Sunday, 27 January 2019

"Religious faith is guaranteed; all religious practice is not,"

From RRW
 

Religious faith is guaranteed; all religious practice is not


By treating anti-blasphemy initiatives and anti-western rejectionism as protected religious expression, Islamist enablers make a mockery of American values and freedoms.

Matthew M. Hausman, י"ט בשבט תשע"ט, 1/25/2019

Secular progressives lack moral clarity when they preach détente with radical Islam while disparaging traditional Judaism and western religion.  They mock assertive Jews as chauvinistic or conservative Christians as puritanical, but defend doctrinal supremacists who despise liberal democratic values.
Though the left often cites constitutional principles to justify coddling Islamists, the Constitution does not mandate tolerance of religious extremism. Nor does it guarantee totally unfettered freedom of religion.  Freedom of belief is certainly absolute, but the exercise of religion is not when it compromises the rights of others. Moreover, government has a legitimate interest in monitoring extremist ideologies that threaten public health, safety, and welfare.
America’s founding fathers envisioned a republic where individual liberties and communal obligations would be balanced in equipoise.  Generations of immigrants were able to embrace the American ideal without abdicating their religious or cultural heritage because the Constitution requires no repudiation of background, imposes no national creed, and respects freedom of belief.  It asks in return only that citizens pledge to uphold its principles. Immigrant Jews were able to thrive in this milieu because Jewish law provides “dina d’malchuta dina,” or “the law of the land is the law.”  Accordingly, Jews always felt compelled to respect native laws, assuming that none prohibited observance of the commandments.  
But supremacist ideologies that undermine the rights of others conflict with the law of the land, and thus are subject to monitoring and – if necessary – restriction...
CONTINUE READING AT http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/23354

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Mussar: B'tzedek Tishpot Amitecha - Judgment Requires Omniscience

originally posted on August 24, 2013

I recently received an email as to how only Hashem has the wherewithal to judge people, since we humans simply lack the complete story.

"In order to judge anything rightly, one would have to be fully aware of an inconceivably wide range of things; past, present and to come. One would have to recognize in advance all the effects of his judgments on everyone and everything involved in them in any way. And one would have to be certain there is no distortion in his perception, so that his judgment would be wholly fair to everyone on whom it rests now and in the future.

Who is in a position to do this? Who except in grandiose fantasies would claim this for himself?"
The Answer can only be HKBH.


Caveat:
We may be able to judge a particular ACTION or DEED as out-of-bounds, but not the person him/herself

Best Regards,
RRW

Thursday, 24 January 2019

What is the Difference Between Lo Tachmod and Lo Titave?

From RRW
Guest Blogger: Mitchell First 


                      What is the Difference Between “Lo Tachmod” and “Lo Titaveh”?

     As we all know, the Ten Commandments are found in parshat Yitro and again in parshat Va-Etchanan. But there are differences. One major difference is that in parshat Yitro, the tenth commandment uses “lo tachmod” twice, while in parshat Va-Etchanan, we have “lo tachmod” regarding the wife, but then “lo titaveh” on the rest (house, field, etc.)
     What precisely is the difference between “lo tachmod” and “lo titaveh”? Long ago, already in the Mekhilta, there was a suggestion that “taavah” is “be-lev” (=with the heart), while “chimud” is “be-maaseh” (=with a deed).  This distinction is adopted by the Rambam.  See his discussion at Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, Negative Precept 365: “This means therefore that once you let yourself covet in your mind a desirable object that you have seen in your friend’s house you have violated the precept of ‘lo titaveh.’  If your passion for the object becomes so intense that you take steps to acquire possession of it, pressing him to sell it and exchange it for something better or more valuable… you have violated both prohibitions.”  See also Rambam, Hilkhot Gezeilah ve-Aveidah 1:9-10.
     Others view no deed required for “chimud” and view both prohibitions as equivalent. See, e.g.  Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, Negative Precept 158.
     But as Nehama Leibovitz writes (Yitro, section 6), it is difficult to accept the view that the two roots are synonymous “Surely language has no absolute synonyms.” What then is the difference between the two roots?
      Nehama then cites Malbim, Solomon Wertheimer and the scholar Benno Jacob and explains it all. (Benno Jacob was not an Orthodox Jew. It is interesting that she is often willing to quote him. On this issue, see Rabbi Hayyim Angel, “Peshat Isn’t so Simple,” p. 38.) Malbim, Wertheimer and Jacob all take the same approach.
       First she quotes Malbim: “emdah refers to a physical experience, the actual impact of something that is pleasant to the eye, usually collocating with “eyes”, e.g., mamad ayin, desire of the eye. Taavah refers to the person who expresses the desire even for something which is not present and which is not outwardly beautiful.…It collocates with nefesh: taavat ha-nefesh but never: emdat ha-nefesh.”
       Then she quotes Wertheimer:  “Taavah refers to the human desire without benefit of visual contact. imud is the stimulation of desire by visual contact…”
        As to Jacob, I have the article she was quoting from, so I will elaborate on his view and not limit myself to her brief quote. (The article is “The Decalogue,” JQR 14, 1923/24, pp. 141-87.)
         Jacob first writes that it is not true that the God of Israel is indifferent towards sentiment or inclination, and judges only based on actions.  He brings many verses that show that God judges individuals based on what is in their heart.  He concludes: “Because the law is aware that action springs from the mind and receives from it direction, aim, character and value, therefore it addresses itself with its exhortations to the heart, so that it be one with God…[and] should not be misled and yield to bad impulses.”
          Jacob then writes that “there is not a single passage in the Bible where –M-D signifies ‘snatch to one’s self’ and the passages which are adduced for it prove just the opposite.”
          Then he notes that -M-D is quite often connected with R-A-H (to see) or the word Ayin (eye), as in Gen. 2:9, Josh. 7:21, Isa. 53:2, I Kings 20:6, Ez. 24:16 and Lam. 2:4. In -M-D, you are finding something beautiful and desiring it but the opinion arises first through inspection.
           But the desire reflected in Aleph-Vav-Heh is considerably different. “The difference is that the occasion for Ḥ-M-D is inspection, for A-V-H imagination  The “body part” doing the A-V-H is usually the “nefesh,” not the eyes. (As to the precise meaning of “nefesh” in Tanach, that deserves a separate column!)
             Then he makes the critical observation that A-V-H is often expressed in the hitpael, as in the tenth commandment. Why should that be the case? We have all looked at that tenth commandment for decades and wondered about -M-D versus A-V-H, but we have forgotten to notice that A-V-H was in the hitpael: titaveh.  A large percentage of the time in Tanach, perhaps a majority, the hitpael is a reflexive stem, meaning that it indicates that the person is doing something to himself. (But it has other functions as well, which I will not go into here. I have discussed the hitpael extensively in an article on “hitpallel” in my new book Roots and Rituals.)
              So what is the import of the hitpael of A-V-H?  Jacob explains that it means “to nourish in one’s heart the desire for something, through a vivid presentation in one’s phantasy…” So now we understand! A-V-H means you have a desire for something (not based on a visual inspection), and in the hitpael it means to actively build up your desire for the object! (See, e.g., Numbers 11:5: “zakharnu et ha-dagah asher nokhal be-mitzrayim…” The previous verse had said “hitavu taavah.”)
            Jacob also suggests that we should not be so technical and apply -M-D only to the wife, and A-V-H only to the other objects. While -M-D is mentioned only for the wife, and A-V-H is mentioned only for the other objects, an expansive view of parallelism can imply that we should treat both verbs as applying to all the objects.
                                                                                   ------
           Several decades ago, I heard the following homiletical devar torah. The land of Israel is called “eretz chemdah” in the Birkat Ha-Mazon, based on the use of the phrase at Jer. 3.19; Zech. 7:14 and Ps. 106:24.  Let us assume that we would follow the Mekhilta and the Rambam and conclude that one has not violated “lo tachmod” unless one has come into possession of the object. This means that the desire alone to live in Israel does not make it “eretz chemdah.”  You actually have to live there in order to fulfill this term!
------------------
Mitchell First is a personal injury attorney and Jewish scholar. He can be reached at MFirstAtty@aol.com.  He sleeps much better now that he understands the distinction between the two verbs!

Monday, 21 January 2019

Here's a nice story

From RRW
Recently, at the conclusion of their Shabbat service, Congregation Bnai Yeshurun bid farewell to retiring Teaneck Police Officer Eddie Hahn who has stood guard outside the shul for the better part of a decade. He was truly touched by the gesture and sent the following note of gratitude.
 Thanks for the sendoff

Rabbi Pruzansky and the Congregation at Bnai Yeshurun,

     I want to take a moment to again thank you and your congregation for the wonderful sendoff and warm wishes.  As anyone who has worked the security detail with me can attest, I am generally not short on words or afraid to share my opinions.  When you all brought me inside last Saturday, I was truly overwhelmed and for once in my life left speechless.

    When I began working Temple Details, as we call them, about ten or twelve years ago I had no idea what to expect.   My two daughters were heading to college so it made sense to start working them, but I wasn't sure if it was something I would come to enjoy or regret.  I never anticipated that I would continue to work them every weekend I could until the end of my career.  And I honestly never expected to meet so many wonderful people whom I now call friends.   Over those years I have traded many stories, enjoyed hours upon hours of conversation and became part of a new community of friends.   I found I was excited to get to Temple to find out who was expecting a new grandchild, taking a long awaited trip to Israel, how a fishing trip to Rhode Island or a local stream with the kids had gone or how a mountain climb in Washington state went.   I began to learn the names and families of those I was crossing and when I didn't see a regular for a few weeks I would become concerned and ask if they were alright or perhaps on a trip themselves.  For lack of a better word, you all became my "Shabbos Family" and I will forever be grateful for having been given the opportunity and the privilege of getting to know you all. 

A special thanks to the entire congregation for all the weekly "Thank You" and "Good Shabbos" wishes (Rabbi, I think on some weekends I may have gotten more Good Shabbos greetings than you) over the years, Thank You for thinking of me with water bottles and ice cream when the weather was hot or coffee, cheesecake or even soup when cold.  It has truly been my Honor and my pleasure to be able to do what little I could to ensure the safety and security of my extended family.  God Bless you all.

Eddie

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Mussar: But WE Stood at Sinai!

originally published on July 21, 2012

Courtesy of Derech Emet..

Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky (born 1891/2/28, died 1986/3/10) was asked if it is permitted to lie in order to receive benefits from a government program.

His answer was an emphatic: NO!!

Then the questioner said: But many Gentiles do it!

The Rabbi explained:
They did not stand at Mount Sinai when the Torah was revealed!

SOURCE: page XXI of Chofetz Chaim Lessons in Truth
by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, published by ArtScroll
in September 2001

Shalom and Regards,
RRW

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Jewish Values Online Blog Awards First Quarter 5779

Jewish Values Online, the leading site providing a mix of voices and viewpoints for
multi-denominational Jewish perspectives on moral and ethical questions is delighted to announce the selection of the best blog entries posted for the first quarter of 5779.

Feeling Deep Compassion for the Oppressed

Posted on 12/02/2018 by Rabbi Yaakov Bieler
A particularly moving paragraph that is recited by the entire congregation of pray-ers as part of the Shacharit (morning) services on Mondays and Thursdays, before the Tora is returned to the Ark, describes... 

Why Be Jewish?

Posted on 11/29/2018 by Rabbi Ben Hecht
Defining the Question Why be Jewish? It seems to be a simple, straightforward question, often employed to begin a presentation on the accolades and benefits in choosing to be a Jew.
 

What I Did When Someone Wounded Me

Posted on 09/13/2018 by Rivkah Lambert Adler
Recently, someone took a pretty enormous swipe at me online, accusing me of a serious breach of trust and of causing irreparable harm. The facts cited and the accusations posited are entirely false. The things... 

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Book Review -- Roots and Rituals: Insights into Hebrew, Holidays, and History by Mitchell First

From RRW
Guest Blogger: Mitchell First 

This week I am not sending out an article of mine.

 Rather, I am sending out a book review of my new book: Roots and Rituals.
  In the book, I took 62 of my best Jewish Link articles and improved them with footnotes and Hebrew.
  If you scroll down below, you will see the amazing book review by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein. It appeared in the Jewish Press and it is now on amazon as well. - MF


by Mitchell First (Kodesh Press, 2018)


Reviewed by: Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

I must say that once again, First comes in first place. This book is not simply comprised of three separate sections, rather every chapter is chock-full of insights into history, liturgy, and the Hebrew language. I must also say that I admire Mr. First's daring use of alliteration (the literary device which joins alimony with allegory) in his book's title. Of course, only two-thirds of that title mirrors that of my first book Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew.

Mr. First's book appeals to and is readable by the scholar and layman alike, to the Talmid Chacham and Am HaAretz, to the serious scholar and the cynical boor. As an avid reader of Mr. First's weekly articles in the Jewish Link of New Jersey, I appreciate the humor in his ever-changing byline, and was glad to see that those bylines appeared at the end of each article in his new books, as well.

The section on liturgy delves into things which we take for granted and explains their origins. For example, Mr. First tells us about the origins of the Haftarah, saying Shema in the Kedushah of Mussaf, Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis (for those of us who come to Shul on time) in the beginning of Shachris, and when we started saying Aleinu at the end of davening. Of course, he draws from a broad spectrum of sources, running the gamut from the Complete ArtScroll Siddur to the scholarly works of Dr. Yisroel Ta-Shema, from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan to the maskil Naftali Herz Tur-Sinai (Torczyner).

He asks questions like why in Grace After Meals do we refer to G-d's "full, open, holy, and abundant" hand; what is the word "holy" doing there?

When talking about the blessing of the gender-specific blessings of Birkas HaShachar, he compares those blessing to similar statements made by ancient Greek philosophers. Mr. First's judicious use of manuscripts makes his research all the more meaningful, especially when he brings to light overlooked variations that actually make big differences.

Indeed, these examples are just a sampling of Mr. First's way of presenting the fruits of his arduous research into the interplay of Jewish Tradition with archeology and established history. Mr. First is not not scared of offering creative, original explanations and rejecting what scholars before him understood to be fact. Although, as a word of caution, I must say that Mr. First sometimes pushes the envelop concerning what is considered acceptable in Orthodoxy (for some people that's considered a good thing).

Segueing to his linguistic prowess, I am in awe of the way Mr. First seamlessly parses words in the Hebrew language by using both traditional and non-traditional sources. Such an approach is almost unparalleled in contemporary works. His language musings show the conceptual links between apparent homonyms in the Hebrew language, and sharpen the differences between apparent synonyms. Mr. First's Modern Orthodox affiliation broadens his Overton Window into allowing academic sources into the foray, alongside traditional ones. His etymological discussions refer to the research of Hayyim Tawil (who wrote a lexicon of Ancient Akkadian), Ernest Klein (who wrote an etymological dictionary of the various strands of Hebrew), and Matisyahu Clark (who also wrote an etymological dictionary of Hebrew, but this one is largely based on the ideas of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch). 

In his section about the holidays, Mr. First again tackles some of the phrases and ideas that we take for granted and sheds new light on their meaning (for Rosh HaShanah he offers a new understanding of the phrase Yom Teruah; for Chanukah, the background to the term Maccabi; and for Pesach, the deeper meaning of Haggadah). He also gives some important insights to the Jewish Calendar, and, of course he addresses one of his personal pet-peeves, the identity of the characters in the Book of Esther (see his previous book for more about that).

From time to time, Mr. First also gives us short biographical details of the people he cites--filling the book with interesting historical tidbits.

Finally, and, perhaps, most importantly, I must mention Mr. First's good sense of humor (if you can call puns "humor"). In fact, as we see throughout his awesome work, Mr. First has his way with words. One might even call him "a way-word Jew".
Kol Tuv,
Reuven Chaim Klein
Beitar Illit, Israel

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Citing 'spiritual trauma,’ judge orders company to pay $25K for misrepresenting cake mix as kosher

This is something that should make Canadians proud.

https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/citing-spiritual-trauma-judge-orders-company-to-pay-25000-for-misrepresenting-cake-mix-as-kosher

The article makes mention of the fact that, while there may be various instances when a kosher symbol was used by mistake, a case such as this one, when it was done intentionally, is extremely rare. This, in fact, was the only time that COR took a company to court for using their trademark without permission. That is somewhat encouraging. What is most encouraging, though, is the language of the judge. It is most re-assuring in our world when one recognizes the values of others.

RBH

Monday, 7 January 2019

JVO Blog -- Why Be Jewish? (2): The Forces Within and the Forces Without

Jewish Values Online (jewishvaluesonline.org) is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the denominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe and Nishma's Founding Director, Rabbi Hecht, both serve as Orthodox members of their Panel of Scholars. Nishmablog, over the years, has also featured the responses on JVO by one of our two Nishma Scholars who are on this panel. 

The Jewish Values Online website also offers a blog which presents comments on various topics within Judaism and the Jewish world. See http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/jvoblog/index?aid=0. Rabbi Hecht is also a blogger on this blog.

His latest post 

Why Be Jewish? (Part 2)

The Forces Within and the Forces Without
is now available at http://jewishvaluescenter.org/jvoblog/Why-be-Jewish-2

A link is also up on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JewishValuesOnline/  

While comments are most welcome at both these sites, as we also would like to develop a discussion on this topic here at Nishmablog, we also present the article below

* * * * *
          In our opening discussion on this topic (please see Why Be Jewish? - Defining the Question), we raised the issue that, while defining oneself as Jewish indicates that one is a member of a certain grouping, individuals generally still have their own personal definition of what it means to be Jewish. This then raises the question of what it truly means to be Jewish. If describing oneself as Jewish means that one is a member of this certain group, yet the members of this group may have their own personal definition of the nature of this grouping, what then does such a declaration actually mean? If the nature of the group is unclear, defining oneself as a member of such a group does not really provide much further distinct information about this individual – except that this person defines himself/herself as a member of this group without any clear clarification of what this association actually means. The further question would then be: why do individuals wish to so define themselves?

            Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Kol Dodi Dofek presents two explanations for association with the Jewish group: Fate and Destiny. By the term Fate, he maintains that one motivation for why a person describes himself /herself as a member of this group is because one believes oneself to share the same possible consequence as other members of this group. Phrased differently, this argument for group identity would be that one sees oneself as part of this group because of some external factor that connects the person to the group. A concern for antisemitism would be an example of such a factor; one recognizes oneself as Jewish, as a member of the Jewish group, in order to connect with compatriots in the battle against antisemitism. Within this motivation of group identity, the force of connection emerges from without.
            By the term Destiny, however, Rabbi Soloveitchik refers to the motivation for group identity that emerges from the self. We wish to connect with others who, we believe, share our visions, share our perception of what we wish for our destiny. This definition of the group, as such, does not necessarily emerge from outside ourselves as it must relate to our perception of what we wish from our connection to this group. Within this motivation of group identity, the force of connection actually emerges from within. 
            Of course, the nature of Jewish identity is not a this-or-that phenomenon but a result of a dynamic involving both these factors. It is actually thereby that we can better understand the challenge we face today regarding the identity of the Jewish group. There are variant forces outside of ourselves that are factors in the construction of the Jewish group. They are, furthermore, outside our control. We then also have within ourselves -- within our own individual desires of what we may wish from the group -- our own personal perceptions of the resultant definition of the group. Jewish identity is, thus, the result of a multi-dimensional interaction of various forces - within and without - often balanced singularly, and differently, by individuals. Why be Jewish? There may be many, many different reasons why a person may wish to integrate what he/she defines as Jewishness into his/her life. This is because there may be, given the variant possible forces existent in the construction of Jewish identity, numerous ways for one to find an expression of Jewishness to one’s liking – and this is not necessarily negative. It still demands. though, some cohesive structure within the unity of the group.
            In regard to our forefather Yaakov’s blessing to his sons recorded at the conclusion of the Book of Bereishit, the commentators note that the overriding message of this blessing was the importance for the brothers, as individuals with distinct talents and strengths, to come together as a unified collective. Jewish identity must be cognizant of the uniqueness of each person but it must also describe some collective understanding of the group. Even as we are all different with our own distinctive understanding of our Jewishness, we still must come together in articulating the essential nature of our group identity. In some collective manner, we still must balance these forces from within and from without. Our study and investigation must, as such, continue as we attempt to arrive at some collective, interactive understanding of what Jewishness is.


Sunday, 6 January 2019

"How Do We Deliver “The Religious Experience” to Our Kids?"

In response to an on line article from the OU,
available at

https://www.ou.org/life/parenting/how-do-we-deliver-the-religious-experience-to-our-kids/

I sent in the following response.

I would be most interested in your comments.

RBH

Dear Sirs:
In regard to "How Do We Deliver “The Religious Experience” to Our Kids?", I would like to comment on what I (and others who have read the article) perceive to be the author's, unfortunate, singular understanding of the religious experience. The challenge that we face in transmitting the religious experience to others, including our children, is actually in its inherent personal -- and, thus, individually, singular -- nature. We all, and I believe that this is a fundamental principle within Torah thought, uniquely relate to HKBH; we all have our own distinct religious experiences. A problem thus actually arises when I assume that the Other is having and/or will have the same religious experience as me, when we assume that the religious experience is a similar, singular experience to all.

There is still, of course, clearly value in sharing our personal religious experiences with others but it demands a recognition of the distinct, personal nature of the experience and, most importantly, the potentially vast divide between one and an Other. What I  experience as positive, the Other may find negative and what moves the Other, I may find challenging. It is only with this recognition and the subsequent openness we display in our conversations regarding our connection to the Divine that, I believe, we can truly touch the Other religiously.

This concept, furthermore, was actually, in my opinion, most fundamental in the thought of Rabbi Soloveitchik. One can look at the opening remarks in his Worship of the Heart (edited by R. Shalom Carmy) to see how he defines the religious experience as most personal and unique. The Rav's opening remarks in "The Lonely Man of Faith" are actually most powerful in this regard. He demands of the reader to recognize that he is sharing the personal and it is important that his remarks be seen in this context. Remarkably, in presenting this most brilliant discourse on the nature of human existence, he describes it not as a thoughtful presentation to be incorporated objectively into one's mind but as a description of a personal response he wishes to share with the recognition that the reader may not relate. It is in this language of the Rav that I believe we do find the best way to deliver the religious experience to others including our children.

Rabbi Ben Hecht
www.nishma.org