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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh’

The Uncomfortable Side of Outreach

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Last week I decided to leave one social media group for another. The decision didn’t come easy, but I felt that the people in the second group were more in need of my help. Even though the new group is filled with problematic content, I decided that for the sake of benefiting others it was worth the challenge of dodging through these obstacles. Soon after, thank God, I was able to help someone who was bothered by an unanswered question for over forty years. All because I did the uncomfortable and signed up.

This article is for the daring ones who cling steadfastly to the outside of the train as it plummets down the hill. While I don’t recommend this lifestyle for everyone, I found these daily volleys and tumbles during outreach to be immensely rewarding.

A few years back a friend unknowingly gave me a deeply appreciated compliment. At the time, we were both struggling to find desired outreach positions. Thank God, he is now a prominent outreach director, and I now work at the job that I prayed over ten years for. But at the time we were both in-between, which is a nice way of saying we had no idea what we were going to do next. The compliment he said was that he has met many idealists, but he appreciated that I consistently endeavored to act on my idealism.

While I have made many mistakes along the way, thank God, I have witnessed the realization of many dreams because of a willingness to do the uncomfortable. In business, they call this “taking risks,” which is okay terminology as long as the proper intentions are there. For instance, if left to my comfort zone, you wouldn’t be reading this article right now. But when presented with an opportunity to help others, then my own feelings and sentiments got bumped in line.

This was discussed in brief when speaking about Anne Frank. Originally she penned the diary for herself (writing is very therapeutic). But when she realized that her story could benefit others, she starting going back and changing the names to protect identities.

But sometimes we push too far, too fast, and God sends us clear messages to slow down. Once I reserved a table to sell Kabbalah books at a new age expo, hoping to infuse holiness in dark surroundings. The day before I got laryngitis and couldn’t attend. This was the first time that I remember having laryngitis.

Also not every road is worth traveling, and I have taken plenty of wrong turns over the years. But while there are plenty of places not worth going near, as mentioned at the beginning, there are also countless golden opportunities.

Once while making rounds offering Kabbalah books to new age stores, I saw plenty of “not worth going near” things. For instance at one store, people were lining up to receive elixirs, potions, who knows what other forbidden practices according to Torah, from this one worker there. This was essentially the entire store … people walked in and got in line. I stood behind this worker, waiting for him to acknowledge me and in short-time he did. When he took a look at the books he grew fearful and apologetic. He explained that they had so few books in the store, and as it is people don’t buy the present ones they have. Although he didn’t take the books, his demeanor was starkly different from that of the potion dispenser. Such is the potency of the holy light of Torah.

Taking risks for outreach is not easy and there have been spiritual pitfalls over the years. But notwithstanding the difficulties, learning to press forward amidst obstacles has also been greatly rewarding.

When I thought of writing this article a few days ago, I wasn’t going to source it anywhere. I had viewed it more as a personal essay, and since people seem to like personal essays, I was going to leave it like that. But just prior to writing, I read the English transcript of Rabbi Ginsburgh’s recent class at David’s Tomb, and the lengthy description there about King David’s service of God. There’s a lot there, but allow me to quote one section that stood out for me:

“David’s is constantly engaged in helping the every Jew attain a level of purity so that he or she can connect with the Almighty, even in times when they are not worthy. This requires self‐sacrifice on David’s part, just as much as going to war does.”

Reading this transcript was a further confirmation about the validity of the approach that I am now presenting. Knowing that instead of listening to this article, you could read about King David and come to the same conclusion yourself, was most affirming for me. That for the sake of benefiting another, we should each be willing to venture forward and do the uncomfortable.

Personal Appeal: I began a campaign for a Kabbalah of Business book that has the potential to change the lives of many, but I need your support to make it a reality. Please donate $18, 36, by clicking on the campaign page.

Yitzhar Yeshiva Dean: Jewish State’s Spiritual Malady

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Last week I released a statement explaining that our Holy Torah should be the moral “compass” by which our nation is run. Recent events regarding the abuse and intimidation tactics carried out on a Yitzhar couple have only strengthened this sentiment.

If such interrogation were done in America — where they were prevented from seeking out legal counsel, threatened that they would not see their children again, prevented from going to the bathroom, subject to multiple body cavity searches, etc… — one or many civil liberties organizations would stage demonstrations and begin lawsuits. But where is the oversight in these and other cases? Where was the prison sentence of the officer who mercilessly tasered Boaz Albert?

Unlike what some have inferred from my statement last week, the answer to this situation is not to say that members of the establishment — government and army — are the enemies. God forbid. This is why the statement from the sages, “We are all sons of one man,” was quoted at the beginning.

Instead, as explained further in the statement yesterday, there is a spiritual malady causing our people to turn against each other. At a time when we should be defending against the real and present enemies of the Jewish people, instead we are fighting from within.

But while the statement from last Friday clearly spoke out against acts of violence from Yitzhar residents against the army, etc… (as was reiterated yesterday) such infringement of what’s called in America “civil liberties” cannot be tolerated.

This past week the United States Supreme Court upheld the tradition of prayer to open government meetings. When even the American Supreme Court recognizes the importance of spiritual tradition, then how much more so should the Torah be the governing light for the Jewish people living in the Land of Israel.

A Public Call to Increase Peaceful Protests

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

From the widespread protest in support of a soldier who cocked his gun in self-defense, to the outspoken cries of bereaved family members at yesterday’s memorial event, we are witnessing an unprecedented awakening. But we must do our part to continue and increase these peaceful protests. Now that we have witnessed these displays and calls for truth and justice, we must continue to do more.

The defense system must do its work of loyally fighting the enemies of the Jewish People. The memory of the martyrs who fell in the wars of Israel for the sake of sanctifying God’s Name impels us to continue their work by steadfastly fighting the enemies who rise up to destroy us, as our Holy Torah instructs us, “If someone gets up to kill you, rise early to kill him [first].”

Unfortunately, the heads of state have lost their sense of direction. On the one hand, they tie the hands of IDF soldiers behind their backs, preventing them from retaliating effectively in the face of real terror by a real enemy, who murders Jews and attempts to rob us of our land (another recent story explained how a gun safety measure almost cost an officer his life).

On the other hand, the Defense Minister stands up and tells the bereaved families that what is needed is “to fight with an iron fist against the terror that is mistakenly referred to as ‘price tag’” – a miserable phrase that practically tells the families of IDF martyrs that their sons’ murderers are no worse than those who spray graffiti on walls, and puncture tires.

The task of the defense forces at the national level is to act like the immune system in the human body. However, when the immune system is unwell, it attacks healthy parts of the body instead of dangerous invaders in the form of bacteria and viruses etc. Unfortunately, the defense system has currently deteriorated to act in this manner (including the ongoing seizure of our yeshivah in Yitzhar). This is reminiscent of the sages’ statement, “Anyone who is compassionate towards the cruel will eventually be cruel to those who are compassionate,” God forbid.

The defense system must be healed, as a result of which the current predicament will automatically be solved.

We must return to the values of Jewish morality, and the ability to distinguish between friend and foe, in a proper state of awareness that is able to relate to issues with the correct proportions and in their correct context. This is why I encourage everyone to peacefully speak out for truth and justice, morality according to our Holy Torah, in whatever way possible.

Originally published at Gal Einai, Gateway to the Inner Dimension of the Torah

Modernizing Modern Orthodoxy

Monday, February 24th, 2014

After reading recent articles about the state of Modern Orthodoxy, some of my own experiences started bubbling back to the surface.

For most of my school-age years I attended public schools. But as I had already begun to grow in observance, following in my two older brothers’ footsteps, I decided to attend Yeshiva University in the fall of 1997.

At that time, I took everything at face value. So when I was told about Torah Umadda (Torah and natural sciences), I thought that the letter “vav” (and) joining these two words together indicated that these two extremes were somehow reconciled. But seeing that the secular subjects had little or nothing to do with the Jewish ones, not being able to reconcile the two, my fervor and excitement for Jewish observance began to wane.

Only years later, after much more searching, did I discover what was missing. Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh begins his classic treatise entitled “TheTorahAcademy” with the following gematria: Torah (תורה = 611) = art ( אמנות = 497) and science ( מדע = 114) combined.

Since “art” is the one word that isn’t presently included as part of the Torah Umadda paradigm, I thought to bring some stories from my time at Y.U. related to the importance of encouraging artistic expression according to the Torah.

Pi The Movie

Pi The Movie

Not long into my freshman year, during November 1997, a friend of mine would excitedly tell of the happenings that were taking place during the filming of a local independent film. In addition to the director being Jewish, the actual topic of the film brought themes from the Kabbalah. Additionally, as it was a small project, anyone could walk up, say hello to the crew, watch, and even participate in the filming. This is what my friend did.

For those who aren’t familiar with secular movies, that film was Pi, the director Darren Aronofsky, and the budget $60,000 (financed from $100 donations from friends and family according to Wikipedia).

I brought this story not because the film grossed over 3 million dollars, or the fact that he is now one of the most well-known directors in Hollywood. This is a difficult thing to say, but as we are all able to “rewind the clock” through teshuvah (repentance), there is still time for all of us to gain from “what if” scenarios.

While researching the movie, although Darren apparently didn’t grow up orthodox, what if he had studied in-depth what Kabbalah had to say about the number Pi? For instance, while a book could easily be written on the subject, Rabbi Ginsburgh has a two part series on the number Pi according to Torah mathematics (one, two). As it is readily available on the internet, if Darren were to begin researching for the sequel of his debut movie, he would likely come across these two articles.

Why did I bring this story? Because throughout the years, I have met many creative, ambitious souls, who didn’t understand what was new or modern about the Torah. While these creative souls may include the Torah as part of story–as in our Pi example or Darren’s upcoming Noah* movie–the “modern” or inspiration comes from the secularization of these themes.

What does it mean to modernize Modern Orthodoxy? To first take the most creative and modern-minded adherents, and make sure they have a place for their creative ambitions. Then once they are included, many more will be inspired to follow.

So as not to appear like someone speaking from the distance, my wife was once in that world. But seeing from firsthand experience that Hollywood was empty, she declined an offer to audition in the starring role of a feature movie in favor of her decision to increase her observance.

There are many more examples, including many well-known talents that either I or fellow students of Rabbi Ginsburgh have corresponded with over the years. These are highly creative individuals who have the ability to inspire millions, but are searching for something true and lasting to inspire themselves with.

For information about the painting by Tuvia Katz at the top, visit: http://www.torahscience.org/torah_art.html


* Darren’s attraction to the story of Noah further indicates his love of mathematics. In addition to the symmetrical nature of Noah’s name, as in the verse: “And Noah (נֹחַ) found favor (חֵן) in God’s eyes,” according to Rabbi Ginsburgh’s book “
LecturesonTorahandModernPhysics,” he was also the first to teach us about the concept of symmetry.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/modernizing-modern-orthodoxy/2014/02/24/

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