Monday, April 30, 2007


So, the more I think about this idea of simply writing off the Chareidi movement as a non-Torah movement, the more I like it, as much as anyone can like an idea of writing off a portion of Klal Yisrael. However, the Chareidi movement has brought this on itself. They have indeed removed themselves from the Tzibur and, while doing so, have declared all other Torah Judaism to be not kosher. By doing so, by declaring that other sections of Orthodoxy that keep Torah, Mitzovs, and Halacha, they have declared themselves a non-Torah movement.

There is a posuk in Yirmiyahu that asks how could Hashem have brought such destruction onto the Jewish people. This posuk is generally regarded to be asking specifically about the destruction of both Batei Mikdash. Hashem answers - "Al asher azvu Torasi" - because they abandoned my Torah. Ok, says the Medrash. We understand that answer for the destruction of the first Bais HaMikdash, when Avoda Zara, Shfichus Damim, and Gilui Arayos (idol worship, murder, and immoral sexual behavior) were rampant. The people had indeed abandoned the Torah in a time when prophets roamed the land trying to teach the word of Hashem. There was Gilui Panim at the time - God's presence was felt and noticeable. The punishment was for sins that were also un-hidden, out in the open. Nobody bothered to hide what he or she was doing.

Along came the second Bais Hamikdash. The Medrash asks: But everyone was Torah observant at the time! No one had abandoned the Torah. Answers the Medrash - Hashem destroyed the Bais Hamikdash because people stopped saying Bircas HaTorah. Asks the Medrash, What do you mean? Of course everyone said Bircas HaTorah! Yes, the Medrash replies. But no one meant it. Torah study had become an exercise in academics, not something people were learning and internalizing as a way of life, a way of treating other people, as well as a guide for one's relationship with God. For this, says the Medrash, the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed. It was a time of Hester Paniim, a time when Hashem's presence wasn't as tangible in the physical world, and the reasons for the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash were not as clear as well; some research had to be done to find the reason.

Sound familiar? This is what is going on in the Yeshivish/Chareidi world. And when I called a rabbi to whom I was very close on this one Shabbos morning in bright, sunny Los Angeles, he glared at me and told me I was a Choteh Plili, a criminal sinner for saying such things about the Yeshiva world. We never spoke again.

But it's true. There is no internalization any longer. It's just an exercise in academics, as it was two thousand years ago. That's why not one rabbi rose in defense of Bar-Kamtza. Torah was no longer internalized, as it is no longer internalized today in the Yeshiva/Chareidi world. And perhaps this is the reason for them heaping on the Chumras. Perhaps it is their way of looking for meaning in practices that, when not internalized, have no meaning.

So, as a knee-jerk reaction, the Chareidi world makes Pasul the entire rest of Orthodox Judaism. I say again: Great! Since the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because of people like that, we need to do is ignore them and be the best Torah Jews we can be, which means internalizing our Torah, not just using it as an academic tool. We need to move on past the Chareidi world and start worrying about ourselves and fixing the damage the Chareidi/Yeshivish world has inflicted on us. Once this healing starts and the repairs begin, maybe they'll decide to rejoin the Jewish Nation instead of separating themselves from the Tzibur.

Taking Oneself Out of the Klal

There is a halacha in Pirkei Avos (yes it's in the mishna, Hillel said it, and it's a very explicit order, not a suggestion) that tells us one should not separate oneself from the Tzibur.

Many of us in the anti-Establishment blog world have been upset and writing about the Chareidi world and how it has hi-jacked Torah Judaism. Many Chumras have been pushed on the rest of us because the Chareidiim insist on them, most notably that of "Glatt" kosher meat (and chicken, though I'm at a loss to explain that one...), we see more and more black hats in shuls, even Modern Orthodox ones, and more and more people in that world are content to allow their rabbis and their "gedolim" to do the thinking for them.

But there is something we of the mainstream/left leaning elements of Orthodoxy have to remember: We are the majority in the Orthodox world. The Chassidim are, and always have been, perfectly happy to stay in their little worlds without pushing their way of life on the rest of us. That's great and I admire that they have adhered to their set of rules as well as they have while largely dismissing the rest of the world. The rest of the Chareidim are pretty much the Yeshiva/Yeshivish world, which is not particularly large. By doing the things they have been doing, from "Gedolim" worship to being chumra happy to merrily putting people they don't like in Cherem in order to prevent those people's "dangerous" ideas from spreading in the Chareidi world, they have essentially been taking themselves out of the Klal. They are the ones who are being Poresh Min HaTzibur - separating themselves from the rest of the Jewish Nation.

I say: Great! Let them separate themselves. What do the rest of us care? Leave us alone, do your thing, and go as crazy as you want to. Just give the rest of us who are happy to follow halacha without all the Nareshkeit of Chumras on top of Chumras, over more Chumras the courtesy being allowed to be who we are. Allow us to have non-glatt meat if we want it. Allow us to dress in a tznius manner without looking like shapeless lumps. You want to think we are yet another "non-kosher: form of Judaism? Great! Just leave us alone and do your thing.

Bottom line: The Chareidi world has taken itself out of the Tzibur, out of the mainstream of Klal Yisrael. It is now up to the rest of us to continue upon the path of Lo Sasur Yamin O Smol - to not deviate right or left, and continue upholding Jewish law without living in a Taliban-like fundamentalist society.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Post at DovBear!

So, DovBear honored yesterday with allowing me to guest post on his blog about glatt, a subject I touched on recently as well.

There was a very interesting mixed response. Some people were all for the change. Some were completely against and just tried looking for contradictions in what I said. Others just bashed. No one offered a solution. Too bad. Well, the good fight must go on.

Later, I visited this blog by XGH. The comments, especially nearer the bottom, are quite interesting. One person decided, because he saw a rebbi of his once do it, the word Hashem should be written without vowels and with dashes: H-sh-m. Never mind that Hashem literally means "The Name," and is used in order to not use God's name. He then said this:

"If people like me stick to the mesorah so tenaciosly, if we emulate our Rebbes in every trivial thing, how is it possible for the meosorah to be "hijacked"? I do everything that my Rebbe did exactly as he did it, he did what his Rebbe did, and so on, all the way back to Sinai. I don't consider myself a frummie, but look at how I keep my Rebbe's seemingly trivial minhag. He did the same thing."

It's this sort of automaton mentality I've been railing against. Let the rebbi do the thinking. This guy wasn't listening to or reading his own words! Things being done a certain way does not mean they HAVE to be done that way. So many people have just stopped thinking for themselves and depend on others to do the thinking for them. This leads to the state of the Orthodox world as it is today.

I welcome suggestions for change.

Good Shabbos.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Serenity Prayer

A couple of days ago, I posted the "Serenity Prayer." I don't know its origins, and frankly, I don't care. I do like its message and would like to try and take it to heart.

I've kvetched a lot these last few months about many things I think have gone wrong with Orthodox Judaism. Some of these things, like second day of Yom Tov, can probably never be changed, though I suspect when Moshiach comes, he's going to laugh himself to death about some of these things.

However, some of these things can be changed, and they can be changed quite easily. I'm going to start proposing ways to make these changes, and I welcome any positive suggestions my readers, few though you are, may have. I've been in touch with another blogger, a major player in the Jewish Blogosphere, and he too would love to see some changes and take back Judaism, which seems to have been hi-jacked by a bunch of crazies.

Stay tuned.

A Bit Old, But Still Just As Funny...Or Sad

My wife and I came across a letter sent in to that great Jewish Metropolitan Newspaper, The Jewish Press. A woman who had just moved to Brooklyn complained that no one responded when she wished people a Good Shabbos. She wanted to know why Frum Jews aren't acting nicely. Rabbi Yaakov S. (name withheld - no Loshon Hara here! And yes, this dude PROUDLY SIGNED HIS NAME) sent a response to the Jewish Press.

So, basically, the Jews of Brooklyn are so holy, as holy, perhaps, as the Kohen Gadol performing the Avoda in the Bais Hamikdash, it is actually assur to interrupt their oh, so lofty thoughts and wish them a Good Shabbos or worse, expect them to wish you a Good Shabbos. Wow. Who knew?

Oh! And all you Modern Orthodox Jews out there: You are officially part of an "ilk." :)

Here's the full text:

In this week's edition, we find a suggestion that Ariel Sharon may have used the word "occupation" in reference to the Palestinians, but not to the Land Itself (Stupid Letter Honorable Mention), complaints about kashrus organizations, attacks on Rabbi Riskin (who "demonstrate[s] the ignorance and irresponsibility that plague this generation"), and a supposed dearth of Jewish singles events in The City (obviously this writer has never heard of "Shabbas Davening", held weekly at OZ). However, the big topic was last week's denouncement of frum brooklyn Jews who don't say "Good Shabbas" to their neighbors. Rabbi Yaakov Silver comes to their defense, and in doing so writes the Stupid Letter Of The Week:

It is difficult to say “Good Shabbos” to hundreds of people passing you (compared to living in a remote area where there are relatively few Yidden). Moreover, you would never make it home for the chulent if you stopped to greet each passerby.
But there is another reason why in frummer areas people don`t say “Good Shabbos.” Simply stated, in frummer crowds people are more focused on the holiness of Shabbos. I see many frum people (unlike many of the Modern Orthodox ilk) who are almost in a state of awe. When you are so focused on the holiness of Shabbos, you tend not to notice many things around you in the mundane physical world. In short, it`s not that they don`t want to be friendly to a fellow Yid. Rather, it`s that they are in an intense, uplifted state.

If one would see the kohen gadol doing the avoda in Yerushalayim, it would be easily understood why he couldn’t be distracted with greeting everyone. The same is true of the lofty spiritual people of Boro Park. They are no different than the kohen gadol in the bais hamikdash. Don`t forget, it`s these very same frum Yidden who help all in times of crisis, be it through Hatzoloh, Shomrim, Chaveirim, etc.

In other words, Modern Orthodox Jews show common decency and goodwill towards their neighbors because of their lesser spiritual awareness, and the frum people who walk past you without so much as a nod are in tune with true Godliness. Either that, or they really want to get home to that cholent.
This letter speaks for itself. Brooklyn Jews are apparently the equals of the Kohen Gadol performing the avoda in the Bais Hamikdash!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Yaakov Silver, you are the official village idiot of Brooklyn!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Neat Saying...

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

So, I changed my blog Template! :)

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Religious Holiday of Independence Day: Where to From Here?

Tomorrow, we celebrate Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. Many, including myself, believe the creation of the State of Israel, though a secular State, is nevertheless the Atchalta D'Geula - the beginning of God's long-prophesied final redemption of the Jews. But what does this holiday mean?

Arutz 7, Israel's Religious Zionist News Service, published a beautiful article in today's news brief, and I'd like to share it with my readers.

Chag Sameach, and may we merit a speedy culmination of our complete Geula.

Yom HaZikaron

Today is Yom HaZikaron - the Israeli version of Memorial Day, when we remember those who gave their lives conquering and protecting the Eretz Yisrael and its citizens. Following are the number of Jews killed between the War of Independence and throught the current Intifida, according to Arutz 7, Israel Religious Zionist News Service:

The 1948 War of Independence was Israel's costliest war, with more than 6,000 dead, one percent of the Jewish population at the time, and 15,000 wounded.

Then followed seven years of relative quiet - during which there were "1,339 cases of armed clashes with Egyptian armed forces, 435 cases of incursion from Egyptian-controlled territory, and 172 cases of sabotage perpetrated by Egyptian military units and fedayeen [terrorists] in Israel," in which 101 Israelis were killed, as Israeli Ambassador to the UN Abba Eban explained to the Security Council on October 30, 1956. A total of 231 Israeli soldiers died in Sinai Campaig.
The Six-Day War broke out on June 5, 1967. Along with the stunning victories, over 770 Israelis were killed.

Then began the period of the War of Attrition, which claimed 424 soldiers and more than 100 civilians. A ceasefire was declared on August 8, 1970.

Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, 1973. The IDF ultimately emerged victorious, but a total of 2,688 soldiers were killed.

In June 1982, in response to continued terrorist attacks and Katyusha shellings from across the Lebanese border, as well as an assassination attempt upon Israel's late Ambassador to Great Britain Shlomo Argov, Israel attacked the terrorists in Lebanon in what was known as Operation Peace for Galilee. Close to 460 soldiers were killed between June and December 1982, and another 760 in daily ambushes against Israeli forces over the next two and a half years.

Between December 1987, when the first Arab "intifada" broke out, and the signing of the Oslo Accords in late 1993, 90 Israelis were murdered.

Between the Oslo signing and the beginning of what became known as the Oslo War in September, 2000, 251 Israelis were murdered by terrorists.

Another 1,287 have been felled by Palestinian Authority terrorists and gunmen since September 2000.

Keep in mind - the Arab terrorists, who have been merrily murdering Jews in the name of Allah and with the promise that being martyred will bring them seventy virgins Heaven, did not differentiate between Chareidi or Chiloni (secular Israeli) or anything in between. All the saw was a holy mission to kill any Jews they could.

Now, while Yom HaZikaron may not be the "frum" way to remember the lives of those who were murdered and killed in battle, it is a way to remember. And the Chareidi community MUST remember that the soldiers who died, whether secular or Orthodox or anything in between, died defending the rights of ALL JEWS to live in Eretz Yisrael, be they Chareidi, Chiloni, Dati Leumi, or anything else.

So please, instead of decrying Yom HaZikaron as a non-Jewish custom adopted by Jews, use this opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem and remember those who died defending our homeland so everyone there might live free to work, learn, play, and just be alive.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Truth Will Be Absent - Sanhedrin 97A

I came across an interesting post by Rabbi Yitchok Adlerstein from Jauary 11, 2007, available here on Cross-Currents. The post is entitles "The Bais Yaakov Edicts – Are We Next?"

Rabbi Adlerstein tells us of the difference between Torah Judaism when Reb Moshe and Reb Yaakov were alive, as opposed to today:

"...Like fashion trends moving from Paris to New York, there is a tendency in Torah matters (lehavdil) for Bene Brak to call the shots even when they do not intend to.

This is not the way it always was. Some people think that it is one of the most unhealthy developments in Torah life in our times. While Rav Moshe and Rav Yaakov were both alive, American haredim turned primarily to them for leadership. People did not regard this as a slight to Torah luminaries in Israel. Rather, they recognized that not only did Torah leaders in America have a better grasp of local realities, but that HKBH Himself had different plans for, and different expectations of, communities in Israel and America. Forcing square pegs into round spiritual holes was not going to get people very far.

The existence of different Torah communities, each different and each legitimate, is perhaps adumbrated by the Gemara Sanhedrin 97A. Speaking of the prelude to the messianic age, the Gemara invokes Yeshaya: “The truth will be absent (nederes).” The Gemara proceeds to explain that truth will form different groups, or flocks (adarim), and go off on their own.

Rav Aryeh Kaplan told me a number of times that he didn’t think that the Gemara meant that truth would simply disappear. Alternatively, it meant that truth would no longer be available on a one-stop shopping basis. Different groups would each specialize in different aspects of the truth.

Similarly, perhaps, different groups would each have their own legitimate approaches and reactions, each generated by the Divine Providence that led to their formation."

This is a beautiful lesson by Rav Kaplan, one that many orthodox group, especially those furthest to the right, fail to accept. I've seen many comments on many blogs by RWNJs (Right Wing Nut Jobs) who claim they are ranting and raving because they can't stand it if someone speaks or writes something that is not their version of Emes. But who is to say that one person's version of Emes is invalid if that person is, at the end of the day, shomer Torah and Mizvos, learns regularly, and performs acts of chesed?

Unfortunately, the same may be said for many groups. It all goes back to one of my original posts, When Moshiach Will Come. The truth being "ne'ederes," absent, is an extension of Bnai Yisrael being Chayav or Zakai in each others' eyes.

But we have a choice. Each group may, and should have its own version of Emes, as long and it does not go against Torah. Obviously, a group that says we believe in God but worship Buddha would not quite constitute an Emes version of Yiddishkeit. Our choice, however, is to either accept each group as legitimate, live and let live, or to reject all the other groups as not frum, not Yirei Hashem, not kosher Judaism.

Good Shabbos.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"The More You Tighten Your Grip..."

Along the lines of my previous post, I'd like again to discuss this grip tightening of the Chareidi/Yeshivish world, a world, as I said earlier, is no longer in any way, a form of Kosher, halacha following Judaism.

The grip coninues to tighten in that world. Mehadrin busses, how women should dress, how men dress, the continued chumra heaping, etc.

And with all this, there is the kids at risk thing going on in that world. What does Kids At Risk mean? Well, unlike in the regular world, where it means kids are at risk to do drugs, join gangs, or become involved in any other number of self-destructive behavior, kids at risk in the Chareidi/Yeshivish world means kids who might, (read sarcastically) become Modern Orthodox, or Centrist, or they might trade in their black hats and pants and white shirts for jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap!! Even worse, it means kids who might become not frum at all because they are so sick of their parents and communities being so chumra happy that being frum has become a burden rather than a joy.

Unfortunately, in response to this, the parents, very often musmachim of yeshivas who are now embarrassed by their own children, fight back, tighten their grip with even more restrictions. The result: They keep pushing their kids farther and farther away.

I've known plenty of really good kids who would have been perfectly happy remaining frum if only they had been given the freedom to be frum on their own terms while always following halacha, without all the extraneous chumras attached. But when the parents, oh, so embarrassed by their childrens' "awful" behavior keep limiting that freedom more and more, those kids also pushed back and kept getting more and more distant from wanting to be frum at all, or even have any association with the frum world.

Parents: So what if your kid doesn't want to spend thirteen years in Yeshiva and another ten in Kollel? So what if they actually want to go and learn a profession and be contributing members of society? Let them find their own way! Children do not need to be clones of their parents. They are individuals who need to discover their own path in life. All parents can do is try to give gentle guidance and teach them the Judaism is a religion of Nachas, something that is a joy to observe, not a burden.

After the European emancipation of the Jews, people wanted more freedom, a easing of restrictions that would not go against the essence of Halacha. The rigid rabbinic leadership adamantly refused. Guess what happened? The Reform Movement and the secularization of many, many Jews over the following 250 years.

It's interesting how history repeats itself. After Shlomo Hamelech died, Rachavam, his son, took over as king. He was asked to ease taxes, restrictions, and heavy burdens of his father. The elders suggested he do so, but his buddies of childhood told him not only to not ease up, they told him to make it even harder. Well, with that response to the nation, Yeravam ben Nevat became king of the ten tribes, seceded from the Rechavam's rule, and went about his merry way, causing the ten tribes to slide into a dark age of avoda zara, one from which the ten tribes would never recover, one which would cause the vast majority of the ten tribes to disappear forever.

Did the rigid, rabbinic leadership learn from Rechavam's mistake? Obviously not. They said no, and over the next 250 years, about 98% of the Jewish nation no longer follows halacha at all, many have assimilated, many have intermarried, and most carry an intense dislike of Orthodox Judaism.

When I mention this, people like to respond that I'm wrong. After all, look at the Ba'al Teshuva movement! It's huge. However, they forget to take into account the half of the equation - the ones who are leaving because they are so turned off by the burden being Orthodox has become that they want nothing to do with it any longer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Taliban Judaism

Quote from comments on Emes Ve-Emunah: "If having a JewishTaliban would guarentee 2 million more Shomer Shabbos, are you saying that you'd rather have a non Talibanic state and those 2 million people be Mechalel Shabbos instead? ed | 04.16.07 - 12:52 pm."

Is this where the Chareidi world is headed? Forcing people to do things? What happens to Bechira Chofshis. Of course, this type of Judaism, which is not Judaism at all, would be the dream culmination of those who keep heaping on the Chumras, wouldn't it?

It is a sad day when Jews want to rule with an iron fist and force people to do things rather than teaching b'nachas. As the line went in Star Wars: A New Hope: "The more you tighten your grip, the more will slip through your fingers."

When will this rabbinic/Chareidi tyranny end? What happened to Judaism being a religion of Ki Karov Eilecha? Dovbear asked a beautiful question a few days ago on his blog:

Answer me this with every ounce of honesty that you can summon from your tainted and subjective human soul: If Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Dovid, Yosef, the Tannaim, the Amoraim, the Geonim, or any of the Rishonim were to time travel into Boro Park [or any Chareidi community] would they recognize the rituals, customs, chumras and forms represented by the people as authentic and essential to Judaism?

My answer: ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! They would, however, probably die (a second time) laughing hysterically!! Unfortunately, this is no laughing matter.

There is a paradigm in right wing Jewish Orthodox thought. On the one hand, we can't change any halacha set forth by the generations before us (a concept I think is completely wrong - see my post on Minhag Avoseichem B'Yedeichem). On the other, that same camp keeps putting forth more and more chumras to be treated as halacha, adding and adding until one really lives in a state of Talibanism. And apparently, from the quote above, this is what they want!

I don't think it's possible to include such people as part of the Jewish Orthodox world anymore. They are, in how they treat other people, especially women, simply not frum. They are not a version of kosher, halacha following Judaism.

Talibnist Judaism is an oxymoron. It really just has to stop.

Should Everybody be in Yeshiva?

Rabbi Harry Maryles' post today, while citing an impressive list of accomplishments by Israelis, proposed that perhaps a few of the "Bnei Torah" in Yeshivas in Israel today should be allowed to pursue other fields and contribute to the pool of accomplishments. Thus, he says, they won't have to scrounge for low paying jobs and actually be productive members of society.

Of course, all the RWNJs (Right Wing Nut Jobs) said how can you propose something as preposterous as this?! All these people should be in Yeshiva learning because Torah learning is the greatest thing they can do.

I say, Rabbi Maryles did not go far enough. It wasn't too long ago when most people worked for a living, supported their families, and didn't have to scrounge for money, live in poverty, or depend on their in-laws. Now, most do. How much longer can a system like this survive? What happens when the money runs out?

No. I propose most should be out of Yeshivas, both in Israel and abroad, learn a trade, and become productive members of society. We do not live in the Utopia that might have been had Adam Harishon not sinned and eaten from the Eitz Hada'as. We have a curse that says we need to work for a living, not sit on our asses and use Torah for academic purposes, which is pretty much what 99% of Yeshiva Bochurim do these days, and then walk around with arrogance at the Am Ha'Aratzus of everyone else who didn't spend as much time in Yeshiva as they did.

It's time to stop living in a fantasy world. It's time to stop spending unlimited amounts of time in yeshiva and Kollel and it's time to go live a normal, Torah life that involves both learning and Parnassah. The business/bein adam la'chaveiro laws in three volumes of Choshen Mishpat are not there for academic purposes. They are there to put into use and into practice. Well, Start practicing!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Rav Mordechai Eliyahu on the Holocaust

Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, as reported by the Jerusalem Post, recently stated that the blame for the Holocaust falls to the sins of the Reform Jews and their movement, which had begun some 200 years before the Holocaust ever took place.

This is akin to something Ovadia Yosef said several years, that the Jews who died in the Holocaust deserved to die because they were the reincarnated souls of sinners. Say what, now?! How can he POSSIBLY know something like this?! To say something like this is to trivialize one of the worst tragedies ever to befall the Jewish people.

I'm sorry, but I don't care how great a rabbi thinks he may be, and Ovadia Yosef is a great showperson for this, with his fancy sunglasses and his Mercedes (Nazi Car!!) limo, no human being can possible know Da'as Hashem, what God has in mind when he allows events to take place, especially ones as earth shattering as the Holocaust.

No one, I don't care who or how great, has a right to decide why the Holocaust happened and place blame on anyone, except the perpetrators. This was a tragedy of immense proportion the reason for which only God can know. Did Reb Moshe Feinstein ever decide God's reason for bringing on the Holocaust? The Lubavitcher Rebbe? Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky? Not that I've ever heard. They may have given comfort about this, but I don't believe they ever gave reasons for the Holocaust. And certainly, they never placed blame on anyone!

This blame game from the Chareidi/Right Wing/Yeshivish camp has got to stop! What would happen if someone said the Holocaust happened because all the Right Wingers of the day hated anyone to the left of them?! Certainly, from many comments of Right Wing Nut Jobs (RWNJs), this seems to be the case: They hate everyone to the left of them.

Chazal tell us the Bais Hamikdash, among other reasons, was destroyed because of Sin'as Chinam, senseless hatred, and will only be rebuilt because of Ahavas Chinam. Ahavas Chinam doesn't just mean to other people of your camp. It means to all Jews.

People cannot go around saying who or what was the cause for the Holocaust. We cannot possibly know such a thing. All these self-proclaimed "Gedolim" need to get off their pedestals, where their followers have placed them, and stop putting people in Cherem for no good reason, stop blaming one group or another for the Holocaust or any other tragedy that has befallen our bewildered nation.

Further, if one wants to play the blame game fairly, how about blaming the Chachamim who were sitting at the tish and watching Bar-Kamtza being humiliated and not saying a word. Oh, sure there are all sorts of excuses, like not wanting to upset their host because he was politically powerful, or that Bar-Kamtza was prolonging his own embarrassment because he should have just left when he realized there was a mistake. Yeah. End of the day: They allowed someone to be so humiliated that he decided, right or wrong aside, to take revenge. And he did.

Again, this blame game HAS GOT TO STOP!!! I've quoted this line many times before and probably will many times again: DIVREI CHACHAMIM B'NACHAS NISHMA'IM! When a "gadol" goes around blaming others for a terrible tragedy that encompassed the ENTIRE JEWISH NATION, all that's going to happen is the people he is blaming are going to hate him and worse, hate Orthodox Judaism even more than they already do.

There are enough people in the human race who already hate Jews. Do we have to hate each other as well?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fear of Science

Long has raged the debate about whether science is evil because scientists use science to prove God does not exist or if, through science, we see the beauty of Hashem's world, which He runs through nature, not above it. I, of course, am a proponent of the latter. And in truth, so are many scientist, who, while making amzazing discoveries, may also be devoutly religious people. In fact, Darwin was a deeply religious man. And evolution is indeed a fact of life, which adapts to its environs over time.

Some examples: My father-in-law bought me a subscription to Astronomy Magazine, as it is one of the many things he and I have in common: a love for the stars. I happen to know almost nothing about Astronomy from a practicing standpoint, but I do love looking and the magazine is written for us common folk who aren't all that scientific. ANYWAY, there is an article in the May, 2007 issue I found fascinating, entitled Cosmology: Five Things You Need to Know. Thing number 3 was: What kind of explosion was the Big Bang? Yes, I said Big Bang! Common belief is that the Big Bang was some kind of explosion that took place nearly 14 billion (yes, I said BILLION) years ago that caused the creation of the cosmos.

Well, it wasn't an explosion, as the author of this article tells us: "It's [the Big Bang's] name implies a standard bang, such as a chemical explosion - think of firewords - and once we have this image in our mind, it's hard to imagine the Big Bang as anything else. But the universe's beginning wasn't an explosion. It was closer to (are you ready for this - from an "evil" scientist!!) an unfolding, OR CREATION, of matter, energy, time - and space itself." The article continues: "'What would actually have been a much better name is the expanding-universe theory, because it's really a theory of how the universe expands,' says David Spergel, a WMAP team member at Princeton University."

WOW! That was beautiful! The Big Bang was a CREATION of everything - a Yeish Me'Ayin - something from nothing! That's fantastic! So, because of an unfortunate choice of words, what is a working theory of the creation of the universe is debunked by religious fanatics who don't really know what they are talking about when the debunk that theory!

Ok, so there's the age of the universe thing. Many rabbanim for many centuries have proposed all sorts of answers to that - the best of which is the one where there were many Olamos (worlds) before ours. Another is that time is relative, and we have no idea how time flowed back at the creation of the universe. I'm not going to go into all the theories, which are really complex, but if one is interested, one may pick up Rabbi Natan Slifkin's book, The Challenge of Creation, and read all about it in part two of his book, which deals with Cosmology, and in which he correctly quotes several Rabbinic sources to support his theories. Of course, if one holds Rabbi Slifkin's books are assur to read, well, then, I'm sorry for a person who adheres to a wrongful ban.:)

Next example. We have a precept that when Hashem helps, He usually does so within the confines of nature. A friend of mine recently saw a special on the History Channel about the Ten Plagues Hashem brought down upon the Egyptians enslaving the Israelites. This special explores whether the Ten Plagues could have happened and how, trying to explain them scientifically. Sounds like they are trying to take God out of the equation, doesn't it? And maybe this was their motivation. But, in doing so, they just strengthen my belief in the fact that Hashem works through nature, rather than above it, whenever possible, and uses nature to achieve his goals.

The special proposes a theory that a volcano erupted that could have caused all the plagues, in the order mentioned in the Torah: There was apparently a volcano that erupted around the time of the plagues/Exodus. The volcanic fallout, as shown in more recent history in Africa, could have heated the water. This would have done a few things. First, bringing sediment and rust to the surface. (Your water turned to blood). Second, it would kill things in the water, except frogs... they could escape. Hence the plague of frogs. With the water gone bad one gets the pestilance. (Gnats and flies). Thunder and hail could be the fiery fallout of volcanic rock. The density of the air could cause rain. Hence the fire and ice. Darkness would be had by the volanic fallout and ash, the boils cause by the gases... they saw this in Africa when they had a similar eruption...

Basically, they scientifically and historically showed what COULD have caused the 10 plagues. That said, they were quick to point out that this is not to say that God COULDN'T have caused the eruption that created the fallout of the 10 plagues in the first place!

Ok. So we have a volcano, which for all we know, could have been dormant forever, and it suddenly erupts, causing all the plagues! This is a beautiful example of Hashem working THROUGH nature, not outside it! This is Moshe showing the Jewish people the wonders of Hashem! "Ma Rabu Ma'asecha Hashem, Kulam B'Chachma Asseesa - How wonderous are your works Hashem, you have created all of them with wisdom!"

Bottom line - all those fundamentalists out there who are walking around claiming Science and the existence of God are incompatible - YOU ARE SIMPLY WRONG!! it is foolish to put someone in cherem because he is showing, in a beautiful, Torah way, how compatible Science and Torah and God are. If someone is so threatened by rabbinically supported theories that to accept them shakes one's faith to its foundations, then something is very wrong with that faith. You can't have an all or nothing world. Thinking people need to understand that Torah and Science are indeed very compatible and that one can see the beauty of Torah and Hashem's world through Science.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Minhag Avoseichem B'Yedeichem

I had a thought about one of the topics I've been discussing and I think it might go a long way toward explaining why I think the system as it is doesn't work and why I think it was meant to change with the times, not remain virtually unchanged since the days of the Mishna and the Gemara.

When Hillel HaKatan and his contemporaries set and dispersed the Jewish calendar (ca. 360 AD), they sent a message to the Jewish population in Chutz La'Aretz stating that while the calendar had now been set, "Hizaharu B'Minhag Avoseichem B'Yedeichem," translated as "be cautious, for the customs of you fathers are in your hands." This statement has been widely interpreted to mean that Klal Yisrael outside of Eretz Yisrael must continue to keep two days of Yom Tov. And so, almost 1650 years later, anyone living outside of Israel keeps two days of Yom Tov.

However, I think this statement means something else entirely. Using the last word in this statement, "B'Yedeichem," in YOUR hands, I believe, is the key. I believe Chazal gave us a loopholes and ways to change the halachas as the times change and as circumstances dictate.

I saw a beautiful dvar Torah by R' J.B. Soloveitchik, in the name of his grandfather, R' Chaim Soloveitchik. (Thanks to Rabbi Aharon Zeigler and the Jewish Press, 3/20/07 issue, for this source.) During WWI there was a great shortage of food in Europe. R' Chaim attended a conference of rabbanim to discuss whether to allow Ashkenazim to eat Kitniyos on Pesach. On the one hand, there were the rabbanim who refused to allow Kitnityos, stating the custom, not halacha, but custom, to NOT eat Kitniyos must be observed even when difficult to emphasize the "sanctity of venerated MINHAGIM." Reb Chaim, on the other hand, vehemently objected to this reasoning, pointing out a ruling by the Rambam (Hilchos Mamrim 2:9) that stated if one labels a halacha d'Rabbanan as biblical law, one has violated the prohibition of bal tosif. Reb Chaim maintained the same applies to one who treats Rabbinic law with the same severity as Biblical law, and certainly to one who treats a custom with the severity accorded to Torah law.He therefore argued that prohibiting Ashkenazim from eating Kitniyos during a time of hardship is violating Bal Tosif, since the custom to not eat kitniyos is receiving the same treatment a Torah prohibition would.

Second day of Yom Tov, as another example, is a minhag, not a halacha. Had this minhag, as well as many others, been relaxed when the newly emancipated Jews of the 18th century started to want change, as well as Jews from that time to the present, perhaps more Jews would be Torah observant today.

I pick on Second Day of Yom Tov because I've been given all sorts of excuses for and very weak excuses for the continuation of this custom. The last one I got was that even if there had been all the communications technology we have today (email, fax, phone, texting, etc.), Chachamim would still have insisted Jews outside Eretz Yisrael keep this custom because the time might come when we might be completely cut off from access to calendars as many times in history, the regime of the time would decree Rosh Chodesh not be observed as our entire year is based on Rosh Chodesh and when the new month starts. Not having that available would destroy our observance of any Yamim Tovim. However, in the worst time in history, during the Holocaust, where the Jews in the concentration camps were completely cut off from the world, there are numerous stories of Jews keeping and celebrating Pesach and Chanukah, so, even in those worst of time, the Jews did not lose track of the calendar.

Again, when Chachamim warned the Jews of Chutz La'Aretz about Yom Tov shel Goluyos, they worded their warning very carefully: "Hizaharu b'Minhag Avoseichem B'Yedeichem" - "be cautious with the customs of your forefathers IN YOUR HANDS." They didn't tell the Jews outside of Eretz Yisrael that it was ASSUR for them to chuck Yom Tov Sheini. They told them to be careful with what was in their hands, but to do what they must. This is a very blatant hint for future generations - do what you must to keep Jews from straying. Sometimes that mean being more machmir and putting fences in place, and sometiimes it means the opposite. This point has been tragically lost.