Lost And Hopefully Found

At our annual Tisha b’Av prayer service for Jewish communities in danger on July 27 outside the UN, someone – perhaps a faithful Jewish Press reader – left behind a black hardcover Rosenfeld edition of kinot and Tisha b’Av tefilot. There’s a Hebrew name inscribed inside the cover. Interested parties should please leave a message at (212) 663-5784 or e-mail sssjewry@aol.com.

Glenn Richter
Amcha-Coalition for Jewish Concerns

Jewish 9/11

Am I the first person to make the following observation? “9/11” has become the commonly accepted designation for the date of the terrorist atrocities in the United States on September 11, 2001.

Tisha b’Av, when it falls in a Jewish non leap-year, can truly be described as the “9/11” of the Jewish year, because in this case, Av is the 11th month of the year starting with Tishrei, and Tisha b’Av is the ninth day of Av.

I checked the calendar, and 5762, the Jewish year corresponding to 2000-2001, was indeed a non leap-year.

Mark Finkletaub
Ilford, UK

Eating Kugel While Rome Burns

Your editorials about the Democratic Left and various letters to the editor proclaim the need of the religious Jew to identify with the Right in America. I congratulate you for that. However, rarely do we see an article in any Orthodox paper that tells the entire story of what the Left is doing. The power of the gay lobby in particular is growing to the point where one day rabbis will be put in jail for stating passages in the Torah “limaash.” (This already is the law in Europe and Canada.) But we are shaineh Yidden and don’t want to talk about it.

I recently came across something written by an individual who listed many gay activists with Jewish names. He concluded that America would decline if the Jews remained, and then discussed how to get the Jews out of America. I wrote to him and pointed out my website, www.gendercentral.com, which fights the gay lobby. He in turn immediately wrote to all of his associates and told them, “Rabbi Eidensohn is my friend.”

Perhaps those of you who do not work the front lines on the Internet are not impressed with this. But please note that if you click on “Talmud” as a keyword, you find dozens of hate sites. Not only is this hate not going away, it is getting much worse. And the worse it gets, the more our leaders smile and assure us that all we need to do is study Torah and eat kugel at the tish.

Those of us who know what’s going on in the world know that in five or ten years we won’t have kashrus without problems due to genetic modifications of DNA. We will have gay rights laws that will take away tax exemptions and the right to government programs from those Torah institutions that practice Orthodoxy without faking it.

Does anyone care?

Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn
Monsey, NY

Unfair Charges

Having worked in the kosher meat and poultry industry for over thirty years, I am troubled by the poisonous nature of a pamphlet titled “The Attack on Glatt Kosher Shechita,” published and distributed by the Committee for the Elevation of Kashrus Standards.

I am writing this letter to address two of the main premises found therein. First, that a gentile (the pamphlet uses the derogatory term ‘goy’) owner will be more likely to substitute non-kosher meat for kosher meat and, second, that a gentile owner will pressure the supervising rabbis to reduce kashrus standards by increasing production and reducing the amount of rejected product.

Having worked for kosher processors with both Jewish and gentile owners, I can testify that pressure can be applied by either. The pressure to increase production and reduce rejects is sometimes greater under Jewish owners than it is under gentile owners. It is the responsibility of the kashrus supervision agency to ensure that the standards of kashrus are not compromised by outside pressure – whether it be from Jewish or gentile owners.

The pamphlet states that “where the non-Jewish owner of the slaughterhouse is also the owner of the kosher meat…the temptation to increase the amount of kosher meat (by substitution) is immense.” I respectfully reject this argument. The economic temptation can exist for Jewish and non-Jewish owners alike.

Over the past thirty years I can recall only two substantiated cases of deliberate substitution of treif meat by kosher meat processors – and in both cases the owners were Jewish. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people in every religion.

I have a deep and abiding respect for Judaism that extends to the laws of kashrus. While I can’t speak for all gentiles, I can say that I would never do anything to compromise that respect.

Harry Geedey
Lewistown, PA

Israel’s Cantonists?

I would like to thank you for “The Cantonists” (front-page essay, July 30). My great-grandfather was a cantonist who, despite his 25-year travail, stayed true to his Jewish religion. It may be in his merit that after five generations of living in America we are still Torah-true Jews.

What also came to mind as I read the story was how the Jews from Yemen and Iran were treated when they finally came to Israel. They too had their children taken from them – and with the same purpose of driving out their Yiddishkeit. How sad that history repeats itself, and worse, that in this case it was done by Jews.

Akiva Goldstein
(Via E-Mail)

We’re “Morbid And Depressing”

Is our world really falling apart as your paper contends?

On the international front: Jewish families in Hebron being intentionally destroyed, multiple bombers caught this week, government continues antireligious rampage, yeshivas and religious service workers are starving in the street, world threatens over fence and ignores Jewish deaths, and the Israeli government alternately falling apart, going completely secular, being indicted or found corrupt.

On the domestic front: Democrats promote only those with anti-Israel agendas, thieves ransack Boro Park after offering to help or impersonating officials, yeshiva funding cut, singles unable to get married because they can’t afford dating expenses, agunahs languish, spouses are abused, and the media are lying about it all.

Either the Jewish world is doomed (Hashem yazo) and going down fast, or your paper has taken a detour into the morbid and depressing. Yes, there is, unfortunately, lots of trouble and things to worry about in our world. But plenty of good things are happening as well. You may want to highlight some of them and balance the tone of the paper.

Akiva Marks
West Orange, NJ

Creator And Created (I)

Rabbi Abraham Stone was recently criticized by Rabbi Marshall Gisser for attributing human needs and emotions to Hashem (Letters, July 30). I was gratified to see Rabbi Stone respond (Letters, Aug. 6) by reaffirming the most fundamental principle of our religion – that Hashem cannot be understood or characterized in physical or psychological terms, and that he has no needs that require fulfillment.

However, the remainder of his letter was decidedly disappointing, and, indeed, self-contradictory in several ways. Amidst the citation of several midrashim, Rabbi Stone suggested that “In all Jewish souls here there is vested the essence of Hashem…Hashem created the world in a way that our service is for the need of Hashem, and He gains pleasure when his will is fulfilled.”

This view of Hakadosh Baruch Hu is deeply problematic and not representative of our Holy Torah. Hashem is One and cannot be compared to His creations in any way, shape or form. Chas v’chalila that we should entertain the notion that Hashem is divided into parts that are “distributed” across humanity in the form of souls. When we say human beings have a divine element or spark, or that humans are created in Hashem’s “image” we mean – as our sages explain – that human beings have the potential to relate to the Creator of the universe in a unique, spiritual way that differentiates them from all other earthly creatures.

Rabbi Stone establishes a dangerous precedent in his exercise of poetic license and pays insufficient regard to the fact that many midrashim are not to be interpreted in their literal sense.

In addition, Rabbi Stone’s statement that Hashem has no needs cannot be reconciled with the statement that His needs are somehow fulfilled by our mitzvot. Nor can the notion that Hashem has no emotions be reconciled with his assertion that Hashem “takes pleasure” in the fulfillment of His will. As the Ramban explains at length in his comments on Devarim 22:6, the mitzvot are designed purely for the benefit of mankind.

It is simply blasphemous to suggest that the Creator of heaven and earth and all they contain – a being with no weaknesses, defects or dependencies – would turn to His creations for help or fulfillment.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof
Beth Aharon Sephardic Congregation
Riverdale, NY

Creator And Created (II)

Two weeks ago I questioned Rabbi Abraham Stone’s unqualified explanation of “Menachem Av” as “consoling G-d.” I quoted Numbers, 23:19, “G-d is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man the He should be consoled…” I added that we possess no license to suggest new phrases like “consoling G-d” that are not authored by the Torah or the sages. The rabbis coined the term, “If the Torah had not written it, it would be impossible to enunciate.”

In his response, Rabbi Stone acknowledged that “Certainly, we cannot attribute any physical features and human emotions to Hashem.” He also affirmed that “He (G-d) needs nothing from us.” But then he wrote this: “For Hashem created the world in a way that our service is for the need of Hashem.”

Rabbi Stone thus contradicted himself in the space of a few sentences. He openly wrote that G-d has “needs” and thus posited a human frailty onto the Creator. However, it is the unequivocal teaching of all Torah sages that G-d has no needs.

Rabbi Stone wrote, “Every Jewish soul is part of Hashem from Above.” But in his Second Principle, Maimonides declares, “And (G-d is) not like one man that may be divided into many individual parts…”

Maimonides makes it clear: the concept of division or parts cannot be ascribed to G-d. Maimonides also writes: “…the chachamim denied G-d as being composite or subject to division,” and “the prophet said (Isaiah, 40:25), ‘To what shall your equate Me that I should be similar, says G-d?” (ibid; Principle III).

Do I belabor this point? If I do it is because of what Rabbi Bachya says in Duties of the Heart, (Gate of Unity, Chap. 3): “Whoever neglects to study [this subject] (unity of G-d) conducts himself disgracefully, and is counted among those who fall short in both knowledge and practice.”

This principle of G-d’s unity is of such paramount importance to the authentic, Jewish concept of G-d that the “Shema Yisrael” must be read twice daily where we affirm “G-d is One.” The Torah and the rabbis share one voice: G-d has no parts.

We must be vigilant against any thought that erodes Judaism’s fundamentals.

Rabbi Marshall Gisser
(Via E-Mail)

Remembering Reuven Beck

It was with great sadness that I read in your “West Coast Happenings” section about the death of Mr. Reuven Beck, father of Carol Bess and father-in-law of Rabbi Gershon Bess of the Los Angeles Kollel.

Reuven Beck was one of the most devoted followers of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, for more than thirty years. Along with Mr. David Pollack, a”h, Mr. Beck was instrumental in purchasing the building that became the Bais Yisroel Torah Center on Ocean Parkway, and in helping Rabbi Miller move his kehillah from East Flatbush to Flatbush proper. It was the behind-the-scenes hard work of Reuven Beck that supported Rabbi Avigdor Miller and the idealists of the Bais Yisroel Torah Center.

It’s altogether fitting that Reuven Beck should be memorialized through the learning of the L.A. Kollel, because Torah learning was the focus and heart of his life. May his memory be for a blessing.

Judy Resnick
Far Rockaway, NY

Marvin Schick Touches A Nerve

Vacations Over Education

Reading Dr. Marvin Schick’s eye-opening essay (“Turning Our Backs on Orthodox Education,” front page, Aug. 6), I was reminded of what my rosh hayeshiva once said; “It’s unfortunate, but the further the cause is from Torah, the more people donate their money to it!”

The Chofetz Chaim, in his old age and despite his frail health, used to travel on long and difficult journeys to the meetings of the Vaad Hayeshivas. He did this in order to meet with Rav Chaim Ozer Grodensky, zt”l, regarding the critical financial support for yeshivas in Europe and Eretz Yisrael. He would get very annoyed if they even wanted to interrupt these most urgent meetings to make a minyan for Mincha.

I once overheard someone say, “I can’t pay full tuition; I need to be able to go away for Pesach!” The Jewish Observer ran an article by a businessman who calculated that more than a billion dollars is spent by Jews going away for Pesach. Who knows how much more money is spent on midwinter and summer vacations? Is it any wonder that our yeshivas are suffering financially?

Rabbi Moshe Shochet
Brooklyn, NY

“Well-Written Screed”

Mavin Schick’s article is nothing more than a well written screed against the authority of today’s gedolei roshei hayeshiva, whom he calculatingly refers to as “yeshiva deans.” When all is said and done, all Mr. Schick told us is that there is a continuing choice to be made as regards the allocation of our communal resources and he disagrees with the one made by our gedolim.

Of course the yeshiva/day school sector is suffering, but that is the result of decisions made by the custodians of our souls whose daas Torah is linked to that of the Torah greats of our past. And does Mr. Schick mean to suggest that support for Hatzolah, bikur cholim organizatons, Tomchei Shabbos, Rofeh, P’Tach and other chesed efforts is somehow misplaced?

Goldie Kalmanson
(Via E-Mail)

Questionable Funding Source

Last week Marvin Schick castigated Torah Umesorah (and by implication the gedolim who guide that organization) for remaining silent over the cuts Federation has made in its allocations to yeshivas and day schools. He also praised The Jewish Press for its criticism of those cuts.

I wonder, though, whether it is such a clear-cut thing that we should take money from people who do not believe in Torah miSinai. How are we sure that Torah built from that support can have a kiyyum?

Was this not why the Brisker Rav counseled against taking money for Chinuch Atzmai Schools from the secular Israeli government?

Yitzchak Grossman

Where Are The Wealthy?

I thoroughly enjoyed Marvin Schick’s front page article on the crisis facing yeshivas and day schools. Of course he is correct that there is no sense of communal responsibility in the Orthodox community for funding education. However, individual schools do engage in fundraising outside of their parent bodies. Surely there is a glut of annual dinners, melava malkas and the ubiquitous parlor meetings.

More to the point: There are many, many people of great wealth in the Orthodox community who collectively could make a difference, but who have no interest in doing so.

Rabbi Yehoshua Fenster
(Via E-Mail)

To Each His Own

Marvin Schick does not go far enough in his penetrating analysis of what ails the financing of Orthodox education. All of the roshei yeshiva owe primary allegiance to the fundraising efforts of their own institutions. Establishing a central fundraising mechanism to target the community at large for all schools would be inconsistent with this exclusivist responsibility. But soliciting for chesed causes and such non-mainline educational causes as kiruv, Russian schools and special education is by its nature non-competitive, hence non-problematic.

Sad, but true.

Jerome Belfer
Los Angeles, CA

Cynical Bureaucrats

Kudos to Dr. Marvin Schick for pointing to the great issue facing the Jewish community in the United States. Moreover, he has eloquently laid bare the cynicism of the Federation bureaucrats, who seek to remake the Jewish people in their own secular image.

Donald Filer
New York, NY

Needed: Orthodox New Deal

I would like to congratulate Marvin Schick for his hard-hitting and accurate portrayal of the immense financial burden facing parents who send their children to yeshivas, and of the lack of effort by institutional leaders to adequately confront and alleviate it.

The mere fact that parents are expected to allocate 20 to 30 percent of their income for tuition has enormously negative ramifications – including the inevitability of smaller families in the community. The math is simple: The cost of sending a child to yeshiva for fourteen years hovers at or above the six-figure mark (and that doesn’t include all the other expenses – kosher food, for one – that drive up the cost of raising a child).

As Dr. Schick rightly points out, there are numerous organizations and kollels to champion every cause – except that of the middle-class Orthodox family. Are these organizations siphoning off funds that should be earmarked for the education of mainstream children? It’s very likely. Having thousands of people learning in kollels is certainly admirable and perhaps the pinnacle of achievement for those who run them, but what’s the price to the rest of the Jewish community? Saying that kollels should reduce their enrollment so that Jewish schools could get more money probably borders on heresy these days, but our current structure indisputably borders on insanity.

It’s time for a restructuring of our system, for a New Deal for the Orthodox middle class. The focus of religious people should be on G-d and religion, not on worrying how to pay for it all.

Sol Friedman
(Via E-Mail)

No Middle Way

It is no coincidence that Parshas Re’eh almost always coincides with Shabbos Mevorchim Elul, when we usher in the season of personal introspection, during which time every Jew is responsible to take a proverbial step back and examine his ways in preparation for the divine judgment awaiting him on Rosh Hashanah.

The sedra begins with Moshe Rabbeinu exhorting Bnei Yisrael with his famous words, “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” The Sforno elucidates this ostensibly cryptic phrase by explaining that Moshe is warning that although the world at large tends to gravitate toward the median in any given situation, the Jewish people are not supposed to act this way.

Moshe is making it clear that in Judaism there is no middle ground; either one’s actions are concordant with blessing or, G-d forbid, curse. There are only two options — black and white; gray does not exist within the framework of Judaism. Either one’s actions are in accordance with halacha or they are not. Either one completely adheres to the guidelines of the Torah or he does not.

Of course, this is not to say that Judaism expects all of its adherents to be perfectly righteous Torah scholars who devote themselves day and night exclusively to the study of Torah. However, what we must realize is that such a life exclusively dedicated to attaching oneself to the Creator is something to admire and appreciate, not disparage and ridicule. Such a lifestyle should not be subject to derision on the part of those who claim that extremism is antithetical to the views of the Torah. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

A life completely dedicated to Torah learning and living should be the ultimate goal of every Jew, and only when circumstances prevent one from reaching that ultimate goal should one reevaluate and recognize that his G-d-given mission in this world is to serve Him with whatever means he can.

To claim that the Torah promotes the idea that one should strive to live the so-called “middle-of-the-road” lifestyle is a tragically misguided understanding of true Torah Judaism. G-d does not want us to have a quasi-dedicated relationship with Him, including Him in some of our more religiously inclined activities such as prayer and study, and ignoring Him at other times, when His presence is not as welcome or as appreciated.

The Torah’s ideal man is not the one who spends most of his day working, setting aside minimal time for praying and learning, as admirable as that sacrifice may be. If the typical religious layman has become the prototype of the ultimate Jewish man, our perception has veered far off track.

When a mother’s nachas in mentioning “My son, the talmid chacham” is replaced by “My son, the doctor,” or “My son, the lawyer,” we can see a dangerous shift in the focus of what our purpose is in this world. We must ponder Moshe’s exhortation in the beginning of this week’s parsha to help us regain the true perspective.

Rabbi Jacob Eisemann
Elizabeth, NJ