Friday 26 August 2016

Israel’s Odd Couple By Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

From RRW

Israel’s Odd Couple
By Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz
“Launching the new organization (United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism) was not an easy task. Many of the ideological issues that would later beset the Conservative movement were discussed emotionally at the founding meeting. Schechter, Adler, and some of their foremost colleagues on the faculty of the Seminary preferred to view the new organization as an “Orthodox-Conservative Union” whose major mandate would be to stem the persistent tide of Reform Judaism...Conservative Judaism originated in the conviction that the earlier Reform Jewish movement had simply gone too far in its efforts to accommodate modern Judaism to the visible models of Christian church society.” (Quoted from an article by Herbert Rosenblum entitled Conservative Judaism, The Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987).
In Israel, in recent times, we have seen a bonding between the Conservative and Reform movements in an effort to combat the claimed “stranglehold” of Orthodoxy on religion and the Jewish State. Recently, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that both these movements under their own auspices could utilize government mikvehs for conversion.  To combat this decision, legislation dubbed the Gafni Bill is being floated in the Knesset. What I find astounding about the situation is the fact that Reform Judaism does not require a Bet Din or immersion in a mikveh for conversion!
In the late 19th century, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the official body of American Reform rabbis, formally resolved to permit the admission of converts "without any initiatory rite, ceremony, or observance whatsoever." (CCAR Yearbook 3 (1893), 73–95; American Reform Responsa (ARR), no. 68, at 236–237.). This resolution has been reviewed by many Reform rabbis yet remains the official policy of Reform Judaism. (See - CCAR Responsa "Circumcision for an Eight-Year-Old Convert" 5756.13 and Solomon Freehof, Reform Responsa for Our Time, no. 15.) That’s right - Reform Judaism requires neither a Bet Din nor immersion in a mikveh for conversion!
What makes this issue even more astounding is the following responsa of the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards:
This paper was adopted on October 27, 1982 by a vote of 10-2-3. Members voting in favor: Rabbis David M. Feldman, David H. Lincoln, David Novak, Mayer E. Rabinowitz, Barry S. Rosen, Joel Roth, Morris M. Shapiro, Harry Z. Sky, Henry A. Sosland and Alan J. Yuter. Members voting in opposition: Rabbis Kassel Abelson and Israel N. Silverman. Members abstaining: Rabbis Ben Zion Bokser, Salamon Faber and Edward M. Gershfield.
CONCLUSION I find no cogent basis in halakhah for accepting, even ex post facto, converts who did not undergo specific tevilah for the sake of conversion, unless it can be shown that they are strictly observant Jews, particularly scrupulous in the use of a mikvah. The fact that they may have been taken to be Jews by themselves or by others does not change the need for tevilah for the sake of conversion. The fact that most of these conversions have been conducted under Reform auspices makes the matter especially difficult because of the cordial relationships which exist between Conservative and Reform rabbis and lay people. Nevertheless, this halakhic requirement is not meant as a public rebuff to the Reform movement. If a Reform rabbi conducts giyyur kehalakhah, I accept his converts as bona fide Jews. I might also add that I do not accept the converts of non-Reform rabbis if the conversion was not conducted according to objective halakhic criteria. These objective halakhic criteria, which alone protect the purity of Jewish identity, should not be compromised in the interests of an ultimately meaningless Jewish unity. However, rabbinical experience has taught me that a Conservative rabbi can exercise compassionate tact in urging proper tevilah in these cases. I do not tell such converts that their conversions are invalid, but rather, that they were incomplete, for even the most liberal conversion involves study, thus minimally fulfilling hoda'at mitzvot. I tell them that they inadvertently overlooked an important specific. At the tevilah I ask them to reconfirm their kabbalat ol malkhut shamayim and kabbalat ol shel mitzvot. In the overwhelming majority of these cases, the converts have thanked me for helping them to legally assure their unambiguous Jewish identity. One of the most famous converts in Jewish history was the king of the Khazars, who converted to Judaism in the seventh century C.E. along with his whole nation. At the very beginning of R. Judah HaLevi's theological masterwork, Kuzari, where the king is one of the two main characters in the dialogue, the initial motivation for his ultimate conversion to Judaism is seen as his response to a troubling dream. In the dream an angel tells him, "Your intention is acceptable to the Creator, but your action is not." When the king learns about Judaism and its practices from a rabbi he seeks out, he is able to remove this contradiction in his life by conversion. Along the lines of HaLevi's dramatization, I would say that anyone who refuses to rectify his or her halakhically invalid conversion has thereby shown that he or she never intended to accept the Torah anyway. Conversely, a true ger tzedek should welcome the opportunity to consummate once and for all what was his or her true intention from the beginning, to make both intention and practice truly consistent.”
Conservative Judaism was, by its very founding, a rejection of Reform Judaism, and as its most famous expositor, Solomon Schechter, understood it was “to stem the persistent tide of Reform Judaism.” According to the above responsa, Conservative Judaism does not accept conversions done by the Reform movement. One is reminded of that oft referred to truism – What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  Surely if the Conservative movement reserves the right to reject conversions done by the Reform movement, Orthodox Judaism should enjoy the right to reject conversions done by both the Conservative and Reform.  All the more is this the situation in Israel, where together the adherents of both Conservative and Reform number less than 10% of the population in comparison to Orthodoxy, which is overwhelmingly the predominant faith of the Ashkenazic Jews, and is the faith of the Sfardic Jews. It has long been recognized as the official Judaism of the State of Israel and responsible, through the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, for a number of Jewish lifecycle events.
Perhaps when evaluating what transpires in the “religious wars” in Israel, those of us who view them from afar in the Diaspora, should consider the above. 


Sunday 21 August 2016

Inside the Hamas summer training camp for Gaza teens

From RRW

Inside the Hamas summer training camp for Gaza teens
Teenagers living in Hamas-controlled Gaza spend their summer holidays preparing for the next possible battle with their neighbours in Israel. ITV News' Middle East correspondent Geraint Vincent…
Added on 27/07/2016

Friday 19 August 2016

Intuition Explained‏

From RRW
There was a problem connecting to YouTube. This video may not exist or it may only play on YouTube. Try going to their website:
Intuition as explained here is totally rational but arrived at by an unconscious process of synthesizing a body of knowledge rather than by a conscious step by step approach
 Thus a poseik who has mastered the classic texts can make a leap of logic without necessarily being able to articulate the steps needed to arrive at his conclusion.
I have seen intuition unfairly rejected as "supernatural" lo bashamayim heed.  ‎ Intuition is usually just the case of a master in his field taking it all in in the vast subconscious mind without being able to break it down.

Lemashal, a baseball hitter is factoring in all kinds off training and experience when facing a major league pitcher who can throw a 90+ Mph fastball vs. A 75 Mph change-up etc. The vast number of steps in experience and muscle memory are perhaps too complex to explain. But years of training and experience can make a master hitter without consciously knowing the minutia.

Ideally teachers need to share their thinking process in order to train others. But sometimes Master Poskim have an intuitive knowing that transcends a step-by-step approach but is also not "supernatural" but rather a gestalt as a result of mastering vast tracts of material.

Monday 15 August 2016

Anti-tobacco movement in Nazi Germany

From RRW


From RRW
As published by the Jewish News Service - August 11, 2016

by Rafael Medoff

(Dr. Rafael Medoff is the author or editor of 16 books about Jewish history, including The Historical Dictionary of Zionism [with Chaim I. Waxman].)
Could satellite photos of a tiny island in the South China Sea affect the debate over creating a Palestinian state?

The photos, released this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, show that China is building military aircraft hangars on the disputed Spratly Islands. That violates a promise China's president made to President Obama less than a year ago, that "China does not intend to pursue militarization" of the islands.

Moreover, a United Nations tribunal ruled last month that China's claim to the Spratly Islands and other nearby territories is "unlawful." Yet the international community has taken no action against either the illegal Chinese occupation or China's militarization steps.
Israeli policymakers might want to keep an eye on these developments. Israel's leaders have said that any future Palestinian state would have to be completely demilitarized. But can Israel rely on the international community to enforce the demilitarization rules if the Palestinians violate them?
Perhaps the most infamous experiment in demilitarization involved the Rhineland, an area of western Germany along the border with France, Belgium and Holland. The Locarno Pact, signed in the aftermath of World War I, required that the Rhineland be permanently demilitarized. But when Hitler sent his troops to occupy the Rhineland in March 1936, the Locarno signatories--Britain, France, and Italy--stood idly by.

Pacifist sentiment was strong in England; treaty or no treaty, the Brits were in no mood to confront the Nazis. Lord Lothian, the veteran British diplomat, rationalized the militarization of the Rhineland as "no more than the Germans walking into their own backyard." The French, who now found themselves within shooting distance of the Wehrmacht, were not quite so sanguine about the latest developments. But with France mired in economic troubles and national elections just months away, French prime minister Albert Sarraut was unwilling to risk a costly conflict with Hitler.
The United States was not a party to the Locarno agreement, but what President Franklin Roosevelt said mattered in the world arena. In this case, he didn't say much. Determined to maintain friendly relations with Germany, FDR refrained from explicitly condemning Hitler's Rhineland action. He would not even send U.S. observers to a League of Nations discussion of German aggression. Shortly after the Rhineland crisis erupted, Roosevelt headed off for a two-week fishing trip in the Bahamas, which coincidentally helped him evade questions about the controversy.
Israelis need not to go all the way back to the 1930s for examples of how the world might respond if a Palestinian state began importing tanks or missiles. They themselves have had some bitter experience in this area in recent decades.

Abba Eban describes in his autobiography how the Nixon administration pressured Israel to accept a ceasefire in the 1970 War of Attrition, promising that Egypt would not be allowed to move its missiles close to the Suez Canal. "Within a few days of the conclusion of the cease-fire agreement," Eban writes, "our head of military intelligence…was reporting…that the Egyptians had begun to move their missiles forward as soon as the ink was dry on the agreement." Nixon's response "was evasive," Eban charitably recalls. The U.S. administration "professed not to know that the violations were taking place." No action was taken against the Egyptians.
An even more current example presents itself. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which consists of 10,506 soldiers (and 848 civilian advisers) is pledged to ensure that southern Lebanon is kept "free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area." That commitment from the international community is supposed to protect Israel's northern border. Yet Hezbollah has stationed over 100,000 missiles in that area. The missiles are aimed at Israel. And UNIFIL refrains from intervening.
All of which leaves some Israelis wondering how international promises would fare if a demilitarized Palestinian state decided to re-militarize. When push comes to shove, would world leaders decide, as FDR did, to go fishing?

Sunday 14 August 2016

Rav Soloveitchik Sings Eli Tziyon

From RRW
Rav Soloveitchik Sings Eli Tziyon
A recording from 1978 of Rav Soloveitchik זצ"ל leading his disciples in the singing of אלי ציון, at the end of ten hours of study and recitation of קינות. For those who were privileged to be there, it…
Added on 16/07/2013
Rav Soloveitchik Sings Eli Tziyon

Friday 12 August 2016

Thursday 11 August 2016

JVO Blog: Torah Advice on Responding to Negative Emotions

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 denominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe and Nishma's Founding Director, Rabbi Hecht, both serve as Orthodox members of their Panel of Scholars. Nishmablog, over the years, has also featured the responses on JVO by one of our two Nishma Scholars who are on this panel. 

Recently, the Jewish Values Online website has offered a new service -- a blog which presents comments on various topics within Judaism and the Jewish world. See Rabbi Hecht is also a blogger on this blog.

His latest post 

Torah Advice on Responding to Negative Emotions
is now available at

A link is also up on Facebook at

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Survivor of anti-Semitic stabbing in France joins elite IDF brigade‏

From RRW
Modern Political Zionism‎ was the direct result of European (particularly French) anti-Semitism.

The irony is that
The more anti-Semitic (Western) Europe becomes 
The greater justification there becomes for a Jewish State.

Monday 8 August 2016

The case against Jewish tough love

From RRW

"Their mistake was, among many other mistakes,that pursuing and trying to punish other people, claiming that you are doing it of their own good, is a morally depraved and lethally dangerous one. It is OK to be for something. It is also OK to be against something, but a moral doctrine that includes on penalizing others-for their own good- is lethally dangerous, morally depraved, and illegitimate.

Sociologists have pointed out, that the reason communists and other radical progressive revolutions have been so violent, is because of their self-image as the messengers of progress. Once a person has such a compelling belief that all that is needed for world to emerge, is that others drop their resistance, targeting others is no longer seen as an act of violence, it is an act of promoting progress."

United with Israel: The Malice of the Sound Bite

One of the problems with the internet is that anyone can write anything. It can be jab and run with no possibility of serious, thoughtful discussion. The result is a voice for anything. In regard to this, please see my latest post in the United with Israel blog at .

I am sure this will also be up on the UWI Facebook page in the near future. Please feel free to comment here or on one of the UWI sites.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 7 August 2016

Saturday 6 August 2016

A Tisha B'av Thought- Turn Away from Judgment

Originally published 8/9/11, 7:10 pm.
"Philosopher" R Micha Berger -

«As we once again face Tish'ah beAv and the consequences of our infighting, we must learn to turn away from judging the other by how much their perspective "interferes" with their serving Hashem the same way we do, and value each of the many ways we developed to follow and observe his Torah and the beauty of those who pursue them.»

The Ninth of Av, 3830 | Aspaqlaria

Hopefully our last Tisha B'Av fast!


Thursday 4 August 2016

Why border lines drawn with a ruler in WW1 still rock the Middle East

From RRW

Tisha B'Av Inspired Media‏

From RRW
 Guest Blogger R Avraham Bronstein:
If you're looking for something that hits Tisha B'Av themes more head-on, here are a few more I remember being good. Please note that I don't remember if any of these had objectionable language or content. If you want to screen these, I'd recommend pre-watching them.

Storm of Emotions (2006), about the Gaza disengagement.
(this one was VERY well done, and elicited a very emotional response)

#17 Is Anonymous (2003), about the aftermath of a 2002 bus bombing in Israel
(this is a bit procedural, but it does a good job of showing the effects of living under terror in Israel.)

HaKayitz Shel Aviya (1989), about a Holocaust survivor and her young daughter, coping with the former's increasingly deteriorating mental health in early-state Israel.

Hang Man (2010), about Eichmann's hangman turned shochet.

(this one is also very powerful, and deals directly with the possibility of faith after churban)

Life Is Strange
(I guess this is technically a Holocaust film, but it's really more focused on pre-war Europe)

Israel in a Time of Terror (Dennis Prager, during the Second Intifada)

I hope some of these are helpful.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Concise Code of Jewish Law: A Guide to the Observance of Shabbat‏

From RRW

R Appel Z"L authored the modern masterpiece The Concise Code of Jewish Law

This Sefer has recently  been updated and modernized for contemporary reads. Hilchot Shabbat is now available
 The Concise Code of Jewish Law: A Guide to the Observance of Shabbat—Revised Edition
By Rabbi Gersion Appel
Revised edition edited by Rabbi Daniel Goldstein 
OU Press, Maggid Books and Yeshiva University Press
Despite the eternal nature of halachah, each generation requires its own halachic works. Some halachic works are expansive, theoretical and appeal to the intellect, while others are more practical, to the point and answer the crying need for day-to-day guidance in proper halachic observance. The Concise Code of Jewish Law is an up-to-date work ofhalachah lema’aseh for our generation, presented, as its title suggests, in a concise and user-friendly format. (This volume on Hilchot Shabbat is the first of a projected four-volume series covering all areas of practical halachah.) The text, which loosely follows the organization of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, is accompanied by notes with more detailed examples and applications, as well as a section of Hebrew sources and references at the end of the volume.
First published a generation ago by Rabbi Gersion Appel, the work has been updated by Rabbi Daniel Goldstein in style and in substance to address new technological developments and the opinions of recentposekim. Unique among halachic works in English, Concise Code incorporates not only classic sources such as the Chayei Adam, Mishnah Berurah and Aruch Hashulchan, but a wide spectrum of the greatest posekimfrom the recent past such as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, down to the leading posekim of our own day such as Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Eliezer Melamed.
The enthusiastic haskamot of Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik and Rabbi Dovid Lifshitz to the prior edition, and of Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Rabbi Mordechai Willig to the new edition, attest to the important place Concise Code should occupy in your library. Concise Code makes a perfect text for students, as well as for all those interested in enhancing their observance of halachah and acquiring greater knowledge about the intricacies of practical halachah in our generation 
Responding to a perceived need for our generation, The Concise Code of Jewish Law is a modern and up-to-date work of halachah lema’aseh, presented in a concise and user-friendly format. The main text is an adaptation of classic sources of halachah, loosely following the order of theKitzur Shulchan Aruch, supplemented by notes which explore issues in greater depth and address a wide variety of contemporary applications of the laws.
This volume on the laws of Shabbat is part of a projected four-volume series covering all areas of practical halachah. First published a generation ago by Rabbi Gersion Appel, this edition has been updated by Rabbi Daniel Goldstein, in style as well as in substance, to address new technological developments and the opinions of recent poskim. Unique among English halachic works in its breadth of sources, Concise Code includes the halachicdecisions of classic works such as the Chayei Adam, Mishnah Berurah, andAruch Hashulchan, in addition to the rulings of the greatest poskim from the recent past, such as R. Moshe Feinstein, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and the leading poskim of our own day, such as R. Nachum Rabinovitch, R. Hershel Schachter, and R. Mordechai Willig, and many more great poskim of the past and present.
Concise Code is a perfect text for students, as well as all those interested in enhancing their observance of halachah and acquiring greater knowledge about the intricacies of practical halachah in our generation.
The Concise Code of Jewish Law achieves an impressive integration of halachah together with hashkafah and fundamentals of our faith that underlie the halachah. With an engaging style, the author presents detailed halachic material in a manner that is easily accessible. Rabbi Appel’s updating of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch to deal with halachic issues of our generation is truly admirable. Rabbi Hershel Schachter

In reviewing the first edition of Rabbi Appel’s The Concise Code of Jewish Law, I found it brimming with essential halachic information, old as well as new. I am confident that this updated edition will be a valuable aid to all who seek to be punctilious in their Shabbat observance. –Rabbi Mordechai Willig

This is a versatile masterpiece, which can serve equally well for the scholar and the novice. Of the many fine expositions of Shabbat laws currently available, Rabbi Goldstein’s revision of Rabbi Appel’s classic stands supreme.Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

Rabbi Gersion Appel broke new ground with his adaptation of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch for contemporary Jews. With great insight, he translated and updated the text for today’s concerns and gracefully condensed immense scholarship on other important cases. In this new edition, updated for the smartphone age, Rabbi Daniel Goldstein continues Rabbi Appel’s significant project. –Rabbi Gil Student 

Muhammad and the Jews‏

From RRW