OB/GYN in Brooklyn
by Yossi Huttler
[Editor's note: I met a friend at a chasunah recently, whom I had not seen in a while. The conversation turned to a topic that I hear more frequently these days, at least among my chevra. It is the disappearance of the creative element in contemporary Torah commentary. This is not to denigrate the quality and quantity of many recent works, which are often either sweeping in their breadth of information, or inspiring. But we have not seen real creativity since Rav Hutner zt"l. (The just-published Mesoras HaRav Chumash of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt"l does include many creative pieces, written, of course, in the same epoch.)
Those who appreciate poetry will appreciate this submission on the Parsha. Those who don't ought to consider where creativity lodges in the human personality, and what a frum poet and frum darshan have in common. ]
and so after that first bris were you now known as Avraham ben Avraham a Patriarch to yourself and all that would follow
Curiously, the text of the original Haaretz article has changed – to their credit. The story about Dr. Malka Schaps, a newly appointed dean at Bar-Ilan, now only claims that she is the only female haredi prof in Israel. The earlier text added that she was perhaps the only one in the world.
I quickly addressed a serious of comments expressing dismay at such a conjecture. I rattled off the names I knew of – Dr. Judith Bleich (Touro), Dr Jean Jofen z”l (NYU), her daughter-in-law Dr Elisheva Carlebach (Columbia), Charlotte Goldberg (Loyola Law School), Dr. Tamar Frankiel (Claremont). I am curious as to whom I missed. Please add additional names through the Comments feature. But let’s keep to their rules, and limit it to professors, i.e. teaching faculty, not haredi women with doctorates alone.
The information might be useful in the future.
People will be speaking for quite a while about the the new Pew report on American Jews, and its depressing outlook for the future of any continuation of Jewish affiliation outside of Orthodoxy. One item, appearing at the end of Chapter Four, took everyone by surprise. Fifteen percent of ultra-Orthodox Jews reported that they attended non-Jewish religious services a few times a year. Huh? Can this really be true. The same figure was reported for Modern Orthodox Jews.
Given the sad factionalizing of the Orthodox community, we think we understand what is going on. Occasionally, someone from the yeshivish community will drop by a Young Israel. And a Modern Orthodox traveller in need of a late shacharis might, from time to time, try out a chassidishe shteibel.
This is as “non-Jewish” (r”l) as it gets. Riddle solved.
Not so funny are the real flaws in the report, some of which resulted in the serious under-reporting of Orthodox strength:
1) The clustering of Orthodox population in specific areas 2) The perhaps tens of thousands (or more) especially outside those areas who are strongly affiliated with Chabad. Those people will not call themselves Orthodox, put belong there for the … Read More >>
If you’re insomniac, you can visit rabbiavishafran.com and click on “Yom Kippur” or “Sukkos” at the right of the homepage (under “categories”) and read various thoughts I’ve committed to writing over the years about those holidays.
And you can read a recent (last week’s) issue of my weekly newsletter “An Observant Eye” by clicking the following link: AOE #17.
To subscribe to the newsletter, click here
And, most important, a g’mar chasima tova to all Cross-Current readers.
I dislike hawking my own presentations, but I am under pressure from major corporate sponsors.
OK. Minor, non-corporate sponsors. But they are nice people.
Rabbi Ruvain Wolf figured out that anything a rabbi can say in an hour, he can cram into 20 minutes. That way, he gets to put three of them on a in a single evening. The audience gets different perspectives, and less chance to get bored by all the filler. It works; I’ve appeared there (Maayon Yisroel, on LaBrea Ave.) several times before. My good friend Dr Dovid Fox and I, together with Rabbi Wolf (responding to the Litvaks with the last word in chassidus) will be holding forth at 8PM this Tuesday evening, the night before Rosh Hashanah.
A bit more than a week later, I will give the annual Yom Kippur (and Sukkos) shiur for women at the main building of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1399 S Roxbury Dr. That’s Wed. 9/11 at noon. Preregistration necessary. Email email@example.com
[Links are now available.
The Yom Kippur shiur is here. (The last time I tried this, they cut it off because the traffic exceeded their limit. So if that happens to you, please … Read More >>
Just a short note to let readers know that I have posted several “oldie but goodie” (at least I hope they’re worthy) essays about Rosh Hashana on my website.
If you want to peruse them, just go to rabbiavishafran.com and click on “Rosh Hashana” in the “Categories” list.
Or just click here.
Ksiva Vachasima Tova to you and yours,
A lengthy piece at the online magazine Tablet describes “new Jewish rituals” that “offer comfort to women who have had abortions.” It begins with the story of a woman who, as a young graduate student, terminated two of her pregnancies and years later came to realize that a “spiritual, ritual way” of “marking the decision” to end the lives of her unborn children “would have helped in resolving” uncomfortable feelings she had experienced.
The woman discovered a group, Mayyim Hayyim, that utilizes a mikveh for that express purpose. A liturgical rite, written by three women – a poet, a psychologist and a rabbi – asks the Creator for help “to begin healing from this difficult decision to interrupt the promise of life.”
According to Mayyim Hayyim’s executive director, Carrie Bornstein, “Oftentimes it’s helpful for people to say, ‘I’m going to move to the next stage of my life, whatever that might bring, and I’m not going to let that experience define me or take me over.’ ”
Another “post-abortion ritual” was devised by a graduate student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. Yet another is in a book edited by four female Reform rabbis.
Actually, … Read More >>
Two recent articles in the New York Times conveyed as informative a picture of Palestinians and Israel as might be imagined. One, on August 4, profiled the “culture of conflict” nurtured by West Bank Palestinians, focusing on Arab teenagers’ delight in throwing large stones at Israel soldiers and Jewish residents of nearby communities, and younger boys’ games imitating their elders’ activities.
“Children have hobbies,” one teen, Muhammad, is quoted as explaining, “and my hobby is throwing stones.”
When a 17-year-old, arrested for his stone-throwing, was released in June after 16 months in prison, the article reports, “he was welcomed like a war hero with flags and fireworks, women in wedding finery lining the streets to cheer his motorcade.”
The second Times piece, the next day, described how, in its headline’s words, “Doctors in Israel Quietly Tend to Syria’s Wounded.”
Most Syrian patients “come here unconscious with head injuries,” said Dr. Masad Barhoum, the director general of one of the hospitals, the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya. “They wake up after a few days or whenever and hear a strange language and see strange people,” he continued. “If they can talk, the first question is, ‘Where am I?’ ”
“I … Read More >>
The media has done a good job presenting the Women of the Wall as a group of innocents, just coming down to the Western Wall to pray. Meanwhile, they say the Women For the Wall are inciting violence and responsible for people shouting and throwing things.
For anyone confused, this video is a must. No comment needed!
by Steven Pruzansky
[Editor's note: I came across a short "insider" bio of Rabbi David Lau, who was elected earlier today as the next Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Pruzansky wrote it two weeks ago, but it became more important today.]
“…The primary alternative candidate now is Rav David Lau, Chief Rabbi of Modiin, with whom I have developed a very warm relationship over the last few years. Son of a former Chief Rabbi, Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, whose life story should be read by and inspire all Jews, Rav David should nonetheless not be perceived as a legacy candidate, driven to higher rabbinic office by the effects of nepotism. He is an exceptional human being – warm, friendly, engaging, personable and dedicated to Torah and Klal Yisrael. By the standards of the Israeli rabbinate, he is unique. I have personally witnessed Rav Lau walk miles on Shabbat morning to participate in the smachot taking place in a variety of kehillot, only because as the city’s rabbi he deems it appropriate. (Few, if any other chiefs, do the same – Rav Shlomo Riskin in Efrat being the exception, but an exception that proves the rule.) That approach, more typical of … Read More >>
by Yossi Huttler
[Editor's note: I am once again going to indulge my weakness for the poetry of Yossi Huttler. It is hard to get through Kinos without mourning for the lost art of responding to poetry as an evocative language. The various authors of the kinos took for granted that their audiences would be moved through meter, alliteration and assonance. We react to them by glancing at our watches, and counting off the minutes till the ordeal is over. Perhaps appreciating some contemporary frum poetry can give us a glimpse of how kinos once touched every reader's soul.
I am leaving intact the comments of the poet.]
The first poem concerns inyana d’yoma inasmuch as the Shoah is a part of what we mourn during the Three Weeks:
at the far end of the prozdor standing on the lip of a self-dug grave or the doorway to a gas chamber stripped of all chatzitzot between them and their Creator as at birth souls ready to tread the next step
About the second poem: After talking last week to a friend who recently turned thirty while still unmarried, during which conversation I recalled my own dating experiences before … Read More >>
The very same thought occurred to me and to one of my daughters the night of July 4. I was walking home from Maariv (evening services) in Staten Island; my daughter was looking out into her back yard in Rockland County.
The thought? That fireworks are amazing. But nowhere near as amazing as fireflies.
In consultation with rabbinic leadership, Agudath Israel of America issued the following statement:
Public remarks attributed in the media to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the outgoing Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth of Britain, as well as his comments in a recent pamphlet he published, are dismaying, deeply misguided, and harmful to both Jewish unity and Jewish integrity.
The rabbi bemoans “the world of inward-turning, segregationist Orthodoxy.” He portrays the multitude of Jews who came together to celebrate the Siyum HaShas nearly a year ago – an event that captured the hearts, minds and souls of countless Jews, and the reverent wonder of much of the non-Jewish world – as representative of such an “extreme.”
Rabbi Sacks sees Jews who choose to “embrace Judaism and reject the world” as parts of a phenomenon he calls “worse than dangerous” and “an abdication of the role of Jews and Judaism in the world.”
Rabbi Sacks’ sentiments are not only inaccurate but un-Jewish and uncouth.
Portraying the “ultra-Orthodox” world as detached from awareness of, and interaction with, the larger world betrays an astounding ignorance of reality. Not only are charedim in the workplace and the “outside world,” but … Read More >>
Klal Perspectives, the online journal of Orthodox communal responsibility, is proud to release its latest issue, on communal leadership infrastructure.
Working with the editorial board of Klal Perspectives is time-intensive, but exhilarating. The five of us are so entirely different – and yet work exceptionally well with each other, and have kept it up now for a few years. When we achieve a meeting of the minds, we tend to relax, thinking that we must be right, if we can agree despite our diversity.
Boy, have we been wrong.
We were sure, at times, that a particular topic would be a breeze to execute, or would be received without controversy, only to learn that the opposite was true. We thought that the issue on the future of the teshuva movement would be a sleeper. Instead, it engendered more controversy than any previous issue. The dust didn’t settle for months.
We believed that this issue would be an easy one to produce, with lots of potential contributors all ready to share their visions for the future. It didn’t quite happen. We found many people very uneasy about not having all that much to say about vision or the future. The … Read More >>
If you’ve followed the news in Israel at all, you probably remember the shooting rampage at an “LGBT Youth Center” in Tel Aviv. [If you don't know the acronym, good for you, and please let me not be the one to inspire you to look it up.] With absolutely no evidence whatsoever, it was immediately assumed that the shooter was charedi, and that it was a hate crime:
“This hate crime needs to be a turning point and to give strength,” [MK Tzipi] Livni told hundreds of Israelis who rallied in Tel Aviv to protest the attack, in which 15 people were also wounded.
Mike Hamel, the head of the Aguda, Israel’s LGBT organization, said such an attack was unprecedented in Israel.
“We have joined the list of ‘civilized’ countries in which hatred is the standard,” he said. “I don’t know whether the incident was directed at youth, but it appears that it was directed at the community. This is baseless hatred that cost us dearly – this is what needs to be understood.”
Hamel said that “elements represented by [Shas leaders] Eli Yishai and Benizri that are fostering hatred are still stronger than the increasingly favorable attitude … Read More >>