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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘hassidism’

The Mystical Meanings of the Anonymous Hacking Attacks

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Much can be said about a name. Especially about a name which isn’t really a name at all. Whereas the heroes of Jewish history have had volumes written about them, sometimes it is those untold stories that seem the most compelling. Such was the case during the Purim saga (as related in the Book of Esther), where God’s name was not mentioned explicitly even once in the megillah.

Perhaps then it would be much better for all of us to be called anonymous? Maybe we should all keep our secret identities of ourselves? To the world we are Clark Kent, but secretly we really have untold super-powers.

Indeed, in Jewish law, sometimes it is most praiseworthy to do things anonymously. For instance, when giving tzedakah (charity), it is virtuous to do so discreetly so as not to embarrass the recipient. In general, those mitzvot (commandments and good deeds) done unnoticed, seem to have a greater potential to be carried out altruistically.

So on the surface, naming your activities “anonymous” doesn’t seem intrinsically wrong. In fact, it could be something most virtuous.

Two Types of Anonymous

Returning to the Purim saga, we can observe two representations of the “anonymous” concept. But as is the nature of most Purim related discussions, they tend to reside on opposite sides of the spectrum. On the good side, as mentioned, is the “anonymous” nature that God played during the story. Before the miracle of Purim, God Himself “hid His face” from Israel. By initially hiding one’s true identity, pretending to be someone else, the innermost essence of one’s true identity becomes revealed. On Purim we reach the level of the “unknowable head” (“the head that does not know itself nor is known to others”), the state of complete existential hidden-ness of self from self, for the sake of “giving birth” to one’s ultimate self anew.

It is clear, whether they consciously realize it or not, that this is the attraction behind the Anonymous group name and logo. But the source for the attraction to this concept doesn’t jive well with some or all of their activities. As mentioned, the purpose of this first type of anonymous is to ultimately benefit the world with a greater state of revelation. Individually, this means being able to reveal your secret identity in public; to “give birth” to your superhero self anew. On the macro level, this means making the name of God explicit from within a state of concealment. For out of the darkness of their trial, Mordechai, Esther and the entire Jewish people witnessed and revealed great Divine light to the world.

So if “anonymous” is to be capitalized, the best reason would be to reference the word to the “hidden face” state of God Himself during the exile of the Jewish people.

Above Nature

While it is true that some of the activities seem (at least on the surface) to present signs of altruism, many other activities are not mitzvot or good deeds at all. Such was the case with their #OpIsrael April 7th campaign timed to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day. They had promised to “launch a coordinated, massive cyber attack on Israeli targets with the intent of erasing Israel from the internet.”

The timing and wording of their campaign was reminiscent of the plot of the wicked Haman during Purim “to destroy, kill and annihilate all Jews, from young to old, infants and women, on a single day, on the 13th day of the 12th month, the month of Adar.”

While the date of the 13th of Adar was selected by drawing lots (the name “purim” is Persian for “lots”), Haman was very happy with the results. Adar was a month without Jewish holidays. Also the 7th of Adar was the day when the great leader of Israel, Moses, passed away. What he failed to realize, however, was that the 7th of Adar was also the day when Moses was born. Such began the reversal of fortune that led to Haman and his sons being hanged on the gallows that he himself built.

It is explained at length in Hassidut, how the motivation for casting lots is the drive to reach a place above choice. Instead of choosing the month and date, he was attempting to reach a state above nature and reason. So too seems the case with this campaign from this formless hactivist group. While the organizers realize (in one way or another) that the God of Israel protects His children, they are hoping that this date is similar to the “month without holidays” of the Purim story. Whereas Haman realized that the God of Israel protects His children when they are observing the festivals, he had hoped this the 13th of Adar would be different. Additionally, the timing of this campaign prior to the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day on the 28th of Nissan, seems to relate to Haman’s happiness at knowing that Moses passed away in Adar.

But likely unbeknownst to them, the 28th of Nissan, in some ways, is the most auspicious time of the year to counter and transform the threats and trials leveled against the Jewish people, and reveal our super-powers. This is the day when the Lubavitcher Rebbe handed over the task of bringing mashiach to us.

Identity Crisis

So who is Anonymous? There are two extremes. There are those well-meaning individuals, who are trying to make a difference in the world for the better. Then there are the hate mongers, who are using this cover to carry out their nefarious plans. Unfortunately, one doesn’t need to look far to see the greatest representation of Haman today (Just instead of the Persian Empire, we now call it Iran). So those leading this campaign likely most associate with Iran (whether they presently live there or not).

The other observation is that this and other similar campaigns has left idealist hackers feeling homeless. Increasingly, they are looking for a place they can call home apart from the hate mongers. This explains the recent interest in legitimizing and legalizing certain forms of hactivism.

Virtual Threats

The final lesson from our discussion is that just as this campaign was targeted at cyber or virtual space, the other threats coming out of Iran and others are just as virtual.

Ultimately, the great reversal of fortune will occur, and much like the Purim story where “the Jews experienced light and joy, gladness and honor” [Esther 8:16], the same will occur again speedily in our days.

Author’s note: this submission relied on sources and information from the website inner.org.

A Hasidic Role Model

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

First let me congratulate Mrs. Rachel (Ruchie) Freier for her many great personal achievements and contributions to both Judaism and the world at large. I honor and respect both her life choices and her values, many of which I am sure we share – including the primacy in her life of motherhood. But I have to say that I think her article in the Forward is a bit misleading.

Here’s the beginning of the article:

On Monday on the Forward, Judy Brown shared her perspective on motherhood, based on her experience in the Hasidic community that she left. Now, I’d like to share my perspective on motherhood from within the Hasidic community of Boro Park. Having children was always important to me and I chose to remain steadfast to Haredi ideology while pursuing a law degree and then maintaining a law practice without compromising my role as a yidishe momme to my children.

Would that her lifestyle was that of the typical Hasidic woman in enclaves such as Williamsburg. My guess is that this is far from the case.

I am not God forbid saying that the lives of these Hasidic women have no value. Quite the contrary. I believe they have great value in being mothers to their children and wives to their husbands. And I am equally sure that many of them have jobs. Some may even be professionals – like Mrs. Freier – but that would by far be the exception.

College is in most cases forbidden to Satmar and like minded Hasidim. I don’t know what kind of Hasidus Mrs. Freier belongs to, but I am all but certain it is not hard-core Satmar or similar – which I believe comprise the vast majority of Hasidim in the world.

Mrs. Freier’s article was written in response to Judy Brown’s article expressing a different view of motherhood than that which is typical of the Hasidic world. As most people know, Mrs. Brown is the author of Hush – a devastating indictment of Hasidic community in which she was raised with respect to the way they treat sex in general, sex abuse, and its victims. Although she is still observant – she has long since left that community to find herself. And she has written a series of critical articles about the world of her upbringing. That was the case with her latest article in the Forward.

Mrs. Brown wrote about the pain and anguish of having an unwanted pregnancy in a world where such thoughts are verboten! Mrs. Brown actually had such an experience. As did a friend of hers that had some devastating results. But she also shares the regret she felt at the relief of that burden when she miscarried late into her own pregnancy. A regret she had after being shown a picture of the dead fetus she gave birth to.

She now says she now lives with that pain. The point made in that article is that her former community does not understand the damage they do with such extreme attitudes about pregnancies and birth control. At the same time she expressed her own maternal instincts as over-riding any such pain in her own life.

Mrs. Freir does not actually contradict what Mrs. Brown said. She just wanted to emphasize that the Hasidic upbringing she experienced and the values it taught her are the values she lives with and honors – even while being a professional. Despite her success, her profession does not define her. Motherhood does. That is the value she learned from her parents, grandparents, and teachers. It is her children that makes her life complete, not her profession.

I have absolutely no problem with that. In fact I agree that the institution of motherhood that Judaism places primary focus upon for a woman is the most important thing a woman can do. But as is obvious from Mrs. Freier herself, it is not the only thing a woman can do. Just like men, they can walk and chew gum at the same time. Having a career and being a full time mother is not a contradiction in terms. One can do both quite successfully.

My problem with this article is that it presents a false image of the majority of Hasidic women. One might conclude from this article that many woman in Williamsburg have professional degrees… or at least have attended college. And that Mrs. Freier is but one example of that.

Religion’s Most Repellant Idea

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The most dangerous and offensive of all religious ideas is that innocent people suffer because of their sins. This notion, so easily abused, makes victims into criminals, denying them divine sympathy or human compassion.

We’ve heard it all before.

Why was there a Holocaust? Because German Jewry assimilated and abandoned their faith. They desecrated the Sabbath. They adopted Germanic names. They married out. They wanted to be more German than the Germans. In the words of one of the greatest Jewish sages of prewar Poland, Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, who was executed by a Nazi firing squad, “The fire which will burn our bodies will be the fire that restores the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, felt that the Holocaust was a punishment for secular Zionism. Jews can only return to Israel when God himself redeems them. Rabbi Menachem Hartom said the exact opposite. Jews were punished by God for being too comfortable in Germany and abandoning their attachment to Israel, their ancient homeland.

One Rabbi who lectured in my community not long ago said, before a crowd of hundreds of modern orthodox Jews who barely found his words objectionable, that one can see how lax Jews were in their observance in Germany from the women who were about to be gassed in Auschwitz. Pictures have them standing naked, after the SS removed their clothing, and they are not even trying to cover up in front of the German soldiers. Here was a Rabbi finding fault with Jewish women who were about to be murdered along with their children, which just goes to show that the belief that suffering results from sin can lead to shocking anti-Semitism.

Ideas like these are not only repulsive, they are factually inaccurate. The majority of Germany’s Jews, who supposedly incurred the divine wrath through sin, survived the holocaust. They knew who Hitler was and had a few years to try and get out. The people who did not know that Hitler was coming for them were the Hassidic Jews of Poland, with long side curls and beards, who had no idea that Hitler planned to invade Poland on 1 September, 1939. They were devout in the extreme. So what was their sin? And what of the 1.5 million dead children. What guilty were they?

Regardless, are these Rabbis seriously suggesting that because of assimilation, God decided to ghettoize, wrack with disease, gas, and ultimately cremate six million Jews? And if that’s true, is He a God worthy of prayer? And do we have any right to condemn six million people whom we do not know to murder in the assumption that they were so horrendously sinful that they and their children warranted extermination?

No. This theology is an abomination. It rejects the very name of the Jewish people, ‘He who wrestles with God.’ A Jew must struggle with God in the face of seeming divine miscarriages of justice.

What does Abraham do when God threatens to destroy Sodom and Gomorra, even though God had said, “Their sin so grievous.” Abraham thunders at the heavens: “Will the Judge of all the earth not Himself practice justice?” (Gen. 18:25).

The same is true of the prophet Moses. How does the great redeemer react when God threatens to destroy the children of Israel after the sin of the golden calf? Does he bow his head in submission before God’s declaration that the people are sinful and deserving of destruction?

No.

Moses, in one of the most haunting passages of the Bible and eloquent defenses of human life ever recorded, says to God, “Now, forgive their sin – but if not, blot me out, I pray you, of the Torah you have written.” (Ex. 32:32).

The Bible is clear: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” (Deut. 29:29). God is in charge of the hidden things. Why does He allow humans to suffer unjustifiably? What goes on in secret behind the partition of heaven? Well, that is of no human concern. But the revealed things, this is our area of focus. A parent is mourning the death of a child. A woman is crying over the loss of her husband. Why did they die? As far as we are concerned, for no reason at all. In the revealed here and now, their suffering served no higher purpose. Suffering is not redemptive, it is not ennobling, it is not a blessing, and it teaches us nothing that we could not have learned by gentler means. It’s Christianity, rather than Judaism, that says that someone has to die in order for sin to be forgiven. We Jews reject any idea of human sacrifice.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/religions-most-repellant-idea/2013/01/15/

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