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May 5, 2016 / 27 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘answer’

Keeping the Faith

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

I am wholly inadequate to deal with this subject. That said I cannot leave it untouched. There is a phenomenon taking place that is highly disturbing to a believer and a rationalist like myself. The phenomenon I refer to is that of an increasing number of Orthodox Jews that are questioning their faith. Emunah has never before been tested like it is now. At least in my lifetime.

It used to be a bigger problem in the more open world of Modern Orthodoxy. That is where Rabbi Eliyahu Fink suggests the majority of the problem lies. But with the advent of the internet, everyone is at risk.

Tablet Magzine has an article by Ari Margolies, an 18 year old that is going through this. He was raised in a religious home. He was someone that loved his Judaism as a child. But then after his Bar Mitzvah he started asking the difficult questions. Questions that are difficult to answer. Thus he has become a skeptic – joining the community of skeptics who have had the same questions.

These are not people who went OTD because of dysfunction in their lives. Nor are they particularly the ones whose educational needs are not met because they are not up to the fierce completion in Yeshivos, whether it is in the area of Limud HaTorah or in the area of academic studies. These are the bright kids. These are the good kids from good families. And in some cases these are adults who at some point in their lives ask hard questions that end up leading them into becoming skeptics.

I have dealt with this topic in the past. I have offered my own views as to why I have Emunah. But I fully admit that I do not have satisfactory answers to all the questions asked by these highly intelligent people. For example it is almost impossible to answer a question put to me many times by different people – and one that precipitated Ari’s descent into the world of skeptics. From the article:

One morning, I woke up and a thought fell on me like a ton of bricks. I realized I was only an Orthodox Jew because it was what I had been taught since birth. I knew no other way. If I had been born into a Christian family, I would have been on the Jesus train. If I’d been born into a Muslim family, I would’ve jumped on the Allah bandwagon. If I had been raised in the splendor of the flying spaghetti monster, then I’d have spent my mornings praising his noodle appendages. I was an Orthodox Jew by chance, I realized, and the realization shook me to my core.

I honestly do not know how to answer a question like this. And yet I have complete faith in Judaism as it has been handed down to me by my forefathers. Am I lucky to be born a Jew in a religious home? Yes! You bet I am. But that does not answer the question of why I get to be so lucky.

One of the things I deal with here (which my last post touched upon) is the fantastic stories of faith that strains credulity. As described by Ari:

I would hear stories of people who had their lives saved by their tefillin. One guy was praying while driving and got into a car accident; the only thing that stopped his head from smashing through the windshield was his headpiece. Another devout man, about to board a plane, realized he left his tefillin at home and missed the flight while retrieving them, and—you guessed it—the plane crashed. It all sounded like a bit much.

These kinds of stories tend to bring out the skeptic in me as well. Not that they are impossible to believe. But that they are so frequently used to prove that a miracle occurred because of an act based on one’s religious belief… Or taken a step further, because one participated in one of those Segula Tzedaka campaigns.

When people start questioning their faith, stories like this only accelerate the process.

I don’t have any answers to this increasing problem. But at the same time, there is absolutely nothing being done to address them in a communal way. At least not as it pertains to nipping it in the bud in one’s formal educational experience.

Harry Maryles

Separate But Wet

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Haredi guy floating in the men only beach of the Dead Sea.

This so reminded me of the story of the man who can’t fall asleep because he can’t decide if he should sleep with his beard above or below the blanket. The answer here is clear: beard above the water.

The Dead Sea seawater has an exceptionally high density, which makes swimming there more floating than swimming.

When I was in the second grade my legs were covered in a strange kind of eczema that didn’t itch so much but was pretty unsightly. Then the family took a trip to the Dead Sea and my condition was cured for good.

Yori Yanover

Anatomy of a Jewish Wedding with Natalie Portman and a French Guy

Monday, August 6th, 2012

This morning, searching for Jewish crumbs in the vast forest of the Internet, I ran into this JTA story: “Natalie Portman Married in Jewish Ceremony.” Now, what’s the first thing a Jewish reporter tries to find out about such a story? You got it – who’s the groom and did he really belong under a chupa. We know the couple’s 14-month-old son, Aleph, is totally Jewish, but, in the end, when JTA reports on a Jewish wedding with one of the participants probably not a Jew, shouldn’t that merit a comment? The answer involves a bit of a tour online.

First, the story:

(JTA) — Actress Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied reportedly were married in a Jewish ceremony.

The wedding took place Saturday night at a private home in Big Sur, Calif., People magazine reported.

The couple have a 14-month-old son named Aleph and have been engaged for two years. They met on the set of the 2010 movie “Black Swan,” for which Portman won an Academy Award for best actress.

OK, this is news. Natalie Portman is a fine Jewish girl, born in Israel, definitely a member of the tribe. In fact, her real name is Natalie Hershlag, and in Hebrew she goes by Neta Li Har Sheleg.

Her Jewish bona fides on Wikipedia are actually fascinating, and were obviously written by someone to whom the issue of whether or not she is Jewish mattered a great deal:

Portman was born in Jerusalem, Israel. She is the only child of Shelley (née Stevens), an American homemaker who works as Portman’s agent, and Avner Hershlag, an Israeli citizen who is a fertility specialist and gynecologist. Portman’s maternal ancestors were Jewish immigrants to the United States, from Austria and Russia (her mother’s family had changed their surname from “Edelstein” to “Stevens”). Her paternal grandparents were Jews who moved to Israel from Poland and Rumania. Her paternal grandfather, whose parents died in Auschwitz, was an economics professor in Israel, and her Rumanian-born great-grandmother was a spy for British Intelligence during World War II.

Wow. Now, that’s some Jewish pedigree!

But Benjamin Millepied? Who knew he was Jewish?

So I checked out wiki.answers.com, a user-generated archive of vast knowledge which had contemplated this question exactly: “Is Benjamin Millepied Jewish?” And they provided what must be a well researched answer, if brevity is a sign of veracity: Yes.

Except that as my eye wondered south of this emphatic endorsement, I saw this popular quiz, which, frankly, gave me pause:

Can you answer these Judaism questions?

Why do some people think Jews are bad people? Answer it!
What are the three main beliefs of the Judaism? Answer it!
How do you make a Torah cover? Answer it!
Was Klara Polzi Jewish? Answer it!
Did artist Fritz Kredel have Jewish ancestors named Gredel? Answer it!

Profound Judaism questions in anyone’s book. You want the answers?

“Jews on average are unusually successful, and other some people suffer from envy.”

There was no word yet on the three main beliefs of the Judaism, so I entered: “God is at the center of the universe. Love your fellow person as you would yourself. Never trust stuff you read on the Internet.” Go there, it’s now the official answer to the above question.

How to make a Torah cover was also unanswered, so I contributed my act of tikkun olam with: “Bring down the room temperature below zero,” which is as good an answer as any – and it’s on the Internet!

The remaining two questions struck me as a tad too esoteric even for the Jewish Press readership, so I didn’t bother. In the end, though, you’ll have to agree that the resounding “Yes” this website offered regarding Benjamin Millepied’s Jewish identity was at least suspect, if not wholly unreliable.

The Benjamin Millepied biography on his own website starts:

“Born in Bordeaux, France, Benjamin Millepied began his dance training at the age of eight with his mother Catherine, a former modern dancer.”

Not a good start as far as the Jewish thing goes. “Catherine”? Really? So I Googled Catherine Millepied. Not a whole lot there, until I ran into this bit on ZimBio:

Benjamin Millepied & Natalie Portman at the Royal Monceau

Benjamin Millepied received his honor of l’Ordre des arts et lettres from an ex-minister in France where he attended with Natalie Portman at the Royal Monceau. He gave a speech to honor those responsible for this medal of honour including his mum Catherine Millepied-Flory, who was a professional dancer as well.

A French language site named L’Officiel wrote about Benjamin’s mother, Catherine Flory-Millepied: “a dance teacher who pushed him into the seraglio at an early age.”

So it’s inconclusive, but if the Millepieds were Jewish, I’m pretty sure the folks in the shul down the block in Paris didn’t know it.

Which brings us to the obvious question: When JTA reports on a Jewish wedding with one of the participants probably not a Jew – shouldn’t that merit a comment?

Check out wiki.answers.com for the answer

Yori Yanover

The Olympics Obsession With Body Glorification and Might-Makes-Right

Monday, August 6th, 2012

The Olympics focus on physical prowess places brawl over brain, and body over spirit, in the hierarchy of importance. This paradigm needs to be shifted. Fitness comes from feeding both soul and body and strength is not only about defeating others but cooperating with others.

My revered mentor the Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994) often admonished that it is incumbent to maintain optimal health because a healthy body is a healthy spirit. Studies demonstrate that exercise helps reduce anxiety, promotes better sleep, combats disease, improves mood, and even chemically alleviates depression by releasing endorphins and neurotransmitters.

Bodily health alone is not enough. One needs a healthy body in conjunction with a healthy mind. Obsessing over body image can lead to anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, malnourishment, depression and compulsive overeating. Neglecting the body by entirely focusing on the mind is also not the answer. We need a balance of fit mind and fit body.

My grandfather Reuven Helman was born in Israel-Palestine in 1927. He was an Olympian recognized as a weightlifting champion, distinguished athlete in Track and Field, the Decathlon and for his career as an athletic instructor. His ability to handily hoist 330 pounds wasn’t enough to keep him healthy. He needed a sense of purpose, peace of mind.

That moment of synergizing his physical health with his spirit came in the early 1950’s when the Rebbe handed him a sefer Torah, a handwritten scroll of the five books of Moses, on the Holiday of Simchat Torah – telling him to “dance with the Torah like a true champion.” The message was that you need purpose, spirit, and soul to be a champion not just a good physique.

Pirkei Avos, a book on Jewish ethics, teaches that the hallmark of true strength is self-discipline. Not conquering others, but conquering ones self. Working cooperatively with others is what civilization is based on, not exerting brute force over others.

Several Olympians this year have made racially hateful remarks toward their fellow competitors. The Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou Tweeted: “With so many Africans in Greece at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food;” and Swiss soccer defender Michel Morganella Tweeted after Switzerland lost, 2-1, to South Korea: “I’m going to beat up every Korean. Go on — burn yourselves!”

There is nothing wrong with competition and testing the limits of the body, when it is coupled with mutual respect and ethical sportsmanship. The Olympics is about uniting nations not dividing them. It is not all about which country is ahead on the leader board. By combining a healthy body with a healthy spirit we can help achieve the goal of unity, respect and cooperation.

Eliyahu Federman

Crossword Puzzle – Walking Advice

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Across

1. Face points?

6. World-weary

11. They’re found in this paper

14. Big deal rav

15. Division signs

16. Y

17. Where not to walk

19. U.S. med. group

20. Doohickey

21. Padan ___

22. Australian anteater

26. Another place not to walk

29. Con

31. Inventor of the stock ticker

32. Kind of rock music

33. Ancient

36. Reason for 17-Across

42. Blood line

43. His head is in Hebron, according to some

45. Apprentice

49. Whitewater riders

52. Preferred walking locale

55. Some tags

56. Equal

57. Downy duck

59. Backstabber

60. Person giving the advice about walking

66. Driver’s lic. and others

67. Ice cream flavor

68. Set up

69. ___ International (professional org.)

70. Sports figures

71. Produce places

 

Down

1. Special effects movie letters

2. ___ Solo of “Star Wars”

3. Israel’s protection

4. ___’wester

5. Motto

6. Scribbles (down)

7. WWII ender

8. “Roxana” author

9. Stately tree

10. Conk out

11. Academy and Tony

12. Go-getter

13. Sailors

18. Pesky insects

21. “Wheel of Fortune” buy

22. Bother

23. Wrinkly, “unattractive” fruit

24. “Yes, ___”

25. Shul altar

27. Parade honoree

28. Romantic interlude

30. “Avengers” superhero

34. Baseball’s Mel

35. A long way off

37. Place to play

38. Bar ___

39. Answer to “Shall we?”

40. ___ Shalom

41. Pottery

44. Battleship letters

45. Flowering plant that sounds like a peninsula near Spain

46. Reno state

47. African fly

48. “Ich bin ___ Berliner”

50. “Beg pardon …”

51. Distant

53. Hajji’s destination

54. Southernmost city of Israel

58. Burrows

60. Good times

61. Gerald Wallace, e.g.

62. Certain investment, for short

63. Mediterranean isl.

64. Thinking sound

65. “Amen!”

 

The Crossword puzzle appears on this page the first week of every month.

(Answers, next week)

Yoni can be reached at yoniglatt@gmail.com.

 

Yoni Glatt

Music During The Nine Days (Part I)

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Question: Is it prohibited to listen to music in the privacy of one’s home (or car) during the Nine Days?

Answer: This issue has intrigued me for some time. HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah, II:137), rules that it is indeed prohibited.

He explains that after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, our sages enacted a number of ordinances to manifest a degree of sadness and mourning. One such decree was the prohibition to listen to music throughout the year. The Rema (Orach Chayim 560:3) contends that this prohibition applies only to people who formerly awoke in the morning and retired at night to the accompaniment of music, i.e., kings. In addition, the Rema notes that those in attendance at a beit mishteh were also included in the ban. The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 560:12) explains that this prohibition is due to the presence of wine at a beit mishteh.

All this suggests that a person who did not listen to music on a daily basis and did not attend a beit mishteh would be permitted to listen to music year-round. Rav Moshe, however, disagrees with this inference. He contends that even the Rema would prohibit Jews from attending public musical events during the year since one derives excessive simcha from such events.

If public music is thus forbidden year-round, what additional music were the rabbis prohibiting when they enacted the laws against music during the Nine Days? Perforce, they were prohibiting listening to music even in the privacy of one’s own home (or car).

(To Be Continued)

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has written several works on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.

Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen

Pollard supporters call Clinton’s remarks a ‘slap in the face’

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Supporters of Jonathan Pollard called Hillary Clinton’s remarks rejecting his possible clemency “a resounding slap in the face” to Israel’s leaders and its people.

“With respect to Mr. Pollard, he was convicted of spying in 1987, he was sentenced to life in prison, he is serving that sentence, and I do not have any expectations that that is going to change,” Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, said Monday night during a news conference in Jerusalem in answer to a reporter’s question about Pollard, a civilian U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who was convicted of spying for Israel.

The Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home and Justice for Jonathan Pollard said in a statement issued Tuesday that Clinton’s remarks “stunned her Israeli hosts and marred the warm reception she received from the Israeli public.” The statement noted Pollard’s “unprecedented 27 years in prison.”

Pollard supporters expressed anger in the statement that Clinton offered no explanation “as to why the U.S. wants to keep the aging and very ill Pollard in prison forever” and called for an official response to numerous formal requests for clemency for Pollard from Clinton’s boss, President Obama.

Clinton, while campaigning for the U.S. Senate in 2000, said that she had concerns about “due process issues regarding Jonathan Pollard’s sentence.”

Pollard has been at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina since his arrest in 1986. A succession of presidents has refused to grant clemency to Pollard since he was sentenced to life in 1987.

The calls to release Pollard, who is said to be in ill health, have intensified in recent months, with pleas from lawmakers and former top officials of both parties.

JTA

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/pollard-supporters-call-clintons-remarks-a-slap-in-the-face/2012/07/18/

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