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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Charedi’

The Road Paved with iPhones

Monday, September 10th, 2012

I wish I could say that I am perplexed by what happened at a wedding hall in Jerusalem last week. Because that would be the normal response by someone who had heard that a Rosh Yeshiva disqualified an individual designated as a witness to sign a Kesuva (the Halachic marriage contract).

It would be shocking to most people that a witness was disqualified because he owned an iPhone But the way things are going now, I am not shocked or even perplexed by it at all. From YWN:

As the kesuva was being written, Rabbi Yosef Ze’ev Feinstein, Rosh Yeshivas ‘עמלהשל תורה’, the mesader kedushin, asked to meet the Eidim (witnesses). He asked them to see their cell phones. One pulled out a kosher phone. The second an iPhone. The latter was disqualified as a witness.

There are many Halachic reasons to disqualify a witness. But owning an iPhone is not one of them. And yet this Rosh Yeshiva decided that owning an iPhone is so bad that it is enough to… not only disqualify someone from being a witness, but enough to embarrass him in doing so in front of those who designated him as such and those who watched this happen.

This is the state of the extremism that runs rampant in certain Charedi circles in Israel I guess. While I don’t think anyone has yet been disqualified as a witness in America for owning an iPhone, it can’t be that far off. In the never ending chase to be seen as the frummest (more observant), what happens in Israel… doesn’t stay in Israel.

There is always someone here who will take up the cause and be the first to be the “Frummest”! It happened with the devaluing of Limudei Chol (secular education) and it will easily happen to iPhone owners.

I know all their arguments. The internet is pure evil – worse than anyone can imagine! If you have any device that can access it… YOU are evil! Especially if it is a hand held device where one can hide access and pretend to be “holy”.

And now, post Internet Asifa, one is in direct violation of the edict against the internet imposed by someone who many consider the Posek HaDor. An edict about which a key speaker said that violating a public Psak by such a Posek causes one to lose their place in Olam Haba. This was not contradicted by any of the many rabbinic leaders who attended that Asifa.

So this poor ex-witness who very likely does not use his iPhone for illicit purposes has not only lost his status as a Kosher witness, he may very well have lost his portion in the world to come too. Nebech!

But… perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps the Rosh Yeshiva was doing us all a favor. This witness will now realize the evil of his ways; throw away his iPhone; and do Teshuva. And the rest of us will now take heed of how terrible owning an iPhone is.

I’m sure glad to know that the worst thing anyone can do is own any device that can access the internet. (I will now forever spit every time I say the word “internet”.)

I hope Rabbi Nechmya Weberman is paying attention. He can rest easy now knowing that compared to owning an iPhone, sexually molesting numerous young women – teens and pre-teens – who came to him for guidance and “therapy” wasn’t so bad. At least not compared to owning an iPhone.

I’m sure if he were one of the witnesses at that wedding he would have passed with flying colors. I hope the judge in his case takes note of the fact that Rabbi Weberman does not own an I phone. And never would! Chas V’Shalom! If not I hope his character witness point that out. I can almost guarantee there will be numerous character witnesses at his trial testifying to what a Tzadik he is.

Good to know where the Torah world’s priorities are heading.

Visit the Emes Ve-Emunah blog.

The Winds of Mysticism

Friday, August 31st, 2012

As I was browsing through some of the news media, blogs, and other social network media that I frequent (as source material from my blog), I came across a number of articles that seemed to have a common theme. There seems to be an increase in the number of ads for mysterious Segulos as well as announcements about getting Brachos from rabbis. So too are there all kinds of spiritual messages being ‘seen’ in various events of the day – like blaming a tragedy on a defect in Klal Yisroel that needs to be ‘repaired.’

While there may be sources for all of these things, it seems like there is much greater focus on them than ever. The message is that no matter how much we try and fulfill the word of God, it isn’t enough. That we must seek some sort of ‘magic’ bullet to grant our heavenly requests, whether for Parnassa or the health of a loved one who has fallen ill, or praying for fertility… what have you.There is an increasing number of cryptic avenues of this type being touted for successful resolution of one’s needs.

This used to be more the province of Sephardim and Chasidim. But lately it has affected the non Chasidic Ashkenazic Yeshiva world as well.

One e-mail I received contained a picture of a poster hung in a Shul with the announcement that Rav Shach’s grandson, R’ Yissochar Bergman, is collecting “Kvitlech”(written prayer requests – usually accompanied by a donation) for Rav Chaim Kanievsky. This used to be only a Chasidic custom. But now it is ‘catching on’ in the Yeshiva world. You can’t get more Yeshivish than Rav Shach.

There is also the custom of going to Uman on Rosh HaShana. This used to be reserved for Breslover Chasdidm since their Rebbe is buried there. Now there are hundreds of non Chasidim going there too. That has in fact been sharply criticized in the past. It is one thing for a Breslover Chasid to do that – although I question even that. It is another thing for others to do it. The idea of leaving your family behind and going to Uman for Rosh HaShana is perverse to my way of thinking. But now a venerated sage, R’ Aharon Leib Steinman seems to be giving his blessing to it. As pointed out in a post on Rafi’s blog:

This year Rav Shteinman was asked his opinion on the matter. His answer was, reportedly, along with a backhanded compliment, “What’s so bad about them going to Uman? It wont do any harm. Just the opposite – with such a large crowd, there will definitely be a minyan of people davening properly…”

In another post in that same blog is the following:

According to Bechadrei, Rav Birnzweig, a rav in the Mirrer Yeshiva, claimed during his mussar shiur, that Rav Elyashiv was murdered. He said:

Recently we have heard of gedolei yisroel who have passed from this world, everybody must arouse themselves [to teshuva]. Rav Elyashiv and the Admor of Shomrei Emunim were murdered due to the yeshiva bochurim and kollel avreichim who use smartphones.

Right! Rav Eyashiv’s “untimlely” death at age 102 was actually murder due to smartphone use. And who is making this wild speculation? A Rosh Yeshiva in the Mir!

These people are not fringe people. These are respected, serious, mainstream Yeshiva world people. And they are beginning to sound like charlatans and snake oil salesman!

Is this the direction the Charedi world is going in? Is this the unity we should be looking for? A melding of the Chasidic and Yeshiva world that encompasses the entirety of all Asheknaz Charedim? Is the focus becoming mysticsm over rationalism? I know that there is more of a focus on mysticism among Sephardim. But Ashekanzim in the Yeshiva world have never focused on that. Until now.

I realize that not all Charedim buy in to this stuff. Most moderate Charedim do not. But there are so many indicators of this kind of thinking permeating the Charedi world it that I am beginning to wonder if it is the wave of the future? Will it become more mainstream? Is Judaism becoming a religion of mystical Segulos, and Rebbeshe Brachos, blaming every tragedy on the perceived communal ill of the day? Or will we instead be of a religion of merit based on rationality, personal behavior, adherence to Halacha, and direct prayer to God? It would seem that the former is becoming more of a possibility based on these reports.

One Judaism, Two Perspectives on Dressing Modesty

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

When it comes to modesty in dress there is a wide variety in the way various segments of Orthodox Jewry put it into practice. But the basics are the same for all. Without getting into the details of the basic Halacha, I will just say that modesty for women requires that she cover those parts of the body that are considered “her nakedness” (Erva). Those are the biblical parameters which apply in all places – at all times in public. The rabbinic parameters (Tznius) go beyond the biblical requirement and are relative to the culture where one resides.

So that in places like Iran, a Jewish woman may be required to follow the modesty customs of that culture which go far beyond what is biblically required. In places like America, the biblical and rabbinic parameters are the same. Modesty in western cultural terms do not meet even the biblical Erva standard.

Some of the more right wing segments of Orthodoxy insist on taking matters of Tznius to much greater lengths than Halacha requires – even those that live in westernized cultures like America and Israel. For example, even though an exposed lower leg below the knee is not considered Erva, Chasidic – and many other Charedi communities require that it be covered anyway. And consider it highly immodest if a woman’s leg below the knee is fully exposed.

Which brings me to two articles in the Forward. One by Judy Brown, a woman who is Charedi. The other by Simi Lampert who is Modern Orthodox. It is interesting to see the similarity of attitude expressed by both.

One might think that a Modern Orthodox woman would be put off by the attitude expressed by the Charedi woman. But in both cases they seem to be saying the same thing. Which is that they understand the purpose behind those modesty rules. And both expressed the desire to follow them.

Both women have the desire to look attractive by western cultural standards and have tried on immodest clothing in private just to see how they would look. Both thought they looked great, and both would never consider wearing such clothing in public. They both feel a level of comfort in following the modesty rules.

The difference between them is cultural and not Halachic. In the Charedi culture, the idea of not wearing stockings is considered a Tznius violation. So much so that when an error in perception was made about the Mrs. Brown not wearing stockings even though her legs were covered below the knee, all hell broke loose. Here is how she tells the story:

[T]he young man passing by the yard declared that he had seen me with bare legs. Like a careless whore…

It was Tuesday, mid-August, a (very hot) day… I filled up the baby pool for my children in the yard settled on a plastic chair with cherry ices and dunked my legs in the pool, right where the water spurted from the hose.

It was then that the Hasid passed. It was then that he saw me — beige pantyhose transparent, legs seemingly bare — and, looking quickly away, hurried to tell the rav. I had not seen him at all. I did not know of the bewildered chaos going on in his mind until later that night, when my husband came home and stared at me quizzically.

The rav had called, he said. Could it be true? That I had sat outside with no pantyhose at all?

Of course she was wearing stockings and it was just a misperception on the part of a passerby. The point here is how seriously this Chumra is taken in the world of Chasidim. As ‘modern’ as Mrs. Brown became in other areas, this area is sancrosanct to her.

This would never happen in Modern Orthodoxy. Of course modern Orthodox Jews do not have the infra structure or the desire to dictate how its members dress. As Mrs. Lambert points out:

If my rabbi approached my husband about what I was wearing in my own yard, I’d almost definitely move. The very next day.

While both communities follow the same Halachos of modesty there is no mechanism, or really any pressure in Modern Orthodoxy that would force a violator to adhere to Halacha. One will find that modesty laws are occasionally breached by those I would call MO-Lite. The kind of guilt described by Mrs. Brown does not exist in MO circles, at least not on the level she seemed to have about it.

Why Modern Orthodoxy?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I don’t know anything about Republican candidate for the New York State Senate, Mindy Meyer. But an article in Tablet Magazine uses her candidacy as a springboard to demonstrate one of the reasons Modern Orthodoxy has so much to offer religious Jews.

One of the criticisms I get here is that I do not focus enough on the good side of Modern Orthodoxy… that I focus too much on the ‘evils’ of the Charedi world.

First let me state that I do not in any way consider Charedim to be evil. God forbid. The vast majority of them are sincere, God fearing Jews who want nothing more than to serve God in the best way they possibly can. They are Chareid L’Dvar HaShem – as their name implies. They tremble at the word of God.

My issues are not with mainstream Charedim. They are with the bad apples among them. The ones that get all the media coverage. Unfortunately there have been far too many incidences of evil being done by members of that community over the last few years that have gotten media attention – and therefore mine.

Otherwise my posts on the Charedi world generally involve defining our differences – and occasionally questioning the decisions of some of their leaders on various issues.

But I do admit not talking enough about the positive side of Modern Orthdodxy. Or worse not enough about its negative side.

Yes there is a negative side to Modern Orthodoxy.  Immersing oneself in the general culture even where Halacha permits it has its dangers. One can easily be enticed to ‘cross that line’ between the permissible and impermissible.  And it can be a fast and slippery slope from there. Just like the isolationists in the Charedi world are vulnerable to going OTD by being unprepared for their inevitable exposure to the outside world, so too can the Modern Orthodox Jew go OTD by being over exposed to it.

But I am not going to discuss here which way is the safer way to retain one’s Yiddishkeit. For purposes of this article let us assume the risks are equal. I am going to discuss the positive side of Modern Orthodoxy. Nowhere is this illustrated better than in the above mentioned article.

Using the candidacy of Mindy Meyer as a springboard to understanding the differences between Charedim and Modern Orthodox Jews – especially where women are concerned – Tablet shows just how poorly even the most seasoned reporters really understand those differences.  I could not agree more.

The truth is that Orthodox Jews are all lumped together as having the same attitudes in life. So that for example a Chasidic Jew in Williamsburg will be treated the same way a Modern Orthodox Jew in Teaneck. They are both seen as Orthodox and their worldviews are more or less seen to be the same: decidedly anti-modern. Quoting from the blog Jezebel, Tablet demonstrates this:

“That no woman has emerged as a political candidate [in New York], despite the Orthodox community’s growing size and political sway, is largely a result of women in the community being relegated or elevated, depending on one’s perspective, to a domestic role—expected to dress modestly, live quietly, and draw little attention to themselves in the outside world. Some women won’t shake the hands of men,”… “Others refuse to speak in gender-mixed company, be photographed, or wear a color as flashy as pink.”

This is definitely the way much of the Charedi world sees the role of a Jewish woman. While some of those descriptions apply to all Jewish women (e.g. dressing modesty) the Modern Orthodox woman will fully participate along with her secular sisters in all walks of American life. And they will seek the kind of education and opportunities that will enable them to do so. Tablet then illustrates this point by citing numerous examples of highly successful Modern Orthodox women, such as best selling author Faye Kellerman and Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, the dean of students at Columbia Law School.

The more open and actively modern attitude with respect to secular education and western culture not only enables the MO woman to participate at these levels, it encourages them to do so, if they so chose.

This is not to say that Charedi women can’t or don’t achieve great successes like these. Tablet mentions Ami Magazine’s Rechy Frankfurter who is the successful senior editor of that magazine.  And she is not the only Charedi woman who has achieved high level success in the modern world.

As the Pendulum Swings – Ever Rightward

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/as-pendulum-swings-ever-rightward.html

I am beginning to wonder whether Modern Orthodoxy (MO) is already a thing of the past. At least in Israel. Although MO schools in America are not exactly the same thing as Dati Leumi (DL) or Religious Zionist (RZ) schools in Israel, they are in many ways similar.

DL schools generally reflect a more modern outlook similar to MO schools in the US. Mamlachti Dati government supported religious schools are part of the overall educational system in Israel with the same educational standards as their secular schools.

Graduates tend to do army service – some going into Hesder programs; then they go into the work force; and blend quite seamlessly into the culture while remaining religious.  By the same token MO Jews in America tend to be religious Zionists as well – many of whom end up making Aliyah.

According to an article in the Times of Israel, RZ schools are about to adopt Tznius standards that mimic those of the most right wing Charedi schools in Israel. From the article:

According to a Maariv report on Monday, six-year-old girls must wear shirts that cover their elbows “even when raising their hands” and skirts that cover their knees “even when sitting.” The little girls must also wear long and loose pants during physical education classes. Girls with long hair must tie it back, while their fathers’ haircuts must abide by the “spirit of the school.” Boys and girls, who are ordinarily learn in gender-segregated classes starting in elementary school, are reportedly now required to remain segregated during recess and after school. Parents applying to have their children enroll in several religious Zionist schools in Israel have reportedly been asked to fill out questionnaires concerning their personal level of religious observance, the level of religious observance in the home, and the presence of a television or Internet connection in the home.

The article goes on to say that this phenomenon is only reflective of a minority of RZ schools. I would add that this is certainly not the case in any Modern Orthodox schools in the US. I don’t think that even most Charedi schools – at least moderate ones – require this standard. Yet. But as has been the case for decades now the move to the right continues unabated.

Why is this happening? I’m not exactly sure. But let us examine the facts as I understand them.

There is a group of Religious Zionist Jews in Israel called Chardalim. These are RZs who retain the overall ideals of Religious Zionism. Which primarily means supporting the State, serving in the army, and settling the land. Otherwise they have adopted most if not all of the strictures of Charedim. Hence the name Chardalim. Which combines the word Charedi with the letters ‘D’ and ‘L’ – the initials of Dati Leumi. Coincidently the word Chardal (singular form of the word Chardalim) means mustard seed, which has nothing to do with their Hashkafos as far as I can tell.

Chardalim feel they must chase down all the Chumros of the right. I tend to believe that the Chardal influence is behind these new rules.  I also expect this trend to continue and to spread. Before you know it, “Chardalism” will become the defining mode of Religious Zionism. Modern Orthdodxy as we know it will become obsolete in Israel.

Religious Zionist parents who do not want to adopt these strictures will be marginalized – ultimately not having any place to send their children for a religious education! I know that is not the case now. But the way things seem to be going – who knows?!

One might argue that becoming “more religious” is a good thing. Why complain about a movement trying to adopt stricter standards of observance?

Fact is there is of course nothing wrong with raising standards of religious observance. As long as it is voluntary. But when schools start making new demands along those lines, they completely ignore individual choice. Being Machmir should be an individual choice and not forced upon anyone. These strictrures have nothing to do with basic Halacha. They have to do with image.

I can’t prove it, but I can’t help believing that much of this “move to the right” is being done for that reason. Serious RZs are tired of being looked down upon by the right (i.e. Charedim) for not being Frum enough. That Charedim look down on DL is a fact. I think it’s because there are many DLs that are comparable to what I have called MO-Lite. Meaning their observance is more peer and lifestyle directed than it is religion directed.

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!

Eytan Kobre’s Anti-Religious Rant

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Once again I am disappointed at the Charedi reaction to a possible draft in Israel. This time it is attorney Eytan Kobre, who reacted in his weekly Mishpacha Magazine column Text Messages. And that’s all it is. A reflexive knee-jerk reaction. It is not any kind of rational argument to make his case that Charedim in Israel should not be drafted.

Unless you consider “Because the Gedolim say so” to be a rational argument. This of course assumes that there is universal opposition by rabbinic leaders to a draft. That would be false – since Religious Zionist leaders are in favor of it. Nonetheless his rabbinic leadership assumes that a universal draft will change the Charedi paradigm of learning full time. Which they consider a Yehoreg V’Al Yaavor.

First, I do not concede that this is a foregone conclusion.  Secondly, I don’t think that is a bad thing if it is done the right way – a position I’ve explained many times in the past but beyond the scope of this post.

My problem with Mr. Kobre is his assumption that anyone who is in favor of a universal draft is out to ‘get him.’  By ‘him’, I mean Charedim.  What motivates those of us who favor equalizing the draft, he says, is our distinct mission to destroy Torah Judaism. That is how he frames the issue.

There is not a single word addressing the question about the lack of equal sacrifice by all. No explanation about why all Charedim should be exempt. For Mr. Kobre it is all about ‘Good versus evil.’ The good guys being the Charedim - and the bad guys are anyone who would dare to suggest that Charedim should not be given an automatic exemption.

What makes matters worse is he impugns religious Jews as the worst among his detractors. He prefers that the opposition were coming from a secular or even anti-religious sources. That would of course make it easier for him to claim that this is all about anti-religious secular government.

His rhetoric is quite angry. He  accuses his detractors of false piety and lying about their motives. As though the true motive was to destroy the Torah!

What prompted Eytan’s rant was an interview in the previous issue of Mishpacha of Aviad Friedman, a Charedi member of the Plesner committee – charged with coming up with a proposal for a universal draft. Which they did.

Mr. Friedman who seems to have impeccable Charedi credentials supported drafting as many Charedim into the IDF as possible.  For this he was vilified and called a liar – applying to him the tired cliche of ‘showing his true colors.’  As if it is impossible to be Charedi and support the draft.

What was his lie? He said that he didn’t think that there is any real hatred of Charedim in Israel.  Really? That’s a lie? Yes – there may be some hatred by a few on the radical left, but for the most part, there is no mass secular hatred. Only a sense that an element of fairness is missing in the way the secular Jew is treated versus the way the Charedi Jew is treated – especially  when it comes to army service.

I take strong issue with Mr. Kobre’s description of religious Jews as the enemy just because they support a universal draft. That is a canard!

Just to be clear I will restate my own position on this issue. Israel should apply its conscription law equally to all demographic segments. Exemptions and deferrals should be applied equally to everyone.  If a solider needs to be put in harms way – every able-bodied citizen – no matter what segment they belong to should be subject to the that possibility. No entire segment should get and an automatic exemption from danger.

If the draft is going to be equally applied, religious sensitivities must be guaranteed to all. This means that the infrastructure must be created and enforced so that Charedim will be able to practice Judaism as they  best understand it.  The bottom line for me is that no Charedi mother should ever be faced by a Chiloni or Religious Zionist mother asking the question, “Why did my son have to die in battle while your son was safe in a Yeshiva?”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/eytan-kobres-anti-religious-rant/2012/07/16/

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