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September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Chafetz Chaim’

The Wrong Stuff of the Right

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/the-wrong-stuff-of-right.html

I recently saw a picture of the first Agudah convention taken almost 100 years ago. What struck me was what the attendees looked like as compared to those who attended the Interent Asifa a few moths ago.

The look at the Asifa was literally a sea of black hats along with the pro forma accompanying white shirts and black pants and jacket. That is the “look” of our day! (The recent Agudah Siyum that had a variety of “looks” is an exception since it was attended by many non Charedim which was in fact encouraged by the Siyum organizers.)

But archival picture which boasted attendance by some of the greatest Gedolim of that era including the Chafetz Chaim had people in all manner of dress: light suits, dark suits, vests… some had hats, some caps, some just plain Kipot. Many clean shaven, few with peyos… All were there and all were the equivalent of the Charedi world we have today. This was the Agudah of Yesteryear.

What has happened in our day is a sad commentary about the value placed on irrelevant externals like the black hat. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in an article in The Jewish Press by Penina Scheiner.

Mrs. Scheiner describes what it was like for her to move from an environment that valued those externals as she did into one that couldn’t care less about them. She does not say where she moved but from the context it sounds like a small community where religious Jews did not buy into any of these things.

She at first seemed horrified that her children picked up the town values (or more precisely the lack of her external home town values). For one thing her sons did want to not wear black hats. Nor did they want to wear the pro forma Kipa of the right – the velvelt one. They preferred to wear what their classmates were wearing – the suede Kipa.

Mrs. Scheiner couldn’t believe that the “values” she grew up with were being destroyed! She felt that they only moved to this town so they could influence the community. Instead her own children were being influenced by them!

She goes on to describe other symbols of the Charedi lifestyle that her children discarded – at first to her great dismay. But she has long ago come to terms with it and now quite properly understands how irelavant those things are. They are nothing more artificial artifacts of outward appearance whose sole purpose is to divide rather than to unite.

It is of course easy for those of us outside the camp of Charedism to understand that. But in the world of the Charedim, they see these things as definitive to Judaism. As incredulous as that sounds, here’s the money quote from the article that illustrates that:

Then it was time for shidduchim. Everything seemed to be going well until I mentioned to the shadchan that my son did not wear a black hat. She inhaled deeply. “Oh,” she said. “Then he does not have yiras Shamayim.”

…He also answered “no” to a different well-meaning shadchan who advised him to wear a black hat – just on the first date. ‘But everyone does it for the first date,” she said. “It will make a good impression.” My son refused. “How about just putting a black hat in the back window of your car?”

As if that weren’t bad enough she tells the story of an earlier time when she was still worried about her son losing the external values she grew up with. She was at the time thrilled that this would now be corrected by the Charedi Yeshiva her son was accepted to. Here’s how that went:

Our son noticed some un-yeshivish behavior at this school and told me about it. I was concerned, and also a little naïve. I called the administration, expecting the matter to be resolved quietly. Instead, our son was taken from the dorm that very night in full view of the other boys and asked what he had seen. When my son returned from the interrogation, the boys believed him to be an informer and ostracized him. They vandalized his belongings and threatened him. One Erev Shabbos, my son called to wish us a quick good Shabbos. “I’m not sure if I will survive over Shabbos,“ he whispered and hung up the phone. What an anxious Shabbos that was! My fourteen-year-old could not understand why the boys were acting menacingly to him and was very unhappy.

This – along with other examples is what the world of the right has become. This is the house they have built!

Mishnah Berurah

Wednesday, April 7th, 2004

Finally, it is here — the famous Mishnah Berurah with English translation on CD-ROM. For those of you who are not familiar with the Mishnah Berurah, it is one of the most popular and famous Halachic works written within the last 200 years.

The Mishnah Berurah was written by Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan, better known as the Chafetz Chaim. The Chafetz Chaim was one of the greatest sages to have lived during the mid 1800′s and early 1900′s. The Chafetz Chaim wrote quite a few works. One of them was the Mishnah Breruah, which is based on the Shulchan Aruch’s (Code of Jewish Law) Orach Chayyim (daily living) section. The first volume was printed in 1884. With all said and done, it took approximately 28 years to complete all six volumes.

The CD contains the full Hebrew text and English translation of the Shulchan Aruch-Orach Chayyim and Mishna Berurah. Included also are the Hebrew texts of Bi’ur Halacha, Sha’ar Hatziyun, Ba’er Heitev, Be’er HaGolah, and Sha’arei Teshuva. The program is relatively simple to install and use. Once the program is installed, simply click on the book icons to begin your journey through this great work.

One excellent feature this program offers is allowing the user to adjust the default font size, background, and foreground colors. This comes in very handy for people who have a hard time looking at computer screens or for those who simply like to personalize their programs.
(Colors of letters mentioned in the next few paragraphs refer to the default colors.)

When viewing the Hebrew Shulchan Aruch, you will notice little letters of the Hebrew alphabet in brackets and in parentheses and in different colors. Just click on those letters and within no time a new window will open up with text related to that halacha.

Clicking on the red Hebrew letters in parentheses will lead the user to the Ba’er Heitev commentary, written by Rabbi Yehuda Ashkenazi in 1752. This commentary is a summarization of topics discussed in the Shulchan Aruch.

The Blue Hebrew letters in brackets will link you to the Shaa’rei Teshuva, written by Rabbi Chayim Mordechai Margolies in 1820. However, like the Ba’er Heitev, these works have become classic and are included with the Shulchan Aruch. Nevertheless, the Ba’er Heitev is only a summarization, and Sha’arei Teshuva is only a collection of related responsa, so some important aspects of the authorities were left out. That is what makes the Mishnah Berurah so special — it fills in where these commentaries were too vague for the simple reader.

When clicking on the purple Hebrew letters in parentheses, a box will open up with the Mishnah Berurah. When inside the Mishnah Berurah you will also notice purple letters in parentheses. Clicking on these letters will enable you to view the Sha’ar Hatziun. The Sha?ar Hatziun is a collection of footnotes, written by the Chafetz Chaim.

You are probably wondering: Does the English work the same way? Well, almost; it is only slightly different. For instance, when glancing at the English Shulchan Aruch, you will notice numbers with parentheses and numbers with asterisks. Clicking on the number with parentheses will take you to a new box with the English text of the Mishnah Berurah instead of Hebrew.

However, the difference is with those numbers that have asterisks next to them. Instead of clicking on them, all you have to do is place your mouse over the number and a box will open in the same window — as opposed to it opening in the new window.

On to some of the features of the program. The search feature is wonderful. You can conduct simple searches in either English or Hebrew. You can narrow down your search by choosing which databases to conduct the search in (i.e. just in the Shulchan Aruch alone, etc.). However, for those who need to conduct more advanced searches, the program is pretty well equipped for it.

Some features for the advanced search option include different search methods such as matching exactly, prefix/suffix, soundex, add layers, and synonyms. At the same time, you can set your own search conditions such as the distance and word order.

While conducting these searches, you can keep a word count and look up (saved) previous queries. After conducting many searches, things may become a bit disorganized. A quick solution is to use the merge function.

Many people like to take their own notes when learning. The program includes an option that enables the user to take notes. The notes list lets you keep an organized list by classifying your notes by their subject and description. If you have Davka Writer and would rather take notes with that, you can cut the text from the Mishna Berurah program and paste it into DavkaWriter. (You can also copy to Word Pad but I found that the Hebrew is best displayed in Davka Writer.)

Not always next to the computer, but you would like to learn a siman (chapter) from the Mishnah Berurah? The program allows you to print the texts and gives you a variety of options on how you can print them such as multiple prints (what you want printed on that particular page) and with or without nikkud (vowels).

This program can run on any PC that is running windows 95/98/NT/2000/ME/XP, but the computer must have at least 32MB of RAM and a CD-ROM drive.

This product can be purchased online at www.davka.com or at your better local Jewish bookstore.

Q & A: Learning Torah In Israel

Friday, June 21st, 2002

QUESTION: My son is enrolled in one of the major yeshivot in Israel. Though he is learning very well, I am extremely tense at all times. My question is: In times of danger like today, is it proper to allow him to continue learning there? Would it not be possible for him to learn elsewhere with the same results?

Name withheld by request

ANSWER: The topic in question is quite difficult to address, especially considering a parent’s anguish. We begin our discussion with Rabbi David Samson’s recent comments in the “Ask the Rabbi” feature of Arutz Sheva.

Following is the introduction to R. Samson’s discussion, which can be found on www.Israel NationalNews.com, the Arutz Sheva website.

“Rabbi David Samson is one of the leading English- speaking Torah scholars in the Religious-Zionist movement in Israel. He has co-authored four books on the writings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Rabbi Samson learned for 12 years under the tutelage of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. He served as rabbi of Kehillat Dati Leumi Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, and teaches Jewish Studies at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva Institutions.

“The Chafetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen from Radin, was certainly one of the greatest Torah scholars of modern times. His unparalleled halakhic work, the Mishna Berura, is the definitive compendium of Jewish law. In addition, his writings on good deeds and kindness, Ahavat Chessed, and his treatises on the evils of lashon hara [slander and gossip], Chafetz Chaim and Shemirat HaLashon, show his great piety and saintliness. He is known never to have spoken unfairly about anyone.

“The following story was told by the revered Rabbi Dichovsky, of blessed memory, in his book Neot Desha, on concluding a tractate of Talmud. In the introduction he recounts his visit to the Chafetz Chaim in order to ask him the very same question about moving to Israel at a time of clear and present danger.

“We quote: ‘I saw it proper to record a statement made to me by the most pious of all of the kohanim, the Rabbi of all of Israel, the glory of the generation, the holy of all Israel, may he be blessed in memory, in the matter of aliyah [immigration to Israel]. I asked him about it, and following are the details of our encounter:

“‘It was the beginning of the year 1933. There was a group of Torah scholars who had organized themselves to go together to Israel to learn Torah. I, too, was amongst them, but I had many doubts because I knew that many of the great gedolim [Torah scholars] of Israel were opposed. The heads of my yeshiva were especially opposed to the idea that yeshiva students would go to Eretz Yisrael, even for the sake of studying Torah. They said that the proper conditions had not as yet been established in order to facilitate Torah study with the proper diligence in the Holy Land, to the extent that we are able to study Torah in the yeshivot in the Diaspora. Therefore, I said in my heart, I must not ask my rabbis on this matter, for obviously the answer will be No.

“‘Like R. Zera, who [asked and then] ran away from his teacher, R. Yehuda, when he wanted to make aliyah to Israel (Tractate Ketubbot 110b), I decided to go and ask the counsel of the righteous man of our generation, our revered rabbi, and to receive his blessing before I departed. Therefore, just before the Day of Atonement, I journeyed to the yeshiva of the Chafetz Chaim in the town of Radin, where I stayed in the shadow of this great, righteous individual. This was, as is known, the last Yom Kippur of this special tzaddik, for at the end of that year, in the month of Elul, he was taken to the yeshiva Above, may his merit be a shield to us and all Israel.

“‘Heavenly Providence was with me, and in spite of his great physical weakness I merited to see him on the day after Yom Kippur. I told him my situation, and that I had a good chance of making aliyah to Israel as a Torah student, but that I had lingering doubts if I would be able to learn Torah with the same diligence with which I was learning now. Immediately, he answered, in his famous sweetness of speech, that there was no room at all for my wariness. Why in the world would I not be able to learn Torah there with absolute diligence ? just the opposite would seem true, for the Land of Israel, without question, was more conducive for steadfast immersion in Torah. He recited the verse, “The gold of the Land is good,” (Bereshit 2:12) on which the Midrash says, “These (the gold of the Land is good) are the words of Torah, for there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael; and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael” (Bereshit Rabbah 16:7).

“‘Before I could express the rest of the doubts I harbored ? especially the fear of the danger in Israel because of the children of Ishmael who were marauding violently against the Jews, for only a few years had passed since the end of the Hebron Massacre in the year 1929, which made clear to everyone the wild, bestial nature of the Ishmaelites, who with savagery and unbounded cruelty massacred Yeshiva students and showed no mercy even to the women and children ? before I was able to confess all my apprehensions, the Rabbi answered the question himself.

“‘In the following words of the Torah, he said: ‘The holy Torah tells us regarding Ishmael that he is a ‘pere adam,’ a wild beast of a man. It is known that our Torah is eternal, and if it says about Ishmael that he is a wild beast of a man, then Ishmael will remain forever a wild beast of a man. Even if all the cultured nations of the world will gather together and try to educate Ishmael and transform him into a cultured individual, so that he will no longer be a wild beast of a man, obviously this will be impossible in every fashion or form. They will not be able to do this through any means whatsoever, because he is not capable of being a cultured individual, for behold, the Torah testified regarding him that he is a wild beast of a man. This means that forever, for all eternity, Ishmael is by definition a wild beast of a man. Even if Ishmael be involved in an intellectual endeavor, like being a lawyer, or some similar profession, then he will be a beastly lawyer. If he will study diligently to be a professor, then he will be a beastly professor. This means that the bestiality of Ishmael will never cease.’

“‘Then the Chafetz Chaim let out a long, painful sigh and said, “Who knows what this wild beast of a man is capable of perpetrating against the Jewish people in the end of days?”

“‘Concluding his words to me, he said, “Nevertheless, fear not ? there is no reason for this to prevent you from making aliyah to the Land of Israel.”

“‘Then he blessed me, saying, “Go in peace, and the L-rd will bless your path.” So I left him, and journeyed in peace to the Holy Land.’”

(To be continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/q-a-learning-torah-in-israel/2002/06/21/

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