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December 27, 2014 / 5 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Kiddush Hashem’

Tens Of Thousands Celebrate Historic Siyum HaShas

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Neither the threat of rain nor heavy traffic prevented the huge throng of enthusiastic participants from attending the 12th Siyum HaShas last Wednesday, August 1 at MetLife Stadium. The event, which attracted more than 90,000 people, was in celebration of the conclusion of the seven-and-a-half year learning cycle of the Babylonian Talmud.

It was 36-year-old Rabbi Meir Shapiro who introduced the learning of Daf Yomi at the first Knessia Gedolah two weeks before Rosh Hashanah 5684 (1923). The Daf Yomi program requires one to learn one daf (a two-sided page) of the Talmud’s 2,711 pages each day.

Several speakers heaped accolades on Daf Yomi teachers and students alike, the former for preparing their sessions thoroughly and the latter for balancing their busy schedules to ensure early morning or late night learning. Wives of both teachers and students were commended for supporting their husbands’ dedication in this Torah-learning challenge.

Siyum HaShas Chairman Elly Kleinman spoke about Rabbi Shapiro’s vision – uniting Klal Yisrael through the learning of Torah. Rabbi Shapiro visualized a scenario whereby a traveler would enter a shul in another village and find fellow Jews studying the same Talmud page that he was learning. Rabbi Shapiro’s goal has become reality as thousands of Jews from diverse backgrounds and various locations throughout the world learn the same page of Gemara daily. This unity of purpose and achievement was on display at MetLife Stadium, as Jews from all walks of life joined together to partake in the Siyum HaShas.

Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz of Los Angeles, the evening’s MC, mentioned the August 1 date of this Torah-learning accomplishment – 76 years to the day after Adolf Hitler addressed tens of thousands of people at the 1936 Olympics. Rabbi Rechnitz spoke of the sweet revenge the Jewish people could feel on this night with their answer – learning Torah – to Hitler’s barbarism.

The Novominsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, said that it is Torah that defines the Jewish people as a nation, adding that Torah is the only ingredient that can explain our existence throughout the generations while the world’s evil superpowers have perished over time.

Rabbi Yissocher Frand
(Photo courtesy of Menachem Adelman/Agudath Israel)

Noted author Rabbi Yissocher Frand, the senior lecturer at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, urged Jews to formulate a plan that aims higher in their Torah study. He pointed to American-born Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, who despite the handicap of Parkinson’s disease, grew to become a gadol b’Yisrael. Rabbi Finkel never let his debilitating illness interfere with running the largest yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Frand said that this should be a reminder that it is never too hard to accomplish great things in life, and what seems to be out of one’s reach is in fact in the person’s grasp.

Rabbi Yitzchok Scheiner, rosh yeshiva of Kaminetz Yeshiva in Jerusalem, withstood his advanced age of 90 to make the trip. Impressed with Rabbi Frand’s moving words, Rabbi Scheiner substituted his planned message by taking up Rabbi Frand’s suggestion to devise a plan of action to aim higher in Torah study. Rabbi Scheiner’s two-fold plan was a call for those who have yet to learn Daf Yomi to begin now, and that everyone should learn the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer Shemiras Halashon. He also spoke briefly about his rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, whose recent passing is still fresh in our minds.

Rabbi Yitzchok Scheiner
(Photo courtesy of Menachem Adelman/Agudath Israel)

For his part, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a former Ashkenazic chief rabbi of Israel, stressed the importance of chazarah, reviewing what one has learned. Rabbi Lau emphasized that one who learns 100 times cannot be compared to one who has learned 101 times.

Yechiel Eisenstadt, Shrage Goldschmidt and Moshe Hass spearheaded the groundbreaking Masmidei Hasiyum youth program, whereby thousands of elementary and junior high school boys have completed one-and-a-half million mishnayos in memory of the same number of children murdered in the Holocaust, and six million lines of Gemara in memory of the six million martyrs of the Holocaust.

Israeli Company Hopes To Revolutionize Treatment Of Diabetes

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

An insulin pill. That’s what Oramed Pharmaceuticals, a small Israeli-based company, hopes to offer millions of diabetics by 2016.

“Oral insulin does not exist in the world today, but we are the furthest advanced in getting it into the market,” said Nadav Kidron, CEO of Oramed. “We are just about to start a Phase 2 trial in the United States, which is big news.”

Oramed already completed a successful Phase 2 trial in South Africa in May 2010, but approval by the U.S.’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the gold standard in the world of pharmaceuticals. To attain FDA approval, Oramed hopes to start Phase 2 trials in the U.S. by early 2013, and, if successful, Phase 3 trials the following year.

Why hasn’t anyone invented an insulin pill until now? Two reasons, Kidron told The Jewish Press:

“First, insulin is a peptide, which is a small protein, and when you swallow it, it gets degraded by the body’s enzymes. Second, the size of the insulin – it doesn’t go through the gut wall, and therefore it doesn’t reach the blood circulation. Think of insulin as a tennis ball and the gut wall as the net. The ball doesn’t go through the net.”

After 25 years of research, however, a team of scientists at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem devised means of overcoming these obstacles. Among the scientists was Dr. Miriam Kidron, Nadav’s mother and a great-niece of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Palestine’s first Ashkenazic chief rabbi. She told her son of the group’s breakthrough and together, in 2006, they helped found Oramed.

“I’m happy that it’s becoming a reality,” Dr. Kidron told The Jewish Press. “My goal is that people will be able to buy oral insulin in the pharmacy. It will be fantastic because a huge amount of people in the world need this medication.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, over 25 million Americans, or eight percent of the population, currently suffer from diabetes. Worldwide, the number is approximately 350 million.

Wherever he goes, Nadav Kidron said, people are excited by Oramed’s work. “It’s a Kiddush Hashem. I think it’s the best way to show people that Israel is not only about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It’s also about drugs and medications that can change their lives for the better.”

Although Oramed is currently focusing on its insulin pill, it ultimately hopes to offer other medicines in oral form as well. “Think about the flu vaccine,” Nadav Kidron said. “Imagine how many more people would take it if it were available in pill form. Think about how much money the healthcare system would save. This is a technology that can revolutionize healthcare in the world the way we know it.”

Installing My Internet Filter

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Tonight I installed an Internet filter. I have always disliked filters as they slow down my computer and have been an annoyance. But the asifa at Citi Field focused my attention and an extra safeguard is worth infinitely more than the discomfort it engenders.

I live on the Internet and crave a fast connection to it. Every second I wait for a click-through slows my thought process and reaction time, and puts me at a disadvantage in a business climate where quick responses and rapid absorption of information are points of entry.

I’m in the meat business. I begin my workday on the Internet, scanning the latest news. Going around the world in ten minutes leaves me feeling refreshed, energized and ready to take on another day.

Then I check cattle prices and news related to the meat packing industry. It takes about another ten minutes to know all I need to know from news reports that relate to our industry.

It is amazing how quickly times have changed. Had I ordered a dozen newspapers delivered to my door, I couldn’t have read one newspaper in the same amount of time.

I work with a basic product, meat. The animal hasn’t changed since Hashem created it. But even our commodity business is changing at a rapid pace. There are new packaging options, changing consumer trends, new USDA regulations, and improved and creative marketing techniques. Like many small businesses, we are a company of three people doing the work of six. And like most small businesses, we consider ourselves fortunate to be remaining afloat in today’s difficult business climate.

Having cut my teeth in the non-profit world and now spending much of my time in the for-profit arena, one of the greatest distinctions I find is that the for-profit world is the world of utter reality. There are no platitudes or committees and you don’t lead by consensus. If you have a good product at a good price delivered in a timely fashion you have the business. It is about reality and performance, not intention. And you are judged daily by your clients.

The spiritual challenges of the Internet are immense. I spend much of my day in conversation with Midwest truck drivers and New York butchers, who are not prone to talk around an issue. Let’s talk reality: There is a base desire among males which is akin to a recovered alcoholic’s hankering for cheap, sweet wine. With the Internet unchecked, the tap is a click away. The potential for addiction and relapse is great.

Yet while I appreciate the severity of the problem, I am concerned about the way our community is responding to it. The longer I live the more convinced I am that the solution to moral weakness lies within self, not in external regulation. The solution to male weakness is to keep man fulfilled; and a good place to start is his primal desire to protect and provide for his wife and children.

When a man purchases a home with a yard and a tall fence, with money he earned by providing a unique skill to others in return for fair payment for his expertise, he is fortified as a man. When that same man is inspired with a mission of Kiddush Shem Shamayim, to be an ambassador of decency and Godliness to the world, he is fortified as a Jew.

Manly duty on the outside and religious fervor on the inside – yegi’as shneihem meshkachas avon.

When the goal is Kiddush Hashem and the mission is to change the world, the allure of Internet smut is weak. It is no more attractive than a shady business deal to a seasoned and respected businessman. He wouldn’t do it under any circumstances, even if the potential profit were dangled before him.

The self-control comes from manliness, pride and dignity.

Secular society weakens the male. A man’s natural leadership ability is a threat to the politically correct insistence on the sameness of the sexes. Our frum community may, inadvertently, be weakening the male as well. I remember writing an article for a yeshiva newsletter about a Halacha Chabura. Just before publication I was told by the editor to add a line that said, “Of course, no decisions can be made without consultation with a Rav.” The rosh chabura commented to me: “If someone spends months studying a subject l’halacha, should he not be able to live as he learns?” Why the weakness?

Purity And Uprightness In The Camp

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Most discussions of the recent gathering at Citi Field have focused on the logistics of the event and the topic – the dangers of the Internet. With such a focus, however, we may very well be missing something of great importance. What struck my attention was the name of the organization staging the event: Ichud HaKehillos Letohar HaMachaneh, or the Union of the Communities for the Purity of the Camp.

It is my understanding that though this is far from the first use of the expression “the Purity of the Camp,” it has risen to prominence only in recent decades. I think it is a telling term, both for what it says and what it leaves unmentioned. And I would suggest that understanding its use might help us make some sense of contemporary dynamics in the Orthodox world.

What are the goals of purification, and how might the goals be different for an organization dedicated to making the camp upright as compared with one seeking to purify it?

Purification aims to remove impurities, to make something 100 percent unadulterated. It is about perfection. Anything threatening such perfection must be identified and eradicated. As with disease, a small infection left uncontained can sicken the entire body.

The emphasis, in some communities, on purity and purification might help explain why, for example, the Internet is seen as deserving of a stadium-scale event. With the easy availability of pornography and foreign ideas, the Internet is a danger to ensuring purity.

It also, I would suggest, explains a number of other phenomena: the increase in recent years of book bans to ensure ideological purity; the homogenization of Jewish day school education, with parents seeking to place their children in increasingly less diverse environments – ideological bubbles where they will not be exposed to those children, let alone those ideas, not certified as pure; and the narrowing of the diversity of Torah perspectives into one true and exclusive interpretation (by which many people of different perspectives all proclaim that Jewish unity is achieved only when everyone agrees with me).

We can now also explain the efforts over the last decade to make ever more stringent the requirements for conversion, and the attempts to annul retroactively, years later and en masse, previously unsuspicious conversions. This is only possible when there is a fear of admitting impure elements and not rooting out hidden impurities. And some people thus fear that the purity of the camp is under grave threat.

These issues and the generally widening distrust over kashrus and many other matters are all about purity and impurity – and when purity is the highest value, the slightest impurity is the greatest danger.

Yet there is something critical missing here: morality.

A focus on – an obsession with – purity does not require any particular concern with morality. And so now perhaps we can understand why the dangers of the Internet appear to be a greater concern among some people than the dangers of child abuse. Even why reporting abusers to secular authorities can be seen as worse than the abuse itself – the former, involving the impure secular world, threatens purity in a way that abuse, within the community of the pure, does not. It might also be why all sorts of financial crimes seem so common – they do not threaten purity and perhaps are, according to some odd logic, justified by strengthening the purity of the community.

Too often these days it appears that some of us have lost touch with very basic moral values, including respecting the dignity of all of God’s creations. If we ask ourselves whether or not our actions meet a standard of yashrus/uprightness instead of tohar/purity, perhaps we would be more reluctant to undertake some of these actions.

How did purity become raised to such exalted status anyway, and become applied to the Camp or Community rather than to individuals in their religious improvement?

The weekday Amidah, the central prayer of Jewish worship, includes among all its praise, requests and thankfulness nothing about purity. We pray for tzedek and wisdom and a number of other character traits and blessings, but not for purity.

We often talk about the importance Kiddush Hashem and the horror of Chillul Hashem. When we elevate purity above other values such as yashrus, then we also rank it above avoiding its opposite, and end up justifying chillulei Hashem in the name of purity – after all, it need not matter what the impure think of us, and it becomes irrelevant when impure Jews and non-Jews witness what to most observers appear to be lapses in morality and desecrations of God’s name.

The Book And The Sword

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The forthcoming debate over an updated Tal Law – the parameters for service by haredim in the Israel Defense Forces – is liable to become heated and nasty. Mutual accusations will be hurled, with one group asserting that mandatory military service is part of an ill-disguised war against Torah and the other side seeking an equal sharing of the defense burdens that fall on most other Israelis.

The debate will feature arguments that are both somewhat compelling and somewhat misleading: that Torah study is the defining mitzvah in Jewish life, comparable to no other; that the IDF has a manpower surplus, not shortage; that it is unfair that some young men risk their lives for the safety of the Jewish people, while others sit in the comfortable confines of the bet midrash – and are supported (through government funds) by the families of those who are serving; that military service is often a prerequisite to entering the Israeli workforce and will resolve many of the financial struggles that beset Israel’s haredim; or that haredi opt-outs from the military are a small percentage of the total number of Israeli youth not serving in the military, a number buttressed in recent years by thousands of secular Israelis (often from the Tel Aviv suburbs) who receive medical and/or psychological deferments from physicians all-too-willing to sign them.

The proponents, both secular and religious, will struggle to distinguish between Israeli haredim, whose service is compulsory, and Israeli Arabs who, as Israeli citizens, should also be required to defend their country but whose widespread service in the IDF would be problematic, to say the least.

Undoubtedly, the dispute will become embroiled in coalition politics with the most sordid kind of horse-trading. Although the current government no longer needs the votes of the religious parties to survive, future governments surely will. The Torah itself will be unnecessarily dragged through the mud. While certainly Torah protects those who study and uphold it, it does not exempt the sick from seeking medical assistance, the hungry from eating food or the destitute from finding gainful employment. The Torah still demands that we live in reality – after all, the Torah is the book of the Source of ultimate reality – and therefore not make national defense the only realm in which mystical considerations dominate our decision-making.

Nonetheless, understood properly, this controversy affords a wonderful opportunity to redefine the terms of the debate in a way that can revolutionize Jewish life and restore the crown of glory as of old.

There have been many dramatic transformations that have occurred in the Jewish world since the re-establishment of the state of Israel. Obviously, the highlight is the regained Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel for the first time in nineteen centuries. But something else changed in the Jewish psyche – if not in the Jewish people itself: the renaissance of the scholar-warrior, what Rav Eliezer Shenvald, distinguished rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Meir-Harel in Modiin and IDF colonel, called tzva’iyut and yeshivatiyut – the fusion of the military and the yeshiva.

In the exile, we grew accustomed – even grew to think it natural and proper – that, in the language of the Talmud (Masechet Avodah Zarah 17b), “either the book (safra) or the sword (saifa),” but never both, and certainly not together.

Not only is that wrong, it is detrimental to the Jewish people.

It was never like that. The giants of our nation all went to battle – Avraham, Yaakov and his sons, Moshe, and, most famously, David. None of this was considered out of character or a concession to the times, but rather a natural part of serving Hashem. It is the righteous who are supposed to lead the Jewish people into battle.

Many justify prioritization of Torah study over military service by referencing Rabbi Elazar’s statement in Masechet Nedarim 32a that Avraham was punished because “he conscripted the Torah scholars” who lived with him when he went to battle against the four kings to rescue his nephew Lot. Of course, this statement is not cited as normative halacha by the Rambam or Shulchan Aruch, as we generally avoid deriving normative halacha from aggadic statements, and there are other interpretations of that Gemara (Shitah Mekubetzet understands Avraham’s mistake as not rewarding them for their service).

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Asifa Ignores Jerusalem Much time, money and resources are being poured into the May 20 asifa at Citi Field designed to warn Klal Yisrael about the dangers of the Internet.

Ultimately, as the symbol and motto for this gathering indicates, its purpose is to ensure that the “machaneh” – camp – of Israel remains holy.

It is therefore incredible to me that the organizers have so woefully neglected the paradigm of the “holy camp” – the holy city of Jerusalem. This is especially grievous because this gathering will take place on the 28th of Iyar – Yom Yerushalayim – when, 45 years ago, Klal Yisrael and the world witnessed the miracle of the liberation of Jerusalem by the Israel Defense Forces, with the help of the Almighty.

Sadly, there is not one word in the publicity literature for the asifa or its tentative program that indicates an awareness of the sacred aspect of 28 Iyar. If all that comes out of the asifa is a condemnation of modern technology, with no appreciation for the opportunity we have to daven at the Kotel under Jewish jurisdiction – a dream realized for the first time after close to 2,000 years of exile – then this gathering will have amounted to a berachah levatalah. Doniel Z. Kramer (Via E-Mail)

A New Song (I) I was enthralled by Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt’s beautifully written call to spiritual arms (“A New Song,” front page essay, May 11).

Individuals can cut through all of the cobwebs of modern day living by always anticipating whether their conduct will be a Kiddush Hashem or, chas v’shalom, the opposite. When you think about it, it is a perfectly logical way to direct one’s life on the right path. Avraham Reich (Via E-Mail)

A New Song (II) As someone of the same generation as Rabbi Rosenblatt, I enjoyed his well-articulated viewpoint. It is indeed a good question: What will our children contribute to the world, and how will they be skilled enough to do so? My Flatbush upbringing was similar to Rabbi Rosenblatt’s, but with a twist.

My father attended Torah Vodaas for elementary school and then went to Yeshiva University where he obtained an undergraduate degree as well as semicha from RIETS. After he served as a chaplain in Fort Dix during the Vietnam War, he went to Baruch for an MBA in finance.

My mother attended Bais Yaakov of Williamsburg and raised six children. From the beginning we were raised knowing we would all attend college; in our house it was a given. In a time when many girls did not go on to pursue graduate degrees I was encouraged by my parents and grandparents and then by my husband to keep going.

It is possible to have a foot in both the Jewish and the secular worlds, but it takes work. My secular education in yeshiva was far superior to that of my brothers. If we are going to live in this world we need to do so by providing both our girls and our boys with a strong Hebrew and English curriculum.

I practice in a town a mile away from Rutgers University and I have many professors from all walks of life as patients. I am able to engage in intelligent discourse with them because of my strong yeshiva and secular background.

We are scared of sending our kids out of their hermetically sealed yeshiva bubbles into the real world for fear of their being influenced by the secular culture. It is indeed a valid fear. But I found that my beliefs were strengthened in college and graduate school because they had to be tested. Hashkafa starts at home and is hopefully reinforced in yeshiva. We need to supply our children with the proper educational tools to be able to function in the world at large and create the Kiddush Hashem Rabbi Rosenblatt alludes to in his article. Dr. Chani Miller Highland Park, NJ

Doctoring Documents (I) I think the Obama administration’s tampering with past records to bring history into line with its policies is one of the more important stories in years (“Doctoring Official Documents,” editorial, March 11).

This is especially so since what was in those records was highly relevant to a current case now in the United States Supreme Court and prior to that in lower federal courts. However, I’m not sure I agree that the Sandy Berger scandal supports your claim that what the Obama administration did rises to the level of a crime. Berger, the national security adviser to President Clinton, was already out of government when he pilfered documents while the Obama administration had custodial oversight of the documents a staffer or staffers apparently altered. Stanley Hurvitch (Via E-Mail)

A New Song

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Half a year after our marriage in 1997, my parents called and said they couldn’t attend the Agudath Israel of America convention and had extra tickets. Would my wife and I want to go in their place? We were newlyweds in every sense of the word and cherished the opportunity of a new experience. “Certainly,” we said and made the trek from Lakewood to Parsippany in the state of New Jersey.

The speakers were interesting, the food was good, and the experience was uplifting. We stayed until the very end. On Sunday morning there were breakout sessions on a variety of topics. I attended a panel discussion which included a talk by Rabbi Yonason Rosenblum of Jerusalem. His remarks included words that etched themselves in my mind and have remained there ever since.

He said it was time for a new rallying call, a new idea with which to inspire the troops and turn values into action. He said the rallying cry should be Kiddush Hashem. He spoke of HaRav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, of Khal Adath Jeshurun (KAJ), whose raison d’etre was Kiddush Shem Shamayim, who saw each day as an opportunity to bring glory to the name of God. He saw every frame of life as an opportunity to remove the cloak of coincidence and reveal the patterns of Providence to all mankind.

* * * * *

Each generation speaks its own language and needs its own message.

Hewed by Hashem into the core of our soul is the need to effect change in the world we inhabit. Surely there are levels of intensity that vary among people, but there is a primal spiritual need to embellish, adapt or undo the choices and lifestyles of the generations that have preceded us. We want to own our lives, and we own by creating.

Generally, the most dynamic generation is the first one, the one that brings a concept from idea to reality. A shul, for example, is most strongly supported and faithfully attended by those who establish it. Subsequent member commitment will wax and wane; in time people will become lax and complain until eventually a new group of members will push the old guard out and pour their own hearts and souls into the institution. They will change it and they will own it.

Such is the nature of man. When a generation is unable to add vision or value to its world, it replaces devotion with sarcasm, commitment with complaint. Ultimately, we create or we destroy.

* * * * *

As a yungerman-turned businessman whose life odometer just turned 40, I feel a primal need for perspective, to understand who I am, who we are, and where our community is headed. Every generation before ours in the Jewish experience in America has had its unique contribution through which it gained definition.

My great-grandfather was a chassidishe Poilishe Yid. He left Galitzia in 1910 and moved to the United States to serve as a rabbi, shochet and butcher in Galveston, Texas. He left a mud-caked village for a sun-baked island. He completely reversed his socio-economic and cultural experience, trading poverty for opportunity, the world of the Polish peasant for a society founded on Judeo-Christian values.

My grandfather, his oldest son, was a first generation American. He spoke English well and appreciated American food, film and music. His formal education was minimal and he worked from morning until night in the family butcher shop, cutting meat and servicing clients. But his pride and joy were his children and he gave them the benefit of both a Jewish and a secular education. Becoming an American Orthodox Jew, proud and committed, was his contribution.

My father’s generation was the first generation of American-born bnei Torah, who believed in the primacy of Torah values, fealty to Torah leaders and allegiance to the yeshiva system. My father learned in kollel, went to college and became a professional, establishing a career with the Board of Education of New York. He and my mother raised 11 children. His generation, through their dedication and large families, built the haredi infrastructure. They created my world.

My generation added something, too. Our yeshiva education was more intense than that of our parents. We learned more, we learned younger, and we learned deeper. Our internal intensity was expressed in the external symbols of large velvet yarmulkes, peyos behind our ears, and a dress code of white shirts and dark pants. Our comfort with our values and focus on learning expressed itself in our speaking “yeshivish,” a language infused with idioms of Torah scholarship and the culture of Lita, something our parents never did. We saw the creation of the haredi press and a trend toward turning to the gedolim of Eretz Yisrael for psak din and social direction. My parents’ generation built Flatbush. We built Lakewood.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/a-new-song/2012/05/09/

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