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December 8, 2016 / 8 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘rabbi’

Jewish ‘Pluralists’ Rage as Rabbi Riskin Gives Only One Finger, Not Entire Hand

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Leftwing writer Judy Maltz on Wednesday offered a living illustration of the popular adage “give them a finger, and they’ll take the whole hand.” Reporting for Ha’aretz on Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, spiritual leader of Efrat in Gush Etzion (Rabbi Riskin’s Unwelcome Message to Fans of Jewish Pluralism), who this week told the Jewish Agency Board of Governors that he objects to their idea of an alternative conversion court, Maltz noted that she and other advocates of the Reform movement in Israel were disappointed. After all, Riskin has been “a driving force in promoting greater roles for women in Orthodox communities in recent years, and has also advocated for greater acceptance of the LGBT community in Orthodox congregations.”

And so, employing the logic of “you gave me your finger, why not the whole hand,” Maltz wrote: “By breaking with traditional Orthodox views about women and homosexuals, Riskin and his cohorts were seen as natural allies for the Reform and Conservative movements in their struggle for greater religious pluralism in Israel – especially after daring to challenge the Chief Rabbinate not only on conversions, but also on marriage laws. Hence, the disappointment following Sunday night’s gathering.”

If ever there were clear proof to the danger of a slippery slope in the tolerance of non-halakhic Jewish movements by Orthodox Jews — Judy Maltz has just provided it. Mostly because she fails to perceive Rabbi Riskin as a halakhic person, preferring instead to view him as someone for whom—like herself—his politics is his faith.

Halakhic Jews, whether they are black-clad Haredim or Liberal Orthodox in running spandex, live their daily lives through their commitment to the yoke of the sages. Our standards may differ on absolutely everything, but we all base all our decisions on our interpretation of Jewish law, whether independently or by consulting our halakhic authority. Which is why when Liberal Orthodox rabbis support a more egalitarian approach to women in the synagogue, or embrace LGBTs, they anchor their decisions in Jewish law as they interpret it — not their personal preferences. Of course, their interpretation of halakha would certainly be influenced by their personal biases, everyone’s does, but in the end they follow the law. This is also why Haredim who object to yeshiva students’ military service anchor their opposition in their interpretation of Jewish law.

Maltz does not get it. She makes the argument that since ultra-Orthodox Jews already view the modern Orthodox as Reform Jews in disguise, the question is not whether or not they are inclined to defy Jewish law, but rather “how far are liberal Orthodox Jews willing to push the envelope,” as she puts it.

In other words, since Rabbi Riskin has already said that Reform Jews should be allowed to have their section of the Kotel, for instance, why won’t he recognize the legitimacy of Reform conversions?

A year ago, Rabbi Riskin responded to a report in Haaretz, that a Beit Din conversion panel was asking converts only to declare a general obligation to Judaism, without declaring that they would observe the commandments and live according to Jewish law, as prescribed by the Rabbis. Riskin was mentioned as favoring this approach, and he responded urgently that he is ” all for observance of the commandments and the genuine and meaningful process that leads to it.” He added that “construing my position in any other way is misleading and a simplistic interpretation that ignores the many layers and nuances of the issue.”

There are three fundamental requirements of a male convert, two of a female, according to Maimonides: acceptance of the yoke of the sages through the observance of the commandments, circumcision, and immersion in a ritual bath (Hilkhot isurei Bi’ah 14:5). No matter how loving and accepting of Reform Jews Rabbi Riskin may be, expecting him to violate these clear rules and to side with a Reform conversion that denies the rule of halakha is an insult. And it should be a lesson to Liberal Orthodox Jews who fail to make a distinction between embracing the other and embracing the other’s subversive ideology.

Maltz cites Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive officer of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, who expressed his disappointment that Riskin was not inclined to use his influence and stature to promote greater acceptance of non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel. “He is doing great things for pluralism in Israel, but only from within Orthodoxy,” he said.

Rabbi Riskin tried to put a leash on this cat and take it on a walkie when he told Maltz he would accept Reform conversions should the Reform agree to the requirements of “immersion in the mikvah, circumcision, and basic knowledge and practice of Judaism.”

In other words, just as soon as hell freezes over…

David Israel

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

Rabbi Aba Wagensberg on Parsha Bereishis

Friday, October 28th, 2016


27 Tishrei, 5777; October 29, 2016

In my opinion, parshas Bereishis is the most difficult parsha in the entire Torah. Years ago, when giving weekly parsha classes in yeshiva, the “bein hazemanim” parshios would typically get left out. One year, the guys requested that we do parshas Bereishis. Every other parsha in the Torah took only one week to cover. However, it took an entire year to go through parshas Bereishis!

We couldn’t get off the first verse. Forget that, we could not get off the first word. We couldn’t even get off the first letter. Actually, we couldn’t even start delving into the text because the Rishonim and Acharonim have prefaces upon prefaces filled with information necessary before even beginning to study the Torah.

I must admit, that after the entire year of delving into parshas Bereishis, I felt like I did not even know what I was talking about. Sometimes, only through the eyes of a different parsha which reflects on parshas Bereishis for a moment, did I feel that I understood a pebbles worth of what parshas Bereishis was trying to say.

There are so many topics within parshas Bereishis. For example, it discusses the creation of the world. How does one teach about creation? Do we take a scientific – Torah approach, or do we view it kabbalistically?

Parshas Bereishis also talks about Gan Eden. What was that like? There are currently Cherubic angels that guard the entrance into paradise, preventing anybody from entering even if we would find its location.

Then there is the serpent, and the Trees of Life and Knowledge. We have the story about Kayin and Hevel. We mention the righteous Chanoch who disappeared suddenly. Then it speaks about fallen angels and giants.

It’s hard to choose what to speak about in our limited amount of time and space. So, I decided to share something that speaks to everybody. In this article, we will talk about men and women. After all, our portion also talks about the creation of Adam and Eve. So, if you are either a man or a woman, you will hopefully find this material to be relevant to your lives.

God said, “It is not good that man be alone, I will make him an &Ezer K’negdo” (a helper corresponding him; Gn. 2:18). This verse contains a buried treasure with respect to the roots of the souls of both men and women. In order to delve into this, let us share some statements from our sages in the Talmud.

The Gemara in Yevamos (62b) says that any man who does not have a wife, dwells without Torah. Why does the Talmud maintain that it is an impossibility for a man to truly understand Torah if he is unmarried?

This is ironic considering another Talmudic passage which says that women are exempt from Torah study (Kedushin, 29b; Dt. 11:19). How could it be that women, who are so crucial for their husband’s understanding of Torah, are themselves exempt from its study?

Moreover, God created the world in order that we preoccupy ourselves in Torah study (Rashi, Gn 1:1; Pro. 8:22). How could it be that women have been left out of the purpose of God’s creation? It does not seem fair. This leads to yet another question.

By Matan Torah, Hashem instructed Moshe to teach Torah to the Beis Ya’akov (women) and to the Bnei Yisrael (men; Ex. 19:3,Rashi). In this verse, the women are mentioned before the men. That seems strange because if men have an obligation to study Torah, and women do not, then apparently, the men should have been mentioned before the women. Why was the order reversed?

Let us begin by sharing some fundamental teachings. The Zohar (Son. Pg. 91b) says that there are 600,000 letters in a Torah scroll which correspond to the 600,000 primary Jewish souls.

The Megaleh Amukos (Vaeschanan) says that this is even hinted to in our national name “Yisrael.” This name is spelled: yud, shin, reish, aleph, and lamed. These five letters serve as the acronym for, “Yesh Shishim Ribo Osiose LaTorah” (There are 600,000 letters in the Torah). Since this hint has been coded into the word “Yisrael”, it teaches us that every one of Yisrael (every Jew) is connected to one of the letters in the Torah. Each person receives his spiritual sustenance from the letter that he is connected to.

However, there is a difficulty here too, because the verse says that the number 600,000 refers only to the men that left Egypt (Ex. 12:37). This implies that only the men are connected to the letters of the Torah. By inference this means that women were excluded from this calculation, intimating that women are not connected to the letters of the Torah. If so, where do women receive their spiritual energy from?

At this point, we are going to share a novel approach to understanding the dynamics of a Torah Scroll.

The Tcheiles Mordechai (the Maharsham, Reb Shlomo Mordechai Schwadron, parshas Beha’aloscha, 1835-1911, Ukraine) says that not only are there visible letters on a Torah Scroll, but there are also invisible letters on the “blank” parts of the parchment. This is based on a verse that says, “For it is not an empty thing for you” (Dt. 32:47). The “it” refers to the Torah itself. At the culmination of the Torah, the verse is telling us that there is no place in a Sefer Torah that is empty. Every spot is filled with letters. Some of them you can see, others you cannot.

Huge souls that are preoccupied in Torah study are connected to the visible letters on the scroll, while simple souls who are not involved in Torah study are connected to the invisible letters on the margins. There is no place on the scroll that is empty of Jews. Some Jews receive their spiritual sustenance from the visible letters, while others receive their spiritual energy from the invisible letters.

So far, we have two areas on the Torah Scroll, the visible letters which are on a higher spiritual level, and the invisible letters which are on a lower spiritual level. However, there is a third section on the Torah Scroll. That third section are the white letters which are directly underneath the black letters. Those white letters are the highest and holiest of the letters.

The source for white letters underneath the black letters is the Midrash (Devarim Rabba, 3:12; Reish Lakish) and Talmud (Yerushalmi, Shekalim, 1:1) that says that the Torah that preceded the world and the Torah that God gave to Moshe at Sinai was black fire written on top of white fire.

When a scribe today writes a Torah Scroll with black ink on top of white parchment, it is to remind us about the original Torah that had letters of black fire written on top of letters of white fire (Shvilei Pinchas). Perhaps, this teaches us that our Torah study should be ablaze with fiery enthusiasm and excitement!

This is where women receive their spiritual sustenance from. Although the men get their spiritual energy from the black letters, women get it from the white letters underneath (Shvilei Pinchas).

Since men are connected to the black letters and women are connected to the white letters, it teaches us about the different roles of men and women.

The black letters form words, sentences, paragraphs, and columns which teach us about the commandments that we must keep. Since men are connected to those letters, it teaches us that men must be preoccupied in the study of Torah.

However, since the white letters underneath support the black letters on top, it teaches us that a woman’s role is to support her husband in his Torah study.

There are two ways of understanding how women support their husbands. One is a practical way and the other is a kabbalistic way.

Practically speaking, when women tend to the needs of the home and the children, they enable their husbands to study. In this way, women assist their husbands’ Torah study.

However, kabbalistically speaking, since women are connected to the white letters underneath, it shows us that women are deeper than men. This idea is found in the Gemara (Niddah, 45b) where Rav Chisdah says that God gave women deeper understanding than men. This teaching is found in the verse that says, “Vayiven (and He – God – built) woman from the side of Adam” (Gn. 2:22). The last two letters of the word “Vayiven” are beis and nun. When changing the vowels under those two letters, they spell the word “Bina” (understanding). This teaches us that when God “built” woman, He built her with a deeper level of “understanding” than men.

In what way are women deeper than men? One explanation is that men are typically fact finders. Men approach the Torah like they would a complicated puzzle. Men were entrusted with the mission of putting the pieces of the puzzle together. This means that men are involved in the details, technicalities and rigidities of the Torah. However, men get so caught up in the minutia that they can get lost in the forest because of the trees. This means that men are more likely to miss the big picture as to why God commanded us in those mitzvos to begin with.

This is where women come in. When a husband shares the topic of Torah that he is learning with his wife, she can show him how that information can be used to become a better person, more refined, and closer to Hashem. This is a deeper dimension to the Torah that her husband may have missed.

Perhaps we could suggest that this is hinted to in the white letters that women are connected to in the Torah. A white letter is called an “Os Levanah.” The last three letters of “Levanah” are: beis, nun, and hey. If we change their vowels they spell the word “Bina.” This teaches us that the function of women and their white letters are to bring an added dimension of depth to the Torah by showing how each detailed mitzvah can sculpt us into better people.

Therefore, women are exempt from Torah study. They are only exempt from the fact-finding aspect. But, by no means were women left out. On the contrary, women are meant to assist their husbands’ Torah study. Women do this in two ways. Firstly, by practically taking care of the home thereby freeing up their husbands to engage in the unscrambling of the Torah’s details and secondly by bringing the deeper messages we are meant to learn from those technicalities.

Just as the black letters rest and lean upon the white letters, so do men rest, lean, and depend on their wives for their Torah study.

On the other hand, just as the white letters receive and support the black letters, so do women support their husband’s Torah study.

This is why it is impossible for a man to truly understand the Torah unless he is married. Either because man will be so busy attending to the chores of the home that he has little time to study or because he will get so caught up in the rigidities of Halachah that he will lose sight of why God commanded us in these mitzvos to begin with.

Therefore, God instructed Moshe to teach Torah to the women before teaching the men. Just like it is imperative to have the parchment first in order to write a letter down, so too, was it necessary to teach the women before the men.

According to this, we could ask, why did God create Adam before Eve? Apparently, He should have created Eve (the parchment or white letter) first and then Adam (the black letter).

One answer could be that Eve should have been created first, but God created Adam first to show him how much he needed Eve. God basically said to Adam, “You are a black letter. Go ahead, accomplish. How’s that working for you without a parchment?” This was meant to generate Man’s appreciation of woman after experiencing the feeling of helplessness.

This is why a “chassan” (groom) says to a “kallah” (bride), “Harei At Mikmudeshes Li” (You are betrothed to me). The word “mikudeshes” means to designate. This is what one must do with preparing parchment for writing a Torah Scroll. He must designate it for that purpose and preferably articulate that with his mouth (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 32:8).

Similarly, the chassan says to his kallah, “Look, I am a black letter, and you are the parchment (and white letter) underneath me. Before we consummate the marriage, I must be “mikadesh” (designate) you for that purpose.” Once they get married, they become another letter in Hashem’s Sefer Torah.

This is why the chassan concludes by saying, “K’das Moshe ViYisrael” (according to the Law of Moshe and Israel). The “Law” of Moshe and Israel is the document called the Torah. Just like for a Torah Scroll the parchment must be designated beforehand, so too must the kallah be designated beforehand.

This also explains the juxtaposition between the last mitzvah in the Torah, writing a Sefer Torah (Dt. 31:19) and the first mitzvah in the Torah, to be fruitful and multiply (Gn. 1:28). Just like writing a Sefer Torah requires writing black letters on top of parchment (white letters), so is every union between man and woman (in the creation of a child) the coming together of a black letter on top of a white letter (Shvilei Pinchas).

This is why the custom is to call a chasan up to the Torah on the Shabbos before he gets married (Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim, chap. 282, citing Levush). It is in order to draw upon the holiness of a Sefer Torah, preparing him to become another letter in God’s Torah Scroll (Shvilei Pinchas).

We know that the Hebrew words for man and woman are “Ish and Ishah.” We know that God’s Name was placed in those words, with a yud in the word Ish and with a hey in the word Ishah (Sota, 17a, Rebbi Akivah, Rashi there). But, the remaining letters of both perspective words spells the words “Aish – Aish” (fire – fire). This teaches us that a husband and a wife are two types of fire, black fire on top of white fire (Shvilei Pinchas).

Therefore, when a chasan is escorted down the aisle to the chuppah (canopy), each escort holds a candle (Mateh Moshe, vol. 3, chap. 1, #2). The Tashbatz says that this is because at Matan Torah the mountain was ablaze with fire (Dt. 4:11). This means that every wedding is a reenactment of Har Sinai. The chuppah serves as the mountain. The chasan and kallah represent the letters of the Torah. The two candles represent the two types of fire, black and white. This could be why the kallah typically dresses in a white gown, representing the white fire, whereas the chasan dresses in a black suit, representing the black fire.

Years ago, my wife, Laura, instructed me to give practical applications to my teachings. As we mentioned above, this is where women come in to play with respect to adding a deeper dimension to men’s Torah study. Thank you, Laura!

So, one practical application could be as follows. As we start to read the Torah again from the beginning, let us try to refresh our marriages by infusing them with the holiness of a Sefer Torah. Let us try to make a learning session with our spouses. This could be every day for 5 – 10 minutes, or three times a week, or even once a week.

However, prior to this learning session, let us say, “May this Torah learning help join our black letter and parchment (white letter) together, filling ourselves with the sanctity of a Sefer Torah that will permeate ourselves, our family, and our home.”

For those of us who are not yet married, the pledge to do this with our spouses may just serve as the segulah (charm) to find our significant other.

So, may all 600,000 of us Bnei Yisrael be blessed with harmonious marriages, filled with the sanctity of a Sefer Torah, which will rekindle that holy fire in our relationships, where we work together, helping each other accomplish our common goal which is building a home that will be a Binyan Adei Ad, like it was Bigan Eden Mikedem.

Good Shabbos, Warmest wishes, Aba Wagensberg.

Rabbi Aba Wagensberg

Four Arrested in Ukraine in Attack on Chabad Rabbi

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Police in Ukraine have arrested four suspects for the brutal beating and robbery two weeks ago of Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Mendel Deitsch, who remains in serious but stable condition at a hospital in Israel.

According to local press reports, two men and two women from the Carpathian mountain region attacked Deitsch, 63, near the central train station in Zhitomir on the night of Oct. 6, or in the early hours of Oct. 7. They then fled the city with the rabbi’s cell phone and cash, leaving him bleeding and unconscious under a bridge near the station.

The suspects returned to the city a week after the attack and were identified and arrested by police two days ago.

The rabbi was discovered the morning after the attack and was admitted to the intensive care unit at a regional hospital, where he was diagnosed with multiple head injuries and brain trauma.

Deitsch underwent emergency surgery in Zhitomir while the victim’s family in Israel urgently worked with the Israeli government and emergency-services organizations in Jerusalem to arrange an airlift to Tel Hashomer hospital in Ramat Gan.

Deitsch has been active in strengthening Jewish life in the former Soviet Union for many years, and is a central organizer of hospitality and programming at the burial site of Chabad’s founder—Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in Haditch, Ukraine, where Deitsch is believed to have spent Rosh Hashanah.

Republished from Chabad.org


Rabbi Kahane’s Grandson Arrested Again

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Rabbi Kahane’s grandson, Meir Ettinger, was arrested at his home Monday morning for questioning, by detectives of the Judea and Samaria police, Honenu legal aid society reported.

According to the report, Ettinger is being interrogated over “an old affair” to which he denies any connection.

In early July, Ettinger was freed after 10 months of administrative detention. He had been arrested without trial, thrown into Eshel prison, and held in solitary confinement for those 10 months, after former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon abused the anachronistic, anti-democratic administrative detention regulations left over from the British Mandate.

The question now is, will Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sign new administrative detention orders against Ettinger, sending him back to prison without trial, or will the rightwing leader show more respect for democracy.

David Israel

Rabbi Brutally Beaten in Zhitomir, Ukraine; Community Asks for Prayers

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Rabbi Mendel Deitsch, a longtime Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in France and more recently in Israel, was brutally attacked at Zhitomir’s central train station early Friday morning, where he was discovered and transported to a local hospital. The Jewish Community of Zhitomir was alerted to the attack hours after Deitsch was admitted to the hospital; his condition is considered extremely critical. The motive for the attack remains unknown. Violent anti-Semitic attacks in Ukraine are rare, and there is no indication at this time that it was anti-Semitic in nature. Chabad Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, chief rabbi of Zhitomir, is asking people to pray for Rabbi Deitsch. Read more here.

Jewish Press News Briefs

The Influence of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in America (Part II)

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Editor’s Note: This column contains excerpts from Dr. Levines “Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch and America – an Historical View,” which appeared in The World of Hirschian Teachings, An Anthology on the Hirsch Chumash and the Hashkafa of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Rabbi Dr. Joseph Breuer Foundation, Feldheim, 2008, 199- 210).

Last month we outlined how Rabbi Dr. Bernard Drachman (1861-1945), who was one of foremost spokesmen for Orthodoxy in America during his lifetime, was influenced by the writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. This month we discuss two other rabbinical personalities who were influenced by Rav Hirsch.


Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz (1886-1948)

The name of Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz is inextricably linked to Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and Torah Umesorah. Mr. Mendlowitz, as he insisted upon being called, was a pioneer educator who played a key role in laying the foundations of yeshiva education in America. He came from a chassidic background and studied in Hungarian yeshivas. Some may not realize that he was deeply influenced by the philosophy of Rav Hirsch.

Early in his life Reb Shraga Feivel decided he would devote himself to strengthening Orthodoxy in the face of the onslaughts of those who would undermine Torah Judaism.

For the impending battle, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch became the model. Rav Hirsch’s success in arresting the rush to Reform in Germany served as an example of what one man could do. His ability to speak the language of modern man – the product of the Enlightenment and the scientific worldview – while remaining entirely rooted in classic Jewish sources and thought was something Reb Shraga Feivel explicitly sought to emulate.

Rabbi Hirsch had not been intimidated by 19th-century thought or the rapid advance of science in his day, and neither would Reb Shraga Feivel shy away from the challenges of the 20th century. Having identified Rav Hirsch as one of the exemplars of what he hoped to achieve in life, Reb Shraga Feivel pored over his vast corpus of writings.[i]

On one occasion, while he was attending the shiurim of Rabbi Simcha Bunim Schreiber, a grandson of the Chasam Sofer and the author of Shevet Sofer,

Reb Shraga Feivel found himself the object of criticism when he was seen studying Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s works. Because Rabbi Hirsch wrote in German vernacular, his works still occasioned suspicion within the deeply conservative Hungarian yeshiva world of the day. Reb Shraga Feivel was summoned to appear before the yeshiva administration. At his “trial” he enlisted the assistance of an old Jew living in Pressburg, who testified that thirty years earlier, when his first wife’s mental disability forced him to seek permission from one hundred rabbis to take a second wife, the Divrei Chaim of Sanz had advised him to travel to Frankfurt-am-Main to obtain the signature for Rabbi Hirsch, telling him, “What I am to Galicia, he is to Germany.”[ii]

Reb Shraga Feivel often utilized ideas from RSRH in his classes.

He was alive to every facet of genuine Torah expression. “Some souls,” he used to say, “drink from Tanya. Others from the Ramchal. Still others from Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. I drink from all of them, though at any given time, I might drink from one in particular.” He had the genius to draw from every strand of authentic Jewish thought, to place those various strands in relation to one another, and to see each of them as simply another path to knowledge and service of the Divine…


Rabbi Dr. Yosef Breuer (1882 – 1980)

Rav Breuer was, of course, a foremost proponent of Hirschian ideology. He influenced thousands through his many years of leadership of Khal Adath Jeshurun, his classes, speeches and writings, and his bringing the Torah of Rav Hirsch to English-speaking Jews by having the writings of RSRH translated into English. He built a model kehilla, which others would do well to emulate. Anyone who came in close contact with members of KAJ could not help but be impressed by how the beautiful legacy of Rav Hirsch was steadfastly preserved and practiced.

One area in which Rav Breuer excelled was his insistence on consistency in all aspects of life. For him there was no dichotomy between religious observance and “mundane” activity. Let me illustrate this with an example.

The commentary of RSRH on the Chumash is more that just an explanation of the Torah. It is filled with gems that explain what Torah Judaism really is or, at least, should be. On verse 19:2 of Vayikra, “Speak to the entire community of the Children of Israel and say to them: Be holy, for I, God, your God, am holy,” Rav Hirsch writes:

Self-mastery is the highest art a man can practice. Self-mastery does not mean neglecting, stunting, killing, or destroying any of one’s powers or faculties. In and of themselves, the powers and faculties – from the most spiritual to the most sensual – that have been given to man are neither good nor bad. They all have been given to us for exalted purposes – that we may use them to do God’s Will on earth. The Torah sets for each of them a positive purpose and negative limits. In the service of that purpose and within those limits, all is holy and good. But where a person strays from that purpose and exceeds those limits, coarseness and evil begin.

As in any other art, virtuosity in this, the highest moral art can be attained only through practice – training one’s moral willpower to master the inclinations of the heart. But this training is not to be undertaken in the realm of the expressly forbidden, where any slip would result in wrongdoing. Rather, moral resolve must be tested and strengthened in the realm of the permitted. By learning to overcome inclinations that are permitted but related to the forbidden, one gains the power of self-mastery and thus makes all his powers and faculties subservient to the fulfillment of God’s Will. Each person, according to his own unique qualities, should work on his inner self; and he should train quietly, in a manner known only to himself.

That is just one example of how relevant Rav Hirsch’s writings are to our times. We live in an age of great emphasis on externalities at the expense of commitment to the quiet, private practice of Judaism. Our society is obsessed with packaging at the expense of substance, and, sadly, some have been duped into thinking that this is also true when it comes to their Yiddishkeit. Rav Breuer elucidated this when he wrote:

Genuine chassidic Jewishness strives for chassiduth which in itself is a lofty achievement on the ethical ladder which the Yehudi must attempt to climb. This is demonstrated for us by R. Pinchas ben Yair (Avodah Zarah 20b): Our highest duty is Torah and its study; this leads to carefulness which in turn leads to active striving; to guiltlessness; to purity; to holiness; to modesty; to the fear of sin; and finally, to chassiduth. Accordingly, a chassid is a Jew who gives himself in limitless love to the Divine Will and its realization and to whom the welfare of his fellowmen constitutes the highest source of satisfaction [see Hirsch, Chorev, Ch. 14]. Thus, in the Talmudic era, the title “chassid” was a mark of highest distinction and this is what it should be today.

The so-called chassid who confines his Avodah to prayer does not deserve this title if this “Avodah of the heart” does not call him to the Avodah of life where he must practice and apply the precepts of chassidus.

He does not deserve the title if he is particular regarding the kashruth of his food but fails to apply the precepts of conscientiousness and honesty to his business dealings.

He does not deserve this title if his social life is not permeated by love and the deep interest in the welfare of his fellow men; if he does not shun quarreling, envy, or even abominable lashon hara; if he does not earnestly strive to acquire those midoth for which Rav Hirsch (in his Chorev) calls so eloquently.

Certainly the mere exhibition of a certain type of clothing or the type of beard worn or even the adornment of long sideburns do not entitle the bearer to the title of honor – chassid. These may be marks of distinction but they must be earned to be deserved.[iii]

Rav Breuer lived his life as a true chassid, setting an example for thousands to follow. His uncompromising approach to yashrus in all his activities, whether sacred or chol, is something every Jew should strive to emulate.


[i] Reb Shraga Feivel, the Architect of Torah in America by Yonoson Rosenblum, Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 2001, page 38.

[ii] Reb Shraga Feivel, the Architect of Torah in America by Yonoson Rosenblum, Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 2001, pages 34 – 35.

[iii] Rav Breuer, His Life and His Legacy by David Kranzler, Feldheim, 1998

Dr. Yitzchok Levine

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/the-influence-of-rabbi-samson-raphael-hirsch-in-america-part-ii/2016/10/06/

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