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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Beit 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.

Samsung Korea VP Visits Yeshiva to Help Koreans Learn Talmud

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Charlie Park, Vice President of Samsung Korea, visited an Israeli Yeshiva at Shalavim last week, accompanied by a South Korean camera crew, and met with the program directors and with students to document how students study Talmud at the Yeshiva.

The South Koreans have developed a fascination with the study of Talmud. The country’s ambassador to Israel, Ma Young-Sam, has told the “Culture Today” TV show that Talmud study is now a mandatory part of the country’s school curriculum.

In addition, it is said, almost every home in South Korea boasts a Korean version of the Talmud, and mothers commonly teach it to their children, who call it the “Light of Knowledge.”

Young-Sam explained, “We were very curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews, who have a high percentage of Nobel laureates in all fields – literature, science and economics.

“This is a remarkable achievement. We tried to understand: What is the secret of the Jewish people? How are they, more than other people, able to reach those impressive accomplishments? Why are Jews so intelligent?

“The conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you study the Talmud… We believe that if we teach our children Talmud, they will also become geniuses. This is what stands behind the rationale of introducing Talmud study to our school curriculum. I, for example, have two sets of the Talmud.”

While touring the Beit Midrash, the study hall, he said he now felt he understood “the growing grounds” of the Jewish genius.

Park was at the yeshiva to get a first-hand account of this wonder, but his trip also involved business. He was in Israel to review possible acquisitions of Israeli startup companies.

Resolving Halachic Dilemmas

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Question: Who should resolve halachic dilemmas?

Response: The Talmud (Ta’anit 23) relates that in his older years, Choni HaMagal entered a Beit Midrash after an absence of many, many years. He heard the rabbis present complaining that they lacked the clarity in their studies that they had when Choni was with them and answered all their questions. Upon hearing this complaint, Choni announced, “I’m Choni, I’m still here.” Because he had been away for so long, however, the rabbis did not believe him, and Choni left disheartened and depressed.

Rav Chaim Shmuelovitz, zt”l, the late rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Mir in Yerushalayim, posed the following astute question:  What makes a person into a gadol hador, a “great man of his generation”? Isn’t it his vast knowledge of Torah? If yes, why didn’t Choni tell the rabbis to test him so that they could see that he could answer questions just as well as he could in the past? They also, thereby, would learn that he was indeed Choni?

Rav Chaim answers that a gaon from a previous generation cannot rule on contemporary problems and should not be asked about them. Only the great rabbis of one’s own era can rule on such matters. The fact that Choni was away for a long period meant that new leaders (and poskim) had emerged who had the authority to decide contemporary issues and to whom the rabbis owed allegiance. (See Sichot Musar Sh’nat 5731, Ma’amar 19.)

This response, however, needs clarification. Indeed, some may maintain that, just the opposite, it is preferable to seek a scholar from a past generation to resolve contemporary issues. Even should one agree with Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, the rationale as to why it is wrong to ask questions of rabbis of a previous generation must be analyzed. Is it due to the fact that they lack complete understanding of contemporary problems? Or is it due to the mandate to listen to one’s own rabbis?

 

Rabbi Cohen, a recipient of the prestigious “Jerusalem Prize,” is the author of several books on Jewish law. His latest, “Shabbat The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), is available at Judaica stores and at Amazon .com.

Retiring? Then What? – Dedicated To Those Who Are Dreaming Of Living* Their Retirement In Israel

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

According to the American College Dictionary to retire means: ” To withdraw, or go away, to a place of abode or seclusion; to withdraw from office, business or active life.” That is not what we envisioned our retirement to be. Sure, it’s great to sit on the beach and bask in the sun, to golf, play tennis, etc. But how much of that can one do without feeling that something is lacking?

The famous Biblical commentators all describe the stories in the book of Beraishit as “ma’aseh avot siman l’banim” which means, essentially, one can look at the history of our forefathers as guideposts in conducting our lives. If you look at their lives, you see that they were actively involved in the world. They didn’t retire, but served Hashem and man all their lives.

There is a brachah we hear at every birthday and anniversary “ad meah v’esrim,” which means your life should continue until you’re 120 years old. And you wonder, after you retire, is that a blessing? I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow, much less in the coming years!

My husband and I faced our retirement in a unique way. We made Aliyah! We had a strong connection to the land of Israel and loved our time spent here as tourists. We longed to live in the land in which our forefathers walked, and were fortunate that our children also chose Israel as their homeland. But, being tourists in Israel is totally different than retiring and residing here.

All the experts advise retirees to plan for their retirement. But how can one plan when one has no idea of what to expect? Luckily, we knew where we’d be living since we purchased our apartment before coming to Israel. The apartment needed major repairs before we could make it into a home. We would also have to cope with adjustments and solve various problems, as one always does, in a new country. Yet, once we accomplished all of that, what did we have to look forward to?

What to do? We both had emunah that things would work out and fall into place but it was rough going at first. We decided we would go slowly in finding our niche. Little did we know how many choices were available. My husband joined a Daf Yomi shiur. Even though he felt he was not a Yeshiva bachur, he enjoyed it so, that he found himself taking advantage of the many shiurim and classes available. In fact, for someone who enjoys this, the Israel Center in Yerushalayim has classes (in English) all the time. I love to swim and saw this as my opportunity to begin a schedule, which would help me maintain good health and enjoy the social atmosphere at our local pool. I also joined a women’s Beit Midrash where the learning is serious and on a high level. We both found that by joining these community activities, we greatly enhanced our social lives.

The menu of opportunities for self-advancement, improvement, and achievement is so varied that I’d recommend sampling whatever whets your appetite. We join groups that travel the length and breadth of the country, in tours organized with retirees in mind. We attend plays, concerts and take trips to museums. We participate in Tai Chi, water aerobics, and gym classes. Friends join walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons and brag to us how they keep up with the youngsters. Our lives are enriched and expanded by these activities.

We were very happy with what we were doing but felt that something was missing. We wanted to be able to give of ourselves to others. Being a teacher, I began by teaching our younger grandchildren to read English while my husband learned Chumash and Gemara with the older ones. Don’t worry if your children don’t live here. There are so many families with Sabas and Savtas living abroad, you will be in great demand to act as surrogate grandparents.

There also are so many places where one can volunteer. Don’t be concerned if you are “Hebrew-language-challenged.” English speakers are needed. These are some of the ways that our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances have found to give back to the Jewish people.

There’s the professor who helps children having difficulty learning the English language, which is a requirement in the Israeli school system. There’s the math teacher who is helping overseas boys in Beit Midrash keep up with their learning. There’s the chemistry teacher who is keeping his students’ accounts for a tzedakah fund and helping them in their quest for funds.

There’s the teacher who takes care of her grandchildren from the age of three months, since her daughter must return to work. There’s the author of children’s books who reads books to children in the library. There are those who work in Yad Sarah, soup kitchens, gemachs, and museums.

The list is endless. They all profess to feelings of joy, pride and contentment when they see the seeds of their labor taking fruit. They find, as we did, that their days are full, as full as they wish them to be.

So come, come home to Israel, not to be buried here, but to live here! Retire here and make a positive impact on those you meet and on the country as a whole. Retire here and have emunah that you will be a part of an exciting, meaningful and unique experience.

*Not just “spending.”

A Million Dollar Dedication

Wednesday, April 7th, 2004

The Yishuv community of Hashmonaim and Yeshivat Bnei Akiva “Ner Tamid” recently celebrated a beautiful Chanukat Habayit dedication of a million-dollar Beit Midrash.
The building was erected thanks to the donation of Mr. Jack Fink of New York, who shortly before his death donated the funds in memory of his family, many of whom were murdered
in the Holocaust. Marvin and Dassy Bienenfeld, dear friends of the late Mr. Fink, who were instrumental in obtaining the donation for the yeshiva, flew to Israel especially for the
dedication.

In the weeks prior to the dedication, three exciting events took place. The Yeshiva’s Sefer Torah was moved with song and dance to the Beit Midrash to be used for daily prayers by the
students. The grandparents of the students were invited for a evening of learning with their grandsons, and all of the community’s nursery and elementary school children were invited to dedicate the building in their own way with songs, dancing and drawings.

The formal dedication began with a shiur by Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, the noted son-in-law of “The Rav” (Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l), on “Hilchos Beit Hamidrash”. The yeshiva is
named for “The Rav,” with “TaMID” being an acronym for “Torat Moreinu Yosef Dov”.

After the shiur and Maariv, more than 500 people stood around the door as Mr. Marvin Bienenfeld, chairman of American Friends of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, was honored with the blessing and affixing of the mezuzah on the main entrance. Elchanan Glatt, the director of Mercaz Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, was honored with the blessing and affixing of the mezuzah on
the second main doorway. Rabbi and Mrs. Marans, members of the Finkelstein family, were honored with the removal of the covering of the beautiful glass memorial plaque. I, as a member of the Yeshiva executive committee, was honored with the recital of Tehillim, “Mizmor Shir Chanukat Habayit,” which was the theme of the evening.

Several Yeshiva and community leaders greeted the participants. Rabbi Chaim Druckman, Chairman of Mercaz Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, hailed the dedication as a national event.
He praised Marvin Bienenfeld for guiding Jack Fink toward helping Yeshivot Bnei Akiva and he praised Mr. Fink for his vision. Despite his residence in the USA, Mr. Fink realized the
importance of supporting yeshivot in Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbi Itamar Auerbach, Rabbi of Hashmonaim, was one of the first with the vision of establishing a yeshiva in the community. He explained that the Beit Midrash has to be like a
second home to the students in order for it to require a mezuzah. He related the story of a visit with his students to a Kibbutz Holocaust museum. When the student asked if there was a Beit Knesset in the community, the local guide exclaimed, “we do not pray to the One who caused the death of a million children!” Rabbi Auerbach later explained to his students that the Nazis (Y”S) had wanted to uproot Judaism and in that Kibbutz they had succeeded. Fortunately, in
Hashmonaim, the Nazis have failed and this Beit Midrash, built with the help of a man who had lost most of his family in the Holocaust, is the symbol that Judaism continues to grow
stronger.

Rabbi Aharon Adler, the Rosh Yeshiva of “Ner Tamid” thanked Rabbi Auerbach for convincing him to leave several positions in Jerusalem to become the Rosh Yeshiva. He praised Rav Yoni Berlin, the principal, and the excellent yeshiva staff for their dedication. He spoke of the uniqueness of the Yeshiva that blends the Torah of Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Kook and also strives to be a second home to all of its students.

Rabbi Tzvi Marans spoke for the family. He described his cousin, Jack Fink, and told some of his history. Mr. Fink was not religious but he loved Israel and Torah. He spoke Hebrew
and gave a great deal of charity. He swore that he would avenge the murder of the family by building Yeshivot Bnei Akiva. He was buried in Har HaTzofim two years ago. Rabbi
Marans thanked Marvin Bienenfeld for befriending his cousin Jack and for his efforts in building the Beit Midrash.

Shimshon Mehudar, the local council chairman, spoke of the importance of the yeshiva to the community. He spoke of the unique blend of Rabbi Akiva, Rav Kook and Rav Soloveitchik and how the yeshiva takes important elements from each and uses the ideas to teach values to its students. “The community is blessed to have the yeshiva in its midst.”

Ron Charadi, a “Ner Tamid” graduate, returned for the dedication, as did many of his fellow graduates. He spoke of how the yeshiva made the students feel part of the family and
he congratulated the yeshiva on its beautiful new building.

Rabbi Yoni Berlin, the yeshiva principal, served as the moderator of the evening and beautifully wove the Tehillim - Mizmor Shir Chanukat Habayit – into each introduction. In
his thanks to those who helped build the Beit HaMidrash he included, the foreign contributors, the chairman of the Moetza Education Committee, Rabbi Libi, the board of directors,
Elchanan Glatt and Yeshivot Bnei Akiva and Chana Sabato, the women behind the Yeshiva. Now that the Beit HaMidrash is dedicated, the yeshiva is searching for a director of
development to help raise funds to finish the two other floors of the building, to construct a classroom building and to finance dormitories.

The evening ended with a beautiful video presentation showing recent yeshiva activities and spirited dancing late into the night. It was a lovely dedication.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/a-million-dollar-dedication/2004/04/07/

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