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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘England’

Vatican Rep Wants Alliance With Jews, Muslims, to Combat Gay Marriage

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

A Vatican representative has issued a call for the world’s foremost religions to unite to take a stand against gay marriage.

Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the “Apostolic Nuncio” (Vatican representative) to Great Britain has proposed enlisting the help of all Christian denominations, as well as Jews and Muslims, to oppose the proposition of legalizing gay marriage in England.

In an address to Catholic bishops from England and Wales, Mennini warned against political and cultural influences forcing reforms on religion, and suggested an alliance with Jews and Muslims in order to combat the immorality of homosexual marriage.

“It seems to me that, concerning the institution of marriage, and indeed the sanctity of human life, we have much in common with the position of the Jewish community, the Chief Rabbi and many of the more significant representatives of Islam,” the Archbishop said, according to a report in Britains’s Telegraph newspaper.

Local Quakers, Buddhists, and members of the Pagan Federation have already publicly supported the right of religious leaders to decline to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, although their position supports basic freedom of clergy members to reject or support the marriages.

Mennini’s comments come after a series of high-level discussions between Muslim and Jewish leaders and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, who is investigating the possibility of legalizing gay marriage in the UK.

For now, English and Scottish Muslim groups, imams, and councils have opposed the plan to legalize gay marriage, as has the head of the Network of Sikh Organisations.

Liberal and Reform synagogues, on the other hand, have expressed support for same-sex marriages.  Rabbis in the main United Synagogues have come out against the proposal.  Soon-to-be-retired Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has not come out publicly against the measure, but friend and advisor Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet of Mill Hill United Synagogue in north London called the potential legislation an “assault” on religious values.

Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark told the Telegraph that while no official contact has yet been made between the Catholic Church and Jewish groups, “We will work with anyone who agrees with us that to redefine marriage is not a good thing for society and will lead to more confusion.”  He added that the Church of England is onboard with the Catholic Church’s position.

Ours Is To Question Why…

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

“And Aaron and his sons did all of these things that Hashem commanded through Moshe.” – Vayikra 8:36

After a long and detailed description of the avodah (service) to be done in the Mishkan, the parshah ends with statement that “Aaron and his sons did as they were told.”

Rashi seems to be bothered by the fact that this is obvious. Of course Aaron and his sons did what Hashem told them to do. Why does the Torah see fit to mention it? He answers that it is a statement of praise: they didn’t veer off to the right or to the left.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. It doesn’t seem like he answered his question. Of course Aaron didn’t veer off to the left or the right. This was the avodah in the Mishkan he was performing! The directives came straight from Hashem. Could he possibly think that he knew better than Hashem how to perform them? And if that wasn’t reason enough, the punishment for a kohen deviating in the service is death.

Imagine a man working with high voltage electrical equipment. He has been given clear safety instructions. Make sure the power is off before you switch on the transformer. Make sure you are wearing protective gloves and you are grounded. Wouldn’t we expect him to follow every nuance because of the danger involved?

So what type of praise is it that Aaron followed orders?

The answer to this question can be best understood with an example.

The story is told about an Englishman who visited a farm in Texas in the 1880s. As he approached the ranch, he saw a cowboy herding the cows. He approached and, using an expression common in England then, asked for the man’s boss by saying, “Is your master home?” The cowboy put both hands on his hips and proclaimed, “The son of a gun ain’t been born yet.”

This anecdote is illustrative of a very human trait: we don’t like to be bossed around. In fact, we hate it. I’ll gladly help you, I’ll do anything for you – but ask nicely. Boss me around and forget it. I’m out of here.

This isn’t just a quirk of human nature – it’s a direct outgrowth of man’s inherent greatness.

In the Image of Hashem

Chazal explain that when the Torah tells us Hashem created man in His image, this isn’t merely an expression. Man is both the reason for all of existence and the maintainer of it. Everything physical has a spiritual counterpart sustaining it. Hashem put man into the role of being the one who upholds the spiritual level of the world. His actions, deeds, and thoughts build the upper worlds and sustain the lower worlds. Our eyes may not be attuned to it, but man is the maintainer of physicality. He is more significant than we can ever imagine, more important than anything we can envision. He is a little creator.

While this greatness of soul allows man to reach dizzying heights, it also comes with a liability. It is very difficult for us to follow orders. Even if we know they’re right. Even if we know they’re good for us. Even if those orders are given by the greatest of all greats, by the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We don’t like taking orders. And as strange as it sounds, it is difficult for us to accept commands and directives.

Aaron was one of the greatest men who ever lived, and he had a high and lofty sprit. As such, it should have been very difficult for him to follow orders. For him to “do as he was told” should have been very hard. Nevertheless, it wasn’t. Because he was very humble, he was able to recognize his greatness and act in a bold and innovative manner when called for – yet accept that Hashem was in charge. As great as he was, he was but a servant in front of his Master. He had overcome one of the paramount challenges to man – recognizing his greatness while remaining humble.

Understanding this balance is critical for our growth. The Torah wasn’t given to robotic people who follow blindly without understanding. The Torah was given to us, and we are expected to ask questions. We are expected to delve into the reasoning behind things. We are obligated to strain our minds to understand whatever we can. And yet we are expected to yield to the superior wisdom of our Creator and humbly submit to His directives.

Our is to question why, and yet ours is to do or die.

The new Shmuz book “Stop Surviving and Start Living,” is available in stores, at www.TheShmuz.com, or by calling 866-613-TORAH (8672).

Dr. Pepper Not Kosher – In Israel

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

According to Kipa.co.il, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate instructed kashrut supervisors to remove the popular American drink Dr. Pepper from store shelves, on the grounds that it is not being supervised in Israel nor in London.

The Chief Rabbinate claims that, based on data provided by the Badatz in London, it appears that products made in England and imported to Israel under the name “Dr Pepper” are are not kosher.

“The product has a kosher sticker on it marked Kosher KLBD (Badatz London), but it has not actually received  their approval and therefore presenting it as kosher under their supervision is a serious forgery,” says a special warning issued  by the Chief Rabbinate.

 

UPDATE: While we first heard about this story on Kipa, it was apparently Rafi Goldmeier, the blogger ‘Life in Israel‘ that broke the story. Thanks to Rafi’s father for the shout-out letting us know.

Yakima Congregation Reveres Ancient Torah Saved from the Holocaust

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Rabbi Moshe Druin, an expert in evaluating and repairing Torahs, visited from Miami Beach to inspect a 150-year-old Torah belonging to Temple Shalom on Browne Avenue, in Yakima, Wash.

Druin, a sopher or scribe, assessed the Yakima Torah for signs of wear and tear, and, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic, alternately enlightened, delighted and awed the congregation with his findings.

Not only does that Torah have a historical provenance, it’s a rare copy that will probably never be made in the same way again, Druin explained.

The congregation of 48 families was aware that their Torah had been rescued from what was once Czechoslovakia after World War II. Druin filled in the details:

During World War II, Jews in Nazi-occupied Prague sent messages around the countryside for fellow Jews to bring their family heirlooms and Torahs to be housed safely with the blessings of the Nazis, who were planning to create a museum of a lost race after they exterminated all the Jews.

In the 1950s, a London art dealer was visiting countries in communist Eastern Europe and discovered 1,681 scrolls, or Torahs, in a Czechoslovakian basement, the largest concentration in history.

“He flipped out,” Druin said.

The art dealer returned to England, gathered money and headed to Prague to buy back all the stashed Torahs. Later, after being held by a trust in England, many of those Torahs have been loaned out to synagogues around the world.

Temple Shalom’s was one of them.

“Take it out and commemorate it,” Druin told the congregation. “Keep the memory alive of the people it belonged to.”

Rabbi Moshe Druin: “How do you fence a stolen Torah”

Kate Middleton’s Favorite Designer Built on Hasidic Kapote

Monday, February 13th, 2012

The favorite clothing designer of Duchess Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William of England, built her success on the purchase of a Hasidic boy’s coat in a second hand store in Israel.

Katherine Hooker visited Israel a decade ago, and fell in love with a long black Hasidic kapote in a second hand store, according to the designer.  Soon after, she found a tailor in India who agreed to make her a copy.  When her friends became enamored of the garment, she made several duplicates, ultimately opening her own shop in London in 2004.  Some of her items sell for almost $2,000.

Middleton has become a fashion icon since her highly-publicized engagement and wedding to Prince William. She is particularly liked in the religious Jewish community, because of her tendency toward non-revealing attire.

Reaping The Fruits Of His Labor

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Reb Pinchos, born in Romania, moved shortly after birth with his parents to Vienna. As a teenager, he learned in another city and took his Gemara with him. Pinchos remembered how his rebbe always liked to teach from his Gemara. He remembered Kristallnacht vividly, as he and his parents left Vienna fearing for their lives. Upon returning to their house, the family found all the books and furniture smashed, but miraculously, of all the sefarim that had been destroyed, the Gemara that he took with him to yeshiva was untouched. In addition, the sefer Torah they had hidden on top of a bookcase in their home had fallen behind the bookcase – but was untouched.

Shortly after, Reb Pinchos and his parents left Vienna for England. Little did he know what the future had in store for him. Hundreds of people had escaped from Europe to England and the British were afraid that Nazi spies might have been among the escapees. His parents, being in their 70s, were allowed to remain in England, but Reb Pinchos and 2,000 other Jews were told that they were going to be deported from England. With a heavy heart he bade farewell to his parents, knowing that this would be the last time he would see them.

He and his fellow Jews were taken to a large ship, the infamous Dunera, which had a transport capacity of 800 – but was now packed with 2,000 people. They had no idea where they were going, and most only had their personal belongings in a small bag. The ship’s British soldiers went through all those belongings and stole anything of value – while personal papers were thrown into the sea. Conditions on board were terrible, with little food available, and the deportees were allowed on deck for fresh air for only an hour a day.

One day while at sea everyone was told, without explanation, to go below deck. Suddenly, the whole ship shook as if something had hit it. Little did they know that a torpedo had hit the ship, but miraculously didn’t explode. Not long after the war, the captain of the U-boat that had fired the torpedo wrote that he had noticed papers in the water and sent divers in to retrieve them. It turned out that about 200 German prisoners of war were on the Dunera, and when the German submarine’s commander found papers belonging to these prisoners, he commanded all the U-boats in the area not to fire at the ship. He accompanied the boat into safe waters.

After about 7-8 weeks, the ship arrived in Australia. The headline in the paper there read, “Enemy Aliens Arrive In Australia.” Reb Pinchos and the other Jews were taken to Tatura in New South Wales, where they were interned and kept behind barbed wires.

With World War II in progress, all able-bodied men had gone off to war and people were needed to pick fruit. Reb Pinchos and others were taken to the orchards to pick the fruit. As the first Shabbos was approaching, Reb Pinchos was concerned about having to work on Shabbos, but as he was officially a prisoner of war he questioned as to what to do. He decided to speak to the farmer, explaining to him the prohibition of working on Shabbos and offering to work on Sunday instead. To his surprise the farmer said that he would honor the request to not work on Shabbos, and he added that he did not want Reb Pinchos to work on Sunday either, since that was his “Shabbos.”

While working there, Reb Pinchos discovered that there was a shul in the area belonging to the Feiglin family. After his first visit to the shul, one of the Feiglin sons picked him up every Friday in order to spend Shabbos with the Feiglins. Reb Pinchos was returned to the farm on Sunday. When Reb Pinchos completed his job of picking the fruit at this farm, the farmer told him that he found a job for him picking fruit at a neighboring farm. And the farmer mentioned to Reb Pinchos’s new boss that Reb Pinchos did not work on Shabbos, a condition she accepted.

Eventually Reb Pinchos joined the Australian army. He married and raised a heimishe Jewish family – instilled with the values of Torah and Yiddishkeit.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Balanced View

I am happy you sounded a note of caution in your analysis of the Beit Shemesh controversy and urged great care that Torah values are not demeaned because the actions of a lunatic fringe gets the most media attention (“The Violence in Beit Shemesh,” editorial, Dec. 30).

There continues to be no lack of exuberant and furious critics of those who spit at little girls, but the defenders of Torah values are far and few between.

Michael Guttman (Via E-Mail)

 

Silence On Paul

Last week’s editorial “Ron Paul, Israel, And The Other GOP Candidates” makes an extremely important observation. If Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Bachmann feel so strongly in favor of Israel, how is it that they have not called Ron Paul out on his virulent attacks on the Jewish state? I think the reason lies not in their lack of commitment but in the dynamics of their constituencies.

There are many Americans who generally want to see massive cutbacks in foreign aid and the projection of U.S. power overseas and while most people who hold that view are not particularly focused on Israel, the fact is that Israel would definitely be impacted. Fear of alienating that segment of voters may have a lot to do with the silence of the GOP candidates on the issue.

Isaac Rich (Via E-Mail)

 

Friedman’s Ugly Slur

The unmitigated gall New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman must have toward our government is nothing short of alarming.

As Jason Maoz (Media Monitor) and Jonathan Tobin (op-ed column) noted in the Dec. 23 issue of The Jewish Press, Friedman recently suggested that U.S. Congress “was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby” when it gave Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu several standing ovations.

To be sure, this statement is consistent with Friedman’s usual anti-Israel sentiment. Why would an educated journalist make such a rash statement? Even a blind man can see the reason Congress repeatedly stood up for Netanyahu is because the lawmakers were showing support for a country that espouses the same values and ideals we do.

Netanyahu was greeted with applause and shouts of approval because Israel and the United States have been longstanding allies sharing mutual admiration for one another.

Judge Norman Ciment (Via E-Mail)

Editor’s Note: Mr. Ciment is a former mayor of Miami Beach.

 

Danger To Democracy?

We have heard from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many others that various episodes of “inequality” in Israel represent a danger to Israeli democracy.

In America, the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was first proposed in 1923. It was endorsed by President Eisenhower in 1953. The pressure built up in the 1970s when thirty-five of America’s fifty states ratified the ERA, but then five of those states later rescinded their ratification. It never did become the law of the land. Does this mean America is like Saudi Arabia or Iran?

A generation back America’s Ivy League universities were exclusively male, with the “Seven Sister” colleges as female counterparts. Oxford and Cambridge had separate colleges for males and females. Top independent schools and many state grammar schools were single sex in the UK and the U.S. Did that make us like Saudi Arabia or Iran?

Joseph Feld London, England

 

Orthodox Students In A Secular Academic Environment

Rather than a lesson in education, Karen Greenberg’s article “A Lesson in Education” (Jewish Press Teen Section, Dec. 16) highlighted the lack of education being provided in yeshivas these days.

There is no reason that someone graduating yeshiva high school plus one year of yeshiva in Israel should feel threatened by poetry extolling agnosticism. Furthermore, as stated in the article, this concept is being put forth as a “theory.” It would be a poor professor who would teach it as a definite fact and demand that one must question the belief in a divinity. Just because a professor explains the rationale of a theory does not pose a demand that anyone accept the theory. It simply raises a question for people to ponder – should they wish to ponder it.

All a professor can demand is that the student be able to explain the theory and the support for it, but he cannot demand its acceptance. As such, an approximately 20-year-old well educated yeshiva student should not be experiencing the shock and dismay expressed by Ms. Greenberg.

I clearly recall the course in Classics I took in college where we discussed in depth the Greek and Roman gods. I never felt threatened, intellectually or religiously, by these discussions. The same was true for the other courses in which issues touching on religion arose. I knew my position and was able to hear a differing point of view and even explain it in detail – and still walk away with my own belief intact.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-4/2012/01/04/

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