Wednesday 30 April 2014

Ft. Tryon's Shattered Dream

«The centerpiece was and remains an ark framed by a 20-foot mosaic arch in the shape of Moses's two tablets, a gem of midcentury design. The new sanctuary was a reminder for the congregants — many of them Holocaust survivors — that they had triumphed yet again in the diaspora.

Look away from the ark and their triumph lies in ruin.»
A Deal That Collapsed Leaves a Manhattan Synagogue in Shambles -


Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Why Fly the Flag of Israel? President Joel's Yom Ha'atzmaut Op-Ed

 originally posted 4/18/13

Re-posted here at NishmaBlog with YU President Joel's kind permission

Why Fly the Flag of Israel?
President Richard M. Joel:

 Israel Must be Seen as a Destination for Our Destiny
As often as possible, I leave the confines of my 12th-floor office and meander around the campus of Yeshiva University. I do this for many reasons, principally because I so enjoy speaking with our students and absorbing the sights and insights of our campus experience as much as they do.
But even when students tuck themselves away in their classrooms and study halls, I examine the magnificent buildings in which our students pour over their texts, both Judaic and secular. Those edifices themselves seem to speak almost as loudly as the passionate, smart and vociferous undergraduates studying within them, serving as architectural symbols of the many great institutions of learning that we Jews have built together in North America and around the world.
One particular structural feature of our campus always strikes a chord in me. Three flags, each flapping and flailing in the unremitting Washington Heights wind: The flag of Yeshiva University, the flag of the United States of America, the flag of the State of Israel. Degel Yisrael, that 65-year-old symbol of hope with its ancient Star of David affixed at its center, with thousands of years of Jewish endurance and hope enchantingly summarized in its blue and white hues.
And I ask myself: What message does that flag bear for the sprawling, growing, Diaspora-based institution over which it flies? Why fly the flag of Israel?


"Ki mitziyon tetzei Torah u'dvar Hashem Mi'Yerushalayim" - For out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the Word of God from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). Far from a hollow refrain, this sentence speaks to a metaphysical reality sensed by Jews around the world and throughout our turbulent and vulnerable history of exile; Israel has always assumed a central position, in our collective hearts and minds.
As congregations through the generations exclaimed "Next year in Jerusalem!" at the conclusion of their Yom Kippur and Passover Seder rituals, as bridegrooms stopped just short of unbridled joy to recite "Lest I forget thee, Jerusalem" under their flower-laden wedding canopies, Israel forever retained its status as the virtual homeland of the Jewish people.
And for a while, that virtual homeland had to be enough; enough to bind together a Jew from Minsk with his brother in Morocco, a Jew in Indiana with her sister in India. That legendary homeland of lore generated a sense of home amongst the perpetually and historically homeless. And the Jews had to persist with merely a virtual homeland.
And yet the yearning for an actual Jewish homeland steadily became apparent. Our landless condition left us utterly exposed to our own scattering, division, and obliteration. With the onslaught of Enlightenment, we began to lose ties that would bind us through our peoplehood, and absent a physical home, we became wanderers in every way. Not to mention the various inquisitions, pogroms, and holocausts which periodically reminded us all too clearly of our own nomadic defenselessness.
The atrocities of the Holocaust seemed to provide the very last straw, and Israel was finally established in 1948, an absolute game changer for world Jewry at large. For so many Jews - among them David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, and their generation - the existence of a modern State of Israel went from a pleasant pipe dream to an all but necessary pre-condition to Jewish survival.  Medinat Yisrael made a profound difference for the ingathering of the exiles, and with its "Right of Return", provides the promise of comfort and refuge for each and every Diaspora Jew. And more.
Israel, thankfully, has continued to thrive in ways wondrous. It has assumed its rightful place among the community of nations. It once again serves as the center of Jewish leaning and living for a Jewish renaissance based on pride and place.
In this better world, Israeli and Diaspora Jewry enjoy a symbiotic relationship, and the key is this: As it grows in population and purpose, Israel must be seen not only as a geographic refuge, but as a destination for our destiny, as a foundation which continues to anchor our lives as Jews, as it has for time immemorial. And that relationship between Israel and the rest of the Jewish world can strengthen both poles and allow Am Yisrael, the people of Israel, to fulfill its sacred mission of being a light unto the nations.
The existence and growth of Israel serves as one of the great connectors of Jewish identity, wherever those Jews may take up residence. One particularly powerful example: The Birthright-Taglit program has demonstrated that a return to the family homestead, with all its accompanying history, suddenly becomes a gateway to destiny for thousands of young women and men. In that way, Israel continues its invitation and welcome to make aliyah and return to live at home; or, its welcome to return as active members of the Jewish family, wherever they may reside.
Millennia ago, God charged the Jewish people with an everlasting destiny to matter, both in the world and to the world. Having Jews peppered throughout the world allows for the story of the Jewish people to continue to impact mankind. But the notion of "ki mitziyon teitzeh Torah" reminds us all that Jews 'round the world may only continue to partner with God in bettering the world if a growing population of Jews in Israel calls Israel their home.


On Monday, I will take yet another stroll on Yeshiva's Wilf
Manhattan campus. On that day, though, on the fifth day of Iyar, I will be joined by thousands of students and faculty as we gather together for a special program; concurrently, on Rechov Duvdevani at our Jerusalem Campus, our students and alumni will celebrate in similar fashion. We will first somberly intone the memorial service of Yom Hazikaron, in tribute to those who gave their lives for the Jewish State. But as twilight gives way to nightfall, the piercing sound of the Shofar will rouse all assembled into cheer as Israel Independence Day is joyously heralded.
And as our students march down Amsterdam Avenue waiving their blue and white, their comrades, seven time zones to the east,will arise from their slumbers to intone the Hallel blessings and march down King George Street in jubilant song and dance. And in one intensely poignant and global moment, the Jewish people will affirm once more, as generations did before them, the permanent and sacred status of Israel at the core of our collective conscience.

Richard M. Joel is president of Yeshiva University and Bravmann Family
University Professor.
This op-ed originally appeared in on April 14.

Best Regards,

Monday 28 April 2014

Yom Hashoah and Yom Ha'atzmaut

Originally published 5/7/08, 10:55 PM.

From Rabbi Davdi Wiliig of the Morasha List
A very touching story.

On Wed, May 7, 2008 at 12:13 AM, wrote:

Yom Ha'Shoa and Yom Ha'Atzmaut

Immediately following Pesach there are two holidays, which within the span of one week take the Jewish people from the agony of the holocaust to the triumph of the birth of the State of Israel. I believe that we all can understand the magnitude of the holocaust, but I think that, living sixty years after the fact, and most of us coming to consciousness after Israel was born, it is difficult for us to understand what the birth of Israel meant and still means today. One of the most astonishing books to come out of the holocaust is a multi-volume work, in rabbinic Hebrew called Questions and Answers from the Depths, a collection of responsa, questions and answers pertaining to halacha. These were written by a Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, who was in the Kovno ghetto until its liberation in 1944 and was able, after he was liberated, to gather his notes and eventually publish his five volume work. A one volume version has been published in English under the title Responsa from the Holocaust.
I would like to cite some of the questions and answers from his work.
  • Can we recite the blessing thanking God for not making us a slave?
  • Yes, because the blessing is formulated for spiritual, not physical liberty
  • Does a ghetto dwelling need a mezuzah?
  • No, because ghetto dwellings are considered temporary, like a sukkah.
  • May one build a sukkah with lumber stolen from the Germans?
  • Yes, because the Germans stole lumber from the Jews.
  • Can one say a Mi Sheberach for a non Jew? What about Kaddish?
  • In both cases the answer is yes, God allows us to pray for the worthy, Jew and non-Jew alike.
Some of the questions came from people who were not religious until they were moved into the Ghetto. A young man, a former atheist, found his religion in the ghetto and was heartbroken when the Germans cut off his left arm, because he was now unable to put on tephilin, phylacteries. Rabbi Oshry ruled that someone could help the young man put the tephilin on his right arm. The man rejoiced in being able to fulfill the mitzvah.

I cry when I read through these questions, and I ask myself how these people cared about the minutiae of Jewish Law when all around them, their friends, neighbors and family were being killed. The answer is they believed that the mitzvot were a sign of Gods love for us and to reject the mitzvot is to reject God's love. Sometimes it is up to us to reach out to God, not to abandon Him, even though it appears that He has abandoned us.

And three years after the holocaust we had the miracle of the birth of Israel. And it was a miracle. Truman overrode the opinion of General George Marshall, who threatened to resign over the recognition of Israel, as well as the Arabist State Department. Truman, came under the influence of Chaim Weizmann, (and you all know the story of how Truman's old business partner Eddie Jacobson called in all the chips of his long friendship with Truman to prevail on Truman just to see Weizmann.) Weizmann, old and blind, and being pushed out of his leadership by the young, ambitious David Ben Gurion, used all his powers of persuasion to convince Truman to vote for the partition. Once Truman decided to back partition he went over Marshall's head and put the full force of the State Department to work so make sure he was backing a winner. Various countries changed their vote, and one Foreign Minister was replaced in the days leading up to the vote as foreign aid was used as a bargaining chip to get the necessary votes.
And who would have anticipated that the antisemitic Joseph Stalin would not seize this opportunity to play the Arab card, and with this decision would go the votes of the entire Communist bloc. Had he voted against partition that would have killed all hopes for the necessary two thirds vote. And the unexpected victory of an untrained and unequipped Jewish Army (Jewish Army - that term itself seemed like a joke) over the armies of five neighboring Arab States.

I think the short time between Yom Ha'shoa and Yom Ha'atzmaut is symbolic of how rapidly God can work. We should understand this in our own lives as well. As bad as we may feel one day, with God's help they can turn around the next. As we celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut, which the Rabbi's have proclaimed to be the beginning of the process of redemption, we should continue to hope and pray to see the redemptive process unfold to its completion, speedily and in our day.

Rabbi David Willig

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

Sunday 27 April 2014

Responding to Yom Hasho'ah

Originally published 4/17/07, 2:29 PM, Eastern Daylight Time
Rabbi Ben Hecht

Recently Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, made a statement that placed the blame for the Holocaust on the advent of Reform Judaism. Since Reform Judaism emerged in Germany and Nazism emerged in Germany, Rav Eliyahu projected a link between the two that basically presented the Holocaust as a punishment for the Reform attempt to circumvent the obligations of mitzvot. The Jerusalem Post on-line edition ( quoted Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi's son, as stating, in defense of his father: "It is not a coincidence that the Holocaust began in Germany. Whenever Jews try to act like goyim, they are punished. It happened during the Spanish Inquisition, and it happened during the Holocaust."

Of course, ARZA, the Reform Movement's Zionist arm, responded in a most critical manner to Rav Eliyahu's views. Rav Eliyahu is, in fact, not the first to voice this view. Rav Shach also voiced a similar view years ago. The catalyst for Rav Eliyahu's statement would seem to be Yom Hasho'ah and the question of how we should respond to this day of rememberance and, in fact, to the Holocaust itself. Such statements as the one presented by Rav Eliyahu in fact emerge from the directive in such sources as the gemora in T.B. Brachot that when bad things occur to a person, the person should investigate his/her deeds, i.e. initiate the process of teshuva. Is this similar, though, for the nation? And how does one do this?

Indeed the many sources, in such places as the gemora in T.B. Gittin, that tie the destruction of the Temples to the sins of the Jewish People would seem to conclude that that nation as a whole should go through a similar process as the individual. As the Talmud presented causes for the Churban Hamikdash, it is not unreasonable to expect our Rabbinic leaders to also find reasons for the Holocaust in a theological sense that leads us to investigate our behaviour as Jews. Yet, I still find difficulty with Rav Eliyahu's words. It is not the attempt to find the cause within the people that bothers me -- although I also find this quite difficult a process and greatly fear the possibility of blaming the victim -- per se that bothers me. It is the answer -- almost any answer -- that concerns me more.

This process to determine the theological reason for the Holocaust is a most complex one. Almost any answer simplifies it. The call to investigate one's actions when one is confronted by tragedy is a true Talmudic call -- but it is a personal call upon the individual. It is not a call upon another to tell the person, who is suffering the tragedy, what he/she did wrong. It is a call upon me to look at myself. It is for sure not a call upon me to justify myself in the face of another's misfortune. How often I have seen people respond to tragedy, not by looking at themselves and figuring out how they can improve themselves -- although any connection between the new insight and the misfortune must be taken with some hesitation -- but by using this as an opportunity to advance their own cause. If one with whom I agree is suffering, this person is a korban, as sacrifice for the misdeeds of others. And if one with whom I disagree is suffering, the person is, in deed, being punished for his/her misdeeds. Maybe the one you think is the korban, is actually the one with the misdeeds and the one you think in acting inappropriately is the korban? We are called upon to invesigate suffering theologically -- but it cannot just be an opportunity to voice a stand that one already has.

The gemara in Brachot calls upon the individual who is suffering to consider his/her actions. I do not believe that this call is actually intended to have the individual attempt to understand God. God is beyond our understanding -- and this for sure applies to the Holocaust. Any attempt to explain is, in my opinion, an oversimplification -- of the event and of God. (I state this with due respect to Rav Eliyahu). The call to look at oneself still is the call of the gemora, not because one will find the answer but the processes of Torah demand of us to always investigate our behaviour and to recognize that there is theological cause-and-effect in this world even as we don't understand it. Yet it is a call upon us to look at ourselves, to change ourselves. In the end blaming Reform Judaism for the Holocaust, for me, is problematic for two reasons. There is the inherent problem that would accompany any theological explanation for the Holocaust. There is the additional problem that the very purpose of undertaking this impossible task is missed -- what does it say to me? What is my problem that I have to undertake to correct? What does blaming Reform Judaism accomplish? Perhaps Rav Eliyahu felt that this response will bring people back to Torah? Then I still have the general problem I would have with any explanation for the Holocaust. There must be trepidation in the very approach to this issue. But would such an explanation have any effect? The call is for one to learn and see how one can become better -- not to challenge the other.

If Yom Hasho'ah is to have meaning it must remind us never to forget the great evil of the Nazis and to maintain vigilance against rashayim, the evildoers that sadly fill the world. The gemora's call to investigate oneself does not, in any way, lesson our responsibility to attack the perpetrator and respond to evil and the evildoer. But for Yom Hasho'ah to have a fuller meaning, as does Tisha B'Av and the other fast days do, it must call upon us to do teshuva and consider how we may improve ourselves. But it must always be remembered that this process is a most complex one, that whatever we find we cannot look at as God's reason -- and, perhaps most importantly, that the process is intended to teach us how we, each one of us, can improve, not not simply be used to reinforce ourselves and our views.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Mussar: The Surprisingly Large Cost of Telling Small Lies

The Surprisingly Large Cost of Telling Small Lies -

This is a real doozy. Maybe ethics are not only virtuous, but profitable, too!
Shalom and Best Regards,

Pathos, not reason, is more and more accepted as the way to live a normal life.

~ Steve M.

Friday 25 April 2014

The Tikvah Yeshiva Fellowships

«The Tikvah Fund, in its own words, " [is]aimed at men and women who wish to influence the intellectual, religious, and political life of the Jewish people and the Jewish state." It leans heavily to classic conservative thinking on political and economic issues. To help create a new generation of Jewish leadership, it organizes seminars and fellowships that bring icons of American intellectual achievement to talented Jewish participants. The current list of presenters at one of its programs includes Ruth Wisse, Yuval Levin, Walter Russell Mead (a Jonathan Rosenblum favorite!), and Elliot Abrams. Wanting to be fully inclusive, TF has tried recruiting Orthodox participants, and understood that charedi participants might have their own needs. It reached out to Rabbi Mayer Schiller and myself to help craft the special program that will run this August. (Rabbi Schiller is a rebbi at Bais Shraga in Monsey and at MTA in Manhattan, the author of one of the first books on the teshuvah movement, a former resident of New Square (he upgraded to Monsey), and the celebrated and successful coach of the MTA hockey team.)»
The Tikvah Yeshiva Fellowships – Exciting New Program | Cross-Currents

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 24 April 2014

Orthodox, Celibate, Gay and that's OK

« I am a formerly sexually active gay man who has been celibate for more than 13 years as part of my best attempt to follow halacha (Jewish law). I have a heter (permission) from my rabbi not to date, marry, or have children.
My personal story:

I started disclosing my homosexuality in college, and found good fellowship with other LGBT Jews. Soon after graduating, I wrote a widely syndicated gay history column, authored a book on the gay past, and owned the largest provider of content to the gay and lesbian press. I also taught gay history at educational institutions in San Jose, West Hollywood, and San Diego, California.

Already by age 20, I was craving better answers to my questions about homosexuality than non-traditional rabbis and Jewish leaders offered. In the 1990s, a widespread gay Jewish attitude toward Leviticus 18:22 (usually translated as "you shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman: this is an abomination") was so pathetic it seems funny today: a liberal Rabbi ... interpreted the verse to mean, essentially: "Don't have sex with a man as with a woman. Have sex with a man as with a man!"»
Orthodox, celibate, gay and that's OK | David Benkof | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 20 April 2014

Hallayla Hazzeh Kulanu M'subbin
Kol Tuv,

The Rav's K'zayit

«I remember the Rav showing us in Shiur the size of a k"zayit using a machine made Matzah.  He held the Matzah and without breaking it said it would be about a third.  He gave no specific quantity or weight, just used the term "about" which makes sense based on the term K'zayit. 

Chag Sameach,

Stu Grant »

Similarly, Rav Weiss at YU implied to us that we should not measure but use a "T'vi'at Ayin" to determine the proper shiur.

Kol Tuv,

Friday 18 April 2014

How a Gentile Converted to Judaism Because of the Sale of Chometz

«The rov responded, "That is fine, but not now. Wait another two days until after the holiday. In the meantime, tell me what happened. What made you decide to convert?"

The gentile related: "My wife is Jewish. When she saw that the chometz was being sold to me, she said, 'My dear husband, all the Jews are selling you their chometz, but what about me? I, too, am Jewish, and I, too, have chometz to sell to you.' I told her that the entire sale is fictitious; do I have the money to buy all the chometz? Surely the Jews don't really want to sell the chometz; they are just making up stories as if the chometz is actually sold. The proof will be if I go to their house and ask for the chometz. Will they give it to me?

"My wife told me, 'They will definitely give it to you! I am certain that they are selling it wholeheartedly. If you go to this one on Pesach and ask for a bottle of whiskey, he will give it to you.' I told her, 'There's no way! I will test them and see what comes of it!'

"I knocked on the first house, certain that I would disprove my wife and show her that she was mistaken, but I received what I asked for without any hesitation. The same thing happened at the second house and the third and all the houses after that. I knocked on ten houses and asked for something, and they all gave it to me. I said to myself," the gentile finished his story, "that a nation such as this that is ready to sell its belongings and everything it has in order to fulfill the directive of the Creator…well, let's just say that I want to belong to this nation!"»
How a Gentile Converted to Judaism Because of the Sale of Chometz » - The Online Voice of Torah Jewry

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 17 April 2014

Hashkafah: R'galim and Shabbat

On the Shalosh R'galim, we are like guests at Hashem's "Palace" in Jerusalem, where Hashem acts as Our King - Malkeinu

On Shabbat, Hashem kivyachol visits us as an honored Guest and acts as our Father, Avinu.

~ Based upon the teachings of the Rav, R Yosef Dov Soloveichik Z"L

Kol Tuv,

The Kuzari and the Rambam

by Guest Blogger
Rav David Joseph Mescheloff
- - - - -

1 - The relationship of the thought of R' Yehuda Halevy and the Rambam is an old, fascinating topic.  To my taste, much of what has been written about it in academic circles in the past is woefully shallow and distorted.
2 - There are definite, very clear-cut parallels between some of the things they wrote (for example, what the Rambam writes in the Mishneh Torah about joy as an essential part of 'avodat hashem seems almost a verbatim quote from the Kuzari).
3 - However, a really top notch analysis of the relationship between the two and their thought appeared recently in a book by Rav Yitzhak Shilat, that compares the two systematically and comprehensively, point by point, basing what he says on what they actually wrote and not on some predetermined mental image of them  (as if Rambam were a pure rationalist and R' Yehuda Halevy a spiritual romantic).  This is an excellent presentation of the issue, and I highly recommend it»
Below, please find a review by Rav Yoel Katan, the editor of HaMaayan, on Rav Shilat's work.
בין הכוזרי לרמב"ם. לימוד משווה. מאת יצחק שילת. ירושלים, הוצאת שילת – מעלה אדומים, תשע"א. רפו עמ'. (
שמו של הרב שילת נודע כאשר הוציא לאור מהדורות חדשות, מתוקנות ומבוארות, ברובן מתורגמות מחדש מערבית, של איגרותיו של הרמב"ם והקדמותיו. לפני כשנתיים הוציא לאור גם תרגום חדש של ספר הכוזרי, כחלק מכוונתו להשוות את משנותיהם של שני גדולי אומתנו – ריה"ל והרמב"ם. בספר זה נשלמת כוונתו; יש בו מבוא וי"ד פרקים שעוסקים בדיוק בענין זה – תיאור דרכיהם הדומות והשונות של ריה"ל והרמב"ם בענייני אמונה, שלמות האדם, סגולת ישראל, טבע ונס, מטרותיהן וטעמיהן של המצוות, הרחקת הגשמות, היחס לארץ ישראל, גלות וגאולה, בחירה חופשית, תורה שבעל-פה, היחס לקראוּת, לנצרות, לאיסלם, לפילוסופיה ועוד. הרב שילת נותן לקורא לשפוט את הדברים: הוא מסדר לפניו ציטוטים נבחרים מכתבי שני הגדולים האלו, והמילים מדברות בעד עצמן. כך בסוגיית יחסם לארץ ישראל, שממבט ראשון נראות גישותיהם שונות בתכלית: הרמב"ם הרי אף לא מונה את ישוב הארץ כמצות עשה, והריה"ל לעומתו ממקם את ארץ ישראל כמרכז היהדות וחיי היהודי! אולם הרב שילת מוכיח ומשכנע שההבדל בגישותיהם בענין זה קשור להבדל הקיים ביניהם ביחס לסגולת עם ישראל: אצל מחבר הכוזרי סגולת ישראל היא תכונה טבעית-תורשתית ולכן הוא מייחס גם לארץ ישראל תכונה טבעית מקבילה, שהרי הענין האלוקי הוטבע כבר באדם הראשון ובהתאם הוטבעה בארץ ישראל התכונה המתאימה לענין האלוקי; אולם לדעת הרמב"ם התכונות המיוחדות של עם ישראל הן תוצאה של הבחירה שבחר ה' בישראל במעמד הר סיני, וכך מעלתה של הארץ היא שהיא יועדה להיות ארצו של עם ה', אך אין בה תוכן טבעי שונה. הרב שילת דוחה בתקיפות את הדעה שריה"ל 'קיצוני' ותקיף ביחסו לארץ ישראל והרמב"ם יותר 'מתון', ולדעתו השאלה ההלכתית בדבר חובת כיבוש הארץ ומחיר ההחזקה בה אינה נוגעת כלל לתפיסותיהם הרוחניות של בעל הכוזרי והרמב"ם. בס"ה בולטת הקרבה הגדולה בין שני אישים גדולים אלו, הרבה יותר מאשר הקווים המבדילים שביניהם. אמנם נכון שלרמב"ם צלם האלוקים של האדם הוא בשכלו, ובו תלויים ערכיו, אמונתו ודבקותו בה', ולדעת ריה"ל חוויית נוכחות ה' היא עיקר מהותו של 'הענין האלוקי' ושל האיש הישראלי הנושא אותו. הרבה יותר מזה נמצא בספר חשוב זה על י"ד פרקיו; זהו ספר חובה לכל המעונין להתעמק בבסיסה של מחשבת ישראל, בעזרת הבנה מדוייקת של יסודות מחשבתם של שניים מגדוליה.»
ישיבת שעלבים - המעין

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 13 April 2014

SOY Shiurim for Matzah

R Gil Student:

«Here is a link to Rav Mordechai Willig's essay on minimum shiur for
matzah (also published in the recent edition of the SOY Haggadah)

His conclusion:
1/5 of a hand shmurah matzah
2/5 of a machine matzah
is a kezayit,
to be doubled for 2 kezeitim. »

Kol Tuv,

Moriah School Responds to Tuition Crisis

«It's how the school has decided to face harsh economic realities: The cost of Jewish day school tuition has increased 100 percent in the past 12 years, while incomes have only gone up 38 percent. It is probably an understatement to say that the majority of local families have been significantly challenged when faced with their tuition bill.

"No challenge facing the Orthodox community today is greater than tuition affordability. Providing our children with the quality education they need is becoming difficult for a wide swath of our community," said Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, mara d'asra of Englewood's Congregation Ahavath Torah. "Creative solutions are thus necessary to ensure the availability of day school education to those already in the system, and to provide it for those who might wish to enroll but have hesitated due to cost," he said.»
Moriah Launches New Tuition Program for Next Year

Kol Tuv,

Friday 11 April 2014

Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet - Jacob Birnbaum -2

From Guest Blogger
Rav Dov Fischer

«I knew him very well in the 1970s, at the height of the Soviet Jewry movement.  He was one of the most righteous souls I ever met.  Together with Glen Richter, the work he did was of historic proportions.  What began as a unique fight for freedom in the annals of history would ultimately, through Divine hashgachah, achieve not only the freedom of millions of Jews, but also would lead to a change in the face of Israel and to the downfall of the Soviet Union.  
The numbers of Jews who would emigrate to Israel over the next half century would change the demographic balance that assured permanent retention of Judea and Samria, even as it contributed to enhancing Israel's place as a world technological power.  At the same time, it showed people in Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Baltics, and the rest of the U.S.S.R. that the Soviet Union's repressive power could be broken.  With the subsequent confluence of great anti-Soviet leadership from three determined non-Jews in the 1980s — Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II — the downfall was completed.
But Yaakov Birnbaum began it all.  And through it all, there never was a kinder, gentler, humbler, more dignified and sweet human being. In later years, he sustained phsyical setbacks in his health.  Millions — Jews, non-Jews — owe a real part of their freedom to him.  He was that great.
~ Dov Fischer»

Jacob Birnbaum
Y'hee Zichro Baruch

Shalom and Best Regards,

Pathos, not reason, is more and more accepted as the way to live a normal life.

~ Steve M.

Huffington Post: Morality and God

 A new Pew Report questions the relationship between morality and belief in God. The real question, though, is how one understands morality or, phrased differently, how a person develops and applies the yardstick that he/she defines as morality. Further on this, please see my new Huffington Post article: Morality and God.

We invite you to either comment here or on the Huffington Post site.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet - Jacob Birnbaum

Pini Dunner:
«Yesterday, we lost a genuine Jewish hero. Jacob Birnbaum, who passed away at the age of 87, emerged during the 1960s when he founded an organization called the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, or SSSJ, as it was known. He was not a communal grandee, or a remote figure at the head of a polished organization that supported good work. He was a grass-roots activist who made a real difference.

The timing, in some way, couldn't be more poignant.»

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 10 April 2014

This Covers it All

My Chavrutah lived in Israel for about a decade,

He once told me that one year, several days before Pesach, he witnessed a fellow putting aluminum foil over the steering wheel, dashboard, etc. in his car, just as "shtick".

By the next morning, such covering became ubiquitous throughout his Yishuv. And now you know, the rest of the story.

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Hesped Mar

Rav Seichel, the Rosh Yeshivah of Torah and Common Sense, and author of the most important commentary on Cheilek Hamishi of the Shulchan Aruch, was finally Niftar.

Following the passings of R Mosheh Feinstein, R YD Soloveichik, R SZ Auerbach, and finally Hacham Ovadyah Yosef, Aleihem Hashalom, he had been getting progressively more infirm. The impending Passover season was the Makkeh B'Patish, especially when heard that Zli had been forbidden throughout Hodesh Nissan.

His passing will probably not be noted much, because those that frequently consulted him were all gone already, and frankly he's largely been ignored for quite a while. Nevertheless, some throwbacks will nostalgically long for the good old days when his influence in Jewish Life was paramount

Y'hee Zichro Baruch!

Kol Tuv,

Was Rav Hildesheimer A Centrist?

«Was Rav Hildesheimer A Centrist?
However, I have found an earlier reference to Centrist Orthodoxy. Scholars of modern Hungarian Judaism point to a three-fold division of Orthodoxy in the 1860′s. There were the Ultra-Orthodox, of which R. Hillel Lichtenstein and R. Chaim Sofer (the Machaneh Chaim) were two of the leaders. There were the Traditional Orthodox, led by R. Moshe Schick and R. Avraham Binyamin Sofer (the Kesav Sofer) among others. And there were the Neo-Orthodox, led primarily by R. Azriel Hildesheimer.2 By the end of the decade, R. Hildesheimer had left Hungary for Berlin, where he would found a rabbinic seminary based on the principles of what we would now call "Torah U-Madda."

In Germany, R. Hildesheimer was not just a leading Torah educator but also a halakhic decisor. His published responsa cover all four sections of the Shulchan Arukh. ...»
Was Rav Hildesheimer A Centrist? | Torah Musings

Kol Tuv,

Monday 7 April 2014

Shabbat Hagadol: How can an Am Ha'aretz lead a Seder and not Know Hallel?

The Tosefta on P'sachim [Pischa] states that after one leads the Seder, if he cannot do Hallel, then they met in public at shul and said Hallel as a K'hillah.
My question:
How can who is someone too ignorant to recite Hallel, successfully lead a Seder?

And this dilemma had bothered me for many years.

Then, via Hashgachah p'ratit [after all I am a mashgi'ach] I heard R David Halivni [RDWH] speak during a Shabbat Hagadol D'rashah as follows.

Why was the passage of Arami Oveid Avi [and its Midroshim] chosen for the core of the Seder? After all many other Torah passages relate the Exodus, some of them more robustly?

Answer: every farmer [peasant?] knew how to recite Arami Oveid Avi. After all they had to recite the vidduy when bringing bikkurim and so it was something they had to learn. Following Sh'ma, it was probably the best known passage among Amei Ha'aretz in Ancient Israel.

This approach answers my question, too

Namely -
How can an Am Hakaretz lead a Seder and not Know Hallel?

Answer: every farmer [peasant?] new how to recite Arami Avi due to the Vidduy of Bikkurim. Following Sh'ma, it was the probably the best known passage among Amei Ha'aretz in Ancient Israel. OTOH, Hallel might not have been so well-known, because they just followed along in shul, etc. They did not need to recite for themselves.

This explains the Tosefta's case which is otherwise a bit obscure.

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 6 April 2014

Trying to Perpetuate Both Traditions

והאידנא דאיכא תרי יומי עבדינן כתרוייהו

We see from this passage in M'gillah that when possible, the Halachah engineers fulfilling both Traditions, although sometimes on alternate occasions.
And so I believe that while Leining Ki Teitzei, if need be we can do Sh'vii one way and Maftir the other way to cover both Zeicher / Zecher.

תלמוד בבלי -
מסכת מגילה פרק ד
דף לא,א גמרא  ת"ר בפסח קורין בפרשת מועדות ומפטירין בפסח (יהושוע ה) גלגל והאידנא דאיכא תרי יומי יומא קמא בפסח גלגל ולמחר בפסח (מלכים ב כג) יאשיהו ושאר ימות הפסח מלקט וקורא מענינו של פסח מאי היא אמר רב פפא מאפ"ו סימן יום טוב האחרון של פסח קורין (שמות יג) ויהי בשלח ומפטירין (שמואל ב כב) וידבר דוד ולמחר (דברים טו) כל הבכור ומפטירין (ישעיהו י) עוד היום אמר אביי והאידנא נהוג עלמא למיקרי משך תורא קדש בכספא פסל במדברא שלח בוכרא בעצרת (דברים טז) שבעה שבועות ומפטירין (חבקוק ג) בחבקוק אחרים אומרים (שמות יט) בחדש השלישי ומפטירין (יחזקאל א) במרכבה והאידנא דאיכא תרי יומי עבדינן כתרוייהו ואיפכא בראש השנה (במדבר כט) בחדש השביעי ומפטירין (ירמיהו לא) הבן יקיר לי אפרים ויש אומרים (בראשית כא) וה' פקד את שרה ומפטירין (שמואל א ב) בחנה והאידנא דאיכא תרי יומי יומא קמא כיש אומרים למחר (בראשית כב) והאלהים נסה את אברהם ומפטירין הבן יקיר ביוה"כ קורין (ויקרא טז) אחרי מות ומפטירין (ישעיהו נז) כי כה אמר רם ונשא ובמנחה קורין בעריות ומפטירין ביונה

יו"ט הראשון של חג קורין בפרשת מועדות שבתורת כהנים ומפטירין (זכריה יד) הנה יום בא לה' והאידנא דאיכא תרי יומי למחר מיקרא ה"נ קרינן אפטורי מאי מפטירין (מלכים א ח) ויקהלו אל המלך שלמה ושאר כל ימות החג קורין בקרבנות החג יו"ט האחרון קורין כל הבכור מצות וחוקים ובכור ומפטירין (מלכים א ט) ויהי ככלות שלמה למחר קורין וזאת הברכה ומפטירין (מלכים א ח) ויעמד שלמה אמר רב הונא אמר רב שבת שחל להיות בחולו של מועד בין בפסח בין בסוכות מקרא קרינן (שמות לג) ראה אתה אפטורי בפסח (יחזקאל לז) העצמות היבשות ובסוכות (יחזקאל לח) ביום בא גוג בחנוכה בנשיאים ומפטירין (זכריה ג) בנרות דזכריה ואי מיקלעי שתי שבתות קמייתא בנרות דזכריה בתרייתא (מלכים א ז) בנרות שלמה בפורים (שמות יז) ויבא עמלק בראשי חדשים (במדבר כח) ובראשי חדשיכם ראש חדש שחל להיות בשבת מפטירין (ישעיהו סו) והיה מדי חדש בחדשו חל להיות באחד בשבת מאתמול מפטירין (שמואל א כ) ויאמר לו יהונתן מחר חדש...

Kol Tuv,

Friday 4 April 2014

Maimonides Resource Page

«Maimonides Page
Some years ago, Immanuel O'Levy posted his own translation of the first book of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, the Code of Jewish Law: the Book of Knowledge. It is a fundamental work of Jewish philosophy by one of the greatest thinkers in Jewish history. I have not seen this posted elsewhere, but his disclaimer permits it to be reposted. Here it is:»

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 3 April 2014

Bentley of Matzah--Handmade is always better.


Kol Tuv,

Lishmah In Machine Made Matzos - 2

«Rabbi Shlomo Kluger, along with several prominent hassidic rebbes, vociferously argued against this innovation, contending that its automation prevented any "mental" intent for performing a mitzva. They also claimed that the machines would destroy the livelihood of many laborers, who additionally provided better assurances of kashrut quality control. Prominent defenders of the innovation, led by Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson, contended that the "intent" requirement only mandated consciousness of the mitzva, but did not necessitate physical involvement (koah gavra), and that in any case, humans started the process and maintained physical contact with the matza.»
Is there a between hand-made and machine-made matza? | JPost | Israel News

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Lishmah In Machine Made Matzos

Handmade versus Machine-Made Matza at the Seder | Peninei Halachah
«R. Zvi Pesaĥ Frank, cited in Mikra'ei Kodesh 2:3, states that since gentiles and children are intelligent, a supervising Jew cannot supply proper intent on their behalf while they knead. A machine, on the other hand, has no intelligence, so the intent of the Jew operating the machine is effective. » 
Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Does a Self-Cleaning Oven Satisfy Libbun Gamur? - 4

Response from the "Webbe Rebbe" from the OU

«Dear Rabbi Wolpoe,

Thank you for contacting the OU.

Yes, even grates placed in the oven will get kashered. The self clean cycle usually lasts between 2-4 hours this is long enough that we can assume that everything put in the oven will get hot enough. This is a kashering for treif and for Pesach. Metal begins to glow at about 400 C and already at 500 C is quite visible.

400 C -- 752 F-- Red heat, visible in the dark

474 C -- 885 F-- Red heat, visible in the twilight

525 C -- 975 F-- Red heat, visible in the daylight

Note: valid for Passover 2014 only»

I could not have said it better.

Kol Tuv,

Cong. Shomrei Torah of Fair Lawn, NJ Passover Guides

Cong. Shomrei Torah of Fair Lawn, NJ is about 2 Blocks from where I work. It is headed by its founding Rabbi, Rabbi Benjamin Yudin, who is one of YU's leading Rebbes.

Preparing for Pesach

Pesach Guide 5774

Bedikat Chametz FAQ 5774
Shalom and Best Regards,

Pathos, not reason, is more and more accepted as the way to live a normal life.

~ Steve M.