Meturgeman

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Location: Kochav Yaacov, Israel

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Tisha B'Av Additional Thoughts -- 5780

This year I noticed especially the very first Kina in the evening, right after Eicha...Z'chor Hashem Meh Haya Lanu.  From the forth verse to the end, it ascribes mida k'neged mida reasons for the woes mentioned in Eicha.  I may or may not have mentioned this particular instance before (of the common theme in both Navi and Kina that we are our own worst enemy), but this time something else struck me.

Ever since (at least) a cynical, non-religious Israeli friend in the US said to me that the real verse in the Torah was 'kesef, kesef tirdof', I have thought about how p'sukim and t'filot should read according to those who seem to have the worst problem with sinat chinam.  (And I admit these musings could be accused of being sinat chinam also; I prefer to think that they are useful in pointing out how being against people we don't like and blaming our problems on them doesn't match with the literal or moral words of Tanach and T'fila.)

One of the ones I focus on is blaming all our problems on non-religous Jews and non-Jews.  For example, in Musaf on Yom Tov, instead of 'because of our sins we were driven from our land', it should read 'because of the Babylonians and Romans we were driven from our land.'  Obviously it's all their fault...we were just innocent victims.

So when I was reading this Kina, I got the same idea.  "Slave rule over us/because of the Romans...Our skin has shriveled.../because of the Babylonians...Har Tzion is desolate/because of the goyim".  You get the idea.

If Hashem, the Nevi'im, and Chaza"l say we only have ourselves to blame, don't you think we should listen?

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I just moved to a new home, in Alon Shvut.  Strange to be in a new town for two weeks and still not have set foot in the shul, but that's the time we live in.  Our street minyan sent the Alon Shvut minhag for which Kinot we would be saying this morning.  There was one there about the hitnatkut, but it was much different from the one we used in my old town, which upset me greatly.  This one was just four short verses bemoaning the lost places and praying for a return, without assigning blame and without calling it a churban.

I think if I had encountered this one first, I never would have noticed a problem.  But even though it is much milder, I still don't think it fits the pattern for the Kinot of the day, and if there are going to be modern tragedies mentioned in the Kinot there are far better candidates, as I said in my other post.  I skipped this one just like I skipped the other.

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I haven't talked about Corona here yet, but there are many aspects of it and especially the way we handle it that reflect on sinat chinam, both in the secular Israeli political world (which should be learning from us) and in the religious world.  That's all I have time for now, but I hope to write more in the future.  Meanwhile we should all try to stay healthy, so we can make it to next year's Korban BBQ on Har HaBayit.

Struggling with Sinat Chinam -- Tisha B'Av 5780

Here we are, another Tisha B'av that we're fasting instead of bringing joyous Korbanot in Bait Sh'lishi.  Why?  As I've said many a time, and as Rav Ya'akov Love succinctly puts it, "it's still broke."  We're still doing the same sin that caused the churban...sinat chinam.  Until we 'un-broke' it, nothing will change.

It's a very difficult issue to deal with.  Nearly all of us have angers and hatreds; and as I quoted from Rav Dovid Gottlieb several years ago, no one will confess to sinat chinam because they think their hatred is NOT causeless...they find good reasons for it.  (As Rav Riskin likes to quote from Freud all the time, everyone is a genius at self-deception.)

I have that problem in large measure.  When I see people who claim to be frum, who claim the status of flag bearers of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, attacking and insulting anyone they don't agree with, from other types of religious Jews through Reform and Conservative through non-religious Jews, all the way to non-Jews for whom we are supposed to be the Light, it's hard not to reciprocate with hatred, and hard not to self-justify as being legitimate.  (I'm not just talking about what I read in the news, either...myself and members of my family have been personally attacked, including insults to my Rebbe Rav Riskin and my Yeshiva, Yeshiva University, because of our 'liberal' beliefs.)

But deal with it we must, because it is THE problem preventing bi'at HaMashiach.  In this year's webcast Kinot from YU Israel, Rav Gottlieb quoted the Sefer HaChareidim who said the reason this galut is so much longer than the first is that the sin was worse.  It seems strange, because Bayit Rishon was destroyed for the 'big 3:' Avoda Zara, Gilui Arayot, and Sh'fichut Damim.  But, said the Sefer HaChareidim, sinat chinam is worse.  Just as Rabbi Akiva said V'Ahavta l'Reaicha Kamocha is the K'lal of the Torah, meaning it's worth all 613 mitzvot, therefore the opposite, sinat chinam, is like breaking all 613!  The Big 3 plus 610 more.

Sadly, it doesn't seem to be getting better.  For the second year in a row, I have seen incidents where it seems like people want to use the 3 weeks to increase the hatred.

Last year, I heard a d'rasha on the first Shabbat of the 3 weeks, redefining sinat chinam.  Apparently it really only applies to hating the Rabbis who are leading the Torah society.  So if someone like my Rebbe legitimately, without a trace of anger, and sometimes with tears in their eyes, objects to some policy of the Chief Rabbinate they are over on sinat chinam.  BUT if, for example, someone were to hate my 92-year old mother, who's not a Rabbi, because she's not as frum as they think she should be, that's OK.  I was, and still am, flabbergasted.

This year, shortly before the 3 weeks, a number of institutions (including Rav Riskin's Ohr Torah Stone), won a lawsuit in the Israeli Supreme Court to allow women to take the same tests that men do for Torah knowledge, and then be eligible for equal salaries for jobs like mashgiacha, etc.  No, no one is trying to make 'women Rabbis' in the sense of usurping men's roles.  But according to Rav Riskin, in many/most cases a woman is permitted to decide Halachic matters just like a man.  And there are many women, especially women with Chareidi Rabbis who look down on them as second-class humans, incapable of the understanding of a man, who need a woman to turn to for Halachic questions.

And just at the start of the 3 weeks, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, attacked the decision, doubted the capabilities of a woman to understand such Halachic issues, and segued into an attack on Reform Jews.

It truly pains me to mention names like this, but it was all over the news, it was an attack on people and beliefs I care about, and it was pure sinat chinam.

(In his weekly D'var Torah for Matot-Masei this year, Rav Riskin explained more of the details, and he said that the answer to Yitzhak Yosef comes directly from the g'mara on B'not Tz'lofchad.  They weren't just young ladies who lined up to ask a question, they were learning in the Bet Midrash with Moshe, and they out-argued him!  If you say women don't have the capabilities for such learning, you are contradicting the g'mara.)

So we go through another Tisha B'Av instead of the geula.  I feel very frustrated because I don't know any better way to fight this disease.  I know that the ultimate answer, as Rav Kook ZT"L, says, is ahavat chinam, but my own reach to spread that seems inadequate.  I will continue to pray that the people I respect on the right path, people like Rav Riskin, Rav Stav of Tzohar, and the rav of my new community Rav Rimon, will gain in influence and help lead the world in the right direction. Bim'heira B'Yameinu, Amen.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Bride Wore Red

(In honor of the first anniversary of my daughter Tehila Rina and בחירת לבה Ari Moshe; may they continue to be as deeply in love as they are now, and may they be Zoche to build a Bayit Ne'eman B'Yisra'el.)

A number of years ago, I came home from Kinot on Tisha B'Av and commented to my family that in one of the Kinot (#22 in the standard editions), there was a reference to a Bride in a red dress.  (Sadly, the bride is mentioned as one of the many who died in the community mass suicides to prevent forced conversions during the Crusades, but that is not the reason I brought it up.)

I said to my family that obviously this shows that white wedding dresses were not necessarily a Jewish tradition.

Although lack of time and the fact that I have other even more important things to talk about keep me from mentioning it here often, one of my strong concerns is the amount of bad non-Jewish influence that has penetrated our religion for thousands of years.  I'm not talking about learning good ideas from non-Jews...the beauty of Yefet is supposed to dwell in our tents (B'reishit 9:27), but without changing the essence of our Torah philosophy.

When I talk about such things, I usually concentrate on the larger issues, such as Christian sexual ethics, the Christian view of Gan Eden and 'original sin', outright almost-paganism like caparot, Zoroastrianism like the Lilith story, and all sorts of superstitions, good luck charms, fortunetelling, ayin hara, etc.  But the more minor issues are important, too, including issues of dress.  (Why are Russian winter fur hats so important and so Kodesh, for example, that people wear them here in Israel in the blazing summer heat?)  And this includes wedding dresses.

I often speak only theoretically; as I've mentioned before I'm more of an armchair general (and not necessarily proud of it.)  But my daughter Tehila is more likely than me to take action.  When she got engaged, she decided her dress would be red.

We got some flak for it.  None of the chatan's rebbeim from his yeshiva would be M'sader Kiddushin if she wore red.  Another Rav I know told me stories about cases where people bought red cars and immediately got into accidents.  Someone else insisted that there was a long Jewish tradition, long before Queen Victoria made it the non-Jewish standard, for brides to wear white.  (The latter is definitely not true; there was an exhibit a few years back at the Israel Museum of traditional wedding dresses.  There were off-white, rich purple, red, and others.  And look at this one...it's white but with lots of gold.)

B"H, we found a wonderful M'sader Kiddushin, Rav Yehoshua Geller, who had been one of my son's teachers at Machon Lev in Jerusalem, and the chatuna was beautiful.

But I felt it was important, in light of the objections and misconceptions, to explain why there is nothing wrong with a red (wedding) dress.

"Everyone knows" that red is the color of p'ritzut and sin, right?  Wrong.  True, sometimes red, especially as it relates to blood, is associated with sin.  But I can't find anyplace in Tanach where it's associated with licentiousness...that came later.

To be clear, we are mostly talking about the color called Tola'at Shani (or just Tola'at or just Shani), which is, according to some sources, a fiery orange-red.  The ONLY place in Tanach where that color is associated with sin is in the famous pasuk, which we will say over and over again in the coming weeks in slichot, "...though your sins be like Shani they shall be whitened like snow, if they are red like Tola'at they shall be as wool." (Yeshayahu 1:18)  That relates to the blood color, as in bloodshed, since just three p'sukim earlier he said "...your hands are full of blood."  It doesn't mean red is always bad.

(There are Tola'at threads used in purifying people and houses from Tza'arat, and added to the burning of the Para Aduma.  In the latter case, it's true that Rashi relates it to the above pasuk, but in the former he relates it to the fact that tola'at is actually a worm and it is a reminder to the former sufferer of tza'arat that he must have humility like the lowly worm.)

But that's the only time.  Some other references to this color are neutral, but the first time it takes center stage, along with t'chelet and purple, is in the construction of the Mishkan, where it was in all the embroidery as well as the Bigdei Kehuna.  (One of the travel covers for the Shulchan was ONLY tola'at shani, BaMidbar 4:8)  Kind of a strange place to feature a 'sinful' color.

The next major encounter with Shani is in Yehoshua 2:18ff...the sign of the oath the spies made with Rachav was a Shani thread (or rope.)  She was considered a Tzadeket, so I don't see much sinful here.

When David HaMelech heard that Sha'ul and Yonatan were killed, he made a Kina in mourning.  One of the things he said was (Sh'muel Bet 1:24), "Daughters of Yisra'el weep over Sha'ul, who clothed you in Shani, with other delights, who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel."

M'shiach Tzidkeinu, as well as his predecessor who was also a M'shiach Hashem, thought that red was a delightful color for women to wear!  Need I say more?

But I do have one more reference from Tanach...David's son Shlomo HaMelech, in something we say every Friday night, also praises Shani.  In Eishet Chayil, one of the attributes of this righteous woman is that "...all her household are clothed in Shanim." (Mishle 31:21)  Here the main implication is not beauty, but warmth from the snow.  But if there was something wrong with red, you could use undyed wool for the same warmth; to me that implies that the red is the 'extra mile' that show her care for her family...adding beauty to the warmth.

I want to add one thing concerning Kina 22, which started this whole thing.  One of my objectors, when I was quoting the Biblical references, suggested that perhaps one of the things we stopped zecher l'churban was the wearing of colorful wedding dresses.  However, this Kina is about tragedies that happened in the late eleventh century C.E., long after the Destruction, and yet it seems like it was still a Jewish custom for a bride to wear red or other bright colors.  (Most or all of those dresses at the Israel Museum were post-Churban also.)

Finally, there is one more Kina I want to bring up.  Kina 23, the very next one, tells the story of the son and daughter of Rebbe Yishma'el the Kohen Gadol, who were purchased as slaves by two different Romans, who then decided to mate them to produce beautiful slave offspring; the two children then die weeping in each others arms.  The owner of the daughter, however, as part of the praise of his captive, describes her as dressed in ShaniRav Soloveitchik Z"tl (as quoted in the Koren Mesorat HaRav Kinot, says on this, "He recognized from her dress that she came from a prominent aristocratic family."  In other words, if you could afford beautiful clothes, at least some of them were red.

(Note that the original story in Gitin 58a doesn't mention the red dress part.  It may be in only some texts, or it could have been added by the author to the kina, which would also show it was still considered acceptable after the Churban.)

When I showed this to Rav Geller, he added one more item:
There are some Chasidic groups who are against white as they see it to be chukot hagoyim.
They usually wear an off white .
These include Tzanz and some others.

So there you have it; it is a long, proud tradition for Jewish women to wear red and other bright colors.  In a more general way, we must be very careful to understand our practices and minhagim and where they came from (not just non-Jewish influences, but even simple things like printer errors, of which there are many famous ones, and simple ignorance), and while that doesn't mean stopping them all, at least have a full understanding of how they came about and why we do them.

Happy Anniversary Tehila and Ari!



Sunday, August 11, 2019

Tisha B'Av Additional Thoughts -- 5779

I've noticed this before, but this year it struck me more strongly.  We speak about Tisha B'Av being more negative and looking at the past in the morning; while in the afternoon the mood lightens somewhat and we start to look at the future, at least for the most part.

But that's not true the the morning Torah reading, D'varim 4:25-40.  The first Aliya is indeed about punishment, but the last two are full of hope already!

Chaz"al could have given us a section of Tochecha as the layning,  but they gave us this.  I think they realized that the Tochecha would be too much.  The first Aliya is enough to remind us of the sadness of the day, and there will be more with the Haftara and the Kinot.  But in the meantime, even early in the morning, we need to remember that it takes positive action on our part, t'shuva and ahavat chinam, to bring us to a successful conclusion.

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Using koveah.org from Yeshiva University, I've added 10 p'sukim per day of Tana"ch to my learning.  It happens that I'm right in the middle of the portions of Yirmiyahu that are permitted on Tisha B'Av.  I noticed something interesting; we always talk about the destruction of the First Temple being because of Avoda Zara.  We know that's not completely true because the N'vi'im DO speak of other things, especially the oppression of the downtrodden, constantly.  But I found another source for that in my learning, Yirmiyahu 7:3-11.  Hashem gives positive advice to B'nei Yisrael how to behave, then condemns their negative behavior.  In each case, Avoda Zara is the last or the second-to-last item mentioned, after the sins bein adam l'chaveiro.

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Since I'm still working on my own Sinat Chinam and anger problems, this year, rather than get all angry and walk out for the "Kina" about the Hitnatkut that I don't like, I decided to finish up my own Kinot a little early and leave before they got to that point.  That let me hear more of the Kinot on the Web from Rav Dovid Gottlieb at YU Israel.  Although I was also in more of a hunger-induced fog than last year, making it hard to concentrate, I did come away with one insight.  From a sefer called Divrei Yisrael, he quotes a chasidic rebbe on Yosef's command to his brothers, "do not quarrel on the way."  It means (at least homiletically), not to argue 'in the paths of Chasidut.'  Up to the point where Yosef's brothers sold him, they had an argument LeShem Shama'im about the derech in which to go.  There are MULTIPLE paths in service to Hashem, and just because someone is on a different path than you, you should not put him down.  That's the point of Ahavat Chinam in a nutshell.

Notre Dame, the Rambam, the Talmud, and Sinat chinam -- Tisha B'Av 5779

One of the Kinot we read today, "Sha'ali S'rufa BaEsh," was written by the Maharam of Rothenburg in mourning for the burning of the Talmud (24 wagonloads of g'marot and other s'farim) in France in 1242.  This brought back for me the events of four months ago (April 15, 2019), when much of Notre Dame Cathedral was destroyed by flames.

Immediately, according to this article, several Charedi publications claimed that the current fire was a punishment for the 777-year old event, and/or a general punishment against Avoda Zara.  In addition, Rav Aviner was quoted in that article and this op-ed as saying he was not sad about the fire, and (this was an inference in the second article), that it is a mitzva to burn churches in Israel but we shouldn't because we'd be forced to rebuild them, which is worse.)

No.

On my way home from my first visit to Israel in 1972, when I was in the midst of t'shuva process but didn't yet know about the issur of going into churches, they 'sneaked' us out of the airport in Paris while waiting for our connecting flight and gave us a whirlwind bus tour of the city.  They broke the rules again by letting us off the bus once (we almost lost one kid who just HAD to buy genuine French bread) at Notre Dame.  I was awed by the interior structure and the magnificent stained-glass windows, and even though I wouldn't do it again I'm glad I had the experience.

So when I heard about the fire I was horrified.  A magnificent piece of architecture that had lasted centuries was going up in smoke...it doesn't matter it's purpose, nor what happened there so long ago.

We are about to read Parhsat Va'Etchanan...right between what we read yesterday at Shabbat Mincha and what we read this morning for the Tisha B'Av layning, in D'varim 4:16-19, it says that Hashem has APPORTIONED images of animals, the sun, the moon, and the stars, to the other nations to worship.  Avoda Zara is not wrong for them!  Even if you hold the opinion that in the time of Mashiach everyone will be Jewish, we are not there yet.  And even though recognition of Hashem is one of the sheva mitzvot b'nei Noach, for non-Jews shituf (believing in multiple gods) is permitted.

So, as far as Avoda Zara is concerned, how can we say Hashem is punishing them for something He said He was allowing them to do?

Also, we don't know for sure if Christianity is Avoda Zara...there have been g'dolim on both sides of the issue from the beginning.  Until a Sanhedrin or a Navi decides clearly on that issue, it is completely forbidden to take any action against churches in Israel.

But the bigger issue is the burning of the Talmud.  Although there are references in Tana"ch that Hashem will punish future generations in some cases, and although I don't believe there has ever been a time without anti-antisemitism in France, I don't think that applies here.  We are not Hashem's CPAs to know for sure, but to me it seems like a very random and unproductive way to punish that act.

The MUCH more important issue is, why was the Talmud burned in 1242?  So far it seems like just another anti-Semitic act on the part of evil goyim.  But that's not so...we did it to ourselves...once again we are our own worst enemy and try to avoid responsibility by blaming others.

The immediate trigger to the burning was a Jew!  An Apostate Jew went to King Louis IX with claims that the Talmud was anti-Christian.  This led to the Disputation of Paris in 1240, which led to the burning in 1242.  If this Jew had not stepped in, it would not have happened.

But there's more...internal Jewish fighting (i.e., sinat chinam) 10 years earlier led to RABBIS condemning the Rambam's works to the church and ASKING the church to ban them.  In 1232 the works of the Rambam were confiscated and burned in France.  Many believe this first burning let to the second, larger disaster a decade later.  Indeed, Rabeinu Yona, one of the instigators of the Ramban burning, publicly took the blame and embarked on a pilgrimage to the Rambam's grave to ask for forgiveness.  (He never completed the trip and parts of the story may be mythical, but there is good evidence for his original public confession.)

We did it to ourselves.  Again.  Yes, the Christians were Hashem's tool for the burning, but as I have said many times, He gave them the opportunity on a silver platter.  If they went too far, He will take care of it.

If we don't do it to ourselves, our enemies can't touch us.  If/when we do, with sinat chinam, we can't stop them.  And as long as that continues, Tisha B'Av will remain a fast and not a feast.



Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Pile of Herodian Stones vs. Ahavat Yisrael

Another Tisha B'Av is here, and we're still fasting.  That means we're still doing the same sins.  And the big 'same sin' is Sinat Chinam.

The solution of Sinat Chinam is Ahavat Chinam, which is another way to say Ahavat Yisrael.  One of Rav Dovid Gottlieb's comments during this year's Kinot at YU Israel was on the subject of Ahavat Yisrael.  He spoke about the fact that some people just aren't likable, and you don't have to like them...but you still have to love them.  V'Ahavta L'reiacha Kamocha.

Even if they don't keep Torah the same way you do; even if they don't, in your view, keep Torah at all.  "Af al pi she'chata, Yisrael hu."  And especially because almost all non-frum or anti-frum Jews today fall under the din of tinok she'nishba as defined by the Rambam.

(The same applies to those on the far right against whom I rail...if your parents and your society teach you that cell phones and the Internet are evil, dati leumi people aren't really frum, and Conservative and Reform Jews aren't Jewish at all, for example, you are a right-wing tinok she'nisba.  And, as hard as it is -- and I've said often enough that I'm talking to myself here -- such people also have to be loved.)

And so we come to the soi-disant Women for the Wall.  As usual, there was a confrontation this month.  At least one member of the Women OF the Wall (WoW) was shoved.  A relative of mine, visiting from the U.S., had coffee thrown on her.

I am thankful, at least, that the incidents are no longer of interest to the international press, but I fear each month that something could happen, like a major injury or even, chas v'shalom, death, that could change that and bring back in full force the chillul HaShem aspect.  (There have been several injuries over the years that have come very close to being disabling or fatal.)  The anger level of some of the women "for" the wall leads to incitement of others...even if they themselves do nothing physical, there is never a Rosh Chodesh without some physical incident.

My young relative who was splashed with coffee is Reform; I do not agree with most of her beliefs.  But I love her not only because she is family but because she is a Jew; V'Ahavta L'reiacha Kamocha.

Whoever threw the coffee at her didn't seem to love her much.

Another aspect of this month's event was that someone arranged a van from our area for women to go.  Apparently unintentionally, the person who made a post about it just assumed, but didn't mention, that it was to help oppose WoW...the post only said it was to daven Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel.  My wife and I spoke to a couple that indeed did NOT realize the purpose of the trip, and when told, repeated back to us most of the (untrue) propaganda against WoW.

To set the record straight, these are the facts:

1)  Wow has been existence for years; most of the member are sincere, frum women WITHOUT an agenda, who just want to express their devotion by davening at the Kotel once a month.  They wear t'filin like Rashi's daughters did, and they read from the Torah, but they have heterim from Orthodox Rabbis for most or all of what they do.  There are a few who have other political motives, but that was never the main push, and all this went on peacefully, bothering no one, for years.

2)  The women "for" the wall were inspired by a man with a political agenda.  I can't say his name here for both Lashon Hara and possible libel issues, but I can tell you that my wife once tried to discuss him with one of the founders of this group and was told never to mention it publicly.  All of the problems, all of the chaos under the watchful eye of the Sh'china, have been initiated by this group at the behest of their male founder.

3)  This is not a fact but an extremely high probability.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  The women 'for' the wall broke it, and now everyone is trying to fix it.  Whether or not you have a problem with an Egalitarian section at the Kotel (I don't), it is highly likely that THERE WOULD NOT BE AN EGALITARIAN SECTION TODAY WERE IT NOT FOR THE MONTHLY FRACAS CAUSED BY THE WOMEN "FOR" THE WALL.  I fear it could be worse. Despite the power of the religion factions in the country, pushing too hard could cause an anti-religious backlash that could take the ENTIRE Kotel away from religious control.

4)  Interesting side historical fact.  During the British mandate, men and women who managed to get to the Kotel davened side-by-side without a mechitza...there are videos.

Let's step back for a moment and look at what we're fighting about.  A year or two ago I went to a lecture about the Six-Day War; the speaker pointed out that because of 2,000 years of people trying to get to the Kotel, they forgot that the main kedusha is up on Har HaBayit, which is why the government was so quick to claim the Kotel but give the top to the Muslims after the war.  Indeed, in an excellent piece in today's Jerusalem Post, A Nation Divided on Tisha BeAv, they quote Rabbi Aryeh Stern as saying that the Kotel is "the holiest place for the Jewish people."

But it's not.  It's not even part of the Beit HaMikdash.  It wasn't even there at all through most of the history of the Mikdash.  King Herod, who may or may not have been a legitimate king, had a Roman-style edifice complex.  He wanted big, fancy buildings.  So he built a big new Beit HaMikdash (the one you see in pictures of what it looked like), but to support it he first had to build a big platform to increase the size of the mountain.  The Kotel is one of the retaining walls for that big platform.

So there you have it.  Herod's wall is so important to some people that they will abandon (or rationalize away) Ahavat Yisrael to defend it.  We need to change that.  The Kotel IS important...but our fellow Jews, ALL our fellow Jews, are so much more so.  And we can't teach people we disagree with by throwing coffee (or worse) at them.  If we can't relearn that lesson, we'll go ahead and keep fasting on Tisha B'Av instead of meeting on Har HaBayit for a korban BBQ.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Right Idea for the Wrong Reason

According to a recent article in Ynet News, a group called the Almagor Terror Victims Association has petitioned the Israeli government to separate Jewish victims of Arab terrorism and Arab victims of Jewish terrorism in any official memorials.  They want separate memorial lists, "one including all those killed in terror attacks whose aims were 'persecuting Israel' and another for people killed for nationalistic purposes by Jews."

The implication is, of course, that the Arab terrorists are far, far worse because they act out of Antisemitism or simply pure Evil, while the Jewish terrorists are still on the side of the "good guys" but have merely been pushed over the edge by witnessing all the terror and trying to find some means to stop it, so the latter should have a higher level of memorialization.

NO.

If I were to speak of any well-known American criminal case...perhaps an African-American who murdered a white man, or a Hollywood producer who sexually molested the actresses working for him...and find excuses for the criminal's behavior...anything from "he grew up in poverty and was abused as a child" to "everyone else was doing it so he didn't realize it was wrong," the same people who come up with fantastic excuses for Jewish terrorists would be all over me, calling me an evil Leftist Liberal.  After all, they did the crime.  They should have overcome their base instincts and resisted the urges to do wrong.

But they use those SAME types of arguments in defending Jewish terrorist/murderers.  I have been hearing this at least as far back as the 1994 massacre by Baruch Goldstein in Hevron.  As a doctor, they say, he was sickened by seeing what the victims looked like when he treated them; so he finally broke.  And/or, the conspiracy theorists say, he was acting to stop an eminent attack that was being planned, with weapons that were right there in the Mosque.  So don't condemn him.  (I'm not even counting the ones who still praise him.)

Those are all excuses...the same type that 'leftists' are accused of using all the time.  Murder is murder.  Terror is terror.  Taking the law into your own hands is wrong 99.9% of the time.  (Don't quote Pinchas at me...the Halachot of a Kana'i are very strict, and the moral requirements in the eyes of God even stricter, as I've spoken about before.  I doubt a single one of these modern Jewish terrorists can fit that mold.)

The truth is the opposite of what this group is asking for.  By the definition of the Torah, Jewish terrorists are far worse than Antisemitic terrorists.

When an enemy attacks a Jew, he is doing so because God sold us out to him (D'varim 32:30.)  Hashem sends our enemies to attack us because we deserve it.  If we don't deserve it, they can't touch us.  Even Amalek...Amalek only comes because of the one-two punch of sins BY US Bein Adam LaMakom (Rashi on Shmot 17:8) and Bein Adam L'chavero (Rashi on D'varim 25:17.)

Yes, they will be punished for hurting the Jews; and also, according to Chaz"al, for going overboard in doing what Hashem sent them to do.  But how can they resist when Hashem makes them such a tempting offer?

Especially because, what is the ONLY thing that can teach the non-Jewish world not to behave that way?  US.  WE are supposed to be the Or LaGoyim.  We are supposed to set the example.  If our example is to act worse than animals (because animals kill from instinct, not hatred), what can we expect from our pupils?  Hatred, terror, death.  Nothing else.

Whereas WE and ONLY WE are supposed to know better.  (I never did a full piece on this, but look at Amos 3:2 and tell me that's not what it means.)  We are supposed to rise above our emotions and proceed according to Halacha.  We are not supposed to succumb to mob violence, assigning guilt by association, or gruesome murder.  (Yes there are times, like Amalek, where an entire nation needs to be wiped out...but it takes a Navi or a Sanhedrin to determine that...not our own personal prejudices.)

So a Jewish terrorist...especially a "frum" Jewish terrorist, is far worse than an antisemitic terrorist.  He is a sign of our failure to follow Hashem, and an invitation to Hashem to invite MORE of our enemies to attack us.  And their victims deserve a GREATER level of memorialization.

I've been told that my opinion is dangerous because it feeds into the Palestinian propaganda that they are the victims (all of the time) and so it shouldn't be aired.  All I can say is so be it...if we even occasionally make some Arabs into victims of those among us who act this way, we have to suffer the consequences.  But those consequences don't come from my blog post...they come from Hashem.

I am not trying to minimize the deep hurt of the families of Jewish victims of Arab terror and their desire to see it stopped.  (And despite what I am saying, that Hashem is sending them against us, we still have to keep exerting our own efforts to catch and punish the perpetrators and prevent future attacks; but only in a Halachic manner, not by aping the non-Jewish perversion of 'an eye for an eye.')  But neither do I minimize the deep hurt of Arab families who have lost family members that did nothing wrong themselves.  In addition, it reinforces what they've been taught that it's the Jews who are the evil murderers, increasing the likelihood of additional attacks.

Remember, according to Chaza"l, one of the reasons for the number of times we blow Shofar on Rosh HaShana is because of the tears cried by Sis'ra's mother.  He was justly killed for his evil against the Jews, and yet we feel his mother's pain.

The only answer is to STOP praising and/or making excuses for these navalim (not even) birshut HaTorah, stop doing all the other bad things we're doing, and start acting like the Mamlechet Kohanim V'Goi Kadosh that we were told to be just before Matan Torah.  Otherwise there will continue to be (רחמנא לצלן) both more Jewish victims and more Arab victims, in a never-ending cycle.

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 video...it 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.