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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Beis Midrash’

A Haredi Thawing? Oops, Never Mind

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Once again I am disappointed. A few months ago in a moment of reflective candor – Mishpacha Magazine Editor in Chief, Rabbi Moshe Grylak, put aside the rancor that so often characterizes the Haredi response to the kinds of issues now before them and actually had a good word or two to say about the recent elections in Israel. He praised the fact that there are a record number of observant Jews now serving in the Knesset. Formerly anti-religious parties now went out of their way to court Kipa wearing rabbis as part of their lists.

Although still firmly in the camp that opposes current attempts by the government to equalize the burden of army service by subjecting Haredim to the draft and that also opposes the installation of a core secular studies curriculum, he definitely seemed to be thawing out a bit. At least as far as the cold harsh rhetoric is concerned.

I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he was taken out to the proverbial “woodshed” by a rabbinic leader. But in his latest entry in the war of words against sharing the burden and altering even slightly the ‘no secular studies’ policy in their schools, he has returned to the harsh almost vitriolic rhetoric of the past.

Here are some selected excerpts from Rabbi Grylak’s editorial atoning (without using that word) for the terrible mistake of thinking something good may come of this new Knesset:

[O]ur gedolim agree that the current situation calls for intense public prayer…

From its inception, Torah study has always met with difficulties, malicious decrees, persecution and plotting…

Due to this age-old animosity, Torah study has faced countless threats throughout history. The peoples who would rather be left to sleep in peace among their abominations will do anything to silence the voice of Torah. Ever since the Roman decrees against Torah study, burning of Torah scrolls and deadly persecution of Torah Sages have run like a red thread through the chronicles of Torah life, encompassing the entire Jewish people…

When liberal-minded rulers in Europe first proclaimed emancipation for the Jews and granted them various civil rights, leaders in the world of Torah and [H]assidus saw this as an incipient disaster, leading to assimilation and the loss of a large portion of Jewry, another form of Holocaust. We have been witness to this sad reality from then to the present day.

The same secret applies to the survival of Torah in Eretz Yisrael. (emphasis mine)

Those who plot against the Torah world today are motivated by the same animosity that has long stirred in the hearts of the nations. They can’t enjoy their Western liberalism and self-centered individualism in peace, because the presence of Torah gets in the way of a new permissive society unfettered by Judaism. So, sensing where their values have led them, they can only justify themselves by striking out at those who won’t let them sleep in peace.

I think Rabbi Grylak has satisfied his attempt at teshuva (repentance). He echoes the harsh rhetoric of his rabbinic leaders. What happened to the nice words he said about all the Kipa wearers?

Shhhhhhh… don’t mention it. He made a mistake! He’s sorry! He corrected it! Don’t embarrass him. Leave him alone.

Well, I’m not going to leave him alone. I am going to praise his first thoughts and question his recanting them. In the first instance he spoke from heart. In the second instance he reverted to the harsh words of his rabbis. Rabbis that are still fighting ghosts. Ghosts that Rabbi Grylak says are still here motivating the “Torah haters” they are fighting.

There is one paragraph in that editorial that is very telling:

We should be grateful to Ben Gurion for making army service obligatory on anyone who leaves yeshivah for the workforce. In this convoluted way, young men have remained in yeshivah for decades, thus realizing the dream of the Chazon Ish and Rav Aharon Kotler, who saw it as their obligation to rebuild the decimated Torah world following the war. As a result, a generation of talmidei [h]achamim has emerged that has immeasurably changed the face of Haredi society.

It seems to me that this is a clear admission that the main reason the Torah world has grown to its current size is not because these young men were motivated by a love of Torah study, but by a fear of being drafted.

Is he then not saying that this growth is artificial? That not everyone in a Yeshiva or Kollel would be there if they had a choice? That perhaps they could be more productive for Klal Yisroel and in the eyes of God and man if they developed and used their innate talents for Klal Yisroel instead of burying them for the sake of avoiding a draft?

Not that I think that Rav Aharon Kotler’s goal of rebuilding the glorious Yeshiva world – decimated in the Holocaust – is a bad idea. I think it was a good idea. An important idea. A necessary idea. He deserves all the credit he has gotten for it. I actually support the concept of Yeshivos like Lakewood and Mir. I want to see them flourish. Not because of artificially inflated numbers due to draft dodgers. But because of a genuine love of Torah study that generates the kind of greatness seen in the Yeshivos of Europe.

Rav Aharon Kotler’s goal of restoring the great Yeshivos of Europe has more than surpassed his goals – looking at it in sheer numerical terms. Instead of Yeshivos that have the elite of Torah scholars studying in them (as was the case in Europe) the vast majority of male Haredim are now studying in them. This is not what European Yeshivos were about. They were not about quantity. They were about quality. We do have quality now. But I suggest that the same ratio of greatness in Torah that existed then exists now – camouflaged by the geometrically greater numbers that are in Yeshivos now – learning at mediocre levels.

If the draft was suddenly abolished, I wonder how many Haredim would stay in the beis medrash? My guess is that it would probably be a lot since they are indoctrinated to do that. But I think we might just see a significant drop off that would auger well for Haredim as a whole in many ways – not the least of which is financially.

The questions that remain are the following. What is really being gained by continuing to force Haredim to stay in the beis medrash full time via a draft that exempts Haredim? Is this the best use of our young people? Is the poverty class of semi motivated people that this situation has created really what God wants of His people?

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Respect For Our Fellow Human Beings

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

How often we, even the greatest among us, tend to forget the respect and honor due every single human being. Every one who walks the face of the earth was created in the image of G-d and carries within him the Divine Spark. Therefore, when we insult any human being we are really insulting the Almighty Himself which is the worst of all sins.

Unfortunately, because we are all fallible, even great men, learned and wise may sometimes slip, so we must always be on our guard. The Talmud illustrates this for us in the following story.

The Ugly Man

Rabi Elazar the son of Rabi Shimon was a great man and scholar. He learned day and night and the fame of his Torah teachings spread throughout the land.

One day, after spending a period of time with his rebbe in the town of Migdal Eder, he took his leave and set off for home. He was in a wonderfully happy mood. His heart was singing and he was joyful as he contemplated weeks spent in Torah and study. How much knowledge he had acquired. How much Torah he had studied.

As he rode on his mule along the banks of the lazy river he was filled with pride in his achievements and he pitied the average person who could not learn the wonderful secrets of G-d’s Torah. In fact, his heart was filled with too much pride.

As he continued riding he came alongside a traveler who was walking in the same direction. As Rabi Elazar rode past wrapped in his thoughts, the stranger called out a greeting.

“Peace be unto you, Rabi.”

Insults Him

Rabi Elazar looked down from his mule and perceived that the stranger was truly the ugliest man he had ever seen. Without thinking he answered disdainfully:

“How ugly are you! Are all the people of your town as ugly as you?”

The man turned a deep red from shame, but he turned to Rabi Elazar and answered:

“I do not know about that but I suggest that you go with your complaint to the One who made me. Yes, I suggest that you go to the Almighty and say: ‘How ugly is the utensil that You have made’”

Rabi Elazar Shaken

Upon hearing these words the great Rabi Elazar immediately realized that he had committed a grievous sin. He was a G-d fearing man and he knew that at all costs he must beg forgiveness, for all the prayers and repentance in the world and the day of Yom Kippur itself would not wipe away a sin done to a fellow human being until the latter forgave him.

Jumping down from his mule, Rabi Elazar prostrated himself on the ground before the man and cried:

“You have humbled me. I beg of you to forgive me for my foolish words.”

Man Is Unmoved

The traveler, however, far from an understanding person, was in no mood to be mollified. He was still too angry and insulted.

“No,” he answered. “I will not forgive you! I will not forgive you till you go back to my Maker and tell him these words: ‘How ugly is the utensil that You have Made.’”

It was here that Rabi Elazar showed the greatness that lay within him. Instead of getting on the mule and riding off, he continued walking on foot after the man and humbling himself. All the way he pleaded with the man to forgive him.

The man, however, had a hard heart and refused. Down the long road, all the way to the city, passersby we astonished to see the ugly man followed by the great and famous rav pleading for forgiveness.

They Reach The City

Soon they could see the first buildings of the city ahead. The entire population had turned out eagerly to welcome with joy their famous rebbe, returning to teach and guide them.

Imagine their shocked surprise and consternation to see him walking wearily after a simple stranger!

“Welcome Rabi Mori,” they cried out.

The stranger looked at them and asked:

“Who is the one whom you call ‘rabi’?”

“Why, the man who walks behind you,” the people replied. “He is the great Rabi Elazar the son of Rabi Shimon.”

A New Image

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Want to improve your marriage? Brush up on the parsha? Find a good recipe for kugel? Listen to a bedtime story? Hear a great song? Don’t adjust your dial; it’s all in one place – KosherTube.com

The brainchild of Rabbi David Ostriker of Toronto, Canada, KosherTube, the kosher video Internet site is now in its third year.  With over 7000 videos currently in its repertoire and over ten-million viewings (35,000 a week) on a plethora of subjects, featuring a host of celebrities within the Torah world and just everyday people, KosherTube is making waves.

Is YouTube worried about the competition? Not at all. 20% of the videos come from YouTube but they must first clear the very high standards of the KosherTube Vaad, which is made up of prominent rabbanim and roshei yeshivah who work to preserve the tznius and Jewish value content of the site.

Rabbi Ostriker spent 30 years in the film industry. Ostriker’s Productions primarily produced documentaries that have been broadcast all over the world and have garnered more than twenty international awards including a Gemini, the CFTPA’s (Canadian Film and Television Producers Association) and Chetwyn Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.

“Film is all about exclusivity and access,” he says. “The Internet is about the opposite – distribution – you want people to steal your video. It’s a Messianic concept, [by] giving it away you don’t lose anything.”

Although this free giving style does mean that they need to fundraise in order to run the site.  As I was talking to him, Rabbi Ostriker was dealing with a problem of server overload. Their success means they need to expand which means they need money to upgrade the technology. Everyone works on a volunteer basis, including the rabbi, but keeping up with technology requires a budget.

I asked Rabbi Ostriker what his favorite video is.  He replied that it is the one of his son’s Bar Mitzvah party.  Rabbi Ostriker, 64, became religious 15 years ago. He met his wife Yelena, a former citizen of Russia, while he was taking classes.  They live in Toronto where Rabbi Ostriker received smicha.

KosherTube is a project that requires a rare combination of film expertise and knowledge of Yiddishkeit. Rabbi Ostriker compares himself to Reish Lakish, he’s given up his secular ways but is using his previous knowledge to benefit Klal Yisrael.

“He may be the greatest marbitz Torah (disseminator of Torah) of our time!” wrote Rav Eliezer Breitowitz, the rosh yeshiva of Darchei Torah in Toronto.

“The best thing about being in the film industry was that I got to travel all over the world and for a month I got to live somebody else’s life, but then I got to go home. This gave me tremendous insights. I felt very privileged,” says Rabbi Ostriker. Now he brings those insights to a whole new level.

“My goal is to broaden the understanding of what a kosher lifestyle potentially is.” Although learning is the core of the site, Rabbi Ostriker thinks it’s important to showcase the whole Jewish world, the recipes and the hockey teams, the shiurim and the music. And they have a section on Kol Isha, a portal, which you may enter if you are a woman (be sure to look up my hit video clip Dibburit LaShamayim).

Besides the Vaad, Rabbi Ostriker has another standard to meet. His teenage son, Moshe Yitzchak is the second litmus test. He puts on the site only things he would allow his own son to watch. “If your life’s work is something your child can’t look at, you have to reevaluate that,” he said. There is no ability to link to any but a few kosher sites and no advertising. It’s also not a political site. There can be videos about Israel but not about a particular political party.

Non-Jews also watch the videos on the site. Evangelical Christians like Jewish media. KosherTube is a window through which people can get a view of Jewish culture.

As one viewer wrote, “We have a computer in the kitchen and my wife listens to shiurim while she’s cooking. She says it definitely improves the quality of the taste of the food. I agree!”

Nearly 70% of the site’s content are Torah-related. There are 20-25 points of view on every parsha. Learning is more important to Jews than anything else and it’s reflected on the site. Rabbi Ostriker says, “We have brilliant rabbeim and rebbetzins. I love seeing the numbers. Ten people are sitting in a shiur, and it gets10,000 screenings.”

Rabbi Eliezer Breitowitz, Rabbi Ostriker’s Rav is one of the most popular rebbeim, his shiurim have been screened over 500,000 times.

However, Rabbi Ostriker reminds us “What distinguishes KosherTube is the other 30%. The thing that sets us apart is the mix. We try to be as open as we can – cooking, shopping, sports, recreation. One of the things we want KosherTube to do is to show the full scope of what is a frum, orthodox lifestyle. People often think that if you’re an Orthodox Jew you spend all your time in the Beis Midrash, but it’s a much broader spectrum. We want to do more of that kind of thing. Like Women’s issues.” He recommends one of the new videos: 5 Ways to Save Your Marriage, given by Rabbi David Weinberger, which focuses on respecting your wife.  “This kind of thing has tremendous importance,” he emphasizes.

“Jews on the whole are very educated. They don’t like to ask stupid questions so they research in bookstores, or on KosherTube.” He gives an analogy of someone who’s been learning in a class with another person for five years. He doesn’t know the other guy’s name and now, it’s too late to ask. “That’s how many Jews feel. They feel like there are things they should know and they’re too embarrassed to ask. So they’ll go into a bookstore and ask for a certain book. Or they’ll go online. This way, they get answers without losing face.

“We like to think of KosherTube as a community of people. A community people are welcome to join.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/a-new-image/2011/11/25/

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