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October 27, 2016 / 25 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘judaism’

Al Jazeera (Qatar) Evicts Jews and Judaism from Jerusalem; Time to Return the Favor

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through}

In October 2016, UNESCO condemned Israel regarding its activities on the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem and excluded all references to Judaism’s ties to the site.  The resolution was put forward by a number of Muslim states, including: Algeria; Egypt; Lebanon; Morocco; Oman; Qatar; and Sudan.

The Qatari-run news outlet, Al Jazeera (AJ), continued to proudly distort history in its coverage of the story. Consider its following statements:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third-holiest site in Islam. It is located in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following its invasion in 1967 – in a move never recognised by the international community – as part of its subsequent military occupation of the West Bank.

Jewish settlers and Zionist organisations have called for complete Jewish control over the mosque compound.

Jewish groups refer to the site as the “Temple Mount” and their increased incursions into the mosque compound have continuously led to Palestinian protests across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military and armed settler incursions have resulted in Palestinian deaths and injuries in recent years in particular. Muslim access to the religious site has also been tremendously limited by the army.”

The AJ media outlet published this on its own. It was not quoting Hamas (which the Qatari government supports).  For a sense of reality, here is a sample redlined report from a balanced perspective:

“Al-Aqsa Mosque sits on the Temple Mount, which was built by the Jewish King Herod 2,000 years ago. The mosquecompound is the third-holiest site in Islam and the Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism. It is located in the eastern half ofEast Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following its defensive war against an attack initiated by Jordaninvasion in 1967 – neither Jordan’s annexation of Jerusalem, nor Israel’s subsequent annexation were in a move never recognised by the international community – as part of Israel’sits subsequent administrative control military occupation of the West Bank. According to the Oslo II accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, and the Peace Agreement between Israel and Jordan signed in 1994, Israel handles all security matters on the Temple Mount/ A-Aqsa compound.

Non-Muslims have regular visiting hours on the Temple Mount, and some Jewish settlers and Zionist organisations have called for non-Jews to be able to pray at the site as they had done before Suleiman banned the practice roughly 500 years agocomplete Jewish control over the mosque compound.Those calls resulted in Palestinians organizing themselves against Jewish visitors.

In September 2015, Israel banned the “Mourabitoun,” the group of Muslim civilian guards who were regularly harassing Jewish visitors to the holy site.  That action further excited Muslims who feared that Israel sought to change the status quo, and sparked numerous Jewish groups refer to the site as the “Temple Mount” and their increased incursions into the mosque compound have continuously led to Palestinian protests across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The fighting between the Israeli military and Palestinian Arabs armed settler incursions have resulted in hundreds ofPalestinian deaths and injuries in recent years in particular. Due to the increased fighting and tensions, both Jewish and Muslim access to the religious site has also become morebeen tremendously limited, including an Israeli ban of all members of the Knesset by the army.”

As seen above, Al Jazeera is part-and-parcel of the problem of incitement in the conflict. Qatar continues to be an active supporter of violence in the region.

It is well past time to boycott Al Jazeera and its social media site AJ+.  Further, Americans should demand that the United States remove its central military command in the Middle East out of Qatar (perhaps it can help stabilize Iraq by relocating it there).

Distorting history is just part of the problem.  Incitement must have consequences.


Stopping the Purveyors of Hateful Propaganda

The Parameters of Palestinian Dignity

Visitor Rights on the Temple Mount

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

The Cancer in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Arguments over Jerusalem

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Paul Gherkin

Rabbi Rachamim Barchiyahu Appointed Israel Police Chaplain

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has appointed Rabbi Rachamim Barchiyahu as Israel Police Chaplain.

The appointment, recommended by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh, was announced Monday. Barchiyahu will be awarded the rank of Commander. Deputy Police Commissioner, Major Zohar Dvir headed the search committee that was established this past May.

Barchiyahu currently serves as Chief Rabbi in the Jewish community of Talmon, and Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of Yeshiva Ma’aminim B’Mishtara.

For the past several years, the yeshiva has served as a place in which to discuss the application of Torah law in police work. Discussions and learning in the yeshiva also focus on developing policies that can enable observant Jews to serve in the force.

Hana Levi Julian

Tzohar’s High Holy Day Programs Estimated To Reach over 60,000 in Israel

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Celebrating its 17th year of the Yom Kippur ‘Praying Together’ program, Tzohar, the religious Zionist Rabbis organization in Israel will be hosting over 60,000 people in more than 300 different locations around the country.

Taking place in community centers, theaters and other locations outside of the traditional synagogues, attendees are all provided with the same prayer book (siddur or machzor) to make it easier to follow along, as well as with explanatory pamphlet about the customs, prayers and meaning of the High Holidays to help guide the participant throughout the services.

The success of the Yom Kippur programs have led to the creation of a similar initiative for Rosh Hashana, where thousands of Israeli families participated in ‘Shofar in the Park’.

“Tzohar is deeply proud to have become a central part of the prayer experience for tens of thousands of Israelis for the High holidays,” said Rabbi David Stav, co-founder of Tzohar.

“The 200 Rosh Hashana programs and 300 Yom Kippur locations come from the fact that they provide an approach to the prayer in a manner that is designed to be accessible and easy to relate to for Jews of all backgrounds and levels of familiarity with tradition.

“People come out of our programs feeling energized and engaged and better educated about the meaning of the holiday and its customs.” Over 350 Tzohar volunteers and their families will be placed all around the country to accommodate all those communities who wish to participate. “Tzohar is committed to always adding additional programs to encourage Jewish participation in life cycle events,” said Yakov Gaon, Executive Vice President of Tzohar.

“The powerful reaction to the Yom Kippur program and our other holiday activities showed the excitement and connection people feel. We look forward to adding even more programs to our yearly calendar and bringing proud Jewish identity to the masses.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

Judgement Day Approacheth

Friday, October 7th, 2016


Rabbi Mike Feuer rejoins Rabbi Yishai for “Spiritual Cafe” – this week: the political Fast of Gedaliah and getting ready for the Big Day – Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. Also, in the Torah portion, the great prophet Moses gets ready to hand over the reigns of power to Joshua, and that is not an easy moment for the Jewish people as one great leader leaves and another era – the era of the Land of Israel – emerges.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

Online Fundraiser for Medical Treatment of Abayudaya Jewish Infant

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Mugaga Treva, 4, is the son of Nantabo Esther, a member of Namanyonyi Synagogue, one of the Abayudaya Synagogues in Uganda. The boy has a chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, for which he was referred to Mulago National Hospital in Uganda. The treatment costs $750, but Esther Nantabo, a single parent, cannot afford it. A fundraising effort was launched Tuesday night which has begun to attract some donations.

The Abayudaya (“People of Judah”) are a Baganda community in eastern Uganda near the town of Mbale who practice Judaism. They are devout in their practice, keeping Kashrut, and observing Shabbat. The Abayudaya numbers are estimated at 2,000. They live in several villages and are recognized by the Reform and Conservative movements as Jews. Some of them practice strict Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism.

The group was founded by a Muganda military leader named Semei Kakungulu, who was converted to Christianity by British missionaries around 1880. When the British significantly limited his territory, and refused to recognize him as king—as they had promised, Kakungulu began seeking alternative religious affiliations, and came to believe that the customs and laws described in the Torah were true. In 1919, Kakungulu faced great resistance and was eventually ostracized when he insisted on circumcising his flock. He circumcised his sons and himself and declared that his community was Jewish. He then fled to the foot of Mt. Elgon and settled in a place called Gangama where he started a separatist sect known as Kibina Kya Bayudaya Absesiga Katonda (the Community of Jews who trust in the Lord). The British, infuriated by his move, severed all ties with him and his followers.

In 1920 a European Jew named Yosef arrived and taught the isolated community about the Jewish calendar and the Jewish holidays: Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succot. Yosef stayed for about six months, and educated the Abayudaya on Kashrut and Shabbat. Yosef convinced Semei Kakungulu to establish a kind of yeshiva, to pass on his teachings.

Kakungulu died in 1928, and was succeeded by Samson Mugombe, one of his disciples. The Abayudaya remained isolated for protection and survived persecution, including by Idi Amin, who outlawed Jewish rituals and destroyed synagogues. During the Amin persecutions, some of the Abayudaya converted to either Christianity or Islam. But a core group of some 300 members remained committed to Judaism, worshipping secretly, fearful that they would be discovered by their neighbors and reported to the authorities. This group later named itself She’erit Yisrael — the Remnant of Israel.

In 1962, Israeli Ambassador to Kenya Arye Oded, who at the time was studying at Makerere University, visited the Abayudaya and met Samson Mugombe. This was the first time the Abayudaya had ever met an Israeli and the first Jew they had met since Yosef. Oded conducted many long interviews with Mugombe and other leaders, and later reported on the group in his book “Religion and Politics in Uganda,” as well as in numerous articles.

In his article Shabbes Cholent in Uganda? Rabbi J. Hershy Worch wrote whimsically:

“You should have seen the grin on the faces of the young leaders of the community as they showed their elders the Shabbes-oven I had built into the packed earth floor of my bedroom, a shining smile that went from ear to ear. Eighty years they have waited for my cholent, can you imagine, the first hot food on a Shabbes morning for 80 years! Prometheus had no such thrill. Perhaps Moses, watching the Israelites licking their fingers over Manna in the wilderness may have had such naches, maybe.

“Most people know nothing about cholent, and those who do probably consider it no more than an odd quirk in the Jewish diet, something akin to gefilte-fish or latkes.

“To a hushed audience I explained the significance of the food they were eating. How Rabbinical Judaism, the Halacha, the Talmud well nigh demands hot food on Shabbes morning. This is how we Orthodox Jews may be distinguished from Karaites, Samaritans and other fundamentalists who rejected the Oral Torah. The hushed silence broke into a thunderous applause.”


What’s the problem with Reform Judaism?

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Abu Yehuda}

Today I came across an article by Rabbi Baruch Efrati in which he opposes cooperation between Israelis and the Reform Movement.

So what, you say. Another Orthodox attack on the heretical reformim. Perhaps so, but here is what caught my attention:

The secular Jewish world does not want to take over the religious world from a theological point of view, but to live beside it – hence, the possibility of influencing that world, listening to its hearts’ desires, elevating its holy sparks to their heavenly source. The secular are actually non-observant Orthodox, they do not present an alternative organized religion that turns transgressions into an ideology intended to take the place of the Torah. They have not invented a made up religion but are in the midst of a process where secularism is withering and faith is blossoming, as one can see over the last few years in which there is constant strengthening of ties to Torah, baruch Hashem.

“Non-observant Orthodox,” or as the saying goes, ‘the synagogue that they don’t go to is Orthodox’. At worst, thinks Efrati, they won’t interfere with the religious world while at best they might join it. On the other hand, the Reform are a threat. “It’s either we or them [sic],” he adds.

One wonders why he is worried, because only about 3% of Israeli Jews identify with the Reform movement, and most of those are English-speaking immigrants. The ‘non-observant Orthodox’ aren’t rushing to join them, either. Those that I talk to simply don’t see the point of Reform Judaism, maybe because just living in Israel provides the sense of Jewish community that many American Jews seek from their congregations, and because even the least observant Jew in Israel is likely to have a stronger background in Jewish history and ideas than most American Reform Jews. And of course, they already speak Hebrew!

The real possibility of religious change in Israel today comes from Orthodox Jews (including well-known rabbis) who ask why certain customs, in particular in respect to women, are adhered to when they are not required by Jewish law. They also ask why certain rabbis should have a monopoly on kosher certification, conversions, and so forth. These folks will certainly have a much greater effect on the nature of Jewish observance in Israel than Reform Jews, because they can’t be accused of ‘inventing a religion’.

Nevertheless, the American Union for Reform Judaism does present a problem for Israel, but it has little to do with theology.  It is because the Reform Movement is conducting a left-wing political campaign targeting both American Jews (primarily) and Israelis.

The campaign focuses on issues like mixed prayer at the Western Wall, ‘segregated’ Haredi buses, and the Rabbinate, which is widely perceived as arbitrary and even corrupt in its behavior in regard to marriage and conversion. Another issue is ‘religious pluralism’, which means the fact that Orthodox synagogues and rabbis are subsidized by the government’s Religious Affairs Ministry while liberal streams of Judaism are not. The URJ’s associated groups have filed numerous lawsuits in connection with these issues. The controversies are presented as evidence for Israel’s failure as a liberal democracy.

They resonate as civil rights issues in the US. But they haven’t ever become serious concerns for most Israelis, who are much more concerned with security and economic problems. The average secular Israeli sees both the Women of the Wall and the Haredi Rabbi of the Kotel as radical extremists, and their struggle as having nothing to do with ‘normal people’.

The URJ also takes a strong position for a ‘2-state solution’ and is critical of Israel’s settlements across the Green Line. In the US it has supported the Obama Administration’s policies (after agonizing for a time, it decided ‘not to take a position’ on the Iran deal that was strongly opposed by both the Israeli government and opposition). Many American Reform rabbis belong to J Street, and the President of the URJ, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, is a former activist in both J Street and the New Israel Fund.

Jacobs wasn’t shy about his intention to intervene in Israeli politics when he outlined his positions in his 2015 biennial address and announced that the URJ would not “check [its] commitment to tikkun olam at the door.”

The American Reform Movement, in its 1885 Pittsburgh Platform was explicitly anti-Zionist. After the state of Israel was established it was grudgingly accepted, but it wasn’t until the 1997 Miami Platform that Reform Judaism began to present itself as a Zionist movement. But two years later it began to specify the kind of Jewish state it wanted Israel to be, and the proprietary attitude has only gotten stronger. Like the Obama Administration and J Street, Reform seems to love us to death.

All of this fits neatly with the program of the tiny but loud Israeli Left, which lately has been arguing that the liberal Israel that they knew and loved is being replaced by an undemocratic, theocratic and militaristic monster, the Jewish counterpart of the Islamic State. They too want to make us better.

Just as very few Israelis are attracted to Reform Judaism, very few agree with the political point of view that the URJ espouses. And neither secular nor religious Israelis buy the idea that Israel is becoming undemocratic, theocratic and militaristic. What is happening is that the cultural elites that have set the tone here since 1948 are finally changing to match the more right-wing political landscape. Naturally, those being deposed are unhappy.

Regardless of whether they think Reform Judaism is a “made up religion” or even care, most Israelis think that decisions affecting life in this country should be made here, and not by a liberal American organization that represents very few of us. And that is the real issue.

Vic Rosenthal

The War for Halachic Judaism

Monday, June 27th, 2016


Disclaimer: I don’t like labels as it pertains to Torah identity. I don’t love the term ‘orthodox Jew’,  modern-orthodox, etc. Personally, I would prefer the term halachic Jew, but some of the most aggressive religious innovators insist that they are acting in an halachic manner. On the other hand, I have zero patience for those who nit-pick with ridiculous semantics. In this article I use the term ‘orthodox Jew,’ because sometimes terms become deep-rooted in a communal identity, and the desire to shake the root free is both wasteful, unnecessary, and sometimes counter-productive. I use the term when referring to religious rabbis who believe in the absolute Divine nature of Torah, and the mass revelation at Sinai.

A few other brief points. In no way do I believe that there are no great, righteous men of Torah today. G-d forbid! There are many, and I am fortunate to know more than a few myself, both in Israel and America. In this article I am speaking about what I perceive to be a dearth of prominent public voices, in response to radical innovations.

Finally, I want to clarify that my critique of torturous misreading of Halacha is referring to radical innovations that, in my opinion, contradict the traditional approach of Halacha. My critique has no commonality with those who mock the halachic system and Halacha in general. Quite the opposite. I am unequivocally committed 100% to the Divinity of Torah, and to the sacred words of chazal.

In any event, these are my general reflections of what I perceive to be a terrible problem. If nothing else, perhaps, this article will encourage people to address these issues.

Once upon a time, there were giants who walked amongst us-giants of Torah. Men with wisdom to combat the modern idols of secularization. Men who defended the integrity of the Jewish synagogue and the Jewish family from goyish modernization. Men who spoke with deep wisdom in defense of the deepest truths. Men who understood that modern definitions of feminism, woman’s rights, and similar minded ideologies spoke more of the faulty psychology of their respective advocates, than of any new-age modern revelation designed to liberate women from being women. Once upon a time, great men of Torah fought for yahadut.

Today, there are few if any prominent vocal voices. And so, whenever the new radical voices in the Torah community (who speak in the name of Torah) speak violence to the system, there is deafening silence. On issues that should transcend all labels and factions, and appeal to everyone concerned with protecting Halachah, one feels the void.

Ironically, some of the most blatant outrages occur in Israel, where unbridled Jewish messianic fervor renders many Jews vulnerable to aberrant belief systems. Consider the spectacle of orthodox rabbis giving a kosher seal to evangelicals and missionaries in Israel because of a distorted notion of achalta de’geula (a pivotal point in time auguring moshiach). Consider how one prominent Rabbi in the heartland of liberated Samaria opened up his community to evangelicals in order to benefit from their free labor. Today, these evangelicals have transitioned from living in tents to dwelling in cottages.

Consider that Tommy Waller, the leader of these evangelicals from the volunteer group “Hayovel”, once infamously admitted in a promotional video that such opportunities will give him a chance to missionize (video):

“As we’re working with these people, we’ll be able to share with them this…this Jesus that we know.” 

Further on in the video, a family member elaborated:

“Our family has begun a ministry called Hayovel. The vision of Hayovel is to develop a network of individual, families, and congregations who are ready to labor side by side with the people of Israel. To bless them, to stand with them, to share with them a passion for the soon coming jubilee in yeshua messiah. We extend the invitation to you, to join us.”


And what of the growing number of religious rabbis who swim in the dangerous waters of interfaith dialogue? Perhaps most outrageous of all is that easily the most prominent individual involved in this lunacy repeatedly treads upon his deceased Rabbi’s famous stringent halachic ruling which prohibited such actions. (See Rav Soloveitchik’s famous essay “Confrontation” and follow-up Addendum.)

On a more general level, how is orthodoxy supposed to cope with the following?

  • Rabbis with kipot and beards who reflect on a morality independent of Halacha? Rabbis whose readings of Torah verse and Talmud require a torturous misreading of the written and articulated meanings?
  • Rabbis whose usage and defense (if only for application regarding what they believe to be “antiquated” injunctions, and not every day Halacha) of this tactic remind me of the perverse attempts of “Jewish Renewal”.
  • Religious Rabbis whose interpretations of of Divine injunctions mirror the tactics of maskilim new and old. Rabbis who see metaphor in the biblical injunction to destroy Amalek and the 7 Nations of Canaan.
  • Rabbis who believe in a “new Halacha.” Rabbis who opine that Rambam and others spoke for their age alone.
  • Religious Rabbis who advocate for homosexual marriage.
  • Rabbis for Hillary Clinton and her leftist anti-Torah positions.
  • Rabbis who engage in biblical criticism.
  • Rabbis who wish to free Spinoza from his well-earned excommunication.
  • Rabbis for “open-orthodoxy” and the ordination of women.
  • Rabbis whose well-intended but misguided notions will surely lead the next generations on the path to a new reform movement.

I worry about the future of Judaism. Not for its ultimate survival, since our tradition is stronger than any threat we face. But the war will come at a cost. The cost of souls lost to heresies new and old. Once upon a time, giants of Torah fought for truth against the ‘reformation’ of Torah. Today the Torah community is as weak as ever. Not in terms of over-all Torah study. In that context, there is more Torah study today than ever before. But with the rise of social media, and the new movements pandering to all sorts of foolishness, Torah Jewry is intellectually susceptible. We lack sophisticated courageous Torah leadership to stand up for unpopular truth.  Even the RCA has shown an inability to reign in radical thought. How long did it take for them to take a stand against the growing clamor of the new “orthodox” to ordain woman?

The great men are gone. The classic men of past generations who fought critical battles for the preservation of Torah are gone. Today’s religious rabbis shirk their duty to protect their flocks. Worse yet, many lead their flocks astray.

Factionalism render’s certain camps relatively insulated from some of these heretical voices. For the time, at least. One attraction of these new voices which will appeal to the disaffected of every community, is that some of these new prophets raise valid points about institutionalized rabbinical abuses which represent a chillul Hashem. These real issues act a springboard to hoist radical ideas. The fact that a stopped clock tells accurate time twice a day does nothing to change its general status as a broken instrument.

Yet the willingness to admit abuse speaks of a candor which people find impressive. The answers are usually less impressive, and are usually more grounded in feelings than Jewish law. But one cannot ignore the real issues, and the attraction of those who address them. One must find better solutions reflecting Torah positions. “Orthodoxy” doesn’t need to change, despite the popular insistence that it must. Corruption is by definition contrary to Torah. If it is corrupt, then it cannot be orthodox despite the identification as such by the corrupt. We need to aggressively return to the truths of Torah.

Where are the giants who fought for halachic integrity? These great men are gone. Today we have silent men. Fearful men. People afraid to confront those who seek to ordain female rabbis in the name of orthodoxy, and those who would rather create a new Halacha to free chained women, rather than call for Jewish men to break open the heads of recalcitrant men. Today, we have Rabbis who in the name of compassion, will create leniency where none can be found, and in turn, will create mamzerim. The greatest and most sensitive poskim of the past, were sometimes hamstrung by halachic reality. They understood that non-halachic compassion will destroy the Jewish people.

In the name of political correctness, some may opine that the Rambam’s words were for his age alone, and that the Nesher could never have imagined a Jewish state in a modern age. My understanding of the Rambam is that he foresaw much more than his modern day detractors ever could. Unlike others, he wrote about biblical wars precisely because he understood that the process of redemption will occur, and war will be necessary.

In the name of religious tolerance, many distort the Meiri in a way that he could never have imagined, as a source for all sorts of prohibited activities. The Meiri never could have fathomed a prominent religious America rabbi in America entering a national church for Obama’s initial swearing in ceremony. No one puts a gun or a sword to a Rabbi’s head in America, and yet he entered a forbidden place of his own volition.

Political correctness has infiltrated orthodoxy making orthodoxy increasingly susceptible to liberal sensibilities. Now is a time for intellectual zealousness for Hashem. Men of Torah need to face the new heresies and radical innovations, and intellectually combat the religious proponents of these foreign notions.

An orthodox Judaism which fails to heed today’s call, will suffer in the coming years. The impact will affect even the most insulated communities. One day, the orthodox will awaken from their slumber and cry out for action. What will they do? They will create conferences to deal with the new “crises”. But by then, the bleeding will be copious.

Donny Fuchs

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/fuchs-focus/the-war-for-halachic-judaism/2016/06/27/

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