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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘honor’

Honor and Deterrence

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Nadia Matar is co-chairperson of the Women In Green organization, which affirms the “central role of Eretz Israel for the future of the Jewish People.” The group calls for the application of Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and often takes direct but non-violent action against Arab encroachment on Jewish land in the territories. Need I add that she is considered by some to be a dangerous extremist?

But there are things that she understands much more clearly than they do. For example, here is a recent news item. Note the part that I emphasized:

Dozens of Efrat residents, along with activists from the Women in Green group, demonstrated Wednesday afternoon at the northern entrance to Efrat in Gush Etzion. The protest, part of the effort by Judea and Samaria residents to “take back the roads” and make them safe from terrorist rock-throwers and gunmen, was attended by dozens of people who have had enough of the ongoing attacks on drivers, a spokesperson for the protesters said. …

Speaking at the event, Women in Green head Nadia Matar said “Arab rock-throwing is not just a physical danger, but also damages the honor of the Jewish and Israeli people.The Arabs’ purpose is not just to kill the driver they are throwing rocks at, but also to sow fear into the hearts of Jews and prevent us from using the roads of the Land of Israel altogether. The IDF must respond in a way that is going to make it clear that Israel will not accept these attacks.”

More generally, the ongoing struggle to keep the Jewish state is not only a physical struggle, but a struggle for the honor of the Jewish people. If you find that way of speaking off-putting, consider Richard Landes’ concept of “cognitive warfare“:

All asymmetrical wars take place primarily in the cognitive arena, with the major theater of war the enemy’s public sphere. The goal is to convince your far more powerful enemy not to fight. In defensive cases, from the Maccabees to the Vietnamese, this has meant getting imperial powers to “go home.” But Islamists who want to spread Dar al Islam [and Palestinian Arabs who want to replace Israel -- ed.] conduct an offensive campaign: how to get your targets to surrender on their own home ground? In this seemingly absurd venture, they have had remarkable success.

Honor is a concept that is paramount in non-Western cultures. Sometimes it seems that the West has no clue about that. It applies both to oneself and to one’s enemies: if you lose your honor in your own eyes, you lose your will to fight; and if you lose it in your enemy’s eyes, he is not afraid of you. In the latter sense, honor is closely related to deterrence.

A powerful military capability is not sufficient to deter an enemy if he does not believe that you have the will to use it properly. A nation without honor, no matter how powerful it appears to be, makes itself a target. This is what Nadia Matar understands — and Barack Obama doesn’t.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

YU Must Do the Right Thing

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

After thinking long and hard about the sex abuse scandal at Yeshiva University’s high school, I have come to the conclusion that more needs to be done.

A lot of mistakes were made that resulted in many young students being subjected to sex abuse. This is certainly not a happy episode for Y.U. A lot of people share culpability for the overlooking or ignoring what allegedly happened during the employ by Y.U. of Macy Gordon and George Finkelstein.

Some of the people who need to answer for their mistakes are people I respect. Some are icons. I am not going to go into specifics of why I so admire and respect those people. Those who read this blog regularly will for instance know how much Dr. Lamm has influenced my own Hashkafos. I still honor him for that. I don’t think I would be who I am today without reading some of his works.
To the best of my understanding, his level of culpability is allegedly as follows. As president of Yeshiva University he was allegedly informed of abuse by the above two individuals. Instead of reporting them to the police and firing them immediately, he allegedly let them go quietly… and did not feel the need to inform other communities about them.

If I recall correctly – his explanation for this was that he did not want to hurt them professionally since he had no hard evidence for their abusive behavior. He also felt that it was the obligation of those who in the future would employ them to check them out… and not his obligation to warn them. That was pretty much the thinking in those days – wrong though it was.

We all know by now that predators when “kicked out” from one community will set up shop in another. It is also true that the victims of Macy and Finkelstein were not properly dealt with. If I am not mistaken they were basically told to just keep quiet, get over it, and get on with their lives.

We also now know that it doesn’t work like that. There are lifelong residual effects suffered by sex abuse victims that stay with them for the rest of their lives. Some handle it better than others. But it is no secret that in many cases abuse victims suffer lifelong depression if untreated – leading to suicides in some cases. There is ample evidence of that.

I do not think Dr. Lamm is a bad person. Quite the contrary. But I do think he made a mistake and should say so publicly.

One can say with a certain amount of legitimacy that as president of a university that was in such financial trouble when he took over that his time was consumed with turning things around. He set about to literally save the school. Which he did. With such a heavy responsibility he could have well just seen the ‘goings on’ at the affiliated high school that he was not directly involved with was an intrusion into his primary function as the head of the university – charged with literally saving it from closing down.

This of course is no excuse. But it is a fact and should in my view be taken into consideration. It is equally true that his busy schedule did not diminish his responsibility to the individual student. It did not diminish the pain suffered by students who were victims. It should not have been a back burner issue.

It is now my view that Y.U. needs to do the right thing and come clean. They need to admit that mistakes were made by leaders both past and present. What happened ought to be fully investigated and all results made public. To the extent that mistakes were made, they ought to be fully recognized and apologized for.

I also agree with Stacy Klein who said in a Forward article that Y.U. should indeed set up a fund for victims in order to help pay for any therapy needed by the victims of Gordon and Finkelstein.

However, I do not agree that at age 85, Dr. Lamm should be fired from his position – as she suggests. His intent was not malicious. Just mistaken. And his contributions to Judaism are immense. I think a sincere apology admitting his mistakes – along with that therapy fund – would go a long way towards helping to heal the victims. I do not see anyone gaining from his being fired.

After discovery of all the facts Y.U. needs to not only make them public and officially apologize – it needs to take concrete steps to make sure it never happens again. And to try and make things right for the victims via funding their path to healing.

I hope that victims of Macy and Gordon will agree with this approach.

Once Y.U. does all this it can get on with its holy mission of teaching Torah U’Mada to future generations of Jews. Y.U. has a great legacy. But it is not perfect. Once it does the right thing here – their reputation can be restored and their legacy will continue well into the future.

Unlike the typical yeshiva – there is only one Yeshiva University. Mistakes were made. But it ought not lead to its downfall. Mistakes can be corrected. That’s what needs to happen here.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Q & A: The Sandak (Part V)

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Question: I was at a brit where the father and grandfather of the boy argued over who should be sandak. The grandfather had served as sandak once before, but he persisted and, as they say, “might makes right.” I am curious as to your view on this matter.

M. Renkin
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Midrash (Tehillim pg. 723) contains the term “sandikus,” a Greek word meaning “companion of child” or “advocate.” Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov explains that sandak is an acronym of “sanegor na’aseh din kategor – the defense emerges victorious vis-à-vis the prosecutor,” referring to the brit’s function as a protection from Satan.

The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) writes that the sandak is given the first honor of being called up to the Torah, even before the mohel. The Rema explains that the sandak is compared to a kohen who offers incense in the Beit Hamikdash. All kohanim wished to benefit from the blessing of the incense, which enriched the one who offered it. Therefore, a lottery was established to assure that all had an equal opportunity to perform it. Similarly, it is customary not to give the role of sandak to someone more than once.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah ad loc. sk 22) clarifies that the Rema does not mean that a person may not serve as sandak more than once. Rather, he should not serve as sandak for more than one boy per family.

The Rema also talks about the honorary role of the kvaterin and kvater, the female and male messengers who bring the baby to the synagogue for the brit.

We quoted Rabbi Ari Enkin’s discussion of sandika’ot in his new sefer, Shu’t HaShulchani. He writes that serving as a sandak enriches one with material wealth, as well as long life full of spiritual wealth. Rabbi Enkin cites several authorities who argue that a person may serve as sandak twice; he states that the custom not to do so certainly does not apply to relatives. In fact, a father shouldn’t hesitate to serve as sandak for all of his children should he so desire. In some communities, the local rabbi is designated as the exclusive sandak for all children.

Rabbi Enkin concludes his discussion by pointing out that the custom of restricting someone from serving as sandak more than once is not found in the Talmud, and therefore is not truly binding.

Last week, we returned to the original question about the dispute over who would serve as sandak. Proverbs (3:17) states, “Deracheha darkei noam vechol netivoteha shalom – Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.” A mitzvah should bring about pleasantness and peace; if it doesn’t, it has not been fulfilled properly. Therefore, strife over the sandika’ot detracts from the full fulfillment of that mitzvah. The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) refers to sandika’ot as an actual mitzvah that one should actively pursue.

The Mechaber (supra, Yoreh De’ah 260:1) states that the right to bestow any honor or segment of the mitzvah of brit belongs to the father alone. Thus, a grandfather may not “grab” this honor for himself if it goes against the father’s wishes. Even the mitzvah of kibud av has limits, and a parent is prohibited from insisting on specific honors from his child.

* * * * *

Rabbi Moshe Stern, the Debreciner Rav zt”l, discusses a similar situation where the mitzvah of kibbud av v’em and the mitzvah of sandika’ot came into conflict (Responsa Ba’er Moshe vol. 1; 60:9). The case concerned an individual who was ready to accept an offer to serve as sandak, but his father protested in the strongest terms that he did not want him to. Rabbi Stern was asked if the son must listen to his father.

In his response, Rabbi Stern cites the Knesset Yechezkel (Responsum 35), who was asked the same question. The Knesset Yechezkel answered that the son need not listen to his father and cited Kidushin 32a as his source. In that Gemara, Elezar b. Masya states: “If my father requests, ‘Get me a drink’ and there is another [passing] mitzvah to be done, I will put aside my father’s honor and perform that other mitzvah because both my father and I are obligated in that mitzvah.” Isi b. Yehuda says, “If the [passing] mitzvah can be done by others, then let them do it and I will do my father’s honor.”

The Sensitivity Of A Tzaddik

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

When Yaakov met Rachel at the well, he experienced conflicting emotions. He felt tremendous joy at having finally met his bashert, yet he raised his voice and cried. Rashi explains that he cried because he came empty-handed. He said, “My father’s servant came with ten camels laden with gifts and finery, and I come with empty hands.”

Rashi goes on to explain why Yaakov didn’t bring a gift for Rachel. When Yaakov found out that Eisav was plotting to kill him, he fled from his father’s home. Eisav sent his son Alifaz to chase down Yaakov. Alifaz was a tzaddik, and when he approached Yaakov he said, “I can’t kill you because you are an innocent man. On the other hand, what will be with the command of my father?” Yaakov said to him, “A poor man has the halachic status of a dead man. Take my money, and it will be considered as if you killed me, so on some level you will have fulfilled your father’s words.”

As a result, Yaakov came to the well empty-handed. When it was time to propose to Rachel, he didn’t have the gifts that would be expected, and so he raised his voice and cried.

This Rashi becomes difficult to understand when we focus on who these people were. The Avos may have walked the same planet as do you and I, but they lived in a very different orbit. Their every waking moment was occupied by thoughts of Hashem. They lived and breathed to attain closeness to Hashem. That was the focus of their lives and existence. It was the only thing that mattered to them.

For many years, Rachel knew she was to marry Yaakov and be a matriarch of the Jewish people. You have to assume that when she finally met her bashert, she was overcome with joy. Here was the man she had waited for. Here in front of her was this great tzaddik, the man of her dreams, offering to marry her so she could fulfill her destiny. Her very life’s ambitions and desires were now coming to fulfillment. It is hard to imagine that at that moment she was concerned about glitter and trinkets.

Yet Yaakov cried because he didn’t have a diamond ring to give her. The question is – why? All that Rachel really wanted was being delivered to her. If so, why did Yaakov cry?

It seems the answer is that the lack of gifts may not have bothered Rachel much but the bottom line is that it wasn’t respectful to her. When you come to your kallah, you bring her a gift. That is the way dignified people act. That is the way of the world, and it isn’t proper to come without a gift. On some level, it is treating her without the kavod due to her, and that caused Yaakov pain – so much pain that he raised his voice and cried.

Everyone Hungers for Recognition

This is a tremendous lesson to us because the people among whom we live aren’t on the level of Rachel. A slight to their honor causes them real pain. People will go to great lengths to protect their reputation and dignity because these things are very important to them. And for that reason we need to develop a real sensitivity to other people’s dignity and honor.

But this concept goes much further. The reality is that there are few people who get enough recognition and respect. We humans have many needs. We need food and drink, shelter and protection, friends and companionship – and most of those needs are met. The one need that that is almost never met is the need to be appreciated. It is something we hunger for, something basic to our success and vitality. Yet there is no store in which it can be bought, no marketplace in which it can be acquired. And a person often can go around with a deep hunger, not even realizing what is amiss.

One of the greatest acts of kindness I can do for another person is to treat him with honor. If I find your currency and can acknowledge you in that vein, I can give you that which you deeply crave – and it costs me nothing.

Letter to Our Son in Gaza

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Our 22-year old son has been re-stationed with his Golani brigade to a makeshift base at the outskirts of Gaza. I am very proud that he has the chance to uphold the honor of Hashem and Israel, and I know he is proud too. In my mind, there is no greater, holier, and transcendental mitzvah than fighting in the Israel Defense Forces, in defense of the Nation of Israel, to wipe out the enemies of Hashem.

The soldiers who are willing to put their lives on the line for Am Yisrael are the true heroes of holiness, just like our holy heroes of our past, Avraham in his war to save Lot; Moshe Rabainu in his wars against kings who rose up against us on our way to the Promised Land; Yehoshua Ben Nun in his conquest of the Eretz Yisrael; and others like King David and the Maccabees, all of whom will be fighting alongside our soldiers when the order comes to enter Gaza and annihilate Hamas. When the occasion demanded, these holy heroes all closed their Gemaras and strode off to war, just as the Torah commands, for the honor of Hashem and Israel.

What do you say to your son as he waits on the outskirts of Gaza? This is the SMS message that I sent him:

Dear Precious Son,

Your mother and I, as well as your brothers and sister, are all very proud of you, and proud of all your friends who are with you, and proud of all the IDF soldiers who are prepared to fight and destroy the enemies of Hashem. Just as our hearts are with you, the whole country is with you. You are acting on our behalf. I wish I could be there with you.

I know you probably didn’t have time to pack any books to take with you when orders came to head south, so I am sending you a little something from the Rambam, which I am certain you know, but which is always good to read over again. May these words of Torah protect you and your comrades, and lead the forces of Israel to a swift and decisive victory over our enemies, with the hope that you will have the green light to finish the job until the very last terrorist in Gaza is destroyed. And if you receive orders that don’t seem right to you, orders that endanger you and your fellow soldiers, lest “innocent” civilians be hurt – don’t listen to them, but do whatever you have to do to protect yourself and your friends over every other consideration, for there are no innocent civilians in Gaza, and the laws of the Torah, and the laws of guarding Jewish life, override the “what will the goyim say?” considerations of man.

In the Laws of Milchemah, The Rambam writes:

“A man should not think at the time of war his wife, nor of his children, nor of his possessions, but he must free his heart of everything and set himself to the battle. And more – he should think that the entire existence of Israel depends on him… For everyone who fights with all of his heart, and with the intention to sanctify the Name of Hashem, is promised that he will not be harmed… and he will merit the Life of the World to Come.”

Therefore, my precious son – be not afraid. Put your trust in Hashem, for you are bringing honor to Him and His Nation. We love you and will see you soon at home, when the enemies of Israel have been crushed.

20,000 Jews in Hebron for Chayei Sarah

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

At least 20,000 Jews from all across Israel, and some coming in from around the world, converged on the biblical city of Hebron this shabbat to honor the memory of the Matriarch Sarah, whose burial in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron – Maarat HaMachpela – was chronicled in this week’s Torah portion.

Considered the first piece of land purchased by the Patriarch Abraham in the land of Israel, Sarah’s burial place later became the final resting place of her son Isaac and his wife Rivka, and her grandson Jacob and his wife Leah.  Jewish tradition teaches that the Tomb of the Patriarchs is also the burial place of Adam and Chava (Eve), and even Moshe and Tzipporah.  It is also believed to be situated at the entrance to the Garden of Eden.

Despite threats of inclement weather, today’s descendants of Sarah arrived en masse in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, and were hosted by local residents.  They also participated in tours, two political panels, open houses, and the dedication of a community hall.  Videos from the events can be viewed at www.hebronvideo.com.

Q & A: The Sandak (Part II)

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Question: I was at a brit where the father and grandfather of the boy argued over who should be sandak. The grandfather had served as sandak once before, but he persisted and, as they say, “might makes right.” I am curious as to your view on this matter.

M. Renkin
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: Last week we examined the source of the word “sandak” as well as the sandak’s role at the brit.

The Midrash (Tehillim pg. 723) contains the term “sandikus,” a Greek word meaning “companion of child” or “advocate.” Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov explains that sandak is an acronym of “sanegor na’aseh din kategor – the defense emerges victorious vis-à-vis the prosecutor,” referring to the brit’s function as a protection from Satan.

The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) writes that the sandak is given the first honor of being called up to the Torah, even before the mohel. The Rema explains that the sandak is compared to a kohen who offers incense in the Beit Hamikdash. All kohanim wished to benefit from the blessing of the incense, which enriched the one who offered it. Therefore, a lottery was established to assure that all had an equal opportunity to perform it. Similarly, it is customary not to give the role of sandak to one individual more than once.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah ad loc. sk 22) clarifies that Rema does not mean that one may not be a sandak more than once. Rather, if a person has served as sandak for a boy, he should not serve as sandak for any of his brothers in the future.

The Rema also talks about the honorary role of the kvaterin and kvater, the female and male messengers who bring the baby to the synagogue for the brit.

* * * * *

I am very fortunate to have recently received the newly published sefer, Shut HaShulchani, a collection of very relevant halachic responsa in English authored by my esteemed chaver, Rabbi Ari Enkin of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. (The sefer is available directly from the author. Contact Rabbi Enkin at rabbiari@hotmail.com or call 011-972-52-579-1773.)

Rabbi Enkin discusses the matter of the sandak in great detail. He writes as follows (pg. 154-156):

“The sandak is the individual honored with holding the baby during the brit milah ceremony and it is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon at a brit. Although sandak is often translated as godfather, it likely comes from the Greek word suntekos, which means companion. The sandak is seated during the brit ceremony and holds the baby on his lap while the mohel performs the circumcision It is taught that when the sandak holds the baby on his lap, thereby including his knees and thighs in the performance of the mitzvah, he embodies the verse (Biur Hagra, Yoreh De’ah 265:44) ‘All my bones shall say, Who is like You, G-d?’ ”

Rabbi Enkin discusses the custom not to honor the same individual as sandak more than once within the same family. He agrees with the sources that compare the sandak to the kohen offering incense in the Beit Hamikdash and explains: “A kohen was only given the opportunity to perform this mitzvah once in his lifetime. This is because whoever offered the incense would become wealthy. Therefore, in order to offer as many kohanim as possible the opportunity of becoming wealthy, it was decided to appoint a different kohen to perform the incense offering every day.”

Likewise, the sandak, who represents the kohen offering the incense, will become wealthy. In addition, Rabbi Enkin continues, it is “a segulah for a long and good life. Therefore, we offer the opportunity of serving as sandak to as many different people as possible.”

Rabbi Enkin explains that once a certain individual is invited to serve as sandak, the baby’s parents should not renege and give the honor to another person. However, if the original offer was made before the child was born, and once the child is born the parents decide to honor a different person instead, it is permitted to do so.

There are a number of authorities who disagree with the restriction against appointing the same sandak twice. Rabbi Enkin discusses their reasoning as follows:

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-the-sandak-part-ii/2012/11/08/

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