Thursday, March 25, 2010
To clarify one point though, God first speaks of the slavery and hardships to Moshe, but when Moshe is on his way to Egypt and God finally tells him what to say to Pharaoh, God tells Moshe to tell Pharaoh that Israel is his first born son.
Also, I find it interesting that there are two things God tells Moshe to tell Pharaoh before Moshe gets to Egypt. The first says:
יח וְשָׁמְעוּ, לְקֹלֶךָ; וּבָאתָ אַתָּה וְזִקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל-מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם, וַאֲמַרְתֶּם אֵלָיו יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הָעִבְרִיִּים נִקְרָה עָלֵינוּ, וְעַתָּה נֵלְכָה-נָּא דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים בַּמִּדְבָּר, וְנִזְבְּחָה לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ.
referring to the Jews as "Ivrim" and then, in the verse you quote, as Israel.
To me, Ivri refers to Avraham and the fact that we're from "over there" on the other side of the river, whereas Israel refers to Jacob and our vaunted status.
Also, in the phrase "Hashem, God of the Ivrim" one could perhaps assume that Hashem is one of many Gods and just happens to be the God the Ivrim worship. In the second verse, it just uses Hashem with the implication that He is God of all.
What's also interesting is the first thing Moshe and Aharon say to Pharaoh incorporates elements of the two things into one sentence:
א וְאַחַר, בָּאוּ מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אֶל-פַּרְעֹה: כֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָה, אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שַׁלַּח אֶת-עַמִּי, וְיָחֹגּוּ לִי בַּמִּדְבָּר.
It's "Hashem, the God of" but it's "Israel", not "Ivrim" and it's "my people" not "my first born son" and it's "have a holiday" and not "sacrifice to." Note that the "Ivrim" issue is brought up in pasuk 3 in response to "Who is this Hashem?" that Pharaoh asks.
I still find it interesting that Moshe never says "my firstborn son" to Pharaoh - not even by the plague of the first born. It's really vexing.
From the above, maybe one can conclude that "my nation" is somehow parallel to "my firstborn son." Perhaps in the sense that we are God's nation because we are the first born son and thus entitled to a greater share than the other nations. I also think it has something to do with the fact that neither Yitzchak nor Yaakov were technically first borns though they acquired that status.
Another idea as I keep rambling and thinking about it is that by not letting Israel go, Pharaoh is denying the first born his rightful inheritance of becoming God's nation by receiving the Torah, so God will prevent the Egyptian first borns from receiving their rightful inheritance by killing them.
By the first statement Moshe is to make, Hashem says "King of Egypt." By the second Hashem refers to him as Pharaoh.
By the "king" comment the focus is on worship of Hashem as the God of the Ivrim, by the "pharaoh" comment the focus is on Israel as Hashem's first born child.
Seems backwards perhaps as the firstborn issue appears more relevant to a king and the worship issue appears more relevant to a pharaoh (who considered himself a god).
If time allow I will insert my comments into the post in blue...rather than padding the comment numbers.
Qedusha Havdala...Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
כב וְאָמַרְתָּ, אֶל-פַּרְעֹה: כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, בְּנִי בְכֹרִי יִשְׂרָאֵל.22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh: Thus saith the LORD: Israel is My son, My first-born.כג וָאֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ, שַׁלַּח אֶת-בְּנִי וְיַעַבְדֵנִי, וַתְּמָאֵן, לְשַׁלְּחוֹ--הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי הֹרֵג, אֶת-בִּנְךָ בְּכֹרֶךָ.23 And I have said unto thee: Let My son go, that he may serve Me; and thou hast refused to let him go. Behold, I will slay thy son, thy first-born.'-- Counterintuitively it seems as though Pharaoh’s main crime was not enslaving the Hebrews. If this were the case (and if I were G-d) then the obvious poetic justice threat ought to have been “You are unjustly enslaving the Hebrews. Liberate them or I will enslave the Egyptians”. It seems as though the evil of the slavery inhered in its capacity to impede, suppress, and even “kill” the Bekhora of the Children of Israel. Hence the midah k’neged midah = quid pro quo threat of slaying Pharaoh’s firstborn.
Let’s face it. Our contemporary sedorim are meant as surrogates of the Seder akheelas korban Pesakh= the order of consumption of the Paschal lamb. The mezuzos on our doors are stand-ins for the blood smeared door-posts and lintel of the night preceding the Exodus that protected us from the Plague of the Firstborn. Yet we seem to concentrate exclusively on freedom and fail to accord any primacy to, well, our own primacy.
In the coming days I hope to bl”n share with you my humble adaptations of what the great meforshei HaMiqra say about the passage that I cited. But in the meantime;
how do YOU understand it? What do we mean when we say that Yisrael is kavayakhol, the Bekhor of HaShem? Why is this emphasized rather than the slavery itself? How does slavery compromise primogeniture? And/or how is slavery antithetical to primogeniture?
Qedusha-Havdala...Have you had yours today??? Hmmm???
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Daylight Savings Time has legal ramifications. E.g. If I come to a bank or business at 5:45 PM and find the doors locked I can’t complain that they have some real chutzpah closing this early as it is “really” only 4:45 PM. If the night after Daylight Savings Time a child is born at 12:01 AM on the new clock that will be his/her birthday forevermore and not a day earlier on the calendar since “in actuality” they were born @ 11:01 PM the previous evening!
This power of not only calculating time but of legislating it is, properly, the exclusive domain of the יודעי בינה לעיתים = Chosen People. Per Khaza”l
ו וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם--כִּי הִוא חָכְמַתְכֶם וּבִינַתְכֶם, לְעֵינֵי הָעַמִּים: אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁמְעוּן, אֵת כָּל-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה, וְאָמְרוּ רַק עַם-חָכָם וְנָבוֹן, הַגּוֹי הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה.
6 Observe therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that, when they hear all these statutes, shall say: 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' refers to the ability of סנהדרין to establish tekufos and to "leap" months and years. In days of yore Rosh Khodesh was established by the word of Sanhedrin. In particular the סוד העיבור , the precise calculations for solar lunar intercalation, was not merely a product of Jewish genius but of Jewish transcendence and eternity as well. As an entity that descends from a Patriarch who was raised above the stars and celestial bodies we are, in a certain sense, above time and, as such, can, in a very real way, manipulate it. Most striking of all is the Yerushalmi that teaches that when Sanhedrin is meaber the year then בתוליה חוזרין if that postpones the נבעלת לאחר ג' שנים third birthday!
HaShem weeps for such expropriations of power. יז וְאִם לֹא תִשְׁמָעוּהָ, בְּמִסְתָּרִים תִּבְכֶּה-נַפְשִׁי מִפְּנֵי גֵוָה; וְדָמֹעַ תִּדְמַע וְתֵרַד עֵינִי, דִּמְעָה, כִּי נִשְׁבָּה, עֵדֶר יְהוָה.
"But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret for your pride; and mine eyes shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD'S flock is carried away captive."
So many of K’lal Yisraels assets have been co-opted by our oppressors and those vouchsafed with maintaining our Diaspora.
When one thinks of world capitals of beauty Paris and the Swiss Alps come to mind… not Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem.
The seats of intellectual brilliance and wisdom are thought to be silicone valley, Cal Tech, M.I.T and think tanks at major universities like Oxford and Stanford…not Ponovezh or Gush Etzyon (or even the Techniyon!).
The claims of moving towards a one-world-religion united to serve the One True G-d are best made by Rome, Riyadh, Tehran or Salt-Lake City.
For moral and ethical leadership we turn to South Africa, the Indian sub-continent or the American deep south.
Even the one-time ostensibly invincible IDF (at most a regional but never a world military power) has been knocked off it’s pedestal by recent setbacks.
As long as the Golus endures the Shekhina weeps for these and more in it's secret place.
מפני גאוותן של ישראל שניטלה מהם וניתנה לעכו"ם
But time is the most ephemeral and least corporeal of HaShems creations and the מקדש ישראל והזמנים ית intends for us to influence, nay control, even time. So as the Khag haMatzos is nigh I feel that Daylight Savings Time is not just an inconvenience but a party-pooper. The power the government weilds in establishing and maintaining Daylight Savings Time is a stark reminder of how our continued sins and their wages have rendered, arguably, the greatest of our powers impotent. Matza is, after all, the Mitzvah that depends on arresting time, beating time at it’s own game, to halt the spoilage process. No wonder our mystical tradition refers to it as the food of faith.
Qedusha-havdala...have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Monday, March 22, 2010
The answer may surprise you.
Qedusha-Havdala...Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Something is REALLY rotten in the state of 770 in the year of(5)770.
Caught this clip on Frum Satire and had an immediate reverse peristalsis visceral reaction.
Is this yetzur a khasid of the school that doesn't ever even touch a hair on their beards, even to trim the mustache, lest it mess with the tzinoros? Is a khasid dedicated to self-abnegation to be seen preening and grooming before mirror? (IIRC פוסקים have forbidden for a male to even LOOK in a mirror). Did he never read Holocaust tales of Jews going underground to avoid Nazis touching their beards and would go with shmattehs tied around their faces if the Nazis had? This isn't Purim! How could he, for a few dollars and 15 seconds of fame, surrender to self-parody of a hailegeh zakh? This kind of humor is what self-haters a la Woody Allen are for.
I think it was Adin Steinzaltz who said "Today Chabad Houses are like embassies and consulates of a country that has ceased to exist"
Qedusha-Havdala bein s'khok l'Kalus Rosh. Without Havdala there can be NO Qedusha!
Friday, March 19, 2010
I'm sure that within the last few days many of you fellow denizens of the timeneh treifeneh internet have seen and/or received via email the viral video featuring the latest innovation designed to make Jewish Practice easier, a do-hicky that attaches to any chair to allow for effortless הסבה at the Seder.
For me this video /product brought the relative ease of contemporary frum observance into sharp relief. What follows is a partial list of the many innovations that were not around when I was a kid (admittedly a VERY long time ago) that have made Limud HaTorah and Shemiras Hamitzvos more convenient. In no particular order:
1. Illustrated Mishnayos and pirkei Gemara (often with cartoon-like images...talk about edutainment and the Sesame-Street-azation of Yiddishkeit)
2. floating wicks
4. filigreed silver Neronim covers
5. retzuah blackening "pens" and/or "white-out"
6. pre-packaged oil neros for Chanukiyas
7. coin/bill operated turnstiles at Mikvaos
8. pristine filtered water-changed -daily mikvaos
9. clip on/off ataras for taleisim
10. florists thingamabobs for keeping aravos fresh
11. pre-packaged krishkalakh (crumbs) for bedikas khometz
12. kashering sets
13. credit cards / online cash transfers to make tzedaka donations
14. the ubiquitous kosher Pizza Shop
15. the ubiquitous kosher take-out store
16. the laminated "shiur card" for the seder
17. pre-washed/ checked romaine lettuce and other veggies
18. the crock pot
19. dedicated topic halakha l'maaseh seforim
20. artscroll and other translations annotations
21. HebrewBooks.org and other online databases
22. seforim in block letters and nikud
23. mini-seforim for travel
24. the ubiquitous Chabad House in every Yehupitz, Kasrilifkeh and Hotzenplotz for the kosher traveler
25. Whole seforim libraries on CD-rom
26. New editions of old classics with more meforshim, highlighted Rashi titles, full instead of fragmentary pesukim quotes et al
27. Bird nest locators for shiluakh haKen
28. Chabad and Aish websites
29. organized flights/ tours to kivrei Tzadikim
30. skype to see the ainiklakh in Israel
31. Misaskim to ease the pain of sitting shiva
32. hard plastic and/or zippered Lulav cases
33. V'ahl kulom, the Pesach Hotel
All of the above are apparently "good for the Jews". Products of ingenuity and creativity, they provide parnassa for the innovators /copyright /patent holders. They seem to diminish or eliminate altogether the "grunt work" associated with these spiritual endeavors affording a higher staring point for our nekudas habekhira. By making Mitzvos or Talmud Torah easier and more accessible they enhance our capacity to serve HaShem with love and joy.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
In an episode of low-tech, slow motion fisking, appearing in the organ of the Orthodox Union, the Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzyon in Alon Shvut Rav Ahron Lichtenstein has essentially panned the recently published sefer by the Rosh haYeshiva of Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, Rav Ahron Feldman . This, in spite of conciliatory make-nice זכרתי לך חסד נעוריך gestures that bookend the piece.
The sefer is titled The Eye of the Storm -A Calm View of Raging Issues . Many of the essays in this book consider topics that roil the J-Blogosphere and, as such, will no doubt provide grist for the post-mills (re: hot wind turbines) for months and possibly years to come. I have not read it. But I have read Rav Lichtensteins review and am the fool ready to rush in between two Gedolim. Not because I fancy myself a דעת מכריע but merely as a partisan of the camp/approach represented by Rav Feldman.
I find the sanctimonious tone of the entire review, and in particular the charge that anger and hatred percolates throughout Rav Feldmans book, irksome. This: "This volume and many of its components were written with considerable gusto; indeed, with no small modicum of anger–hopefully, not of the sort excoriated by Chazal and banished from the Rambam’s moral universe, but, despite the subtitle, “A Calm View of Raging Issues,” anger nonetheless." being the money quote.
My beef with Modern Orthodoxy is not merely over any particular issue of divergence between their Weltanschung and that of Kharedism but over their lack of passion. The MO ideologues have forged a Judaism that, while at times cerebral in both a traditional Torah way and in a secular academic way, lacks passion and righteous indignation. Of course Khazal tell us חכמים הזהרו בדבריכם and הוי מתונים בדין and this is particularly sage advice when leaders formulate public policy and/or address the large issues of the era, but absent the capacity for righteous indignation there is little room left for righteousness. If nothing in this very iniquitous and, as yet, unperfected pre-Messianic world moves you to fury, if the "no-justice" cannot compel you towards the disquietude of "no-peace", then you are simply under-utilizing the full complement of your middos, the hand that G-d dealt you, almost to the point of בל תשחית .
As both חכמי הלשון and בעלי מוסר have pointed out the Lashon Qodesh homograph מדה connoting both measures and character traits implies that NO character trait is intrinsically all bad but that , with the mind firmly in control of the mixing bowl, a cholent of various middos, precisely calibrated for diverse situations is what Tikun HaMidos is all about. Even anger and pride have their place in the Jews makeup.
The disputants from both sides of the Atlantic are not just highly accomplished Talmidei Khakhomim but belles-lettres who hearken back to a bygone era in American Yeshiva education. They came of age before the time when, as the eloquent-in-three-languages Rav Nachman Bulman z"l put it (I paraphrase) "The American Yeshivas are accomplishing something unprecedented in the history of pedagogy. They are producing illiterates in three languages." As such, I'm sure that Rav Feldman's turn-of-phrase to title this volume was arrived at thoughtfully and judiciously . He was positing himself as the calm center surrounded by the unsettled storm. He was communicating his confidence that the thoughts and advice informing his essays were arrived at with Yishuv HaDa'as and not in a state of prejudicial, emotional turmoil. And it is precisely this contention that Rav Lichtenstein seeks to undermine by claiming that they are nothing more than the frustrated fulminations of an angry old man (why mention that they are both over 75???) [edit @ 2:40 EST]
The Ner Yisrael Rosh haYeshiva is hardly a young hothead or garbage-receptacle-burner with too much time on his hands. He was mentored by moderate Gedolim and heads the Yeshiva generally considered to be among the most moderate, open and liberal and, dare I say, "kalt" in the Yeshivisha velt. His is a cooler head that has prevailed. Yet it is a head that is not so cool as to freeze and petrify his Jewish heart. Sight unseen I have complete confidence that if, in fact, some of the essays in his book are informed by anger that the indignation is righteous and that the anger, as is the case in all true and mature Kanous, is the obverse of the coin of Ahavas Yisrael, Ahavas haShem and Ahavas HaTorah that is the currency of Rav Feldmans spiritual value system.
Qedusha-havdala...Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
This music video seems to have been produced following the most recent Yuhrzeit of the Holy Rebbe Reb Mailikh of Lizhensk. I understand all the various Khasidic groups represented there but can someone please explain to me what the jeans wearing- srugi chapeau-ed types(starting @ 1:07) are doing there? Since when is kivrei Tzadikim and Rebbe's Yuhrzeits on their radar screens?
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I am sorry to see NB close his blog. I found it compelling, though I disagreed with much that he wrote.
I took pleasure in the dark, cramped sensibility of his blog, where there were many threats and enemies in the most unlikeliest of places.One of the images that came to my mind are the reality shows on television, where each week the weakest link gets thrown off the island.
He wrote the blog with an intense passion, on the prowl for that nekuda of heresy that would explain everything and must be rooted out at all costs; even when it involved being mean to those he might have liked as people. But for NB the blogosphere wasn't constituted by indviduals, but by representatives of hashkafos. And with haskafos that are krum and corrupt there was no choice but to engage in ideological war.Slifkin, Maryles, rationalists, Lubavitch,MO and more were all exposed for what they really were, and appropriately put in their place outside the camp of bnei torah, the truly chosen.
At his best he made the world of the European yeshivos come alive with fascinating stories and photos.He vividly conveyed twhat it means to be immersed over a lifetime in learning, the passion a ben torah has for growing deeper and deeper in his understanding of torah. These are important lessons that in our sophistication and acculturation we forget all too quickly. I, like many of his readers, will miss his blog.
Very well put.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Why he closed it is beyond me. He seems to have attracted a loyal following and engendered many heated and interesting threads. Halevai oif mir gezugt.
While we concentrated on different topics and had diverse styles I always found his blog to be an interesting read with regular khidushim and, at least as blogs go, profound insights. He, as Tzig, managed to dig up some remarkable pics seen no where else in the J-Blogosphere and some were worth more than a thousand words. I also found a kindred spirit in him trying to provide an island of Philo-Kharedism in a stormy and inhospitable ocean of anti-Kharedism.
Did firestorms of criticism drive him to close? Was he threatened? Was he "outed"? Did he just tire of writing and meeting self-imposed deadlines? Did he decide to quit a time-consuming and sometimes self-destructive bad habit cold turkey? It's all empty speculation. All I know with any certainty is that I will miss the Not-Brisk-Yeshivish Blog terribly. I hope that he reconsiders his decision to close up shop.
How much would we do to avoid a lower score on our credit rating? What if, in attempting blackmail, a hacker said to us; “With the push of a button I can drain every one of your bank accounts and change the title on all of your real estate holdings unless you _____________” how far would we go to fill in the blank? What demand on his part would it take for us to tell the hacker “I’m sorry. I can’t do that. Push the button”. What lengths would we go to in order to avoid disease? To avoid being party to an ecological disaster?
Now how about sin? To what lengths would we go to avoid it? Most of us pay lip service to Maimonides 11th principle: “I believe with a perfect faith That God gives reward to he who does the commandments of the Torah and punishes those that transgress its admonishments and warnings”. But how many of us have true yiras khet= fear of sin? And even if we are too sophisticated to imagine Divine retribution in terms of Dante- Reishis Khokhma –like boiling pitch and innumerable floggings sin is still is something we’d, sensibly, want to avoid at all costs. If "hell" means a step down a slippery slope that will ultimately rob us of our humanity, if it means an ineffable loneliness, if it means a burning humiliation without surcease, if it means alienation from all that makes both temporal life and eternity worth living, if it means the sorrowful shock of recognition that never subsides of the dissonance between our actual lives and our unfulfilled potential and if we REALLY believed any of this on a visceral level, we’d me MORE afraid of sin than if it’s wages actually were boiling pitch and innumerable floggings.
The Halakha demands that we forfeit our last penny before being ohver a lahv d’Oraysa= transgressing a Torah level garden variety negative commandment . But how many of us would be equal to the test of telling the hacker “I’m sorry. I can’t do that. Push the button” if his threat to us was “With the push of a button I can drain every one of your bank accounts and change the title on all of your real estate holdings unless you don that wool-linen jacket”
What triggered this screed was some give and take I had with JS yesterday over the relative merits and demerits of living in a society with advanced technology that minimizes hunger and disease but in which atheism and agnosticism are rampant vs. living in a a low-tech but high faith society. IMO the discussion was skewed. We were talking over each other rather than to one another. Because neither of us truly fears sin as the existential threat that it is.
Today, on some level or another, we are all green. Until we all appreciate that sin is like pushing a button that, at minimum, sets off a metaphysical Exxon Valdez type cataclysm there is no common ground upon which to conduct the debate.
Much has been made of my resistance to facts and empiricism and how it proves my cowardice. Its futile to try to defend myself against such charges. But is it too much to propose that the more we have bought into the facts on the ground the more we’ve lost sight of, and lost faith in, the facts off the ground?
In the past life was precarious. Existential threats abounded. Bad weather resulted in bad crops that resulted in financial ruin or even starvation. Infant mortality and childhood disease pandemics could wipe out whole families, floods and fires, whole cities, unanticipated volcanic eruptions, whole civilizations. In a word for most of human history the proverbial "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" life dominated. Science and Hi-tech have empowered modern man. Never before in human history has humankind as a whole and individual men and women had such self-sufficiency and control over their food supply, shelter, protection from extreme weather, avoidance of natural disasters and their own physical health and well–being as they do today.
The question is from a SPIRITUAL standpoint are we really better off?
There is a famous Torah from the Ri”m. He asks: What sort of curse was it for G-d to tell the snake וְעָפָר תֹּאכַל כָּל-יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ. = "and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life". This would seem to be a blessing rather than a curse inasmuch as the snake’s food supply is abundant, accessible and labor-free. He answered that the curse is precisely this: That being able to sustain himself on a food supply that is abundant, accessible and labor-free the snake is utterly independent of G-d. The snake can dispense with both faith and prayer. Being completely self-reliant has obviated the snakes need to be the least bit G-d-reliant.
This is my main gripe with evolutionary theory. Quite apart from all the scientific breakthroughs that it has wrought the very notion posits too many degrees of separation between man as creature and G-d as Creator. From there it is a very short jump to another form of man-/G-d alienation. From man as law-abider / fulfiller and G-d as legislator. To me it is no wonder at all that in our post-Darwinian era we consider mitzvahs to be extra credit and sin to be innocuous.
This past Shabbos when we bentsched Rosh Khodesh maybe we should have prayed for "life informed by the fear of heaven and the fear of sin" with the visceral conviction that sin equals catastrophe. And that ain't no Parseltongue.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Jewish History is chock full of pleasant surprises from unlikely sources. Our folklore teems with common men and women and, at times, even renegades, who "rose to the occasion" and drew on previously unused, and often unknown reserves of ingenuity, intuition, strength and courage to withstand tests that the "smart money" would've bet they'd have failed miserably at.
Especially for those of us weaned on "ya never know מעשיות" of Shlomo Carlebach it is an article of faith that the פינט'ע'לע איד can never be extinguished and that its power and nobility is enormous and underestimated at the peril of enemies schemes and fellow Jews שנאת חנם prejudices.
I came across one such surprise while perusing the Havdala-challenged pages of the Jewish Week. This issues lead story relates the scholarly opinion of Jack Wertheimer, a professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary, that our fellow Jews be prioritized when it comes to disbursing charitable funds.
Although this is hardly a novel idea for those who live their lives based on הלכות צדקה as described in the שלחן ערוך ופוסקים אחרונים coming as it did from a Professor at Conservative Judaisms flagship school it felt like a bracing breeze infused with the sweet aroma of הבדלה ביןישראל לעמים dispersing the thick, dark fogs of Havdala-Obliviousness that conceal and obscure any and all differences between Jew and Gentile. For an intellectual Leader from the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism this position is more radical and contrarian than forbidding wild-salmon. As Dr. Wertheimer accurately describes the prevailing zeitgeist among Liberal Jews: "“preachers in every corner of the Jewish community are intent on urging the faithful to drop their parochial concerns for the welfare of fellow Jews and instead think globally. How can Jews worry about their own, they ask, when so many unfortunates in Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia are suffering even worse afflictions?”
This rhetorical question is reflective of the conventional wisdom that has informed Liberal Judaism at least since the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed. As I blogged about on "the Blog that Banned Me", theirs has been a headlong rush away from particularism and any scintilla of a visceral feeling of otherness, let alone chosen-ness, lest it metastasize into Master-racism.
After so many decades of Havdala-illiteracy Wertheimer rediscovers the Aleph-Bais and reinvents the wheel as he calls on Jewish groups “to harness this idealism and teach young people that their quest to aid fellow human beings is in fact congruent with the deepest teachings of Judaism.”
Click the link to the Jewish Week article and judge for yourselves. It is, to be sure, only a secondary source but the original Commentary piece is fairly long and dense. I hope to read it on Sunday bl"n and if it provides any new grist for the Monetfiore windmills of my mind, to post more about it next week.
Caveat: As is the case with many things lately I am conflicted about this aleph-bais concept as well. There is the Ri"m about the חסידה bird. There are the many noble examples of Gentile rescuers during the war who gave the highest form of Tzedaka Davka to the greatest "stranger" and "other" available and did so with literal Mesiras Nefesh risking instant executions and/or prolonged torture at the hands of the SS for themselves and their families. ומבשרך לא תתעלם
and prioritizing family and fellow Jews (extended family) is both a מושכל ראשון , canonized in the Tenak"h and enshrined in Jewish Law and Lore. This is all good and well on a purely intellectual level. Yet, though I hate to admit it, on a visceral level the behavior of the rescuers of the war fills me with awe... and not a little bit of comparative shame.
Qedusha-Havdala. Dr. Wertheimer got his...Did YOU get YOURS??? Hmmm???
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Which is why I'm a bit surprised that this item received little attention on my uncomprehensive review of the J-Blogosphere.
Qedusha-Havdala...Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
"Sorry for bothering you, but I'm sure you'll appreciate I sent it to you after reading it all.
Did you know....
That Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk has helped thousands of yidden with all sorts of Blessings and Yeshous thruout his life span.
How about sending your kvitel today
Did you know....
That hundreds and thousands of people where helped in their needs, in Zchus of praying at he gravesite of Rabbi Elimelech.
How about a Zchus for yourself.
Did you know....
The rebbe promised all that would support his descendants in a financial manner that they would not lack in spiritual and moral support from Hashem, and that he will personally do them a favor from Gan-Eden.
How about sending your support today?"
I'm troubled by and conflicted about this email. Is it just me or is there something vaguely offensive about this appeal? I'm not opposed to a Yid trying to be mefarnes himself/ his family by any non-theft, non-con means possible. But if , nebikh, one must resort to begging why not just go out and beg? Does it really give you a leg up on other needy people just because you had an illustrious ancestor? Do you provide your donors with a Yikhus Brief?
If you are an am-ha'aretz and I have a choice to cut a check to you or to a worthy TK who stems from pedestrian, or even Ba'alei Aveira, yikhus do you really take precedence? As your noble ancestry is the presentation of your one and only credential, by what principle in Jewish Law and Lore, other than Reb Meilikh's promise (BTW...is this in writing anywhere???) would you get preference over a host of other worthy individuals and causes? And while אני מאמין באמונה שלימה that the Rebbe did indeed possess ליכטיגע אויגען I wonder if even he ZY"A ever envisioned a hi-tech time of his ainiklekh extending their appeals via websites and mass emails and whether he foresaw 1000s of Yidden jetting to his Tziyon from the Medinah "where the very streets are treif"???
Finally I'm a little put-off by yet another appeal based not on the worthiness or even pressing need of the cause or individual, not on the intrinsic reward of doing the right thing by giving Tzedaka, but by playing on peoples fears and tzuris by providing a no-guarantee segulah to wash those troubles away.
For those who are untroubled and would like to donate click.
Qedusha-Havdala. Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm?
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
While it’s clear that we associate יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם-אֶחָד מְפֻזָּר וּמְפֹרָד בֵּין הָעַמִּים, בְּכֹל מְדִינוֹת מַלְכוּתֶךָ = "'There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom" with Jewish degradation, Diaspora, dispersion and suffering and לֵךְ כְּנוֹס אֶת-כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים = "Go gather in/ concentrate all of the Jews" with the seeds of Jewish salvation and re-integration, there is something diabolically ironic about the Nazis that, apparently, makes them surpass all prior Jew-haters/killers. The Nazis turned things normally associated with Israel’s salvation and transformed them into instruments for our destruction. (Talk about ונהפןך הוא !!!)
Later historians classified them; calling some labor camps, others death/extermination camps and still others resettlement camps. But the enemy himself called them KZs Konzentrations Lager . As if to make a mockery of K’lal Yisraels status as not only the עם הנבחר = Chosen People but also as the גוי אחד = ONE Nation or better said "the Nation of One-ness". They took a dispersed squabbling and disintegrated People and reintegrated them against their will. Not to rediscover their organic integrity, not to gain strength through synergy and certainly not to reflect G-d’s majesty and One-ness, but to make them easier marks. The Nazis were not content with destroying us. They were hell-bent on destroying every unique superlative ascribed to us. Perhaps as historical revenge for what we did to Haman they subconsciously (or maybe even consciously) sought to turn every vehicle for Jewish salvation and glory on its ear.
This is why Mahmoud Ahmadinejads pronouncements about all the Jews moving to the Zionist entities borders just making his job easier sends a particular shiver up my spine.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Now I know that many who will read the above will say "Bray's a denser idiot than I thought. FCOL has he never attended a wedding? Those usually occur 'in front of a ballroom full of people'?" Good accusation... but I think there is a major difference. For while it's true that "All know why the bride enters the Khuppah"it's equally true that "...but woe unto he who sullies his mouth". Weddings are institutionalized rites that have , largely, been de-romanticized. They are called Simkhas and celebrate love-engendered-joy, not love directly. The Yikhud takes place discreetly and privately and no one is privy to that part of the "ceremony" other than the newlywed couple themselves. That is as it should be both Halakhically and for the maintaining the spirit of Tznius. Even public Mitzvah Tantzes are so chaste and shy as to have been nearly voided of any romantic context or content. But THIS?
Sorry but I find it neither clever, "shticky" nor in the Adar spirit. I find it crass, tacky, tasteless and quite more in violation of Tznius (in the spirit of the law if not in it's letter) than an uncovered knee or elbow.
Qedusha-Havdala...Have you had YOURS today??? Hmmm???