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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘criticism’

Thanks for the Criticism, David Ha’ivri, But I Think We Were 100% Right

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Pundit David Ha’ivri has written a profound criticism of the Jewish Press Online, which I heartily recommend: (Activist: Jewish Press Online Chided Israel’s friends while Legitimizing Progressive Jewish Groups).

Here is my response, in my capacity as Front Page Editor:

Dear David,

It is quite possible even for the Jewish Press online edition to be wrong, and when we are, we welcome criticism.

We weren’t wrong in this instance, though.

First, we had already dealt with this story only a few days earlier, in two articles published July 20th: “Michelle Bachmann Doubles Down on Muslim Brotherhood Infesting US Government Charge,” and “Is Weiner Running for Mayor? Show Me the Money…” So that the JTA story we “copied and pasted” came within a context with which our readers were familiar.

Incidentally, JPress editors rarely copy and paste a JTA story mindlessly, if only for the fact that we receive 39 whacks every time we let slip a reference to the “West Bank” instead of “Judea and Samaria.”

So that when you write: “Also surprising and disappointing is the fact that The Jewish Press mentioned in passing that this Muslim woman, who is a top aide to Secretary of State Clinton, is married to a former congressman who himself happens to be Jewish. It does not mention that this man brought shame on himself and was impeached for sending pictures of his private parts to young women via text messages” – we didn’t because we had just done it the other day. Twice.

Personally, I honestly and completely believe that Michelle Bachman is several tea cups short of a party. She has been known to make bizarre statements which rarely stand up to scrutiny. All of America recalls the GOP debate when Bachman went after Texas Governor Rick Perry for his 2007 executive order mandating that young girls in Texas be vaccinated against HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease and one that can lead to cervical cancer.

Bachman actually said: “To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. That’s a violation of a liberty interest.”

She then told NBC’s “Today” show: “I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Fla., after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.”

Except the congresswoman was unable to identify that tearful mother, nor substantiate with any known medical authority a connection between the vaccine and mental retardation. It was a stern reminder that perhaps the U.S. primary system is not as good a way of picking leaders as we thought.

You write: “When I looked into the backgrounds of these ‘Jewish’ organizations, I was even more surprised – and disappointed – that an established and respected Jewish publication like The Jewish Press would give a platform to groups like The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and The Society for Humanistic Judaism.”

I don’t think it’s our job as a news website to decide who is and isn’t entitled to be called Jewish. In a broader context we could point out the subtle distinctions between a Shomer Shabbes Yid from Flatbush and anyone from either of the above mentioned organizations. But in a story that’s about a blip on the political radar screen – Congresswoman made a wild, unsubstantiated attack, a bunch of organizations including Jewish ones registered their objection – citing those distinctions doesn’t make much sense. Plus, our readers are smart enough to know the difference.

But near the end, you write something truly scary: “The person mentioned in the representatives’ inquiry is not a very observant Muslim, and the inquiry did not refer in any way to her religious observance. What was in question is her very close family relationship to leading figures in the Muslim Brotherhood.”

I don’t respond well to guilt by association. I think it’s cheap. It doesn’t show concern, it’s a permanent call for pitchforks and torches and let’s kill the bastards.

Don’t get me wrong, as a husband and a father I’m in favor of racial profiling in some cases, when it means police get to do a better job protecting all of us—at the expense or inconvenience of some individuals. I’ve been pulled off lines at airports because of my helmet-size, black yarmulke and my suspicious beard, I know the drill.

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Facing Heated Calls For Change On Several Fronts

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

WASHINGTON – The latest battle over religious pluralism in Israel has unleashed a new barrage of criticism and calls for reform aimed at the Orthodox-controlled Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Unlike major flare-ups in past decades, however, this time it’s not just the Reform and Conservative movements leading the charge – mainstream, consensus-oriented Jewish groups with no denominational affiliations are speaking out, too.

One flashpoint has been the fallout from the Israeli attorney general’s decision to approve government funding for Reform and Conservative religious leaders as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities” – albeit through the Ministry of Culture and Sports rather than the Orthodox-controlled Religious Services Ministry, which funds Orthodox rabbis.

That announcement drew a caustic response from Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who in a June 27 meeting urged more than 100 fellow Orthodox rabbis – including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger – to pray “in order to stop the destroyers and saboteurs of Judaism [because] they are trying to uproot the foundation of Judaism.”

“There is a natural backlash on the part of American Jews and American Jewish leaders when the Chief Rabbinate issues such statements,” said Steven Bayme, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations. “As we enter the 21st century, the [Chief Rabbinate] needs to be reevaluted in terms of democratic norms and modern Israel’s relationship to world Jewry.”

In response to Rabbi Amar’s remarks, about 50 Reform and Conservative rabbis protested outside of the Chief Rabbinate’s building in Jerusalem. Two Conservative rabbis filed a police complaint accusing Amar of incitement – a particularly serious claim in Israel ever since the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Jewish Federations of North America, which has leaders from across the religious spectrum, but which in recent years has become more vocal on behalf of Israel’s non-Orthodox Jews, was quick to respond.

“It is a fundamental Jewish virtue to ‘love your fellow as yourself.’ We condemn comments that disparage fellow Jews and, in particular, well-established branches of Judaism that represent 80 percent of North American Jewry,” Jerry Silverman, the president and CEO of JFNA, said in a statement. “Statements such as those made by Rabbi Amar only serve to alienate our fellow Jews from our religion, our people and the Jewish state.”

Shortly after that controversy, the board of governors of the AJC – another nonsectarian Jewish organization with no formal ties to either the Reform or Conservative movements – went even further in criticizing the Chief Rabbinate and calling for major changes to the institution.

“In the 21st century, a coercive Chief Rabbinate has become, at best, an anachronism, and at worst a force dividing the Jewish people,” the AJC’s leaders declared in a resolution.

The Chief Rabbinate’s actions “threaten to divide the Jewish people and risk an anti-religious backlash against Judaism itself within the Jewish state,” they wrote. The AJC urged Israel’s government “to undertake promptly all needed actions” to end the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over issues of personal status.

The latest wave of criticism comes amid a backdrop of religion-related controversies – tensions between Modern Orthodox rabbis and haredi Orthodox rabbis over conversions; the push for civil marriage in Israel; and the struggle over whether haredi men should serve in the military or continue to be exempt to study in yeshivas.

“Like any human institution, the Chief Rabbinate could use improvement,” said Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive director emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

“What those improvements would be though requires a lot of thought and a lot of study, and from the OU’s perspective in no way could the Orthodox nature and the halachic nature of the Chief Rabbinate be compromised.”

Rabbi Weinreb stressed that OU congregations and rabbis adhere to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decisions. He added that the process of electing chief rabbis could be refined so that it is “less political.”

The call for radical reform of the Chief Rabbinate was greeted warmly by Reform and Conservative groups.

“It’s a powerful letter from the dead center of the American Jewish establishment weighing in on what the Israeli government and the Israeli public still thinks is a fringe issue,” Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said of the AJC’s position. “It’s a welcome voice in that debate.”

Improving One’s Mood

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael:

For the most part, my husband is a very good husband and father. He loves our children and will often go out of his way to make sure their needs are met. He is also loving and good to me. However, he often comes home with a very negative attitude. When he arrives home from work, he sees nothing good. He criticizes the children for not being in pajamas or for not finishing their homework. Even if he is right on both counts, he does not convey his criticism appropriately or at the right time.

When my husband comes home, he should be excited and happy to see the children and me. I want him to be positive and loving and to notice all the good things the children have done. I want my children to be excited when my husband comes home, and not want to go to their rooms as soon as possible. While I don’t blame the children for not wanting to be around when my husband is acting negatively, I wish my husband would be more positive so that the children would look forward to his return home. I do not think that they dread his coming home from work; however, they are definitely learning to stay away from him.

I know my husband works hard and wants time to relax after a long day. But the children miss him and want his attention. What can I do to help my husband come home with a happier attitude?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

It is difficult to ascertain why your husband is coming home in such a bad mood. Perhaps he is hungry and tired from a long day at work and wants to relax a little when he gets home. Maybe he is experiencing a lot of stress at work and is bringing it home with him. Or it’s possible that he just grew up in this kind of home and is recreating what he went through. If your husband is simply tired or hungry, or just wants some time to relax when he comes home, you will be able to easily remedy your situation.

When he is calm and not hungry, you can explain to him, in a gentle and loving manner, that he seems to be coming home in a very bad mood. It may be something he doesn’t even realize is happening. Ask him why he thinks this is. If he says that he does not know, ask him if he is having a hard time at work or if he is extremely hungry or tired when he returns home. If he says that he is hungry, one solution may be to send an extra snack with him to work, so he does not come home with an empty stomach.

Making your husband aware of this – in a non-accusatory way – is a step in the right direction. If your husband becomes defensive, make sure to remain calm and tell him that you know that he is a great husband and father. Assure him that you want to help him feel better when he comes home.

Devising a plan that works for both of you is key. It would be ideal if your husband could think of a solution, as people are generally more invested in something when it is their idea. So, even if you originate the jointly accepted idea, try to make it seem as if he came up with it. If he expresses a liking to your suggestion, say to him, “What a great idea. I like how you thought of it.” And if your husband is not on board with your idea, then make every effort to jointly create a plan of positive action.

Attempt to explain to your husband how hard you try to have things organized during the hectic period before he gets home, and that you get nervous when he comes home feeling unhappy. Using an “I feel” message generally helps people not to become defensive, as it puts the “blame” on you and not on the other person. Thus, saying things like “I feel bad when you come home upset. I want you to be happy to come home and I want the children to feel good about the time they spend with you. What can I do to help make this time easier for you?” would be helpful. This will likely make it easier for your husband to explain to you what is going on with him at the present time, and it will help you arrive at a solution together. Also, this is generally more effective than saying something like, “Why do you always have to be in a bad mood when you come home? It is extremely annoying and obnoxious, and I want you to stop it!” These ineffective comments will probably lead to a fight, and although you may release your frustration you will likely feel worse afterward.

Danny Danon: Remembering Shamir – The Integrity of ‘No’

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The people of Israel lost a true leader with the passing of Yitzhak Shamir. Before assuming the reins as our seventh prime minister, Shamir dutifully served his people and his country first as head of the underground Lehi, then in the Mossad where he was responsible for tracking down and eliminating some of our worst enemies including Nazi war criminals who had fled to Egypt, and finally in the political arena where he served as a Member and then Speaker of Knesset, Foreign Minister and finally Prime Minister after the resignation of his mentor Menachem Begin.

Upon the death of a loved one, we often take the time to look through the memory book of their life and search for the lessons that their legacy can teach us. In the case of Yitzhak Shamir, a multi-volume set of thick bound tomes might be more appropriate a metaphor. These books are filled with the earth of the whole land of Israel, and immersed in values and an understanding of our unique place in history. His spirit and his values are an inspiration to all of those who love this land, and especially to the members of his beloved Likud movement that strive to stay true to Shamir’s teachings.

You do not negotiate on your core ideology. This is what guided Shamir in his steadfast defense of the rights of the Jewish people to their historic homeland. In the years that he guided Israel’s foreign policy, he would not compromise on this basic tenet. In 1992, under intense pressure from the American administration, Shamir stood fast and made clear to the world that money cannot buy and replace values. He bravely rejected the US demand that he stop building in Judea and Samaria in return for loan guarantees. This money was very much needed to absorb our brothers who were then coming home from the former Soviet Union, but Shamir knew such an act on his behalf would create a slippery slope that would set a terrible precedent for the future leaders of Israel. Such a move on his behalf would have endangered his beloved settlement enterprise which he knew was invaluable for the future well-being of the State.

Shamir’s decisions and policies were not always popular or politically correct. There was no end of criticism both in Israel and form the international community. In fact, there were times when his refusal to abandon his core values probably cost him at the ballot box, such as when he lost to Yitzhak Rabin in the 1992 elections. Nevertheless, over time, his steadfastness disproved today’s assumption that you must be guided daily by opinion polls to obtain power, and then govern. Without ever abandoning his beliefs, Shamir was able to not only reach the highest office in the land, but he also ended up serving in office longer than any other prime minister since David Ben Gurion. Moreover, because of his intellectual honesty and core decency, since leaving office Shamir is admired by all Israelis – whatever their political persuasion – for the great leader that he was.

To better convey Shamir’s unique foresight and leadership capabilities, I must share a short story. In the early 1990s, while serving as a Betar emissary in the United States, I invited one of my childhood heroes to visit my host community. Yitzhak graciously agreed to come and speak at an event I had organized promoting Israel and aliyah. When he was asked for his opinion about the demographic threat that is so often raised, Shamir answered with full confidence that we must remain steadfast and work tirelessly to bring millions of Soviet Jews home to Israel. At that time, such a prediction seemed completely unrealistic and even a tad naïve. Nevertheless, Shamir’s analysis proved with time to be completely accurate and proved how important it is for a leader to remain true to his values. By believing and planning, one million Russians ultimately came to live in Israel, changing our core demographic reality forever.

That night, after he had finished addressing the group, I had the honor of spending an evening with the former Prime Minister. I was enthralled with his stories and life lessons, especially with his core conviction that a leader must truly believe in and be ready to defend his policies. If a leader does so, he told me, there is no need to worry about the criticism that will inevitably follow any brave decision.

Chukas: Chastisement And Perfection

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Hashem criticized His holy nation relentlessly, yet Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, observes that for 38 of Israel’s 40 years in the desert, Hashem expressed no criticism at all. Herein is a lesson in Israel’s greatness.

“And the sons of Israel, all the congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin, in the first month” (20:1).

Thirty-eight years have elapsed since the episode of Korach. Miriam passed away in the first month of the fortieth year since the Exodus, Aharon passed away in the fifth month and Moshe passed away in Adar, the twelfth month (Megillah 13b).

From the preceding section of the parah adumah until now, no events or prophecies are recorded in the Torah, and by now all the generation of the episode of the meraglim have passed away (Rashi, lbn Ezra). No complaints are mentioned, and even by the very stern standards of Hashem no fault is found in the nation.

This lack of criticism is actually an immense encomium both for the old and for the new generation. In view of the supremely exalted standards required by Hashem, and considering the scathing criticism to which the generation had been so frequently subjected, the absence of any comment for this period of 38 years is actually a declaration of extraordinary commendation.

The severe chastisements proved a great blessing for this holy nation, for the people gained in greatness from each episode until they rose to the heights of perfection Bilaam recognized when he spoke the words of Hashem’s sublime approbation.

A great question arises: How can the psalm declare “Forty years have l quarreled with this generation; and they knew not My ways” (Tehillim 95:10)? For 38 of these 40 years not a word of criticism is written in the Torah, except in the episode of the daughters of Moab (25:1). Especially when we consider the words of Bilaam (23:8-4:9), this crushing expression of disapproval seems wholly unjustified.

It is clear that the Torah is written so as to serve as a stimulus to remorse and penitence forever. Just as the pious Jew beats his breast and recites on Yom Kippur a confession of a list of sins he had not committed, so also does our nation read the Torah contritely and flagellate its conscience for national sins which actually would be the pride and boast of any other people had they performed so few misdeeds as those for which Israel is castigated so severely.

“It is better for the righteous ones when Hashem shows His wrath in this world” (Shabbos 30a), and because of the stern disapproval shown to this greatest of all generations they became the most perfect in history. But all the castigations are merely the Face of Hashem. What actually was in the Mind of Hashem?

For the answer, we have recourse to the superlative declaration of Hashem’s eternal love, as enunciated by our archenemy Bilaam (23:7-24:17).

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

IMRA: Gestures To PA – But Keep The Gloves Off

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

The current series of Israeli gestures could serve a vital role in enabling the Jewish State to keep the “ball” in the Palestinian “court” without being sucked into renewing the “settlement freeze”.

But making gestures should in no way be accompanied by a reconciliatory approach towards objectionable Palestinian behavior and Palestinian pronouncements.

Toning down criticism of the PA not only doesn’t serve the interests of Israel – it ultimately does not serve the interests of the Palestinians.

First, Israeli interests:

Israeli criticism of the PA serves both to highlight and emphasize the standard of behavior that we expect the Palestinians to meet while providing vital evidence that these standards are not being met.

The failure of the Palestinians to meet these standards can serve a critical role in justifying Israel’s final status requirements.

After all, if the Palestinians had honored Oslo – in particular the security elements of the agreement – we would be facing incredible pressure in final status talks to accept paper thin security arrangements.

The gross failure of the Palestinians to honor their security obligations makes “peace for piece of paper” a farce that no serious third party would even consider suggesting – let alone trying to impose.

But there are also Palestinian interests.

If you believe that the Palestinian leadership genuinely wants to implement a “two state solution” rather than a “two state stage” with the ultimate goal of destroying Israel then one would want to empower them to be able to honor their obligations.

And the best way to empower the Palestinian leadership is to put them in the position that they can point to the sharp criticism they suffer from for violations in order to justify compliance to their “street”.

For everyone’s best interests – let’s keep the gloves on.

Rebuke: The Malpractice Of A Mitzvah

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

When the Torah mentions the obligation to rebuke a fellow Jew, it ends with the words, “and do not bear a sin because of him” (Vayikra 19:17).

The Targum translates this as, “and do not receive a punishment for his sin.”

According to the Targum, it appears that if Reuven ate a ham sandwich and I didn’t rebuke him, I would be punished for his sin. This seems difficult to understand. Why should I be punished for his sin? At most, you might argue that if I was capable of rebuking him and didn’t, I would be responsible for the sin of not rebuking him. But how do I become responsible for the sin he perpetrated? He transgressed it; I didn’t.

The answer to this question is based on understanding the connection one Jew has to another.

The Kli Yakar brings a mashal. Imagine a man who is on an ocean voyage. One morning, he hears a strange rattling sound coming from the cabin next to his. As the noise continues, he becomes more and more curious, until finally, he knocks on his neighbor’s door. When the door opens, he sees that his neighbor is drilling a hole in the side of the boat.

“What are you doing?” the man cries.

“Oh, I’m just drilling,” the neighbor answers simply.

Drilling?”

“Yes. I’m drilling a hole in my side of the boat.”

“Stop that!” the man says.

“But why?” asks the neighbor. “This is my cabin. I paid for it, and I can do what I want here.”

“No, you can’t! If you cut a hole in your side, the entire boat will go down.”

The nimshal is that the Jewish people is one entity. For a Jew to say, “What I do is my business and doesn’t affect anyone else,” is categorically false. My actions affect you, and your actions affect me – we are one unit. It is as if I have co-signed on your loan. If you default on your payments, the bank will come after me. I didn’t borrow the money but I am responsible. So too when we accepted the Torah together on Har Sinai, we became one unit, functioning as one people. If you default on your obligations, they come to me and demand payment. We are teammates, and I am responsible for your performance.

The Targum is teaching us the extent of that connection. What Reuven does directly affects me — not because I am nosy or a busybody, but because we are one entity, so much so that I am liable for what he does. If he sins and I could have prevented it, that comes back to me. A member of my team transgressed, and I could have stopped it from happening. If I did all that I could have to help him grow and shield him from falling, I have met my obligation and will not be punished. If, however, I could have been more concerned for his betterment and more involved in helping to protect him from harm and didn’t, I am held accountable for his sin.

This perspective is central to understanding why rebuke doesn’t work.

When Reuven goes over to Shimon and “gives it to him good,” really shows just what did wrong, the only thing accomplished is that now Shimon hates Reuvain.

To properly fulfill the mitzvah of tochacha, there are two absolute requirements. The first relates to attitude, the second to method.

What’s My Intention?

When I go over to my friend to chastise him, the first question I must ask myself is, “What is my intention?”

If my intention is to set him straight and stop him from doing a terrible sin, I will almost certainly fail. The only intention that fits the role of a successful mochiah is: “This is my friend; I am concerned for his good.”

If I am looking out for kavod Shamayaim, or if I am a do-gooder concerned for the betterment of the world, my words will accomplish the exact opposite of their intended purpose. I won’t succeed in separating my friend from the sin; I will only succeed in separating him from me. The first requirement for the proper fulfillment of tochacha is that it must be out of love and concern for my friend.

The second condition for tochacha to be effective has to with the way it is delivered. The Chofetz Chaim was once approached by a certain community leader who complained that no matter how much he reproached the people of his town, they didn’t listen. The Chofetz Chaim asked this person to describe how he went about rebuking his townspeople. The man described his method of yelling fiery words at them. The Chofetz Chaim asked him, “Tell me, when you put on tefillin, do you shout and carry on? Why do you feel the obligation to do so when you do this mitzvah?”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/rebuke-the-malpractice-of-a-mitzvah/2012/05/02/

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