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July 25, 2016 / 19 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘evil’

How Do You Answer Evil? Ten Years After the Bali Terror Bombing

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Today marks ten years since jihadist terrorists carried out a ghastly bombing attack on night club spots on the Indonesian island of Bali. The Kuta Beach massacre was the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia: 202 people were killed that night. 164 were foreign nationals, 38 were Indonesian citizens. 209 people were injured.

Almost immediately after it happened on 12th October 2002, the then editorial team at the Melbourne (Australia) Herald-Sun newspaper contacted Arnold Roth. This was only a year after the death of the Roths’ daughter Malki. Arnold and Malki had both been born in Melbourne. The Herald-Sun requested a first-person response, an open letter to the families of the Indonesian attack victims.

Malki‘s death, like those of the Bali massacre victims, came at the hands of terrorists acting in the name of Islam. Arnold felt he had something to say and set everything else aside to quickly write an op-ed [background here].

He sent it off to the Herald-Sun. Then… silence. For reasons that have never been explained, his article never appeared in the pages of the Melbourne newspaper. The paper’s editor at that time never responded to several emails asking for an explanation.

Eventually, the Jerusalem Post picked it up and published it in the paper’s December 9, 2002 edition. Here are excerpts:

A letter to the families of the Kuta Beach victims 

By Arnold Roth, Jerusalem

I never felt more like a father than when taking the hand of my little daughter Malki and crossing the street with her. There is something so right and solid about being your child’s protector.

I never felt more wretched, frightened and alone than on the night the call came saying her body had been identified. My daughter was murdered by a deliberate act of explosive horror. I was not there to protect her.

If you’re asking what can be done, I want to offer this. When a young life ends, a huge empty space is left behind. How do you fill it? With hatred, thoughts of revenge, evening up the score? After our daughter’s death, we sat down as a family and asked ourselves how her life and actions should be remembered. We decided to raise money and give practical help to families raising a child with disabilities. Malki, a very practical teenager, did this herself and believed in it. It would have made her smile.

Perhaps it’s not politically correct to say this, but I believe evil does exist in the world – a great deal of it.

How do you answer evil? For us, the right response has been to do things which we hope will increase the stock of good in the world. We know this will have no impact on the barbarians who killed our children and loved ones. But we’re absolutely determined that they won’t be impacting us any more than they already have. They and their values are irrelevant to our lives.

Visit This Ongoing War.

Frimet and Arnold Roth

A Miracle on Siyum HaShas Day

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Dear Readers,

The first day of the second half of this summer will no doubt stand out in the memories of countless people who had the zechus to attend the twelfth Siyum HaShas at the MetLife Stadium. Many more who weren’t there in person were nonetheless able to participate in some way, either by catching highlights of the celebration streamed live or by viewing video clips and photos that managed to capture the essence of the achdus, exhilaration and sheer exultation that was widely in evidence that night.

It’s safe to say that everybody knows somebody who was there, be it a family member, neighbor or friend. A childhood friend of mine whom I shall call Malka stayed home with her elderly mother (who has lived with them for the past several years), while her husband attended the affair. An only child and the daughter of holocaust survivors, Malka was a young girl when she lost her father to a debilitating illness and most of her memories of him center on her visits to his hospital bedside. Her mother raised her single-handedly, having never remarried, and had always been extremely reserved about sharing or conveying her inner thoughts, even to her own daughter.

“My mother said very little, and even that little was spoken in a tone barely above a whisper,” says Malka. Not a bad thing in itself, to be sure, but Malka has often lamented that there was so much she yearned to know about both of her parents, and especially about her grandparents and the numerous aunts and uncles she had been cruelly deprived of ever meeting. According to Malka, “…my mother spoke only when it was essential for her to do so and spent most of her time working to support us and maintaining our small, neat and humble home.”

In the early evening of August 1, Malka was taken by the scene that greeted her when she stepped out on her front porch. Parked curbside along the length of Borough Park’s18th Avenue “were buses upon buses, white and shining, for as far as my eyes could see, with masses of my fellow Yidden – Chassidish, Litvish, Yekkish, Sefardish, Yeshivish, you name it – lining up to wait their turn to board the bus that would take them to the much talked-about event.”

This was something Malka felt her physically frail mother couldn’t miss seeing. “I held onto her arm and slowly guided her to our street corner from where she could clearly see the goings on. I turned to ask her what she thought of the incredible sight…”

Malka searched her mother’s face for a reaction and to her surprise saw tears welling in the older woman’s eyes. “Us they didn’t transport in white buses…” she said quietly, emotion choking her every word as tears began to trickle down her cheeks.

“She didn’t have to elaborate,” says Malka. “Not that she had ever gone into any detail, but I’d read and heard enough to know that she was reliving the horrors that she and innumerable others were forced to endure when they were mercilessly stuffed into the cattle cars… and I also understood that she was overcome with a sense of pride in her heritage that has miraculously survived despite the evil intent of a monstrous dictator that sought to annihilate us.”

And another miracle, albeit much smaller in scope, began to unfold on this day; Malka’s mother began to open up, to share the memories she’d stored in the attic of her mind for decades. The remarkable scene of hundreds of Jews boarding new-like buses to celebrate their joy in perpetuating our G-d given legacy apparently triggered in Malka’s mom a sudden urge to share the heavy burdens of her heart with her future progeny, to make them aware of the savagery perpetrated upon their ancestors who were among millions of victims of the Nazi genocide.

Malka recalls, “Over the years I had come to know that in Auschwitz my mother, then a young woman hardly twenty years of age, was given the job of sorting and checking through the various clothing items of victims stripped literally bare…” But now her mom shared the memory of a heart-stopping moment in time, when she had picked up a woman’s coat and felt something stuffed into one of its sleeves. To her horror it was a baby… whose life its mother had apparently desperately tried to preserve.

Rachel

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.

Harry Maryles

T’shuva Starts at Home!

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

In today’s blog, we are going to take a short hiatus from the writings of Rabbi Kook and look at a different aspect of t’shuva. In last week’s Torah portion of “Ke Tetze,” we find the following:

When your camp goes out to fight against you enemies, then keep away from every evil thing. If there be any man among you who is not pure by reason of the impurity that chances by night, then he shall go outside of the camp, he shall not come within the camp; but it shall be when evening come on, he shall immerse himself in water… for the Lord your G-d walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you, and to give up your enemies before you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He shall see no unclean thing in you, and turn away from you (Devarim, 23:10-16).

Unlike the claims of “Ultra-Orthodox” Jews of today who negate, and even denigrate, participation in Israel’s armed forces, there are several commandments explicitly written in the Torah which deal with Jewish soldiers and our wars against our enemies. The holy heroes of our Biblical past, whether it be Avraham, the sons of Yaacov, Moshe Rabeinu, Yehoshua, King David, the Macabbees, or Rabbi Akiva, who gladly carried the weapons of Bar Kochva out to battle, were also fierce military warriors.

A reality in conquering and settling the Land of Israel, the Land where Hashem commands us to keep the Torah, then as now, is the need to use the military capability that G-d gives us. One of these mitzvot is to keep our army camps holy, not by dodging our share in the war effort, but in working to insure that the proper level of holiness is maintained, which would certainly be the case today in Israel if all of the “Ultra-Orthodox” Jews would enlist alongside their brothers. However, this is not the subject of this blog.

The commandment to guard our holiness applies to our communities and homes as well. Our Sages tell us that “keeping away from every evil thing” means keeping away from sexual transgression and from gazing at women (Avodah Zara 20A). The continuation of the verse is clearly referring to the unintentional spilling of seed in vain which is wont to occur when a man gazes at immodest images. Engaging in this wasteful act deliberately is even graver, and is considered one of the severest transgressions in the Torah (see Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 23:2). The Torah informs us that as a result of the spiritual impurity which this causes, the Shechinah flees from our presence, making us vulnerable to our enemies. No other sin triggers such an extreme reaction. The Midrash teaches that the Holy One Blessed Be He is slow to anger in regard to every sin, except immorality (Bereshit Rabbah 26). “Rabbi Simlai taught that wherever there is sexual immorality, indiscriminate destruction comes to the world and kills the good with the wicked” (Ibid.) This is the reason why we are called upon to keep our camp holy, to insure that the Shechinah, which guards over Israel, never leaves us prey to our enemies, G-d forbid.

Today, the “evil thing” in our communities and homes is the onslaught of immodest websites and images on the Internet. For example, a while back, every time I punched in the words “Jewish Press” on my search engine, an ad for a website called “Hottest Jewish Girls” would show up right next to it on the page. Now a man has to be an absolute tzaddik, or have the strength of Superman, or have downloaded a reliable filter, not to be tempted to look. Unfortunately, the evil inclination often wins out, and the result is that our homes become polluted with a terrible spiritual pollution which drives the Shechinah away, leaving ourselves and our families exposed to terrible consequences, may G-d have mercy!

On the eve of Yom Kippur, to enter into a mood of repentance, many congregations recite the prayer called “Tefilla Zaka,” which begins:

Almighty, Father of mercy and forgiveness, Whose right hand is extended to accept those who return in t’shuva, and Who created man to bestow goodness upon him at the end of his days, and Who created in him two inclinations, the good and the evil inclination….

Tzvi Fishman

T’shuva Brings Healing to the World

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Shut the latches of the spaceship. Fasten your seatbelts. Get ready for another magic mystery tour through the galaxies of t’shuva, as illuminated for us in the writings of Rabbi Kook.

If you were like me, you’d order the book, “The Art of T’shuva” (available online) already today, so you can hurry up and do as much t’shuva as you can before the Almighty searches you out in His Big Computer in the sky and views all the personal youtubes you’ve starred in during the year when you thought no one was watching. But you’re not like me, and so you probably won’t buy the book. That’s one of the reasons why I’m in Israel and you’re still in Flatbush or Boro Park.

As we learned, mankind is always involved in t’shuva. The fact that there are many non-religious people today should not be held as a contradiction. T’shuva must be looked at in an encompassing perspective that spans all generations.

A story about Rabbi Kook may help illustrate. One day, Rabbi Kook was walking by the Old City in Jerusalem with Rabbi Chaim Zonnenfeld, one of the leading rabbis of the Ultra-Orthodox community.

“Look how awful our situation is,” the Rabbi observed. “See how many secular Jews there our in the city. Just a few generations ago, their father’s fathers were all Orthodox Jews.”

“One must look at Am Yisrael in a wider perspective,” Rabbi Kook answered. “Do you see this valley over here, the Valley of Hinom? This was once a site for human sacrifice. Today, even the crassest secularist will not offer his child as a human sacrifice for any pagan ideal. When you look at today’s situation in the span of all history, things do not seem so bad. On the contrary, you can see that there has been great progress.”

The Rambam, at the end of the Laws of Kings, refers to this same development process of redemption which encompasses all things in life. He asks the question — if Christianity is a false religion, why did God grant it so much dominion? In the time of the Rambam, Christianity and Islam ruled over the world. The Jews suffered miserably under both.

The Rambam’s answer is based on a sweeping historical perspective which finds a certain value in Christianity, even though the Rambam himself classifies Christianity as idol worship (Laws of Idol Worship, 9:4, uncensored edition). On the one hand, he emphatically condemns Christianity, and on the other hand he maintains that Christianity has a positive role in the development of world history. How are we to reconcile this contradiction?

The Rambam writes that Christianity serves as a facilitator to elevate mankind from the darkness of paganism toward the recognition of monotheism. In effect, it is a stepping stone enabling mankind to make the leap from idol worship to the worship of God.

The belief in an invisible God does not come easily to the masses. Christianity, weaned mankind away from the belief in many gods to a belief in a “three-leaf clover” of a father, a son, and a holy ghost. Once the world is accustomed to this idea, though it is still idol worship, the concept of one supreme God is not so removed. Furthermore, the Rambam writes that Christianity’s focus on the messiah prepares the world for the day when the true Jewish messiah will come.

Today, because of Christianity’s influence, all the world, from the Eskimos to the Zulus, have heard about the messiah, so that when he arrives, he will have a lot less explaining to do. “Oh, it’s you,” mankind will say on the heralded day. Though they will be surprised to find out that it’s not Jezeus, they’ll say all the same, “We’ve been waiting for you.”

Thus, when world history is looked at in an encompassing perspective, even Christianity, with all of its many negative factors, can be seen to play a positive role in mankind’s constant march toward t’shuva.

When we understand this historic, all-encompassing perspective, we can see that a world movement like Christianity, despite all of its evil, can influence the course of human history toward a higher ideal. But how does one man’s t’shuva bring redemption closer? How does a person’s remorse over having stolen some money bring healing to the cosmos as a whole?

Tzvi Fishman

The T’shuva Train

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Rabbi Kook explains that t’shuva comes about in two distinct formats, either suddenly, or in a gradual, slowly developing fashion. Both of these pathways to t’shuva are readily found in the baal t’shuva world. Some people will tell you how their lives suddenly changed overnight. Others describe their experience as a long, challenging process which unfolded over years. Many factors influence the way in which t’shuva appears, including personality, background, and environment. Health problems, whether physical or psychological, can inspire a person toward t’shuva. Personal tragedy — a death in the family, or the loss of one’s job, can trigger sudden revelations of t’shuva. For others, a seemingly chance encounter with a religious Jew, a Sabbath experience, or a visit to the Kotel in Jerusalem, have all been known to set the stirrings of t’shuva in motion. Even dramatic current events, like catastrophes or wars can influence awakenings of t’shuva.

What stands out in Rabbi Kook’s teaching is that the potential for t’shuva is ever-present. Like light from the sun, the waves of t’shuva constantly envelop the earth. Its spiritual force empowers mankind, silently working to bring the world back to God. Some people jump on the t’shuva train in one bold leap. Others climb aboard in a much slower fashion. But the train itself is always in motion.

Concerning sudden t’shuva, Rabbi Kook writes:

“Sudden t’shuva results from a spiritual bolt of illumination which enters the soul. All at once, the person recognizes the ugliness and evil of sin, and he is transformed into a new being. Already, he feels within himself a total change for the good. This type of t’shuva derives from a certain unique inner power of the soul, from some great spiritual influence whose ways are best sought in the depths of life’s mysteries.”

Sudden t’shuva appears when a person suddenly decides that his entire way of living needs to be changed. Revolted by the impurity of his ways, he abruptly sets out on a purer, healthier course. All at once, he feels that everything in his life must be transformed. A sudden burst of great light reveals the sordidness of his existence, and he understands that an entire life overhaul is in order — new habits, new friends, new interests, new goals. Seemingly overnight, he is a new person. Of course, the sudden break from his old ways is not cut and dry. A person cannot change his whole existence at once. The process may take a day or a decade. But the decision which triggers this great transformation occurs in a moment of profound revelation and cleansing. A sudden, cathartic illumination lights up his being, and he is changed.

A discussion in the Gemara alludes to this type of split-second t’shuva (Kiddushin 49B). There is a law that if a man marries a woman on the basis of some condition, the marriage is legal only if the condition is met. If a man were to say, “You will be my lawfully-wedded wife on the condition that I will give you one-hundred dollars,” if he gives her the money, they are married. If he does not give her the money, then the marriage does not take place. What happens if a man were to marry a woman on the condition that he is a completely righteous person? Suppose that the man is a known evildoer. If he makes his righteousness the basis for the marriage, is the marriage considered proper and legal?

Jewish law states that the woman is “safek mekudeshet,” meaning that she is married out of doubt. Yet if we know that the man is evil, how can this be? After all, the marriage was based on the condition that he be as righteous as a tzaddik. It should follow that since the condition was not kept, the woman is not married. The Gemara explains: “We are cautious for maybe he had a contemplation of t’shuva.”

We learn from this that repentance can be a split-second decision. One can become a penitent in a second, through the thought of t’shuva alone. This is what Rabbi Kook is alluding to when he speaks about sudden t’shuva. Very often people are afraid to embark on a course of repentance because they believe it involves years of suffering and difficult change. Here we learn the opposite. T’shuva is easy!

Tzvi Fishman

Iconic Sinners

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/iconic-sinners.html

A memoir by Philip Fishman about growing up in Williamsburg has just been published. Williamsburg was not always the Chasidic enclave of Satmar that it is now. It was once the primary location for all types of Orthodoxy. It was home to both the Young Israel and the Agudah. And it was home to Yeshiva Torah Voda’ath for many years.

What is noteworthy is a portion of the book (excerpted on at least 2 blogs) that accuses one of the early icons of Agudah of sex abuse – going into quite a bit of detail about the nature of the abuse. He does not identify the abuser by name to spare the family embarrassment.

Some have said that think they know who he was referring to. I am not going to speculate. There is no purpose to that other than casting aspersions on someone posthumously who may have been innocent.

That said I have no reason to doubt Mr. Fishman. Someone was very likely guilty of molesting him as an 11 year old child. Why would someone lie about something like that in a book? On the other hand people do not usually become icons among the Jewish people unless they have earned it. That means that he had actually done a lot for Klal Yisroel. And yet he sexually molested at least one person. Twice! It is therefore a disturbing story.

Mr. Fishman says that because the perpetrator was not in Chinuch he was able to avoid him after those two encounters – and that the abuse has not affected his life.

The question remains. How does one reconcile greatness with evil? Is it possible that one can be a great contributor to society and have a dark side? And how are we to look at such a person? Does abusing someone sexually – even only one or two times to one person – negate all the good he has done?

I believe most victims would say “yes, it does.” On the other hand I know that some victims would not agree with that statement. I have read accounts of an even bigger icon perpetrating a similar form of molestation. This time on women. I also recall at least one victim valuing the contributions of the person who molested her – almost in a forgiving way. The icon in question is Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

If one is a Carlebach fan one may be tempted to say that they simply do not believe the victim. But there has been more than one victim and they all describe the abuse in similar ways.

Rabbi Carlebach is a musical genius. In my view, his contributions to Jewish music were on the same level as Beethoven’s contributions were to classical music. Or the Beatles to Rock and Roll. He is in class all by himself. In terms of musical achievement – no one can touch him. His musical compositions are so pervasive that many people don’t even realize that popular tunes used in various Teffilos on Shabbos and Yom Tov are actually Carelbach tunes. This includes all segments of Jewry. From the most right wing Charedi to the most left wing modern Orthodox. Conservative and Reform Jews also use his tunes in their synagogues and temples. Carlebach’s music is even well known outside the world of Jewry.

Some people are so enamoured of him that they have dedicated entire religious prayer services to him. They are called Carlebach Minyanim. On Friday nights Kabbolas Shabbos is sung exclusively to his melodies. There are some people who actually worship him as though he was a Gadol!

There is no doubt that he was charismatic. But in achieving his charisma he violated his Charedi tradition. He was a hugger. He used to hug his fans tighly. Including women.

There are leniencies that have been used to justify that behavior.  There is a debate about the Halacha forbidding a man from touching any woman other than his wife, mother, or daughter (and according to some opinions – a sister). Chasidim forbid ever touching a woman other than those mentioned under any and all circumstances.

There is however a lenient opinion that allows touching any woman it if it is done in a completely platonic way – SheLo B’Derech Chiba. Modern Orthodox Jews and (as I have been told by a reliable source) the German Jewish community (Yekkes) rely on this lenient view. The Yeshiva world does not generally rely on it except when it may result in a Chilul Hashem.

Harry Maryles

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