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.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cops and Rabbis

I received the following letter from one of my fans about 2 days ago:

Dear R. Hirschman,


Here's a recent post from one of my old college buddies on Facebook. I hate to waste your precious learning time (so feel free to delete it and I won't follow up), but what the heck is this guy's (the blog's author) beef about? Is this another example of a disgruntled modern Orthodox, sick of Chareidi ('Yeshivish') people telling them what to do??

This is a letter worth answering "online". So here goes:

Dear One-of-my-Fans, LOY"T

Thank you for your letter.

The answer to your question is, "Yes." Your buddy suffers from a very common condition which I call the Korach Syndrome. The Korach Syndrome can be rephrased as the I-have-no-problem-with-G-d-but-can't-deal-with-his-little-helpers-who-keep-reminding-me-about-what-He-wants-from-us Syndrome. Your buddy says this himself in almost the exact same words in the last line of his post. And I quote:

So I remain an O Jew, with deep faith in Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and none in the Rabbinic/Yeshivish elite.

Now, it might be that in the olden days when we were all on better terms with G-d and we had real Kohanim with the Urim and Tumim, we didn't have to rely so much on His emissaries. Today, however, G-d and us don't seem to be on speaking terms and so we have no choice but to take advice from those who have spent lots of time reading up on His rule book. Some folks - um, actually I mean lots and lots of folks - have a very hard time with this.

But this is really nothing new.

I find it somewhat auspicious that your letter is coming on this particular week - Parshat Korach. It was just the sentiment expressed by your buddy that prompted me to write chapter 8 of my book - Cops and Rabbis (or, Dear Kindly Rabbi Krupnik) in which Korach (and his friends) are the main characters. So, if you really want to understand what this guy's beef is about, it may help to review the chapter.

I looked over the chapter myself to see if I could condense it and post it here l'chvod your letter and l'chvod Parshat Korach but I didn't think that I could pull out more than perhaps 20% before it loses its zing, so it doesn't really pay to condense it at all. I decided that I will post the whole chapter. It is actually one of the most powerful chapters in the book.

So here I present to all Chapter 8 - Cops and Rabbis. And let's daven for your old college buddy that he doesn't get swallowed up when things start to rumble!

Cops and Rabbis_Scribd

Again, thanks for writing and have a good Shabbos.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Harav Mordechai Eliyahu, ZT"L - Finding a Body that Wasn't Lost

Harav Hagaon Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, ZY"A, was nifter yesterday. Like thousands and thousands of others, I went to the funeral in Kiryat Moshe (it's actually walking distance). He was a true Gadol and a worthy leader of Klal Yisroel.

Much of the Jewish news media is mourning his passing and writing up tributes to his gadlus. There is an inspiring write-up in today's Arutz Sheva web site. They chose to relate a story about the power of tefillah and the plight of an agunah. Here is the story as they tell it:

When Rabbi Eliyahu first became a dayan in Be’er Sheva, in 1957, his was the only rabbinical court in the entire south, between Eilat and Be’er Sheva. On his first day on the job, he saw a woman standing outside, praying from a small Book of Psalms. She remained outside all day. The next day, the rabbi saw the same thing, and the next day again, and so on. Finally, he asked the court secretary to ask her to come in. He asked her why she stood outside and prayed all day, and she related in all innocence: ‘I came on Aliyah [immigration to Israel] from Morocco by myself, and they sent me to Be’er Sheva. I asked where the closest rabbinical court was, I was told it was here, and so here I am.’

He asked her, “What are you praying for?” and the woman said, “My husband in Morocco was a taxi driver, and a week after we were married, at the end of the Sheva Brachot [the seven days of wedding festivities], he crashed - and his body was never found... After a while, I went to the rabbis to be declared a widow so that I could remarry, but they said that without a body, they could not be certain that he was dead – and so I remained a ‘chained woman’ [aguna, unable to marry]. But when I came to Israel, I had faith that what the rabbinical courts in Morocco could not accomplish [in permitting me to remarry], the courts in Israel would be able to do.”

Rabbi Eliyahu asked, “So why did you remain outside the court? Why didn’t you come in to the dayanim?”

The woman said, “Who are you? I pray to G-d, not to you!”

Rabbi Eliyahu immediately took up her case. He took all her papers and went to the Baba Sali, who told him of his brother, the Baba Haki, a leading rabbi in the Israeli city of Ramle who was familiar with all those engaged in Jewish burials in Morocco. Rabbi Eliyahu traveled to Ramle, where the Baba Haki told him, “There were only two Jewish kavranim [people engaged in burials] in Morocco, and both have since come to Israel. One lives in Dimona and one lives in Kiryat Ata [near Haifa].”

Rabbi Eliyahu said, “I live in the south, so I might as well try Dimona.” He went to the exact address supplied to him by the Baba Haki – only to find that the man’s family was sitting shiva for him; he had died just a few days earlier.

Quite disappointed, Rabbi Eliyahu went in anyway, shared some words of Torah and solace with the mourning family and friends, and explained why he was there. Immediately, a man jumped up and said, “I am the other kavran, and I know that story! I was the one who buried the taxi driver!”

Rabbi Eliyahu asked him to accompany come him to other rabbis, who questioned him and determined that his testimony was acceptable. Rabbi Eliyahu convened the rabbinical court, and the woman was declared “unchained” and permitted to remarry.

“This is the power of prayer,” Rabbi Eliyahu later said, “both hers and mine.”

On the surface, it is a very inspiring story. Nevertheless, something doesn't fit. I posted a comment on the Arutz-7 web site (it hasn't been posted yet) which expresses my bewilderment. here is what I wrote:

Something is strange about the story of the taxi driver. What does it mean that "his body was never found" if one of the official kavranim of Morocco buried him?

This implies that the body was found, a Jewish person buried him and he knew who he was burying. So why was his bride and the other rabannim of Morocco not aware of it when it happened?

There are a few holes in this story.

If this story goes back to 1957, I highly doubt there is anybody around who can fill in the holes and make this story more believable. In the meatime, I have to file it in my story repository under Questionable (if not Implausible).

Aside from this, I wonder how many seconds are left on the Baba Sali watch and...is it running?