Tuesday 31 July 2012

Achdut Between Right and Left

The upcoming Daf Yomi Siyyum HaShas has fostered a new achdut between right and left, centred on the common goal of celebrating Talmud Torah in general and Talmud in particular.

While I have never been to a Daf Yomi Siyyum Hashas, however, I did attend the Siyyum Dinner of ArtScroll Schottenstein Shas. It was the most amazing amalgam of the YU world and the more "Yeshivishe Velt". There were many prominent Roshei Yeshivah as well as R Dr. Norman Lamm. The Schottenstein family itself may be considered a living example of a bridge between those 2 worlds.

And in a way, so is Nishma, which is under the silent influence of the two Rav Weinberg's Z"L, the Rav Z"L, and yibadlu l'chaim others such as R Turin and R Chait.

Torah bridges the gap and spans the divide. Now - on to foster greater Shalom and Mutual Derech Eretz when we agree and when we disagree.

Shalom and Regards,

Monday 30 July 2012

A bombshell from the Rav

« In particular, those who think that Orthodox Judaism—like Christianity—necessarily demands belief in a core set of propositions affirming God's past and future supernatural action in the world, are going to find themselves scrambling to try to square this view with the things that one of the towering figures of Orthodox Jewry in the last century had to say (or at least, at one point considered saying) on such subjects such as miracles, prophecy, immortality, and salvation.»

A Bombshell from the Rav
By Yoram Hazony, April 02, 2012

This is an extended version of an essay that appeared in the April issue of Commentary magazine.


Shalom and Regards,

Sunday 29 July 2012

Why the IOC will never memorialize the '72 Munich massacre | Fox News‏

«I heard one of the widows say to Gilady, "Are you equating the murder of my 
husband to the terrorists that killed him?" 
Then Ilana Romano burst out with a cry that has haunted me to this day. She 
screamed at Gilady, "How DARE you! You KNOW what they did to my husband! They let 
him lay there for hours, dying slowly, and then finished him off by castrating him 
and shoving it in his mouth, ALEX!"
I looked at Gilady's face as he sat there, stone cold with no emotion. This man 
knew these athletes personally. This man led the Israeli media delegation at the 
1972 Olympics and saw this atrocity first hand. This man saw my father's dead, 
naked body thrown out front of the Olympic Village for all the world to see. 
Without a hint of empathy, Gilady excused himself from our meeting. »
Shalom and Regards,

Holocaust Viewing For Tisha B'av

The World at War

A Great Review

"Not an attempt to explain the war, but to narrate its horror"



Episode 20 -Chronicles the horrors of the Holocaust in a most compelling fashion


20 Genocide (1941–1945)

[First Aired 27 March 1974]

Begins with the founding of the S.S. and follows the development of Nazi racial theory. It ends with the implementation of the Final Solution. 

The World at War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mobile Link

Shalom and Regards,

Friday 27 July 2012

Some Laws and Customs of Tisha b'Av

Some Laws and Customs of Tisha b'Av from Cong. Mt. Sinai of Washington Heights.

Since Shabbat is the day of Tisha B'Av, Ashkenazic practice is that private practices of mourning apply.  Consequently marital relations are prohibited and married couples should refrain from other forms of physical intimacy as well (RAMA 554:19). The lone exception to this is when mikva night falls out on Friday night (MB 554:40).  Other harchakot do not apply.
It is forbidden to prepare from Shabbat to Tisha B'av.  Hence, one may not don Tisha b'Av shoes while it is still Shabbat.  Tisha b'Av shoes should be brought to Shul before Shabbat and put on after Barchu.  Alternatively, those who will be at home at the conclusion of Shabbat (8:57 pm)  should say " Baruch Hamavdil bein Kodesh L'Chol," and then put their Tisha B'Av footgear and come to Shul for Maariv.  Maariv will begin at 9:07 PM.  (Please note the change in time.)
At Maariv on motzei shabbat we will say attah chonantanu in shmoneh esrei and recite borei me'orei ha'eish on two candles before reading Eicha and reciting Kinnot. (Men and women who will not be in Shul should recite a borei me'orei ha'eish for themselves at home.) At the conclusion of Tisha B'Av (Sunday evening), an abbreviated havdala with the brachot of hagafen and hamavdil are recited. We do not recite the bracha on besamim on either night.
One who received halachic guidance to eat on Sunday when the fast of Tisha B'Av is observed should recite havdala (with the brachot of shehakol and hamavdil) over beer, coffee, or pure orange juice before eating; one should not recite havdala on wine or grape juice on the date Tisha B'Av is observed.  One who eats a full meal on Tisha B'Av should insert Nachem in Birkat haMazon according to RAMA (end of 557); GRA and others maintain that Nachem need not be inserted into birkat haMazon.
On Sunday when Tisha B'Av is observed, please remember the five main prohibitions: washing, using perfumes and other lotions for pleasure, wearing leather shoes, marital relations,  eating and drinking.

Shalom and Regards,

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Update on YU Resources for Tisha b'Av

 Update on YU Resources for Tisha b'Av


The digital version of Tisha B'av To-Go 5772 which is available for free download from YUTorah, along with volumes from previous years. They are available at http://www.yutorah.org/togo/tishabav,

This issue of Torah for Tisha B'Av includes the following articles:
  • Profiles in Churban - Rabbi Reuven Brand (Rosh Kollel, YU Torah Mitzion Kollel of Chicago )
  • Tisha B'Av: Mourning and Moed - Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman (Rosh Yeshiva, RIETS)
  • Said Rabbi Shimon: When I went to Rome, There I saw the Menorah... - Dr. Steven Fine (Professor of Jewish History, Yeshiva College, and Director, YU Center for Israel Studies) 
  • Failure to Grieve - Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner (Rosh Beit Midrash, YU Torah Mitzion Zichron Dov Beit Midrash of Toronto)
  • Tisha B'Av: Renaissance of Normality - Rabbi Ramon Widmonte (Rabbi of Mizrachi South Africa and Bnei Akiva South Africa)
  • and Collected Tisha B'Av Insights from YU Community Rebbetzins
Download the publication for free at http://www.yutorah.org/togo/tishabav, along with issues from previous years. To-Go is a project of Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future. 

In addition, to help prepare for Tisha B'Av, YU has created the following resources for shuls and in the merit of the increased learning may the Beit Hamikdash be rebuilt speedily in our days.

Tisha B'av Video Presentation for shuls
Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future has partnered with the OU to create a powerful video presentation to show in your shuls on Tisha B'av. For those of you that have already ordered it, you should hopefully have gotten it in the mail by now. If you have not yet ordered it, there is still time to get it to you (North America only). Please click here to for more information and to order the DVD. If you have already ordered it, keep in mind you can download a flyer here and a jpeg here for web and email use.

Annual Tisha B'Av webcast with Rabbi Dr Jacob J Schacter:
Rabbi Schacter will once again be conducting an all-day Tisha b'Av learning program covering themes of Tisha b'Av as well as kinnos explanation, webcast live at http://www.yutorah.org/tishabav. The webcast is completely free and no registration is required. You can download a flyer to use to publicize to your shuls at http://www.yutorah.org/tishabav/webcast-2012.pdf. Below is text you can use for your emails and newsletters:

Mourning for Jerusalem in 2012: A Live Tisha B'av Webcast with Rabbi Dr. Jacob J Schacter, Senior Scholar, Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future.
Join Yeshiva University and Rabbi Dr. Jacob J Schacter for a full day of learning and kinnot explanation on Tisha B'av through and live webcast available at http://www.yutorah.org/tishabav. The webcast is completely free and no registration is required. Source sheets will be available for download to follow along with the shiurim.
The Schedule is as follows (All times are EST):
  • 9:15am Opening shiur:
    Exile or Redemption? Current Reality and Mourning for the Churban
    The Halachic Status of Tisha B'Av Nidcheh
  • 11:00am Kinot recital and discussion
  • 5:00 Mincha 
Shiurim on YUTorah:
We have compiled a catalog of hundreds of shiurim on YUTorah. You can use this image for your websites and email newsletters, http://www.yutorah.org/tishabav/tisha_bav_shiurim.jpg to link to http://www.yutorah.org/threeweeks, and below is text to use for your emails and newsletters.

Shiurim for the Three Weeks on YUTorah: Browse through hundreds of shiurim on the Three Weeks and Tisha b'Av on YUTorah from YU Roshei Yeshiva, faculty and leading scholars. Shiurim cover topics in halacha, Jewish thought, history, and more, and are all available for free download with no registration required. To browse the shiurim, please visit http://www.yutorah.org/threeweeks.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Heaven help us? Crime rates higher in countries that believe in 'supernatural benevolence'

This is an interesting article from The Globe and Mail (Toronto).


As the researchers themselves indicate, they are not sure what their findings mean. I, also, found it difficult to understand their conclusions for, I would think, there is a high correlation between a belief in a heaven and a belief in a hell. Bottom line, I would think if one believe in one, he/she also believes in the other. As such, I am not sure what the study was actually measuring. Was it a question of which of these two is the bigger motivator or which of these two are on a person's mind as to why they practice their faith? They both, though, are different questions.

I, though, found the study interesting in that it makes one think about base motivations for doing good. Are you motivated by some supernatural perception of the act -- including a future reward -- or by the inherent goodness of the act itself as naturally understood? It would seem that a focus on the supernatural has its limitations.

I then wonder if this may offer a new insight into the gemara's statement that the churban was not caused by a lack in halachic precision but by a lack in the demands of lifnim meshurat hadin?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Niddah Refresher Course: A Three Part Series

From Cong. Mt. Sinai
[Of Washington Heights]
The Family Life and Education committees present:

Niddah Refresher Course: A Three Part Series
Part 1: How a Woman Becomes Temeah

For Married Women

Given by Yoetzet Halacha Atara Eis*

on WEDNESDAY, July 25th at 9 pm in the Multipurpose Room

And, Stay Tuned for:

Part 2 (in August): How a Woman Becomes Tehorah, 

Part 3 (in September): Harchakot: Behavior Between Husband and Wife while Temeah,

There is a $5 suggested donation ($7 for non members)
for this event.

*Atara Eis holds a B.A. from Yeshiva University's Stern College in Judaic Studies and an Associate Degree in Music. She earned an M.S. from YU's Azrieli Graduate School for Jewish Education, and completed its Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies for Women. While living in Jerusalem and learning at Nishmat's Keren Ariel Halachic Institute to become a Yoetzet Halacha, Atara also served on the Midreshet Lindenbaum faculty.

Atara works as a Yoetzet Halacha at many synagogues in Manhattan.  She is in Manhattan at least once a month.  She is available by phone and email to women who wish to consult with her, as long as it is not Shabbat or Yom Tov!  She also teaches many kallot, both in person and through Skype.  Any kallah she learns with through Skype also meets with her in person at least once.  In 2009, she was named one of the 36 under 36 by the Jewish Week, for her work as a  Yoetzet Halacha.  This fall, she begins a new initiative, supervising the training of women as Yoatzot Halacha in the United States, under the auspices of the American Friends of Nishmat's Miriam Glaubach Center.  In the past, she also served as  Yoetzet in Silver Spring, MD, at the Kemp Mill Synagogue.

Mrs. Eis teaches Judaic Studies at Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Lower Merion, PA, where she also serves as the Mashgichah Ruchanit and Israel advisor to the girls. This year, she will teach only part time at the school, in order to supervise the training program.  She and her husband Rabbi Rafi Eis are parents of Ahuva, Yechezkel and Ephraim.

Shalom and Regards,

Monday 23 July 2012

Kosher Concubines

What I find most interesting about articles such as this one --
see http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=5086 --
is how such cases force us -- or should force us -- to re-investigate our values,  or perhaps more correctly, our value structures.

We are comfortable with Rambam's famous distinction between chukkim and mishpatim, the laws we understand and the laws we don't understand. Everything goes well, though, only as long as these two categories are miles apart, as long as the chukkim are not understandable and do not even enter into any aspect of our natural moral consciousness. What to do, though, with a law that challenges this natural moral consciousness -- especially when there are those who promote this position as the one to be adopted? What does it say about our natural moral consciousness? What does our natural moral consciousness say about the law?

My objective in presenting this article is not to initiate debate on the correctness or incorrectness of this psak. It clearly has halachic merit even as others may also disagree. I offer it, however, as a demonstration of the dialectic that is, in my opinion, at the centre of Torah.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Register Now for Tisha B'Av 5772 at WebYeshiva.org

Dear Readers
Shalom and Regards,

WebYeshiva Logo
Tisha B'Av at WebYeshiva.org


Tisha B'Av is on Sunday, July 29... 

Rabbi BrovenderTisha B'Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, commemorates the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples. It is customary to read classic Jewish liturgy, known as Kinot, as we mourn the loss of the Jewish People.

Join RoshYeshiva Rabbi Chaim Brovender, Rabbi Yehoshua Geller and Rabbi Avi Weinstein together with WebYeshiva.org in a Kinot service and special classes to mark this day.

The Kinot services will be taking place in front of a live audience at Beit Knesset Shir Hadash in Jerusalem, and will also be broadcast live and online. Students in the Jerusalem area are invited to join us in person. 

All sessions are free and are open to WebYeshiva.org students and to the public. 
 To Register for the Kinot and Tisha B'Av Shiurim, click here.
Registration is required for online participation.  

First Session

8:15 AM Israel time 
Shacharit (Morning Prayer Services)
at Beit Knesset Shir Hadash
Rechov Cheil Nashim 4, Katamon, Jerusalem.  Click here for a map.    
9:15-11:45 AM Israel time
7:15-9:45 AM London time  
4:15-6:45 PM Melbourne time    
2:15-4:45 AM US Eastern time   
11:15 PM-1:45 AM (Monday, August 8) US Pacific time   

Explanatory Kinot Service  Rabbi Brovender
with Rabbi Chaim Brovender
Join Rabbi Brovender as he explains the underlying themes of various Kinot to make them more meaningful. He will give historical background about the Kinot and their authors along with a deep examination of the text and ideas. Rabbi Brovender will show how the themes of the Kinot can resonate with us in modern times.  
This class will be broadcast live online from Beit Knesset Shir Hadash, Rechov Cheil Nashim 4, Katamon, Jerusalem. A live audience is welcome to join in the synagogue. Click here for a map.   

11:45-1:15 PM Israel time
9:45-11:15 AM London time
6:45-8:15 PM Melbourne time
4:45-6:15 AM US Eastern time
1:45-3:15 AM US Pacific time
with Rabbi Yehoshua GellerRabbi Geller
Many of the Kinot said on Tisha B'Av are difficult to relate to without understanding their meaning or background. Rabbi Geller will read through some of the Kinot  to give us somecontext and help us better understand and internalize their messages.   
 This class will be broadcast live online from Beit Knesset Shir Hadash, Rechov Cheil Nashim 4, Katamon, Jerusalem. A live audience is welcome to join in the synagogue. Click here for a map.  

Chatzot in Jerusalem is at approximately 12:45 PM  
1:20 PM Israel time
Mincha (Afternoon Prayers)
at Shir Hadash

Second Session
Please note that there will be no live, in-person audience for the second session. This class will be broadcast live online only at WebYeshiva.org.


5:15 PM Israel time
3: 15 PM London time
12.00 AM (Mon, July 30) Melbourne time
10:15 AM US Eastern time Rabbi Brovender
7:15 AM US Pacific time
with Rabbi Avi Weinstein
From Jeremiah through to the present day, the blessing and curse of Jewish exceptionalism reverberates throughout the ages.  From the magnificence of Yerushalayim to the wisdom of her population, the question remains, "How does she dwell so bereft and alone?" This class will investigate the Jewish self perception that magnifies the loss of the city and the humiliation of exile." 

6:30 PM Israel time
3:30 PM London time
1:30AM (Mon, July 30) Melbourne time
11:30AM US Eastern time
8:30AM US Pacific time   
with Rabbi Yehoshua Geller
Rabbi Geller will discuss the book of Eicha (Lamentations), customarily read on the ninth of Av. Eicha tells the tragic story of the destruction of the First Temple. Eicha is not only a story of pain and suffering, but it also grants us insight into how we can take that pain and sadness and use it to grow and better ourselves and our relationships with God.

All texts and materials will be provided online by WebYeshiva.org.  
All sessions are free and are open to WebYeshiva.org students and to the public.
To Register for the Kinot and Tisha B'Av Shiurim, click here.

Find us on Facebook     Follow us on Twitter     Visit our blog     View our videos on YouTube  

This email was sent to rabbi.rich.wolpoe@gmail.com by office@webyeshiva.org |  

ATID | 9 HaNassi Street | Jerusalem | 92188 | Israel

Sunday 22 July 2012

Defending Rabbinic Autonomy

«This call for organizational pressure is an affront to rabbinic autonomy.

I can't speak about other organizations but I can tell you as a member of the Rabbinical Council of America that I feel it would be a mistake for our organization to follow this path.»

An Affront To Rabbinic Autonomy | Jewish Press

Shalom and Regards,

Thursday 19 July 2012

On Modern Women's Role in Hinuch

Guest Blogger:
Rav Dov Fischer

«Women have critical analytical capabilities, can handle depth, and they also are critical to Klal Yisrael.  Modern women, too, can learn and be challenged.  They, too, can be handed solid Judaic text and be taught directly from primary sources.  In many ways, because they previously have not been as exposed to learning, they are so much more receptive, once exposed, because it is all a wonderment.  They never saw Bar Kamtza and Kamtza in print.  They never saw the account of the enslaved brother and sister, offspring of Kohanim Gedolim, mated by their masters.  Or of that subordinate carpenter and how he stole his master's wife, then manipulated his master to pouring drinks tearfully for him and that woman, thus sealing the Decree.  When they learn Torah, they get excited.  They bring friends the next time, people whop also never before held a page of Rambam in their fingers or saw that a Rema is printed in a font different from that of the Mechaber.  They ask to take home the source sheets.  They go home and tell their husbands what they learned.  Discussions at their Shabbat tables get raised.  They prod their husbands to go out and learn, too.  By teaching them what they do not know, we alert them to what their children do not know.  They better can evaluate whether their $15,000-a-year tuition is producing results.  When they decide to attend a Megillah reading or an Eicha reading, a Simchat Torah hakafot inside the shul (rather than milling outside) or a Seder, they bring their husbands and expect more of them.  Experience teaches that women are more effective in bringing recalcitrant men than are men in bringing uninterested women.  Despite all the modern world's teaching about equal roles, the woman still dominates home culture where the next generation is reared.  Expanded roles for women in this context are worth fighting for, with passion.  We have unique entrĂ© to those who will not allow themselves to be approached by others.

We have a new found resource with the advent of educated women who can bring up the quotient of General Torah Knowledge. This gives the next generation a potential headstart by having highly educated and sophisticated parents of both genders.

Shalom and Regards,

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Gertrude Wolpoe OB"M and the Current Tuition Crisis

Circa 1959 my Mom A"H* wrote a letter to the editor of the CT Jewish Ledger as follows

"Why are synagogues spending so much money on new construction** when those same funds could be used for Jewish Education?"

Nu! So what's Changed during the last 50+ years?

We're still building magnificent "Beis Tefillos" with large sums of cash, and tuition costs are still out of sight!

I guess maybe because now, EG the RCA the OU, et al are wringing their hands, instead of my Mom!

FWIW, the local Young Israels did for the most part build simple, practical buildings which our local Puritan Fathers would probably have approved of. :-)

Where is today's Puritan Fiscal Prudence?

* My Mom was no Clairvoyant!. She was merely echoing the sentiments of her Mentors A"H namely:
R SF Mendelowitz
Dr. Joe Kaminestsky
[R] Charlie Batt

**My doctor Yale Gordon A"H termed this "The edifice complex"

Shalom and Regards,

Tuesday 17 July 2012

The Covenant of Abraham: a Grandfather's Reflection

Note: The Nishma Community extends a well-deserved Mazzal Tov to first time "Zaydie" Doug Aronin!

Guest Blogger: Douglas Aronin, esq.

"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has made us holy through His commandments and commanded us to bring him [our son] into the covenant of our father Abraham." This berakha (blessing), recited by the father at every brit milah (ritual circumcision), expresses gratitude for the opportunity to bring a newborn boy into the Jewish people's covenant with God..  By long-standing tradition, those present respond: "Amen.  Just as he has entered into the covenant, may he enter into Torah, marriage and good deeds." (translations from the Koren Siddur, edited by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks).
On numerous occasions over the years, I have heard that berakha recited by the newborn baby's father and have joined in the prescribed response.  But the brit milah that I attended last week was different.  On that morning, the father to whose berakha  I listened and responded was my son Noah, and the infant becoming part of the covenantal tradition that began with Abraham was my grandson, who was thereupon named Yaakov Simchah.
There are no words to describe adequately the feeling of watching your grandson entering into the covenant that has bound the Jewish people to God  from the time of Abraham and across the generations.  Since this is my first grandchild, one part of my feelings -- though by no means the largest part -- was some difficulty in processing the notion that I have reached the grandparenthood stage of my life.  A far larger part was pride in my son's apparently seamless adaptation to the responsibilities of fatherhood and my amazement at the realization that the tiny baby boy whom I once held in my arms has grown into a man who can hold his own tiny baby boy in his arms and who has now brought that baby boy into the covenant by fulfilling the mitzvah that God gave to Abraham:
Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised.  You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant
between Me and you.  And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days. (Gen. 17:10-12, JPS translation)
Jews who have grown up conscious of our people's history and tradition understand instinctively the centrality of the brit milah, which is why the vast majority of Jews, even those whose overall religious practice is minimal, continue to circumcise their sons.  The mitzvah of brit milah is unique in its express association with Abraham, an association reflected in the wording of the father's berakha.  It is the indelible sign of God's brit (covenant) with Abraham, which is the foundation on which Judaism rests. 
God's promise to Abraham was only the first step on the covenantal journey.  Generations later, as they approached Sinai, the Jewish people as a whole entered into a broader covenant, accepting the mission to be a "kingdom of priests and a holy people" (Ex.19:6).  It was the covenant of Sinai that bound the Jewish people to keep all the mitzvot of the Torah, which in that context is called the Sefer haBrit (Book of the Covenant), to which the people responded: "All that the Lord has said we will do and hear." (Ex. 24:7).  But the covenant at Sinai stands on the foundation that is the covenant of Abraham.  Before we could undertake the obligations of a holy people, we first had to affirm our collective identity as part of the eternal family of Abraham.  It is not a genetic family, which is why every convert is named the son or daughter of Abraham; it is, rather, a family bound together by the covenant.  So fundamental is that familial covenant that we perform the brit milah on the eighth day even if that is a Shabbat or holiday.  
As Jews we are obligated to transmit to our children the heritage of Torah that we have received from previous generations.  How can we know that we have fulfilled that obligation?  Only when we see our children begin the process of transmitting that heritage to their children can we take comfort in our fulfillment of our part in that chain of transmission.  Such is the special joy of a grandparent at the celebration of a brit milah.
Throughout our history and until today, there have been other peoples who have also circumcised their sons.  As part of the monotheistic heritage which they borrowed from the Jews, Muslims have adopted circumcision as a religious rite, though it is not as fundamental to their heritage as it is to ours.  In modern times, especially here in the US,  many non-Jews are circumcised for medical reasons, though the medical establishment remains divided on the advisability of doing so.   The majority of men born in the US are still routinely circumcised, but the proportion has decreased significantly in recent years, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which once recommended the practice, now maintains a neutral stance towards it.
Still there are those, both here and abroad, who have commenced a crusade to discourage or even prohibit infant circumcision.  There are websites that bespeak the obsessive focus of a small collection of anti-circumcision fanatics.  An attempt to put an anti-circumcision voter initiative on the ballot in San Fransisco last year was blocked by a court for technical reasons, but its proponents will no doubt be heard from again. In a clip easily found on Youtube, the late Christopher Hitchens, well-known as an anti-religious polemicist, attacked Rabbi Harold Kushner (of  When Bad Things Happen to Good People fame) for defending the "disgusting, wicked, unforgivable" practice of circumcision.  And only a few weeks ago, a court in Cologne Germany (yes, Germany!) ruled that the religious circumcision of a child too young to consent was illegal because it violated the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity." (In the interests of accuracy, I should note that the Cologne case involved a Muslim rather than a Jew, but from the secular court's perspective, that appears to be a distinction without a difference.  For all the adversarial nature of Jewish-Muslim relations today, this is one issue in which we should be on the same side.)
Ours is not the first era in which the commandment of brit milah has come under ideological attack.   In ancient times, Greek and Roman pagans opposed circumcision because it conflicted with their belief in the inherent perfection of the human body.  Our era's neo-pagans would  find it difficult to make that argument with a straight face, so they rely instead on the modern-sounding notion that infant circumcision violates the infant's right to give informed consent.  Since it would be difficult to obtain informed consent from even the most precocious newborn, the anti-circumcision fanatics insist that circumcision should not take place until the child reaches adulthood. If the fact that we routinely acknowledge the right of parents to give consent for any other medical procedure -- to say nothing of their undoubted right to control their children's religious upbringing -- gives the anti-circumcision crowd  any pause, they do a good job of hiding it.
To Jews, the purpose of circumcision is to bring the baby boy into the brit (covenant) of Abraham, and thus circumcision is always, first and foremost, a religious act. As a result, the Jewish community has largely stayed out of the ongoing debate in the medical establishment over whether routine infant circumcision is medically appropriate. For us, after all, any medical benefit of circumcision is at most incidental.  The problem with this approach is that the enemies of circumcision don't make such fine distinctions.  Viewing medical circumcision as an easier target, they may restrain themselves from direct attacks on religious circumcision, but their restraint is only tactical.  If they succeed in persuading the medical establishment -- and through them, the general public -- that routine infant circumcision has no medical benefit and may even be harmful, there is every reason to expect that they will seek to prohibit religiously prescribed circumcision as well.  Halakhic Jews -- and, indeed, all who value religious freedom -- need to overcome the temptation of complacency.
At the same time, we must not allow necessary vigilance to dampen the spirit of celebration.  To non-Jewish Americans, even those of indisputably good will, it may seem odd to have a religious celebration of what they view as a medical procedure. To halakhic Jews, however, the celebratory nature of the occasion is self-evident.  Each  brit milah is in a sense a renewal of God's covenant with Abraham for before this infant can enjoy, as we express it, a life of  "Torah, marriage and good deeds," he must first become part of the family of Abraham.  And the extension of that family for yet another generation is indeed a cause for celebration -- not only for proud parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, but for the entire Jewish people.
May Yaakov Simchah enjoy, as we all wished him in response to his father's beracha, a life of Torah, marriage and good deeds.  May he, like his Biblical namesake, remain true in his commitment to Torah, whatever struggles life puts in his path. And may he, as his middle name implies, be a source of joy to his entire family and, indeed, to the entire family of Abraham.
Shalom and Regards,

Monday 16 July 2012

More on the Tuition Crisis

«... We all know that schools are growing more desperate in addressing shortfalls in revenue brought on by escalating costs and a prolonged ailing economy. Schools have little control over external funding like donations, so they push where they can, which increasingly means the portion of the parent body that they perceive to have some wiggle room. They can't squeeze those who simply don't have, so they raise tuition year after year. They know that the poor and the underemployed won't produce more, but they are all on tuition assistance. Where there are no sugar-daddies available, it is the middle class that is asked to cough up more each year, subsidizing those who are in far more desperate financial straits. ...»

A New, Ugly Wrinkle in the Tuition Crisis | Cross-Currents


Shalom and Regards,

Sunday 15 July 2012

Purity and Uprightness in the Camp

Guest Blogger:
Alan Krinsky

A few weeks ago, the Jewish Press published an article by Alan Krinsky entitled "Purity and Uprightness in the Camp". See http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/purity-and-uprightness-in-the-camp/2012/06/13/0/ 
In discussing the article with Alan, I mentioned that I thought he was on to something but felt that there was a need for further clarification of his concepts. In this regard, I offered him to post a follow-up to his article that further defines his terms on Nishmablog. This, I mentioned to him, also would offer him a chance for some feedback and discussion.
In response to my request, this is Alan's addendum to his original Jewish Press article. We truly invite your comments.

A few weeks ago, The Jewish Press published my essay on “Purity and Uprightness in the Camp,” my reaction to the gathering at CitiField to address the threat of the internet. As you can read in the essay itself, I expressed concern over the very concept, or at least the heavy emphasis placed upon the concept of “the purity of the camp.” I raised two questions or sets of questions and hoped (and still hope) to elicit a discussion: (1) Is my analysis, in its description of the situation, accurate? That is, in recent years or decades has there been an increased focus on this idea of purifying the camp of the people of Israel? And furthermore, is this value central to our tradition in any sense, or far from it, perhaps even foreign? and (2) Am I correct, or at least on to something, in suggesting that this emphasis on the purity of the camp among some segments of the Orthodox world can help us make sense of a number of phenomena, including the banning of books and a certain hostility to converts? For example, was the attempt to annul retroactively thousands of conversions in some fundamental sense done out of an anxiety over the purity or impurity of the camp? And has there been a new hostility to potential converts and the erection of barriers to conversion never witnessed before?
After the fact, it strikes me that perhaps I did not make clear enough just what I meant by purity. Therefore, let me take this opportunity to elaborate. I think the purity distinction I meant to highlight, and probably did not do so explicitly in the published essay, is that between the purity of the group and the purity of the individual. That is, I can understand and see in our tradition the ideal of individuals working on their own purity, their own self-improvement, the purity of their religious life and discipline, maybe even one’s neshama, but I think the entire idea of the purity of the camp, of this larger entity, should be viewed with suspicion, and one of my questions is whether or not this value plays a central role in the tradition (and enough to call for a gathering of tens of thousands of individuals). So, I understand how pornography could be a challenge to individuals, but I think the purity of the camp ideology is more directed at ideas (book bannings) and converts (potential and already in the fold) and schools (seeking hashkafic narrowness among fellow students and families).
And maybe one of the distinctions is that a notion of purity based in mussar is where I am concerned with my own purity and growth, whereas with the purity of the camp, one is much more concerned with the purity of others (and how their impurity poses a danger to me)?!
Related to these matters, I think it would be worth taking a look at differing notions of chosen-ness and the Jewish soul; whereas some of us might favor a view that chosen-ness is fundamentally a challenge and responsibility and that Jewish neshamot are not different in any essential way from non-Jewish ones, I suspect those of the purity of the camp group would tend to view chosen-ness as a privilege and Jewish neshamot as essentially different and “better” (and maybe this is why converts and “false” or “insincere” converts are experienced as such a threat).
So, if I am on to something, where, when, and why did this anxiety over purity and impurity arise? And if we can name it and identify it, can the dynamics within the Orthodox world be shifted?

Alan Krinsky

Pull Together for Limmud Torah - Zalman Shazar

From http://fwd4.me/15AH

«Community's media outlets displaying images of Israel's NIS 200 bill, which bears a quote by former president Zalman Shazar: 'We must all carry the burden of learning Torah'»

Shalom and Regards,

Saturday 14 July 2012

Mussar: Dealing Honestly is a Kiddush Hashem

Mussar courtesy of Derech Emet:

Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, Chelek Mitzvot Aseh, Mitzvah 74:

I have already lectured to the exiles of Jerusalem. in Spain and to the other exiles in Europe [Edom]:

Since our exile has been lengthened greatly, Israel must separate from the empty things of this world
and grab the seal of The Holy One Blessed Be He, which is truth.

They must not lie to Jews or Gentiles, and not mislead them. [the Gentiles] in any way. They [Jews] must sanctify themselves even in things that are permitted to them, as it is written. [in Tanach]:



And when The Holy One Blessed Be He comes to save them, the Gentiles will say:

It is done justly, because they [Jews] are people of truth. and the Torah of truth is in their mouths.

But if they behave deceptively with the Gentiles, then they [the Gentiles] will say:

Look at what The Holy One Blessed Be He did:
He chose thieves and deceivers for His portion [chelko]!


NOTE: Rabbi Eli J. Mansour interprets this to mean that the messiah [mashiach] cannot come until the Jewish people. earn a reputation for honesty among the Gentiles.


MICROBIOGRAPHY: Rabbi Moses ben Jacob of Coucy was a. French Tosafist who studied under Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid. He was alive in year 1242 of the Common Era when all. Talmud manuscripts in France were confiscated and burned.


Shalom and Regards,

Friday 13 July 2012

Bein HaM’tzarim—the Three Weeks 

Guest Blogger:
Rav Avram Herzog

Bein HaM'tzarim — the Three Weeks

Avram H. Herzog
Tammuz, 5772

The configuration of the Torah reading for the three Shabbatot between 17 Tammuz and 9 Av is comprised of Pinchas, Matot-Mas'ei combined, and D'varim, or alternatively of Matot, Mas'ei, and D'varim.  Pinchas, Matot, and Mas'ei close Sefer B'midbar, and as such can be viewed as a turning point.  With these three parashiyot, the Torah concludes its discussion of our past forty year sojourn in the wilderness, yet with an eye towards the next chapter in our history: our entry into Eretz Yisrael and settling therein.

The following are among the numerous events recorded in these parashiyot: G-d's bestowing His "b'rit shalom", "covenant of peace", upon Pinchas in reward for his zealotry; the order to Moshe to wipe out the Midyanim; the command to Moshe and Elazar (his father Aharon had already passed away) to count B'nei Yisrael and the Torah's subsequent details of this census; the guidelines for dividing Eretz Yisrael into tribal territories; the enumerating of the tribe of Levi (who were counted apart from the rest of the nation);  the claim to land of the daughters of Tzlofchad and G-d's accordingly rewarding them; G-d's bidding Moshe to ascend Har Ha'Avarim and view Eretz Yisrael, as he would not be privileged to enter the land; Moshe's request of G-d to appoint a new leader for the nation and the subsequent appointing and anointing of Y'hoshu'a to fill this lofty position; a detailed description of the various daily, Shabbat and holiday korbanot (sacrifices); the request of the tribes of R'uvein, Gad, and (half of) M'nasheh to settle in Trans-Jordan, Moshe's initial reaction to this challenge and his eventual conditional agreement; the recording of the travel itinerary in the wilderness; Moshe's informing B'nei Yisrael that they are on the cusp of entering, conquering, and settling Eretz Yisrael; a listing of the borders of the land and the tribal leaders appointed to oversee the division of the territory; the setting aside of forty eight cities for the tribe of Levi; the command to erect arei miklat (cities of refuge) as a haven for an unintentional murderer; and finally, the minutiae pertaining to the daughters' of Tzlofchad, thereby providing the framework for future women inheriting land in Eretz Yisrael.

With our introduction in mind, it should come as no surprise that the binding theme of these events, the thread that sews together these individual fragments into a stunningly colorful tapestry, is precisely none other than the focus on looking ahead.  Viewed as a whole, these parashiyot, then, represent nothing short of the key to our survival in the Promised Land.  They in fact form the foundation of the philosophy of Rav Avraham HaKohein Kook: Am Yisrael, b'Eretz Yisrael, al pi Torat Yisrael—our residing as a people in Eretz Yisrael, rooted in the foundations of the Torah laid down for us in parshiyot Pinchas, Matot, and Mas'ei.

We will focus on but one of the items enumerated above: the words of Moshe to B'nei Yisrael regarding the conquering of and residing inEretz  Yisrael.  Moshe tersely states: "V'horashtem et ha'aretz vi'shavtem bah"—"You will conquer the land and dwell therein".  These words are viewed differently by three of the foremost m'farshim (medieval commentators).  To Rashi, Moshe is providing us with a strategy: first, you must wipe out the inhabitants of the land; only then will you succeed in dwelling there securely.  To Ibn Ezra, Moshe is informing us of a divine promise, a reassurance that we will indeed be able to conquer and inhabit Eretz Yisrael.  To Ramban, Moshe is doing so much more: he is instructing, even commanding B'nei Yisrael to both conquer and settle in Eretz Yisrael.  That is to say that not only are we finally about to receive this long-yearned for gift promised to our forefathers, but we are bound, by virtue of our arrival at our destination, to dwell there.  Ramban boldly expounds further that this mitzvah applies to all future generations as well.  In short, to Ramban, these words of Moshe serve as the source for the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, the command, incumbent upon each and every Jew to this day, to settle (in) Eretz Yisrael.

And just as these parashiyot are centered around living in Eretz Yisrael, we too, in our day, to paraphrase Ramban, must redouble our efforts to secure our eternal settling in Eretz Yisrael.  Yes, ideally we would all be living in, or making plans to live in, our homeland.  But for those of us who are not yet able to do so, we dare not view ourselves as exempt from this ever-present mitzvah.  Purchasing a home in Eretz Yisrael; visiting Eretz Yisrael as often as we can; educating our children to always have Eretz Yisrael in their thoughts and hearts; financially supporting the land; meaningfully praying for the welfare of Eretz Yisrael and its leaders, and for the continued restoration of the land in all its glory and splendor; all of these are ways that we can, indeed we must, heed the call of Ramban to do our part in fulfilling this grand mitzvah of "V'horashtem et ha'aretz vi'shavtem bah".

How fitting it is that these parashiyot are read during the Three Weeks, the period in which we are bidden to mourn the loss of the Beit HaMikdash and our subsequent exile.  It is during this time, more than any other of the year, that we, just like these parashiyot, focus on the past, yet do so through the prism of an eye toward the future.  To simply mourn, to be stuck in the past, is not what is requested of us.  A fatalistic approach has no place in a Torah based lifestyle.  Rather, we are to use this time for introspection and reflection—to ask ourselves where we erred, as a nation and individuals, in the past; to learn from our mistakes and thereby improve our behavior and attitude towards G-d, the Torah, our fellow Jews, and Eretz Yisrael.  And finally, to hope for, and proactively plan for, the future of Am Yisrael, b'Eretz Yisrael, al pi Torat Yisrael.  Only then will the Three Weeks be a period worthy of our time and effort.  May we answer the call, and may we in turn be privileged, as we are assured in the Talmud, to witness the transformation of these days of mourning into days of simchah, when we will rejoice together in Eretz Yisrael.
Shalom and Regards,

Thursday 12 July 2012

Tax on NOT Doing!

a. Daily Evening Services: FREE 
Tax On Not Coming to Evening Services: $18

b. Daily Morning Services including Coffee, Cake & the occasional Bagel: FREE 
Tax On Not Coming to Morning Services: $36

c. Weekly Shabbat Services including Full Lunch Kiddush including Delicious Cholent: FREE 
Tax On Not Coming to Shabbat Services: $75

d. Inspirational High Holiday Services: FREE 
Tax On Not Attending High Holiday Services: $250

e. Mind Opening Adult Educational Classes: FREE 
Tax On Not Attending: $100

Chabad adopts ObamaCare!

See http://fwd4.me/15Ak

Shalom and Regards,