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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘quiet’

Emes Ve-Emunah: Status Quo? Or a Quiet Revolution?

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website,  Emes Ve-Emunah}

I have always said the Charedi model of full time Torah study for all men is an unsustainable one. And yet this ideal has been instilled in all Charedi children in Israel since at least the founding of the state.

That has resulted in a society where their educational curriculum  had virtually no secular studies and no preparation at all for the workplace. Their curriculum in Israel  is – and always has been – devoted to full time Torah study. Which has resulted in a community of very bright people most of whom live in poverty or near poverty unable to support themselves or their families.

That poverty should not be taken lightly.  Far too many Charedim in Israel get by on a combination of factors that include reliance on government subsidies, free loan societies, and working but underpaid wives. There is a constant struggle to just make ends meet. Many are forever in debt.

When the last Keneset tried to impose financial sanctions to Yeshivos that did not offer the core curriculum required by law – it was fiercely and successfully opposed. The current Keneset has basically restored the old status quo. Thus perpetuating the system and the poverty it generates.

As I have said many times in the past, I believe that full time Torah study for everyone is not the ideal for every male. It should only be for the most elite of students. Even they should be better prepared in secular studies. But for purposes of argument – let us leave that out of the equation and grant that they could be exempt from any studies other than Torah. Everyone else should study Torah as the primary focus but not as the only focus. And certainly not at the expense of ignoring their future as breadwinners.

I believe emphatically that their curriculum should mimic the model of Charedi education in America where until recently every top level Charedi Yeshiva high school devoted a good portion of their afternoons to a relatively decent secular education. Which enabled many American Charedim to pursue advanced educations for career purposes when they were ready to leave the Beis HaMedrash. I believe that the Charedim in Amercia that have chosen this path make up the majority of the Charedi world in America. I have called them moderate Charedim.

Israel’s Charedi educational system did not pursue this model. The opposite is happening. The American Charedi educational system is shifting towards the Israeli model by decreasing or completely eliminating secular studies. That is in and of itself a huge problem but beyond the scope of this post.

As I said, the Israeli model is not sustainable despite protestations to the contrary by Charedi politicians. I have also said that at some point there will be a revolt that would change the model. It seems that it is already happening. Significant changes are quietly taking place. There is a moderate Charedi faction in Israel that seeks better opportunities by taking advantage of career programs designed specifically for them.  From the Times of Israel:

(The established Charedi paradigm) is increasingly being challenged by a new generation of ultra-Orthodox Jews who are demanding academic degrees, satisfying professions, a bigger role for women and greater immersion in Israeli society.
She said the ultra-Orthodox leadership’s aversion to progress and integration is mostly about maintaining political power rather than serving their constituents. Until recently, such open criticism was unheard of, but it is gaining traction as people like Karlinsky try to change their world from within…
Gilad Malach, a researcher who specializes in the community, said reform was already underway. He said a majority of haredi men now work, compared to just a third in 2003. Women continue to be the primary breadwinners, and their employment rates of close to 75% are comparable to the general public, he said.

This is welcome news. It’s just too bad that the ‘party line’ of the Charedi politicians is to insist on their status quo. That Torah study is to be pursued by all men to the exclusion of everything else. That they may quietly approve of this new trend is to say one thing publicly and to say another privately. Which to me is dishonest and counterproductive.

Why not just admit that the goals of their spiritual mentor, the Chazon Ish, to rebuild the Torah world lost in Europe because of the Holocaust was long ago achieved. And that full time Torah study for every single male was never intended. That there are other ways to serve God and that not everyone has to be doing exactly the same thing.

Unfortunately the party line has not changed. Form the Timesof Israel:

As the senior representative of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel’s government, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is unapologetic about the insular lifestyle he advocates, despite irking mainstream Israel and endangering its long-term economic prospects.
He insists that shirking compulsory military service, rejecting secular education and raising large families on state subsidies all serve the noblest of purposes: a life devoted to the study of scripture that has preserved Jewish traditions over centuries and will ultimately bring about the coming of the Messiah.
“To sit and learn is a mitzvah,” or commandment from God, he told The Associated Press. “It is the most important thing.”
“There is always new ways and new things which we have to get used to and check out if we can live with it, but there is no change in halacha,” or Jewish law, he said. “Until the Messiah will come, it will stay like that.”

What Rabbi Litzman fails to understand – it seems – is that no one is saying Torah study should be abandoned. Nor is anyone saying that there shouldn’t be a cadre of Torah scholars involved in full time Torah study. The only question is whether it should be full time for everyone to the exclusion of everything else.

It seems that in increasing numbers – the Charedi public is beginning to understand this themselves. And doing something about it. It’s just too bad that there is not more positive reinforcement – or even better – a change in their own educational model instead of insisting on – and promoting an unsustainable status quo as the ideal for everyone to pursue.

 

Harry Maryles

A Soldier’s Mother: A Quiet Unyielding Anger

Monday, September 12th, 2016

It’s been 15 years since one of my children called me to the television to tell me something had happened. There were bombing attacks in Israel on a regular basis; many brought to my attention when the cartoons they watched back when we had a television were interrupted.

First there was a map of a city somewhere in Israel with a voice explaining about early reports of an explosion. There was never a question that it was terrorism; never a thought of who had caused it. It was only really about what city was hit this time, how many were hurt, and how many funerals the next day would bring.

I walked to the top of the stairs after I was told about “something,” only this time, there was news from America, and an image of the World Trade Center. It took me a second to understand. It wasn’t Israel. It wasn’t a bomb. It wasn’t a bus. It was New York. It was a building. A building I knew, I’d seen, I’d been in. The World Trade Center. A Plane. They didn’t know the cause of the “accident”, they said, but I did. It wasn’t an accident. I knew. I knew it and I longed to reach across the ocean and tell them they had to stop pretending. They had to take it seriously. They had to understand.

That which has hated us, hates them too. That which reaches out to murder my people had crossed an ocean to murder theirs. Wake up, I cried inside. Say it. Say it already. Terrorism.

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.

And as I waited for them to admit what I knew without question was the truth, I discovered inside myself a tiny emotion that has filled me with shame for all of the last 15 years. My first reaction to the attack on the World Trade Center was horror, but the second was some small sense of…not happiness, never happy, but “good” – good only because now I thought America would finally understand what it was like to live with the agony of terror.

I listened with disappointment and almost pity as the news broadcasters bantered around about how a plane could have come to crash into one of the tallest building. “Silly man,” I almost shouted, “Terrorism. Come on, you can say it.”

And then, in horror, as I watched, the second plane hit. I started to cry as the shocked voices could be heard through the television; I started to pray, “Oh God, I didn’t mean for this. I didn’t want this. I just wanted them to understand, not this.” My children looked at me, trying to understand. I stopped crying and told them it was time for a snack. I bribed them with cookies and milk upstairs in the dining room; I brought them crayons to color and did everything I could to keep them away from what we loosely called the “TV room”. The television droned on and I would slip away, or sit on the steps and watch half-turned so I  could watch my children and keep them far from what was happening in the distant city where I had met their father, fallen in love, married, and brought three of them into this world.

Two towers on fire, rescue workers rushing in, people panicking in the streets as the Pentagon was hit next; all planes ordered to land. Suddenly, there was a loud sound and I watched in horror again, as the south tower crumbled into itself. And then the northern tower. The people, I thought. oh God, how many were inside? How many didn’t get out?

Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil — the very worst of human nature — and we responded with the best of America.

They kept saying “as many as 50,000 people” came to work each day. I remember them saying that another plane was missing and last tracking said it was heading towards Washington; the White House was evacuated. The count down was running as to when it would hit Washington and the potential targets. Then, reports of a plane crash in Pennsylvania…was it the fourth plane? No one knew and so they kept waiting for it to hit Washington.

Hours and hours of horror. I don’t remember it growing dark here in Israel or putting my children to bed that night; I do remember praying for the injured; even praying there would be injured and not just endless bodies to recover. I remember sitting and crying as I listened to George Bush.

Each year, like tens of thousands of people all over the world, I remember what I was doing on September 11. And I watch the videos. And I pray for the families. I light a candle in their memory – all of them, everywhere they died.

Last year, in shock, I listened as the United States approved the Iran Deal – what a joke, I thought. They are rewarding the very people who perpetrated 9/11. That’s how they commemorate the day?

This year, I am filled with sadness as never before. The United States stands on the edge of a more dangerous world than ever before. What Hitler did in 6 years of war, Iran could now do in minutes. The Soviet Union, the evil, repressive, totalitarian society which imprisoned its own people is no more; Russia today is weaker, divided, and still searching for ways to return to the glory that was their former incarnation.

And America, weaker as well. Divided, isolated and much ridiculed by the world. You play a dangerous game of denial; terrorism has been relegated to being less dangerous than lightning, getting hit by a bus, or meeting death at the “hands” of a lawnmower. This is what people post to Facebook…because terrorism is not their main concern, perhaps not even a concern at all. They laugh and joke about the bus and the lawnmower. Are they laughing today? Probably not, but they will laugh again tomorrow and deny the dangers, just as they did that mourning as the first tower burned.

The numbers are manipulated, 9/11 erased because by factoring it in, the numbers would be so much scarier, or perhaps not. Maybe 15 years later, the pain has lessened, the horror of watching those towers collapse somehow faded?

I don’t know. I can still cry each time I think of that day. The World Trade Centers were relatively new when I started college and we all made fun of them. How ugly we thought they were; how modern and without character. At Columbia University, the buildings were older and so dignified. Years later, I can confess that as a student living in New York, I never liked those towers. They represented a world dedicated to money and business when I was learning about things that seemed so much more important – life, history, humanity.

And then they came down and I have missed them terribly. For years, I missed the innocence I felt was stolen from America on that day. I mourned for the families, but for the nation as well.

I haven’t been to America in 18 years. The timing was wrong, my family was growing. Finances. Life. One son in the army and then another and another. From far away, I have watched in sadness. I hurt for what America has become. Racial intolerance still shocks me. The first best friend I ever had was a young black girl in my class (no, she wasn’t African American then, she was black) and someone called her a nasty name and she looked about to cry. I turned to her as we walked past those nasty children and I asked her if she was black. It had never occurred to me that she was, or that her parents and siblings were. It wasn’t in my vocabulary; not something I noticed. She said what she was. My friend. My neighbor. Sherry. She nodded in what I now think was a rather solemn way and said that she was black. I remember answering, “Oh.” And then remembered I wanted to tell her something about what happened in school. We never discussed her race again; we never discussed my religion. We were two little girls with a love of dolls and playing house. We walked home from school together that day, as we always did because she lived in an apartment on the other side of the open court where we played together. And the next morning, we walked back to school, and home and back and home and back. Until a year or two later, she and her family moved away.

I have always loved that I didn’t know that my best friend was black because it was completely and entirely irrelevant to who we were. Yesterday, I read a long story about “the Falling Man.” Over the last 15 years, the media has been obsessed with identifying this man who was captured falling to his death. Paragraphs and paragraphs of how reporters went from family to family, going through lists of names as if identifying him was some holy grail.

Ultimately, said the article, they think they know who he is. Yes, but what about the wives and children you harmed by invading their privacy and showing a picture of a man seconds away from his death before their eyes? All that 9/11 is about, is lost to people such as these. It isn’t about Sherry being black or the name of that man. It isn’t about each individual,

It was never about that little black girl or her best friend, the white girl who lived across the courtyard. It was never about that man falling. It was always about America.

I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a Power greater than any of us.

There are those that say 15 years on,  Al Qaida is weakened…other than a few massive terror attacks here and there. There are those that say they know how to make America great again…and those who ridicule that statement simply because of who made it.

There are black people dying in the streets of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York – daily. Literally, every day. There are cops, police officers being murdered – murdered and their deaths considered a just response in a violent and racist society. Where have you gone, America?

I look at the images of the burning towers and I remember listening in shock, as President George Bush addressed a nation in pain. I had never liked him before…until that speech. Sometimes, when you make a wrong turn, all you can do is go back and correct your error. After 15 years, America, you need to go back.

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world. Thank you. Good night. And God bless America.

Listen to this speech. Read it. Look at the unity. Listen to the voice of a leader. It was the first time I thought that George W. Bush had really stepped up to meet the challenge. It was a speech like none we have heard since. Forget the economy, forget the politics. Listen to the speech of an American president – perhaps the last one who cared more for his country than his party.
Text of President George W. Bush’s speech, September 11, 2001.

Good evening.

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge — huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.

A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil — the very worst of human nature — and we responded with the best of America. With the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it’s prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington D.C. to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks. The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow. Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.

The search is underway for those who were behind these evil acts. I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a Power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me.
9/11 attack on Twin Towers: Will Obama use next week's anniversary as a platform to attack the Assad regime?

9/11 attack on Twin Towers: Will Obama use next week’s anniversary as a platform to attack the Assad regime?

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

Thank you. Good night. And God bless America.

Paula Stern

The Noise that Drowns Out all Peace

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Followers of the Passover story can rightly wonder why frogs were such a terrible plague. Was God really showing His power to the Egyptians by sending against them an army of reptiles? Would the nation that would eventually produced Cleopatra, who purportedly killed herself by grabbing a poisonous snake, really have cared?

But the true plague of the frogs was how the din of their incessant ribbetting robbed the Egyptians of all peace. We who inhabit the modern world have a unique understanding of the utter agony represented by a world that is never silent.

When the United States invaded Panama in 1989 to oust General Manuel Noriega, he took refuge in the Vatican Embassy. The United States Army brought huge loudspeakers and blasted AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” in order to drive him out of his refuge, a tactic that was also employed by the FBI at Waco.

Forty years ago John Lennon made the observation that when he grew up what was always heard in the background of homes was the soothing crackling of a fire, only to be replaced by the incessant noise of televisions that are always blaring in the background.

That noise has actually so much closer today with ear buds that pumps music directly into our eardrums. The net result is that we are rarely ever afforded any peace.

Even today harsh interrogations methods against terrorists involves keeping them up for days by constantly blasting music which drives them to the bring of insanity. Many argue that this is a form of torture.

The inability to ever shut out noise is a plague. But beyond the pain caused by the utter lack of peace there is the further consideration of the drowning out of the inner voice of conscience.

Each of us is immersed in a culture that throws various voices at us. Hollywood and the fashion industry hits us with the aesthetic voice, telling us that what most matters is beauty. Best to spend our time in front of a mirror and at a gym. Wall Street and Madison avenue hits us with the monetary voice which tells us that the most important thing in life is money and affording the material objects that will bring us pleasure. Washington and politics hits us with the power voice which tells us that the most significant thing in life is acquiring dominion over others. And the NFL and NBA hits us with the physical voice which whispers that life has meaning through great athleticism. We should be spending our time on the sports fields.

But beneath all these noises which are so central to the fabric of modern life and its aspirations is the inner voice of conscience which whispers to us that we are born for lives of compassion and goodness. It’s nice to be pretty. But it’s even nicer to be nice. It’s wondrous to be sporty and adventurous. But even more spectacular is to teach our child how to throw a spiral and catch a ball. Through doing so we grant our children a feeling of significance. It’s a blessing to be wealthy. But even more important is to live lives of charity and humility where we make others feel that they matter too.

There is no human being that is born without that voice and to the extent that it is lost it is because it is drown out by all the other voices that surround us.

The Egyptians, like all human beings, had an innate sense of morality and fair play. So how could they have enslaved a helpless people? Because the soul’s voice of fraternity and brotherhood was drown out by Pharaoh’s voice of dominion and power. As the Bible related, “Look, he said to his people, the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” The Egyptians allowed the foreign voice of the will to power to override the voice of sensitivity of compassion. In this sense, the racket of the frogs-plague was an external manifestation of what had already occurred. The Egyptians could no longer hear the inner song of their own souls. They could only hear the clamor of the artificial, external voice that slowly erodes our spiritual peace.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Settling Back to Quiet

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

When Elie’s unit was moved south and put in position near Gaza before the Cast Lead War in 2008, I experienced about a month of unbelievable fear and all sorts of other things (I won’t even attempt to summarize it all here, but it’s available if you want to click back to late December 2008/January 2009). I also, amazingly enough, had a blog whose readership soared into the tens of thousands a day. It is, on the one hand, the dream of many bloggers (and the reality of a select few). The only problem was – I was too distracted to “enjoy” it.

And with all those visitors, I had so many comments, so many. A lot of those that visited came to leave these really nasty comments. More though, left comments  that were so incredibly supportive – touching beyond anything I could express. There were the veterans who knew war and assured me that Elie would be fine, that he’d cope, and overcome and they were so right. There were the mothers of other soldiers (and the fathers too) who sent their love and prayers and told me to be strong…and I was trying to do that so hard. There was one woman from Montana who told me it was 3:00 in the morning and she woke worrying about Elie and me and I cried in gratitude and thought God would protect Elie just on the basis of all these amazing people.

And for some reason, I read the ones that were so nasty too. The ones that wished such horrible things on my country, my family, my son and these made me angry…and sometimes they made me cry too. Some I deleted, some I put through. Some I turned into posts called Comments on Comments and responded.

When the war was over and Elie was back home, a few weeks went by and I noticed my blog was back to its normal daily rates – nope, not 10,000+ a day, but just fine for me. I was back with my friends, back to normal. And I was happy.

A few weeks ago, Israel was again being shelled by hundreds of rockets – sometimes in a single day, certainly within each week. We moved to the edges of war – Israel and our sons, my son. Our air force flew into action hitting over 1,500 important MILITARY targets that needed to be taken out. Elie was there – again and I balanced my fears with work, blogging, and worrying about Elie’s wife (who was amazing and comforting and worrying about me).

Once again, my blog stats showed a surge – not to the level of tens of thousands but still, a really hefty increase per day. I got a few nasty comments, not nearly as many as last time and not nearly as vicious.

And then the cease-fire was declared and Elie came home…for a while, I would hear a sound and stop to listen to see if it was a siren; I would check the news to see if a rocket had been fired. Friends in the south told me how their children were having a hard time getting back to school. They were afraid.

I’ve stopped hearing sirens in my head; stopped thinking that a revved up motorcycle is the beginning of a siren. I’ve stopped checking some news sites; check others less often. And my blog stats have gone down – still above normal, but a nice above normal.

We’re settling back to the flat of the roller coaster – Israel and I, settling back to quiet. I don’t know how long it will last; you can go crazy if you even attempt to calculate it. Oh, I’m sure there will be more rockets (hey, there was even one on Sunday that was fired, but it fell short and was mostly ignored with the hope that it was nothing more than one idiot with a missile and a match…do you use a match to launch a missile…probably not). I have little doubt that there will be another war with Gaza, maybe even one with Lebanon. With the upheaval in Syria – at some point they are going to realize attacking Israel might save them and then, again, we might be facing war.

Paula R. Stern

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