Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Behind the Scenes in Megillat Eicha

It's been a while since I discussed hidden allusions (remazim) in the scriptures. Actually, the first time I discussed it was almost a full year ago when I "exposed" some hidden treasures in Parshat V'Eschanan - this week's Parsha (click HERE to see the post.)

Now that Tisha B'Av is at our door (let us hope that we don't have to let it in) I want to share some very enlightening remazim. Again, these codes come from Sefer Niflaos M'Torasecha from Rabbi Mordechai Nachman Aronovsky, ShLiT"A.

1. 9th of Av (ט באב )

The sequence of letters ט באב appears as a Roshei Teivos one time in all of Tanach (zero times as Sofei Teivos) and it in this pasuk in Sefer Ezra (6:3):

 עזרא פרק ו ג
ג בִּשְׁנַת חֲדָה לְכוֹרֶשׁ מַלְכָּא כּוֹרֶשׁ מַלְכָּא שָׂם טְעֵם בֵּית-אֱלָהָא בִירוּשְׁלֶם בַּיְתָא יִתְבְּנֵא אֲתַר דִּי-דָבְחִין דִּבְחִין וְאֻשּׁוֹהִי מְסוֹבְלִין רוּמֵהּ אַמִּין שִׁתִּין פְּתָיֵהּ אַמִּין שִׁתִּין

In the first year of the rule of King Koresh (Cyrus), King Koresh put an edict: The House of G-d Shall be built in Jerusalem in the place that...

Rabbi Aronovsky writes that here we find an allusion to the date of the destruction in the verse that talks about the construction of the second Bais HaMikdash! He notes that it is brought in Yalkut Shimoni (61) that Koresh the Mede cried and groaned over the destruction of the Temple by Nevuchadnetzer which occurred on 9th of Av and as a reward for this, he was granted the privilege of building the second one.

2. Sinat Chinam

There seems to be a clear allusion from the very first words of Eichah that the second Bayis was destroyed due to Sinat Chinam. This is because the Roshei Teivos of the first seven words of Eicha spell out the words Eivah Ra'ah (איבה רעה ) - terrible hostility.

איכה פרק א א
פרק א
א אֵיכָה ישבה בָדָד העִיר רַבָּתִי עם הָיְתָה כְּאַלְמָנָה רַבָּתִי בַגּוֹיִם שָׂרָתִי בַּמְּדִינוֹת הָיְתָה לָמַס:

This code comes from Baal HaRokeach in Devarim 6:5 and he understands it to mean the hostility between Eisav (the Romans who destroyed the Temple) and Yaakov (the Jews who built it) as the pasuk says:
וַיִּשְׂטֹם עֵשָׂו אֶת-יַעֲקֹב

Rabbi Aronovsky adds that this code is also mentioned in Zohar (Midrash Ne'elam Eicha) and the Eivah refers to the Eivah of man toward the first snake (Nachash HaKadmon) who is the Yetzer HaRa as the pasuk says:
וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ

3. Bari - Healthy

There are 2 occurrences in Tanach of the word בריא in Roshei Teivos. There is only one occurrence in Sofei Teivos in all of Tanach and it is found in this pasuk:
איכה פרק ג כז
כז טוֹב לַגֶּבֶר כִּי-יִשָּׂא עֹל בִּנְעוּרָיו:

This seems to indicate that a person must take upon himself the yoke of Mitzvos when he is in his youth (בנעוריו ) and is healthy, and not put it off until his older years when his health is not at its prime.

4. Sama'el(סמאל)

Sama'el is another name for the Angel of Death - the Malach HaMaves. The Malach HaMaves is ruthless and emotionless. When he is looking for customers he does not play favorites and he does not take pity.

Thus it is amazing that there is only one occurrenc of the word Sama'el as a Sofei Teivos in all of Tanach (there is one occurrence as Roshei Teivos, as well) and it is in this pasuk (Yirmiyah 21:6-7):

ו וְהִכֵּיתִי אֶת-יוֹשְׁבֵי הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְאֶת-הָאָדָם וְאֶת-הַבְּהֵמָה בְּדֶבֶר גָּדוֹל יָמֻתוּ: ז וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן נְאֻם  
ה' אֶתֵּן אֶת-צִדְקִיָּהוּ מֶלֶךְ-יְהוּדָה וְאֶת-עֲבָדָיו וְאֶת-הָעָם וְאֶת-הַנִּשְׁאָרִים- בָּעִיר הַזֹּאת מִן-הַדֶּבֶר מִן-הַחֶרֶב וּמִן-הָרָעָב בְּיַד נְבוּכַדְרֶאצַּר מֶלֶךְ-בָּבֶל וּבְיַד אֹיְבֵיהֶם וּבְיַד מְבַקְשֵׁי נַפְשָׁם וְהִכָּם לְפִי-חֶרֶב לֹא-יָחוּס עֲלֵיהֶמ וְלֹא יַחְמֹל וְלֹא יְרַחֵם

It is amazing that this pasuk which talks all about every type of horrible death (plague, hunger, and sword) and the word Sama'el is encoded right where it says "he will have no mercy" (3 different ways). Note that the two terms it crosses are לא יחוס and לא יחמל.

Now what is amazing is that we find the term Sama'el in two other places in Tanach a bit scrambled but in one case it crosses the term לא יחוס and in the other it crosses the term לא יחמל.

The first occurrence is in Yeshaya 13:18:

ישעיה פרק יג יח
יח וּקְשָׁתוֹת נְעָרִים תְּרַטַּשְׁנָה וּפְרִי-בֶטֶן לֹא יְרַחֵמוּ עַל-בָּנִימ לֹא-תָחוּס עֵינָם:

So here, Sama'el is a bit out of order but it is there and it covers the term לא תחוס .

The second occurrence is here with us in Eicha 2:17:

אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה מִימֵי-קֶדֶמ הָרַס וְלֹא חָמָל

So, here it is again out of order and it covers the term לא חמל .

5. 4-Letter Name of G-d

There is a large segment in Niflaos M'Torasecha that deals with the occurrences of the 4-letter Name in consecutive Roshei Teivos and consecutive Sofei Teivos throughout Tanach. But here is a very interesting variation that he quotes from the Maharash from Ostropola in his sefer Likutei Shoshana on Eicha 1:10. The twist here is that it is almost in consecutive Sofei Teivos but not quite.

Here is the code (Eicha 1:10):

איכה פרק א י
י יָדוֹ פָּרַשׂ צָר עַל כָּל-מַחֲמַדֶּיהָ כִּי-רָאֲתָה גוֹיִם בָּאו מִקְדָּשׁה אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתָה לֹא-יָבֹאוּ בַקָּהָל לָךְ:

We-e-ll, it looks like we almost have the 4 letter name in consecutive Sofei Teivos except that the goyim have to come in and interfere!

The Maharash from Ostropola explains that the Makom HaMikdash was the place of השראת השכינה which means that the Name of G-d rests upon it. But, you remember our uncle Eisav and his einikle Amalek? Well, he kind of breaks the Name of Hashem apart as it says in Shmos 17:16:

כי יד על כס י-ה מלחמה לה בעמלק

And that is exactly what is happening in Eicha 1:10!

And it is our job to restore it - in every generation.

May we be zocheh to restore the Name of G-d speedily in our days!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Best Bachur in Yeshiva Gedola Melk-Mauthausen

Last Shabbos (Matos-Massei) we celebrated a family weekend at one of the popular guest houses in Eretz Yisrael. The entourage consisted of my parents and their seven children with spouses and offspring and a few other close relatives. Quite a crowd, ken yirbu!

The occasion was two-fold. A combination of the Bar mitzva of my sister's fourth son and a grand birthday celebration for my father, LOY"T AMV"Sh, upon reaching his 80th birthday a few weeks earlier.

One of the highlights of the celebration was that my father, LOY"T, made a Siyum on all six sets of Mishna at Shalosh Seudos. Now, a bit of background is in order.

My father was born to a very pious (what I will call chareidi) chassidic family in Munkacz, Czechoslovakia in 1929. He had a grade-A cheder education (though he was known to have a mischievous side) and could have become a "geshikta lamdan" (erudite scholar) except for the great war. When the war began in 1939 he was only 10 years old (think 5th grade) and when the Jews of Munkacz were deported in May of 1944, he was not yet 15. Thus, at the time when most of us, even non-chareidim, get our primary advanced level Torah learning experience (high-school age), my father was doing slave labor in Melk-Mauthausen.

Perhaps he even deserves the distinction as "the best bachur in Yeshiva Gedola Melk-Mauthausen".

Still this means to say that he barely had any advanced level Torah education in his formative years. Thus he was missing some of the vital early year learning experience that gives one the skills to study on their own.

After the war came two years of total chaos in various DP camps and he finally arrived in America in 1947. In America, he picked up the pieces in his life, learned English, had a belated high school education, learned buying and selling and started a business, married, and built a solid family. He devoted all of his energies to his business and family. All this time, he never forsook Torah learning but initially it was limited to the Shabbos afternoon blatt shiur at shul. His learning was what he was taught at the shiurim, but he didn't have the time, nor the foundation for self-induced learning during the week.

Later, when a Kollel came to our community, he started a little week night learning with a shiur. On occasion, one of the shiurim he was with finished a particular masechta and the siyum was his siyum as well, but I surmise that there were always a few holes in each case when he had to miss a shiur here or there. So it is possible to say that in all these years, he never really covered a full unit cover to cover.

Well, finally, about 3.5 years ago (at a young 76.5 years old), a neighbor about 20 years younger than him made a personal siyum on Shisha Sidrei Mishna and it was revealed that this is his third such siyum (personally, I am 5 masechtos in Taharos short of my second cycle). My father told himself, "And I haven't done this once! How can this be?"

So for the first time, at 76.5, my father took on a complete self-induced learning project to learn the material - in this case Mishna - from cover to cover. I wasn't aware of any of this (though I was aware that my father has greatly increased his kviyas itim of late and now attends a daf yomi shiur) and when he made the siyum last Shabbos, now, 80 years old, I was totally ecstatic!

Now, of course, a portfolio of thousands of hours of blatt shiurim is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, he provided all his children with the best Torah education available never paying less than full tuition and filtering down to the next generation and he has given fortunes of money toward Torah education so he is certainly not short on zechuyot for learning and supporting Torah. Yet, none of this compares to the value of an individual's self-induced learning.


Because self-induced learning requires "ameilus" b'Torah. And Torah that comes with ameilus is worth so much more than listening to the Rav give a blatt shiur (which is worth plenty).

So this siyum was marking the first time that on his own, my pappa mastered a complete segment of Talmud and it transpired over the past 3.5 years.

And a disquieting thought crossed my mind:
Suppose he hadn't been blessed with the health and well-being that he currently enjoys (AMV"Sh) and had gone the way of the living as so many do in their early or mid seventies - what would he have missed! All of shisha sidrei mishna! Can you imagine the difference between going upstairs after 120 with shisha sidrei mishna in your pocket to going up without it? Even with all the zechuyot from the blatt shiurs, etc.

Every word of Torah that a person learns, every Mishna, every daf, creates malachim that will be there to greet him and protect him from ravages of the malachei chavala that he may have created from his missteps. And those that one learns with "ameilus" are the most powerful of all. And to think that if he would have waited too long to get started, the opportunity for this achievement may have been lost forever.

But the disquieting thought ran much further:
Imagine how many Jewish people there are - non-observant ones for sure, but even many "Orthodox" Jews who keep mitzvos - who live peaceful productive lives 80 years and beyond and finally, at the end of their time, go upstairs with absolutely nothing!

Absolutely nothing!

What a waste. What an awful shame!

This thought did not occur to me just last Shabbos. It occurred to me almost 14 years ago when I submitted an essay on the subject to the Jewish Observer for publication (they rejected it!).

The essay was a critique of a brief news item that appeared in my local newspaper. It was about the famous borsht belt comedian, George Burns. George Burns was born Nathan Birnbaum in New York in January of 1896. His father was the chazzan in a shul. He married Gracie Allen, an Irish catholic in 1926 and he died in March of 1996 at the age of 100 and 2 months. Although he dropped out of school in 4th grade, nobody will dispute that he was one sharp quick-witted fellow.

The news item appeared in late 1995 and it informed the reader of an upcoming celebration that was being planned for George Burns in January when he will reach his 100th birthday. The article said that George, just shy of 100, is still very active and goes to his office on a daily basis and never misses playing cards with his friends. His mind is still as sharp as ever.

When I saw that news item my mind went berzerk! Here's a Jewish fellow from a religious home that G-d granted a sharp and gifted mind that he was able to maintain for 100 years - that's 100 years without a wheelchair! - and this gifted Jewish fellow spends a few hours a day playing cards!

And what is he going to bring with him when he finally gets upstairs (he did, within four months)?

Nothing! Absolutely nothing! 100 years of a brilliant mind and he has absolutely nothing!

Can you imagine? G-d (the real One) says to him: "Nathan, I gave you 100 years on your feet and what did you bring Me? A deck of cards?"

It isn't funny, George (er, I mean, Nate).

What a waste! I wrote as much in my essay. I don't remember the way I wrote it but I remember this line:

If that man would have done nothing more than devote one hour per day to hear a daf yomi shiur from the day he was 70 years old... by now, he would have finished all of shas 4 times!!!
(Note - I am about half way to 100 and I still haven't finished shas once but I am closing in on it!)

Finish shas 4 times! For one hour per day. From age 70!! (His non-Jewish wife died when he was 68.) And he went up there with nothing!

I recall that I ended this essay with an old Jewish joke from one of those Jewish Folklore books:

2 women approached the local Rav to complain about their husbands. One's husband was a miser to the extreme and wouldn't relinquish a penny to someone less fortunate and his wife couldn't deal with it. The other was a compulsive philanthropist and would give his money to the needy to the point of self-depravation and his wife could barely meet the household budget.

The Rav told each woman to send their respective husbands to him for a consultation.

Both husbands arrived at the Rav at the same time. The Rav asked the first woman's husband, "Is it true that you do not give any money to the needy?" The man admitted so and the Rav asked him to explain.

"Well, I know that some people live well into their 80s and 90s and they cannot work and have no source of livelihood. I am afraid that if I give my spare money to others and don't store it away, there will be nothing left to keep me afloat in my golden years."

The Rav then asked the second woman's husband, "Is it true that you squander your money to charity?" The man admitted so and the Rav asked him to explain.

"Well, I know that life is very short. We are here one moment and gone the next. If I die tomorrow, what good would be to me a treasure of money? I want to see to it that my money is being put to good use immediately. I cannot worry about a tomorrow that may never come. If G-d gives me life, He will give me food."

The Rav looked at the two men and made a summation: "So it appears that husband #1 hordes all his money because he is afraid that he may live a very long time. Husband #2 disperses his money because he is afraid that he may not live another day."

"May G-d preserve each of you from what he fears the most!"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Times, They are A-Changing

I really hope that this is my last post about the autistics.

In the FC discussions, I assumed the role of defense attorney. It is time to say that the defense rests and to send the case to the jury. Josh Waxman put up some interesting arguments to my last post (check them out!). They appear to make sense, so the objective jurist (if there is one) can put it on the "against" pan on the way into the deliberation room. I could respond to some of them but then this debate can just go on forever and not really get anywhere. Personally, I don't really care what the final verdict is - after all, I am working pro bono!

The point I am trying to make is that every person should make his own judgment and we ought to move on to other things.

That said, there is one thing that Josh brought up in his comments which I feel is false and out of line that I do need to object to. He wrote:

"The Gedolim who granted haskamos wrote that one should consult with one's rav before taking action, because rabbis are our leaders, not autistics, and meanwhile these autistics degrade rabbis who disagree with them. They have greatly overstepped their original mandate, and the hamon am is following them in this."

This is a gross distortion of the truth. I do recall (I am not going to hunt for excerpts) that there are a few occasions where they were asked why the Gedolim are silent on some of the issues that they speak out about in terms of impressing tznius (shaitels and makup) or perhaps on the aliya issue and their response went along the lines of that the gedolim of today in general are weak in their influence and/or are afraid to. I have no doubt that this is what Josh is referring to.

Nevertheless, they have at the same time said repeatedly that they are not here to pasken Halacha, that they are not rabbanim, that we should ask all our shailos to rabbonim, etc. They have never locked horns with any specific Gadol and they have never, ever said anything that remotely sounds like: "Listen to us, not to them!"

In fact, the latest entry of their web site is a recommendation to review the last FC from Galia which is chapter 49. I looked it over and right there in the middle she writes (though this may be from an editor as it is in parentheses):

(הערה חשובה: בקשר לכנסים ושעורי תורה, ולכל שאלה, יש לשאול רב
הרבנים הם שליחי ה'!).

(Important note - with regard to assemblies and Torah lectures, and for all [Halachic] queries, one must consult a Rabbi. The Rabbis are the messengers of HKBH!)

I maintain that the autistics have never wavered from this position. Our job is to listen to (the proper) Rabbis. Their job is to let us know that the words of the neviim about acharis hayamim are authentic, that the time of fulfillment is very close, and that we should be prepared for it. This is something the Gedolim are not doing. I am sorry but I do not see them overstepping their mandate (assuming they have one!). Incidentally, I also do not see the "hamon am" following them at all!

While we are conducting closing arguments, I do want to add something about their "predictions". My take is that unless they state a precise prediction as a sign of authenticity as the Torah tells us in Parshas Re'eh, short term predictions are not to be used not to authenticate and not to invalidate. You may notice that I didn't put any "fulfilled" predictions on the "for" side of the scale, nor would I put "unfulfilled" predictions on the "against" side. I totally discount them.

This is because anyone who is brash enough to make predictions always has his alibis in his pocket. Most of the time they are vague and not time-defined. The most common excuse is that the time hasn't come or it was delayed. Sometimes it may be, "it was fulfilled but not the way you understood it". Most of the prophecies in Tanach have not come true yet and we believers still maintain that they are neviei emmes. One of the most common questions that these guys get is - "why haven't most of the things that you have said for years will happen very, very, soon and 'there is no time left' come to pass?" And they continually say that G-d has his timetable and has not revealed it to anybody. While, at the same time, we all dance around gleefully singing, "Yeshuas Hashem k'heref ayin..."

Now, in a previous discussion, I did allude to someone who was identified as a "tzadik nistar" being promoted by another messianic blog. I have no idea who this fellow is supposed to be, what his credentials are, and if he is truly a tzadik (though it is clear he is a nistar). He caused a whole hullaballoo by having the temerity to predict that Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 2009 was the absolute latest deadline for North American Jews to make aliya. I never bought his "deadline" and neither did the autistics who refused to corroborate his prediction. Like many others, I did stand on watch to see if anything substantial did happen on R"Ch Sivan and there was nothing of note. This did not surprise me so I just shrugged it off. Josh maintains that he has established himself to be a lunatic (nistar). I commented that it's a bit too early to reach that conclusion.

What did I mean?

First, let me say this: I have no truck with this fellow so I don't need to stand up for him. Yet, the reason I threw him on to the list of "credible" doomsayers is because we relate in one department - his game is aliya and so is mine. And though it looks like his prediction was baloney because his deadline didn't come through, I think that the detractors are missing the forest on account of the trees.

What I mean is that I personally feel (and thus agree) that the "window of opportunity" for making aliya is not open as wide as it used to be and could be slammed shut at any given moment. I sure hope it doesn't happen but I feel certain about one thing: the prospects for making aliya are becoming more and more difficult as time goes by.

Rosh Chodesh Sivan 2009 may not have been any watershed event but I see clearly that to make aliya today is much more difficult than it was, say, 3 years ago and markedly more than it was 10 years ago when I did it. There are many who two or four or six years ago could have made a comfortable aliya and now it would come with the utmost hardship. People used to laugh at the quaint joke about, "Q. How do you make a small fortune in Israel? - A. Bring a big one". Now, lots of those big fortunes are gone. In the past, this "joke" was (unfortunately) the formula for a North American to make aliya. Not too long ago people told themselves, "If I feel like making Aliya, I will sell my 700k house and buy a nice apartment in Jerusalem or a villa in Beit Shemesh (or half of Efrat) for 3-400k and have a nice cash bundle to supplement my meager Israeli income."

Now the 700k house is worthless because there are no buyers for it. Cash investments are not bringing livable returns. And the job and housing market in Israel is shrinking by the day.

I think that the late 1990s were the most favorable time ever to make aliya. (I came in 1997). Both the American and Israeli economies were flying high. A dollar only bought 3.5 shekels but 3.5 shekels bought you a liter of milk or gasoline or a loaf of bread. Now, a dollar may buy you 3.9 shekels but milk is up to 5 shekels, gasoline to 6 and bread to 7. And do not fool yourself that the food supply is anywhere near where it was. I don't know if anybody noticed that there are no avocados in Eretz Yisroel this year. Why should they, who needs avocados? After all, the great rice crisis is behind us - isn't it? Of course, there was an announcement last week that the next shipment of Kosher meat from South America will come at a 40% increase.

Every day, the situation get's more difficult, but everyone's hitting their snooze buttons because they didn't see anything happen on R"Ch Sivan.

So let's talk about R"Ch Sivan.

Like I said, people who are foolish enough to make predictions usually carry around their alibis in their pockets. Aliya is a process that takes a number of months at best. One needs to apply and be approved and then make the necessary arrangements. The people who are making aliya today are those who began the process a few months back.

So conceivably, if - Chas V'Shalom - some major political crisis were to occur over the next month or so that may impede on the ability to travel and make aliya, it could still transpire that the ones that arrive over the summer are the ones who applied for aliya before R"Ch Sivan and those who applied after R"Ch Sivan don't complete the process (R"L).

So you can laugh at the lunatic who said that Rosh Chodesh Sivan is the last possible date to make aliya and convince yourself that nothing changed and the window of opportunity will never close. But, as for me, even though I will not stand in the corner of this anonymous "tzadik nistar", I am not 100% ready to brand him as a lunatic. Because the way I see things, whether Rosh Chodesh Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Ellul, etc. - they are all deadlines. And anybody who thinks that next month it will be any easier -or even just as easy -to make aliya as the preceding month may be the biggest lunatic of all.

Because the times, they are a changing!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Weighing the F[a]C[ts]

My anonymous friend is back. I am guessing that he is the same commenter who originally commented on the Kuf is for Kiddush Hashem post. This time, in response to my "challenge" he presented a list of very substantial points. I very much commend him for "talking tachlis" and especially for the time and effort it takes to write a quality comment, which it truly is. All the more so for presenting a published source for the (RGS variation) of the vort of the 3 kufs. I might comment that I even like R' Gedaliah Schorr's explanation better!

First allow me to repost his comment in full:

1) One of the symptoms of autism (see DSM IV) is "stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language". We do not see such language patterns in FC. This fact, has not been disputed by the FC cult in Israel- indeed they parade it as proof that the FC is coming from another world!

2)We have no mesorah for FC.

3) I have emailed one of the big proponents of FC and have asked for scientific evidence. I got references to three articles. Two of them were merely case studies that appeared in practitioner journals. They have no scientific value except to arouse curiosity- they can be easily dismissed. The third article was a real study, but was woefully inadequate. Not only was the process flawed, the results were underwhelming as well. In any case, a single article, no matter how solid, is not proof until the experiment can be repeated. The scientific community has rejected FC.

4) . It doesn't seem that this particular vort was published in OG.

5) Observation: Even if it can be proven that FC is genuine, the messages would necessarily not come from the autistic. It would come from those disseminating the message. What I mean is that there's little chiddushim in these messages. The messages have the same content as a typical contemporary schmuz, albeit without the prophetic and apocalyptic overtones (though even these overtones are heard from some kiruv organizations).

We can imagine what the reaction would be if the messages were not normative. Suppose Binyamin were to start advocating hyper-modesty, demanding that women wear veils. Or that the general population should start fasting Mondays and Tuesdays. Or that we should say Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut. The FC phenomenon would be dismissed as crackpot nonsense- the agenda of cranks, and others may even claim FC comes from the Sitra Achra...

The only reason we hear about Binyamin, is because there are people with an agenda to get that particular message out. (It's not a wrong agenda.) Any FC not conforming to the desired message would be rightfully suppressed. Thus, the messages we do get to hear, are to some extent not from the autistics.

July 15, 2009 2:41 AM

Before I continue, let me restate my personal position:

I personally have not studied the subject enough nor heard out a complete enough gamut of arguments from either side of the issue to take a firm stand. Thus, I will not hold aloft a banner proclaiming that FC is genuine and deserves to be blindly followed. I remain open to the possibility that the whole thing may be a big hoax. Thus, what I present will not be "Responding" to his points but rather "Addressing" them as a devil's advocate.

That said, let us take his points very legitimately and put them on the "against" pan of the judgement scale. And let's see what we can put on the other side. I know that it is more than clear from my tone and my writings that I am very much leaning toward accepting it.


My personal judgements are based on a combination of "empirical" facts, fundamental beliefs, and basic logic, in other words, what does or does not make sense.

  • In the "empirical facts" department, its an Evolution vs. Creation battle. Everyone accepts the "evidence" on his side and rules any "counter evidence" flawed and inadmissible. Nevertheless, there are qualified people who support it and nobody can seem to conclusively disprove it.

  • In the belief department, I subscribe to traditional Talmudic Jewish ideology which presents a spiritual world, an all-knowing and involved G-d, and the existence of prophecy as fundamental tenets of our belief. All this is summarized by Rambam in his 13 principles. Many of those who fight against FC or whatever do not even subscribe to these basics.

  • As an extention of the above and the primary catalyst for me to take this seriously is that I have been aware of the Gemara in Bava Basra 12b from the time I first studied Bava Basra over 30 years ago. When one has studied as much gemara as I have and have seen how Chazal's statements substantiate themselves in the world both in their Halachic and Aggadic teachings, it is difficult to dismiss out of hand phemonena that conform to their words (Maharsha notwithstanding!).

  • The Torah world that I am part of believes that G-d is constantly sending us "messages" in different ways. We say that whenever a tragedy occurs in the world at large, it is a message to us. We believe that G-d wants to communicate to us. I discussed this in a previous post. It makes a lot of sense to me that G-d wants to communicate to us this way.

  • "Non-partisanship" - I have heard criticism that this Daniel stuff is coming out from "chareidi" boys from "chareidi" families with "chareidi" FC's naturally pushing a "Chareidi" agenda. For one thing, the Goldin family is an all-American baalabatish family from Boston. I believe that they were not nearly as "chareidi" in America as they are now. But that is not what impresses me. What impresses me is the story of Galia. Galia was a completely secular girl from a completely secular background (typical Israeli single parent home). Her mother had no incentive to get involved in FC for religous purposes. I will concede that it was Rav Yehuda Srevnik who set her up with the facilitator (an American woman, she does not say if she was chareidi or even religious). But she was the one who pursued the issue. The complete story is available HERE.

  • Motive - I personally have nothing to gain from what I am doing in promoting the "word of G-d". Not financially and not for personal acclaim, nothing. I get a Yasher Koach from people who appreciate what I write and a mi sheberach from people who don't. That's it!! Some of my relatives who are afraid of my book avoid me. It's not pleasant. I am doing this because I believe in it. It is totally L'shem Shamayim. Well, so are they. Nobody has gotten rich from it. Nobody is looking for book rights or movie rights. All the Daniel material is available for free and the books are sold for cost. (Disclaimer - Galia's mother did indeed write a book, FWIW.) Yet these people who have so little to gain from this (even Galia's mother) have so much to lose if they were to be exposed as frauds which would most likely happen if they truly are. Thus, the equation does not add up in favor of chicanery.

  • The people who are involved, stand by it. Those who scoff, are removed from it. You have to assume that a good many people (who you don't know) who are respected by those who do know them as trustworthy - are lying. Not that they are decieved and misled, but that they are lying - through their teeth. You have to assume that Galia's mother is a fraud and is lying to everybody. Though I personally am as cynical and skeptical as they come (it may not look that way but try selling me something I actually have to pay for), I have more faith in humanity than that. You can add to this list those who testify about clinical death experiences and the "seance soldiers" who took the step of becoming chozrei b'teshuva - like Galia's mother did - due to their experiences and I have thus far seen no movement that uncovered any of them to be fraudulent.

So this is what I see on the "for" side of the judgement scale. From my perspective, it's pretty weighty. Now, I want to have another look at the 5 points that my anonymous friend put on the "against" side.

Point 1 - I am very confused by this. Clearly, there are different forms of autism with different symptoms. Some forms have these symptoms and others don't. what's more, somne autisics can speak and others not. This symptom is clearly only relevant to those that can speak. FC is for those who cannot. My medical knowledge is quite limited but I would surmise that verbal communication and written or typed communication are two different skills. One of my sons stutters, but there is no stuttering in anything he writes or draws. Thus I wouldn't expect this discrepancy to be a proof either for or against the veracity of FC. Why is it relevant?

Point 2 - I don't know how you define mesora. The Torah and the Talmud fully uphold the concept of communication between the realms in the form of nevuah or the "kockos hatumah" of kishuf, ov and yidoni, seances (doresh el hameisim), and ayin hara. We all know the famous gemara about the "Chasid echad" in the beginning of Brachos. We also have in our tradition the concepts of gilgulim (reincarnation) and dybbuk's allegedly observed first-hand by the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Elchanan Wasserman, Rav Eliyahu Lopian and the Ben Ish Chai.
As for this particular issue of Piguei Moach, there is the gemara in Bava Basra 12b that has been with us for 1600 years. If the Maharsha bothers anybody, we can discuss it in comments.
Perhaps you mean that this modern technique of FC has no mesorah due to its "newness", well we don't have a "mesorah" on machine matzos , either.

Point 3 - My guess is that the proponent was NOT Rabbi Srevnik (his book can be read for free - click HERE). Regardless, Galia's mother tells a very different story - (see Segment 2 from 2:30). She tells that FC is so accepted in America that it was used as incriminating evidence in several felony cases! Which of you sounds more believable?

Point 4 - Thank you for this source. It is not very relevant to the question of is FC genuine or not but you do score a full goal for debunking that this vort (or something similar) has not been previously published.

Point 5 - For what you wrote in your first paragraph about the messages coming from those disseminating it (which are primarily the fathers of Daniel and Ben), this is addressed in the segment I wrote above about lack of personal motive.
As for the second paragraph, it is precisely because they are not saying anything ultra-radical or any big chiddushim that makes me feel comfortable that there is no wild hidden agenda beyond getting us to be better Jews - a worthwhile endeavor regardless of who preaches it.
As for your last paragraph, it is obviously a presumption based on your conjecture - IF they are saying things that don't conform... (i.e. conjecture), THEN those FCs would be suppressed (i.e., presumption). And IF my zaidy had the babies THEN he would be my bubby!

After all this, I am still not betting any of my kids' chasuna money on FC but this is how the 2 sides of the scale look to me.

How do they look to you?

G'shamim B'Itam?

Yes, it did rain this morning in Yerushalayim. I don't know what we should make of this (if anything) but perhaps Gihon can now cancel the water surcharge (ple-e-e-ease).

Regardless, I am happy to announce that it is only the 15th of the month and we have already surpassed the average annual rainfall for July!

I have only one concern - some very close family members are vacationing at Yam HaMelech. I sure hope there are no flash floods in the Judean Desert (R"L) :-)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Grand Wizard and the KKK

It's been a while since I last put out a fresh post. One simple explanation for it is that other obligations have been encroaching into my limited blog-writing time of late. Another thing, I am looking into the prospects of retiring from the Blogosphere, assuming I have been here long enough to draw a pension. (From what I understand, I can retire gracefully and still collect 100% of my current remuneration!)

The amazing thing of my more than 2 week hiatus is that my site-meter has moved at a faster pace than when I actually was writing posts! Go figure!

Anyway, despite the lack of fresh material, I did get in a comment this morning regarding my post of June 26 - "Kuf" is for Kiddush Hashem. This was my latest post about "pearls of wisdom" from the autistic preacher, Ben Goldin. I responded to his(?) comment on the post - you can link over to the post and see the comments but, to make it easier and to get back into the swing of things, I will present the comment and my response right here.

Original comment:

Anonymous said...

FC is nonsense. Another take on the Kuf's position in Korach/Chukas/Balak was already dealt with by R' Gedalia Schorr. Given that Rav Schorr's drashos are very well known, it's very likely that the facilitator was aware of the original vort, and (perhaps subconsciously) came up with a variant.

This divining Divrei Torah from a Ouija board is very dangerous. What's next?Paskening Shaylos?

Now, the response:
(Note - I added a bit of text in tan.)

>>FC is nonsense.

In at least 2 of my posts about the autistics including this one, I put in a disclaimer that I am not campaining for the veracity of FC. It's just that the autistics and/or their handlers are directly preaching the messages of the neviim of old that were meant for us and only they have the temerity to do it. I am pushing for the doing teshuva, achdus, tznius, and aliya that they are pushing for, not to be a believer in FC.

That said, it is exceedingly pretentious and irresponsible to blanketly say that "FC is nonsense" unless you have studied the subject and heard out proponents and opponents. (Ed.: And at least attempted to contact those involved such as the Goldins, Rebbitzin Kalmanovitz, Rav Yehuda Srevnik, etc.) You present no such credentials. My position is: L'Meichash bo'i. למיחש בעי It is more responsible to say that it is a taboo realm that we should stay away from (תמים תהיה עם ה' אלקיך ) than to just dismiss it outright as "nonsense". Incidentally, you probably don't live in Har Nof and never met the Goldins (or Rabbi Srevnik).

>>Another take on the Kuf's position in Korach/Chukas/Balak was already dealt with by R' Gedalia Schorr.

I would love to see it. Is it in Ohr Gedalyahu? (I do not have my own copy.)

>>Given that Rav Schorr's drashos are very well known, it's very likely that the facilitator was aware of the original vort, and (perhaps subconsciously) came up with a variant.

Makes sense - As long as the facilitator herself had heard the vort of R' Gedalya Schorr at least once in her life. But, if she didn't...

(Ed.: Also, your debunk theory is assuming the most extreme fraudulence - that the facilitator is totally making up on his/her own all of the communication and the autistic subject is just a show puppet not doing anything at all. This is a big stretch, especially once the people (in this case, Rebetzin Kalmanovitz) are not faceless, nameless "Wizards of Oz" behind the curtain but people who we can contact. BTW, the facilitator cannot do this "subconsciously". If she does it, she knows what she's doing!
However, you might have a point if you substitute the word "subject" (meaning Ben, in this case) for "facilitator". In other words, perhaps BEN "was aware of the original vort", not the facilitator. He might be communicating a variant.
In fact, FC itself is no myth. Autistics CAN communicate. It is well documented (check You Tube). The question at hand is: are they clairvoyant and do they know Heavenly secrets? On this, the evidence may not be conclusive but it seems like they sure know a whole lot more than they are taught in school.)

>>This divining Divrei Torah from a Ouija board is very dangerous. What's next? Paskening Shaylos?

You are correct. It is dangerous and should not be taken beyond the mussar message which is it's purported purpose. However, the trite argument that since for Halacha the rule is "Lo bashamaim hee" therefore you should not take mussar either from piguei moach (who are just verifying the words of Chazal and neviim achronim) is just a weak excuse for hitting your spiritual snooze button and going back to sleep.

Do so at your own risk.

While we are on the subject, Ben's father did indeed locate the text of the FC session fron 9 years back and he emailed it to me. It adds a little spice to the vort so I will reproduce it here:

KoRaCh, ChuKaT and BaLaK are all interconnected and show the greatness of Am Yisroel as being the Am Hasegula. Hashem opened the earth to swallow KoRaCh and his group, something contrary to Nature because his behavior was contrary to what his level of intelligence demanded. He went out against Moshe the way people today think they are smarter than Daas Torah and that is why things contrary to Nature are happening today. People are using their intelligence for machlokes and not Lesheim Shamayim. That is why last week Parshas KoRaCh there was a tragedy every day of the week.

KoRaCh has a Kuf at the beginning and the beginning of the Parsha shows Kiddush Hashem through punishment, ChuKaT has the Kuf in the middle because there is Kiddush Hashem in the middle of the Parsha through Midda Kaneged Midda and BaLaK has Kiddush Hashem at the end through Mesiras Nefesh. So there you see Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh three times. Hashem shows His greatness through Am Yisroel.

The question is: does Hashem also show His greatness through His autistic children?