Wednesday 31 July 2013

Jewish Tribune: State of Jews or Jewish State?

In many ways, I believe that we are again asking that age-old question - Is Israel a State for Jews or a Jewish State? In my recent Tribune article, I address this issue from a somewhat different perspective that has timely application within our modern setting.

Please go to

Rabbi Ben Hecht

An Indispensable Element of Orthodox Judaism.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In light of the recent spirited and important discussions in the community, the International Rabbinic Fellowship takes this opportunity to reaffirm its unwavering commitment to the principle of Torah Min Hashamyim within the parameters outlined by classical Rishonim, Aharonim and contemporary Orthodox rabbinic scholars. We regard this principle as the linchpin of halakhic observance and as an indispensable element of Orthodox Judaism.

IRF Confirms Commitment to Torah Min Hashamayim | International Rabbinical Fellowship


Tuesday 30 July 2013

Why I fear a nuclear Iran - Rabbi Elchanan Poupko

Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a fellow at Yeshiva University's Institute for Advanced Research in Jewish Law.
«When I say historically tragic I don't mean just the obvious horror of even one Jewish life being jeopardized, and how so much more so that it would take so many Jewish lives. What I mean is the tragedy of going for 2,000 years and being able to make the exact same mistakes, without learning one iota from our experience and history. I mean that 2,000 years after the Holy City and the Temple have gone down in ruins, even as we were killing each other in an internal wars, we still are able to do the same thing all over again.»
Why I fear a nuclear Iran - The Jewish Standard

Best Regards,

Stuck in the Middle with You

As I write this, the radio is playing "Stuck in the Middle with You". Too much of a con-incidence!

«Modern critics, however, have charged that with the rise of movements that challenge the "divine" authority of halakha, traditional Jews have greater reluctance to change, not only the laws themselves but also other customs and habits, than traditional Rabbinical Judaism did prior to the advent of Reform in the 19th century.»

Halakha - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Leftist have facilitated calcification of Halachah by radicalizing it and inviting reactionary forces. Another case of unintended consequences!

Best Regards,

Monday 29 July 2013

Rabbi Lopatin on Torah MiSinai

«Our talmidim are exposed to a range of views on Torah Min Hashamayim from our classic commentaries and thinkers, and students will embrace different views along this traditional spectrum.
 Some talmidim are in the midst of theological work to uphold Orthodoxy in a way they find intellectually honest.  
One recent example is Rav Zev Farber, whose journey has taken him to the outer boundaries of Orthodox thinking on this subject. Rav Zev is thinking honestly and personally, but his ideas are different from, and in some ways contradictory to, what we teach and ask our students to believe at YCT.  He discusses his struggle in more detail here.  Rav Zev is a big enough talmid chacham to defend his Orthodoxy from all his critics. We support his honesty and speaking his mind, but he speaks for himself, not YCT. His beliefs on this matter are his own and far from the broad classical views of Torah Min Hashamayim that we at the Yeshiva believe in.»

Revelation and the Education of Modern Orthodox Rabbis | Morethodoxy: Exploring the Breadth, Depth and Passion of Orthodox Judaism


Does YCT see its role as including the enforcement of Boundaries?

RIETS typically does not.
RCA typically does.
OU - remains to be seen to what extent.

Best Regards,

Baruch Dayyan Ha'Emet Rabbi Dr. Jacob Immanuel Schochet, 77

«Although the Rebbe usually advised his followers not to study in secular universities, he made an exception in the case of Schochet. Following Schochet's marriage to Mrs Jettie Schochet in 1961 the Rebbe encouraged him to achieve advanced degrees at a number of prestigious universities, including the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo. Schochet's studies focused primarily on issues of logic, epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of religion, and in 1974 his thesis The Psychological System of Maimonides earned him a PhD (Phil).

In 1959 Schochet became rabbi of the Kielcer Congregation in Toronto, and served in that capacity until 1996. Subsequently he served as the rabbi of Congregation Beth Joseph Lubavitch, in the same city. He served as professor of philosophy at Humber College in Toronto from 1971 to 1996; as professor of Jewish philosophy, law and mysticism at Maimonides College, Toronto from 1980 to 1990; and as adjunct professor of medical ethics at University of Toronto School of Medicine from 1983 to 1987.»
Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet, 77 - Chabad-Lubavitch News

Best Regards,

Sunday 28 July 2013

Jose Can You See? Only in America. Only in Brooklyn.

Only in America.  Only in Brooklyn.  On the Fourth of July.

Guest Blogger:
Rav Dov Fischer
  — Dov Fischer

Best Regards,

Whither the RCA

«And this brings us to the crux of the issue. Many view open orthodoxy as a form of modern orthodoxy, certainly many of those affiliated with open orthodoxy are also affiliated with modern orthodoxy. It is thus incumbent upon modern orthodoxy to state their position vis-a-vis Farber. Chief Rabbi Brodie was not a major talmid chacham, but he deeply revered Judaism. He was a staunch proponent of orthodoxy and a persistent and unforgiving opponent of its detractors. This is what motivated him to fight Jacobs in a bitter battle, until Jacobs was utterly removed from any position within orthodoxy. Will the RCA be this generation's Brodie. Do they have the conviction and the strength of character to announce unapologetically that his opinions and beliefs are not orthodox. Will they tell open orthodoxy that so long as Farber serves as a member of its institutions, then by extension open orthodoxy is also not orthodox?»

Best Regards,

Friday 26 July 2013

Weiss’ Neo-Cons has moved farther to the left than the UTJ led by Professor R Halivni - R Averick

Rabbi Moshe Averick
«Truth be told, Weiss' Neo-Conservatism has moved farther to the left than the Union for Traditional Judaism (UTJ) led by Professor David Weiss Halivni, which is usually described as the far-right wing of the Conservative movement. UTJ does not ordain women – UTJ formed as a breakaway from the main body of Conservative Judaism over the issue of egalitarianism – and to the best of my knowledge does not accept or condone homosexual relationships in any way whatsoever. On the other hand, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, (the new Director of YCT), along with other high profile YCT rabbis have joined with Reform and Conservative clergy in publicly endorsing same-sex marriage legislation and have even given their blessings to the homosexual relationships of their congregants. Rabbi Hyim Shafner who aligns himself with YCT, described the home of two of his congregants living in an open lesbian relationship as a bayis ne'eman b'yisroel [exemplary Jewish home]. In support of this radical position he marshals some very authoritative evidence….such as an out of context remark by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. A blogger, under the banner of "Progressive Orthodox Judaism" agrees with my analysis: "In many aspects, UTJ falls to the right of the YCT/Open Orthodox crowd. UTJ was formed to counter egalitarianism, while the Open Orthodox movement, under the guise of "Yeshivat Maharat," conferring semicha upon Sara Hurwitz, etc., has moved towards this paradigm."»
American Jewry at the Crossroads: Isaac Mayer Wise, Solomon Schechter, and now...Avi Weiss and Sara Hurwitz | Jewish & Israel News

Best Regards,

Thursday 25 July 2013

Hareidism vs. Centrism VII

My chavrutah and I were chatting recently about how Stalin YSvZ used to remove pictures of Trotsky, Yezhov, and others by air-brushing them out.

How long ago was it that Secretary Hilary Clinton was air-brushed out of a photo?

And so some airbrush out YU/RIETS from the Orthodox Jewish Landscape.

Is this disrespect?
Intellectual Dishonesty?

Best Regards,

Neo-Cons Revive the Decaying C Movement

«Along with the decay of the liberal forms of Judaism, came the realisation that without halacha Judaism simply can not survive. And so there emerged a modern positive-historical movement. A movement which claims fealty to halacha, but in reality uses halacha to its own ends. If halacha can provide a structure and a community with values it can identify with, then by all means, its followers will loudly proclaim their adherence to halacha. But if halacha posits values or positions that are out of sync with modern sensibilities, then halacha simply must give way. This is exactly the original stance of the founders of the conservative movement, and whilst conservative Judaism can no longer claim to be halachic, the new positive-historical movement makes precisely that claim, viz. that they are both halachic and also in tune with modern, enlightened moral theory.

The leaders of this modern conservative movement [Aka Neo-Cons] are people like Eliezer Berkowitz, Emanuel Rackman, Avi Weiss, Blu Greenberg who first coined the phrase "where there is a halachic will there is a halachic way", and others. In recent years this movement has finally made it clear that it no longer views halacha as binding. This they have done not by dismissing halacha as irrelevant, but rather by redefining what halacha means, distorting its words and twisting its values so that it fits with what makes them comfortable.»

The Conservative Movement Revivified

Best Regards,

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Torah Min-Hashamayim: A Reply to Rabbi Nati Helfgot | Cross-Currents

«It was not long ago that Rabbi Moshe Averick spoke out against YCT and suggested that the RCA should censure Rabbi Avi Weiss, yet instead the RCA responded by temporarily banning Rabbi Averick himself from participating in their rabbinic mailing list. Is the RCA also on the side of Farber? If Farber is a member of the RCA they should do something about him and his views.

Best Regards,

What Makes for a Good Chief Rabbi?

The Chief Rabbi and the Car Mechanic

«There is a serious debate in the Jewish world about the legitimacy of the role of the Rabbinate in Israel in institutionalizing orthodoxy as the only authentic form of Judaism. It is generally cast by the opponents of the current Rabbinate as a call for religious pluralism, and a demand for equality and respect for all Jewish denominations. But there is also a question to be asked about the core tasks any Chief Rabbi is entrusted to fulfill, and the personal attributes required to fulfill it.»
The Chief Rabbi and the Car Mechanic - Shalom Hartman Institute

Best Regards,

A Tree Dies in Teaneck

Did a group of "Tree Huggers" cost the UTJ $100,000's in sabotaging their assets by falsely asserting the viability of a dying tree which posed a hazard to life and limb?

To the editor,
I was saddened to learn that the 250-350-year-old red oak tree in Teaneck was cut down by order of the County Executive.
My sadness is not the result of my love of trees, which I do have, but for the length of time it took those who blocked our plan to take down the tree two years ago to come to their senses. In 2010 as Executive Vice President of the Union for Traditional Judaism I ordered the tree to be removed because I had seen two massive branches come down either on our property or on Cedar Lane. Two arborists and the town DPW had agreed that the tree was already at a threat level of no less than 8 on a scale of 12.
This information was discussed at a public meeting at which a group of citizens sought to block us from removing the tree. Aspersions were cast by no less prominent a figure than State Sen. Loretta Weinberg. She wanted the tree to be designated as a memorial to her late husband Irwin. Weinberg and her allies declared their fight to keep the tree from "destruction" (so it reads on the dedication plaque at the foot of the tree) and they got their way.
All this at a time when the UTJ was attempting to sell its property through bankruptcy proceedings in order to pay all creditors in full and continue its educational work. We did both, but not before tree protesters slowed our progress through bankruptcy, adding six digit costs to the proceedings.
I was amazed at the time that the Teaneck council as well as Bergen County rather than supporting the protection residents, refused to take any action in the face of a rowdy few and one well-known politician. I have had to live with the knowledge that leaders left every resident and visitor in Teaneck at risk for over two years.
The passing of this tree is the end of an era. But that is the way of all material things including ourselves. Risking lives for tree limbs is a perversion of conservation.
It is more than ironic that those who celebrated protecting the nearly dead tree last year now witnessed its destruction, rightfully I hope, burdened by conscience.
I will be left only with the pleasant memories of the Oak tree in bloom outside my office window.

Rabbi Ronald D. Price
Executive Vice President, Emeritus
Union for Traditional Judaism
Teaneck letters, June 20 : page 1 -

Best Regards,

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Female Schindler Dies at 98

Eric William Ederer:
An important example of the cardinal virtues of courage, prudence, and justice.

She saved 2,500 Jewish children before the Nazis caught and tortured her. Yet Irena Sendler, who has died aged 98, insisted she was no heroine - and only wished she'd rescued more.

Best Regards,

Abraham Geiger - The Founder of Reform was the Skeptical Scholar

«Reformer -

In the Germany of the 19th century, Geiger and Samuel Holdheim, along with Israel Jacobson and Leopold Zunz, stood out as the founding fathers of Reform Judaism. Geiger was a more moderate and scholarly reformer, seeking to found this new branch of Judaism on the scientific study of history, without assuming that any Jewish text was divinely written.

Geiger was not only a scholar and researcher commenting on important subjects and characters in Jewish history, he was also a rabbi responsible for much of the reform doctrine of the mid-19th century. He contributed much of the character to the reform movement that remains today. Reform historian Michael A. Meyer has stated that, if any one person can be called the founder of Reform Judaism, it must be Geiger.»

Abraham Geiger - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Best Regards,

Monday 22 July 2013

Hobby Lobby Wins Preliminary Injunction -

«"The tide has turned against the HHS mandate," said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby.

In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, "There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved."»
- Hobby Lobby wins Preliminary Injunction

Best Regards,

Facing the TWO Fronts

We have highlighted two issues facing the Modern Orthodox or Centrist Orthodox world on Nishmablog over the past few weeks.

We have noted how, mostly in Israel, the world of the the Da'ati Leumi world is pitted against the world of the Haredim.
See such posts as:

We have also noted that, mostly concentrated in the New York area of the United States, the greater population of this world in in conflict with those more to the left. See such posts as:

Many people may not realize that these two conflicts may respect a larger war. Modern Orthodox seems caught between two opposing forces.  The comparison to a physical war with fronts on two opposite sides -- East-West or North-South -- may be very real. The Centrist World fights one battle in one direction. And then, it seems to fight a second battle in the exact opposite direction -- and the challenge of this battle is often times not even recognized. This is not to say that this two front war is inherently inappropriate or problematic. It, though, needs to be recognized and truly understood for what it is.

To be more explicit in this regard, notice how, in either one of the battles, those fighting against the Centrists on one side are their allies in the battle on the other side. In regards to the issue in Israel, for example, in the battle with the Haredim, those to the left are allies even to the extent that some of the issues in the very battle with the left can be ignored. Centrists take offense to the idea of inter-branch relations in the U.S. as expressed by, for example, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, but the statement of Rabbi Dov Lipman regarding generic Torah study in the Knesset is still met with applause -- even though this would include the involvement of Prof. Ruth Calderon whose theological leanings would be similar to the more non-traditional branches of Judaism. The focus on the battle with the Haredim may lead to Centrist Orthodoxy wavering in its battle with the left -- but is that acceptable? It must clearly force the Centrist world to reconsider the issue on the left.

The Haredim are the allies when it comes to the U.S. issue of how to relate to Yeshiva Chovivei Torah. Centrists even take Haredi arguments to bolster their own challenges against the left -- for example, also using the term Mesorah almost dogmatically -- even though they dismiss such usage in the argument in Israel. The focus on the battle with the left may lead to Centrist Orthodoxy wavering in its battle with the Haredim -- but is that, again, acceptable? It must also force us to reconsider the issue with the Haredim.

Clearly, there are differences between what is happening in Israel and what is happening in the U.S. Arguments can be made for the differences in approach on the two fronts. The challenge, though, is whether people even see the inherent issue of these two fronts.
Do we see the wavering? -- not that these waverings are inherently wrong but rather that they should really be forcing us to truly think about the overall issues.
Centrist Orthodoxy's is now truly caught in the middle. The two fronts are battles Centrism must wage to be true to its essential perspective.  It is time that we started to recognize the true challenge of this dialectic and challenge.

- Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 21 July 2013

UTJ, YCT, etc.

A comment:
«Actually, if you look at the UTJ vs the now-defunct Edah, many will tell you that what doomed the UTJ from greater growth was its reluctance to embrace the "women's issue" as a cause celebre. that cost them hundreds of thousands, if not 7 digits in potential donations. the other reality was that since it was founded by non-Orthodox though halachicly-based disciples of R Saul Lieberman, tz'l, it would never have captured even the mainstream Left of Orthodoxy to fully embrace it.
over the years, many of its members have traveled comfortably between Edah, YCT, Drisha, JOFA, etc. Truth is they all approach halakha very similarly ...
in my view, UTJ will never receive the full credit it deserves for its Mi Yehudi proposal, its Pesach Hotline, Kosher Nexus, Lieberman yahrzeit program (hope they revive that one), and its interesting Tomeikh K'Halakha, which provided a more moderate halackicly-based responsa before there was YCT or the Inst for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. but it is equally clear that many of its ideas were embraced and more successfully marketed by others.»
Halachic Template For Women's Ordination Isn't New | The Jewish Week

Best Regards,

From Open O to Neo-Cons

R Asher Lopatin:
«But my dream is to have Hebrew Union College, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hadar, and Chovevei on one campus, to move in together. We'd each daven in our own ways, but it could transform the Upper West Side.

R Avrham Gordimer:
«There is not much more to say. The path to total abandonment of Orthodoxy has been set in motion, and the ball is in the court of Open Orthodoxy's leadership. Serious introspection and swift action are indeed needed.»

From Openness to Heresy | Cross-Currents

Best Regards,

Friday 19 July 2013

Shabbat Nachamu and Tu B'Av: NEW BEGINNINGS

From the archives of Nishma's Online Library,  we have chosen an article that relates to our present time period, both to direct you to this dvar Torah but also for the purposes of initiating some discussion.

This Shabbat, of course, is Shabbat Nachamu and this Monday is Tu B'Av. The question is more than just how these two days are connected -- which they invariably must be -- but also how these two days, in turn, flow from Tisha B'Av. How is it, in respect to the calendar dates, that the happiest day of the Jewish year follows so closely on the heals of the saddest? More specifically, how is this indicated in the actual manner in which these days are/were marked?

We invite you to begin your investigation of this subject with this Insight at

Tools For Gabba'im / Gabbais
Best Regards,

Thursday 18 July 2013

Non-Fasting on Fast Days

Here is a real-life scenario that sometimes comes up:

Patient and Doctor [physician]

Patient: Doctor, With my condition X, may I fast on Fast Days?

Doctor: Yes, you need not eat - provided that you drink water. You cannot afford to get dehydrated...

Patient: Thank you, but as you may not know, the Halachah requires * refraining from water, too.

Now the Patient and his Rabbi

Patient: the Doctor says I need not eat on Fast Days, but that I must drink water.

Rabbi: Do what you can. Refrain from eating, and drink only as much water as needed so as to avoid damaging your health.

* Assuming a healthy person. People with illness may be exempt from fasting on several of these fasts...



When the patient drinks water as above, is this water:

A. Food? And therefore the Patient is deemed as NOT fasting ...


B. Medicine? The patient is indeed fasting as much as he physically can, and so is deemed a "faster".

The nafqa mina could be with regards to receiving an aliyah.
Generally, we avoid giving an aliyah to a "non-faster."


I favor B. To my point of view, in this case - water is his form of medication. And so he does observe the fast by eliminating all food and any excess liquid.

Best Regards,

EU and the Proposed Boycott

«So, just how earth-shattering are these guidelines? Tablet has acquired the official document containing the regulations, published today by the European Union, and we've spoken to an EU diplomat with close knowledge of its contents and drafting. As it turns out, there's a lot less in these guidelines than most press coverage would have you believe. Here's why:

They do not bind EU member states in their bilateral relationships with Israel.»

"The EU's Not Quite Settlement Boycott."

Best Regards,

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Agunah Prevention - Be Part of the Solution III

«Indifference, apathy or not wanting to get involved are not Jewish concepts, particularly as they relate to those suffering from injustice. In many places the Torah explicitly calls upon us to protect, defend, and support the almanah, the widow. Rabbi Yaakov Zvi Mecklenburg, author of the Ksav V'Kabbalah (Parshas Mishpatim) explains that the Torah doesn't limit this mitzvah to the widow, but expects it regarding all those who are vulnerable and tormented within our community. He explains that the world "almanah" comes from al-manah, missing a portion. The almanah is simply a symbol of those that are incomplete, missing something in their lives. Our mandate and our mission must be to protect and support them.

It is in this spirit that the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the professional organization of over 1,000 Orthodox Rabbis in North America, held a Yom Iyun this week, a day of study regarding the plight of Agunos. The day began with a talk by Rav Herschel Schachter on the Halachic parameters of applying social pressure to encourage a man to give his wife a Get. Rav Schachter serves as the Posek of ORA and has been courageously vocal and instrumental in advocating on behalf of women being held hostage by their husbands.»
Be Part of the Solution - Agunah Prevention

Best Regards,

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Tisha b'Av Ambivalence

Rabbi Shimshon Nadel:
«How do we mourn for the destruction in a rebuilt Jerusalem?
After the Six Day War, the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, made changes to Nachem, a prayer recited on Tisha B'Av afternoon. The traditional version describes Jerusalem as "the city that is in sorrow, laid waste, scorned and desolate; that grieves for the loss of its children, that is laid waste of its dwellings, robbed of its glory, desolate without inhabitants. She sits with her head covered like a barren childless woman..." In the IDF Siddur that he edited and published in 1970, Rabbi Goren wrote that this liturgy is "not appropriate when Jerusalem is free and under Israel's sovereignty." Instead, he chose a text based on the Jerusalem Talmud, the Siddur of Amram Gaon, and Maimonides, which limits the description of Jerusalem to "the city that is in sorrow, laid waste, and in ruin." The more subtle language, Rabbi Goren felt, better expressed the new reality of a unified Jerusalem, under Jewish control.
Serving as Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel from 1973-1983, Rabbi Goren attempted to formally institute the changes he made to Nachem, but was unsuccessful. The changes, while minor, proved controversial. Rabbis Isser Yehuda Unterman, Ovadiah Yosef, Tzvi Yehudah Kook and Joseph B. Soloveitchik, among others, opposed the changes to the prayer. 'How can we change the liturgy,' they asked, 'while Jerusalem is still denigrated without the Holy Temple standing?' » 
Mourning the destruction in the rebuilt Jerusalem | JPost | Israel News

Best Regards,

Monday 15 July 2013

Why do we Mourn for the Temple Nowadays?

«The reason we fast in mourning over the destruction of the Temple, even though it is [in the] past, is to become aware we presently have faults similar to those which caused the destruction, and we should work on improving ourselves.»
R Zelig Pliskin -
Gateway to Happiness p. 148

Quoting -
Taamei Haminhagim, p. 295

Best Regards,

R Yitzchok Adlerstein - A Tisha B’Av Message, Penned in Pain and in Hope

«We write in anguish and frustration, responding to the images that we have seen, and the words that we have heard in recent days. We have heard the Kol Yaakov (voice of Jacob) used far too often to hurl accusations at wide swaths of people replete with extraordinarily inflammatory language and just recently read reports of the negative branding of an entire group of Jews in a public venue. We have also witnessed the Yedei Esav (hands of Esau) used by Jews against soldiers who are laying down their lives to defend our brothers...»

A Tisha B'Av Message, Penned in Pain and in Hope | Cross-Currents

Best Regards,

Tisha B'Av and Purim - Liturgical Parallels

Originally posted around Tisha B'Av of 2009, and March 6, 2011.

The following outline lists some of the parallels, primarily liturgical, between Purim and the 9th of Av.
1 Maariv - Nighttime 
     1.1 Only Megillos that are read at night.
          1.1.1 Eicho
          1.1.2 Esther
     1.2 Similar Structure with Kaddish Tiskabel and v'Ato Kodosh

2 Shacharis - Omissions
     2.1  Purim - A "miracle" Holiday , no Hallel (Megilloh instead)
     2.2  9th of Av -  A Fast Day  without   
          2.2.1  Selichos (Kinnos instead)
          2.2.2  Tachanun & Ovinu Malkeinu

3 Shacharis - Chazoros Hashatz
     3.1 Only weekday repetitions of the Amido with Krovos/Krovatz

4 Preceding Shabbos 
     4.1 Purim preceded by Zachor
     4.2 9 Av preceded by Chazon

5 Tanach  Pattern - Special Torah and Haftoro readings are read the Shabbos 
before the event, with the corresponding Megilloh on the day of the event.
     5.1 Purim - The Amalek Connection
          5.1.1  Torah- Zachor 
          5.1.2  Navi - Haftoro of Zachor (Shaul's War with Amalek in Shmuel)
          5.1.3  Kesuvim Esther
     5.2 9 Av - The  Eicho Connection
          5.2.1  Torah - Eicho in Devorim
          5.2.2  Navi - Eicho in the Haftoro of Chazon (Yeshaya)
          5.2.3  Kesuvim - Eicho

6 Month-wide 
     6.1 Mishenichnos Adar Marbin b'Simcho
     6.2 Mishenichnos Av M'maatin b'Simcho

7 Miscellaneous
     7.1 Some Pesukim in Esther are read to Eicho melody (in particular Asher 
     7.2 Chiyuv S'eudo vs. Chiyuv Taanis
     7.3 Similar Minhogim not to work


Prime Minister Netanyahu: FB Remarks re: Tisha b'Av

The Prime Minister of Israel wrote:
PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom, this morning (Sunday, 14 July 2013), made the following remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting:

Prime Minister Netanyahu:
"This week we will mark the Ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, Tisha b'Av. We remember the disaster that befell our people – the destruction of the Temple, the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of our land. We remember that this destruction was accompanied, and even expedited, by gratuitous hatred among us. I think that the Jewish People has learned the lesson. We know the importance of unity among our people, a unity of forces, and such unity around central ideas. We have returned to the Land of Israel. We have built our state. We have built our capital Jerusalem and we have created one of the most prosperous, developed and advanced countries in the world. Today, this is very considerable given the background of what is happening in the region, from Morocco to Pakistan, and what is happening opposite an advanced continent such as Europe.

The State of Israel is prosperous, strong, united and developed and we must be united on the main goals that I will detail here – and stand together in the face of major challenges that threaten our security – regarding the implementation of the vision that we have here, especially the development of the Negev and the Galilee on a large scale.

A month has passed since the Iranian elections and Iran is continuing to press quickly forward on developing a military nuclear ability. It is expanding and advancing its enrichment facilities and, at the same time, its developing its ballistic missiles capability. Again, these are threats not only against us but against the entire West and the East as well.

We are determined to insist on our demands, which must be the demands of the international community. One, to stop all enrichment. Two, to remove all enriched material. Three, to close the illegal nuclear facility in Qom. We believe that now, more than ever, in light of Iran's progress, it is important to intensify the economic sanctions and place a credible military option before Iran.

Best Regards,

Sunday 14 July 2013

Elections vs. Democracy: Some Thoughts about Events in Egypt  

Guest Blogger:
Douglas Aronin, Esq.

The events in Egypt over the course of the past couple of weeks should be of concern to anyone who cares about Israel's well-being.  Although Israel's relationship with Egypt has been rocky at times, the Egyptian government has remained committed to the peace treaty between the two countries, and the durability of that treaty has been a cornerstone of Israeli security policy.  The now-deposed Egyptian President,  Mohammed Morsi, had reaffirmed that commitment as well, but considering his affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, supporters of Israel were skeptical about his sincerity.

I doubt that many Israelis are feeling much ambivalence about Morsi's forced departure.  His hostility to Israel was never in doubt, and his supposed commitment to peace with Israel was widely assumed to be merely a show designed to keep American aid flowing. The relationship between the IDF and the Egyptian military, on the other hand, has been a constructive one, and the general who took the lead in effecting Morsi's ouster, Gen. Abdel Fatah Said Al-Sisi , is a known quantity. Israel is surely better off with the army controlling Egypt rather than  the Muslim Brotherhood, and Israelis across the political spectrum understand that.  No one expects Egypt's army to maintain control of the country for a lengthy period, but its willingness to intervene should make future civilian governments more hesitant to cross any of its red lines -- one of which is the country's commitment to its peace treaty with Israel.

The American reaction to the military intervention in Egypt reflects more ambivalence than the Israeli reaction.  That ambivalence does not signify a weakening of America's  commitment to Israel's security, nor does it suggest that anyone in Washington was enamored with Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood. But the US necessarily sees episodes like this one from a broader perspective reflecting its national interests. One of those core interests, most Americans believe,  is the promotion of democracy around the world.

Historically, to be sure, United States foreign policy has been somewhat less idealistic than most of us would like to believe.  Like any major power, we have a multitude of national interests to protect, and we have on occasion subordinated the promotion of democracy to the pursuit of one or another of those interests.  The notion of an American mission to promote democracy is deeply ingrained in the American psyche, however, and the American people are usually reluctant to see their country acting in a manner that is inconsistent with that ideal.

It was to further that ideal, presumably, that Congress, beginning in 1986, adopted a statutory provision mandating the suspension of "any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d'etat or decree or ... a coup d'etat or decree in which the military plays a decisive role."   Unlike many foreign policy-related statutes, this one does not permit a waiver by the President for reasons of national security.  It does provide, however, " [t]hat assistance may be resumed to such government if the President determines and certifies ... that subsequent to the termination of assistance a democratically elected government has taken office."

Because the statute gives the President no flexibility in responding to a coup, the White House has thus far refused to label the removal of Morsi a coup.  That has brought some criticism, most notably from Senator John McCain.  In a statement released shortly after Morsi's overthrow, McCain, though he appeared to be unhappy with the law's inflexibility, said that  "it is difficult for me to conclude that what happened was anything other than a coup in which the military played a decisive role. Current U.S. law is very clear about the implications for our foreign assistance in the aftermath of a military coup against an elected government ...."

It's hard to dispute McCain's assertion that Morsi's overthrow is a coup.  In insisting otherwise, the Obama administration is playing a word game.  That word game, however, is in America's national interest, and the inflexibility written into the statute is not.  Virtually no one, including McCain, is arguing that cutting off aid to Egypt at this point would be in the interests of the United States -- or of Israel, for that matter.

Does that mean that the United States shouldn't promote democracy abroad, that it should base its foreign policy on realpolitik without any pretense of principle?  In one of his recent op-ed columns, David Brooks the most thoughtful of the Times columnists, appears to be wrestling with that question.  He posits that "[t]he debate about Egypt has  been between those who emphasize process and those who emphasize substance."  The process crowd, according to Brooks, doesn't see beyond the fact that Morsi was "freely elected" while the "substance people" believe that "[w]hen you elect fanatics ... [y]ou have empowered people who are going to wind up subverting democracy.  The important thing is to get people like that out of power, even if it takes a coup."  The "substance people," unlike the process crowd, recognize that "elections are not a good thing when they lead to the elevation of people whose substantive beliefs fall outside the democratic orbit."

The process/substance dichotomy proposed by Brooks is tempting, but misses the mark.  It sounds too much like saying that sure, you can have an election, as long as we approve of the winner.  And to many ears, especially in developing countries, it sounds like a pretext for renewed colonialism. The principle of majority rule, after all, is not based on the assumption that the majority is always right but rather on the principle that the majority has the right to be wrong.

A better approach, it seems to me, is to recognize that majority rule is one of the foundations of democracy but not the only one. Voting alone does not establish democracy.  The old Soviet Union used to vote, after all, as does the present-day Iran. Dictators have frequently used plebiscites to provide a thin veneer of legitimacy to their authoritarian rule.

To be considered a democracy, a country needs more than an electoral system.  It needs a free press, an independent judiciary and an enforceable commitment to minority rights and the rule of law.  The fatal defect in Morsi's regime was not that the wrong man won the election, but rather that the country lacked the other institutions necessary to place realistic checks on governmental power, thus creating a stable democratic regime.  In some countries, where other such checks are lacking, the military is called upon to play that role.  It is far from optimal, but it may be better than the available alternatives, as developments in Turkey over the past few years make clear.

When does the democratic instability within a nominally democratic country justify intervention by that country's armed forces?  There's no simple answer to that question, which will depend on a hard-headed analysis of specific circumstances.   To the extent that the United States has leverage -- and in the case of Egypt, our substantial foreign assistance gives us considerable leverage -- we should use it not to mindlessly endorse election victors but to encourage the development of stable democratic institutions.  That seems to be what the Obama administration is trying to do in Egypt.  It's a shame that inflexible statutory language adds to the difficulty of that task.

Douglas Aronin

Best Regards,

Aliyot on Tisha B'Av to those who do not fast

Guest Blogger:
Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
* * * * *
Aliyot On Tisha B’Av
By Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen

A reoccurring concern is whether a person who does not fast on Tisha B’Av may receive an aliya?

 An ancient custom was for a Kohen who ate on fast days to leave the synagogue prior to Keri’at HaTorah so that an Israelite may receive an aliya in place of the Kohen.  The Bet Yosef derives from this custom the rule that those who break their fast by eating should not receive an aliya on fast days.
            The Bach disagrees.  He contends that even should a person eat on a fast day, he still is halachicly permitted to receive an aliya.  His logic is that the presence of ten Jews who actually fast in the synagogue generates an obligation upon the congregation at large to read the special Keri’at HaTorah for fast days.  This obligation is incumbent upon everyone in the synagogue, including  those who do not fast.  The Bach concludes that the common custom is not to grant an aliya to one who eats on a fast day.  Yet, should such a Kohen be called to the Torah (b’d’’iavad) based on the argument expressed, it is permissible (Tur, Orech Chayyim 566; see Bet Tosef and Bach).
            Should the fast day occur on Monday or Thursday, then the Mishneh Berurah rules,
a Kohen who ate may receive an aliya for Shacharit.  The reason is that on such days there is a communal obligation to read the Torah in the morning.  Even though on fast days the portion read is altered to signal the fast, the basic obligation to have a Tora reading in the synagogue is still operational.  All Jews in the synagogue have such an obligation, even those who do not fast.  Though some Sages do not agree with this logic, there is a consensus that should a Kohen who ate be called to the Tora during Shacharit, he may accept the aliya (Mishna Berura, citing the Magen Avraham, Orech Chayyim 566:19).
            What about an aliya for a non-faster at Mincha?  The Mishna Berurah notes divergent positions, yet favors the stringent practices.  He says that those who contend that a person who ate should not receive an aliya believe that should such a person recite the Birkat HaTora at Mincha, it would be an unwarranted Beracha (beracha levatala).  Accordingly, if a Kohen has eaten, on Tisha B’Av, for example, he should leave the synagogue so that he would not be called to the Tora.  The Mishna Berura concludes that if the Kohen is a talmid chacham who, due to sickness or error, ate on the fast day and is ashamed to publicly indicate that he is not fasting, such a person may rely on the lenient position and accept an aliya for Mincha (Mishna Berurah, Orech Chayyim 566:21).
The Aruch HaShulchan rules that all the limitations restricting an aliya to a Kohen who ate on a fast day relate to non-official communal fast days.  On a day like Tisha B’Av, all may receive an aliya, whether such a person actually fasts or not.  The rationale is that on official fast days the community is obligated to hear the Keri’at HaTorah (Orech Chayyim 566:11 – This position appears to be based on the logic of the Bach).
The Chatam Sofer relates that one year, due to illness, he ate on Tisha B’Av.  The concern was whether he was permitted to receive an aliya at Mincha.  He noteed that, based upon the position of the Bach, he should have no qualms about having an aliya. In addition, the Chatam Sofer presented a logical argument to support his position.  He reasoned that even if a person broke his fast, such a person still is required to observe a number of Tisha B’Av customs.  He may not shower or bathe.  He refrains from anointment with soothing oils.  This suggests that even should a person break the fast, such a person observes a variety of other Tisha B’Av stringencies.  Accordingly, he may certainly receive an aliya since he is not rejecting all the obligations of the day.  He is still observing Tisha B’Av.  The Chatam Sofer concluded that he consulted with great decisors of Halacha and they all agreed with his ruling (Responsa Chatam Sofer, Orech Chayyim 157).
As such, rabbis in their senior years or those sick may receive aliyot on Tisha B’Av even should they not fast.

Best Regards,

Friday 12 July 2013

Israeli Chief Rabbinate Election

«First, the rabbinate. Israel has two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi, the other Sephardi, elected for ten-year terms by a public council composed ostensibly (very ostensibly) of representatives of a wide swath of the public. How did this arrangement come to be?

The Chief Rabbinate was created in 1921, during the years of the British Mandate. Following established colonial practice and building on both the Ottoman system and traditional post-Napoleonic European practice, the British wanted a body to which they could farm out things like religion, charities and domestic relations. The Zionists wanted a respectable religious leadership to represent them in public and give religious sanction to their revolutionary enterprise.»
Mud-Slinging for the Sake of Heaven: Religion and Politics in Today's Israel - Yehudah Mirsky - The American Interest Magazine

Best Regards,

Thursday 11 July 2013

Huffington Post: How to Know You're Right While Thinking You Could Be Wrong

In my latest blog on Huffington Post-Canada, I deal with the apparent contradiction in my last two postings. In the first one, I promote the value of doubt. In the second one, I promote the value of surety. How can one have both?

My original title for the post, btw, was 'Balancing Surety and Doubt' but it was changed by the editors.

Please see, "Between Surety and Doubt."

Please feel free to comment here or there.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

'Get' Detective: Meet the Elusive, Intrepid P.I. Who Frees Chained Jewish Women

He's the expert who specializes in finding 'disappeared' husbands—men who leave their wives without Jewish divorces, or hope
«He got in the car and beamed at me. "So, now you're going to see what I'm up against here," he said. "I've really entered the lion's den." He spoke English flawlessly, with a strange accent not incompatible with nativity in some English-speaking country. His Hebrew and Yiddish were equally flawless.»
Get Detective

Best Regards,

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High?

«Breeding for Brains:

"Our Rabbis teach, Let a man sell all that he has and marry the daughter of a learned man. If he cannot find the daughter of a learned man, let him marry the daughter of one of the great men of his day. If he does not find such a one, let him marry the daughter of one of the heads of the congregation, or, failing this, the daughter of a charity collector, or even the daughter of a schoolmaster; but let him not marry the daughter of an illiterate man, for the unlearned are an abomination, as also their wives and their daughters."   P'sachim, fol. 49, col. 2.

Judaic texts like the one above emphasize repeatedly that knowledge and intelligence are supreme virtues, with ignorance the grossest liability.  Following this dictum, the Jews enhanced their gene pool for smartnesss. In A History of the Jews, author Paul Johnson notes that, "among the Jews the most intelligent people have always been very valued and sought after as husbands, so they procreate and spread their good genes." Charles Murray observed another matchmaking tendency, when he notes that "by marrying the children of scholars to the children of successful merchants, Jews were in effect joining those selected for abstract reasoning ability with those selected for practical intelligence."

Meanwhile, Catholics were marrying for "class" reasons, angling for blue-blood aristocrat gains that had no link to intelligence.  Physical strength and valor was also desired, via brave knights on the battlefield - this exaltation of brawn over brains likewise did nothing to advance that religion's collective IQ.»
Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High? -

Best Regards,

9Av Poll

Which expresses your innermost feelings about Tisha B'Av[TbA] the best?
1. TbA is about the Hurban, period. While we commemorate and observe other tragedies,
to me they're just a distraction from our central purpose, namely to wail the loss of
the Mikdash.  [Music: Im Eshkocheich...]

2. Since TbA is about ALL of our tragedies, it's high time we remember the more 
recent ones such as the Holocaust and put those older events into the background 
where they belong.  [Music the Partisan song, Or Oyfn Pripitchik...] 
3. TbA should be about introspection. Forget about mourning! I make it a day of 
Teshuvah. I just sit in the corner, take stock of myself and do my own Tikkun  
Hanefesh. I rebuild the Mikdash in my own heart [music: Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh...] 
4. We survived the Holocaust. We established Israel. We've mourned too much already.
It's about time to leave the Kinnot in Sheimot and instead to look forward towards 
Moshiach and G'ulah. Let's stop "wallowing in our misery".  [Music: Techezeknah 
y'dai kol acheinu...] 

FYI: All-Day Tisha B'av Live Webcast with Rabbi Dr. Jacob J Schacter and Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb

Tisha Bav webcast header
Join us for a
special live Tisha B'av Webcast
July 16, 2013 * Tisha B'av 5773
Available to view online
and on your mobile devices

Best Regards,

Resolving the Agunah Problem II

Ep. 63 Current Jewish Questions 10 - Solutions to the Agunah Problem

In this mega-podcast, Rabbi Yuter surveys some of contemporary solutions to the Agunah problem and discusses their merits, limitations, and flaws in light of Jewish law, history, and social politics.

Best Regards,

Tuesday 9 July 2013

On Following a Poseik

Does anyone here, or anyone you know, follow a single, given Poseik 100% of the time?

Best Regards,

Meat and Wine during the "9 Days" Season

There is a Wide and Valid range of Minhaggim on this

The SA O"Ch 551:9 mentions 3
[Note: I'm reversing the order]

1. From 17th Tammuz on - "The 3 Weeks"

2. From Rosh Hodesh Av.
"The 9 Days" with Rosh Hodesh itself a subject of dispute with regard to eating

3. Shavu'a Shehol bo Tisha b'Av.

4. [Which is not in the SA] is to follow the Mishnah - Minhag Teiman - where the only prohibition is during the s'udah mafseketh.

The rationale for the Minhaggim seems intuitively obvious

1. Batlu Tamid v'Niskeihem

2. Mishenichnas Av M'ma'atin b'Simchah, and Ein Simcha Ela b'Vossor v'Yayin

3. Matches most other Talmudic and S'phardic strictures

4. Dina diGmara.

B'er HaGolah #5-7
Bei'ur HaGra #41-43
M"B #59

Best Regards,

Monday 8 July 2013

LIcense and Fair Use of Internet Material

Waiver — Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.

Public Domain — Where the work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license.

Other Rights — In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
Your fair dealing or fair use rights, or other applicable copyright exceptions and limitations;
The author's moral rights;
Rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.

Notice — For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page.

Best Regards,

Defining the Rabbi's Role

«The Rav Speaks (p. 189 n. 6):
If the position of the Rav [community rabbi] were connected solely with halachah, Din Torah and the spreading of Torah knowledge, then the halachah that one may not appoint a leader without first consulting the community would not apply. Rabbinic appointment would in that case be in the category of the appointment of a Sanhedrin or a Judge, which is effected from above…
If, however, the Rabbinate finds expression in socio-political functions (care for general welfare, kindness, charity, representation and the like), then he is not only a Moreh Hora'ah and Dayyan but also a leader and his appointment requires the sanction of the community. It is unnecessary to stress that the history of the Rabbinate endorses the second definition. The Rav has never been only the Moreh Tzedek, but also the faithful shepherd of his flock…»
«R. Samson Raphael Hirsch describes the following primary tasks of a rabbi in a letter to a student:
• Fearless devotion
• Studying Torah
• Dedicated leader
• Role model
• Education of children»
Hirhurim - Torah Musings » A Rabbi's Role

Best Regards,

Are American Hareidim Sympatico with Israeli Hareidim?

«Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett, Dov Lipman may be the messengers and they bear the brunt of the personal attacks being leveled against them by the Charedi world's spokesmen. But let us ignore who the messengers are and listen to the message. The current social and economic situation of the Charedi society in Israel is no longer tenable. There is a limit as to how many generations can consecutively be raised in poverty without there being a breakdown in that society.
I am quite certain that there are thousands in the Charedi world who secretly desire that this cycle of poverty, unemployment and dependency be broken. I personally know many Charedim who have expressed this to me. It is time to deal with the message and ignore the messengers completely and finally.»
THE MESSENGER AND THE MESSAGE : Rabbi Wein : Jewish Destiny

Best Regards,

Sunday 7 July 2013

Basic Halachic Literacy for Students

Here is a simplified program designed for young students to help them grow in their mastery of Basic Halachah. This e-version is designed for students in Ashkenazi Yeshivot.

Grades 7 and 8 -
Complete the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch

Grades 9 and 10 -
Complete the Chayei Adam

Grades 11, 12 and 4 Years of College and/or Bet Midrash
Complete one volume of Mishnah B'rurash a year over six years.


Sephardic Students might take a different track entirely.

Here is one model:

Grades 7 and 8 - Sefer Ben Ish Chai.

Grades 9 and up should complete either -
A) Kaf Hachim
B) Yalkut Yosef.

Kol Hashoneh Halachot... 

Best Regards,

Halal Food Fraud Worries Muslim-American Community

Here is a Kosher-Halal parallel re: fraud in the industry.

Halal Food Fraud Worries Muslim-American Community

Best Regards,

Hareidism vs. Centrism VI

Re: the Issues of Abuse such as
Child Abuse
Spousal Abuse
Sexual Abuse

Centrists [at least in Democratic Societies] favour involvement with local law enforcement, and their approach is to maximize co-operation. Thus, the Jewish Community is seen as in harmony and in co-operation with the Greater Society

Hareidim tend to approach this with insularity and to avoid "Erka'ot shel Aku'm". Thus, they look to police themselves. This can backfire when they need the protection of the Police or the Courts, because they may be perceived as having burned their bridges.

It seems to me that the Hareidi approach presupposes an oppressive regime and remains an unfortunate legacy especially from Eastern Europe. Certainly under the oppressive Tsarists regimes such open co-operation was damaging and dangerous to Jewish communal survival.

Best Regards,

Friday 5 July 2013

Hassidei Ashkenaz, The "Other" Mystical School

«The leaders of the community of the Chassidei Ashkenaz movement were descended from the Kalonymos family of northern Italy, a family that had immigrated to Germany in the 10th century; and the Abun family of France, among others, according to the sacred books they wrote at the close of the 10th century. The movement was known for its strict, almost religious observance, asceticism, and its mystical doctrines. Some posit that its theology fits into the general canon of Jewish mysticism. It certainly parallels other Jewish mysticism; however in other ways it was very original. The extent of this community's effect and influence during Middle Age German Judaism has not been studied.

NB: ("Hassid" should not be mistaken for the Eastern European dynastic movement started by the Baal Shem Tov in the 18th century. »
Chassidei Ashkenaz - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Best Regards,

Nerot Shabbat in the Era of Electric Lights I - The Issues


Before Electric Lighting caught on, there were already several controversies with regard to Nerot Shabbat.

1. Does it require a b'rachah or not?

2. Since there is no nusach found in Talmud, Sh'iltot, B'Hag, and Rif, what is THE correct nusach?

3. The B'Hag asserts that lighting the candles triggers Kabbalat Shabbat by the woman of the house.

Subsequently, Ashkenazi Rishonim assigned Kabbalat Shabbat to the recitation of the B'rachah on Ner Shabbat.

This in turn created a new problem

4. Lighting BEFORE the B'rachah. Usually the B'rachah is done BEFORE the Mitzvah. And EG the Rema actually does not take sides on this issue.


Q While today's "Spiritual" Shabbat Candles lend beauty and dignity for Shabbat, they hardly serve the practical concerns of Shalom Bayit anymore. Several well placed lights, and night-lights better serve our needs to avoid obstacles or tripping and also enable us comfort whilst using the privy.

The need for Paraffin or Oil Candles has been reduced to symbolic ritual. And that is fine in and of itself, but can THAT limited role still justify a B'rachah?

Best Regards,

Thursday 4 July 2013

Bambi…and the Holocaust

«Meanwhile, one of Bambi's fans, publishing magnate Max Schuster, introduced Salten to Walt Disney, who was taken with the book and wanted to adapt it. Bambi, the film, was released in 1942. And the rest—as they say in Hollywood—is history.
Bambi…and the Holocaust | Jewniverse

Best Regards,

Sing the Fourth on the Fourth - For American Only! :-)

Previously posted: Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sing the Fourth Verse on the Fourth of July

When I was asked to give the invocations at the Hartford Memorial Day Services - I frequently used the 4th Verse of the The Star Spangled Banner as part of my speech. [FWIW I alternated this with Psalm 144]. The Veterans loved it. They found inspiration in the stirring words of Francis Scott Key. Yet, even those who were say "anti The Vietnam War" could identify with the stated sentiment that an American war must be a JUST war. I like that kind of balance. God should help us win - WHEN our cause is just.

And despite the secularists trend to remove God from the USA under an extremist vision of "Separation of Church and State", we should note that the motto of the US comes directly from this verse below. If I could create a new MINHAG I would sing this - the 4th verse - every Fourth of July. See If you agree!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Best Regards,

Reflections on the Career of Rav Dr. Norman Lamm

Reflections on the Career of Rav Dr. Norman Lamm

By Guest Blogger
Rav Dov Fischer

Rav Dr. Norman Lamm shlit"a has been a giant of our generation.  On the one hand, he assumed the Yeshiva University presidency aware that he would be compared under a microscope to his immediate predecessors, Rav Dr. Samuel Belkin, and to Rav Bernard Revel before him.  He would be scrutinized for worthiness to be at the spiritual head of an institution led by Gedolei HaTorah including HaRav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik zt"l and Rav Dovid Lifshitz zt"l, among so many others. His every public word would be scrutinized, with many to his right looking to delegitimize any syllable suggestive of modernity or secular sophistication and with those to his left ready to take umbrage at any syllable perceived to slight their theological legitimacy.  Amidst it all, he inherited the helm of an institution that was deeply, fearsomely mired in a financial nightmare that actually imperiled its continued existence.  He continually has risen to every such challenge. Through it all, he has led brilliantly, successfully, and emerged as a giant on all spheres of leadership.
I often walked on Shabbat mornings from the Columbia dorms, where I was in college, down to West 86th and Amsterdam, just to hear Rav Lamm's weekly Shabbat drashah.  In March 1981, when I was musmakh at RIETS, Rav Dr. Lamm's speech at that Chag Ha-Semikhah proved a clarion call for the holiness of fighting for the Orthodox Center.  To this day, I regard the speech he delivered that day to be among the three or four that most impacted me, altered the course of my life, and directed me on my life's journey. 
Rav Dr. Lamm has manifested courage and personal heroism at virtually every juncture of his career.  I encountered it during those college years, experienced it personally when I applied to learn at RIETS, and continue to regard with awe and amazement the elegant courage he manifests, side-by-side with the profound Torah and secular wisdom he transmits.

Best Regards,

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Koshertube: Interview with Rabbi Dov Lipman

Interview with Rabbi Dov Lipman

Quoting Beit Shammai: Embracing the Mandatory Torah Dialectic

We all know about the praise given to Beit Hillel in that they quoted Beit Shammai first (T.B. Eruvin 13b), yet what does this value really represent? I would like to offer the following understanding that I believe is very applicable to many of the issues facing the Torah world these days.

To begin, we must first recognize that any behaviour that a person undertakes can be placed in one of the following five broad halachic categories:

1) Chiyuv - one is obligated to perform this action;
2) Mitzvah - in this context, we mean a behavour that is deemed of value (and, generally, recommended) but not obligated and thus subject to the personal choice of the individual to perform;
3) Reshut - permitted;
4) Not Recommended (Menuval b'reshut haTorahI)  -- not technically prohibited but clearly deemed to be inappropriate.
5) Assur - prohibited

Rather than definite, hard markings these categories should really be seen as markings on a continuous value spectrum that we are to apply to our actions. That is to say, the force of mitzvah in category 2 may not be the same in every case; some behaviours are more recommended than others. The key is to recognize that for anything we do, we are called upon to evaluate our action in the context of this value spectrum yardstick.
Given this recognition, the call of Beit Hillel is then to recognize that there may further be differences of opinion, within the realm of Torah analysis, in regard to how an action may be so evaluated. The extreme would be the case where one may define an action as assur while another may define it as a chiyuv -- but that is only one possibility. What you actually find are distinctions across the spectrum: one saying assur, another stating that it is only not recommended but technically permitted, and yet another stating that it is even praiseworthy and recommended. Included in this recognition would also be the numbers and standing of those taking the variant sides -- who said what; what was the breakup in terms of percentage of the various positions. Even as one is to take a definite personal stand in regard to any action, the call of Beit Hillel is to recognize that one's personal decision is still made in the context of these variant views on the action.

It is the lack of recognition, let alone promotion, of this perspective that I feel is so problematic in our world today. What bothers me, for example, is when one voices an opinion, for example, from the far left -- such as it is permitted for women to get aliyot today -- as if it is an absolute, unquestioned fact. A statement may often begin, again for example, with: Everyone knows that it is really halachically permitted for women to get aliyot and that those who are against are only reflecting their chauvinistic perceptions... The halacha is presented as a clear-cut conclusion with the only possibility for deviation arising from personal bias. This is sadly,, also, often how it was taught to the one making the statement -- and this is the problem...and it exists in the right as well as the left. The depth and inherent complexity of Halacha is lost. The reality is that there are divergent opinions and any singular opinion needs to be voiced with this recognition.

The reality also is that these divergent opinions cover the gamut of the spectrum of the halachic value spectrum presented above. The world of Halacha is not black-and-white, simply permitted or not permitted. The call to recognize the view of the other side must furthermore be coupled with the recognition of halachic complexity. Defining something as, in the words of Ramban -- menuval b'rshut haTorah, disgusting while technically permitted -- is also a valid halachic description of a behaviour and must be recognized as such within any dialogue on the subject. It is a reflection of the Divine complexity of the system.

What is further lost with the rejection of this complexity is the inherent dialectic demanded by the system. We are to be involved in a dialectic of sophisticated investigation of issues and concepts. This is, in my belief, part of the very nature of the Divine system for with the possibility of divergent conclusions, the possibility of a full investigation of ideas may arise. This can only emerge if viewpoints are then not seen with dogmatic blinders of: This is right; this is wrong, It is when I recognize that others have concluded differently than me in regard to various issues, that I can consider the true nature of life. In our world, all we sadly see -- from the right to left -- is dogmatic presentations of a monolithic halacha that embarrasses, to say the least, the whole system. That is the challenge of the day.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Understanding the Agunah Problem I

R Josh Yuter:
Ep. 62 Current Jewish Questions 9 - Understanding the Aguna Problem

* * * * *

In the first of a two part class on Agunot, Rabbi Yuter discusses the primary halakhic texts for the agunah problem.

Best Regards,

Tuesday 2 July 2013

JVO: The Conflict Involving the Women of the Wall

Jewish Values Online ( 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 dominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe and Nishma's Founding Director, Rabbi Hecht, both serve as Orthodox members of their Panel of Scholars.

This post continues this series on the Nishmablog that features responses on JVO by one of our two Nishma Scholars who are on this panel. This week's presentation is to one of the questions to which Rabbi Hecht responded.

* * * * *
Question: Are extremists on both sides (left and right) of the Woman of the Wall ordeal going too far to push their agendas? It seems like most Israelis would prefer peace and unity when it comes to personal praying at the Kotel.

Rabbi Benjamin Hecht's answer

To fully understand the nature of your question, it may be worthwhile to consider it within a different context that would thereby open up to you the full dimension of the issue. As I am presently reading a book on the American Civil War, let us use slavery as this example. There were people on both sides of the issue of slavery who were willing to go to war over this issue. You could ask the same question in that regard: were the extremists on both sides, in that case, going too far to push their agendas? You could also state, in this regard, that there were people– perhaps, even, a majority of the nation at the time -- who preferred peace and unity. How would that realization then affect how you would look at the two sides of the conflict in that case?
As modern individuals who find slavery to be abhorrent, it is difficult for us to comprehend how individuals -- who in other respects would be fully ethical and moral -- could possibly take a stand to go to war to defend the institution of slavery. We can understand, though, how individuals would be willing to undertake such a battle to end it. Even though such a war would shatter the peace and unity of the country, we can understand how individuals could be so bothered by slavery that they would be willing to enter into such a war in order to destroy this oppression. It is this realization of a passion of an issue that we have to also consider in addressing this issue of the Women of the Wall in Israel. The issue is not slavery and, thank God, the concern is not war. What we still have to recognize, though, is that for individuals on both sides of the issue there is much passion in their viewpoints. The question, thus, is how are we to look at these variant passions especially since a third passion for peace and unity may be thereby also challenged. From the example of slavery, though, we do learn that peace and unity may not always be the overriding value in the eyes of all.
To further and properly address this issue in Israel, however, it is also necessary to correctly define what the issue is and, thereby, the source of the differing passions. In this regard, to describe this battle as being over personal praying at the Kotel would be, in my opinion, incorrect. The Kotel is more than a place of personal prayer; it is a significant national landmark. As such, what happens at the Kotel reflects the communal nature of the Jewish People. This is doubly so because the Kotel is also a place of communal prayer. It is a place, a significant place, where we can come together as a Jewish community in prayer. Viewed in this manner, we can begin to understand the basis of the passion of both sides in this conflict. The issue is how we see the very nature of a Jewish community, specifically, in this case, in how we are to come together as a community in prayer. Defining the nature of the Jewish community, indeed, is a matter that could generate much passion.
This is the real nature of the conflict – and viewed in this manner, one can see why both sides have great passion in their position. As an Orthodox Rabbi, it should be clear that I would favour a more traditional view of the nature of Jewish communal prayer and, thus, in regard to this actual issue itself, would lean towards the more traditional stand. That, however, is not really the question here. The question here actually is: given that there are variant views within the Jewish world, how are we to respond? The further complication is that, in accepting any deviation from one’s vision of what should be Jewishness, one is also thereby inherently challenging one’s very vision of what Jewishness is. If I say Jewishness is A and you say Jewishness is B, a resultant compromise of let us say A+B would actually not be Jewishness to either of us. This problem is especially so from the Orthodox perspective. Viewed in this manner, one could see how the passions of the issue could run high.
So let us re-visit your question from this perspective. Whether either side is going too far in pushing its agenda really depends on how you view the significance of the particular agenda. If you think the whole matter is a non-issue in the first place, then your view will be that what these individuals are fighting over is not so significant in the first place, so, of course, the hostility and animosity is clearly not worth it. The average secular Israeli may, actually, feel that way. If, however, you recognize that their battle is, in fact, over a significant issue, then you may perceive the sides, especially the one you favour, to simply be doing what it has to do for the sake of the greater value of Jewishness.
This, however, is where the second part of your inquiry may play an interesting role. Peace and unity as part of Jewishness are also defining Jewish values – and they, as such, have their own roles to play in the very definition of Jewishness. There are cases whereby an argument can be made to even do what may not be technically correct because to do otherwise may cause friction and the pursuit of peace and unity is also a value to be thrown into the mix. This is not to say that everything may become permitted in the name of peace and unity – in fact, this concern for peace and unity has many limitations as a force that would allow any such deviation. Yet concern for peace and unity are not just other external factors that should be considered in cases of disagreement. In this case, as we discuss the Jewish community, peace and unity are actually factors to be applied in shaping the inherent answer to this question.
This does not mean that peace and unity thereby triumphs. It does not mean that it overrides the other issues of Jewishness that more specifically dominate this issue. What it does mean, though, in the determination of communal Jewishness, we do have to consider peace and unity as factors. To use the algebraic analogy above, peace and unity could be a factor in making the answer of A+B more Jewish. It could be the call for A not to confront B or for B to accommodate A. That we consider peace and unity as a value of Jewishness in this battle over the nature of Jewishness could, indeed, result in such a declaration that fanatics on both sides may be going too far. They are fighting for Jewishness – yet Jewishness also includes a disdain for such fighting. This does not, however, mean do not fight – but recognize the inherent problem in having to fight with fellow Jews even in the advent of one’s perception of Jewishness.

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