"May your ears hear what your ears are hearing"

If you are new to my blog, I suggest you start with my introductory post, The Story of the Meturgeman

NEW EMAIL! Contact me at tzvianolick (at) meturgeman (dot) info

Location: Kochav Yaacov, Israel

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Midrash says not to kill non-Jews!

I grew up, as I'm sure you did, believing that Moshe Rabeinu was correct and justified in killing the Egyptian taskmaster.  More, we live in a time where many, many "frum" people think it's a great thing to hunt down Palestinian Arabs to kill...and too high a percentage of the rest of the frum people are silent.

Now I learn, from Rav Riskin's weekly video blog, that the Midrash says Moshe should NOT have killed the Egyptian without due process!  And that is the ultimate reason that Moshe was told to stop asking for permission to enter the land!

(Note there is some problem with the YouTube cuts away once and then a part repeats and it seems like some is missing...but ignore that and watch it anyway.)

The purpose of Midrash is to teach us a lesson from Chazal.  I don't think this one needs any additional elucidation.  But especially now, in the hopeful time after Tisha B'Av, we should pay heed to it if we want to speed the Geula.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Tisha B'Av 5777

Like last year, when I got home from shul this morning I was able to listen to the live webcast of the end of Kinot at the Yeshiva University Jerusalem Campus, with Rav Dovid Gottlieb.  One of the things he spoke about was honesty, even with non-Jews.

He quoted from the SMa"G (Sefer Mitzvot Gedolot) who said the way to end the Galut is to cling to Hashems 'signature,' which is Emet, truth, EVEN when it's technically permitted to lie (as in certain dealings with non-Jews.)  He quotes the Navi Tz'fania (3:13), "The remnant of Israel does not do iniquity or speak lies, and a deceitful tongue cannot be found in their mouths..."  He goes on to say that if we are honest in all our dealings, when the Geula comes the world will say that Hashem did justly.  On the other hand, if we are not, and at some point Hashem saves us anyway, the world will say that Hashem chose for His portion thieves and liars.

The SMa"G also quotes that the reason for the mabul is chamas, which is robbery and violence.  On the other side, he quotes one of the stories from Chazal about non-Jews praising Hashem because Jews were honest with them.  (Rav Gottlieb added the most well-known one, of Shimon ben Shetach and the donkey with the jewel.)

The emphasis of Tisha B'Av, as I have repeated over and over, is that we have no one to blame but ourselves.  The answer is t'shuva...not davening longer or making sure to supersize your k'zayit of matza on Pesach, but bein adam l'chavero.  And here we have a reminder...truth is the guiding light for all of us to follow.  If we can all do that, we can truly bring us closer to Mashiach.

Dishonoring the Memory of Rav Kook ZT"L

It was all over the news a little over a month ago...bowing to pressures from the Hareidi community, Prime Minister Netanyahu cancelled the agreements for a mixed-gender prayer space at the Kotel.  At the same time, a Hareidi-backed bill to give the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly on conversions was approved for consideration by the Knesset.

Both of these things are, in and of themselves, rampant examples of the sinat chinam that continues to prevent the coming of Mashiach, and therefore appropriate topics for today, Tisha B'Av.  But there was something that bothered me more, a few days later.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, A group of Rabbis from the "conservative wing of the national-religious community" wrote an open letter to Netanyahu supporting the decisions and calling them "courageous!"

The guiding light of the National Religious (or dati leumi or Religious Zionist) movement is the teachings of HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, ZT"L.

Rav Kook was an inclusionist. He worked with the Hareidim, the Dati Leumi, the non-religious, and even the vehemently anti-religious.  No, he didn't necessarily approve of some of their lifestyles...but his emphasis was on spreading Torah and bringing people closer...not pushing them away.

In fact, he was extremely upset by Hareidi exclusionism.  In the Chizuk & Idud article by Rav Yerachmiel Roness in the Parshat Pinchas issue of Torah Tidbits this year, he tells of Rav Kook's visit to America in 1924, where he met with the Aguda.  One of the American Rabbis told him that instead of outreach towards the 'blasphemous sinners', Rav Kook should emulate Pinchas...which presumably meant going around killing chalutzim.

Rav Kook got tears in his eyes and said, "Eliyahu HaNavi thought he too could be like Pinchas - did you learn from what happened to him?"  The explanation in the article, from Rav Zev Gold, is that Eliyahu felt he was all alone, like Pinchas, and in so doing he accused all B'nei Yisrael...and HaShem immediately told him to appoint Elisha as his replacement.

The actions of the Rabbanut are exclusionary, reeking with sinat chinam, and not in accordance or sometimes in direct violation of Halacha.  The statements made by them and some of their supporters against non-religious Jews are in direct violation of the principle "Af al pi she'chata, Yisrael hu."  Even though he sins, he is still a Jew.

Rav Kook would NOT approve.  And if someone who says he is a follower of Rav Kook supports those actions of the Rabbanut, they are dishonoring his memory, and they are no longer Dati Leumi in my eyes.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Peace with a Piece Missing

After having acted for the sake of Hashem to save B'nei Yisrael from themselves, Pinchas is rewarded with Hashem's "B'rit Shalom" (Covenant of Peace.) But the word "Shalom" in the Torah is broken...the letter Vav is split in two. In fact, it is the only place in the Torah where a broken letter does not render the Sefer defective. Why?
 As I have previously explainedPinchas did what he had to do.  He acted with the purest of motives to defend Hashem's honor and save B'nei Yisrael.  So at the end of the day he should feel fine, right?

I've quoted Golda Meir before: "We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours." There is something deep inside the true Yiddishe Neshama that can't stand killing no matter what the reason. If we are forced to destroy a tzelem Elokim it means we have failed in our mission to bring Hashem's word to the world.

Pinchas, grandson of Aharon HaCohen, the "Ohev Shalom v'Rodef Shalom" (Lover of Peace and Pursuer of Peace), killed two people.  He snuffed out two Divine Images. 

There is no way such a person could not have been affected by that.  It left a mark...a break, if you his soul that he had to live with for the rest of his life.  That's why the Vav in Shalom is broken.

And what was the "B'rit Shalom" that Hashem gave him?  I was trained many years ago, in the US, in CPR.  The instructor explained to us that "Good Samaritan" laws would protect us if we tried to save someone and they died.  (After we were certified, of course.)  And of course there was legally no requirement for us to start CPR if we felt we couldn't handle it.

The ONLY time (at least in the US at that time) someone who was certified could be prosecuted/sued for performing CPR was if they started...and then quit before being relieved by another rescuer or stopped by a doctor who declared the person dead (or collapsed unconscious from the effort.)  Like the silly ad, once you start, you can't stop.

Pinchas started.  He made himself a kanai.  He couldn't put down the mantle once he assumed it.  From then on, any time he saw a similar situation, he would have to grab a spear and (in the irreverent language of one of my sons when he was much younger) make a sinkabob.  And live with the consequences.

And Hashem promised him, "You will never be in that situation again."  That's the B'rit Shalom.  The reward for saving B'nei Yisrael was that he would never again have to lose a piece of his soul in that manner.  That's an incredible promise.

We live in a frum world where too many people think the answer to all our problems is killing our enemies...sometimes even Jewish ones.  (And even 2-year olds.)  We use high-minded-sounding logic mentioning Pinchas and Amalek and other incidents, trying to sound like the Torah is justifying it.  But it is not the logic of is the logic of Korach.  In most of these cases,  the killing would be murder, plain and simple.  Even in that rare case where it is justified, it is not something to glorify or look forward is something that will put a break in your soul for the rest of your life.

Friday, June 09, 2017

"Frum" Jews driving away Mashiach

I have said it before...Chazal tell us that one of the questions we will be asked after 120 years is, "Have you eagerly anticipated the Mashiach?", and I will have a hard time saying yes.

Most frum Jews believe, based on the Rabbinic interpretation of "b'ita achishena" (Yishayahu 60:22) that, sooner or later (by the year 6000 according to most views), Hashem will send us the Mashiach whether or not we deserve it.  I know at least one person, who spends his time trying to calculate Hashem's timetable for this, who says, "It's too late for achishena."  In other words, we can never be worthy and we must rely on that time that Hashem has held in reserve since the beginning.  (A very Christian attitude which I will try to discuss further in the near future.)

If all of frum Am Yisrael was busting it's collective gut to try to bring the Geula and just couldn't make it, I could believe in b'ita.  But when we thumb our collective noses at Hashem, going on destroying the world with our hateful ways, I can't believe or accept it for a minute.  It makes all of Torah a sham.

Last night in a chat group of local teenage "frum" girls, of which my daughter was a member (no longer), one of them posted that the murder in 2015 of 2-year old Palestinian Arab Ali Dawabsha was a "mitzva."

This is not the first time, and I'm it sure it won't be the last, that I have heard "frum" Jews advocating hate and genocide.  As if (you have heard this from me before, and will again) Hashem will stop punishing us for our sins if we can just get rid of the current instrument of His punishment.  It is an insult of the highest order to the intelligence of the God they claim to worship and believe in.  The reason this one hits home so hard is because of the impact it has had on a member of my family, who suddenly has been exposed to the hate that can lurk beneath the surface of seemingly good people.  Also, it grieves me at the deepest levels that my neighbors are raising their children to be steeped in such hatred.

Murdering children is not Torah. Murdering adults who are not directly implicate in a crime is not Torah.  They are the tactics of terrorists; exactly like the Arab suicide bombers who seek out innocents, especially women and children, when they explode their bombs. How can we ask the world to care about attacks against us when we are advocating the exact same behavior?

(There were specific cases...with Hashem's direct judgment that the society was so bankrupt, the evil morals so ingrained, that women and children were to be killed...Amalek is the chief example.  But as much as the haters decide that this group or that is a spiritual Amalek, the only one who can make that decision as far as taking any action is a fully constituted Sanhedrin.  Without that, if you see an Arab, say "He's Amelek!", pull out your gun and shoot him, you have just committed murder according to Halacha.)

Ironically, in the case of children, the hypocrisy is even stronger.  I usually talk mostly about p'shat, but the people we are dealing with are people who believe in the literal truth of Midrash.  And the Midrash says they're wrong.

When Avraham sent Hagar and Yishma'el away, Yishma'el was about to die in the desert.  The Midrash says the angels begged Hashem to let him die...listing all the horrible things his descendants would to to B'nei Yisrael in the future.  (Up to the time the Midrash was written; Rav Ya'akov Love has said that if Chazal knew of all the additional problems we have had up to today it would have been included in the Midrash.)

Hashem asked the angels if at that moment, "ba'asher hu sham" (B'reishit 21:17), Yishma'el was innocent or guilty, and they were forced to answer innocent.  (Teasing his brother is not a capital crime.)  So Hashem said he couldn't allow someone to die if he was innocent, no matter what may happen in the future.

Most of us, when we think of that story, think of Yishma'el as a baby or toddler at the time.  But that's wrong.  Yishmae'l was 14 when Yitzhak was he was probably 16 when they had the weaning party, after which he and his mother were sent away.  Post-Bar Mitzva age; a fully functional young and responsible adult in that society.

Hashem Himself said it was wrong to even passively allow a young adult to die for crimes he may commit in the future...and the people under discussion here say we should even kill a 2-year old just for belonging to a race some of whose members commit crimes!  Something isn't Kosher here.

When the Am HaNivchar, the Goi Kadosh, the Or LaGoyim, sinks to the level of Amalek, there is no way we can expect to be rewarded with Mashiach.  All we can expect is more difficult times, more terror attacks, until we wake up and start working in the right direction.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A tale of two yidn...and ayin hara

This Shabbat we will be reading the shorter Tochecha...and in my shul, at least, the idea of ayin hara is having a strong influence.

As I wrote several years ago, the previous Gabbai in our shul would give me the aliya because he knew I consider it an honor, not a curse.  We took it one step son, who feels as I do (at least in this matter), was visiting and asked for the aliya even though I was layning.  The Gabbai agreed, and as far as I know the Rav did not object.

Now we have a new administration in my shul.  Once again I am layning the tochecha, and once again my son is visiting and requested the aliya...and was refused. It's important, I was told, for chinuch, that the children see the unbroken tradition of the Ba'al K'riya getting the aliya.

However, I have a very strong suspicion (I have a basis for it, but I can't speak of all the evidence) that the underlying reason is a fear of ayin's 'bad luck' to be called up for that aliya, and no matter how much someone asks for it it's wrong for them to have it.

So I want to share a story with you...the story of two identical men, Reuvain and Shimon.

Before I start, I want to mention one rock-solid foundation of Jewish belief (even though some people have distorted it in the recent past.)

When Avraham argued with God to save S'dom and Amora (B'reishit 18:17-33), the conclusion is that he WON the argument...the outcome of the debate was the acknowledgement that HaShofet Kol Ha'aretz KEIN Ya'aseh Mishpat...the Judge of all the Earth WILL do Justice.  If some of Hashem's actions seem unjust to us, we just aren't seeing the whole picture.

Back to our friends.  Reuvain and Shimon were both good people, ba'alei midot and loving fathers and husbands, and very much alike in every way.

On this particular day, they were both going on trips...on identical routes, with identical cars and identical loads.  Both had a large amount of cargo tied to their roofs, with identical ropes.  And in each case, one of the ropes was starting to fray...

As they got into their cars to start the trip, they both saw the frayed rope.  Reuvain made a mental note to replace it before his next trip.  Shimon, on the other hand, thought to himself, "I hope it doesn't break."

Uh-oh.  Shimon just "opened his mouth to the Satan."  He tempted the ayin hara.  In secular terms, he invoked Murphey's law.

So does that mean that, during the trip, Shimon's rope is more likely to break?  Nonsense!  The chances are the same for both ropes...the fact that each man expressed his worries about the rope in a different manner makes no difference.  Any other conclusion leads us to the idea that there is no Justice...and I, for one, refuse to believe that.  (Other factors may influence the Divine decision on whether any ropes break, and if so, which...but not it has nothing to do with ayin hara.)

The Tochechot represent to us the millennia of suffering we have endured; and I understand how much it has hurt through the generations; so I understand the growth of the 'bad luck' mythos.  But it is anathema to a part of Hashem's word can be called an ayin hara...ESPECIALLY one that ends with the ringing reaffirmation that this is our B'rit with Hashem.

So I will take the aliya this Shabbat...and even though it is because I am the Ba'al K'riya, I will take it with pride, knowing I am honored to have a share in the signing of our Eternal contract with Hashem.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tisha B'Av addtional thoughts--5776

Each year I pick up on different parts of Eicha and the Kinot.  This year it was right near the beginning...Eicha 2:1-9.  It talks about all the things Hashem has done to destroy Tzion.  The destroyer was not Babylon...not Nebuchadnezzar...but Hashem.  Our enemies are only the tools He uses...rather than hate the tools, we should take away His reasons for using them.


I am pleased to report that this year, for the first time in many years, listening to the New York news during the Nine Days did NOT produce any Chillul Hashem stories.  Either they are too busy with local troubles, the Olympics, and those two unfit-to-be-president people that they don't have time, or there are actually less frum Jews making bad headlines.  IY"H it's the latter and will continue.


There WAS Chillul Hashem at the Kotel again on Rosh Chodesh Av, but it didn't make the international news, and, thank Hashem, no one called the Torah a "questionable object" this time.  The anti-women-of-the-wall people, intent on destroying this most evil group of women, blew whistles all through their davening.  (I guess whistles aren't as exciting to the New York press as thrown bottles and diapers.)

We all know the stories about simple shepherds who could only reach Hashem by whistling, but I don't think that's the case here.  Rather, I think that in their irrational, relentless drive to destroy an evil-that-isn't, these "anti-"s have disrespected their fellow Jews, the Kotel, and Hashem.


As I write this it is only a few more hours until Tisha B'Av is over.  As I say almost every year in one way or another, if we can get our acts together and start behaving like true Torah Jews, we can make this the last Tisha B'Av of mourning, and meet next year on Har Habayit for a Korban BBQ.

Inviting Bar Kamtza to Kinot--Tisha B'Av 5776

I mentioned this as a minor point several years ago. In our shul, and I'm sure many others, they give out an extra "kina" mourning the "churban" of the hitnakut.  This year and last they preceded it with a speaker...either someone who lived there or someone who was there at the end to provide chizuk, to give first-hand testimony of this "churban."  They ended up spending as much, or more, time on this than on the Shoah.

A Churban?  Equating Gush Katif to the destruction of the Temple?  How ridiculous is that?  Adding this to the Tisha B'av Kinot is a political act, not a religious one, and it has no place here.

It doesn't even fit the pattern of the the Hitnakut, NO JEWS DIED, and NO JEWS WERE FORCED TO LEAVE ERETZ YISRAEL.  It also wasn't our enemies that did it, but our fellow Jews, some of them frum, who believed they were doing it for the best of reasons.  (More on that shortly.)

(Disclaimer:  I had relatives who lived in the Gush Katif region and were evacuated on that day, and it took years and years for them to finally be permanently resettled, so I know how painful it was.  That does not in any way change the wrongness here.)

The Tisha B'Av davening, in addition to containing many kinot about the destruction of the Batei Mikdash, has added kinot for tragedies that befell various Jewish communities  through the Middle Ages.  Then it stops.  No more kinot were added until the ones commemorating the Shoah

It makes sense to say that other tragedies should be noted in kinot also.  But which ones?  Since those last Medieval tragedies, there have been hundreds of others in which multitudes of Jews have suffered and died.  A very minuscule and random sample include the Inquisition, the Chevron massacre of 1929, and the Pesach Seder massacre of 2002.  The list goes on and on.  Shouldn't the victims of the current intifada like Rav Miki Mark and Hallel Yaffa be remembered in a kina?

But all we can come up with to add to our lists is this one, little, thing that doesn't even fit the rules.  How sad is that?

It's worse than that.  The kina itself lament that soldiers and police were changed from "beloved brothers" to enemies.

Calling soldiers of the IDF enemies?  A Jew calling another Jew his enemy?  That's tragic.

The phrase "beloved brothers" also implies that we are talking about the frum soldiers who took part.  They, or their rabbis, decided that it was better to go along than to tear Israel apart in a civil war.  There were also frum Jews not related to the actual decisions that felt it was better to go along, and even some few that thought it might in the long run have positive effects.  And so this kina, and the inclusion of it in the Tisha B'Av davening, also seems to be yet another attack on "any Jew who disagrees with me."  (There were, in fact, at the time, public slanders and some threats made against those frum Jews who participated/supported the participation.)

There are two words for that:  Sinat Chinam.  And the perfect example of Jew against Jew that brought about tragedy is the Kamtza-Bar Kamtza story.

So we spend hours on Tisha B'Av morning lamenting the terrible things that have happened to us, and admitting (see my previous posts about the p'shat of Eicha and some of the kinot) that we are to blame, and we wrap it up by doing more of the thing that got us in trouble!  (K'tovel v'sheretz b' a person who goes into the mikva still carrying a rat. )  And tomorrow morning we'll wake up and wonder why all our kavana and sincerity hasn't brought Mashiach yet!

It makes perfect sense, if you realize that most of us have not really taken the bull by the horns and admitted, deep down to the bottom of our hearts, that we are the cause, and only by changing our attitudes can we bring the solution.

When I got home from shul I caught the tail-end of the live webcast of Kinot at the Yeshiva University Israel campus with Rav Dovid Gottlieb.  He was talking about Sinat Chinam, and he said that if you ask enough you can get Jews to admit to most other sins...maybe they broke Shabbat once, or ate treif...but never sinat chinam, because every time they hate it's for a good reason so it's not "chinam".

But usually it IS chinam...there's no problem with our fellow Jews that can't be solved without hate.  (Non-Jews, too, at least after we re-establish ourselves as a true or lagoyim and my favorite pasuk comes true.)  And only when we all come to that realization can we get out of this evil cycle and bring Mashiach.  במהרה בימינו

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tisha B'Av thoughts -- 5774 (into 5775)

I have said some of this before. It's hard for me to be extra gloomy on Tisha B'Av because I dwell on these matters all year round.  In fact, this year I found something somewhat refreshing in the words of Yirmayahu and the paytanimThey don't blame anyone but ourselves!

The biggest problem we have today in our attempts L'taken Olam b'Malchut Shakai is that it's far easier to blame everyone else for our problems.  "It's Bush/Obama/the EU/the UN's fault...they're all anti-Semites who hate us."  "It's the Arabs...kill them all and we'll be fine."  "It's the chilonim trying to destroy Torah."  "It's the government bowing to foreign pressures."  And on, and on, and on.  If we do whisper that there are problems with Sinat Chinam or anything like that, it's always "that other group." As Tom Lehrer might say, "The Chareidi hate the Dati Leumi, and the Dati Leumi hate the Chareidi, and the Belzers hate Chabadniks, and everybody hates the Jews."

Not so Yirmayahu, and not so many of the piyutim.  They admit that the punishments come because WE sinned.  This year I especially noticed this year the evening piyut "Z'chor Hashem Meh Haya Lanu."  Beginning with the forth verse, it lists point by point the various bad things that happened during the churban, and mida k'neged mida explains what sins they were punishment for.  That kind of cheshbon is exactly what we need before we can even begin to work on our problems.

Think for a minute.  Do you really think that God is stupid?  If He sent the Arabs/foreign governments/chilonim to punish us for our sins, and we go and wipe out those groups, do you really think He will say, "All right then, I'll let you off the hook this time?"

I don't think so...and I think that if we accomplish that destruction in anti-Torah ways, the next wave of punishment will be far worse.

I wrote this a year ago and was too tired from fasting to finish.  I don't remember exactly what else I wanted to say specifically, but you know what my inclination is. Suffice it to say...we can't fool Hashem...if we somehow weasel out of one of His punishments without actually fixing our evil behavior,  He will send something else.  So let's listen to the N'vi'im and the paytanim and start correcting our own mistakes; then this can be the last Tisha B'Av.

Red Mad Cow Disease

This news came in less than two weeks ago:  the Temple Institute is trying to raise $125,000 to partially cover the cost of their project to breed a Halachic Para Aduma (Red Heifer.)

What?  $125,000? I'm (almost) speechless.  Such a misguided use of money and a distortion of the idea of anticipating the Redemption.

I can understand if you find a natural-born Red Heifer that fits all the Halachic requirements, you keep it and take care of it.  Without trying to read signs and portents, there is at least a chance it was born for a higher cause than exciting all the fanatics, so you do what you can to preserve it and pray that Hashem will bring about the need for it.

But spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to breed more?  No.

Anticipating the Yeshua doesn't mean sitting around waiting.  It means working towards that end, and at the same time hoping and praying and believing that enough others are doing the same thing that at any second the balance could tip in our favor and we will hear the Shofar of Eliyahu.

What kind of work?  Helping the poor.  ($125K would do a lot of good there.)  Stopping dishonesty and hatred among the frum community, because we are the ones Hashem is judging by.  Changing our behavior so that we truly become an Or LaGoyim, and so that D'varim 4:6 comes true.

If we do all that, the Red Heifers and all the Kelim for the Mikdash will follow smoothly.  If we don't, we can breed all the cows we want, and make all the vessels we want, and nothing will come of it.

I should mention that I've had a problem with the Temple Institute for years.  Unfortunately, I no longer have exact links or articles, but I remember that during the Hitnatkut (10 years ago), someone very high up in the Institute made public remarks that were, in my opinion, very hateful towards the frum Jews who supported the frum soldiers who decided not to start a civil war and participate. They were not, obviously, the only ones making such comments, but it struck me as horribly ironic. Bayit Sheni was destroyed because of sinat chinam, and here we have people trying to build the third Mikdash while spouting the same sinat chinam! I would be horribly upset if such Kelim were used in Bayit Shlishi.

(Another side irony...I've seen the Menora they looks just like the one on Titus' Arch.  But I learned in my Yeshiva University art classes that there is evidence that the actual Menora had a 3-legged base, and the massive square base was fitted by the Romans as a travel base.  So the new Menora intended for Bayit Shlishi was partially designed by the destroyers of Bayit Sheni!)

On this Tisha B'Av, let's keep our priorities straight.  It's wonderful that we want to meet Eliyahu Hanavi with physical things prepared for the time of the Geula, but if we don't make the spiritual preparations he won't even be there to meet!

I'm still hoping for that barbecue next year.  Together we can make it happen.