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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

Rav Ovadia: I Love Knitted-Yarmulke Jews – But Not their MKs

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Shas party’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said Saturday night he really loves knitted-kippa Jews,” but it’s just their political leaders who are “Amalek” – the eternal enemy of Jews.

The national religious community in Israel now can breathe easier and know that Rav Ovadia really loves them.

Sure, the distinguished  rabbi said last month that national religious Chief Rabbinate candidate Rabbi David Stav is “evil” and an “enemy to Judaism,” but, heck, that was just meant to cheer up Shas’ favorite clientele, the dwindling Sephardi community that still feels oppressed by the elite Ashkenazi community. Indeed they are, but they are equally oppressed by their own leaders. So what better way to keep the common people in line by telling them that the Rabbi really loves Jews, even those who wear a knitted kippa.

But what about Shas Rabbi Shalom Cohen, who said in a sermon a week ago that “as long as there are knit kippot, the [divine] throne is not whole?  That’s Amalek. When will the throne be whole? When there is no knit kippa.”

If a listener thought Rabbi Cohen, who is a member of Shas’ Council of Torah Sages, meant that knitted-kippa Jews are Amalek, he did not understand correctly God forbid he should say such a thing.

Rav Ovadia, who sat silently on the podium as Rabbi Cohen spoke, knows exactly what he really meant.

Sure, Rabbi Cohen said some things against” those rebellious national religious Jews with knitted kippot, but he was only referring to their political leaders, opined Rav Ovadia.

Love, love, love, he said. Love for everyone – with one small exception. It is the political leaders of the knitted-kippa crowd who are problematic.

They not only are problematic. They are the true Amalek, Israel’s eternal enemy dating back to the days of  the Exodus from Egypt.

And who is the real knitted-kippa modern Amalek  of the Jews? None other than Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home party, which, unlike Shas, took the daring move in the last elections to  welcome secular Jews as Knesset Members and put the emphasis on nationalist instead of religious.

Rav Ovadia has his grounds for considering Bennett Amalek.

The Jewish Home party is against exempting Haredi youth from IDF service forever. That means that Shas yeshivas would have less youth learning , or at least registered as learning, in their institutions,

If there are less students, there is less money from donors, especially from the Israeli taxpayer whose hard-earned money has been going into black-hat yeshivas for years with the payback that the future Torah scholars and eternal voters for Shas are defending the nation by learning Torah, even if they are just listed as learning and actually working or stashing home.

Now that Rav Ovadia has explained  Rabbi Cohen and has mended ties with the national religious community, except for those enemies of Jews like Bennett, Israel is ready for Tu B’Av, which begins Sunday night.

The Talmud lists it along with Yom Kippur as the most joyous days of the year when, according to the Talmud, that the daughters of Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards and said, “Young man, consider who you choose (to be your wife).” Tu B’Av is the same day of the 40th yearin the desert when the ban was lifted on female orphans marrying into another tribe.

It is the perfect day for a daughter of a Shas rabbi to become engaged to the son of a national religious politician.

And God willing, Rabbi Cohen and Rav Ovadia will perform the marriage ceremony.

The Deconstruction of Marriage

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

The only question worth asking about gay marriage is whether anyone on the left would care about this crusade if it didn’t come with the privilege of bulldozing another civilizational institution.

Gay marriage is not about men marrying men or women marrying women, it is about the deconstruction of marriage between men and women. That is a thing that many men and women of one generation understand but have trouble conveying to another generation for whom marriage has already largely been deconstructed.

The statistics about the falling marriage rate tell the tale well enough. Marriage is a fading institution. Family is a flickering light in the evening of the West.

The deconstruction is destruction. Entire countries are fading away, their populations being replaced by emigrants from more traditional lands whose understanding of the male-female relationship is positively reactionary. These emigrants may lack technology or the virtues of civilization, and their idea of marriage resembles slavery more than any modern ideal, but it fulfills the minimum purpose of any group, tribe or country– it produces its next generation.

The deconstruction of marriage is not a mere matter of front page photos of men kissing. It began with the deconstruction of the family. Gay marriage is only one small stop on a tour that includes rising divorce rates, falling childbirth rates and the abandonment of responsibility by twenty and even thirty-somethings.

Each step on the tour takes apart the definition and structure of marriage until there is nothing left. Gay marriage is not inclusive, it is yet another attempt at eliminating marriage as a social institution by deconstructing it until it no longer exists.

There are two ways to destroy a thing. You can either run at it while swinging a hammer with both hands or you can attack its structure until it no longer means anything.

The left hasn’t gone all out by outlawing marriage, instead it has deconstructed it, taking apart each of its assumptions, from the economic to the cooperative to the emotional to the social, until it no longer means anything at all. Until there is no way to distinguish marriage from a temporary liaison between members of uncertain sexes for reasons that due to their vagueness cannot be held to have any solemn and meaningful purpose.

You can abolish democracy by banning the vote or you can do it by letting people vote as many times as they want, by letting small children and foreigners vote, until no one sees the point in counting the votes or taking the process seriously. The same goes for marriage or any other institution. You can destroy it by outlawing it or by eliminating its meaningfulness until it becomes so open that it is absurd.

Every aspect of marriage is deconstructed and then eliminated until it no longer means anything. And once marriage is no longer a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman, but a ceremony with no deeper meaning than most modern ceremonies, then the deconstruction and destruction will be complete.

The deconstruction of marriage eroded it as an enduring institution and then as an exclusive institution and finally as a meaningful institution. The trendy folk who claim to be holding off on getting married until gay marriage is enacted are not eager for marriage equality, they are using it as an excuse for an ongoing rejection of marriage.

Gay marriage was never the issue. It was always marriage.

In the world that the deconstructionists are striving to build, there will be marriage, but it will mean nothing. Like a greeting card holiday, it will be an event, but not an institution. An old ritual with no further meaning. An egotistical exercise in attention-seeking and self-celebration with no deeper purpose. It will be a display every bit as hollow as the churches and synagogues it takes place in.

The deconstruction of marriage is only a subset of the deconstruction of gender from a state of being to a state of mind. The decline of marriage was preceded by the deconstruction of gender roles and gay marriage is being succeeded by the destruction of gender as anything other than a voluntary identity, a costume that one puts on and takes off.

Outlaw Marriage for All!

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Ron Paul often opened his congressional speeches with the line, “Imagine for a moment…” In honor of Dr. Paul, and also for its sharp effectiveness, I will do the same here in explaining why all forms of marriage should be outlawed.

Imagine for a moment.

Imagine for a moment that in order to be friends with somebody, you needed government approval. Imagine that you met somebody you liked talking to, hanging out with, drinking a beer with, whatever. But you couldn’t legally be friends with him until you both applied for a government “friendship license.” A friendship license, by the way, costs 600 shekels which goes right into government coffers, not to mention a week of rat-racing around to 6 different bureaucrat offices filling out forms (so all the bureaucrats can have jobs and “stimulate the economy”), so you lose a week’s salary in the mess. Once you pay up and you have those forms, you can then apply for a “friendship license” which gives you and your friend the legal right to get a whopping 2% sales tax break at any restaurant in the country where you order together at the same table, upon presenting a proper friendship license, of course.

Imagine for a moment that not everyone in the country could legally apply for a friendship license with anyone he wanted. Imagine that an unmarried man and a married women, or vice versa, could not get a friendship license. It could lead to adultery, after all. Imagine that an Arab and a Jew could not get a friendship license. It’s a matter of national security or something like that. Imagine that a father and son, or mother and daughter, could not get a friendship license. Family cannot be friends. Imagine that no more than two people could carry one friendship license. A group of three, for example, could not legally be considered friends, as that would be polyfriendamy. Therefore, all these people – the single man and married woman; the Arab and Jew; the father and son or mother and daughter, the group of three or more – all of them could not legally be friends and therefore they all had to pay that extra 2% in sales tax at restaurants.

Imagine for a moment that a “national discussion” starts taking place, the kind that enlightened media and intellectual elite like to call “a real meaningful debate” and other linguistic smokescreen nonsense. Shouldn’t an Arab and Jew have the legal right to be friends? Why can’t a married man and unmarried woman be recognized by Big Brother as friends? Shouldn’t three people have the right to be friends?

“Friendship equality for all!” the liberals would say.

“Friendship is a sacred human institution that has been around for thousands of years! Family cannot be friends! What sacrilege!” the conservatives would say.

Meanwhile, the libertarian looks around and sees the utter insanity of the whole situation. Take a deep breath and here it is in one sentence:

The government, looking for a way to extract more money out of private people, baits them with the possibility of a 2% tax break, which is essentially a promise to steal slightly less from them, if they pay 600 shekels and run around for a week begging for a license from a massive and totally unnecessary bureaucracy funded by millions of shekels in tax money for a relationship that is essentially private and has nothing to do with the government anyway, and instead of people repudiating these petty friendship licenses and ignoring them, they start fighting with each other about who has the right to a government license with catchphrases like “the right to be friends” and “friendship equality” and “the sanctity of friendship,” while in the meantime both sides are being stolen from in order to fund the bloated bureaucracy that is running the friendship license boondoggle so the government comes out of this way in the black with all the license fees and taxes and levies to fund the system and instead of uniting against the common thief and calling an end to friendship licenses and just lower sales taxes at restaurants for everyone by the measly 2% so we can stop having this STUPID argument and being at each other’s THROATS, we fight with each other about who gets to have the stupid licenses and who doesn’t.

Societal Abandonment of the Bible as a Moral Guide

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Recently, one of the original sponsors of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio – changed his mind. He now supports same sex marriage. DOMA defines marriage applicable only to a man with a woman. It does not extend marital benefits to same sex marriages. This act was passed and endorsed by President Clinton who has also recently changed his views about it. Many states now have passed legislation that allows same sex couple to get married.

I have long ago stated my views about homosexuality and my opposition to gay marriage. The short version is that homosexuals should be treated like the human beings they are. And that we not focus on who they are attracted to. To the extent that they might engage in behavior that is forbidden by the Torah is not anyone’s concern. Unless they do so proactively with the intent of promoting it as a legitimate alternative lifestyle. That has to be opposed as would promoting any sinful act.

And let me be clear about the sinfulness of the forbidden homosexual act. There are some gay activists that have a certain familiarity with the bible that want to reinterpret it as somehow permissible. The very idea of doing such a thing gives new meaning to the word rationalization. It is the height of absurdity to say that an act is biblically permitted when the bible clearly forbids it. The bible says what it says. You can’t rationalize it away no matter how much you would like to.

My opposition to same sex marriage is based on the fact that by its nature marriage is a religious ceremony celebrating the holy union between a man and a woman. Even though there is such a thing as civil marriages, in my view the source of all marriages is based on a religious idea. I don’t believe that there would necessarily be an institution called marriage without the bible.

Civil unions are an entirely different animal. The argument might be made that all legal rights granted to a male-female union should be extended to a same sex union. But in the phrase ‘marriage ceremony’ the very word ceremony has religious ritual overtones.

But this is not my issue today. What troubles me is the Zeitgeist of ridding the world of the idea that homosexual behavior is forbidden by God. It is becoming increasingly fashionable to view a clear act forbidden by the Torah as completely permissible and even laudable in that it is an expression of love that helps cement a loving relationship.

This is not a problem if one is an atheist. Or even a deist. It is not a problem if one is even generically religious without subscribing to any biblical doctrines. It is entirely libertarian. It is entirely humanistic. And even compassionate. But in my view as a bible believing Jew, it is wrong.

If one accepts the bible’s clear admonition against a forbidden act the way I do, they cannot be comfortable with the direction this country is going. It is one thing to be tolerant. That is a function of ‘live and let live’ – a dictum I subscribe to. It is not my job or right to tell others how to live, whether I approve of it or not. It is another to normalize a sinful act.

The forbidden act of homosexual sex is no different than any other act that is forbidden by God. Normalizing it and treating it as though it is permitted does not, I believe, smell good in the nostrils of God. It would be no different than normalizing biblical level adultery. Adultery is forbidden even if all partners are consensual as would be the case in an open marriage. Just because there is a lot of adultery between consenting adults in this country does not mean we have to turn it into a positive value. The same thing is true about the biblically forbidden act of gay sex.

The increasing pressure to repeal DOMA and encourage legitimizing gay marriage across the land is a move in that direction. It may satisfy humanitarians and libertarians. But is disconcerting to those of us who believe that it is wrong to place even a quasi religious imprimatur via what we want to call marriage to a union between members of the same sex. Because such unions imply that the sexual act that accompanies marriage is just as legitimate as the sexual act between a married heterosexual couple.

Tribute to my Wife on Our 25th Anniversary

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

A century is a large amount of time and any significant slice thereof is itself significant. A child of divorce whose parent’s marriage ended after 13 years can be forgiven at his own sense of astonishment that his marriage has, with God’s infinite blessing, reached the quarter century mark.

Those who know us would congratulate me, but they would give all the credit to Debbie. There are those women, stable and sturdy, capable of sharing their lives with wounded men and restoring them. There exist in this broken and hollow world creatures of light who can give chase to the darkness in a man’s shattered heart. There are human seraphs the wings of whose healing glow can gently touch a man’s pain and make it vanish.

Debbie and I come from opposite backgrounds. My parents love me infinitely and have both been remarkable sources of inspiration. But the conflict I witnessed as a child was ultimately internalized. A child of divorce is born on the front lines. Witnessing his parent’s hurt, he is essentially denied a childhood, forced as he is to become something of a caregiver to his mother and father. Seeing that the world is harsh rather than tender, he puts his guard up and is unaware of a time when he allowed himself to be completely vulnerable.

Mine, like many children of divorce, is a life built on a bedrock of battles and it shows in some of the confrontations I have been prepared to endure for convictions I strongly believed in. But when you’re a young woman who stems from a marriage that is all sweetness and harmony, it can be an awakening to follow your newly-wed husband across the world from Australia to Oxford, England, right after your twentieth birthday. I was ready for the mêlée. Debbie was wondering what she had got herself into.

That she won over, and continues to win over, all whom she meets, due to her kind and giving heart, was perhaps predictable. Any one of the thousands upon thousands of people whom Debbie has hosted for Shabbos dinners over the last twenty-five years can bear testimony to the warmth of her hospitality and glow of her smile. But that she would flourish, amid an essentially shy nature, as a role model to countless women of how to be retain their essential femininity in an aggressively masculine age, was something that softened her entire environment. That she has done so while being the mother of nine children makes the achievement all the more remarkable.

Men ultimately fall in love with those women who bring out their best qualities. Among the innumerable stories I can recall was the time an important politician was coming to our home for Shabbos, and, since she was arriving with a large retinue, I asked Debbie to cancel our regular guests, among which was an elderly woman with no place else to go. Debbie told me she would, and that I was fortunate since, with even her own place empty, since she would be eating at the elderly woman’s apartment with her, I could have fit even more important people that Shabbos. “I remember when every soul was equal to you, Shmuley. That’s the man I married, and that’s the man you’re going to be.”

After our engagement we had a stormy period and I thought of calling it off. I interpreted Debbie’s gentility as detachment. I needed more than I felt she could give me. As I said goodbye to her and dropped her off, perhaps for the last time, I saw that her eyes were bloodshot. She said, “I know that you’re going to do great things in your life. I look forward to reading about it. Some people just have it. You’re one of those people. Goodbye.” In my stubbornness I drove off but stopped two blocks later. In my agony, two things went through my mind. First, causing pain to one so noble and gentle was a sin against God and goodness. Second, her words pierced the cynical layer of doubt that lacquered my soul and made me believe that God had given me, like everyone else, a unique gift. I turned the car around, begged her forgiveness, and we married a short time later.

Myths and Realities of the ‘Shidduch Crisis’

Monday, February 11th, 2013

There are few topics in Jewish society which can simultaneously evoke rage, empathy, and unsolicited opinions and advice as Jewish dating. There are numerous books on the world of Jewish dating including “Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures,” which ironically can be added to your wedding registry.

To be sure, I’ve done my share of personal reflections as a single – after all it’s great blog fodder. I’ve written my own share of articles on the subject, including a “Guide to Jewish Dating.” But fast forward several years, countless women, forgettable dates, even more encouragement, criticism, and unsolicited advice, I am still single.

However in the past few years serving as a Rabbi I’ve also gained a much better perspective. While my community attracts young Jews, it is by no means a “scene” which means there is significantly less communal pressure for single’s to get married. Furthermore, I have personally adopted a “no dating congregants” policy, meaning my religious communal experience of synagogue attendance is uncharacteristically devoid of any pretense of trying to impress women.

Thus I write from the relatively unique perspective of being a single rabbi – aware of the struggles of others while experiencing the same challenges first hand. Consider it unintentional participant observation if you will. And with this dual perspective I have come to the following conclusion: the so-called “shidduch crisis” is a collection of myths which only exacerbate the social pressures and anxieties at the core of the Jewish single’s community, specifically the denial of individuation.

Let’s start with just one example of the alarmist rhetoric regarding Jewish singles. Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld writes on the Orthodox Union’s website:

Shidduchim – Singles 12. Treat the topic of singles like the crisis it is. This is a plague affecting all segments of Orthodoxy and threatens our very continuity. Synagogues and organizations must put this on the front burner. Singles themselves must change attitudes. Women must put marriage before career. Men must consider the woman as a valued helpmate not just as a means of advancing their own life goals, be it career or learning. There is more to a human beings worth other than their money or looks.

There are several assumptions embedded in this paragraph which I hope to dispell one at a time.

Myth: Marriage is a Communal Issue

One would think that getting married is merely a union between two individuals who make a lifelong commitment to each other – i.e. it is a personal decision. But for R. Schonfeld, the “plague” of the shidduch crisis “threatens our very continuity.” From a demographic perspective R. Schonfeld has a point; the later in life Jewish couples get married the fewer Jewish children will be born.

Procreation is certainly important in Judaism as evidenced by the rabbinic dictum, “the world was not created except for procreation” (M. Gittin 4:5. Though notably this statement is not particular to Jew). But there is no indication that the intent is simply to produce more biological Jews, and I would suspect R. Schonfeld and others would not promote premarital sex with the intent of producing babies.

Yes, there are demographic concerns when the average marriage age rises, but the implication is that people should get married “for the sake of the children” or alternatively, singles should “take one for the team” regardless of the implications for their own well-being.

The reality is that no one should get married to meet the approval of others and certainly not out of a sense of communal responsibility (see T. Sotah 5:1).

Myth: Getting Married is a Goal

Related to the previous point is the sentiment that getting married is an goal in and of itself. One example from an Aish column states, “Admitting that you’d like to get married does not signal an affliction; it’s merely a defensible life goal.”

Getting married may be a strong desire for many people, but by no means should marriage be treated as a goal. The dictionary definition of “goal” is, “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.” Following this definition, the “goal” of getting married can be accomplished simply by getting married disregarding any concern as to the quality of said marriage. If marriage is a goal then people should just marry the first consenting person who comes their way and as soon as the ring is taken mission accomplished.

The Ketubah as a Prenup

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

I was just reading an article in The Forward about a “Jewish prenuptial agreement” being upheld in the American courts.

For the first time, a state court has affirmed the constitutionality of a Modern Orthodox-sponsored prenuptial agreement meant to protect agunot — Jewish women “chained” by husbands who refuse to grant them a religious divorce. Read more.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have always considered the Ketubah, Jewish Marriage “contract” to be a prenup of sorts.  Actually, it’s not a contract; it’s more of a signed pledge by the husband to give financial compensation to the wife if the marriage must end.

The main purpose of the ketubah is to prevent a husband divorcing his wife against her will, which, in talmudic times, he had the right to do. The knowledge that he had to pay his wife her ketubah would serve as a check against hasty divorce.

The wife promises nothing in return.  The Chabad site adds more information:

The ketubah is a binding document which details the husband’s obligations to his wife, showing that marriage is more than a physical-spiritual union; it is a legal and moral commitment. The ketubah states the principal obligations of the groom to provide his wife with food, clothing and affection along with other contractual obligations.

If the Ketubah would be taken seriously, as an enforceable legal document then there would be fewer agunot, “chained” women awaiting Jewish divorce from their husbands.  And maybe some men would think a lot more before threatening their wives with divorce.

What’s interesting is that the Ketubah actually gives the wife the upper hand in marriage.  It lists what the husband must do and basically takes for granted that the wife will do whatever is expected.  She doesn’t sign the document.

It’s too bad that the Ketubah isn’t taken more seriously in courts, both in Israel and abroad.

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