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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘brit’

My Father, Dayan Grunfeld

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

One cold December evening, I walked into my father’s book-lined study to light the Chanukah candles, which were placed beside the window that overlooked a high street in North London.

My father was seated in his armchair surrounded by the red glow of the crackling log fire, and in the chair next to him, wearing a flowing red robe and white skull cap, sat Sir James Parkes, the renowned Christian theologian and author.

I hesitated and backed away.

“Stay and light the candles,” said my father.

Gingerly, I approached the menorah and with flame in hand, I mumbled the blessings under my breath so that Sir James would not hear.

“Amen,” responded Sir James loudly, and I felt a sense of pride that Sir James had acknowledged our faith, mixed with shame that I had tried to hide it.

My father never hid it. He believed that God and His Law served as the province for all mankind and was in no way reserved for the Jews alone. From its very inception, universalism was axiomatic to Judaism. The Hebrew Bible begins with the story of Man, not with the story of the Jew. God chose the Jews to carry the message of monotheism until the dawn of the Messianic era when all the nations of the world would at last acknowledge Him.

The purpose of designating the Jews as the Chosen People is clearly outlined in the leitmotif of the Rosh Hashanah prayers, namely to fulfill the wish “that every creature know that God is its Maker and proclaim that the God of Israel is King and his Kingship rules over everything.”

If the Jews were to isolate themselves in a ghetto and shun the secular world, such a goal would never be achieved. For my father, there was an intimate connection between the position of Israel as the Chosen People on the one hand and the Messianic unity of mankind on the other. To maintain one’s identity as a separate religious and ethnic group and yet work loyally for the whole community of mankind was, for him, no contradiction.

Consistent with this thinking, my father believed that religion should embrace the whole of life in its personal, economic and social aspects and that it was a fundamental mistake to try to localize God in a House of Worship. God is either everywhere or He is nowhere and the Law of God either rules supreme in all aspects of life or it rules nowhere at all.

According to my father, the origins of the Holocaust could be traced back to the emergence of the Renaissance era with its separation of God and State, and its insistence that God Himself and the Divine origin of His Torah be proven in the courts of human reason. God, imprisoned by the Renaissance in the House of Worship, was the first displaced person of Europe and into the vacuum created by His expulsion rushed the demons of Machiavellian sovereignty, bringing death and destruction in their wake.

Mankind’s inventiveness and destructive energy had run amok and were charging headlong with atom bombs and nuclear armaments toward the precipice of universal self-destruction with none of the precepts and boundaries of religion to keep them in check.

* * * * * As a student of the works of Immanuel Kant and a disciple of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, my father believed the Torah could address all its critics, including the “wise men” of higher criticism, which he, together with others, dubbed “higher anti-Semitism.”

His premise was that God and the Divine origin of the Torah lay beyond the reach of human reason, which can neither prove nor disprove them because, to use the language of Kant, they are not “phenomena,” not part of this world, but “noumena,” beyond this world. Nevertheless, they are facts, to the same extent that nature itself and the soul of the human being are facts.

They exist, without doubt, even though we do not fully comprehend them. One cannot analyze the soul through a microscope, scan God through a telescope or view God speaking to man by using the spade of the archeologist. To deduce from this that God and the soul do not exist would be rather like the fisherman who claims that water does not exist because his net never captured it. Accordingly, to my father, the only way to perceive God is through the observance of the mitzvot, which he called power stations that generate holiness.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Seven: ‘Get Thee Forth to the Land’

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Because of her treatment, or in spite of it, Tzeitl seemed to improve. She sat up in bed, color returned to her cheeks, and her fever subsided. But Tevye still worried about the rattling cough deep in her chest. The doctor said he could offer no more assistance. Fresh air and the approaching summer sun were the best things for her now. He didn’t know if a voyage to the Land of Israel would harm her. In fact, the ocean breeze might do her good. And Palestine’s mild, Mediterranean climate was certainly a healthier environment than Russia’s drastically changing seasons, he said.

When ten days passed and no word arrived from Odessa, they decided to continue their journey, as it says, “You have dwelt long enough in this mountain, turn away and take up your journey.” Tevye chided himself with having trusted Ben Zion with a large chunk of his savings. Fortunately, Hillel and Shmuelik had agreed to journey on with the Zionists to make sure that the money didn’t get lost. Tzeitl was still too weak to walk on her own, so her sisters helped her into the wagon. Nachman sat alongside Tevye, and the giant, Alexander Goliath, walked behind on the road, as if to make sure that the children didn’t fall out on the way.

“What about Hevedke?” asked Hava.

“What about him?” Tevye said.

“Aren’t we going to wait for him to come back from the market?”

“Why should we? It is a blessing to be rid of him.”

“How can you say that after all he did for Tzeitl?” Ruchela asked.

“He isn’t a part of this enterprise,” Tevye said. “My horse has done a great deal for me too, but I am going to part from him in Odessa. As Solomon says, There is a time to find, and a time to lose.”

“I think he has proven himself,” Tzeitl said. “I think you should give him a chance.”

Tevye was happy to see his daughter’s spirit returning, but his answer was no.

“Tell him, Nachman,” Ruchela said. “Tell my stubborn old Father that a gentile can convert.”

Nachman didn’t want to enter the family quarrel. “Halachically,” he said, “Jewish law makes it possible, but it isn’t a simple matter. Besides a brit milah, and immersion in a ritual mikvah, a long period of learning is required.”

“How long?” Hava asked.

“At least a year,” the young rabbi said. “And during that time, the prospective convert certainly isn’t allowed to be in the company of a Jewish woman with whom he has been intimate in the past.”

Hava blushed and fell silent.

“There!” Tevye said. “The rabbi has decided. You heard it from his mouth yourselves.”

“I’ll wait a year,” Hava said. “I’ll wait ten years.”

“Agreed,” Tevye answered. “After ten years, I will reconsider my decision. In the meantime, it’s final, and I don’t want to hear anymore.”

“I don’t blame Hava for loving Hevedke,” Bat Sheva said. “Jewish men are awful.”

They were the first words she had spoken for days. When word hadn’t arrived from Ben Zion, she had fallen into a lovesick depression. He had seduced her, betrayed her, and made her feel like a fool. All of his promises had been nothing but lies. He had wounded her heart, tarnished her purity, and worse than all, damaged her feminine pride. Though she had only succumbed to two kisses, she felt compromised beyond all repair.

The days turned beautiful, as if God had answered Tevye’s prayers for good weather. The sun melted all of the snow on the ground, and the Russian landscape seemed to sparkle with the promise of renewal which comes with the spring. Tzeitl’s spirits were characteristically cheerful. She seemed to feel better each day, but her cough clung to her like a shroud. Each time Tevye heard it, he felt a dagger pierce through his heart. Then, when they were only a half day’s journey from Odessa, a different kind of danger appeared on their path. Two highwaymen on horseback galloped out of the woods in front of the wagon and ordered them to halt. They both brandished rifles and their faces were covered with masks.

“Hand over your money and no one needs to get hurt,” one of them said.

The Wechsler Family: Formerly Of Neve Dekalim; Now Of Nitzan

Friday, July 27th, 2012

The family: My name is Liora and I made aliya from Toronto when I was 16. That was 29 years ago and I came without my family. I lived in Neve Dekalim for 18 years. I met my husband Elimelech during my first year of college. He was studying in Yeshivat Hesder Yamit which was located in Neve Dekalim. When we go t married we decided to stay in Gush Katif until we completed our studies.

Back in 1987 when I arrived in Neve Dekalim there were about 80 families living there. It was like living in a little “Legoland.” All the houses looked the same. There were gardens but the sand was everywhere – outside, inside, in the beds and sometimes even in the food. I also started to fall in love with the place and when we decided to buy a home somewhere in the country, it was obvious to us that we were going to invest in Neve Dekalim.

The community was made up of families from different backgrounds; yet, there was a feeling of belonging. Whenever you had a simcha the neighbors and the members of the community prepared the food for you. If it was a brit mila or kiddush you didn’t cater it, the community automatically got together to make up the menu for you, bake the cakes – and it was something taken for granted.

We were all young families. Most of us lived far from our relatives. I saw the community blossom to about 500 families. Our six children were born there.

Our house – then: It was the first house we bought. It was 115 sq. meters. It was not luxurious but it was a very warm home. What meant more to us than the house was the garden around it.

Our house – now: We moved into our home a week before Pesach. It took us almost a year to build. We, more or less, did the planning ourselves. This is a house of my dreams – it’s not fancy but serves our needs and it’s bigger because our family is bigger. Baruch Hashem we have married children and grandchildren. It was very hard for us to take the first step in planning the house because we always hoped to be able to go back to Gush Katif – and we still hope to. I don’t know if it will be in my lifetime or theirs, but we will definitely go back.

The Wechsler’s current home

It was very important for me not to turn my new home into a shrine in memory of Gush Katif. This new home doesn’t resemble my house in Gush Katif. I have been learning mosaic art for the past 2 years and I made a little work of art in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem and Gush Katif in the entrance of my home. And I have shells from Gush Katif on a plate on the coffee table in my living room. When the GK homes were being destroyed, one of my neighbors took photos of it and he brought me a photo of my home being destroyed with the bulldozer on top of it. I asked my eldest daughter who is very artistic to turn the photo into a work of art. She stuck it to a piece of wood, painted around it as though continuing the picture, and added a verse from Yermiyahu, chapter 31, verse 24.

Day of uprooting from Neve Dekalim: We were expelled physically from our home on Thursday, 13th Av (18 Aug 2005). As a family we decided there would be no violence but that we would let our fellow Jews who expelled us know of our hurt and pain. We begged them to let us stay. There was a lot of crying. My eldest children, then teenagers, were physically expelled from our home. We took the younger ones out of the house and put them on a bus a few minutes before so they wouldn’t witness what would take place. I kept going on and off the bus to make sure everybody was okay. I was especially concerned that the expulsion forces were treating my two eldest daughters properly even though they were female soldiers. I was very proud that my girls kept on talking to the authorities in a very stern, emotional way but with respect. We didn’t pack anything – only a suitcase as though we were going on a holiday for a month.

Over 10,000 People Sign Petition Against German Ban of Bris Mila

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

On Saturday Night, July 8th, the 10,000 person signed the petition against the German court’s ban on Brit Mila.

The petition can be found here: http://www.jewishpress.com/petition-against-germanys-ban-on-brit-milah/

Members of the JewishPress.com staff plan to present the petition to the German Embassy in Israel this week.

The Three Weeks And The Nine Days

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

One does not have to be superstitious to recognize facts. It is a historical fact that the period between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Tenth of Av was plagued by recurring tragedies.

The door to our troubles first opened on that Seventeenth day of Tammuz when Moses walked in on the worshippers of the golden calf and shattered the tablets of the law. On the same date, both in the era of the First Temple and Second Temple, the daily sacrifice, known as the Tamid, which expunged the sins of the Jews and granted them divine amnesty, was brought to a halt. On the Seventeenth of Tammuz, the walls of the Second Temple were breached by the enemy that ultimately razed the Temple to the ground on Tisha B’Av. Again, on the same date, Apustomus (circa 150 BCE), one of the Syrian leaders with whom the Hellenists collaborated in the persecution of religious Jews in Israel, publicly torched a Sefer Torah. And on the seventeenth of Tammuz, Menasheh, king of Judah, erected an idol in the Temple. For these reasons, this period is called “Between the Straits” (“bein hametzarim”), based on the verse in Lamentations that “all [Israel’s] persecutors overtook her between the straits.”

Thus, based on the laws of personal mourning, the Three Weeks, from the Seventeenth of Tammuz to the Tenth of Av, are observed as a period of national mourning. In the case of a personal tragedy, such as the death of a relative, the mourning commences after the event, with the observance of the most severe restrictions of the shiva, followed by the less severe restrictions of the shloshim, followed by the least severe restrictions of the eleven months.

In the case of Tisha B’Av, the reverse is true. The mourning commences before the event, with the observance of the least severe restrictions (akin to the eleven months) during the First Period between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and Rosh Chodesh Av. Stricter restrictions of mourning follow during the Second Period between Rosh Chodesh Av and Tisha B’Av. The strictest restrictions of mourning are observed on Tisha B’Av itself.

Accordingly, commencing with the First Period, between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and Rosh Chodesh Av, the following are some of the activities that should be avoided: Weddings; playing musical instruments for pleasure; and reciting the blessing (“Shehecheyanu”) in connection with the wearing of new garments or the tasting of new fruit. Some practice the custom of refraining from shaving or cutting hair even during the First Period.

The following activities may be indulged in during the First Period: Engagements, with or without a festive meal, until Rosh Chodesh Av; pidyon haben (ceremony of redemption of a firstborn), even after Rosh Chodesh Av; and attending a brit with a festive (milk or meat) meal up to noon on Erev Tisha B’Av. According to Rav Moshe Feinstein, the First Period commences on the morning of the Seventeenth of Tammuz rather than the night following the Sixteenth of Tammuz.

Commencing with the Second Period, between Rosh Chodesh Av and Tisha B’Av, the following are some of the additional activities that should be avoided: Consumption of meat and poultry; drinking wine; laundering or wearing freshly laundered clothing; swimming; painting or other forms of home decorating; planting flowers and plants; as well as any risky activity (such as lawsuits, scheduled surgery, and travel, to the extent it can be postponed without adverse effect).

On Shabbat during the nine days, one may don freshly laundered clothes, eat meat and drink wine, including Havdalah wine. Similarly, the usual Shabbat songs should be sung both in the synagogue and at home. A commonly employed and permissible device regarding the prohibition of wearing fresh clothes during the nine days is to don them for a moment or two before the nine days.

Tradition has it that the Temple was destroyed due to petty hatred. Accordingly, it is particularly important during the bein hametzarim, as always, to set the record straight with kindness and consideration.

Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Vandalizing Yad Vashem

I find it inconceivable that ostensibly observant Jews could have vandalized Yad Vashem with virulently anti-Zionist hate slogans and graffiti mocking the memory of victims of the Holocaust (“Haredi Men Arrested in Yad Vashem Vandalism,” news story, June 29).

Is it possible that even those opposed to the establishment of a Jewish state prior to the advent of Mashiach would actually quarrel with a memorial to the millions of Jews destroyed by the Nazis and even go so far as to mock the victims of the Holocaust? I don’t think these miscreants represent all haredim who feel the current state of Israel is not legitimate from a religious point of view. Even so, the leadership of that community has an obligation to rein them in and publicly rebuke them. Common decency requires it.

Elliot Mann
(Via E-Mail)

Mubarak’s Legacy

Hosni Mubarak ran a ruthless police state and thereby bottled up the anger of most Egyptians which has now expressed itself in the electoral success of the Muslim Brotherhood and which has put Israel at greater risk (“Muslim Brotherhood Victory Upends Mubarak Legacy,” front page news story, June 29).

Without doubt Mubarak was useful in keeping Egypt in sync with both the U.S. and Israel and was part of their overall strategy for keeping international order in the Middle East. But in the long run his dictatorial regime set the stage for the ultimate victory of the Islamists.

Stephen Fried
Los Angeles, CA

Talking Back To The Times

I think your indictment of The New York Times and its transparent bias was devastating (“Is the Gray Lady Losing It?” editorial, June 29).

It was also a compelling reminder that the only hope we have of overcoming the pervasive liberal bias of media institutions like the Times is to encourage robust competition in the delivery of news and commentary. Conservative talk shows and the Internet, with all their faults, are gifts from Above.

Chaim Burns
(Via E-Mail)

Case Not Made Against Obama

Republican flak Matthew Brooks (“Romney Would Restore Closer, Warmer U.S.-Israel Ties,” op-ed, June 29) was long on criticism of President Obama’s tone vis-a-vis Israel but conveniently short on addressing the undeniable fact that the military and strategic relationship between Israel and the U.S. has never been stronger.

His critique of Obama’s “1967 lines with swaps” proposal was welcome but he did not say affirmatively what Romney’s vision of a future Israel would be.

Edward Schechtman
Jerusalem

Petition On German Court Decision (I)

The Jewish Press website is circulating a petition against a German court decision prohibiting brit milah.

The petition states that this decision is a stain on the German people. I think that misses the point.

A stain is a deviation from the object that has become stained.

This belief that they can decide what is moral is not a deviation from the core of the German people. It is what the German people are. It is why they could decide that the Germanic race was a superior race and others could be eliminated for the good of mankind.

The belief in man-made morality is a most treacherous slope and the Jewish people, having been pushed off that slope, should not downgrade this action to a stain. We know it is the core of the problem and what it leads to.

We should take this opportunity to develop a better understanding of what the Germans are and to be sure that all Jews everywhere learn the lesson.

It should be noted that German morality also allows Germany to be Iran’s largest trading partner.

Tzvi Meir
Jerusalem

Petition On German Court Decision (II)

I think the petition against the German court decision is highly inappropriate.

This decision is not a majoritarian decision of German society. It is the decision of a rogue court in Cologne and is almost certain to be overturned on appeal or be the subject of a law clarifying that circumcision is legal in Germany.

It’s also important to understand the Jewish Hospital in Berlin was not forced to stop brit milah. It did so (unadvisedly) of its own volition. Muslims are just as upset about it as Jews. Guide Westerwelle, Germany’s foreign minister and a real friend of the Jewish people, has spoken out against the ruling, and it has been criticized by virtually all Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic religious organizations in Germany.

It’s Official: No Circumcision in Germany – Jewish Hospital Bans the Brit

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The Jewish Hospital in Berlin has suspended all religious circumcisions of children following a ruling delivered by a German court on June 24 banning the practice.

The district court in Cologne ruled that circumcising young boys “is a serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body,” and raised an outcry of protest from Jewish and Muslim groups, both religions performing circumcisions on their children as a symbol of religious faith.

The ruling was made on a case in which a 4 year-old Muslim boy’s circumcision by a doctor led to pervasive bleeding and medical complications.

Gerhard Nerlich, a spokesman for the hospital, announced that “we are suspending circumcisions until the legal situation is clarified”.

The hospital performs approximately 100 religious circumcisions a year.  Two surgeries scheduled to take place were cancelled by the hospital, with calls placed to the families explaining the reason.

In its ruling, the court found that performing the religious circumcisions impinged on a child’s “fundamental right to bodily integrity” and was “against the interests of a child to decide for himself later on to what religion he wishes to belong”.  “Even when done properly by a doctor with the permission of the parents, [circumcision] should be considered as bodily harm if it is carried out on a boy unable to give his own consent”, the court said.  It noted that once a boy reaches the age of consent, he will be permitted to have a religious circumcision performed on himself.

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany condemned the ruling as “an unprecedented and dramatic intrusion on the self-determination of religious communities”, calling it “outrageous and insensitive”.

Rabbi Shimshon Nadel of Har Nof, Jerusalem, said the ruling was indicative of Germany’s sentiments toward Jews.  “Throughout Jewish history, there have been many attempts to ban circumcision – this is nothing new, and unfortunately, anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head in Germany,” he said.  “The circumcision procedure is something that is safe when performed by a trained mohel [performer of ritual circumcisions], we’ve been doing it for thousands of years, so it really comes down to the training of the mohel.”

The World Health Organization estimated that approximately 1/3 of men around the world are circumcised.

Germany is home to millions of Muslims and over 100,000 Jews.

Chabad of Berlin could not be reached for comment.

 

Please see the petition on Germany’s ban.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/its-official-no-circumcision-in-germany-jewish-hospital-bans-the-brit/2012/07/03/

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