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December 8, 2016 / 8 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘moshe’

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger: Critic Of Jewish Life In America

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

In 1880 there were approximately 250,000 Jews living in the United States. Most of them were either immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Central Europe. However, beginning in 1881 large numbers of Jews began to arrive from Eastern Europe and Russia.

The assassination of Czar Alexander II in March 1881 sparked anti-Jewish riots and massacres. These were followed by the passage of laws that severely restricted the lives of Jews. This combination of economic, political, and physical persecution led to a massive immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia. Most of them came to the United States. Indeed, between 1881 and 1923 almost 2,800,000 Jews arrived here.

Coming to America did not, of course, solve all the problems of these immigrants. They were faced with daunting challenges in many areas, including those of earning a livelihood and maintaining their religious observance. The religious scene even in the large Jewish community of New York City was more often than not chaotic and bewildering.

To Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, things were so bad here that he felt the need to write a book encouraging Jews not to immigrate and to remain where they were. He was absolutely convinced that, religiously, they were much better off in Eastern Europe and Russia than in America.

Rabbi Weinberger was born in Hungary in 1854 and studied under several noted Torah scholars, among them R. Moshe Sofer (d. 1917, not to be confused with his namesake known as the Chasam Sofer), R. Shmuel Ehrenfeld, R. Elazar Loew, and R. Meir Perles. He was forced to leave Hungary in 1880 for unknown reasons and arrived in New York City.

“Whatever those reasons may have been, New York was the wrong place for him. True, the city then already had an Orthodox Jewish population estimated to number 10,000 people. It housed an impressive Hungarian congregation, Ohab Zedek, founded in 1872/3, as well as several other Orthodox synagogues, most notably Beth Hamedrash Hagodol (1852, reorganized 1859), Beth Hamedrash Livne Yisroel Yelide Polen (1853, later the Kalvarier Shul) and Khal Adas Jeshurun (1856). But these synagogues lived in relative poverty; most lacked the money to support a full-time rabbi. And if any did want a rabbi, they had little trouble luring one with distinguished European credentials, reports of ritual laxity in America notwithstanding.”[i]

Thus, despite his impressive scholarly background and staunch adherence to Orthodoxy, Rabbi Weinberger was unable to find a rabbinical position. So he made a number of unsuccessful forays in business.

In 1890 he became the rabbi of Congregation Bnai Israel Anshei Ungarn of Scranton, Pennsylvania, In 1893 he moved to Philadelphia, where he became the rabbi of Congregation Ohev Shalom.

In 1895 Rabbi Weinberger returned to New York to become the rav of Congregation Beth HaMidrash HaGadol Anshei Ungarn. However, his relationship with his congregants was often contentious. They felt he should devote himself to improving the image and fostering the growth of the shul, whereas he devoted himself to scholarship and education. Some were openly scornful of his effort to found a high level yeshiva. Others felt the congregation should move to a larger building in an effort to attract new members. “If that meant discarding a few time-honored traditions, they were prepared to pay the price.”[ii]

“For eleven years Weinberger kept his position, frequent quarrels and his own difficult economic plight notwithstanding. In August 1905 a dispute caused him to cut back on his classes, and some time later an effort was made to have him fired. But he had a contract and held on, calling all the while for reconciliation. Then, on the last day of Passover, April 17, 1906, accumulated tensions finally exploded. The Hungarian Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagodol erupted in rioting and police had to be called to quell the disturbance. The incident that occasioned the violence was Rabbi Weinberger’s entry into the matsah business. He claimed to need extra money. This divided the congregation (some congregants were in the matsah business themselves), led to catcalling during the rabbi’s Passover sermon, and finally resulted in blows being exchanged. In the aftermath, Rabbi Weinberger refused to resign his position, placed a ban on his synagogue, and never entered its premises again. Though later he sought reconciliation, he apparently spent his remaining years ‘in exile,’ producing matsah.

“On the surface, based on the limited data available, the Passover riot looks like a classic battle between traditionalists and innovators. Rabbi Weinberger stood for time-tested values; his opponents demanded change. But closer examination reveals a more complicated picture. Weinberger, by entering the matsah business, projected an entrepreneurial image far more characteristically American than Jewish. On the other hand, Weinberger’s opponents, seemingly more outwardly oriented, righteously cloaked themselves in the mantle of tradition, opposing the rabbi’s undertaking as both inappropriate and without precedent. Each side thus respected tradition and feared change, while both – albeit in different ways and for different reasons – also deviated from tradition and accepted change. The resulting guilt, anger, and confusion go far to explain the passionate violence that ensued. In rioting over Weinberger, immigrants partly expressed their frustration at the New World in general.” [iii]

Rabbi Weinberger spent the rest of his life earning his living from his matzah baking business. An ad in Hebrew for his matzahs says in part “Just as in previous years thousands crowed into the synagogue on Willet Street in order to delight in Rabbi Weinberger’s sermons, so too now thousands stand in line to buy Rabbi Weinberger’s kosher and tasty matzot.” [iv] In 1916 Aron Streit became Rav Weinberger’s partner. They originally baked only hand matzos. However, in 1925 Aron Streit and one of his sons opened up a modern (machine) bakery on Rivington Street, and this endeavor eventually grew into the well-known Streit’s matzah business.

“Weinberger dreamed of a united Jewish community and he agitated for the establishment of a chief rabbinate. His efforts in 1895 to found the first institution of higher learning in America patterned on the East European yeshivah were unsuccessful. While serving as a rabbi, he “repeatedly supported shochatim against charges of unfitness seemingly motivated more by personal and economic factors than by religious ones.” Weinberger supported Zionist endeavors and contributed to Hebrew journals.”[v]

“In 1887 Weinberger published his first and most controversial book, HaYehudim v’ha-Yahadut b’New York. Written in Hebrew and directed to his brethren in Europe, Weinberger scorned American society as materialistic, sorely lacking in appropriate family values, and a spiritual danger to religious Jews…. Weinberger cautioned his former countrymen about the poor standards of kashruth and Jewish education and the low level of Talmud knowledge of Jewry’s religious functionaries. He lamented America’s magnificent synagogues, which some Jews felt compelled to build, and chided Jews for the extravagance of luring cantors with inflated salaries to fill normally empty synagogue pews.”[vi]

In addition to the above mentioned book, his other writings include Kuntres Halacha l’Moshe (Philadelphia, 1894); Rosh Divrei Moshe (Philadelphia, 1895); Ho’il Moshe (New York, 1895); Halacha l’Moshe (New York, 1902); Divrei Shalom v’Emet (New York, 1908); Igeret Mishneh: An Open Letter to the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol (New York, 1909); and Dorosh Dorash Moshe (New York, 1914). He also published several articles in Ha-Ivri.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine

Moshe

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

After leaving Mitzrayim, Moshe became king in Ethiopia where he riled successfully for 40 years. When the infant son of the previous king became old enough to reign, Moshe went to the land of Midyan.

There lived Yisro, a pagan priest greatly respected by his people. He worshiped idols of stone and wood and led all his countrymen in this religion.

Rejects Paganism

But Yisro was a clever and analytical thinker, and he soon came to the conclusion that his worship of these idols was futile and foolish. They were not really gods, he saw, and so he called his people together and told them that he was too old to lead them. “Choose a younger and stronger man, and allow me to retire in my remaining years.”

But the people understood Yisro’s real reason for wishing to step down and they grew angry. They put a curse on anyone who helped his family. Yisro’s daughters were forced to take over as his shepherds.

The people of Midyan made it difficult for the girls to water their flocks each time they came to the wells.

It was at just such a moment that Moshe arrived. He felt sorry for the girls and came forward to help them.

And the Almighty looked down and saw what he had done. “Because he had pity on strange girls, he shall now be called the servant of the Lord, and the people of the world shall know that My servants are good to all and that their mercies are on all the creatures of the Lord.”

Prison

The daughters of Yisro rushed home to their father and told their father about the Egyptian man who saved them from the shepherds.

Yisro told them to invite the man in.

“I am a Hebrew and I come from Egypt,” said Moshe and then told Yisro all that had befallen him in both Egypt and Ethiopia.

Yisro listened carefully to all that Moshe told him and thought to himself:

“Can this be? Can a man who has comfort and wealth give it all up for principle and ideals? I cannot believe such a thing. Surely, there was some evil action that he did in Ethiopia and, because of this, he had fled. I will have him thrown into prison until the Egyptians come and send for him.”

Moshe was thrown in Yisro’s prison and remained there for 10 years. He surely would have perished if the eldest daughter, Tzipporah, had not fed him every day.

When ten years had passed, she approached her father and reminded him of the man he had sent to the pit.

Yisro was astonished to find that Moshe was still alive and, not knowing, that Tzipporah had fed him, took his “miraculous” survival to be a sign that Moshe was a true man of G-d.

He ordered his servants to take Moshe out of the pit, bathe him and give him fresh clothing.

The Wondrous Staff

Moshe now lived in the house of Yisro, where the latter was continually amazed at the wisdom of his guest. Tzipporah, meanwhile, continued to love the stranger.

Tzipporah was well known among the people of the region. She was a beautiful woman with a fine and noble character. All the princes of the region desired her for a wife, and they all came to Yisro to ask for her hand in marriage. Yisro had the same answer for each:

“In my garden there is a wondrous staff. If you succeed in pulling it from the ground and bringing it here, you may have my daughter as a wife.”

Rabbi Sholom Klass

Chukat: Was Hitting the Rock So Horrible?

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

In this week’s parsha, we are introduced to the strange episode of Moshe hitting the rock. Because of this small infraction, we are told, Moshe will not be entering the land with the people of Israel. Why? What was the small act of Moshe talking to the rock meant to teach the people of Israel?

Rabbi David Fohrman

Keeping The Ego In Check

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

In this week’s portion, Moshe is told he would not enter Israel because he hit the rock instead of speaking to it. Immediately afterward, Moshe sends a delegation to Edom asking that the Jewish people be allowed to go through his territory on their way to Israel (Numbers 20:14).

Commenting on this juxtaposition, the Midrash states: In the usual way, when a man is slighted by his business partner he wishes to have nothing to do with him; whereas Moses though he was punished on account of Israel did not rid himself of their burden, but sent messengers (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:7).

Nechama Leibowitz reinforces this idea by noting that the text states that Moshe sent the delegation to Edom from Kadesh. This fact is unnecessary. In the words of Leibowitz: “Wherever no change of locale is recorded in the text it is presumed that the event described took place at the last mentioned place. Kadesh is mentioned again to emphasize Moshe’s adherence to his mission of bringing the people to the land even after his rebuff in spite of the fact that he had been explicitly excluded from it.”

An important lesson may be learned here. Leaders must be careful to subdue their ego. The cause is larger than the personal concerns of any one person. Although Moses is condemned to die in the desert he continues to help the Jews enter Israel by sending messengers to Edom.

Compare this to the haftarah, the prophetic portion read this week. Yiftach promises God that if he is victorious in war whatever he sees first upon his return will be offered to God. Alas, he returns victorious and sees his daughter.

Here the Midrash (Tanchuma) notes that Yiftach could have gone to Pinchas the high priest to annul the vow. But Yiftach said, “Should I, the head of tribes of Israel, stoop to go to that civilian? Pinchas also did not go out of his way to go to Yiftach, proclaiming, Should I, a high priest, lower myself and go to that boor?”

Unlike Moshe, who was without ego, Yiftach and Pinchas were filled with it and it cost the life of that child.

A story is told of a chassidic rebbe who carried two notes in his pocket. One stated “The world was created for me.” The second declared “I am like the dust of the earth.” The first statement does not resonate unless balanced by the latter. Indeed, if ego is not kept tightly in check it can overwhelm or subtly subvert the endeavor to which one is dedicated.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Sharon’s Message of Faith to Netanyahu

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

I would guarantee that there wasn’t a Jew in Israel eight years ago, including the most leftist, cynical and secularist, who didn’t, even if for just one moment, think to himself that Arik Sharon was being punished by God for the crime of the Gush Katif expulsion.

Whether they afterwards denied or ignored it is irrelevant. For an instant, every Jew in Israel understood Sharon’s debilitating stroke as a sign from the universe.

That’s the problem with miracles and signs, and why we Jews don’t use signs as foundations of our faith: they’re fleeting.

Last Shabbat’s parshah–Beshalach–is full of stories of massive, yet ephemeral miracles. We learn how Bnei Yisrael would experience a miracle, and then simply ignore it a few days later, or worse, experience miracles everyday (like the manna) and regard them as commonplace.

It would seem that the purpose of miracles is not to create blind faith, because it fails miserably in that direction, but to serve as a teaching moment, and occasionally for a course correction.

The manna taught Bnei Yisrael about keeping Shabbat and about trusting in God to provide our “daily bread.” The tearing of Yam Suf helped Bnei Yisrael take their first steps away from fear and servitude under the Egyptians and toward trusting in and serving God.

At the end of the Parsha, Amalek attacks Bnei Yisrael, and we see the miraculous and inexplicable interaction between Moshe’s raised hands and the battle with Amalek. The Parsha ends with Joshua “weakening” Amalek, and us, the Jews, being commanded to wipe out any memory of Amalek from the face of the Earth.

Why was Amalek the first to attack Israel after all the miracles and Egypt’s destruction?

Because Amalek is the antithesis of Israel.

Amalek doesn’t believe in divine providence or divine intervention. Amalek believes in coincidence (“Kerry” in Hebrew). They attacked Israel to prove the ideology of a universe with no direction, judge or justice, where all events are random and hence where morality is inconceivable. The only morality of that ideology is the survival of the strongest. There are no values other than those of the people in charge.

And their kerry-coincidence approach to reality constitutes a very strong belief, which is why Joshua, despite his victory, was only able to weaken it, and why it is something we must continue to fight in every generation.

It is only our trust in God, our belief in Divine intervention, that will allow us to win the latest round of this ongoing war against the ideology of coincidence.

John Kerry said about Sharon, “He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace.”

He wants Netanyahu to forget that Sharon failed miserably in his pursuit of both peace and security. His mad retreat from Gaza, deporting thousands of Jews, destroying homes, synagogues, fields, equipment, resulted in a lot more bloodshed and destruction than ever before. How can anyone look at Sharon’s abysmal record in Gaza and say they would like to repeat it, but this time make it five times or ten times more terrible?

Our modern day prophet of kerry–aptly named Mr. Kerry–wants Netanyahu to forget about God’s guiding hand in Jewish history, and the retribution that befell the late Ariel Sharon.

It’s no coincidence that Sharon died this week, when it appears that Israel is under dire threats, and fateful decisions lie in the hands of one man who must now choose to have faith in the God of our history, or in the man of coincidence and happenstance.

Netanyahu is our Joshua, and we must be his Moshe, holding up our hands to strengthen him, and to remind him of the One who fights our battles, the true source of our strength, victory and survival.

JoeSettler

Zechut Avot : An Eternal Birthright

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The first time was many years ago. I had just concluded explanations about Yeshivat Knesset Yisrael” which arrived in Hebron from Slobodka, in Lithuania in 1924. The Hebron Heritage Museum at Beit Hadassah features an exhibit about this illustrious Torah-learning academy, nicknamed the ‘Hebron Yeshiva,’ which includes a ‘class picture’ from 1928.

As I finished my brief account, an older man approached me, put his finger on a picture of one of the yeshiva students and asked me, ‘do you see him? That’s me.’

That was Rabbi Dov Cohen, a phenomenal Torah genius, who, following my tour, came back to Hebron and gave us his tour.

I always thought that this was a ‘once in a lifetime event,’ having someone point themselves out in a photo taken so many decades ago, here in Hebron.

But it happened again.

On Friday afternoon the Farbstein family came into Hebron for Shabbat. Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, today dean of the ‘Hebron yeshiva,’ now located in Jerusalem, arrived with his wife and many grandchildren. And his mother, Rabbanit Chana Farbstein.

Chana Farbstein was born in 1923. Her father was Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, a Torah giant. Her grandfather was the legendary Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, dean of the yeshiva, located then located in Slobodka, which, a year or so later, moved to Hebron. Chana lived in Hebron until the 1929 riots, in an apartment next to Eliezer Dan Slonim and his family.

Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, the Farbsteins took a short tour of Hebron, which began in the museum. When we approached the Hebron Yeshiva exhibit, she moved, as hypnotized, to one of the photos on the bottom row, stared at it, and then pointed to a small girl in the right corner, saying, ‘that’s me.’ To her right, a young woman had her hand on little Chana’s shoulder. ‘That’s my mother.’

A ‘once in a lifetime event.’ And it happened to me for a second time.

Chana later told us that she must have been about four years old at the time the photo was taken.

Even though she was barely five and a half at the time of the riots, she remembered them quite clearly: “I remember a big truck going through the streets. They were throwing rocks at our house and calling out my father’s name ‘Chezkel.’ They were looking for him. It was our good luck, he was in Jerusalem.”

“Do you remember what was told to you, what was going on?”

“No one had to explain. We knew exactly what was happening.”

She said that on Saturday afternoon, her family was removed from Hebron and taken to the ‘Strauss Building’ in Jerusalem, across the street from ‘Bikor Cholim hospital. Asked when she ‘left’ the city,’ she replied: “We didn’t leave. The British came, on Shabbat, and took us to Jerusalem.”

Later she also spoke about remembering the pain of having to pray at the 7th step at Ma’arat HaMachpela, not being allowed to enter the structure. “We would stand there for a few minutes, and then leave.”

Were relations with Arabs always poor? “No, when we went shopping in the market an Arab with a large round basket would go with us. We would put the produce we wanted into the basket, he would carry it and later bring it to our home.”

Chana Farbstein is a phenomenal woman. She also stood with us on Friday afternoon, at the cemetery in Hebron, where 59 of the 67 massacre victims are buried. Her son, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, recited two Psalms at the site, his voice breaking, sensing the atrocities and pain of the events occurring 84 years ago.

The next morning, Mrs. Farbstein walked from Beit Hadassah to Ma’arat HaMachpela for morning prayers, and later in the afternoon, to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood to attend a special class presented by her daughter-in-law, Dr. Esther Farbstein, an expert on Holocaust studies, author of the book, “Hidden in Thunder.”

After Shabbat, as I arrived to interview her, I found her sweeping the floor.

Her son, Rabbi Farbstein, told me that that last winter she had been very ill, and there was grave concern that she might not recover. But recover she did, and despite only meeting her for the first time, her inner strength and iron will were quite obvious.

David Wilder

Fast of 17th of Tammuz On Tuesday

Monday, June 24th, 2013

On Tuesday, Jews commemorate the 17th of Tammuz. The day is a fast day in which we recall the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem before the Second Temple’s destruction.

In addition, in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 39:2 and 52:6-7 it says that the walls of the First Temple were breached, though the Talmud Yerushalmi 23A says that the actual date was also the 17th of Tammuz.

Four other significant events occured on that day, including Moshe breaking the two Tablets.

The fast marks the beginning of the 3 week period called “Bein haMetzarim” which ends on the fast day of Tisha B’Av, throughout which certain expressions of happiness are reduced.

Jewish Press News Briefs

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