Tuesday, 31 August 2010
I had been briefly learning Gittin and the issue of "Eidi Mesirah Kartei" for OTHER sh'tarot [non-divorce] came up
I asked a Rosh Yeshiva "R Yaakov" of a small-ish Yeshiva
Why no eidi mesirah by K'tubbot at a wedding?
He gave me a long answer without nailing down a final p'saq
I asked the SAME question from a Dayan "R Moshe" and he immediately told me that - while some do indeed use eidi Mesirah - there is a Tosafot that is m'chaleiq between Eidei Raya and Eidei Qiyyum and therefore a K'tubbah requires no eidi Mesirah unlike a "Get" for divorce which does.
His answer was brief, to the point, and he had instant recall of all the relevant factoids.
The Shift of Power away from Posqim towards Academics is AIUI a post-WWII phenomenon. RYY Weinberg - the Sridei Eish - consulted R Haim Ozer Grodzensky, the Chief Rabbi of Vilna, rather than any of the many great Roshei Yeshiva of his era.
Even in Hassidic circles, often an Av Deis Din is the Poseiq - not the Rebbe. Witness EG the late Rav Dworkin Z"L of Crown Heights who paskened for Chabad.
Also, when I was at YU, I had fine Rebbes who taught me G'mara. Nevertheless, I usually took my Halachic questions to R Nissan Alpert Z"L who was a Talmid of R Moshe Feisntein [RMF] since he had Shimush with the generation's leading poseiq
Monday, 30 August 2010
The two characters included a Modern Orthodox Rabbi Avraham [RA]
And a Rabbi from a Mussar Based Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzhaq [RY]
RY asked: I cannot fathom why the Rambam would limit the requirement to doTeshuvah to during the 10 Days of Teshuvah? Especially, when even he says that one must repent immediately for any sins committed?!
RA responded in Brisker style: Rambam is talking about 2 scenarios
One must Repent immediately for any known Aveira
However, during 10 days of Teshuva one must search after even unknown sin - the way one searches after even unknown Hameitz before Passover. In fact this is probably why we extend this introspection to the beginning of Elul in order to have the same 30-day preparatory period
RY: This Still does NOT make sense. One is obligated to do a daily Cheshbon Hanefesh - as prescribed by the various Mussar s'farim...
RA: This is the practice of Y'chidim, not the obligation of the Rabbim
RY: No it's required for all!
RA: Do you see this codified in the Shulchan Aruch for example?!
RY then had to leave
RA then turned to me and continued:
this daily ritual is probably a Hiddush from R Yisroel Salanter... One certainly cannot ask a question on the Rambam on this point as the concept of it being done widely is probably less than 150 years old. True individuals may have done this in earlier eras..
What do YOU think? Is it reasonable to assume hazaqqah d'hashtah? Namely that since WE do X NOW that the Rambam must have known about it?
Furthermore, how many people do a daily Heshbon hanefesh? Some say Vidduy nightly, but this is formulaic. Probably a very small number due a daily Heshbon hanefesh even following the advent of the Mussar Movement
Sunday, 29 August 2010
The question, though, in the context of the Nishmablog must be: is there a Torah perspective on this issue? There are obvious Messianic overtones to this question. In that time, and it should be soon iy"H, we are told that there will be no more wars. Is this because there is a world federalism under the Melech HaMashiach or will there still be independent nations who will live in peace together, under the general world leadership of klal Yisrael under the rule of this king? A corollary of this question would be whether everyone becomes Jewish or whether there will still be Jews and non-Jews, even in a federalist context? Obviously, as Rambam states, we will only know what will be when we actually experience this -- and all this is mere speculation. Yet, how we speculate on this matter indicates our understanding of what we think is the ideal -- and does impact on our present thoughts and activities as we strive for this ideal. One such reflection of this may be how we view the collective. Do we wish a strong centralized entity (in the same way that people may favour the federal government) or do we advocate for greater decentralization (in the same way that one may favour state rights)? How do we see the Torah impacting on this question?
Rabbi Ben Hecht
Saturday, 28 August 2010
I invite you to take a look at the following article:
My reason for directing you to this article is not because of its substantive conclusion It's more about the language that is used to make the point, specifically how the author defines various terms. I have always maintained that the real issue behind the question of 'Who is a Jew?', is the question of 'What is a Jew?'
The debate and confusion that surrounds the former question actually reflects the non-verbalized, even non-recognized confusion that surrounds the latter question. This article is a good reflection of this confusion.
Rabbi Ben Hecht
Friday, 27 August 2010
Having been on several cyber discussion lists there can be no doubt I've stirred the pot myself
Rarely has this been subtle or clandestine
OTOH I'm referring to an "unseen hand" stirring the pot and I suspect they're in the Land of Israel.
What do I Mean:
Item: A 17-year-old young women "Tzippora" comes back from Israel. We are both guests in a sukkah.
Tzippora: "How can Ashkenazi women say a brachah l'vatalah on Yeshivat Sukkah and Netilat Lulav?"
She says with half a rant
RRW: But #gxzyprf
[Being that my wife has kicked me under the table so my message is garbled]
I then tell a third party
RRW: What's this girl's[woman?] Issue? The Beth Yosef brings the Ashkenazi position in the name of the Ran - Rabbenu Nissim of Gerona! Hardly a flaming Ashkenazi Qannai, and this is the Rema's cited source!
Since when does quoting Beth Yosef besheim the Ran some kind of Ashkenazi plot to make S'pharadim look bad or whatever.
The only apparent agenda was a dig [or a shtoch] against Ashkenazim. I don't recall the converse
Several Years later a young Sephardic Rabbi [Elkanah] comes to the USA from Israel [EY]
Similarly Elkanah kvetches about all the crazy humrot the Ashkenazim and Rema have.
Elkanah: every daat yaheed that the Rema can find - he codifies as Halachah!
Woe I say to Myself Rema almost always codifies the consensus as practiced in Poland and mostly as MINHAG not as Base Halachah when it goes beyond Halachah
These illustrations seem to portend a disturbing trend.
Qitniyyos-bashing and demands that all Ashk'nazim should follow Minhag S'pharad.
Whose hidden hands stir this pot?
Thursday, 26 August 2010
With Gratitude to R Akiva Males:
«The Sefer HaChinuch that I think addresses the mosque issue is #410.
See the 3rd approach he uses in the Sharshei Hamitzvah below.
ספר החינוך מצוה תי
מצוה על בית דין להשליך מכה נפש בשגגה מעירו לערי מקלט ועל הרוצח בעצמו
(א) שנצטוו בית דין של ישראל להשליך מכה נפש בשגגה מעירו ולהושיבו
מקלט, שנאמר [במדבר ל"ה, כ"ה], והשיבו אותו העדה אל עיר מקלטו וגו' וישב
בה עד מות הכהן הגדול. וגם המכה גם הוא בכלל מצות עשה זו, שנאמר עליו
[שם, כ"ח], כי בעיר מקלטו ישב עד מות הכהן הגדול.
משרשי המצוה, לפי שעון הרציחה חמור עד מאד שבה השחתת העולם, עד שאמרו
זכרונם לברכה שההורג נפש מזיד אפילו עשה כל המצוות אינו ניצול מן הדין,
שנאמר [משלי כ"ח, י"ז], אדם עשוק בדם נפש עד בור ינוס, ולא ימלט, ולכן
ראוי למי שהרג אפילו שוגג מכיון שבאת תקלה גדולה כזו על ידו, שיצטער
צער גלות ששקול כמעט כצער מיתה שנפרד האדם מאוהביו ומארץ מולדתו ושוכן
ימיו עם זרים. ועוד יש תיקון העולם במצוה, כמו שביאר הכתוב שינצל עם זה
מיד גואל הדם לבל יהרגנו על לא חמס בכפיו שהרי שוגג היה. ועוד תועלת
לבלי יראו קרובי המוכה הרוצח לעיניהם תמיד במקום שנעשתה הרעה, וכל דרכי
Can we easily connect the dots to the GZM as a 13-story reminder of the barely healed wound?
Perhaps a modest "chapel" would have been less intrusive less"grotesque" [in its meaning here as absurdly incongruous]
Had our GZM proponents had any sense of class or sensitivity, they might have put up some kind of memorial to those WTC victims who were Muslim and dedicated a library towards tolerance, etc., instead
Part of my hesitation is the fear of maybe going somewhere undesirable. Of opening up cans of worms.
Also certain ideas needed to coalesce. And I now see 3 or 4 proposed threads as over-lapping and I have a more comprehensive point of view or at least a series of questions to wrestle with.
For background I would suggest reading the following material and related texts
First Dr. Marc Shapiro's works especially The Limits of Orthodoxy
Then Biographies of R Hirsch and R Breuer.
Much of what I have to contend with is a rehash of 19th century German Jewish struggles
The first issue to contend with is how much or how little dogma is needed to be Modern Orthodox?
At what point does a Halachic Jew abandon Orthodoxy and enter the domain of EG "Traditional Conservative" or Orthopraxy?
And if we cannot define a precise boundary, can we approximate one?
It would be helpful to understand the distinction between the Hashqafah of the Hildesheimer Seminary vs. that of the Breslauer Seminary. Whatever material one can find will serve to answer this question
I'm planning to research this by soliciting opinions and analyses by those who might know this elusive boundary?
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
I was talking to a dieter recently and I told him the late Dr. Robert Atkins advice. It goes something like this:
«I don't understand why dieters who "cheat" need to feel guilty and completely blow their diets away. The best thing to do is to get up the next morning with a fresh start, stick to the diet and forget about the "cheating". Humans inevitably will deviate over the long run anyway. Why beat yourself up? Just get back to it.»
A very different approach than Rambam or Rabbenu Yonah, perhaps more North American than Jewish.
Yet the Talmud In Qiddushin 49b states
«He who betroth es on the condition that "I'm a tzaddiq" even if he is a rasha gamur is m'qudeshes - [why?] Shema hirheir t'shuva b'da'ato»
Thus instant T'shuva - unlike instant coffee - is not strictly an North American creature after all
How can the Talmud require so little T'shuvah whilst Rambam and Rabbenu Yonah reuqire so much more? More later on that, BE"H.
Meanwhile, the simple approach of Dr. Atkins is quite enlightening. One can "cheat" or deviate and then immediately commit oneself to getting right back on the wagon the very next morning and be a successful dieter in the long run.
Something to ponder for those who are intimidated by the arduous process of doing T'shuvah. (Speaking of this process, have you responded to our latest poll yet?)
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Maybe reminiscent of
«The third case of "Owszem" is its most virulent form. And this took place in Nazi Germany itself during the Holocaust era. It seems from interviews with former members of the Hitler Youth their line went something like this:
"We saw no need, no reason to murder the Jews. This was beyond the pale. Thus we were genuinely shocked to learn the revelations of the brutality of the camps However when it came to either forcefully exiling the Jews or enslaving them in labour camps - "Owszem" »
IOW moderate Nazis were still dangerous and ultimately supported the Holocaust - although they claim unwittingly.
There has been an ongoing debate as to whether the Aruch Hashulchan or the Mishnah B'rurah is the "superior" Poseiq
Tangential to this debate I wish to make a case for a method of P'saq that is more objective and less narrow than, for example, simply and slavishly following a single dei'ah every time.
First can we work towards a more objective methodology of arrive at p'saq?
Can we view Halachah in a more well-rounded fashion instead of being focused upon a narrow set of parameters?
Can we add diversity without sacrificing objectivity?
One of the first pos'qim to attempt an "algorithmic" approach to p'saq was the Beth Yosef. He proposed a hypothetical Beth Din of Rif-Rambam-Rosh, and even a secondary BD is listed
The BY does not follow his BD slavishly, nevertheless he did attempt to remove his ego from the process.
From the numerous exceptions we can also see that a strict formulaic or algorithmic method is usually not possible, and probably not even desirable and I have an interpretation of how R Y Karo used his own method.
Echoing the BY-SA's BD, the Kitzur SA brought it "up-to-date" by reputedly using:
• Chayei Adam
• SA Harav
• Derech HAchayyim
[AIUI This is in a iggeres he wrote later on.] The immediate popularity of KSA seems to bode well for this technique
A quite knowledgeable Chaveir of mine wishes to move this forward again by using a newer BD composed of
• Mishnah Brurah
• Aruch haShulchan
• Kaf haChayyim
The questions remaining:
Can we bring it forward yet again?
How do we implement objectivity - without becoming slavishly robotic to a fixed algorithm?
Stay tuned for part two for some suggestions.
In the meantime, please contemplate how YOU view this issue?
Is Objective P'saq desirable?
Should Posqim subscribe to higher authority than to their own reasoning with sources?
Does anyone have other models in mind?
Monday, 23 August 2010
One set of triplets was apparently very moral. All three neither smoked nor drank booze, and one was even a vegetarian and a bona fide war hero to boot.
As far as the other set of triplets, all three drank a LOT of alcohol, smoked LOTS of tobacco, and only one saw combat.
The first set had the Initials H A B
The second set of Triplets had the initials J F W.
HAB assumed they would triumph in their struggle due to their superior morality precisely due to their lifestyle choices.
But history played a cruel trick
And HAB were defeated and completely trampled by JFW. How could this be
Dear Reader can you tell who HAB and JFW were? Stay tuned for the surprising answer!
POLL: The "Mi hu Yehudi" Controversy
For purposes of the Law of Return - anyone victimized by anti-Semitism is eligible to be admitted to the State of Israel with rights of citizenship as per the Law of Return but is not given the status of a Jew.
As far as the personal status of a Jew goes, with its effect on marriage and divorce, a more traditional Halachic definition is applied in order to keep a unified Jewish people.
Question: How do you feel Israel should address the situation?
A. Leave it alone. It's not perfect but no alternative is any better
B. Apply one completely secular definition of a Jew for both circumstances amending the laws regarding marriage and divorce as would be necessary.. Observant Jews can and will have to track "mi hu Yehudi" w/o any official government meddling, for their own religious purposes..
C. Define both cases and thus ALL Jews strictly by one normative Halachic status determined objectively without any consideration of the challenge of this issue. Allow any refugees of anti-Semitism to be granted residence or asylum but NOT citizenship as per the Law of Return.
D. Define all status by Halachah as in C, BUT consideration should be given to this issue and thus lenient positrons in regard to conversion should be considered and applied.
Your Responses (total 1)
Option A - 00% (0)
Option B - 100% (1)
Option C - 00% (0)
Option D - 00% (0)
Option E - 00% (0)
Option F - 00% (0)
Of course, there wasn't a large enough sample to actually draw any conclusions from the numbers (or, better, number) but this, in itself, may be significant. This is an issue that people may not really wish to think about. In the 1950's, when David Ben-Gurion sent requests from 50 Chachmei Yisrael for assistance in clarifying the definition of "Who is a Jew?", Abraham Heschel wrote that in some ways in may be better to not define than attempt to define. I have my reservations on such a policy but maybe the lack of response to this poll indicates at least a passive agreement with such a theory.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Throughout the Torah literature, we are admonished that it is not only the substance of your words that matter but also the form. We speak of lashon neki'ah, clean language, and the issue that began this whole episode with the use of the N-word clearly reminds us of the Torah directive in this regard. There may have been substance to the point that she was trying to make but her language was indeed problematic.
It seems, though, that she also recognized this and indeed apologized soon after this discussion with a caller to her show when she used this word. Yet what occurred afterwards is equally significant and also makes me happy that she is no longer able to be seen as a representative of my community. We have concepts such as hapeh she'assur who hapeh she'hitra, the very mouth that enunciated the prohibition is the one that enunciated the permission, a concept to remind us to be consistent in our words and thoughts. When the Rev. Al Sharpton comes out looking like the calm, thoughtful one, you know something is wrong. Of course, under American values, one is entitled to voice their opinion and the other is entitled to voice their opposition, even take lawful steps in reaction to that opinion. If you want to say something that I don't like, it is my right to pronounce my opposition and call on those who agree with me to boycott sponsors who may have given you the airwaves to present your opinion. Perhaps, I may not like the very legal principle that gave this person that right. I do not think that Torah allows from a similar standard of freedom of speech as is allowed in America. But that is the standard in the US., and one that has had beneficial results for Jews. In any event, it is a standard within which we must live. The result demands that we understand it and our statements comply with it in order to make sense. I am very happy that Dr. Laura's rhetoric, the rhetoric of one who does not know how to dialogue with another, is no longer associated with me.
Rabbi Ben Hecht
Saturday, 21 August 2010
I have opposed ad hominem attacks in general - and so this aspect of R Hirsch's wrtitings bothers me
On The Other Hand, R Hirsch was locked in a battle for men's souls
It was ET LA'ASOT.
What was the short-term and long-term danger of Graetz's writings? What really bothered R Hirsch? Was Hirsch angry at Graetz's errors? Many writers make mistakes....
What WAS the key objection?
I have my own theories, what do you Reader's say
Maybe we can conduct a poll.
Friday, 20 August 2010
I often disagree with Mike Lupica but he nailed it on this one
B"H - the fifth Heileq of SA still survives the demagoguery of rigid legalism and Political Correctness
As we might say
The Constitution is not a Suicide Bomber Pact!
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Q: How can one be halachically compliant and yet be repugnant in the eyes of Torah?
Here is an illustration..
See last Mishnah in Niddah calling a technically compliant couple regarding Zivah a "Gargaran."
Thus, we see - As per Beth Hillel - one who has transgressed no Halachah yet he is nevertheless labeled a "glutton"
It is therefore "Naval Birshut Halachah "
But NOT "Naval Birshut HaTorah" because the action IS after all condemned by the Torah sheb'al Peh.
So we have an example of Halachically compliant yet nevertheless repugnant al pi Mussar, Hashqafah, Midrash, ethics, Seichel etc.
PS. as I drafted this I received this notice:
«We regret to inform you of the passing of our chaver,
RABBI YEHUDA HILEWITZ z"l
RIETS Class of 1972»
He was a good friend and relatively young.
Baruch Dayan Ho'emes
I, though, do also want to add the following. In a certain way, the Statement actually should have been seen as offending many in the gay rights movement. Rather than okaying a gay lifestyle, it clearly stated that, while recognizing that some have an attraction to the same sex, the Torah clearly forbids any actualization of that drive. What points in the statement clearly demanded was that we, the Orthodox community, should act to assist people with such a drive essentially not actualize it. In a certain way we were really saying that there is a problem and we have to be sensitive in dealing with this problem. The media took the idea of being sensitive and presented it as a step towards liberal acceptance. We were saying, though, and I believe that gay activists would not be happy to hear this, is that we have to be sensitive to the problem.
Rabbi Ben Hecht
my article follows
Media Misrepresents Meaning of Statement
Recently, I was one of a group of Orthodox Rabbis and professionals who signed a statement of principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in our Community. The statement was clear about its adherence to Jewish law, which forbids any sexual contact of any nature between two individuals of the same sex. It did not even suggest that Orthodoxy should, or even can, condone a gay lifestyle. It, rather, advocated that empathy and understanding should guide us in relating to someone who has an attraction to the same sex. It also maintained that when encountering one who acts upon this drive, our response should be based upon the same principles we apply in regard to others who violate Jewish law. The sad truth is, though, that this statement has been misrepresented by local and world media as advocating for something entirely different; a tenet which I oppose. The statement did not in anyway advocate for the acceptance of the gay lifestyle. That was clearly apparent in its words. It seemed, though, that these various media outlets and proponents of gay rights wanted to read into this document some movement within the Orthodox world towards “the light,” an eventual full acceptance of the gay lifestyle. The fact is, though, that Orthodoxy does not turn to society for direction as towards “the light,” the higher standards of morality. For that we turn to the system of Torah thought and, from my reading, these principles simply reflected the highest Torah values within this system. As such, it clearly and unequivocally did not waver on the Torah’s opposition to homosexual acts and the gay lifestyle. What it did call for was for us, as in all our encounters with fellow Jews, to be sensitive to the challenges that our compatriots may continuously face, including those with a homosexual orientation. Rather than being a first step towards the acceptance of ‘enlightened’ values by the Orthodox, as these media entities would have us believe, the statement actually unequivocally declared the depth of the Torah world vision and its sanctity.
Perhaps I should still have seen this coming – that our words would be hijacked to serve another agenda. There are those who, while basically agreeing with the statement, saw this possibility and as such did not sign it. In retrospect, perhaps they were wiser than I. I signed the statement, though, because I believe that there is a need within our community, within the world of Orthodoxy, for sensitivity towards individuals who face such challenges.
Over the years, I have spoken to many troubled individuals who, as believers in Torah, wish to abide by Jewish law and not transgress these laws. Their challenge is even further intensified by a world voice that determinedly advocates against Torah strictures. Their sadness is also often intensified because they feel that they cannot easily turn to their community for assistance. They simply seek assistance from others in their difficult yet resolute attempts to meet their Torah goals. This statement of principles was calling for us to recognize this individual’s crisis and respond to it as we are aptly able: In this personal battle of Torah, we must provide support.
Perhaps there were aspects of the statement that were problematic. Perhaps there were aspects of the language that allowed for this manipulative misrepresentation.
Several people have mentioned to me that they felt the statement was incomplete in that it only dealt with one area of concern regarding this issue – focussing on the individual. There are also societal issues. Within Orthodox Judaism, which advocates for separation of the sexes as a means of directing sexuality properly, how are we to integrate individuals with a homosexual orientation in keeping with such standards? This issue is further complicated by an external world environment, which has adopted a general view of sexuality and, specifically, homosexuality that is at odds with many principles of Orthodoxy. We have to respond but we also have to ensure that as we respond to one concern we do not neglect another Torah value.
Perhaps Rabbi Reuven Bulka is correct in offering that the only thing he would sign is a broad pledge to keep G-d’s Torah. I thought, in signing this statement, that I was expressing the same commitment but only framing it via more specific terms. The devastating truth, though, is that in attempting to frame this commitment to G-d and Torah through these words, individuals who inherently oppose this overall commitment were given an opportunity to use these words to advocate for their own agenda, an agenda, which I cannot support. The result may be that I will now be forced to be silent, to question the very fact that I signed this document – and those who will be most hurt are those various individuals I wished to assist, in the first place, within the canfei HaShechina, the wings of Heaven.
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
- A third person and
- An historical figure
- Having an established sheetah
"Ravina and Rav Ashi sof hora'ah"Instead of:"Rav Ashi and Ravina sof hora'ah"?
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
OTHER IDENTIFICATION MARKS
(a) The group will have an ELITIST view of itself in relation to others, and a UNIQUE CAUSE. e.i. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES RIGHT -everyone else is wrong. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES DOING GOD'S WILL -everyone else is in apostasy.
(b) They will promote their cause actively, and in doing so, abuse. God-given personal rights and freedoms. This abuse can be THEOLOGICAL, SPIRITUAL, SOCIAL &; PSYCHOLOGICAL.
Monday, 16 August 2010
Contrary to the Machiavellian cliché, nice people are more likely to rise to power. Then something strange happens: Authority atrophies the very talents that got them there.
Psychologists refer to this as the paradox of power. The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude. In some cases, these new habits can help a leader be more decisive and single-minded, or more likely to make choices that will be profitable regardless of their popularity. One recent study found that overconfident CEOs were more likely to pursue innovation and take their companies in new technological directions. Unchecked, however, these instincts can lead to a big fall.
Something to Ponder During Elul
Sunday, 15 August 2010
I have a friend named Shaul, who seems to think that Obama should support the Ground Zero Mosque but steadfastly opposes building any new shuls in Teaneck, somehow he reminds he of:
He who is a Rachman to an Achzar will someday be an Achzar to the Rachman.
Hmmm, let's see
Old King Shaul - rachmanut on Agag
New Shaul - rachmanut on Imam
Old King Shaul - hard on David
New Shaul - hard on new shuls in Teaneck
Old King Shaul - hard on Nov, Eer hakohanim
New Shaul - hard on ADL and on Abe Foxman
Old King Shaul - in denial when Shmuel talks to him
New Shaul - in denial when Wolpoe emails him :-)
AHA - in shaar hagilgulim the Arizal says that Shaul will come indeed back to be metaqein his previous life!
Here's his chance
Saturday, 14 August 2010
The challenge is then presented that it is insensitive to proceed with this building, presenting an argument that while no one can stop them from doing so, those wishing to build the mosque should re-consider their decision. The fact is, though, that this argument is still lost in the first one. People still see this argument as one reflecting the imposition of authority -- and the argument of insensitivity loses its impact.
The simple problem is that we really do not know how to reflect our opinion while still respecting the actual power of the decision maker. It is easier for us to tell the other not to do something than to respect that the other is still the decision maker and the most we can really do is advice the other not to do something -- and then to know how to articulate this advice. Ultimately, this group has the right to build this mosque on this land. It is not our decision. That is something that should have been recognized right from the beginning by those not wishing this mosque to be built. The focus then would have been on finding the language to present this view so that is would be heard by this group -- not just simply voicing one's own conclusions.
Rabbi Ben Hecht
Friday, 13 August 2010
Thursday, 12 August 2010
Ginzberg was born into a religious family whose piety and erudition was well known. The family traced its lineage back to the legendary Gaon of Vilna. In his own mind, Ginzberg emulated the Vilna Gaon's intermingling of 'academic knowledge' in Torah studies under the label 'historical Judaism'. In his book "Students, Scholars and Saints", Ginzberg quotes the Vilna Gaon instructing, "Do not regard the views of the Shulchan Aruch as binding if you think that they are not in agreement with those of the Talmud."
Five years later, Rabbi Isaac Simha Hurewitz, an Orthodox rabbi from Hartford, Connecticut, challenged Ginzberg's ruling on unfermented wine. The critique did not appear in the newspapers for the masses to read; rather it was only to be found in his commentary, the Yad Levi, on Sefer HaMitzvot. Rabbi Hurewitz did not just challenge Ginzberg's responsa based on legal logic. Part and parcel of Hurewitz's attack is an attempted character assassination on Ginzberg himself: Rabbi Hurewitz prepares a twofold attack. First he attacks the Conservative Movement by calling them Karaites and thus attempts to diminish Ginzberg's status as a legitimate rabbinic authority. Though he does not mention Ginzberg by name, it is obvious that Hurewitz was familiar with both the activities of the Conservative Movement and Ginzberg's responsa. Second, he attacks the erudition of Ginzberg. He says that 'Ginzberg does not have a brain' since even a non-Jewish child could tell you that wine is tastier and preferred to grape juice'. Thus, with this ad hominem attack he claims that all of Ginzberg's intellectual arguments are invalid. Rabbi Hurewitz exemplifies the Orthodox stance that recognized Ginzberg as the leader of Conservative Judaism in the 1920s, whether or not Ginzberg would have agreed.
When Hasidic Judaism became influential in his native town Elijah, joining the rabbis and heads of the Polish communities, took steps to check the Hasidic influence. In 1777 the first excommunication by the Mitnagdim was launched at Vilna against the Hasidim, while a letter was also addressed to all the large communities, exhorting them to deal with the Hasidim after the example of Vilna, and to watch them until they had recanted. The letter was acted upon by several communities; and in Brody, during the fair, the cherem (ban of ....
Shalom RRWThe decision to make a deal with Rabbi Weiss rather than expel him from the RCA was "deeply dismaying," the Agudah statement continued. "We trust that this capitulation does not represent the perspective of the principled majority of the organization's member rabbis," the statement concluded.
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Rabbi Barry Freundel on
"Jews who are attracted to their own gender"
Posted with permission
One global comment:
"Educating ourselves on this issue makes sense, a public statement imh"o does not."
I would restate it thusly:
"Teaching the public on ANY given issue makes more sense, than Preaching to the Public."
In 1986 I published an article in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society entitled "Homosexuality and Halakhah" that took essentially the same approach in many of the same words as this statement.
Now while it is gratifying to see so many chaveirim and other leaders coming to publicly agree with me (and I believe the article does provide the necessary sources) I am not planning to sign the statement despite the fact that I believe even more strongly in what I wrote 25 years ago today, than I did then.
The reason for what might seem to be an inconsistency has to do primarily with the way the world has changed in 25 years. (there are also some phrases in the statement that raise questions for me but that might well be something that could be dealt with so I won't detail this any further here).
25 years ago gays were seeking -perhaps desperately seeking - the basic acceptance of their humanity that this statement provides. It was the primary reason I wrote as I did because I felt that halakhah demanded that we respond in this vein.
The article (which was criticized on the right as this statement is and will be) was seen as very positive on the left (although there were some detractors including one who called me a Nazi in a NY Gay publication)
Nonetheless, I am honored to say that it had its desired effect in many quarters. Orthodox therapists have told me that it allowed them to function with clients who saw themselves as homosexual while allowing both patient and therapist to continue to maintain their Orthodox identity. The Joint Chiefs of Staff read the article and it helped them decide on the "don't ask don't tell" policy of the US military. It has been used in many Orthodox High Schools. Very personally gratifying
But today the landscape has changed. Most people think this issue is a private matter that as long as it is not made public is no one's business. I have had "gay" couples in my shul (I know this because they told me so in confidence which I never breached) and they joined the shul as 2 single members.
Instead the cutting edge is now gay marriage which no one who believes in halakhah can accept within our community. In the face of this we have this statement. The same forces on the right are opposed to it and the left sees it (and here I quote the blogs) as "weak", "wrong" or "offensive". One of the contacts I have in the gay community that developed from my article described it as follows. "Gays see themselves as Rosa Parks trying to get to the front of the bus (I know the history is wrong - she refused to move to the back). All this statement does is let us move up two rows. But American society has moved well past that situation - so this is actually a negative."
For that reason I see every reason not to sign this statement today I do think that a position paper for the rabbinic community with the maarei mekomot (and some word modification) and/or developing a curriculum for our High Schools and other educational venues is appropriate (to which end there is an article from 1986 that I can recommend).
Educating ourselves on this issue makes sense, a public statement imh'o does not.
- Barry Freundel
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Balancing the Universals of Halachic Theory and the Specifics of the Facts
on The Blog of Garnel Ironheart at
Rabbi Ben Hecht
Sunday, 8 August 2010
As a signatory of the above Statement (see http://statementofprinciplesnya.blogspot.com/), while I may have phrased some points a bit differently, I understood its value, importance and significance. There is a need to set a policy as to how our community should relate to individuals with an attraction to the same sex, especially as many of them attempt to observe the strictures of Halacha in this regard. It is doubly important given the false perceptions in the general society, from such items as the movie Trembling Before G-d (see my reviews at http://www.nishma.org/articles/commentary/commentaryindex.html), about the Torah standards in this regard. While maintaining without question our allegiance to Halacha, a statement reflecting our understanding of the challenge faced by homosexual individuals and the requirement to relate to them within this context had to be articulated. It is for these reasons that I signed the Statement.
Sadly, though, the Statement was still hijacked by various elements to express a position that the signatories did not intend and which could upset the whole endeavour. The San Francisco Sentinel declared U.S. ORTHODOX RABBIS: ACCEPT HOMOSEXUALS supposedly developing their article based on a presentation from Ynetnews.com. While this article does not really relay any falsehood directly, it does give the impression that the Statement was more liberal than the signatories obviously intended. In fear of further being misrepresented in the future, the result of an article such as this one will be that Orthodox rabbis will be more reluctant to sign such documents as this Statement. I can only really speak for myself but I find myself -- and while this was not the first time I encountered this although I clearly did not expect it in this case -- becoming more and more concerned that any demonstration of empathy will be hijacked to reflect a view which I clearly do not maintain. The result will be to be more cautious before stating any opinion of empathy -- to the detriment of those who need this empathy. Hijacking a statement such as the one made by this group of Orthodox rabbis, while it may seem to be motivated by care for homosexuals, ultimately reflects a lack of care for this group of individuals as it basically gives a message that if you try to reflect empathy while not adopting the complete agenda of the gay community, we will sabotage your caring intention.
Rabbi Ben Hecht
Saturday, 7 August 2010
A sampling of news clips
"Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding raises questions about intermarriage | JTA - Jewish & Israel News"
From another perspective
• Mixed Clergy
• Took Place on Shabbat etc.
Viewed from the proverbial FOREST perspective, the Clinton intermarriage may be good for the Jews in the way that Esther's Intermarriage with Ahashveirosh proved beneficial to us
Only Time will Tell
Friday, 6 August 2010
Those who argue against allowing the building of this mosque contend that, given the nature of the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Towers and thereby killed close to 3,000 people, this is an affront to those who perished. Those who argue for allowing this construction respond that blocking this building would group all Muslims together as one group -- a form of racism -- and those who wish to build this mosque, who vehemently also oppose the fundamentalist Muslim terrorists should not be grouped together with this latter group. Those who are against respond that, albeit there may be some merit in this argument and indeed it would be wrong to group all Muslims together (after all, Sheikh Palazzi of the Italian Muslim Assembly http://www.amislam.com, a noted friend of Israel is, still, after all a devout Muslim), the reality is that a mosque in such proximity to Ground Zero would still bring forth intense emotional pain to many, especially the families of those who perished -- AND THAT IS THE REAL ISSUE.
The fact is that this is not a Jewish issue. While many leading Jewish organizations have sided with those that oppose the mosque -- and I have a similar initial reaction although I have not investigated the matter thoroughly -- this is not really a Jewish issue. From my understanding, one of the main opponents are the Firefighters of NYC who feel that this building would be an affront to many of their companions who died doing their duty. It is a local issue. It is about the emotions of New Yorkers who felt and continue to feel the pain of 9/11. Is a mosque appropriate within this context.
It is within this context that I direct you to the following
which is a statement by Reconstructionist Rabbi Arthur Waskow presenting what he terms the Jewish case for building the mosque. There are so many weaknesses in his argument that I simply do not have the patience to list them. The one point he makes that is of interest is his contention that the Muslims building the mosque actually have positive relations with the Jewish community and this is something to be noted. I do think, though, that this Islamic group should still understand the sensitivity of this issue and be considerate of the feelings of the families of those who perished -- perhaps finding another way to express the distinctions within Islam and the fact that they should not be identified with terrorists (perhaps even with our assistance in the same way that we assist Sheikh Palazzi). Overall, though, Rabbi Waskow seems to be making this to be a Jewish issue -- and that in itself is a major mistake. This is not his fictional case of Detroit Arabs concerned about how Israel treats Arabs in Gaza. This is a real case of New Yorkers concerned about the memory of other New Yorkers who died in a grievous terrorist action and the feelings of other New Yorkers and others who are family members of those who were killed.
My question is why is Rabbi Waskow doing this? Is it to make the presentation of this liberal viewpoint more powerful because it is coming from a rabbi who is not taking the regular Jewish establishment of this? If he wants to side with those who favour building this mosque, that's his personal decision but to label his argument "A Jewish Case..."?
In the end, it is cases such as this one that further support my contention that it is necessary for us to start using adjectives in connection with our Jewishness (see, further, http://www.nishma.org/articles/introspection/introspection5761-2-adjective_jew.htm). The fact that this Rabbi Waskow simply can present himself as a rabbi within Judaism implies some connection between me and him, my theology and his theology. It strengthens his position as one that I, as a coreligionist, must take seriously. While indeed there is a connection between me and his as we are both Jews and, I guess, there is some broad connection between me and him in some theological sense (he does quote Rabbi Hillel), the distance between us should also be recognized. In the same way you would not assume that a statement made by a Catholic Priest would have some bearing on the views of a Methodist minister, a statement by a Reconstructionist rabbi such as Rabbi Waskow should not be seen as having any bearing on me, an Orthodox rabbi. In the end, perhaps, this is what offended me the most -- that people would actually think that his presentation of A Jewish Case... must have some weight for me.
Rabbi Ben Hecht
Thursday, 5 August 2010
Once upon a time there were 2 Jewish buddies in school, named Harry and Larry. Harry and Larry car-pooled together went to ball-games together and the families were on friendly terms. Harry grew up to be a moderately successful businessman owning a few pieces of real estate - and Larry developed mental illness – perhaps from the recreational drugs that he used in the 60’s and 70’s.
Later in life, Larry’s father Murray approached Harry to take him in as a boarder in a building that Harry owned. Harry agreed. In his mind, he was confident that Larry’s father would make good for any missed rent, because he considered
Unfortunately, Larry had a breakdown. He broke a door in Harry’s triplex and was sent to the hospital and was behind on the rent.
Harry assumed that Larry’s Dad Murray would make good. Is Harry ethically, morally, or legally entitled to that assumption? Or was it all wishful thinking based upon past good-will but without any obligation whatsoever?Disclaimer:
While based upon a true story any similarity to characters living or dead is pure coincidence
Previously Published 6/28/07
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Soone it became apparent that this problem had escalated beyond his accountant's ability. He sought legal advice and was please to find out that an acquaintance -and an "Observant Jew" offered to take the case pro bono. You see this member in question's wife had helped the attorney's wife and he offered the pro bono agreement as a quid pro quo.
An informal agreement was reached. The attorney offered 10 free hours of service The litigant then proceeded to fax to the lawyer a whole bunch of documentation and left it at that. Meanwhile, the litigant and his wife tried to reason with the local jurisdiction. Within a few weeks, the litigant was able to negotiate a partial settlement.
Lo and Behold the Attorney pulled out and said that "now that the matter has been resolved" the offer for pro bono services has been fulfilled! The litigant was stunned! he came to me pleading that he did not expect the attorney to back out now. And there was no guarantee that the case was completely closed.
I guess the attorney has a right to withdraw given the fact that he received no considereation for his services - the question is: Was this an ethical termination of his offer?
Originally Published 5/30/07
She still suffers from a chronic condition, but B"H is out of any immediate danger.
She personally thanks all of you for your prayers - she really feels they have helped her
Since she is still recovering she has not yet had a r'fuah shlayma so feel free to continue to add her name to your Mi Shebeirach Lists
"Shoshanah Fayga bas Gittel"
Monday, 2 August 2010
As the semester wore on, Rabbi S. noted that many of his students began to lose interest in his course, and he was increasingly bothered by this trend. He attempted an intervention with them, but it was to little avail. His better students requested to learn Talmud instead and his lesser students wanted to learn Mishnah Brurah instead. This reaction puzzled Rabbi S.
Next year, Rabbi S re-visited some of his former students. He did a brief post-mortem. “Why did my Mishneh Torah program unravel during the middle of the year?” he queried. There were several diverse answers. One that disturbed him the most was from Student C.
“Don’t you realize that your colleague, Rabbi A., was constantly attacking Sephardim, the Rambam ,and the Mishneh Torah? In fact he would rail what a waste of time it was to study the writings of such a heretic especially when we don’t follow his Halachic opinions nowadays anyway! Tell me, dear rabbi, what student WOULD be motivated to waste his time on a useless text no matter HOW WELL it was taught!?” exclaimed student C.
Rabbi S. was crestfallen. And he felt a bit cheated. After all he did not PROPOSE this course, he just did his best to teach it. He might have preferred teaching Shulchan Aruch, but that was not offered to him as an option. Rather he showed the pluses and minuses of the Mishneh Torah and taught it as best as he could. But, it would never be enough. It COULD never be enough – simply because the students had been “brainwashed“ to see the Mishneh Torah as a waste of time.. several weeks later Rabbi S. met with Rabbi A. “Why did you slam the Mishneh Torah so early and often?” he asked. Rabbi A., replied: “I tell ONLY the Truth.” “But, don’t you realize how you undermined nearly an entire year’s worth of work? Did you HAVE to express EVERY negative opinion you have on the matter? Couldn’t you have just kept your counsel to yourself or at least balanced it with some positive feedback?” Rabbi A. felt he had done the right thing and was not the least bit contrite.
- Does Rabbi S. have the right to feel indignant?
- Does Rabbi A. owe Rabbi S. an apology?
- Does telling the “Truth” outweigh the damage done to the course and the amount of Bittul Torah and Bittul Zman incurred?
- What are the ethical implications of Rabbi A.'s behavior?
- What are the implications of Rabbi S.'s response?
Originally Posted 5/17/07