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August 31, 2015 / 16 Elul, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Of Truth and Belief

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/of-faith-and-belief.html

One of the most perplexing things for me to understand is the concept of Orthopraxy. As currently defined, an Orthoprax Jew tends to follow Halacha, but may question the existence of God or whether the Torah was given to us at Sinai . And yet such people do exist. My first encounter with such an individual was when I initiated this blog. He called himself “Misnagid”. And he guarded his anonymity “religiously”.

That came as a shock to me at the time. I could not understand why anyone would bother keeping the Mitzvos if he didn’t believe in God. If I recall correctly, his answer was that he was raised as an Orthodox Jew, married Orthodox, and lived in an Orthodox environment. It would have radically changed his life to “come out of the closet” so to speak. So he plays along, going through the motions for appearances sake. This even includes sending his children to an Orthodox Jewish day school.  Interestingly, he admitted that Shabbos still meant a lot to him… that this weekly day of rest was rejuvenating to his spirit – as it were.

I actually understand that.

Although not all Orthoprax Jews are atheists (some are just skeptics and simply doubt God’s existence – not going so far as to deny it) Misnagid is an atheist. How he became one is irrelevant to this post. The point is that he is one of many such people. They exist in all segments of Orthodoxy. I recall an interview in Mishpacha Magazine with a Charedi Posek who was one such individual! (Since his exposure he is no longer a Posek.)

I think few people are aware how many people are Orthoprax. How could they be? These closet skeptics and atheists must remain there if they want continue their lives without the major upheaval that often goes along with going OTD. They want to remain in the environment they are used to. They want the continued acceptance by their family and friends they have always had. So they remain Frum on the outside, and atheists on the inside.

The appeal of an Orthodox lifestyle can be seen among Baalei Teshuva. They will often choose to be observant for non-theological reasons. They believe that living their lives according to the Torah and its moral teachings makes them better human beings. And they are meticulous in their observances.

This appeal is apparently the case with some Jewish atheists. Like Zeke Emanuel, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual’s brother. In a Washington Post article he describes himself as a Kosher atheist:

Judaism isn’t about what people think, he seems to be saying. It’s about what they do. It follows, according to that argument, that it’s more Jewish to keep kosher than it is to believe unthinkingly in God.

In what has to be an amazing statement for an Orthodox Rabbi, especially one who claims to be a practitioner of the Chabad Chasidus and follower of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach seems to agree:

“Judaism,” he told me in a phone call, “is not a religion primarily of faith. It is a religion primarily of practice…”

How any Orthodox Rabbi can make an unqualified statement like that and still call himself Orthodox is beyond me. The most fundamental tenet of Judaism is the belief in one God. The first 3 of the 10 Commandments deal with matters of faith!

While it is true that Judaism is a religion based on acts, those acts presuppose a belief in God. All the Mitzvos in the world are spiritually meaningless if one does not believe in the ultimate Spiritual Being, God.

I understand that there is a practical side to observance that may even be its main selling point to those considering Orthodoxy. I know people who have told me that they became observant because the lifestyle appealed to them. They saw the community of religious Jews and found it much more rewarding than the hedonistic ways of their friends or even siblings.

I recall at least 2 weddings where the all the siblings and friends of two Baalei Teshuva getting married had lifestyles that were very self-centered and hedonistic. Lifestyles that included a great deal of non-marital sex and even drug use. None of them were interested in getting married and having a family.

Two Jewish Social Action Groups Join White House Faith-Based Forum

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Leaders of two Jewish social action groups addressed a White House forum on faith-based social innovations.

Shawn Landres, the founder of Jewish Jumpstart, and Jon Rosenberg, the CEO of Repair the World, were among 13 leaders of faith-based groups and three government officials who participated Wednesday in a Faith-Based Social Innovators Forum convened by the White House.

Landres described a generational shift from Jewish social action advocacy addressing Jewish needs to cultivating Jewish activism in the wider community.

“The primary engine for innovation no longer is found in centralized communal institutions working to meet collective Jewish needs,” he said in his address. “Today, that energy has shifted outward to independent grass-roots initiatives, many of which seek to express Jewish values through service, education, and social and civic advocacy.”

Why the West Loves Lying to Itself About Islam

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

http://sultanknish.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/why-west-loves-lying-to-itself-about.html

Say that you get a tempting offer from a Nigerian prince and decide to invest some money in helping him transfer his vast fortune from Burkina Faso or Dubai over to the bank across the street. The seemingly simple task of bringing over the 18 million dollars left to him by his father hits some snags which require you to put in more and more of your own money.

Eventually you have invested more than you ever would have ever done up front, just trying to protect the sunk cost, the money that you already sank into Prince Hussein Ngobo’s scheme. And to protect your self-esteem, you must go on believing that, no matter what Prince Ngobo does, he is credible and sincere. Any failings in the interaction are either your fault or the fault of some third party. Anyone who tells you otherwise must be a Ngobophobe.

Now imagine that Prince Ngobo’s real name is Islam.

That is where Western elites find themselves now. They invested heavily in the illusion of a compatible Islamic civilization. Those investments, whether in Islamic immigration or Islamic democracy or peace with Islam have turned toxic, but dropping those investments is as out of the question as writing off Prince Ngobo as a con artist and walking away feeling like a fool. Western elites, who fancy themselves more intelligent and more enlightened than the wise men and prophets of every religion, and who base their entire right to rule on that intelligence and enlightenment, are not in the habit of admitting that they are fools.

The Arab Springers who predicted that the Muslim uprisings would bring a new age of secularism, freedom and an end to the violence between Islam and the West; are busy writing up new checks. Thomas Friedman is penning essays explaining why the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood will mean regional stability and peace with Israel (and if it doesn’t, it will be our fault.)

It’s not insanity; it’s the term that rhymes with a certain river in Egypt. The Brotherhood’s victory discredits the Arab Spring, which discredits the bid for Arab Democracy, which discredits the compatibility of Islam and the folks on Fifth Avenue. Follow the river back along its course and suddenly the Clash of Civilizations becomes an undeniable fact. It’s easier to give up and let the river of denial carry you further along until, five years from now, you find yourself explaining why Al-Qaeda ruling Libya is actually a good thing for everyone.

In 1991, Israel cut a land-for-peace deal with a greasy Egyptian bloke named Yasser Arafat. The Cairo-born Arafat would turn his gang of terrorists into a government and police force, and rule over an autonomous territory, in exchange for ending the violence. Clinton smiled beatifically as hands were shaken and a new era of peace was upon us. The era, however, has yet to show up.

Over two decades of terrorism have not shaken the belief of the American or Israeli establishment in the “Two-State Solution”, which has solved absolutely nothing, except perhaps the problem of how to make the Middle East into an even more unstable place. As the violence increased and the pathway to peace decreased, American Presidents and Israeli Prime Ministers redoubled their concession offers and their faith in the Two-State Solution—now an article of faith in most circles. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt; it also laps at the shores of Tel Aviv, flows out to the English coast and all across Europe.

Ask a Eurocrat for the time of day and he’ll calculate how much to charge you for the subsidies to artisanal clock farmers that it will take to answer that question. Ask him about Islamic integration and he will instantly tell you that everything is going smoothly and the problems only exist in the minds of a few bigots and the pages of a few tabloids.

Muslim integration into Europe is going swimmingly, much like the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Arab Spring. It’s going like a house on fire, not to mention a bus, a lot of cars and two towers on fire—on the other side of the Atlantic. Whatever problems there are, as with the peace process and the spring process, are undoubtedly the fault of someone who isn’t a Muslim.

The Power of Faith

Monday, July 9th, 2012

The power of faith is unmatched; it can lift man above adversity and help him climb the highest of mountains. It can help him overcome pain and torture. It can make him see the light in a night that is inky in its darkness. The Gaon Rav Tzvi Hirsh Levin manifested such a faith when he was a starving and poverty-stricken rav in Halberstat.

Halberstat was a small and very poor town that was proud to have the great scholar as its spiritual leader. Unfortunately, their love for him was greater than their capacity to pay his salary and he was forced to live a life of abject poverty.

He never paid any attention to his meager existence, because the opportunity to sit and study Torah more than compensated for the lack of material benefits, but his wife and children suffered greatly from deprivation.

Wife Complains

The rebbetzin, who was a good woman, could stand it no longer and her patience and stoicism finally broke down. One day, when the rav returned from the Beis Medrash, he found his wife in tears.

“Why are you crying?” he asked.

“How can I not cry?” retorted the wife. “We have no money and all the inheritance that I received from my mother is almost gone.

“I sit each day counting every coin and worrying. Every day is another worry for me while you do not care about our desperate financial plight.”

Sharp Mind

Rav Tzvi Hirsh felt very bad about his wife’s anguish sand he tried to comfort her with a smile and a little joke.

“It is not true that I do not worry about our economic plight,” he said. “You know, however, that your mother chose me for a son-in-law because I was reputed to have a sharp mind.

“What is the difference between someone who has such a mind and someone who does not? The latter takes a long time to understand while the former grasps the situation quickly.

“It takes you a long time to understand our plight and so you worry some every day. I understand it right away and I do all your worrying in a moment.”

Naturally the wife was hardly satisfied with this “answer” and she berated him for his lack of compassion.

Urges Faith

Rav Tzvi Hirsh began to remind her that a Jew must never lose faith in the Al-Mighty, but must rather always look to the heavens and anticipate aid and comfort. His wife, however, refused to listen.

“How can we expect help when there is not a piece of bread in the house and not a coin in our pockets? Who will feed the children tonight?”

“But you still have things of value left, do you not?” asked Rav Tzvi Hirsh. “Pawn the jewelry and the silverware that remain from the inheritance and buy food with the money that you get from them.”

“And what will happen when they are all gone?”

“At that time we will worry. I am convinced, however, that when we have nothing left the Almighty will surely come to our aid as He always does.”

One Spoon

The months passed and the family lived on the money that came from selling and pawning their valuables. This could only go on for so long, however, and the day arrived when the rebbetzin, once again, came to her husband with tears and said, “All that we have is now gone except for one teaspoon. What shall we do? How shall we live?”

“Will the teaspoon buy us breakfast?” asked the rabbi.

“Yes.”

“Then sell it and let us eat breakfast. Afterwards we will sit and discuss the future.”

With a heave sigh, that is what the rebbetzin did. The family sat down to eat the bread and butter she bought with the money. She, however, ate nothing. Her heart was too filled with pain and worry.

The rav saw his wife’s misery and asked gently, “Why do you not eat? Have you not learned that the salvation of the L-rd comes as the blinking of an eye? This means that just when the eyelids of a man are about to close through weakness, and he sees no help on the horizon, that is the time when he can expect the Almighty to come to his rescue.”

A Knock On The Door

No sooner had he finished saying these words when a knock was heard on the door. It was the mailman and he had a letter that came all the way from London. Rav Hirsh opened the letter with great puzzlement and read it.

Lollipops Don’t Fall From The Sky

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Last week I published a letter from a thirty-eight year old single woman who lamented that despite her having become a ba’alas teshuvah, forsaking her secular life, committing to Torah and mitzvos, going to rabbis, receiving berachot – in short, doing all the “right” things – she has failed to find her bashert, her soul mate. She wondered where G-d was and what all her sacrifices were all about. She was angry at G-d and regarded all her efforts as having been for naught. “My joy in Judaism has disappeared,” she wrote. The following is my response.

My dear friend:

As I write this column, the portion of the week is Chukas. I have found that if one searches properly, the parshah of the week always offers clarification on the challenges one has to wrestle with.

You have resentment in your heart. You feel you have been treated unfairly and that your commitment to Torah and mitzvos has been futile. In your disillusionment, you are angry at G-d and ready to give it all up.

Look in the Torah portion to which I referred. Miriam, Aaron and Moshe himself, the giants of our people, had their hopes dashed. Their dream of entering Eretz Yisrael was never realized. They could have argued, “For this we sacrificed? For this we labored? The nation has the privilege of entering Eretz Yisrael and we do not? Where is justice? It’s just not fair!” But they remained silent and accepted the will of G-d with equanimity, love, and a full heart.

Throughout the long centuries of our painful history, the emblem of our people has been unconditional faith. No matter where life took us, no matter what catastrophe befell us, we clung tenaciously to our G-d. Obviously there have been individuals whose faith faltered, who disappeared into the melting pot of assimilation, but we as a people triumphed, and our “Shema Yisrael” reverberated and continues to reverberate throughout the world.

I myself, a child of the Holocaust, can testify to this. With my own eyes I saw the indescribable suffering of our people. I will never forget the holy countenance and the voice of my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, who, after our own liberation from Bergen Belsen, received the catastrophic news that he was the only surviving son of the glorious rabbinic house of my grandfather. In a trembling voice, his eyes filled with tears, my father called out: “Ribbonoh shel Olam, I ask only one thing – that all my children, all my generations, should remain by Torah.”

Think about this and absorb it well. Wouldn’t my father have been justified in saying, “I am through! If this is the reward of great tzaddikim, if this is how You protect Your beloved chosen ones, there is no reason for me to remain and sacrifice. I’ve had it. I quit.”

Wouldn’t that have been the logical response? Wouldn’t that have been the reaction of so many in our generation who recognize entitlement but not indebtedness, rights but not responsibilities, privileges but not obligations? But my beloved revered father, like millions of others spanning many centuries and continents, had only one request, one prayer – that the light of Torah forever shine in the hearts of his descendants.

Having said this, I will try to address your personal dilemma and individual struggle.

While more than 40 years ago I had the zechus, the merit, of establishing Hineni, one of the first ba’al teshuvah movements in the world, I had actually been involved in outreach from early childhood. My father was a visionary, way ahead of his time. To the dismay of many in the chassidic world, he went to Szeged, not to be confused with Sziget, a shtetl in Romania. Szeged was a cosmopolitan city, the second largest in Hungary, as well as the most assimilated. My father created an Orthodox community there and kindled the light of Torah in the hearts of our people.

So it was from a tender age that I was nurtured in outreach. Over the years I learned it is dangerous to tell a secular person if he or she would only do such and such, the heavens would open up and all their dreams would be fulfilled. Our Torah way of life is not a candy store; lollipops do not fall from the sky, nor are there any guarantees of living “happily ever after.”

Half of US Reform Rabbis Officiate at Intermarriages

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

While the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) does not have statistics on how many of its 2,000 Reform rabbis in North America officiate at intermarriages, when pressed, Rabbi Hara Person, director of CCAR Press, estimated “it’s about half.”

A testament to the prevalence of officially sanctioned intermarriage inside the Reform movement, is JTA’s Penny Schwartz’s story published this week, on a special publication coming out next month from CCAR, a Premarital Counseling Guide for Clergy, written by Dr. Paula Brody, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Outreach Training Institute, which includes an entire section for counseling of intermarried and conversionary couples.

The goal is to give clergy more tools to help couples discuss the meaning of their faith background, Brody told JTA.

Brody’s exercises delve deeply into both partners’ childhood experiences from their faith backgrounds to enable a couple to be able to discuss the sensitive issue of how they will raise any future children. “It means a tremendous amount to the person from a different faith background to know they are being recognized,” she told JTA.

In a highlighted section, Brody writes, “The Jewish community has been blessed to have had so many individuals from other faith backgrounds give the gift of raising Jewish children. Tremendous appreciation needs to be expressed by the partner, the partner’s family, and the Jewish community for giving this gift to Judaism.”

The manual also includes suggestions for follow up, a key factor that is now lacking, according to many observers.

Back in March, Dr. Brody held a series of workshops for clergy and professional staff based on the manual. In her notes describing the series she wrote:

“Most couples will seek out a clergy connection before their marriage. For interfaith couples, this interaction is often pivotal. How can clergy turn pre-marital meetings, whether with in-marrying or intermarrying couples, into opportunities for meaningful Jewish engagement, nurturing their Jewish choices and solidifying their commitment to creating a Jewish home for their family?

“This workshop will provide some useful tools to strengthen couples’ communication around faith issues enabling each partner to untangle the complicated threads that connect them to their family and religious background. The workshop will introduce clergy to the couples communication exercises and wedding planning suggestions available in the forthcoming CCAR publication.”

Schwartz writes that some rabbis set conditions – such as joining a synagogue or committing to raising future children as Jews – before they’ll officiate at an intermarriage. But Rabbi Lev Baesh told her he worries such conditions would turn off couples.

“It matters so much for a rabbi to say, ‘yes,’” no matter where the couple is in the process, says Baesh, director of the resource center for Jewish clergy for Interfaithfamily.com, a resource and service organization that supports Jewish life for interfaith couples.

Interfaithfamily.com is a resource center which believes that “maximizing the number of interfaith families who find fulfillment in Jewish life and raise their children as Jews is essential to the future strength and vitality of the Jewish community.”

The website provides “useful educational information and resources, connect interfaith families to each other and to local Jewish communities, and advocate for inclusive attitudes, policies and practices.”

But while resources like Interfaithfamily.com seem vital for dealing with the ever growing problem of intermarriages, it is a far cry from openly sanctioning the creation of such marriages.

According to Schwartz, historically, CCAR has opposed its members officiating at intermarriages. In 1973, it reaffirmed that opposition, but also recognized that its members hold divergent interpretations, with each making his or her own decision.

A resolution proposed at CCAR’s 2008 annual convention called for dropping the official opposition. To avoid a polarizing debate on the hot button issue, the resolution was tabled.

Two years ago a task force on intermarried issued a report affirming that continuity is more likely for inmarriages. But there is a significant opportunity among intermarrieds, as well, the report noted, and called for strengthening outreach efforts and providing more resources to its rabbis. The new premarital counseling manual was an outgrowth of the recommendations.

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The Cult of America

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Not long ago, there was a case of a cult leader who was arrested for having a harem of twenty homeless teenage girls whom he kept in a mansion and sexually molested as part of their allegiance to him. In court, his lawyer gave an impassioned speech, asking the jury to take into consideration all of the good he had done in rescuing them from the street, housing them, providing them with food, clothing, and paying for their medical care. He hadn’t forced anyone to stay in his mansion. He hadn’t locked the doors. He had simply rescued them and given them his love.

Yes, America took in hordes of downtrodden immigrant Jews. Yes, America was a land of opportunity for the homeless and starving. Yes, America allowed them freedom of religion. Yes, in America, many poor immigrant Jews became rich and famous. And, yes, America has helped the State of Israel in many ways too.

But the fact is, call it whatever nice fancy, intellectual-sounding, three or four syllable name that you wish, the majority of Jews in America are being raped. Raped of their Jewish identity. Raped of being Jews. Raped of their Jewish future. No one is forcing them, but it is happening all the same.

Not everyone mind you. About 35% to 40% of American Jews are still hanging on to being Jewish. But assimilation is steadily increasing, and hundreds of thousands are disappearing with every passing decade. Soon, only the Orthodox will be left, and who will save them when the Americans remind them the hard way that they are Jews, not Americans – as has happened in every age throughout history, in every gentile country with whom we have fallen in love?

In my family alone, except for my brother, all of my cousins and second cousins married out of the faith – all of them. Finished. Kaput. The end of the line. After 5000 years of clinging to being Jewish, generation after generation, through times of harsh and often murderous oppression, the candle was snuffed out in the love boat of America, which is so good to the Jews, it rapes them of being Jewish – not by force – but by feeding them, and housing them, and providing them with all kinds of goodies and love.

It won’t happen to your children, you say – if you are even married, because who but homosexuals get married these days? And if it does happen to your children and grandchildren, well, it’s no big deal, you claim – everyone is equal, people are free to do what they want with their lives, why should there be differences and ethnic borders in the world? The main thing is love.

“Love, shmov,” my grandmother would say. “A curse on Columbus!”

That little gem, she was fond of saying every Columbus Day for his having discovered the land of assimilation that is steadily and surely wiping out the Jewish People, even though everything is honky dory with you. Who cares about the future of our people? My life today is what matters! That’s all that counts to the cultists of America. EQUALITY! LIBERTY! ACCEPTANCE!

Yes, America has been good to the Jews. Just like the rapist was good to his harem of teenage lovers.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/the-cult-of-america/2012/07/03/

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