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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘chaim’

Rosh Hashanah Greetings From The Chofetz Chaim

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

The Chofetz Chaim, whose scholarship, leadership, and Torah legacy will exist for all time, is indisputably at the top of any list of the greatest rabbanim of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

I have often written in these pages about the palpable sense of living, breathing history when I hold, and behold, correspondence written by important historical personalities. But what can one say to describe the feeling of holding a document handwritten by the likes of the Chofetz Chaim? Other than stating the obvious – that this document remains my personal treasure of treasures – I can only note that the very idea that these are the actual words, pen on paper, written by this Torah luminary causes trembling in my hands and my soul.

Rav Israel Meir (HaKohen) Kagan (1839-1933) is perhaps best known for his campaign to teach his fellow Jews about the laws of lashon hara (forbidden speech, including libel and slander). Toward that end, he published his first sefer, Chofetz Chaim, which earned him his moniker, and two other works on the subject. The name comes from Tehillim (Psalms) 34:12-14:

“Who is the man who desires life, who loves days to see goodness? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceitfully. Shun evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.”

His related sefer Sh’mirat HaLashon serves as an inspirational work designed to motivate the reader to be vigilant in the ethical usage of his speech and the avoidance of others’ unethical speech.

The Chofetz Chaim wrote on many other subjects and ultimately published more than 20 sefarim. But without doubt his most important sefer and magnum opus is the Mishnah Berurah, a six-volume commentary on the Orach Chayim section of the Shulchan Aruch, R. Yosef Karo’s digested compilation of practical Jewish law. Combining the Chofetz Chaim’s own explanations and differing opinions with those of other post-medieval authorities, it has become perhaps the primary authority on Jewish daily living among Ashkenazic Jews.

Tangential to the Mishnah Berurah, the Chofetz Chaim’s Biur Halacha commentary provides a complex analysis of the legal rulings of earlier Jewish halachic authorities. And his Sha’ar HaTziyyun serves primarily to document sources for laws and customs quoted in the Mishnah Berurah while clarifying ambiguous legal statements as well.

The Chofetz Chaim is also famous for establishing the renowned Radun Yeshiva, which he launched after serving as the rav of Radun for a short period of time.

Despite his fame as the “uncrowned spiritual king of Israel,” he was a modest and humble man. He became a genuine folk hero, beloved not only by scholars but also by the masses, as stories of his extraordinary piety and integrity sprang up among Orthodox Jews all over the world. He took a principal leadership role in the Agudat Israel movement in Eastern Europe; traveled extensively – even into his old age, as we will see below – to spread Torah learning and observance; and devoted great effort to helping many yeshivot survive the financial problems of the interwar period.

Believing in the imminent arrival of the Messianic Age, he stressed the importance of aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and was a great supporter of the Jewish community there.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1

In the 15 Elul 1925 correspondence on his official Radin letterhead, shown here as Exhibit 1, the Chofetz Chaim writes to Rav Shmuel Yitzchak Hillman:

To the honor of my friend, the great and famed Harav Hagaon Shmuel Yitzchak Hillman, shlita, Rav in the capital city of London

As I have not been home for an entire month this summer, my response to kvod torato was delayed until now, and I hereby extend to kvod torato the greatest return of grace on his great effort for the benefit of selling my sefarim for a total of 25 [Fontaine?] – and I hereby bless kvod torato and kvod bnei beito on this New Year, may it come upon us for good, with great peace from heaven, and all should be written and sealed for a good and peaceful life, and may we all merit a year of salvation and redemption, and may the Honor of Hashem fill the land, Amen v’amen. From me, his eternal friend who esteems and respects him.

                                                                                                         Yisrael Meir HaKohen

[Editor’s Note: “Kvod torato,” in this case referring to Rav Hillman, was common usage for many of the rabbanim at the time. “K’vod torato” – literally, “with respect for his Torah” – underscores the esteem the writer has for the recipient.]

In a postscript, the Chofetz Chaim extends greetings to Rav Hillman’s son-in-law, Rav Yitzchak Halevi Herzog – who would later serve as pre-state chief Ashkenazi rav of Eretz Yisrael (1936-1948):

I also send regards to the well being of his son-in-law, the Rav Hagaon and the well-being of his son, may they all stand on the blessing [i.e., be blessed].

Born in Kovno, Lithuania, Rav Hillman (1868-1953), a renowned Talmudic scholar and posek, best known as a dayan of the London Bet Din. He co-founded the Jerusalem yeshiva Ohel Torah together with Rav Herzog, who married his daughter Sarah and served as its rosh yeshiva.

* * * * *

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 2

Displayed here as Exhibit 2 is a very beautiful and extremely rare Rosh Hashanah card featuring the Chofetz Chaim. Surrounding his head is the famous verse from Tehillim for which he earned his nickname. Beginning at the extreme left and moving clockwise, the four bars at the edges proclaim “A year of livelihood and support,” “A year of life and peace,” “A year of blessing and success” and, finally, “Renew for us a good year.”

Questions have been raised in recent years about whether the iconic image seen on the card is in fact that of the Chofetz Chaim. Actual original photographs of the Chofetz Chaim, which are extremely rare, include a photo of him sitting outside at the front of his house with other people; a passport picture of him when he was considering a trip to Eretz Yisrael; and a photo of him en route to visit the Polish premier. They have done little to create a consensus for either side of the debate.

Saul Jay Singer

The List of 26 Palestinian Prisoners and their Victims

Monday, August 12th, 2013

The following is a list of the 26 prisoners scheduled for early release from prisons in Israel later this week as a ‘goodwill gesture’ to encourage Palestinian leaders to return to the negotiating table. In all, Israel agreed to eventually release 104 so-called pre-Oslo prisoners.

As we have noted, many in the media (including the Guardian, The Independent, and the Irish Times,) have whitewashed the violent, and often brutal crimes of the prisoners being released, and, conversely, have depicted the families of the soon-to-be released prisoners in a disturbingly sympathetic light.  So, in addition to listing details about the perpetrators, we’ve also included some information on the victims.  (You can see the complete list of pre-Oslo prisoners – information which was translated, edited and published exclusively by CAMERA – here.) 1. Kour Matwa Hamed Faiz (Fatah. Born 1964, resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested 1985) was sentenced to one life term for his part in establishing an armed Fatah cell and for the murder of Menahem Dadon in 1983 and for another attempted murder.

Menahem Dadon from Netivot was 22 years old when he was murdered. He had been sent by his employer to purchase building materials in Gaza and whilst in the shop, was shot in the head at point-blank range. He left a pregnant wife and two daughters.

2. Tsalah Ibrahim Ahmed Mugdad (Fatah. Born 1966, resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested 1993) was sentenced to 32 years imprisonment for the murder of Israel Tennenbaum and was due to be released on 13/6/2025.

Born in Poland in 1921, Israel Tennenbaum from Moshav Vered was a farmer who also worked as a security guard at a hotel in Netanya despite being 72 years old at the time of his death. In June 1993 Tsalah broke into the hotel and murdered Israel Tennenbaum by beating him over the head with a steel rod. He also stole a television from the hotel.

3. Na’anish Naif Abdel Jafar Samir (Born 1967, resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested 1989) was sentenced to a life term for his part in the murder of 24 year-old reservist Binyamin Meisner in February 1989.

Na’anish was part of a group which lured Meisner into an ally in Nablus (Schem) in which they had pre-prepared a stockpile of rocks. They then stoned Meisner to death.

4. Arshid A’Hamid Yusuf Yusuf (Fatah. Born 1968, resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested 1993) was sentenced to five life sentences after having been convicted of the murders of Nadal Rabu Jaab, Adnan Ayaad Dib, Mufid Canaan, Tawfik Jaradat and Ibrahim Said Ziad by stabbing. Arsheed was also indicted on several additional counts of attempted murder of others he also suspected of ‘collaboration’.

5. Al-Haj Othman Amar Mustafa (Fatah. Born 1968, resident of Judea & Samaria, arrested 1989) was sentenced to a life sentence for his part in the murder of 48 year-old Frederick Steven Rosenfeld in June 1989.

Rosenfeld was hiking in the hills near Ariel when he came across a group of shepherds who stabbed him to death with his own knife and hid his body.

6. Matslah Abdallah Salama (Hamas. Born 1969, resident of the Gaza Strip, arrested 1993) was sentenced to one life sentence for the murder of Reuven David in Petah Tikva in 1991.

Together with an accomplice, Matslah entered 59 year-old Iraqi-born Reuven David’s mini-market, tied him up, gagged him and then beat him to death, before escaping in the victim’s car. He left a wife, three children and several grandchildren.

7. Abu-Musa Salam Ali Atia (Fatah. Born 1971, resident of the Gaza Strip, arrested 1994) was convicted of the murder of Isaac Rotenburg from Holon as part of an initiation rite for joining a terror organisation and sentenced to one life sentence.

Holocaust survivor Isaac Rotenberg was born in Poland. Most of his family was murdered in the Sobibor death camp, but Isaac managed to escape and joined the partisans. After the war he tried to make his way by ship to mandate Palestine, but was interred by the British and sent to a detention camp in Cyprus until 1947. After his release Isaac arrived in pre-state Israel and fought in the War of Independence. He continued his work as a plasterer even after pension age and in March 1994 was at his place of work in Petah Tikva when he was attacked by two Palestinian labourers with axes. He died, aged 67, two days later.

Adam Levick

R. Lau to Submit Conversion Rulings to Haredi Review in Backroom Deal

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Three weeks after the stunning knockout a coalition of Haredi and Hardali (National religious Haredim) politicians delivered to Jewish Home and its hapless leader, Minister of Religious Services Naftalli Bennett, Ma’ariv reveals the price that had to be paid before the approval of Rabbi David Lau by the extremist Haredi camp: control over non-Haredi conversions.

Over the past three weeks, we’ve heard nothing but praise for the new Ashkenazi chief rabbi, who, as rabbi of Modi’in, a typical mixed religious and secular Israeli town, has shown the kind of moderation and acceptance one expects of a rabbinical shepherd. Some, like National Religious pundit Menachem Rahat, have gone so far as to suggest that under normal circumstances—meaning before the overwhelming sweep of Jewish Home and the ousting of the Haredim from government—someone as sweet and accepting as Rabbi David Lau would not have stood a chance to be selected, and that he was picked only as a desperate response to the popular Rabbi David Stav, a National Religious scholar and leader who was going to revamp the chief rabbinate.

And it worked. Like Menachem Rahat, the prevailing tone of the National Religious commentators following Lau’s election (and Stav’s defeat) has been that at least Rabbi Lau is a nice guy, a moderate, a uniter, not a divider.

All those well wishers may have to reexamine their praises now. According to Ma’ariv, in closed conversations Rabbi David Lau conducted with some Haredi decision makers before the vote, he gave them his commitment that all of his ruling regarding conversions would be submitted to a review by Rabbi Avraham Sherman, the man who gained his reputation as the killer of Rabbi Chaim Druckman’s thousands of kosher giurim-conversions.

Back in May of 2008, the Supreme Rabbinical Court judges Rabbis Hagai Izirer, Avraham Sherman and Avrohom Sheinfeld annulled thousands of conversions done by two National Religious rabbis, determining that:

“First, all conversions performed since 1999 by Rabbi Chaim Avior and Rabbi Chaim Drukman must be disqualified; second, conversions can be retroactively annulled for those who are not observant.”

Attorney Susan Weiss, founding director of the Center for Women’s Justice (JOFA), told Ynet in 2008 that the verdict had far-reaching implications on thousands of people who underwent conversion in the last few years—and on their children.

Much has been written and said about the case, which had territorial war written all over it. It was the first case of such massive, retroactive annulments of giurim-conversions, and the fact that the injured rabbis were renowned National Religious figures, while the court that destroyed their decades of work—as part of the chief rabbinate!—was comprised only of Haredim, was a sign that the Haredim were determined to annul not just the conversions, but also the foothold of the religious Zionists in the Chief Rabbinate.

In the spring of 2012, Israel’s Supreme Court re-affirmed the validity of the thousands of conversions disqualified retroactively by the Rabbinical Court in 2008, but stopped short of saying the rabbinical courts did not have the authority to annul conversions.

Still, the justices did not spare the rabbinical court their criticism. Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch wrote in the verdict:

“The Rabbinical Court of Appeals rode roughshod over basic procedural rules and the principles of natural justice. It demonstrated contempt for the special conversion courts, and above all, it hurt and did a shocking injustice to the petitioners and their children.”

Maariv spoke to Rabbi Sherman who confirmed the story about the condition for Rabbi Lau’s election. According to rabbi Sherman, Rabbi Lau met with Rabbi Yosef Efrati, a confidant of the late Rabbi Elyashiv, leader of the Lithuanian Haredim.

“Rabbi Lau told Rabbi Efrati that on all matters regarding conversions he would come to talk to me and consult in me before reaching a decision, because I have been involved in these issues as a confidant of Rabbi Elyashiv, and I am familiar with his rulings on these matters.”

And so the circle is complete: the most fundamental driving force behind the candidacy of Rabbi David Stav, the celebrated chairman of the Tzohar organization, dedicated to making life under halacha more palatable for secular Israelis, was the brutal treatment of thousands of converts by Rabbi Sherman and his co-justices. Now it is clear that not only did the Haredi politicians manage to subvert the attempts to ease their hold on religious life in the country, but that Religious Zionism has lost the most crucial battle of that campaign. The forces that gave us the disqualification of thousands of Jewish lives are back at the helm, stronger and smarter.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/r-lau-to-submit-conversion-rulings-to-haredi-review-in-vote-deal/2013/08/05/

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