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.