web analytics
June 26, 2016 / 20 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘judaism’

No More Half-Way Judaism

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Recently, I read a shocking and saddening report published in the “Jewish Press.” In an article written by Sandy Eller, entitled “67 Deaths in Eight Months,” the New York-based Adumin organization revealed that since Rosh Hashanah, 67 Orthodox young people under the age of 35, in the tri-state area alone, have died because of substance abuse. The figure is astonishing! 67 young lives! In the Orthodox community! Gevalt! 21 suicides, 41 drug overdoses, and 5 alcohol-related deaths! I don’t have statistics available, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this figure is higher than in the overall age group in the general tri-state area, which numbers 1000 times more. As Hamlet might say, “Something is rotten in the Orthodox community in New York.”

Eller writes that the Orthodox community has hidden the problem for years. Now Rabbi Zvi Gluck, director of Adumin, has decided it is time to come out of the closet with the issue, in order to save lives.

Of course, we all empathize with the plight of these young people, and the tragedy of their deaths. Certainly, just like every individual is unique, the causes behind these deaths vary from case to case. But, to tell you the truth, if I were a young Orthodox person living in New York, I too would want to be drunk or stoned most of the time to escape the emptiness, inner horror, and hypocrisy of galut existence. How can you raise an Orthodox child to believe in the Torah while teaching him that Jewish life in the Diaspora, living amongst the gentiles in alien lands, is perfectly OK? Any normal child who reads the Bible understands that G-d wants the Jewish People to live in the Land of Israel, just like it says in the Torah again and again. But if you tell a Jewish child that living in New York is just as good, and even better than living in Israel, you screw up his, or her, brain, and some form of schizophrenia is sure to follow. The Torah was given to be practiced in Eretz Yisrael, not in Egypt, or the wilderness of Sinai, and not in Brooklyn, New York. That’s why Judaism in the galut is hollow and void of real spirit. Like Rashi, and the Ramban, and other great Sages have written, the practice of the commandments in the exile is just to keep us from forgetting them, so that we will know how to do them when we return to Eretz Yisrael. Young Orthodox people sense this charade. They sense the hollowness of Orthodox life in America. This feeling of emptiness leads them to feel alienated from Judaism, and from life in general. Unfortunately, to express their feelings in the Orthodox world around them is strictly taboo, as forbidden as cheeseburgers and pre-marital coupling, so they resort to alcohol and drugs to drown out their inner anxiety and deep unhappiness in living a life that doesn’t feel true. Some anguished souls even commit suicide.

The real problem is that no one tells them the truth. No one tells them that their inner feelings are really healthy feelings – that a Jew is supposed to feel the emptiness of Torah in galut, because the real place of Torah is Israel. Their parents don’t tell them; their teachers and rabbis don’t tell them; the Rosh Yeshiva doesn’t tell them that they are perfectly right to feel the way they do, because, just as the Torah portion, Behukotai, teaches, Jewish life in the exile is a curse, a life filled with anxiety and dread.

If the Orthodox community in New York wants these terrible tragedies to cease, there is only one solution – to teach young people that the joy and spiritual high of Judaism is waiting for them in the Land of Israel. They don’t need shrinks and a half-way centers. They need to hear the truth. No more half-way Judaism. It is time for the full Judaism of Eretz Yisrael.

Tzvi Fishman

Orthodox Rabbi Teaching Halakha Beyond the Shulkhan Arukh, Judaism Beyond the Commandments

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

“The Beauty of the Jewish tradition is that it is not always precise and consistent,” says Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo. “And that is a very wise thing. You have to have flexibility, because life is not clear-cut or coherent. Moving here, moving there, you work out the different opinions somehow, and you let it be. As such, Jewish Law and beliefs stay fresh and thriving. A musical symphony. But the moment we codify or dogmatize it all, we are basically destroying it.” One of the areas where Dutch-Israeli Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, and Jewish scholar Nathan Lopes Cardozo differs from the Orthodox mainstream is the Torah’s commandments to annihilate whole peoples, such as the nations of Canaan and the mythical nation of Amalek, God’s proverbial enemy.

Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo: I believe that in the case where moral issues come up, there, even where the Torah says that we have to do away with these people, whether it is Amalek or the nations of Canaan, my feeling is that these were challenges given to Moses and the people to see how they would react, in the same way as Abraham reacts in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. God says, I’m going to wipe them out, and Abraham responds: Will the Judge of the world do such a thing? And God responds by saying, You have a point, let’s see what we can work out.

And then you get this incredible dialogue, this near business deal between Abraham and God on how many righteous people you need so you’ll keep them alive. I think that should be the point of departure whenever we discuss moral issues related to our fellow-man. There my feeling is that even when the Torah sometimes comes with requirements which are problematic from a moral point of view, that we have the option or even obligation, like Abraham, to say to God, Sorry, this won’t go with us. And my reading, which I understand is controversial, is that God is challenging these people: Let Me see how they’ll respond. Did you, people, understand My larger picture of righteousness? Are you understanding what I’m trying to say over here? And as I did in the case of Abraham, when I challenged him by telling him I’m going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham correctly said, No, or at least he was willing to fight it, so I hope you do as well whenever the Torah speaks about killing people. We see this reflected in the sages’ opinion that these nations no longer exist and by doing so they declared these laws inoperative.

JewishPress.com: And yet shortly thereafter, God tells Abraham to execute his son Isaac, and gives him kudos for the fact that he tried to comply.

NLC: I am of the opinion that Abraham, by being prepared to do so, to execute his son, failed the test. I think that the reading of the binding of Isaac should be different from the conventional approach as some Hasidic texts indeed seem to suggest .

JP: God no longer speaks directly to Abraham after the binding of Isaac. Does he lose his prophecy?

NLC: It seems he lost his prophecy. There are all sorts of psychological issues which take place after the incident with the binding of Isaac, which seem to mean that God was not so pleased with the outcome, even though He says, Now I know that you have fear of Me, but that may have a different meaning. It may even mean something like, now that you went for it, you showed you had the correct intentions, but you got My message wrong.

But let us be careful, I only suggest such a reading when speaking about moral problems. But when you speak about Shabbat and holidays, where there are no issues between the individual and his fellow-man, there we do not have the right to say, we’re changing the laws of Shabbat because they’re not convenient.

 


 

Nathan Lopes Cardozo was born 70 years ago in Amsterdam, and was named after his father’s youngest brother who was murdered in the Holocaust. His father was a secular Jew who was nevertheless proud of his Portuguese-Jewish origin. His mother, who was not born Jewish, was raised by the Cardozo family and was an integral part of the community. Later on, she saved her husband and his family from the Nazis by hiding them in her Amsterdam apartment. Nathan Cardozo converted to Judaism when he was sixteen, through the Amsterdam Rabbinate, and his mother did many years later as well.

Cardozo spent the next 12 years studying at various Haredi Yeshivas such as Gateshead, whose dean, Rabbi Aryeh Leib Gurwitz, ordained him as a rabbi. At 21 he married Freyda Gnesin, a young Dutch woman from eastern European parents he met at the Haarlem synagogue. That’s the Dutch Haarlem synagogue.

CAN JEWS PERPETRATE A HOLOCAUST?

We return to the question of whether God commanded the Jews to annihilate certain nations with the expectation that the Jews would defy Him.

JP: In the story of the prophet Shmuel and King Shaul, where Shaul has spared the life of Agag, king of Amalek, and Shmuel takes a sword and finishes the job — did Shmuel fail?

NLC: What was it that Shaul did wrong, and why did God object to it? It seems that Shaul was more concerned with the animals he had acquired and kept alive than about the people he had killed. There is where the moral failure lies.

JP: But Shmuel is not sanctioned for his action.

NLC: It seems that Shmuel was of the opinion that Agag deserved the death penalty. This is very complicated story. I don’t think that Jewish tradition is always consistent, very often it is not. And I think there’s a reason for that, because it shows different sides of a very complex situation. The Russian British philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who was not religious but remained very close to his Judaism, has an essay about morality where he says that morality is much more complex than most people think it is. There’s no black and white — this is moral and this is immoral. It depends on your perspective, on how you walk into the problem. So there are cases where the complexity is so big that whatever you do, from one point of view it is morally correct and from another point of view it is morally absolutely unacceptable. So Berlin speaks about a tradeoff, which every judge and every legal system has to make, to find a compromise: how much justice, how much mercy? A way in-between, by which you remove excessive damage on both sides and you’re left with a compromise which is far from ideal, but that’s the part of the human condition.

There is no such thing as black and white responses to these sort of issues, and I think that plays a role in Jewish law as well. We have to deal with clashing Jewish moral forces.

There are reasons to wipe out Amalek and there are reasons why not to do so, especially when it comes to their children. But because there’s this tension of how you look into the story, which is purely subjective, therefore in the end you will have to find a way in-between. Shmuel is right and wrong at the same time. God says to him, Shmuel, I understand your point of view, I will let you get away with it. But don’t think that this is the ideal outcome. Under human circumstances we have to wipe out these people of Amalek, they are very dangerous even for the future generations and at the same time we have to keep them alive because who will say that all of them will be evil? Jewish Law even discusses the question of what to do in case an Amalekite wants to become Jewish and several authorities believe that we have an obligation to convert him as long as he has no blood on his hands!!

THERE’S MORE TO JUDAISM THAN THE MITZVOT

JP: Are you suggesting that there is a Jewish morality outside the realm of the commandments?

NLC: Yes, I think there is, in the sense that there are certain intuitive moral feelings that human beings have, Jews and non-Jews, which are of great importance, and which do play a role in the halakhic decision making process. They are also God-given, just like the commandments. I think that’s not only in these extreme cases, but nearly in all cases, because if you look into the works of the great poskim (halakhic authorities), you see differences of opinions between them. It is because of their intuitive moral approach to certain issues. Sometimes a posek will say, I have to find a heter (permission) for this problem. He may even have made up his mind before he started. And then he looks around all the arguments to justify his position and puts it in an halakhic framework. After which he says, so I was right in what I said at the beginning. He knows quite well that they were all colored by his need to come to a lenient conclusion. This is completely legitimate.

You see it with Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, you see it with some very Haredi literature as well. It all has to do with a philosophical and ideological attitude which is deeply influenced by the moral intuition of these particular people, and that’s also why there are tremendous differences between the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi poskim. There’s a world of difference there. The Ashkenazi outlook to life is much more pessimistic , than the Sephardi one. This has its root in their different experiences in the countries from where they hail and consequently we find different halakhic responses.

There’s an ideology to halakha. And there are different opinions as to what that ideology is. The halakha tells us what to do and what not to do. But it has obviously a much larger Weltanschauung, an outlook on life, which lies behind these halakhic requirements. They are never clearly stated anywhere in the Torah, unless they are stated in very general terms, such as you must be holy, but that still requires a moral explanation. So ideologies play a role as well. The ideological differences between the Haredi and the national-religious rabbis concerning the State of Israel’s religious meaning is a good example.

JP: Are we practicing halakha the way we should?

NLC: Let me tell you an interesting story. Reb Haim Zimmerman was one of the greatest Talmudic geniuses in our generation. In his later years he lived here in Jerusalem. I was told that he was the study partner of the famous Reb Shimon Shkop back in Lithuania. I met him once or twice. He had all of the Talmud at his fingertips. He wasn’t so well known, because he belonged to the Zionist camp and not to the Aguda camp. He once gave a class and he quoted Maimonides and he said, Maimonides agrees with me. So his students said, You mean to say that you agree with Maimonides. So he said, No, Maimonides agrees with me. I am today the living authority, Maimonides is no longer alive. So he has no power any more to decide on halakhic matters — I do. And if Maimonides wishes to disagree, please, let’s hear his point of view, but I have the same say in this matter as Maimonides himself had in his days and therefore I could overrule him.

I think that is a most important statement, which the yeshiva world has totally forgotten. And that has a lot to do with the codification problem. I’ve written at length about this problem. The Shulkhan Arukh (“Set Table,” the most widely consulted Jewish legal code, published in 1563) was meant at the time as the abbreviated halakhic guide for the layman. It was the product of an historical development. Since we were living in the diaspora, we had to make sure that Jews would somehow live within the same framework where they were doing more or less the same things, to keep this little nation alive. It required erecting big walls around us to keep the non-Jews out. So the Shulkhan Arukh, a basic Jewish code, is a typical sociological outcome of a diaspora condition. The Shulkhan Arukh at the time correctly said, we need to make sure that we all operate within the same framework and that requires conformity. This is the only way we can create the powerhouse required to keep us alive in a largely anti-Semitic world.

Both the Shulkhan Arukh and earlier Maimonides’ famous codification of Jewish Law, the Mishneh Torah (“Repetition of the Torah,” a code of Jewish religious law compiled between 1170 and 1180) are tremendous scholarly achievements. But what Maimonides did was extremely dangerous. By writing down the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides finalized the halakha. He basically said, this is the halakha and nothing else. He even wrote in the forward to this masterpiece, that there is no longer any need to study the Talmud because he had put it all in front of us. Here it is for once and for all. He provides no minority opinions, he acts precisely as what he probably was, as the greatest talmudic genius of his time and possibly of all time, and we—after a period of resistance when his books were burned in some communities—have turned him into an halakhic idol: If Maimonides says so then there’s nothing left to discuss. We canonized him.

We never had, as the Catholic Church did, a particular body such as a conclave which decided these matters. With us it was always fluid. A matter of moving forward and going back and so on. You actually see it if you look in the Shulkhan Arukh, and you look into Maimonides, the commentators around the texts often take issue with them. But they can’t stand up against Maimonides, he is too overpowering. The same is true with his famous thirteen principles of faith: he dogmatizes Jewish belief and by doing so creates a crisis in Judaism for which we still pay a heavy price. Since when are there finalized Jewish beliefs? There are none.

This, I think, has created tremendous problems, because what we’re doing is taking the halakha which developed in diaspora for the last 2000 years, and we bring it to the State of Israel, and apply it as if we are still living in diaspora—when we are not. And therefore you constantly have problems in Israel about halakha, because the traditional halakha speaks as if nothing has happened in Jewish history since 1948. But the whole situation has radically changed. So the Shulkhan Arukh is in many ways outdated. And I’m sure that if Maimonides, or Rabbi Yosef Karo (author of the Shulkhan Arukh) lived today, they would say: We never wrote our codifications for a time when the State of Israel would be established, why do you still apply our rulings which were meant for the time we lived in the diaspora?

JP: But the Mishneh Torah talks about the laws of the temple and other areas of Jewish life on the land.

NLC: Yes. But Maimonides never wrote about a secular Jewish state. That whole concept didn’t exist. [The late chief rabbi of Israel] Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog writes in one of his letters that the halakha is not ready to take on the State of Israel. Because we never developed the halakha in the diaspora to deal with the State of Israel where we’re running our own (secular) country. We were always under the administration of the non-Jewish world.

The Shulkhan Arukh starts by saying, In the morning we have to get up, and we must imagine God before us always. But let’s ask an important question: what are the prerequisite conditions to enable you to get up in the morning and to say these words and go to synagogue to pray? It requires that the Turkish government, under which the Shulkhan Arukh was written, will have created a legal system that enables you as a Jew to get out of bed in the morning and walk to synagogue without getting attacked. So you have already taken on all sorts of guarantees from a secular administration, to make your adhering to your religious obligations possible. But that was the Turkish government, that’s not the situation in Israel today. So what you really need to do is rewrite all this, and then you’ll have a big problem because the law has to be able to develop and to constantly re-think itself. But how many poskim have made sure we do that? Instead, they will go back to the Shulkhan Arukh and say, no, Rav Yosef Karo says like this and that’s the end of the discussion.

THE ROLE OF THE POSEK

JP: Should a modern posek (halakhic scholar) relate to halakha as precedence law that must be consulted before ruling, or can they approach the halakhic inquiry directly from their knowledge of the Talmud? How much of the millennia of Sh”ut (halakhik Q&A) should a modern posek take into consideration?

NLC: There’s no straight answer to this. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein would sometimes make rulings directly from the Talmud. The Rogatchover (Rabbi Joseph Rosen) would rule from the Talmud. Rav Ovadia Yosef, although he tried very hard to get the Shulkhan Arukh to become the absolute voice within the Sephardi world, constantly contradicted himself in the sense that on one side he wanted to go by the Shulkhan Arukh and at the same time he constantly put it aside and went directly to the source.

My feeling is that some poskim today are overwhelmed by their knowledge and they get drowned in it. And therefore they cannot think creatively any more. If you have too much knowledge then you can’t think on your own anymore because your mind is taken up by this encyclopedic amount of knowledge and you can’t step out of the box. This is not only true with halakha, this is true in many other departments of human knowledge as well. We know so much and therefore we get completely overwhelmed by it and we don’t have space left any more in our brain to come up with something new. This has been happening with poskim for quite a while now.

Therefore the biggest religious Jewish scholars are not the right poskim any more since they can’t think outside the box. But if you go one step below, and in Israel you have quite a few of them, you will find people who know halakha very well but they are not stagnated by this staggering knowledge, so they are probably much better equipped for responding to the needs of the day. Rav Yuval Cherlow, Rav Yoel Bin Nun, Rav Ariel Holland, Rabbi David Bigman. And there are many more around, especially in Israel — I don’t think you have so many abroad. But in Israel, at the moment, you have people who think on their own, have a lot of knowledge, and they can examine issues with a critical eye and make amazing rulings.

Rav Cherlow came up with some unbelievable rulings which got him in trouble with his colleagues. He has responsa about women wanting to get a child without being married. Israeli poskim have also dealt with sex change operations. These are daring undertakings, Sure, one can also go overboard. It all needs careful consideration.

Rabbi Cardozo related a personal example of thinking outside the halakhic box.

I had a case two years ago: M, the son of a friend of mine, a Cohen, from a Portuguese-Spanish family of Amsterdam, practicing Jews, wanted to get married to a convert who was also a divorcée. And since he is a cohen, he went to the Rabbinate of the Spanish synagogue in Amsterdam and asked if there was any possibility he could marry this woman since he knew that a cohen can’t get married with a convert or a divorced woman. Both are very problematic laws in today’s society. Both he and his bride to be were not so young any more, they were in their forties and had little chance to find other partners and have children. But the Rabbinate said no. After all: a divorcée who is also a convert — and a cohen: impossible. So they came to me. I don’t consider myself to be a posek at all, but I know a little about it. They asked, can’t you help us, so I sat down with them and I said to the woman, why are you a divorcée? Did you get a get (bill of divorce)? Yes, she answered, I received a get via the rabbinical Court of Tel Aviv. I was married to an Israeli man, and after a few weeks the marriage fell apart. I asked if she would mind telling me why, and the answer was that the husband had a physical problem and couldn’t have relations with his wife. He was severely impotent. So I said to her, did the rabbinic court ask you why you wanted to get divorced? No, she said, they just told me I should get a get and that’s what I did. So I told to her that it was my opinion that she was not a divorcée, and that she didn’t need a get because there was no consummation of the marriage and therefore she was never married according to Jewish Law. The Rabbinate in Amsterdam had failed to ask these questions. Not a small matter.

Then I said to the cohen, how do you know that you’re a really a cohen? You come from the same background that I come from, Portuguese-Spanish, from under the shadow of the Inquisition. Can you tell me that your family were really cohanim? The man was actually called Cohen, which would indicate that he really was one. But I knew that the name Cohen was in the Portuguese-Spanish culture the same as “Lord” in England, and nothing to do with having been a descendant of Jewish priests. They used to use this kind of name as an honorary name which did not mean that they were cohanim halakhically. So after a lot of discussion with Israeli poskim, including Rav Bigman, and Rav Hollander, I said to the couple, this is my opinion: the young man is either not at all a cohen, or he might be a Hallal, a desecrated cohen. This is because during the time of the Inquisition, cohanim were incapable of holding on to their cohen lineage by marrying only women that were permitted to them such as virgins and widows. And if they married Jewish women who were not permitted to them, then their offspring are no longer bound by the laws of the cohen and are allowed to marry every Jewish woman including a convert or divorcée. And so I officiated at this couple’s Chupah.

In my opinion there are very few real cohanim in the world today. The Ashkenazi community has also had to go through the most terrible conditions and few there are real cohanim. The only ones who are probably cohanim are the Syrians and Tunisians, who have kept reliable records of their Cohanim.

ELECTRICITY AND SHABBAT

JP: When Edison invented the electric bulb, discussion began among US Jews whether or not electricity is fire. It determined the appearance and behavior of Shabbat for the next century. Today, when we have moved away from the light-bulbs with heated coils, and with solid state devices, even issues of the labor of construction on Shabbat are no longer present, and with major poskim already saying that devices like the telephone are not a problem — is it time to do away with our fear of the Shabbat slippery slope?

NLC: If you would ask me, am I in favor of allowing turning on lights on Shabbat? I would say No, but not for solely halakhic reasons. My reason is this: the fact that I’m not allowed to use electricity creates a certain spirit, a certain atmosphere, which I need and I think my fellow Jews need to observe Shabbat in the right spirit. Not because it is halakhically forbidden — there are enough reasons to rule that using electricity does not contradict the prohibitions of Shabbat. But not all halakhic matters are pure halakha. They have to do with ideology. How are we creating the spirit of Shabbat? What is required there? Therefore, we may say, listen, let’s not use electricity on Shabbat. This is what Shabbat has stood for, for thousands of years. In the olden days there were candles which were prohibited to be lit, over the years this was applied to electricity as well, so that unless there are very specific circumstances where there is really no solution but to use electricity, I would say, don’t light electric lights. Nobody is paying a big price for this. There’s no moral issue here, let’s keep the system as it is.

But take for example the case of the “Shabbat goy,” a non-Jew doing work for us on Shabbat. I think that the use of a Shabbat goy in Israel is highly unnatural and unhealthy. After all, it still means that we are depending on the non Jews, even when we are living in an independent Jewish state. In other words: we still need to have Arabs sitting in the electric company to make sure that we have light on Shabbat. I put a very big question mark behind this. I don’t see it as a healthy situation. Perhaps we should find the technological means for Jews to do this work without transgressing Shabbat. There must be ways by which we can do it ourselves and we don’t need non-Jews to do that for us.

I have altogether a moral problem with using non-Jews on Shabbat, because what we’re doing here is making an impression that the non-Jew is seen as a second class citizen; what we can’t do — he has to do. In other words, we are the so called chosen people, and we need to be served by the non-Jews. This discrimination against non-Jews is wide-spread in the orthodox community and very problematic and highly un-Jewish.

JP: You also have thousands of religious kids who are texting on Shabbat. Judging by the articles I’ve read on this issue I get the impression that it’s the norm rather than the exception in certain religious youth circles.

NLC: It’s a great tragedy, because it’s a sign that these young people are bored on Shabbat, that they don’t have something which replaces their smartphone, and we are remiss in offering educational ways by which to keep young people engaged so they wouldn’t even touch those devices on Shabbat. When you take something away from somebody you have to replace it with something even better. And if you don’t do that then you get these situations, which, in the Modern Orthodox world, has become a problem. There’s a lot of spirituality and inspiration missing, especially in the Lithuanian Jewish world. The excitement about being a Jew, about wanting to observe the commandments, over which Hasidism has a much better handle, is of the outmost importance. In the non-Hasidic world we’ve become extremely mechanical, we have to keep all the laws and we’re no longer asking what is the music behind it, what kind of music are we playing out here? The original Hasidic thinkers of two hundred years ago, like Rabbi Tzadok Hacohen or the Mey Hashiloach (Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica) — were able to give the Jewish Tradition a new spirit and knew exactly what they were writing about, even being prepared to take risks and being highly controversial. They stated what they believed, and because of that the Hasidic world has been given a spirituality which the Lithuanian world is not offering us till this very day.

KASHRUT AND ANIMAL SUFFERING

JP: Should the suffering of meat animals influence their kashrut standard?

NLC: I have doubts about the kosher slaughtering of animals in America and here in Israel. The meat industry today has overwhelmed us. The number of cows and chickens which have to be slaughtered every day is so enormous that I can’t see how this will ever work halakhically. The method of shechita at the time was meant for a small town where once in a while they would eat a piece of meat. You can’t compare it with the reality of the meat industry today, where tens of thousands of cows are killed every day.

I believe that the prohibition on needless suffering by animals makes our whole system non-kosher. Because, if indeed there’s a lot of needless suffering of animals taking place, and I’ve seen this personally, the way they deal with those animals is beyond all description, then the Rabbinate should say: No way we are permitting this. Now this is a very complicated story, because since we are a meat eating society, we have to produce an amount of meat that the shechita laws can’t live up to. It has to go too fast. I don’t know how many shochtim there are in Israel, there must be lots of them, but how is it possible that the shechita will always go well? You can use statistical rules of thumb, you can cite a permission here and an allowance there but how far does that go especially when we are bound by laws on how to treat animals mercifully? I don’t believe that any piece of meat today is Kasher l’mehadrin (perfectly kosher).

We should start educating people to no longer eat meat. This is a process, an educational process. The trouble is that if we slowly start to diminish the amount of meat which we require, we’ll have an economic problem on our hands. What’s going to be with all the people who are making their living from this industry? And there are lots of them: shochtim, butchers, supervisors, whatever else there is. You’ll have to find a financial solution for these people, you can’t just say, We stop eating meat. We have to find a slow way by which we will get people off eating meat, finding solutions to the financial problems of the people who are left without their livelihood — this is going to take fifty, sixty years. The trouble is that I’ve never seen the rabbinate or the rabbinic courts really dealing with these issues.

DISMANTLE THE CHIEF RABBINATE

JP: Do we really need the Chief Rabbinate in Israel?

NLC: We need to end the Institution of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel. I have the greatest respect for Chief Rabbis Yosef and Lau, they mean well but they are the victims of a system that isn’t working. The truth of the matter is that the Rabbinate in Israel is the Knesset and not the Chief Rabbis . It is a political institution. Some people in the Knesset are telling the Rabbinate what they should say and do. There is corruption taking place. The institution is no longer functioning. It was meant for the general, often secular Israeli population. But it has been taken over by the Haredim, the ultra orthodox. This was not the intent for the Chief Rabbinate, because the Haredim have their own Rabbinate.

The Chief Rabbinate lacks the halakhic poskim of great stature to deal with some very urgent issues: conversions, agunot, feminism, kosher slaughtering, running a modern state, which require these people to be great authorities in halakha and be creative thinkers, and the chief rabbis of today are not up to this. They are not on that level. They don’t seem to possess the prerequisite knowledge. Neither do I, but I am not the Chief Rabbi.

Today’s Chief Rabbis are not like the famous Rav Avraham Yitschak Kook, Rav Ben Zion Uziel or Rav Isaac Yitschak Herzog. I think that in the Ashkenazi Rabbinate the last person of greatness was Rav Shlomo Goren. He had the knowledge and he had the creativity. Afterwards this whole institution disintegrated.

JP: So you would replace it?

NLC: Sure. The last Knesset has already decided that every local rabbinate would have its own conversion system in their own cities, and no longer be subject to the control of the chief rabbinate. Orthodox rabbis who have the authority should decide in their own cities who are the people eligible to become converts. This should not be left up to the chief rabbinate, because the chief rabbinate doesn’t know these people. So how can they decide, without actually knowing the people, who is eligible for conversion?

I am of the opinion, as is the well-known Israeli Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, that we should try to convert the nearly four hundred thousand Russians of Jewish descent in Israel in a mass conversion, even though a priori it’s not the best manner of conversion according to halakha. The reason why I am in favor of this is this: if we do not convert these people they’ll marry our children and in no time we’ll have a million non-Jews here, to the point where it could undermine the security of the state of Israel. It can create enormous social problems. So here you have to consider not just the conversion issue but the security of the state, too.

This is no longer a diaspora reality where you decide on halakha for individuals who are Torah observant. We are dealing here with the state of Israel which requires that we make sure that we remain a unified political entity, that we can marry each other and secure the State of Israel.

But the rabbinate hasn’t for one moment even considered this point of view. That is a serious dereliction of duty.

David Israel

Rhode Island Residents Riled About Anti-Semitic Attack on Local Synagogue

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Police in Pawtucket, Rhode Island continue to investigate a hate crime after a big red Nazi swastika was found spray-painted on the welcome sign of Congregation Ohawe Sholam.

Worshipers found the swastika on Sunday. It was painted on the sign for the Kollel Center for Jewish Studies outside their Orthodox synagogue.

A news conference was held Monday morning by city and religious leaders, who condemned the vandalism.

“It can’t be tolerated, it shouldn’t be tolerated, and it won’t be tolerated,” said Rabbi Raphie Schochet. “This symbol that’s been blotted out over here is a symbol of bigots and bullies.”

Officials immediately condemned the crime.

“The police department will go through any neighborhood video, hopefully we can catch anyone coming from or leaving the scene,” said Pawtucket Police Chief Paul King. “We’re asking neighbors, we’ll check Facebook, but what we really need is the help of the public. If you thought you saw something that looked a little bit off – please notify us.”

“The vandalism that has occurred at Congregation Ohawe Sholam in Pawtucket is demonic and depressing,” said Bishop Thomas Tobin, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

“I’m angry and disgusted,” said U.S. Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) . “This despicable act of vandalism has only one purpose – to intimidate members of our community and it won’t succeed.”

Congregation Ohawe Sholam president David Pliskin told local WPRI-TV in an interview that Holocaust survivors among the congregants found the graffiti to be a painful reminder of the past. “This is the kind of thing that makes your whole body roil inside if you’re a Jew,” he said. But for those who survived the death camps, “It’s like someone trying to stab you in the heart again.”

Ohawe Sholam is the only synagogue in Pawtucket.

Pliskin rejected claims the graffiti might have been a childish prank. “This person clearly had some knowledge,” he told WPRI. “A lot of people draw the swastika with a cross, but this person has actually done it the way it was done on the Nazi flag, with an ‘X’.” He called it a hate crime.”

Nor has it been the first.

Last October, flyers were distributed just a few blocks from the synagogue with an illustration of a hooded man bearing a rifle, captioned, “Revolution is the only solution to Jewish pollution.”

But Pliskin also said the community has been incredibly supportive. One person gave a blanket to cover the sign. Another offered money to repair it.

‘The immediate result has been an outpouring of compassion and many acts of kindness from the entire community,” Pliskin said. ‘We should be thankful there are so many good and wonderful people around us.”

The city’s Department of Public Works has taken the sign off-site and is in the process of restoring it, according to WPRI.

Hana Levi Julian

EasyJet Claims ‘Disruptive Passengers’ to Blame for Separation, Removal from Flight

Monday, May 9th, 2016

EasyJet Airlines categorically denied having removed and separated Jewish passengers from the rest of the travelers on board a flight from Barcelona to Paris on May 1, in a statement to media on Monday by Andy Cockburn, the airline’s director of public relations.

“Flight EZY3920 from Barcelona to Paris Charles de Gaulle on 1 May 2016 with 180 passengers on board returned to the gate in Barcelona and was met by police due to a group of passengers behaving in a disruptive manner,” said Cockburn, as quoted by JTA in several Jewish publications.

“All passengers were asked to disembark at the request of the police so they could speak to a small number of passengers in order to investigate the incident…. [EasyJet] does not tolerate abusive or threatening behavior on board,” he added.

JewishPress.com and Cockburn exchanged phone calls numerous times on Monday but each time JP returned the call, Cockburn was unavailable or could not be reached. Messages were left on both sides and emails were exchanged as well, but contact was elusive.

Even if some passengers were “disruptive” it still is not clear why an entire flight was forced to disembark, nor why only the Jewish passengers were required to remain secluded for six hours in a separate section of the terminal under armed police guard, nor why their captors refused to answer their questions.

Cockburn’s contention that the Jewish passengers were separated at the request of the police so they could be questioned under investigation does not make much sense, unless the police were only probing Jews. However, the spokesperson’s final comment that the airline “does not tolerate abusive or threatening behavior on board” seems to imply that Jews were behaving in an abusive or threatening behavior on board prior to takeoff.

Hana Levi Julian

Tens of Thousands Stream into Hebron for Passover Festival

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Tens of thousands of Jewish civilians, lawmakers and senior rabbis have been streaming into the ancient holy city of Hebron on this third day of Passover for the annual holiday festival celebrating the city’s ancient Jewish heritage.

The Jewish community of Hebron is hosting a celebration at the Cave of the Patriarchs to mark the upcoming half-century year since the restoration of the city to Jewish hands by Israeli forces during the 1967 Six Day War.

Attending Monday’s festivities will be Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, Bayit Yehudi Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan. Also attending will be Likud Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara, a spokesperson said.

Music, refreshments and more have been the order of the day, as the Passover Chol HaMoed festivities erased the frequent tensions felt among Jewish residents in the divided city.

In the wee hours of Monday, Israeli security personnel arrested at least four Hamas terror suspects around Hebron, prior to the day’s events.

Millions of visitors come each year to pray at the Cave of the Patriarchs, burial site of the Biblical forefathers and matriarchs Avraham, Yitzhak, Ya’akov, Sarah, Rivka and Leah (Rachel’s Tomb is located at the entrance to Bethlehem). It is said that even Adam and Eve are interred there.

Muslims also revere the site, since their ancestor, Ishmael, is a son of Avraham.

Hana Levi Julian

Judaism in the Twilight Zone

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Remember the old TV show, the “Twilight Zone?” With Rod Serling? Fantastic, wasn’t it? If Rod had done a show on the Diaspora, here’s how he might have begun:

“This is Jeremy Cohen. He’s is celebrating the Passover Seder with his family in New York just as he has every year of his life. He thinks he is a free man, because he doesn’t know that he is lost in a foreign dimension, an unwitting captive in the Diaspora, otherwise known as the Twilight Zone.”

In our last few articles, we have tried to explain, in different ways, why a Jew can only be considered free when he or she lives in the Land of Israel. As the Seder night approaches, we will present another important understanding which we learn from the Ramban on this week’s Torah portion, Achre Mot.

The Ramban is called the “Father of Israel” because of his greatness in Torah. His Commentary on the Torah is universally accepted and can be found in every yeshiva in the world.

Toward the end of the Torah portion, we learn that the Land of Israel vomits out certain types of sinners. The Ramban explains this unique holiness of the Land of Israel by revealing that when Hashem created the world, and distributed the different lands to different peoples, he placed Angels, or Celestial Ministers, over the gentile nations to rule over their affairs. The different characteristics of these angels result in the differing cultures and languages and customs of the peoples. The Ramban writes:

“Now outside the Land of Israel, though every place belongs to Hashem’s Glorious Name, its purity is not perfect because of the celestial servants that hold sway there, and the gentiles go astray after these celestial agents to worship them. This is the reason that Hashem is known as the G-d of gods.”

Our Sages teach us that that the celestial minister who ruled over the land of Egypt was Esav. Interestingly, Esav is the angel who rules over America as well.

Only one land has no celestial minister appointed over it – the Land of Israel, which G-d rules over alone. Therefore moral transgression (especially sexual transgression) is much more stringent in the Land of Israel than other lands, where the celestial ministers of the gentiles couldn’t care less. Only the Holy Land vomits out sinners who pollute the Land through their deeds (Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, Achre Mot, 18:25).

It is Hashem’s intention that His Chosen People live in His Chosen Land, where He rules over Israel alone without any intermediary angel. The Ramban states:

“This is the meaning of the saying of the Rabbis of the Talmud: ‘Whoever lives outside the Land of Israel is as if he has no G-d’ (Ketubot 110B), for it is said, ‘I am the Eternal, your G-d, Who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your G-d’ (Devarim, 25:38).  When you are in the land of Canaan, I am your G-d. When you are not in the land of Canaan, I am not your G-d (Ramban, loc cited.)

Now, of course, G-d is everywhere, but because he has appointed angels to rule over other lands, it is as if a Jew who lives in the Diaspora has no G-d. All of his prayers and Torah learning go up to the gentile angel who presides over that land, giving strength to that foreign nation. This is why wherever Jews lived in great numbers, the countries they lived in were superpowers. And this is why when the Jews left those countries, like Spain and Russia, their great empires collapsed.

This is what makes the Diaspora a “Twilight Zone.” The Jew thinks he is worshipping Hashem and keeping the Torah as it is meant to be kept, but this isn’t exactly the case. Thus, our Sages have taught that whoever lives in the Diaspora is like one who serves foreign gods (Ketubot 110B) because of the angels that rule there. Furthermore, the Rabbis of the Talmud said: “In all times a Jew should live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are pagans, and not live in the Diaspora, even in a city where the majority of inhabitants are Jews, for everyone who dwells in Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has a G-d, and everyone who dwells outside of the Land is like someone who has no G-d” (Ibid).

The Ramban explains: “Hashem has set us apart from the nations over which He has appointed heavenly princes and other celestial powers by giving us the Land of Israel so He, blessed be He, will be our G-d.”

Rashi also makes this point clear. On the verse, “I am the L-rd, your G-d, who took you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, to be your G-d” (Vayikra, 25:38), Rashi explains the meaning of “to be your G-d,” stating: “For whoever resides in the Land of Israel, I am a G-d to him; and whoever leaves it is like one who serves idols.”

Thus, we can see in this deep Torah understanding of our Sages that a Jew is not free to serve Hashem while enveloped in the foreign pollution and static that exists in the Diaspora due to the foreign celestial ministers who Hashem has appointed to rule over the lands of the gentiles.

The Ramban goes on to explain why our Twilight Zone character, Jeremy Cohen, isn’t really performing the mitzvah of Seder Night as it is supposed to be performed when he eats his matzah in Palm Springs or on a cruise boat in the Caribbean. This is because the mitzvot are meant to be performed in the Land of Israel, and not in the Diaspora, where they are like a practice rehearsal until we return to Israel. The Ramban explains that a Jew is to keep the commandments even when Hashem banishes the Jewish People from the Land of Israel so that when we return the commandments will not be novelties to us” (Ramban, loc cited. Also, Sifre, Torah portion Ekev, 43. And, Sifre, Torah portion Re’eh, 80).

Whether you call the Diaspora the “Twilight Zone” or the “Matrix,” the idea is the same. You might think that it’s the real thing, but it isn’t. You might think it’s the right place to be, but it isn’t. You might think you are leading a full Jewish life, but you’re not. You may think you are free, but you are still in Egypt. As the “Twilight Zone” theme song goes, “Dee dee, dee dee, dee dee, dee dee, dee dee….”

Joseph Cohen may be content with eating his matzah in America, but he’s a prisoner of the Twilight Zone.

Tzvi Fishman

God as Reality in our Lives [audio]

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Do you ever feel a disconnect between the way you think about God and the way that you feel God in your life? That may be because you have to change the way you think about God to truly experience how God is a part of every aspect of life. Join Rabbi David Aaron on Soul Talk as he gives us a life changing paradigm shift as to how we understand and relate to God.

 

For more amazing programming, visit www.IsraelNewsTalkRadio.com

Israel News Talk Radio

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/multimedia/israel-news-talk-radio/soul-talk/god-as-reality-in-our-lives/2016/02/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: