Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reform's New Direction and Orthodoxy

Yep, there's a little bit of plagiarism here. I stole borrowed the title of this post from a very recent post at Emes Ve-Emunah. I read his post and "filed it away" as it doesn't really cross paths or lock horns with my subject matter. I do not share his optimism but there is nothing wrong with an upbeat post for a change. Hey, if the chareidim are a lost cause there may still be hope for the Reform (those who are really Jewish, at least)!

So, initially, I didn't see the post as relevant to my blog but...just this morning, a friend emailed me this anecdote. Aside that I got a real chuckle out of it, I thought the timing of it was apropos a day after I saw the E-V-E post.

Rabbi Harry's post began: First it was the Siddur. Now it is Kashrus.

What could possibly be next??? Well, here is the story of:

The President of the Reform Temple

The President of the Reform Temple, Saul Goldberg is greatly distraught and can not sleep nights. He decides to visit with the Rabbi of the temple, Rabbi Sally Johnson, and explain why he is so upset and to seek her advice.

"Rabbi," he explains, "as you know, I have been a loyal and devout member of the Reform Temple and movement all my life. Unfortunately, my daughters went against all my advice and married men that greatly upset me."

Rabbi Sally asks, "Really, Saul, how so ?"

"Well," Saul explains, "My first daughter became Modern Orthodox which as you know greatly upset me. But she married a medical doctor, and even though he was 100 percent Orthodox and they send their children to an Orthodox Yeshiva, at least, when its not Shabbat or a Jewish holiday he watches TV and he is a Mets fan like me. So I was upset , but at least I can somewhat handle it."

"My second daughter was tougher for me. She also became observant and married an Orthodox man. This guy had no college education at all but became a very wealthy diamond merchant. He also wears a long beard with payos with his tzitzit out with a big black hat and I am too embarrassed to introduce him to any of my liberal friends. But, I will say, he treats my daughter well and he does give her everything she wants, so I tolerate the situation."

Saul sighs, and Rabbi Sally asks, "Is the third daughter that tough to take?"

Saul replies, "Rabbi Sally, my third daughter went against all my Liberal thinking. She not only of course married an Orthodox Man and I have all Orthodox grandchildren, she married a Colonel in the Israeli Air Force who was known to assassinate, with great precision, the biggest leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah from the air. To make matters worse, Yisrael Beitenu may be drafting him as a candidate to run for Prime Minister after he finishes his Army career. All my liberal friends are upset at me and tell me he is killing an oppressed people."

Saul further explains, "The fact my daughter's family is very right wing and Orthodox makes it harder for me as my liberal friends remind me that it looks like Israel will all become Orthodox because of the birth rate!"

"Rabbi, How do I show my face at the Interfaith Council anymore ? Why are all my grandchildren Orthodox? Where did I go wrong?"

Rabbi Sally ponders in thought for a moment and asks:

"Did you check your Mezuzas?"

And a bit more plagiarism:

Who knows? Someday maybe – just maybe - there will be a massive return to Torah by vast numbers of Jews who will see the value of observance as more than just a means of self identification. Maybe they will embrace Judaism the way it should be embraced with complete observance to Torah and Mitzvos. - Rabbi Harry Maryles

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ohver L'Asiyasan

Somehow I got myself subscribed to a daily email post called "Daily Halacha"(I think somebody did it for me!) It seems to be a Spring Valley based service to be "mezakeh ess harabim". It is a pleasure to receive these emails and I recommend it to everyone who wants to assure themselves as "bnei olam habah" based on the well known midrash:

תנא דבי אליהו: כל השונה הלכות בכל יום מובטח שהוא בן עולם הבא.

You can subscribe to it at:

The current series of Halachos is on the subject of Chanuka and here is today's serving:

1610. The opinion of the Mishnah Brurah (really the Rema - YH) is that one should be careful to complete all the berachos before beginning to light the first ner because the beracha needs to be o'ver la'asiyoson (before the act of the mitzvah). However, other poskim disagree, and some have the minhag to say the second beracha while beginning to light. Shulchan Aruch with Mishnahh Brurah 676:1, Sefer Halichos Yosef 676:1

The issue that this halacha focuses upon is a component of Hilchos Berachos that we call "ohver l'asiyasan" which tells us that Berachos are to be made before one fulfills the deed that the beracha is consecrating. The best translation that I could get for the term "Ohver" l'asiyasan is "on the way to" doing the mitzvah.

We understand from this that we must recite a Beracha before a mitzvah is fulfilled. If the mitzvah is done, it is too late to recite the beracha.

But the question arises: at what point is it too late? Is it when the mitzvah is begun to be performed or is it okay to recite the beracha as long as the mitzvah is not totally completed?

Well, let's look at the Halacha quoted above. We note that it adds that there are those who only recite the second beracha after they begin to light (yours truly follows this opinion). Is this not a breech in ohver l'asiyasan?

And the easy answer is to say that there is a big difference between these two brachos. And this is that there are really two miutzvos involved with lighting Chanuka candles:

(1) Lighting the candles (הדלקה עושה מצוה ) and (2) Pirsumei nisa.

The first beracha applies to the lighting itself and so, to satisfy ohver l'asiyasan, it must be recited before we even begin to light. The second beracha is for the Pirsumei nisa. But, still, doesn't it also require "ohver l'asiyasan"? Don't you have to recite it before we even begin to perform the Pirsumei nisa?

According to the Rema, this does indeed seem to be the case. But the other poskim do not agree. Perhaps, their position is that the Pirsumei nisa is an ongoing mitzva and as long as it has not been completed, one may still recite the Beracha. The obvious ramification of this perspective is that in case one totally forgot to recite any Berachos and fully lit all the candles, he may still be allowed to recite the second Beracha as long as the Pirsumei nissa is in effect. Even 1/2 hour after he lit. Though, in this case, he most certainly will not be able to recite the first Beracha. It seems that even the Mishna berura agrees with this as he writes that if one forgot to recite the Berachos, he nonethelass can still recite the second Beracha.

We see a similar Halacha regarding the 4 minim on Sukkos. We all know the Halacha to initially hold the esrog in the wrong position and then to recite the Beracha on the 4 minim and then to rectify the esrog. This is because, technically, once one holds all 4 minim properly he has already fulfilled the mitzvah and if the Beracha has not yet been said, it would be a problem of ohver l'asiyasan.

Nevertheless, the Halacha states that if one neglected to recite the Beracha and took the minim in their proper position, he may still recite the Beracha as long as he has not yet completed the na'anuim. Here again we see that, b'diavad, one can recite a Beracha as long as the mitzvah has not been completed even though it has been fulfilled.

Now, it is not the main purpose of this blog to give Halacha shiurim. So why is this relevant?

It relates to a very interesting post which I posted over a year ago (October 2009 - click HERE) concerning what is widely known as the Nefesh B'Nefesh proposal. In the post, I embedded a video of a young Jewish man propsing to a young Jewish lady in public. For convenience, I will repost the video (note - the video may not be visible to email recipients):

After wishing the dear couple a hearty mazel tov, I went on to pose the question as to whether this proposal actually constitutes a valid Kiddushin d'oraysa. To date, I haven't been able to get a conclusive ruling. Some scholars think it meets the conditions of Even HaEzer 27:1,2 and she would be definitely mekudeshet. Others said that it meets the conditions of Even HaEzer 27:3 and she would be "safek mekudeshet". And there were some (clear minority) who wanted to maintain that she is not mekudeshet at all.

The obvious question at the time was: what difference does all this make?

And the most serious answer is: in the event that they do not go through with the marriage, would she require a get?

So now may be a good time to report that I did attempt to follow up a bit on this couple and from what I could discover, they are currently happily married (auf lange yahrin) and we can breathe easy.

But there were some other minor issues as I wrote then:

Now, assuming this radiant couple follows through to a typical marriage ceremony in the near future - and there is every indication from their enthusiasm that they will, IY"H, there are not many major ramifications to this question. The main issue is: should they conduct the erussin at the wedding with reciting the Birkat Erussin or not. If the erussin already took effect, it would be a bracha l'vatala. Another ramification is that according to many authorities (not all) the requirement for a married woman to cover her hair may already be in effect.

Now, the issue of covering hair can be put to rest because it is generally held that this obligation begins after the chuppa. But the issue of the Beracha is a little more tricky. Most people typically said that if it is only "safek mekudeshet" there are grounds to say that we could still make a Beracha but on the opinion that it is a fully valid kiddushin, it would be a Beracha l'vatala to make a second Beracha.

Indeed, Harav Ephraim Greenblatt from Memphis, Tenessee had recently made aliya and currently lives in Har Nof, and I asked him this question last year. He agreed that there would not be another Beracha and he brought down some source which, presently, I do not recall. And so, this is how I saw the Halacha...until about 3 weeks ago.

3 weeks ago was Parshat Chayei Sarah - shidduchim week - and I was attending the weekly Halacha shiur given by Rav Asher Zelig Weiss, Shlit"a. Harav Weiss based his shiur on the topic of performing a kiddushin by way of a proxy (shalich) and posed the question: if somebody makes a shaliach for kiddushin, who should make the Beracha (note - even though we don't practice it this way today, the obligation of the Beracha is on the one performing the mitzvah, i.e., the chosson).

There is no need to burden my readers with the intricities of the shiur, but he did bring down one opinion that was a tremendous chiddush. He said that this comes from the Teshuvos HaRivash.

Somewhere in his teshuva, the Rivash states that when one makes a kiddushin via a shalich, when the couple meet each other later on, he should redo the kiddushin with a Beracha!

The difficulty here is obvious. If the woman is already Halchically betrothed, how can one "do it again" and what can justify making another Beracha?

So Harav Weiss went on to suggest that the Rivash agreed with the Rif that the shaliach certainly can not recite the Beracha and since the chosson is not present, he cannot recite one either. As such, the kiddushin is effected without any Beracha at all. So why not make the Beracha after the kiddushin?

Well, we all know that we can't do that because a Beracha must be recited ohver l'assiyasan. Once the mitzvah is performed, it's too late.

But, here Harav Weiss wanted to suggest what we have said earlier. Even though l'chatchila the Beracha should be said before one begins the mitzvah, b'diavad, the Beracha can still be said as long as the mitzvah has not been completed. And so, he wanted to suggest that until the chuppa (nissuin) takes place, the kiddushin has not been completed. It may have the same status as taking a lulav but not yet doing the na'anuim or as the Beracha of SheAssah Nissim that we discussed here. Accordingly, as long the beracha has not been said at all, it can be said when the chosson does a "reenactment" before the chuppa.

Now, if this holds true, there is no reason not to apply it to our incident as well. And so, at least according to this opinion, it would appear that there is nothing wrong with making a belated Beracha at the "second" kiddushin even if the original kiddushin was 100% valid!

That said, I still want to leave my readers with the following Beracha:

May none of us ever need to make a kiddushin more than once.

ה' חפץ למען צדקו יגדיל תורה ויאדיר

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Divergence from the Womb

ושני לאמים ממעיך יפרדו

And two nations from your bowels (womb) will diverge...

Rashi explains: From your bowels (womb) they will be divergent; this one (Eisav) toward his wickedness and this one (Yaakov) toward his completeness.

Yaakov and Eisav were two very different characters and, as Rashi tells us, they were very different from the moment of conception.

But, what Rashi says to us seems to be going "against our grain". He indicates that Eisav was "born" to be wicked. As if it was pre-destined. And likewise, Yaakov was "born" to be righteous.

How do we reconcile this with our philosophy of "bechira"? Was Iyov right that every person's lot is dictated by his astronomical fortunes?

I don't think so. And I don't think this is what Rashi means either. Although Eisav could never be like Yaakov, I think he was very similar to Aharon HaCohen. And he could have been Aharon HaCohen. And he was meant to be Aharon HaCohen - the older brother who does the avoda while the younger brother (Moshe Rabenu/Yaakov) teaches the Torah.

He just passed up the chance.

To help us understand this, it may pay to do a little psychological analysis on the "divergence" between Yaakov and Eisav based on the principles of Carl Jung. And that's exactly what I did in a term paper about five years ago.

So, for all you Myers-Briggs buffs out there, I present:

Torah Perspective on MBTI Typology

Good Shabbos!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Remembering Choni HaMe'agel

חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין

May we merit a very peaceful - and rainy - winter!

Note to email recipients: If you cannot view the embedded video, it is available for viewing on my main blog site.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What It Means to Convert

I made a new pen pal today. I met him in the Talkback section of the Jerusalem Post. I have never met him personally and I don't know much about him but I know this much (assuming everything he writes is factual): He calls himself Eric and he lives in Israel. He is a born Jew and he has officiated at batei din for converts.

Thusfar, I shot the opening volley and he reacted to my comment. Currently, these both appear in the Talkback section of the relevant article. I responded to his reaction but, thusfar, it has not been posted online. The JP is painfully slow at posting comments (though not nearly as bad as Cross Currents). Perhaps he will continue the correspondence. We'll see. For now, let's rehash:

The Jerusalem Post article in question is titled: Converts Demand Hearing on Conversion Nullifications.

To summarize the article, 2 women are petitioning the High Court of Justice to force the Rabbinic court of Tel Aviv that reinstated their conversions to do more than that and to make a definitive ruling as to whether a Rabbinical court can annul a conversion in the first place.

Did I get that right?

Now, the opening paragraph of this article seems to indicate (note - much of the article is unclear) that at least one of the two women who are petitioning may be the very woman whose conversion was annulled by the dayan in Ashdod that triggered the whole ruckus in the first place.

Before we go on, it is very important to point out that, from what I remember reading 2-1/2 years ago when this controversy first erupted, that the nullification was based on the revelation that the "convert" in question was not observing any fundamental mitzvos of Judaism (i.e., Shabbos, Kashrut, Taharas HaMishpacha, etc.) and had not done so from day one of her "conversion". The annulment was not based on any of the real serious sins such as not keeping Rabenu Tam's zman, not insisting on Eidah Hachareidus Kashrut, 60+ denier stockings, or not being makpid on the Chavos Daas onah beinonis, (R"L). It was premised on the subject's neglect to observe anything at all. Zilch.

Keep this in mind. In fact, it was on this premise that I entered my comment in the Talkback section and here it is:

2. Silly Game

• Author: Chezkel • Country: Israel • 10/04/2010 11:55

This whole thing is just a silly game. For a conversion to be valid by Orthodox standards, the "convert" must observe the mitzvot by Orthodox standards. A convert who never begins to observe the mitzvot properly will never be accepted by the Orthodox community. Thus, if these "converts" wish to put the matter to rest, they must first commit to proper Torah observance. Then, it may be advisable to undergo a second conversion which should be a mere formality. Until then, forget it.

When I checked to see if the comment was posted (it took a few hours), there was also one or two responses. The more coherent one was from Eric and here is what he wrote:

4. To Chezkel

• Author: Eric • Country: Israel • 10/04/2010 16:34

Your words show you are likely a born Jew and don't understand what it means to convert. I too am a born Jew. However, I have also officiated at batei din for converts. I have seen first hand the emotional turmoil that is involved in the process. I have also seen first hand the intolerant bigots in the Orthodox world who hold converts to higher standards, saying for example that if they keep rabbanut kosher and not bedatz, they are not really Jewish. That's the problem -- whose standards should be applied? Yours? The rabbinate? The Neturei Karta? The state has laws and they need to be applied.

As I wrote earlier, I responded to this comment online. If the comment appears in the JP before I print this post, I will try to include it here.

There is an innate problem with JP Talkbacks in that there is a limit of 600 characters (okay, okay, it's more of a solution than a problem) and this does hamper one's ability to express themselves fully. As such, and as I have done numerous times in the past, I have ventured to move the dialog from the comments field into my own forum for home field advantage. Hence, I wish to offer a more elaborate response to Dayan Eric's comment.

>>Your words show you are likely a born Jew

True, indeed. Where did I give myself away?

>>and don't understand what it means to convert.

Now I need to get serious. The words that I bolded have an ambiguous connotation. (1) The way I initially understood the words: I don't understand the meaning of conversion. (2) What I think Eric really meant: I don't understand what the process of conversion means - or, more accurately, entails - for the one who is doing the converting.

From Eric's ensuing words: I have seen first hand the emotional turmoil that is involved in the process. It is fairly clear that his intention was connotation #2.

>>I have also seen first hand the intolerant bigots in the Orthodox world who hold converts to higher standards, saying for example that if they keep rabbanut kosher and not bedatz, they are not really Jewish.

Here, I am a bit confused. Is Eric referring to Dayanei Giur who are intolerant bigots or to just a bunch of laymen who are intolerant bigots but are not in the business of converting anybody (kind of like an armchair quaterback)?? I will deal with this issue of bigotry in due time, but for now, let's move on.

Hereupon, Eric asks the $64,000 question:

>>That's the problem -- whose standards should be applied? Yours? The rabbinate? The Neturei Karta?

And here is the $64,000,000,000,000,000 answer:

G-d's standards!!

And what might those be?

To answer this question, let us go back to Eric's ambiguous statement and take it both ways.

>>don't understand what it means to convert...

We'll start with connotation #1. What does it mean to convert? To convert means to change over from one state of being to another. When it comes to converting to Judaism, it means to change over from being non-Jewish to being Jewish.

So, basically "what it means to convert" in connotation 1 is really: what it means to be Jewish!

And what does it mean to be Jewish?

It means forging a covenant - a briss. But not a physical briss. The physical briss is a physical gesture to symbolize that one has made a spiritual commitment. And if one has not made the corresponding spiritual commitment, the physical briss is as Jewish as Mohammed's.

And what is the spiritual briss, the covenant? It is the acceptance and commitment to one 2-sided concept:

Anochi Hashem Elokecha and Lo Yihiye Lecha elohim acherim.

That is, Judaism is the commitment to observe Anochi Hashem Elokecha and the commitment to shun any form of elohim acherim.

That's the whole deal. Netto!

Now, all of the positive mitzvos that we do are physical manifestations of Anochi Hashem Elokecha just like the physical briss that every male Jew and true convert must undertake. Both the briss and the mitzvos are merely symbolic of a spiritual commitment of the soul. Likewise, all of the negative commandments (transgressions) are physical enactments of Lo Yihiye Lecha.

And if you do not accept upon yourself any positive mitzva, you have not accepted upon yourself Anochi Hashem Elokecha. And if you have not committed yourself to abstain from any negative mitzva (transgression) you have not abstained from "elohim acheirim".

And you have not accepted Judaism.

The Maharsha says all of this at the end of Masechet Makkos.

What is the most central and meaningful incantation of a Jew?

It is the pasuk: Shema Yisroel - Hear all of Israel, all Jews - Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad!

Do you know what Hashem Elokeinu means?

It means Anochi Hashem Elokecha!

Do you know what Hashem Echad means?

It means Lo Yihiye Lecha elohim acherim al panai!

The Mishna Berura (Chofetz Chaim) in Orach Chaim 61 s"k 2 says this based on the Talmud Yerushalmi in Berachos.

So what do we know?

Anochi Hashem = Hashem Elokeinu; Lo Yihiye Lecha = Hashem Echad.

Now, G-d tells us in Vayikra 26 that Im Bechukosai telechu v'es mitzvosai tishmoru - if you go in my ways and do my mitzvos - things will be pretty rosy.

What is "doing my mitzvos"? It's Anochi Hashem (remember the Maharsha?)

G-d also tells us - V'im bechusai timasu...l'bilti assos - if you detest my ways and refrain from doing... l'hafrichem - to transgress... things will get a bit chaotic.

What is "l'hafrichem - to transgress"? That's right, it's Lo Yihiye lecha (Maharsha again!)

L'Hafrichem is the ticket to gehinnom in this world and the next.

This is G-d talking. Not Ashdod's municipal rabbi and not Rabbi Avraham Sherman.

So what do we see now?

Judaism = Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiye

Anochi Hashem = Hashem Elokeinu = Im B'Chukosai telechu = One Above = ticket to paradise (in both worlds)

Lo Yihiye lecha = Hashem Echad = V'Im Bechukosai Timasu = Seven Below = ticket to purgatory

Thus Judaism = the magic chemical compound Xd20Lv26D6 (Exodus 20: Anochi and Lo Yihiye; Leviticus 26: Im Bechukosai Telechu/Timasu; Deuteronomy 6: Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad).

Yechezkel Hirshman says this all over his book (but mainly in Chapter 6).

This is the formula for being Jewish. This is the meaning of the covenant - the briss - that one must undertake in order to be Jewish. And if one who was not fortunate enough to be born Jewish does not accept and adhere to this covenant (the same way the "born" Jews did at Mount Sinai), he or she has not become Jewish.

Now, let us address connotation #2: what it means to convert - meaning, what the potential convert must endure.

Eric tells me that: "I have seen first hand the emotional turmoil that is involved in the process."

Why is there such emotional turmoil? The answer is that many if not most of the potential geirim are not taught this essential truth of the primacy of Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiye Lecha (and they don't read my book). Sometimes the fault lies with the teacher and sometimes with the student. But the potential convert is assaulted by a plethora of unequivocal dissertations of what Judaism is "all about' which tend to reflect everybody's opinion except G-d's.

Listen to G-d. He says "Anochi Hashem" and He says "Lo Yihiye Lecha". And take respite from your turmoil.

And it is now time to address Eric's statement about "the intolerant bigots in the Orthodox world who hold converts to higher standards".

Now, I wrote about this at length more than 2 years ago in a post (well worth reading) titled: Just Because We Are Xenophobic Doesn't Mean that We Hate Geirim! And it seems like some of the main points bear repeating.

You see, as I wrote above, Judaism is the observance of Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiye Lecha. But it boils down to Im Bechukosai telechu - life will be great and we will merit eternal paradise. This much is cool. But it also comes with V'Im bechukosai timasu - we will live a life of happenstance and keri and earn the hot seat in the next world. This part is anything but "cool".

Here is some of what I wrote then:

What all this is saying is that Judaism is no benign game. Depending on how it's played it is either Bracha or Kelala; Chaim or Maves; Anochi Hashem or Lo Yihiyeh Lecha; One Above (Im Bechukosai Telechu) or Seven Below (V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu).

Get it?

Every Jew's purpose in life is to fulfill Anochi Hashem and Im Bechukosai Telechu and hang around the One Above camp. If he is transgressing on Lo Yihiyeh Lecha and is stuck at V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu and is populating the Seven Below camp, he is doing a harmful disservice to himself and to all of Klal Yisrael.

This certainly applies to a full born Jew; but, when I say "Every Jew", I mean every Jew.

For someone who was not born Jewish, this applies at least as much - so why should he want to become Jewish if it is just to spend his life in the Seven Below camp and live a life of keri? And why should the Jewish people want to accept a non-Jew who is only knocking on the door of the Seven Below camp?

One who stations himself in the Seven Below camp brings chance misfortune on the Jewish people, chance misfortune upon the world and chance misfortune upon himself. It brings klalah and maves.

Many of us are under the impression that a convert who sacrificed for Judaism will merit exemplary reward for his keeping of Torah and mitzvot - more than that of a regular Jew who received it as "an inheritance". I also assume that this is the case.

But be aware that Judaism is a two-way street!!

If it is true that a convert will receive a more splendid reward for observing Torah because no one forced him to be "Im Bechukosai Telechu" and he is doing it on his own initiative, then it is imperative that if he violates the Torah, he will receive a much harsher retribution because no one asked him to be "V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu" and he is doing it on his own initiative.

What all this is saying is that geirus is a very very dangerous game. One who truly becomes Jewish and then goes on to live a life of Lo Yihiye and V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu (keri) has basically done himself in. It is not an act of kindness to accept non-observers into Judaism to their eternal detriment. One who does not join Judaism at the Anochi Hashem level, at the Im Bechukosai Teleichu level, at the One Above level is much better off not being Jewish.

Rabbi Chaim Druckman doesn't understand this. and my pen pal Dayan Eric doesn't understand it. But those "intolerant bigots" understand it. They care more for the ger than any of these clowns and they tell them in no uncertain terms: If you are not going to play the game properly, don't destroy yourself. Better not to play the game at all. You can merit Olam Habah with just following the Noachide laws. Why become Jewish to inherit gehinnom?

These "intolerant bigots" know what's best for you.

And don't take it from me. Take it from Rabbi Tovia Singer, a fine upstanding caring intolerant bigot who expresses this very sentiment on the Singer and Gimpel Show Broadcast Live from the Temple Mount on Arutz Sheva (Sept 3, 2009).

Finally Eric states: The state has laws and they need to be applied.

Ah, yes. Since we cannot agree on the proper Halachic standards, we need to apply the secular standards of the State!!

Call me an intolerant bigot, but as long as the State's standards are his yardstick, I cannot acknowledge Dayan Eric's geirim as Jewish.

Write again soon, Eric.

Your pal,


Post Script:
The Jerusalem Post never did post my responding comment to Eric and, thus, our correspondence came to an abrupt halt. I am a bit puzzled about this since my comment was very relevant to the subject and not extreme in any way. Perhaps the JPost Web editor was lazing on the job.
I did not save a copy of the comment but it basically said, as I mentioned in this post, that the issue is not which level of Orthodox standards to insist upon (Yours? The rabbinate? The Neturei Karta?...) since the cases at hand involve "converts" who are not practicing Orthodox standards at any level at all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Most Terrible Crime a Human Being Can Commit

What do we have to atone for more than anything else?

(If you received this post by email and cannot see this video, it can be found at my main blog site.)

אדם דואג על איבוד דמיו ואינו דואג על איבוד ימיו
דמיו אינם עוזרים וימיו אינם חוזרים

גמר חתימה טובה

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Clarification for Email Recipients

Those of you who receive my blog as an email feed may have been confused at the seemingly incoherent message expressed in the Shana Tova greeting (my previous post). This was a technical glitch.

There is a video clip embedded in the actual blog post and the Shana Tova message was relating to the video clip. Unfortunately, the email service that I use apparently did not pick up the video clip itself from the blog feed and delivered the post with only the text but without the embedded video.

In order to properly view the post, you must access the post at the actual blog site which is:

I am sorry for the error.

G'mar chasima tova.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shana Tova - From All of Our Friends

Maybe, just maybe, by the end of the year, he will really mean it.

ויאמר כל אשר נשמה באפו, ה' אלוקי ישראל מלך -- ומלכותו בכל משלה!

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו

And I really mean it!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Long Memories: The Deir Yassin Syndrome

כי זוכר כל נשכחות אתה הוא מעולם ואין שכחה לפני כסא כבודיך

The Deir Yassin Syndrome is alive and well at Emes Ve-Emunah.


Deir Yassin Syndrome - The tendency of belligerent people to dig up long-forgotten isolated episodes of unruliness with which to malign and defame a group or individual for lack of having anything up-to-date available for this purpose.

(Source - Miriam Webster Hirshman Collegiate Oxford Dictionary of Syndromes and other Psychatric Disorders - Vol IX, page 857)

Does anybody have a clue about what Deir Yassin was?

I didn't think so. Especially because it is a long-forgotten isolated episode.

Deir Yassin was an Arab village situated on a ridge west of Jerusalem overlooking the ancient Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway before it became the modern Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. Prior to the great war in 1948, it was a bit difficult to truck vital goods into Jewish Jerusalem because the Arabs that lived in the villages overlooking the highway, or those who were just visiting, would go sniping at the trucks just for the fun of it. The Jewish militias had to break the siege on Jerusalem and, to do so, they needed to occupy some of those villages.

As one Wiki site put it (thank G-d for copy/paste):

In an effort by the Jewish militias to clear the road to Jerusalem, which was being blockaded by Arab forces, Deir Yassin was attacked and emptied of its inhabitants on April 9, 1948, by 120 Irgun and Lehi forces, reinforced by Haganah troops. The invasion was part of the Haganah's Operation Nachshon. A unit from the Palmach, the Haganah's strike force, took part in the assault using mortars. Around 107 villagers, including women and children, and four Irgun or Lehi men were killed. The incident became known as the Deir Yassin massacre.

There are numerous accounts to exactly what happened, none of them reliable. Any person who was involved, Arab or Jew, Irgun or Haganah has good reason to bend the truth. You can find most of the (alleged) details on the other Wiki site (thank G-d for hyperlinks). The "world" calls it a massacre. We call it a strategic battle. Regardless, it was a bloody mess.

Despite its necessity as a strategic maneuver, it was seen as an act of Jewish agression. Likely, more people died than needed to but the question is: who is to blame for that? Depends who you ask. To some extent it may have been a departure from our more defensive stances. It was certainly no more aggressive than the constant Arab riots and raids that the Jewish Yishuv faced incessantly. It was nothing more than playing the game by "their" rules but, as has always been the case, we are not allowed to play the game by "their" rules.

But, one thing is certain - it was a unique one-time event. It occurred on April 9, 1948 (5 weeks before the Brits finally called it quits) and nothing comparable happened before it or after it. It had a number of positive repercussions - (1) it was a successful attack and (2) it indeed let the Arabs know that this game is for keeps. But it had plenty of negative ones as well. It became the showcase event that we Jews can be just as savage and "atrocious" as our foes and certainly gave the Arabs and their sympathizers grounds for continuing the atrocities that they never seemed to need any grounds for. And, ever since, this event has been molded and melded into the Arab lament of "senseless persecution" and opression at the hands of the Jewish "savages". It has been hailed as the Arab Alamo.

Remember the Alamo! Remember Deir Yassin!

In terms of a showcase event, Deir Yassin had a long shelf life. Whenever Arab sympathizers wanted to portray Jewish "savagery" it was Deir Yassin. Always Deir Yassin. Deir Yassin yesterday and Deir Yassin today. For decades. Always Deir Yassin. Only Deir Yassin.

And why?

Because there is nothing but Deir Yassin. Despite numerous flaws in its claim to savagery, it was always all there was. There was nothing else to point to except Deir Yassin. Nothing else ever happened to prove that Deir Yassin was standard operating procedure. And so, the Deir Yassin debacle has been kept alive on artificial respiration long beyond its life expectancy. Our antagonists have gotten a lot of mileage out of Deir Yassin. It's amazing how far it could go on an empty tank (maybe not, when so many people get out and push) but, eventually, it had to run out of gas. So, more recently, newer "atrocities" had to be fabricated. And so they came up with the al-Dura myth, the Goldstone libel and the flotilla fallacy.

But, it wasn't too long ago, even in the 1990s, that I was still reading, "Remember Deir Yassin". And I would feel a feeling of pride. Even 50 years after the event, our antagonists have nothing more current to defame us with other than the archaic Deir Yassin. ומי כעמך ישראל!

And this is the Deir Yassin Syndrome. When it becomes absolutely imperative to defame somebody and there is no current up-to-date dirt available. And the muck rakers resort to digging up old dirt from an historical era.

I have dealt with this a lot in my second life as a chareidi "apologist". There have been very few incidents of unprovoked violence within the chareidi world, even among the "kanayim". Many of the most celebrated incidents were far from the one-sided wolf vs. sheep stories they are made out to be, just like Deir Yassin. But, being all there is from the slim pickings, they are milked for all they are worth and replayed again and again.

This is the Deir Yassin Syndrome.

Currently, Deir Yassin is a very peaceful place. It is a residential complex for folks who suffer from Deir Yassin Syndrome and other psychiatric disorders. And right next to that is Kfar Shaul (a mental hospital). I prefer to view the Deir Yassin event in the most positive light. Especially because I live there close by. And I am not the only person whose name you can find in the "hashkafa" blogs who has a residence in the Deir Yassin Kfar Shaul Har Nof complex. Among the inmates residents are: Harav Moshe Sternbuch, Shlit"a, Rabbi Moshe Grylak, R' Jonathan Rosenblum, R' Menachem "Manny" Nissel, and... R' Dovid Orlofsky.

And here is where the Deir Yassin Syndrome comes to haunt us.

It is now Ellul 5770 and our self proclaimed failed-Messiah, Rabbi Harry Maryles, needs to redeem his people and feed the frenzied masses that lust for his motzi shem rah macha'ahs. Rabbi Harry Maryles' soul is evidently completely pure, and he has no need for any personal pre Yom HaDin soul-searching. Thus, so as his Ellul should not be a total loss, he has magnanimously decided to devote his Ellul to searching other people's souls. And, for some strange reason, the unfortunate soul that Harry needs to purge belongs to Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky.

It seems that Harry, who does not have a living rebbe to look up to for inspiration, has become a chossid of one who calls his message "Failed Messiah". These two are definitely cut from the same cloth.

Failed Messiah somehow thinks that this is a good time to post some 5 1/2 year old clips that convey some misguided outbursts expressed by Rabbi Orlofsky at the heat of the Slifkin affair. 5 1/2 years ago! Apparently, it is never too late to malign R' Orlofsky and by association, Ohr Somayach, despite the fact that R' Orlofsky is no longer a member of their staff. And, of course, Ellul is the perfect time as Chazal say: תכלה שנה וקללותיה . (Let the year and its afflictions draw to an end.)

And now, Harry, the magnanimous soul-searcher has to alert everybody - based on these 5 year old clips and nothing else (Deir Yassin Syndrome!), what a kellalah Rabbi Orlofsky is. And don't forget Ohr Somayach!

And the King (Elvis Ve-Emunah) and Haman (Failed Messiah) sat down to rake muck, and the city of Deir Yassin Kfar Shaul Har Nof was perplexed.

We just don't get it. What's going on here? These clips are 5 1/2 years old (and I believe they come from the same speech!).

I know Rabbi Orlofsky. I live very close to him. I have attended many of his Motzaei Shabbos shiurim. He is a very passionate person. And it is those passions that have motivated him to devote his life to chinuch and kiruv. There isn't much personal glory in this. I can tell you that. It is absolutely l'shem shamayim. But, strong passions can be a double edged sword, and the same forces that enable a person to be a very effective and inspirational figure can also enable him (or her) to fly off the handle. And it happens to all most of us - on occasion. This is one explanation of what Chazal tell us: כל הגדול מחברו יצרו גדול ממנו.

And when these occasions are rare, it hardly characterizes the person. And if you can't come up with more than one incident to judge by, you can't even be certain that you are evaluating that one incident properly.

Just like Deir Yassin.

Now, I listened to the clips and I also think that they are way over the top. I think many people made mistakes in the course of the Slifkin affair. Some of whom with very long beards. And I also believe that our gedolim can be manipulated. But it's history. It's more than 5 1/2 years. These clips were said by a passionate person in the heat of the moment. And, from what I was told, Rabbi Orlofsky and Rabbi Weinreb have long ago kissed and made up.

But, Harry Maryles (as well as Failed Messiah and Natan Slifkin) has a long memory. And he has a mission to accomplish. We must not be allowed to forget. And sins cannot go unpunished. Yet I wonder:

Have you ever met Rabbi Orlofsky? Of his 100s of hours of taped lectures have you heard a single minute besides the two 5 year old 1.5 minute clips that makes you know everything? What personal connection do you have with Rabbi Orlofsky that it is a mitzvah to destroy him? What vast eternal plan is at stake that it is so necessary to write a post to assassinate the character of somebody who clearly does his work l'shem shamayim even if he has gone overboard on occasion? Harry, you are so good at identifying and broadcasting every current chillul Hashem, why must you resurrect old ones?

What's Harry's justification for the unmitigated Loshon Harah (if not Motzi Shem Rah) that he feels compelled to print in the middle of Ellul 5770? That he's making a macha'ah? For statements expressed 5 years ago and not since?

Has he lost (what's left of) his marbles??

And now, here comes Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein and he goes out of his way to join ranks with - of all "people" - Harry Maryles and Failed Messiah! Eh tu, Brutus?? You are with them? I used to respect you as a gifted and rational writer. But if you are going to be mapil pur with these sonei Yisrael, (or Kohein, in this case), you lost me. I actually hit the eject button when you threw in the line - "(to whose ankles in Torah R. Orlofsky will never rise)".

Have you sunk to playing the "measuring" game? (R' Reuven will never reach the shoelaces of R' Shimon in Torah who will never reach the ankles of R' Levi in Avoda who will never reach the kneecaps of Don Luigi in chessed who will never reach the gartel of R' Tom in dveikus who will never reach the navel of R' Dick in yirah who will never reach the pippik of R' Harry in gaavah anavah who will never reach the breita pleitzis of the middle linebacker for the Pittsburg Steelers who...)

Spare me. Even though I will never come down to the toenails of Rabbi Adlerstein, when one resorts to playing the "measuring game" among contemporaries, he becomes one-dimensional and pretentious.

And he can also fall prey to the Deir Yassin Syndrome.

For better or worse, Ohr Somayach, Darkei Bina and Ohr Lagolah have been moving on and doing their work for the past 5 years with no major upheavals. Why are they all of a sudden at a crossroads now? What incalculable harm is looming for 5771 when you cannot attribute sins to Rabbi Orlofsky any more recently than 5765?

I think it's incalculable because Rabbi Adlerstein is dividing by zero.

I just don't get it.

Failed Messiah, Harry Maryles and Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein. From New York to Chicago to California. There must be some connection with having a "rosh katan" and a long memory.

Yeah - Remember the Alamo! Remember Deir Yassin! Remember the Slifkin fiasco! Remember Miriam Shears!

Remember Yetzias Mitzrayim!

Remember Amalek!

Remember the Shabbos and keep it holy!

Remember Maamad Har Sinai!

Remember how we angered G-d in the desert!

Remember Miriam and her Loshon Harah!!!! Remember what Hashem your G-d did to Miriam...

ותקבל ברחמים וברצון סדר זכרונותנו

Monday, August 23, 2010

And All the Nations of the World Will Fear You

ומנין שהתפילין עוז הם לישראל? דכתיב: וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה' נקרא עליך ויראו ממך
ותניא ר'
אליעזר הגדול אומר אלו תפילין שבראש

And from where do we know that the Tefillin are the strength of Israel? For it is written (Devarim 28:10): And all the nations of the world will see that the name of Hashem is read upon you, and they will fear you!
The braitha teaches - Rabi Eliezer the Great says:
This refers to the Tefillin on the head.

- Brachos 6a

Saturday, August 21, 2010

From Yechezkel's Shabbos Table - Crossing the Desert

In this (past) week's parsha, the Torah forbids us from accepting an Amoni or Moavi as a full fledged convert. And why?

On the surface, the Torah offers us two reasons for this:

על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים ואשר שכר עליך את בלעם בן בעור מפתור ארם נהרים לקללך

  1. For the matter that they did not receive you with bread and water on the road when you exited from Egypt.
  2. And as to that he hired curse you.
The commentaries converge en masse to try to make sense out of these two reasons. And, at the very least, the manner they are presented. The great difficulty is not with reason number 2 - that he hired Bilaam to curse you. It seems to be a very sensible reason to turn down their application. But how are we supposed to understand the first reason - they did not greet you with bread and water?

The questions abound, mainly, isn't this a bit overblown? What's the big deal? After all:

  1. Does this mean free bread and water (Chizkuni)? No other nation greeted us with free bread and water and we have no problem with them. We all know there is no such thing as a free breakfast!
  2. If we mean that they were not willing to sell us bread and water, well, the pasuk in Devarim 2:29 explicitly indicates that the Moavim were happy to do so (see Oznayim L'Torah ad loc). Business is business!
  3. And, why did we need bread and water in the desert anyway, didn't we have the mahn and the spring of Miriam?

And, even if we consider it a valid shortcoming, how does it compare in significance to the second reason? Moreover, why does it deserve to get precedence over the second reason?

Another question: The term the Torah uses for "receive you with bread and water..." is קדמו. Though, difficult to translate into English, the implication of this choice of terminology is to head off, to make the first move, to preempt, to be there before something else... be there before what? What were they supposed to preempt?

I have seen some or all of these questions in the works of various prominent commentaries, but there is one looming question that I have yet to see in print:

The Torah tells us that "they did not receive you with bread and water בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים - on the road as you exited Egypt".

When you exited Egypt? That was 40 years ago! The encounter with Moav and Bilaam and Baal Pe'or occurred at the end of the 40 year period when we were encamped at Arvos Moav. Why does the Torah call this בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים?

Now that we brought it up, it does seem a bit curious, doesn't it? This phrase - בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים - has not yet made an appearance in the entire Torah. And here in this Parsha, Ki Teitzei, it suddenly shows up written identically no less than 3 times!! The first time is here in our pasuk - Devarim 23:5. The second time is in Devarim 24:9 when we are commanded to recall the ordeal of Miriam and her tzoraas. The third time is in 25:17 in the renowned Parshat Zachor when we recall the attack of Amalek.

Three times the identical phrase in this Parsha and nowhere else in the Torah! There must be some common denominator. Yet none of the classical commentaries deal with it. Even the great Baal HaTurim whose mission is to compare identical phrases throughout the Tanach seems to have overlooked this one (we will have to dock him from his pay!)

But, returning to our question, the use of this phrase by Amalek makes perfect sense. They attacked us in Refidim, within a month or two of our Exodus. The ordeal of Miriam occurred in the second year, prior to the incident of the spies. Perhaps, this can also be considered "on our way out of Egypt". But the incident with Moav and Bilaam? This did not occur until after the 40 years, as stated earlier.

The key to solving this problem lies with the commentary of Rabeinu Bechaye. But first, let us study a passage from the gemara in Kiddushin (31b):

Rabi Tarfon had a mother for whom when she wanted to go into her bed he would bend down so she can climb up on him and when she wanted to step off she would step down on him. He expressed an exaltation in the Beis HaMidrash and the Rabbis said to him, "You have not yet reached the midpoint of your obligation. Has it occurred that she threw your money purse into the sea in front of you and you restrained from berating her?"

How are we to understand the obligation of honoring our parents? We can look at it from 2 perspectives:

1- The relationship that we have with our parents mirrors the relationship we have with HKBH. We must honor them in order to simulate the honor that we must have for our Father in Heaven. This is mentioned explicitly in the gemara in Kiddushin 30b.

In this sense, the mitzva is actually a mitzva of Bein Adam L'Makom - between man and G-d. This can explain why this mitzva is to be found on the first of the 2 tablets.

2 - The more pragmatic aspect is that it is Bein Adam L'Chaveiro. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our parents. Even if they did not look after us from the time of our birth (which is seldom the case) we still owe our very existence to them for they brought us into the world. For those to whom we owe our very existence, there is no limit to the extent that we must express our gratitude.

This is the message that the Rabbis conveys to Rabi Tarfon. All of your gestures do not even reach the midpoint because, for something without limit, there is no midpoint.

Now, returning to our subject, Rabeinu Bechaye explains that Amon and Moav carry a tremendous debt of gratitude toward the descendents of Avraham. Because it is only in the merit of Avraham Avinu that their ancestor Lot was saved from the destruction of Sodom. The descendents of Ammon and Moav are indebted to Avraham Avinu - and, by extention, to us - for their very existence! And, as such, no gesture of appreciation would be considered too much.
And so, the Torah is telling us in reason number 1 that if Ammon and Moav truly appreciated their obligations to Klal Yisrael, they would have, 40 years previous, the moment they heard that this great nation was released from Egypt, they would have loaded up their camels with bread and water, and crossed over the entire Sinai desert and offered to take care of their needs for bread and water before HKBH took the initative to miraculously supply water and mahn. They should have said, "HKBH, hold off with the miracle bread and spring water. The bread and water is on us."

So the Torah says: על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים . For the matter that they didn't run across the desert and take the initiative to provide bread and water...

But, you may say, this is a bit of an exagerration. Okay to be friendly and not hostile and to help the Jews when they come knocking at their door, but you don't mean to actually get up and cross the desert and feed them...

So the Torah adds: בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים

Where else do I find this phrase? Oh yes, by Amalek - 25:17 (we will have to shelve the reference by Miriam in 24:9). And what did Amalek do?

That's right, the moment that they heard that this great nation was released from Egypt, they loaded their camels with guns and knives and journeyed out across the entire Sinai desert just to attack us and do us harm. Because they hated us. They hated us so much they just couldn't wait to attack us even if it means transsecting a huge formidable desert.

To attack us. To harm us.

Now, to be fair, this is not without a basis. After all, Yaakov our ancestor did indeed steal the brachos from Eisav, their ancestor. So there does exist some form of "debt of hatred". And the sons of Eisav are very good about making good on their debts. But our relationship with Ammon and Moav should be different. There is no "debt of hatred" to be paid, but rather a debt of gratitude. Something that is normally expressed by chessed and kinship.

So, the Torah asks, if one nation is so motivated to load up their camels with weapons and cross the desert for destruction and evil, and the middah of Tov is 500 times greater than the middah of Rah (Rashi Shmos 20:6), is it too much to ask another nation to load up their camels and to cross the desert for chessed and emes?

And if they would have done so, imagine what they may have been zocheh to!!

So the Torah tells us: על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים

Okay, so 40 years ago when they had a chance for greatness, which would entail no more effort than the Amaleikim actually invested for their destructive purposes, they passed it up. We can live with that. Not everybody is so motivated. But what happened now when these Jews to whom they owe so much are actually standing at their doorstep?

ואשר שכר עליך את בלעם בן בעור מפתור ארם נהרים לקללך.

Can a nation that is so ungrateful, that is so treacherous ever have a place in Klal Yisrael?

לא תדרוש שלמם וטבתם כל ימיך לעולם.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

What a Disgrace!

What a disgrace!

I am referring to a very disturbing post that was written under a banner called Emes Ve-Emunah. And the post begins with these very same words: What a disgrace!

Now, I can't say that it's the most disgraceful post that I have seen in that forum, but it certainly ranks with the all-timers. For here, once again, he lambasts an observant religious authority for (shame of shames) DOING HIS JOB. (One of the first times that I had to deal with this methodology was in this post:
Because of Kamtza and Bat Kamtza was the House Destroyed)

But the amazing thing is, in order to accomplish this, he distorts and misrepresents the facts that are already distorted and misrepresented in the press. And by further distorting what is already distorted, it becomes his holy crusade to malign what he calls "the orthodox establishment". Yep, you heard me right, folks. He has graduated from the chareidim (those violent thugs) to the "orthodox establishment".

And I have come (and stayed up very late tonight) to clean up the mess.

The first step is to check out Rabbi Maryles' source material to see what the article really says.

Did you like the line: "Zionism runs in my family," the Detroit native says?

Second, let us try to understand what went on in view of how things work in Eretz Yisrael. One point of introduction:

A Rabbanut or, more accurately, a Moetzet HaDati (Religious Counsel), in any given municipality is an office that oversees the religious needs of the locality. This includes shuls, mikvaos, eruvin, and kashrus, and registry for weddings, divorces and funerals. They may or may not also have a Beit Din but they are not a Beit Din themselves. They are an office!! Even if they have a Beit Din, the local Beit Din may be qualified for only certain issues (such as a Beit Din for mammonus - monetary disputes) and not for more complicated issues. The people that work there are generally devout people but they may or may not be rabbanim.

Once we know this, let us analyze the article:

Here is a young American woman who approaches a municipal Rabbanut (which is not a court) to receive an approbation for marriage. The article claims that she brought letters from 4 Conservative (i.e. non-Orthodox) Rabbis and one Chabad (presumably Orthodox, but don't get me started...). At the same time, it states that:

...her parents are divorced and she can no longer provide their ketuba (Why not? - YH). The facts that her parents' get, or bill of divorce, was prepared by a Conservative rabbi (i.e., if he, and or any witness, is a mechallel Shabbos b'farhesiya, the get is invalid - YH) and that her mother has since remarried a Catholic (i.e., she is a mumar l'avoda zarah - YH)...

Allegedly, the fellow who was in charge of the registry (not a dayan) did not feel that the letters that she brought were acceptable. The article doesn't say why, but it could very well be that he was not authorized to accept them (as we shall see). For the record, when I made Aliyah, I also needed a letter from a Rabbi that I am Jewish. The letter I presented said nothing more than, "I know these people to be proper Jews...". It really did not offer much convincing proof, except perhaps that the Rabbi who wrote it was Orthodox. I did have my wife's Kesuba. It just may be because I wasn't related to Nachum Sokoloff that I had such an easy time.

Back to our incident, according to the article, the registry fellow demanded that she produce the Kesubos of matriarchs up 4 generations. I personally don't believe this. I think she is dramatizing. Nobody needs to present all of that documentation (note that her fiance's papers were fine and I will bet my rent money he didn't produce kesuvos from 4 generations up). But one may be required to present at least some of it. My gut feeling is he would have been satisfied with one or two generations if she could even do that.

But she couldn't.

She couldn't come up with her own mother's kesuba nor either of her grandparents who survived the Holocaust, nor their death certificates, nor her mother's birth certificate. At least, not on the spot.

I must reiterate that it is clear from this article that our subject (Miss Hillary) was dealing with a registry office and not a Beit Din. As a registry offfice, it has rules as to what it can accept on its own as proof of being Jewish and what it must refer to a higher body (i.e., a Beit Din that is qualified in this area). All this is for the common good, so that we can ensure that people who claim to be Jewish really are and thus to protect the integrity of Jewish identity (for those who value it).

So the fellow (not a dayan, remember?) did what he was supposed to do - he referred her to the Beit Din. That was his job. The article (if Rabbi Maryles would have read it) says so:

The Chief Rabbinate recently enacted new guidelines automatically sending marriage candidates whose parents did not wed in Israel to a local rabbinical court to determine whether they are really Jewish.

The fact is that everybody needs to do this. My own daughter got married last year. Both she and her chosson come from FFB families all the way up the line. But neither me nor my mechutanim were married here. So they needed to procure letters from their Yeshiva and seminary plus give information on who are their Chosson/Kallah-lessons teachers and bring them to Beit Din for an Ishur. It's not a big deal if you are genuinely Jewish and genuinely observant. Ironically, they did it through the "ultra-Orthodox" Eida Chareidis bes din because there was less red tape than to do it through the Rabbanut!!

Now, our hero Ms. Hillary also needed to go to Beit Din. Those are the rules. But she refused to do it. I bet she could come up with some of that documentation if she really wanted to, but it's easier to blame the hard-hearted extemists who are doing their job and to honeymoon off to Cyprus.

"At this point, I no longer want to play (be) [by] their rules. I want to fight what they're doing," Rubin, who observes Shabbat and keeps kosher, said...Rubin and her fiance' - whose documents were accepted by the rabbinate as valid proof of Jewishness - did not even want to try to convince the rabbinical court that she is a Jew...The young couple believes the consequences of going through the rabbinical court are "much worse" than not going at all. (Emphasis mine - YH)

So the "observant" Jewish girl doesn't want to go to Beis Din!? They stand to come out worse than if they "try to convince the rabbinical court"... !!

Why? What is she hiding?

This kind of behavior does not look good on her resume. Actually, it's downright suspicious.

But Harry Maryles calls this event "A disgrace." To Harry Maryles, to send somebody with a checkered past to Beit Din to check out their Jewishness is a disgrace (note that Harry never even mentioned that they were sent to Beis Din as are the rules, only that the registrar at the Rabbanut which he erroneously called a "rabbinical court" did not give the approbation that he is not authorized to give).

To get a clearer picture, let us check out some of what Harry wrote in light of what we know (his words are in burgundy):

But I also charge the current orthodox establishment in Israel with treating fellow Jews with contempt in the name of religion.

I don't know why guidelines equally applied are called "contempt".

I refer to the case of Hillary Rubin. She is a grandchild of the holocaust. Her grandparents were gassed by the Nazis. (Update - RHM apparently edited his post. It now reads: Her grandparents are survivors of the Holocaust. I wonder what tipped him off?)

No, her grandparents survived the Holocaust - all four of them. They are required by Halacha to have kesuvos even if they were married before the war and their original kesuvos were lost.

She now lives in Israel and is an observant Jew.

Ready to undergo a Conservative marriage.

But when it came time for her to get married, she was told by the by a rabbinical court in Herzliya (Update - the words in italics were edited to: Herzliya rabbinate.)

The article did not say that the Rabbanut in Herzliya is a rabbinical court.

that she needed to bring the Kesuvos (religious marriage contracts) of grandmothers going back 4 generations to prove her Jewishness.

The problem is that any such documentation was destroyed in the holocaust. She cannot provide any such proof.

How about the grandmothers who survived the holocaust? they still need kesuvos?

The fact that she brought letters of testimony from 5 people one of whom was a Chabad rabbi made no difference to them.

You mean, made no difference to him. It wasn't a court. He wasn't a dayan.

Neither did the fact that it was impossible for her to provide documentation they asked for due to the holocaust.

Perhaps not all of it, but how about some of it?

I understand the issues involved. One must be Jewish to get married to another Jew. If there is any doubt about it it needs to be proven.

Can you repeat that last line?

In our day where heterodox movements are doing conversions that are not in accordance with Halacha and in one instance accepts patrilineal descent as equally determining one Jewishness – it can be a problem. It is quite reasonable to ascertain the Jewish status of an individual that was so defined by a heterodox movement and not born Jewish via matrilineal descent.

But how far do we go with that? When is a rabbinical court justified in insisting on impossibly draconian demands like those made upon Ms. Rubin? (Update - or, rather, no update. Here he hasn't bothered to change the text)

Again with the Rabbinical court??

She had two parents that were Jewish,

How do you know?

grandparents that were murdered by the Nazis in the holocaust, (Update - this line modified)

Her grandparents survived.

and she had testimony from at least one kosher witness - a Chabad Rabbi.

Do you know what his "testimony" was actually attesting to?

And why stop there? We are all suspect, are we not? Who is to say that our parents were really Jews without proof going back 4 generations? My grandparents died in the holocaust too. My parents told me they were Frum. But that is the sum and substance of my proof. I have no clue or proof whether my maternal great-great grandmother was Jewish. Why should my children be treated any differently than Ms. Rubin was?

Did your wife marry a catholic?

Why should anyone’s children be treated differently?

Did you read the part about the guidelines?

But we are. Those of us who are raised Frum are assumed to be Jewish. I doubt that any one of us were ever required to bring any proof at all about it.

Keep doubting. Nevertheless, people who keep Torah and mitzvos - what we call "Kosher yidden" - have a chezkas kashrus.

But those of us who are not in this category –

Peolple who do not keep Torah and mitzvos - and are children of women who are "mumar l'avoda zarah" do not have a chazkas kashrus.

if things keep going in this direction – will be written out of Judaism!

This is a grossly unfair approach

Please explain why it is unfair.

which serves to destroy Heterodoxy by destroying the lives of non Orthodox Jews. These are not honorable intentions. They are divisive and destructive ones. I realize there is an increasing ‘Jewish status’ problem. But prejudicial treatment of non Orthodox Jews is not the way to solve the problem.

As long as they are actually Jewish, but how do we know this without a chezkas kashrus?

Unless all Jews are subjected to the same standards

Did you read the part about the guidelines?

- no one should be. Unless a serious question is raised about a questionable conversion or there is some evidence that one is not Halachicly Jewish, most Jews have a Chezkas Kashrus and should be presumed to be Jewish.

a chezkas kahrus is based on being Shomer Torah and mitzvos.

The vast majority of Conservative Jews no matter how religious or secular were born of a Jewish mother.

The vast majority don't marry catholics.

It is grossly unfair to treat our fellow Jews this way just because they were not raised in an Orthodox home. Ms. Rubin - whose parents are Jewish;


whose grandparents were massacred in the holocaust, (Update - again, modified)


and who had a letter from a Kosher witness testifying to her Judaism -

No idea what the letter said

And the court that rejected her Judaism –

The court didn't reject her Judaism - she refused to go to court.

asking her to do the impossible –

nobody has to do the impossible

reveals the true motive of these rabbis. It is to eliminate ‘lesser Jews’ from our ranks.

Batei Dinim are here to help people, not hurt them.

This attitude

...of yours.
Rabbi Maryles, I am appalled. You are fanning the flames of divisiveness instead of cooling things down. Instead of fortifying the legitimate actions of the Herzliya Rabbanut (trust me, this is not the Eida Charedis), and simply trying to help the disoriented unoriented to understand what the issue is, how the process works, and why it is important - the part that you go out of your way to play down! - you feel you are doing a better service to Klal Yisrael by standing up for the girl who refuses to go to Beit Din and criticizing the fellow who sent her there. Perhaps you grew up in Detroit but the fellow from Herzliya did not. He has no idea who she is. And she can't even (or refuses to) produce one kesuva! To some of us, the standards of yuchsin are precious. And without these standards, it will one day have to apply to your (or my) children.

ought not to be allowed to stand.

What a disgrace!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


So I finally found a little time to write and, like Punxsutawney Phil, I stick my head out of my gopher-hole to see what's happening in the Jewish world. Well, the summer solstace is behind us and the shadows are indeed getting longer and I can only predict another six weeks of absolute chaos (and then comes Judgement Day!)

That's the optimistic forecast.

Even though I have been a bit quiet over the past few weeks, I have been lurking in the alleys (did anybody miss me?...didn't think so!). I sometimes had the urge to write but not the time and, perhaps, sometimes had the time to write but not the urge. Tragic plane crashes can do that sort of thing to me. (There was a time when I lived on the same block as Shalom and Simi Menora, now I live on the same block as Zevi and Kelly Klein. The dress that my 17 year old daughter wore at my older daughter's wedding last year was borrowed from Sara Klein, ZT"L.)

I had some plans to write about the conversion bill (I have a six-month extension on that now) or about the Orthoprax Rabbi ( a true oxy-Moron), but nothing materialized.

So as my blog devolves from a daily to a weekly to a monthly (moving quick toward quarterly), what is the burning issue of the day?

It is the just released Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community.

And when I say "just released" I mean it. The site that I linked to has it dated as July 28, 2010. I remember that date as if it was yesterday. There is some significance to this which I hope to get to shortly.

Now, I got wind of this proclamation just this morning as I was checking the sage wisdom of Rabbi Harry Maryles as I so regularly do.

I actually read over the statement. It contains 12 principles, just one less than Rambam! In general, the proclamation is saying that despite the Halakhic injunctions against homosexual behavior, the rules of mentschlichkeit and kavod habrios are not to be inhibited.

Now, on the face of it, this is very reasonable and the author(s) seemed to have taken much care to acknowledge that there are still "red lines" of Halakha that must be respected. It is clear that the author(s) were struggling on the NCOJ (non-chareidi Orthodox Jew) tightrope to maintain the balancing act that is forever a part of the non-Chareidi world. One goal of this was to gain the widest scope of acceptance that is attainable in the greater Orthodox world.

Rabbi Maryles affixes his own stamp of approval though, commendibly, he does voice his objections on a number of details that are a bit too liberal for even his tastes. For the record, I agree with his objections. Nevertheless, I am a bit confused about how far his objections actually go for in this post he writes:

While I agree with this statement in principle, I object to the implied imprimatur this places upon homosexual couples who adopt children. With rare exception I am opposed to promoting adoptions by parents that do not have a male and female parenting role model. A child that has two parents of the same sex is being shortchanged in my view - even if they are celibate.At best it is a B’Dieved – just like a single parent family would be. If one has no choice that is one thing. But to suggest that less than the ideal should be ‘fully embraced’ is not something I can support.

Yet a bit less than a year ago (August 21, 2009) he wrote (HERE):

Is it halachicly permissible for homosexual couples to have and raise children? Is it a good idea?The answer to both those questions is probably yes -under certain conditions.

...So the idea of homosexual couples having their own child should not really be a problem – whether by natural means or by adoption. The question then arises: How? By what process do they achieve it? In the case of male homosexuals - do they get married to a woman just for procreative purposes even while living with a male partner? What about artificial insemination? Is that an option? Adoption? I do not see a problem with any of these options halachicly.

Psychologically the marriage option might be a bad choice. But if everyone is up front about who - and what - they really are and the marriage is only for procreative purposes it may not be so bad. ...The next question is what kind of family life will the child of a gay couple have? What if ‘Heather has two daddies’?At this point I would posit that female homosexual couples might not have as great a stigma as do male homosexual couples. Nor do they have the same halachic problems. So if ‘Heather has two mommies’ it may envisage a better outcome. ...On a halachic level though - I do not believe there is any real problem. And I don’t think the major Poskim have one either.

Now, of course, the easy answer is that in the August 2009 post, he never meant that it is "L'chatchila" but just as "b'diavad" as he writes here. But the tone of that post does not suggest it. He seems a lot closer to "full embrace" than he does here.

Whatever it is that he does "fully embrace" has another dimension. He laments the fact that no notable "right wing" Rabbi or Rosh Yeshiva has signed on to the proclamation. He wants to get them "on board". In his August 2009 post, he went further to fantasize that they are already on board. And this is what I really want to discuss.

Such a thing is never going to happen.

Now, in its time (August 29, 2009), I dealt with this at length and you can find the post here:

And for this occasion, I do not have too much to add to the eloquent comment of one ClooJew who, lulei d'mistefina, wrote:

There are three objections, lulei demistafina, that I can see Rabbonim—including YU's 34 Roshei Yeshiva, none of whom signed this letter—having to this letter.

One, Nothing happens in a vacuum. I think that most rabbonim from all stripes of the Orthodox world would agree with the content of most of this formal declaration. That does not mean they would agree that it should be formally declared.

By underscoring "our obligation to treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect," the signatories go beyond dignity and respect, and enter the grey zone toward legitimization. Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, the inherent nature of a public pronouncement is to overemphasize the facts it pronounces. This is what the activist agenda of the gay community thrives on. The reason for gay pride parades is not simply to announce but to publicize and promote.

Two, communal needs must not only be balanced with, but often take precedence over individual needs. Again, nothing happens in a vacuum. Publicly announcing oneself to be gay is unlike publicly announcing oneself to be a Yankees fan; it requires a response. It is a declaration waiting to be welcomed or rejected by the community. In a community that lives by a Torah which clearly states that homosexual behavior is an "abomination" punishable by death, such a statement cannot simply be overlooked.

Furthermore, a public revelation also unmasks the intentions of the homosexual. Would a heterosexual Orthodox Jew stand up and admit he likes to watch pornography (even if he claims to control himself)? A person who views his inclinations and behavior as non-halachic and immoral would keep it between himself, his rabbi, and God.

But I do want to add one other objection that those from the One Above camp would have (it really mirrors all of Mr. ClooJew's points, especially the third). Lulei d'mistafina, I felt there was one principle missing from the Statement (the 13th principle?!) and this is that the principles only discuss the sensitivity that we "straights" should have toward those who are "suffering" from this horrible (abominable?) affliction. What the proclamation does not say is that the homosexual must also respect the fact that the traditionalist heterosexual Jews does not want to look upon homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle by any measure and, as such, whatever homosexual tendencies are in place must be played down to the highest (lowest?) degree possible. In plain English it means - keep it under wraps! I really think, lulei d'mistafina, that this is the implication of Mr. ClooJew's third point and it is essential.

This proclamation comes across to me as a one-sided contract which enumerates the obligations of one party and absolves the other party of all obligations whatsoever. There is not a single word about how the homosexual who cannot control or conceal his "orientation" is supposed to deal with the community that is likewise struggling with this anomaly. The homosexual is the victim of "crossed wires" and has carte blanche to expose himself (itself?) for his weaknesses and the community has to tiptoe around him! No mutual obligations!

And here is where I want to get back to today's date. As I read Harry Maryles' blog dated July 28 and the link to the Statement Blog (created especially for this, apparently) also dated July 28 (though perhaps updated from July 22) I sit here in Jerusalem Ir Hakodesh on July 29 and read this "Statement of Principles" on the very day that a bunch of gay and lesbian perverts have nothing better to do than to make a public Pride parade through the heart of Yerushalayim! And they have done this and continue to do this year after year after year with the full knowledge that that this is the seat of Har Habayis and the Makom HaMikdash and that most of the population here is repulsed by it.

But they don't care. They are proud to be gay!

Now, we can rationalize that these are secular folks and religious Jews that are victims of SSA are not apt to be so audacious.

But then, on this very day, I read this newly released "Statement" from an "Orthodox" think tank (approved by Emes Ve-Emunah!) which tells me, as I sit here in Yerushalayim, how accepting we need to be to our SSA brethren, yet, not a word of responsibility to them and I say to myself: They couldn't pick a better time to release this proclamation??

Timing is everything!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Golden Oldies - Parshat Balak/Pinchas

I haven't written in a bit. Some readers are starting to forget that I exist (which may actually be the case). Let's chalk it up to an extended visit to the real world. I am still too preoccupied to write new material but I do want to present some of the Golden Oldies from the first months of this blog back in 2008 (anybody remember those days?).

In the old days, I used to do what I called a Parsha Challenge. I would first present a puzzling issue from the Parsha - something that the classical meforshim seem to have overlooked - and a few days later I presented a proposed solution.

Now the link between Parshat Balak and Parshat Pinchas is the terrible debacle at Shittim where many of our ancestors (or our ancestors kin) met their end. Exactly how many were indeed executed during the episode?

The question was asked in this post:

and, 3 days later, the solution was presented in this one:

Another fascinating discussion that centers in Parshat Pinchas was my discussion on TuM (it's not what you think!). Why on earth is this topic being discussed in this Parsha? This was the first Parsha Challenge that I ever posted in this blog. The problem was presented in this post:

And the proposed solution was presented here:

I do have some material for some up-to-date posts but it is very hard to find the time to write them up. In the meanwhile, have a great Shabbos!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fools of the World - They're Still Here

This post is an exact copy of a post that I wrote on October 15, 2008. Only the news link at the head of the post has been changed. Sadly, very sadly, nothing else has changed.

Re: Jerusalem Post Article - Court: No to haredi income benefit

The opening gemara in Masechet Avoda Zarah (2a) says:

In the future to come the Holy One shall bring a Torah scroll and set it in His lap and proclaim, “For each one who occupied himself with it, let him come and receive his reward.” Immediately all the nations of the world will gather and come in pandemonium…

The kingdom of Rome will enter before Him first…The Holy One says to them, “In what way have you involved yourselves?”. They will say before Him, “Master of the World! We installed many markets, we made many bathhouses, we amassed much silver and gold, and all this we did for no purpose other than to enable [the people of] Israel to busy themselves in Torah.” The Holy One says to them, “Fools of the world! All that you did, you did for your own purposes. You built marketplaces to situate harlots, bathhouses to adorn yourselves, and the silver and gold is actually Mine...”

The kingdom of Persia enters after them. The Holy One says to them, “In what way have you involved yourselves?”. They will say before Him, “Master of the World! We built many bridges, we conquered many metropolises, we waged many wars, and all this we did for no purpose other than to enable [the people of] Israel to busy themselves in Torah.” The Holy One says to them, “Fools of the world! All that you did, you did for your own purposes. You built bridges to collect from them tolls, you conquered cities to conscript the inhabitants and their property for your military campaigns, and, as for wars, I am the One who manipulates wars…"

I have oft-times reflected on this passage and noted that the great super powers of the world will line up to apply for this reward. Edom (the US and Europe) and Persia (Iran). No doubt Russia and China will also submit their applications.

And what about the State of Israel?

Will the State of Israel that tries so hard to be like all other nations, will the State of Israel also line up to ask for the great reward? And what claim will they make?

My guess is that the State of Israel will be right there clamoring away with the rest of the nations. And, as with the rest of the nations, HKBH will ask them, “In what way have you involved yourselves?” And they will say before Him, “Master of the World! We gave military deferments to those who could prove that they are studying Torah. And we made sure that they will not be able to legally work as long as they received these deferments. We gave child allowances for the children of your people - although we halved the child allowances at the same time as bread and milk doubled. And we set aside a special budgetary allotment for Torah schools - to make it look like we are giving them extra money when in truth we are giving them less since we didn't think that they deserve the same basic funding as State schools and so we made sure they didn't get it. And all this we did for no purpose other than to enable [the people of] Israel to busy themselves in Torah..."

And what will happen? Will the Holy One smile and heap infinite reward on the State of Israel for their sincere efforts or, as to the rest of the nations, will He say to them, "Fools of the world! All that you did, you did for your own purposes..."?

Just don't kick the sukka on the way out.