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August 22, 2014 / 26 Av, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Chassidim’

Livni, Bennett Back Bill to Pretend Jews Need Only One Chief Rabbi

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Jewish Home chairman and Minister for Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett unveiled the outline Monday morning of their new bill to eliminate the system of a two-headed Chief Rabbinate and replace it with “one rabbi for one people.”

Modern Israel always has had two chief rabbis, one for the Ashkenazi community and one for the Sephardi community. Each community has vastly different traditions and different rulings on Jewish laws. Within each community there are several sub-cultures. There are “Yechi” Ashkenazi Jews. There are many different Chassidic sects, and there are “Litvak,” Misnagim,” Lubavitch-Chabad, Ger, Neturei Karta, Vishnitz and a host of others.

In Israel, there is no lack of different synagogues representing the origin of their worshippers’ families. There are Iraqi, Iranian (Parsi), Egyptian and Yemenite synagogues, to mention a few.

Livni, who is secular, and Bennett, who is modern Orthodox, each believe that one chief rabbi is enough for everyone,

Their bill would clear the way for a single chief rabbi in 10 years, when the next election will take place. Three months ago, Haredi Rabbi David Lau defeated national religious Rabbi David Stav to head the Ashkenazi rabbinate. Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef was elected Chief Sephardi Rabbi.

Both of the new chief rabbis are sons of two of the most popular men ever to serve as chief rabbi – Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was highly controversial among those outside of Sephardi circles. Each man is a legend, and the thought of a single chief rabbi would have been unthinkable under their charismatic leadership.

Livni and Bennett insist they are not retrying to blur the lines of tradition. A single rabbi undoubtedly would save money, but finance is not part of their agenda.

“There is one prime minister, one president, one supreme court and one IDF Chief of Staff,” Livni said. The time has come that there should be one rabbi for one people, The time has some that Israel has one chief rabbi to unite all segments of Israeli society, [The time has come for] a rabbinate that will serve all religious sectors instead of a county that retains the separation of communities. It is possible to respect tradition in the house without separating religious authority,” she said.

Bennett chimed in, “This [bill] is an important step that symbolizes unity. The appointment of one rabbi is one of those subjects that raises the question, ‘Why wasn’t it done sooner?’ Today, when an Ashkenazi and Sephardi marry, there not two rabbis. Today, there is one army, and there are no separate positions for Ashkenazim or Sephardim.”

The idea sound so nice. All of the People of Israel will unite together, holding hands, dancing the hora and embracing each other with whole-hearted acceptance as a person and not as a “Sephardi” or “Ashkenazi.” Peace and love all wrapped up in a stewing pot of melted Jews.

Judaism has survived and blossomed since the 12 Tribes of Yaakov (Jacob) because of their unity as Jews and differences of character, personality and customs.

“One rabbi for one people” would discourage diversity. Obviously, a single chief rabbi would be an expert in different customs and would not issue a ruling that would violate a community’s customs. Sephardim would not be told to give up “kitniyot” for Passover and Ashkenazim would not start rising before dawn to recite Selichot prayers during the entire Hebrew month of Elul before Rosh HaShanah.

Regardless of whatever merits there may be to the bill, and despite probable enthusiasm from Israel’s leading secular media, the bill will have tough going.

Overcoming centuries of tradition in one Knesset session is a bit too much for Livni, the darling of dwindling leftist-center secular Israelis who did not vote for Yair Lapid and a villain to national religious Jews, including Bennett except for the one-rabbi bill. Bennett is riding a wave of secular support for his Jewish Home party, the inheritor of the old Mafdal crowd.

If the bill gets to the Knesset floor, it will provide lots of colorful copy for journalists. Shas will go berserk, and the United Torah Judaism party of Haredi Ashkenazi Jews will be able to sue Bennett for Livni for causing them a collective heart attack, God forbid.

Intimacy in a Jewish Marriage

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

One of the most striking things about the book Hush by Judy Brown – aside from it’s primary message about how her Hasidic community in Brooklyn’s Boro Park deals with sex abuse – is how they deal with the subject of sex altogether. (Her recent article dealing with her naivete about experiencing her own puberty is also quite illustrative of her community’s attitude).

Her descriptions about when and how she found out about the sex act were both humorous and sad at the same time. As I recall it, for young girls in her type of Hasidus (although she did not identify them, I believe that it is Ger) sex is a completely taboo subject. There is no mention of it at all until a young woman is ready to get married. I assume the same holds true for young men. Until then it is treated as a taboo subject never to be discussed in polite – or any company.

Those who dare to bring up questions about are probably just told to hush up!The explanation is very clinical and explained entirely as a matter of procreation. The main character in that book found it all shocking.

I am not making any value judgments here. Nor am I going to go into the Halachic aspects of sexual relationships other than to say that although the primary purpose is procreation that is not the only purpose. The sexual relationship between a husband and wife is of paramount importance to a successful marriage. As long as it is done in a marital context and taharas hamishpacha – hilchos nidah (family purity – laws of menstruation) is observed Judaism looks with favor upon a healthy sexual relationship.

Several years ago, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote a book called Kosher Sex. I did not read it. But I assume it was written with this idea in mind… advocating a healthy sex life for married couples. Rabbi Boteach was severely criticized for this – mostly by his own Lubavitch community. I assume he went too far in his descriptions of the sexual act. Or maybe they just felt that this subject ought not be published in a book… that it should instead be done discreetly in hasan (groom) classes or kallah (bride) classes. I don’t know.

Rabbi Boteach had already been on the outs for other reasons in Lubavitch when his book was published. Although still he claims to be a loyal follower of Habad and has written many positive pieces about them – this book kind of sealed his fate as a Pariah to them.

I bring all this up because there has been a new book published on this subject entitled Getting Closer. The author is an Orthodox Jew – Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch. He is a marital and family therapist in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. I assume he is Lubavitcher Chasid too, just like Rabbi Boteach. But unlike Rabbi Boteach it seems he is quite accepted in their circles.

Rabbi Schonbuch was recently interviewed in the Forward about sexual dysfunction in the Orthodox community. The artilce opened with some interesting statistics:

Sexual dysfunctions within relationships are more common than ever today, with an estimated 40% of women and 30% of men suffering from sexual dysfunctions, according to a new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical school.

One of the things Rabbi Shonbuch points out about sexual dysfunction is the following:

It’s important to note there’s nothing different about the Orthodox community. Rather, it’s not always spoken about, so they just need more information about it.

Sexual dysfunction can take various forms for both men and women. If those statistics are right, it is a much bigger problem that I ever thought.

I have to wonder if this is in part due to the taboo nature of the very subject of sex. There is no sex education in religious schools. Although today there are classes given to young men and women (usually separate) who are about to get married.

When I was a young man, these kinds of classes were all about Halacha. Intimacy was never discussed and considered a private matter. Today I’m told that these issues are discussed in hassan and kallah classes in some Orthodox circles. To what extent I don’t know. This is a good thing and ought to be encouraged in all segments of Orthodoxy. But if Judy Brown’s experience is still true – I suspect that sexual dysfunction might just be a big issue there.

I found the interview in quite informative. After reading it, I wondered just how different the various segments of Orthodoxy treat sexual intimacy? How does each segment’s attitudes about sex impact on its members marriages? Is one approach superior to others? Are there any comparative studies? I think this is an important issue… one that ought to result in a universal Orthodox approach that will best contribute towards healthy sexual relationship and ultimately to a successful marriage.

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Hit-and-Run Killer of Satmar Couple Charged with Manslaughter

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Julio Acevedo, the driver of a car in an accident that killed Satmar Chassidim Nachman Glauber and his pregnant wife Raizy in Brooklyn was charged with manslaughter.

Brooklyn prosecutors announced a second-degree manslaughter charge against Acevedo, 44, on Tuesday. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.

Acevedo earlier had been indicted on charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Prosecutors say Acevedo was speeding through the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at nearly 70 miles per hour when the BMW he was driving plowed into a livery cab that was taking the Glaubers, both 21, to the hospital early on March 3.

Raizy Glauber first child briefly survived an emergency C-section before dying. The Glaubers were killed instantly.

Acevedo fled the scene of the accident and was apprehended several days later in Pennsylvania.

According to reports, Acevedo was imprisoned for a decade for first-degree manslaughter, robbery and drug possession. In February he was arrested for drunken driving, but a judge did not suspend his license.

Would-Be N.Y. Synagogue Bomber Sentenced to 10 Years

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

An Algerian immigrant who admitted to planning to blow up synagogues in New York City was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Ahmed Ferhani, 28, was the first person convicted under a state terror statute that went into effect following the 9/11 attacks. He was sentenced last Friday.

Ferhani could have been sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, but entered a plea agreement in December. He also will serve five years of probation under the terms of the agreement.

“By targeting a synagogue, which I knew to be a Jewish house of worship, in this manner, I intended to create chaos and send a message of intimidation and coercion to the Jewish population of New York City, warning them to stop mistreating Muslims,” he said in December during his plea bargain hearing in state Supreme Court.

Ferhani and his alleged accomplice, Mohamed Mamdouh, whose case is still pending, were arrested after they bought three firearms and what they believed was a live grenade from an undercover police detective. They reportedly had planned to disguise themselves as Chassidic Jews in order to get into the synagogues

Milking the System, Legally

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

An article in lohud (Journal News) once again brings to mind the poverty of Hasidic communities like New Square. It appears that the poverty rate in New Square is so high that it is considered one of the poorest places in the nation. That means that most of its residents qualify for section 8 housing which a Journal News analysis has apparently shown to be the case.
New Square has the highest proportion of section 8 housing in the area. There are several technical reasons for this. But I don’t think it is arguable that this community is basically a poor one. 58% of its residents qualify for that dubious distinction. Nearby Kaser has an even larger percentage of poor people: 70%!

While the article focuses on section 8 housing and how it is apportioned, I think it is more important to focus on the reasons why this is the case. I believe it essentially boils down to the following 3 important factors: Large family size; the more expensive lifestyle of being an observant Jew which include additional expenditures on things like Kosher food and school tuitions; and education.

Hasidic enclaves more than any other segment of Orthodox Jewry have the largest families by far. 10 or more children per family is not uncommon.

The reason for that is the emphasis by Judaism on procreation. This is a Mitzvah in the Torah. We are required to fulfill the biblical commandment of pru u’rvu – “be fruitful and multiply.” Although the sexual act is not limited to procreation – it is certainly the primary purpose of it. How we fulfill that commandment (i.e. how many children… or whether we need one of each sex or not) is the subject of dispute among the poskim.

The question arises whether contraceptives may be used before or even after after one fulfills that obligation. And if so what kinds of contraceptives are permitted and what kind are not. I am not here to paskin, but there are many poskim that permit it based on various considerations. One should ask a competent posek whether their personal circumstances apply. The permit can range anywhere from universal permission when health (both physical and mental) is an issue to varied and eclectic personal situations where poskim will differ. Some are very lenient. Some – not so much.

It is no secret that Haredi – and even more so Hasidic communities are the most stringent in their application of such permits. It is relatively rare to find Hasidim that use contraceptives. I believe that Hasidic poskim rarely allow the use of contraceptives except in cases where the mother’s physical health is in danger. Hence the large families.

I am not here suggesting that Hasidim start looking for new poskim. I am only stating what I believe to be a contributing factor to the poverty among them. A typical family of 12 (10 children and the 2 parents) is pretty expensive to feed, clothe, and house.

Kosher food is certainly an increased expense for all observant Jews. I don’t see that as a primary factor in their poverty. But it is contributing one.

Tuition for Jewish education is a problem for every observant family as well. In fact I would say the reverse is true. The Hasidic schools are a lot less expensive than the non Hasidic ones. By far Modern Orthodox schools are the most expensive. But still, Hasidic schools aren’t free. And even though the per child expense is a lot less than other Orthodox denominations, the total per family cost may actually be greater if you compare the typical size of the Modern Orthodox family to the Hasidic one.

I doubt that those 58% of New Square and 70% of Kaser families that are below the poverty line pay full tuition. If you don’t have the money how are you going to pay it? How those schools function in communities that are so poor is beyond the scope of this post (except for one… more about that later). Suffice it to say that the schools are subsidized by a combination of wealthy donors, government programs, and much lower salaries for their teachers – who are probably also below the poverty line.

That brings me what I think is the biggest reason for their poverty – education. Or more correctly the lack of it!

I have been one of the loudest critics of the lack of education in the world of the extreme right wing of Haredim of the Yeshiva world. They eschew any secular studies in high schools so as to maximize their time on Torah study. This is the across the board view of the vast majority of Haredim in Israel and has increasingly become the attitude here.

They do not see working for a living as the primary function of a Jew. To the extent that one can, one should stay in the Beis Hamedrash full time for as long as possible. Preparation for the work place is not allowed to take away one’s time from Torah study. If one ‘doesn’t make it’ in ‘learning’ then he can go out into the workplace and earn a living as a second class citizen. Let him get training then. That is the attitude.

Ironically that is not the attitude of Hasidim. They do encourage their people to work for a living and support their families. They only encourage full time learning for the elite – those who will contribute to the klal via the Torah knowledge they gain – by becoming rabbis, poskim, teachers. For everyone else, supporting the family comes first. In the Hasidic world the average Hasid is encouraged to stay in kollel for only a short time and then to go find a job.

The problem is that many Hasidic leaders discourage any real preparation for a job. With rare exception – they do not allow their Hasidim to go to college. And their secular high school education is well below average. Many do not get any real training for the workplace. They are also discouraged from going into the outside world to look for jobs. They are instead encouraged to find jobs in their own community. So afraid are they of outside influences. In order to perpetuate this system they glorify the sacrifice of poverty as an ideal way of life – calling it living modestly.

I have no problem with living a ‘modest lifestyle’… or extolling its virtues. My problem is that people still need to eat, and pay rent. That requires more money than their impoverished lifestyles give them. The way they handle that is when it becomes a problem.

The Hasidic glorification of the ‘modest lifestyle’ requires too many to utilize every single means of support that the government gives to the poor. Whatever program is out there, they will find it and use it to the max. They milk the system albeit legally. Which is what section 8 housing is doing for the people of New Square.

They need the money to live and use whatever legal means they can to get it. Sometimes bordering if not crossing the line on fraud. As was recently reported in the media with e-rate.

Even if legal lines are never crossed – what kind of message does it send to the world that our vaunted Jewish minds are put to use to milk the welfare system for our own benefit? Is this how we are supposed to enlighten the world about the beauty of Torah?

And I only wish there was no fraud. We all know about the rabbinic leaders that have knowingly crossed serious lines of fraud to pay for the ‘modest’ lifestyles they demand of their people.

How many money laundering schemes will it take to realize that preventing people from learning how to support themselves is the single biggest contributing factor to the Hilul HaShem of fraud?

How many ‘perp walks’ by Kipa wearing bearded Jews will it take before this community realizes that their flock needs to be better educated in order to support their families?

How many years in prison by a prominent rabbinic leader or Hasidic Rebbe will it take in order to realize that encountering the outside world is a ‘necessary evil’ and the education must be provided so as to encounter it and make a living in it?

Is living the impoverished lifestyle that the demands of insularity entails really worth the Hilul HaShem of milking the system even legally, not to mention the almost certain fraud that all too often results from it?

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Shidduchim: Why Personality Compatibility Matters

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Dear Readers:

Much of my private practice is devoted to helping couples in conflict resolve their differences. I have discovered over the years that personality compatibility is an essential component of a happy marriage. Many of the couples I see in therapy struggle with reconciling radically different modes of communicating and coping with life’s issues. As a result, it is often the case that arguments ensue, empathy is strained and estrangement sets in. With that as a backdrop, here are several fictitious vignettes of couples that are personality incompatible.

Devorah prides herself on being punctual. She views it as a mark of responsibility and respect for others to be on time. As a matter of fact, she almost always gets to meetings early. Her husband Yaakov usually arrives for appointments 5-10 minutes late. He always has what he thinks is a valid reason: something came up that he had to attend to. He prides himself on his flexibility and multitasking. Devorah is frustrated because she thinks Yaakov could be more organized and prioritize his life better. The two frequently argue about this issue and it negatively affects their relationships.

Malkie is sensitive to people’s feelings and will go to almost any length to avoid a dispute. Her husband Baruch is strong willed and factual and will press his case even if it involves some degree of dissension. Malkie feels that Baruch is insensitive and bullying. Baruch believes that Malkie is too much of a pushover and that she should stand up for what she feels is right – even if it involves a disagreement. He contends that disagreements are necessary because they lead to a clarification of the truth. This difference in approach leads to frustration for both of them.

Moshe believes that the best way to raise his and his wife’s children is to set firm rules and impose natural consequences for breaching those rules. He doesn’t believe in making exceptions, as it will teach their children to shirk their responsibilities. “The law is the law” by him. His wife Ruchie is very attuned to her children and is more inclined to view non-compliance as stemming from an emotional issue. She gives the benefit of the doubt to her children in many situations. As a consequence of their differing personalities, Moshe and Ruchie frequently argue over their different child-rearing styles.

As you can see, these couples are incompatible in certain defined aspects of their relationship. Neither spouse is right or wrong; they simply have very different personalities. These differences can be difficult to detect during the dating process, when singles are in situations that do not normally pose conflict. However, after the couple is married, these incompatibilities soon assume center stage. If differences are relatively few in number and the spouses possess significant skills in empathy and acceptance of difference, things are manageable. However, the cumulative effect of profound incompatibility is that feelings of trust and intimacy are compromised.

Of course, when couples differ in some ways, they can help each other grow. However, when couples’ personalities are significantly different or incompatible, it can become more of a problem in their marriage. Personality traits that at first seemed appealing because they were different than one’s own eventually become a source of frustration and are seen as a flaw in need of rectification. Individuals who seek to change their spouses’ traits will surely encounter failure. People cannot be coerced into changing their essential nature.

What emerges is that compatibility makes it much easier to establish a happy and successful marriage. Research studies in the field of psychology have demonstrated that compatible couples are more satisfied in their marriages. Moreover, Torah hashkafa emphasizes the importance of being diligent in identifying compatibility in prospective spouses. We need to communicate this knowledge to young adults and their parents who are now actively engaged in shidduchim. We must give them the necessary tools to be able to identify personality-compatible marriage prospects.

To that end I strongly endorse an exciting resource that has just burst onto the frum dating scene, one that will hopefully result in hundreds, if not thousands, of marriages. The website ZivugZone.com uses a sophisticated, state-of-the-art software program to match singles according to their personality compatibility, hashkafa, age and other key personal preferences. My friend and colleague Moshe Coan, with whom I’ve worked closely with in the past, is the website’s founder. ZivugZone.com is free and has become hugely popular since it launched in July. The first two months saw over 1,300 singles register.

Harmony And Unity

Friday, August 10th, 2012

The Gaon, Rav Yisrael Hopstein, known as the Maggid of Koznice, was the prototype of Aharon HaKohen. He loved peace. When the dispute arose between the Chassidim and the Misnagdim he refused to participate in it. When asked to help the cause of the Chassidim, he replied: “Not through quarrels or excommunications can Chassidim hope to win, but only through showing their strength in the study of Torah, prayers, observing mitzvos and doing the work of Hashem.”

He would also say, “It is better to have an insincere peace than a sincere quarrel.” “If all Israel made peace with each other,” he said, “and if they gave a hand to each other and helped each other in true, sincere love, their strength would be so powerful that it would reach to the very throne of Hashem.”

No Separate Minyan

In one of the congregations near Koznice, a dispute arose between the Chassidim and the other members of the shul. Out of anger, the Chassidim, who were in the minority, decided to resign from the congregation and establish their own shul. When Rav Yisrael heard of this he became very aggravated and he summoned them to his home. He urged them to reconsider and return to their former congregation.

“There are terrible sins which the Torah warns against, such as idolatry, murder, and adultery,” said Rav Yisrael. “The Torah itemizes the various punishments that will accrue to one who commits these sins. But nowhere does the Torah specifically state that we should separate ourselves from these sins. Except in one place where it describes the dispute of Korach who quarreled with Moshe. There the Torah says (Devarim 16:21): ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation that I may consume them…’ Thus we learn that quarreling is more dangerous than any other sin and we should avoid any person who quarrels.”

Thus did the Gaon try with all his power to keep the peace in his community.

The Forgotten People

Once a poor woman came to Rav Yisrael and cried, “Holy rav, please help me. My husband hates me and he doesn’t want to live with me anymore. He thinks I am ugly and a boor and now in my old age where can I go? Who will support me?”

“When he married me many years ago, he raved about my beauty and he whispered beautiful things in my ear. All through the years I worked very hard for him, I cooked, washed his clothes and raised his children and now as my reward he want to divorce me because he thinks I am old and ugly.”

Rav Yisrael summoned the husband to his study and asked him, “Is it true what your wife tells me?”

“It is true,” he answered, “what can I do if she disgusts me?”

Rav Yisrael said, “The din is with your wife. You cannot divorce her and you are required to support her all of her days.

Then turning to the heavens he cried out, “Lord of the Universe! Our lot is similar to this woman. We also come before You with an argument, for a din Torah.

“When You took us out of Mitzrayim and we stood at Har Sinai, we became Your chosen people. When You wed us at Har Sinai and we became Your beloved, You promised us everything – this world and the next world. We followed You for over two thousand years in fire and water. We gave up our lives for Your Holy Name – al Kiddush Hashem. The names of our ancestors are inscribed in blood in every generation.

“And now that we have grown old as a nation and as a people, You have forgotten us and want to throw us out. You turn us over to a terrible people to kill and murder us. You have no pity on us. Is that right?

“Therefore, O G-d, Lord of the Universe, just as I have awarded this case to this woman, please award us with Your kindness and return us again to Your good grace and show us Your loving kindness as or yore.”

The husband was so overawed with these powerful words uttered by the Rav Yisrael that he turned to his wife and embraced her and asked for her forgiveness.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/tales-of-the-gaonim/harmony-and-unity/2012/08/10/

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