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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Roshei Yeshiva’

The Internet, Halacha, and Olam HaBah

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

It’s simply not possible. I don’t believe it. Nonetheless it is being reported as fact. Rafi’s blog, Life in Israel, has linked to the Hebrew language website B’Chadrei Charedim that quotes Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s response to a question about smart-phones.

There is a Gemarah in Brachos that tells us that a man will lose his portion in Olam HaBah if he walks regularly behind a woman down a river. Rav Kanievsky was asked if this applies to someone who has in his possession an I-phone or the internet. His one word answer according to Chadrei was ‘ B’Vadai’ – absolutely! Anyone who uses an I-phone or the internet is in a category of losing his Olam HaBah – his heavenly reward in the world to come!

If this is true, then yet again, I think we all ought to all just go over to MacDonald’s and have a cheeseburger… or violate any other Miztvah in the Torah we want to violate. Why bother observing Halacha if you’ve lost your Olam Habah?

I happen to know Gedolei Torah and Roshei Yeshiva  who use I-phones and the internet. Are they all doomed?

Once again we have what appears to be a huge dis-connect between what a great Torah sage supposedly said – and reality. Either Rav Kanievsky does not know the extent of internet use among a great number of devoutly observant Jews, or this is a gross distortion or mischaracterization of his views. I think that both things are true. I don’t believe he said it and meant it to be interpreted as simply as that one word answer indicates.

I would not be surprised if this is yet another instance of Kanoim – religious zealots twisting the views of a elderly rabbinic leader to fit their agenda. I’m sure his position is far more nuanced than the one word answer (B’Vadai) he supposedly gave to a simple question.

The Agenda is obvious. There are people who are eager to destroy other Jews in a fit of self righteousness. They do not have these devices and do not want anyone else to have them either. So they make sure to twist the words of Gedolei Yisroel to assure it.

They may think they are doing the right thing. But they are by far doing far much more harm than good. They may in fact be responsible for pushing more religious Jews out of observance than saving them from using the internet.

By putting people who have smart-phones into a category of losing their Olam Habah, it is not too difficult to see many frustrated Frum people who have so often been put upon with comments like this say, ‘the heck with it!’ I may as well live a life of ease and not worry about violating Halacha. I won’t make to Olam HaBah anyway.

The Gemarah upon which this one word response attributed to Rav Kanievsky was based upon does not forbid the incidental following of a woman down a river. The loss of Olam Habah  that the Gemarah speaks of is only to those who purposely do so with lascivious thoughts and the intent to sin in that regard. And even then only if it is done on a regular basis.

I would add that even if someone regularly does things like that and has some sort of sexual addiction, he can get help… and do Teshuva. I find it very difficult to believe that the Gemarah’s intent is that someone loses his Olam HaBah permanently if he does that. It is also known that the Gemarah sometimes exaggerates to make a point. Which may be the case here.

If there is any comparison to be made between following a woman down a river and the world of the 21st century and the internet – it is in the area of purposely viewing pornography on it. The problem is not the internet. It is the websites one frequents… if those websites are pornographic. That is the comparison that Rav Kanievsky no doubt meant – if he said anything at all.  Accidentally accessing a pornographic website is not a cause for losing one’s Olam Habah.

But the Kanoim who publish stories like this do not want to be confused with the nuances of truth. They want convey the message that I-phones and any other device that can access the internet is so evil that one should not even touch it! For if they do, their Olam HaBah is at stake.

Chofetz Chaim Musmach Tells It Like It Is on Charedi Child Molestation

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

I have always been impressed with the students of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim. I do not recall ever meeting anyone from that Yeshiva that I wasn’t thoroughly impressed with. My son actually attended WITS which is a branch of that Yeshiva in Milwaukee – for his freshman year in high school. I have nothing but the highest regard for – and gratitude to – the two Roshei Yeshiva at the time, Rabbis Cheplowitz and Harris… as well as all of the Rebbeim there.

Chofetz Chaim is a Charedi Yeshiva.  Their standards of Torah study are very high. Getting Semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Chofetz Chaim is a 9 year program, if I recall correctly. That tends to weed out the the truly incompetent. One can be sure that a rabbi from Chofetz Chaim has earned his title; that his religious education is broad; and that he has very likely had a good secular education. (I should also mention that Ma’arava is a Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva high school in Israel that is Charedi and has an excellent secular studies department.)

If there was ever a school that was definitive of moderate Charedism – Chofetz Chaim is it. I only wish that its ethos were the standard for every Charedi Yeshiva. Unfortunately that is not the case. In the ‘move to the right’ world we live in, Lakewood’s ethos is the model.

Last Friday VIN re-published an op-ed  (originally in The Jewish Home and re-published again today in The Jewish Pressby a Musmach of Chofetz Chaim. Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger is the principal of Valley Torah High School a Chofetz Chaim school in North Hollywood, California. Therein he presents an honest analysis about what attitudes towards sex abuse in the Orthodox world should be – and what they actually are instead.

Of course he doesn’t say so directly. But I believe his words are an indictment of Lakewood. Because it is precisely Lakewood’s attitude with respect to an admitted and convicted sex abuser that he questions.

Let me emphasize that it is not me indicting Lakewood. It is a Charedi Musmach. My views have – and will continue to be – discounted by many Charedim as illegitimate since I am an outsider. Time and again there are people who will say that my motives are to purely bash Charedim… and therefore no one should pay attention to what I say – and I will be bashed in the process.

Well, here is my message to those who doubt me: If you don’t want to pay attention to me, pay attention to Rabbi Stulberger. Here are his concluding words in that op-ed:

So let’s stop focusing on the sterling reputations of perpetrators and their family members, who inevitably rally to the molester’s side. Let’s stop nonsensically pretending that we are turning innocent people over to the KGB or the Gestapo. Let’s stop listening to the empty promises that it won’t happen again. Instead, let’s start looking into these children’s hearts and let us cry at the agony that we see.

Let’s look honestly at the fact that today as an Orthodox community we cannot manage our own house, and cannot promise that there will be no more victims. We don’t have the power. We don’t have the authority. And sadly, I fear that we don’t have the empathy.

Compare this with the Lakewood mindset. Lakewood is the standard bearer for most of the rest of the Charedi Yeshiva world in America. Their ethos can best be summed up in a statement about the vary same victim that generated Rabbi Stulberger’s op-ed. It was written by Torah VoDa’ath Rosh HaYeshiva and Chief OU Kashrus Posek, Rav Yisroel Belsky – a letter that to the best of my knowledge has never been repudiated:

My ears should have been spared hearing the horrific news that one of your fellow residents in town informed upon a fellow Jew to the hands of the secular authorities,may God spare us,for which the [Jewish]law is undisputed that one who commits such an act has no share in the world to come. (see: Choshen Mishpat 388:4)

After conducting a thorough investigation I am absolutely certain that R’ Y.K.[Yosef Kolko], may his light shine, is perfectly innocent of any wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever. And not only is he innocent but it is also as clear to me that all these allegations are fabrications made by [REDACTED].

Further, all the reports made to the secular authorities were only for the express purpose of casting blame for their[the victim's family] own shameful and cursed existence on others. And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of and they seek to cleanse their reputation by blaming an innocent man for their own deeds.

I have to ask, which one of these two Charedi attitudes are the correct ones? Is there any way this can even be an Elu V’Elu? Which one reflects the attitude of the Torah? Which one reflects the Godly attribute of Rachamim – having great empathy and sense of mercy for a tortured soul? Is it Lakewood who’s empathy extends only to the victimizer and his family? Or is it Rabbi Stulberger, who’s empathy is directed to the victim? Is it Lakewood who vilifies the victim’s father? Or is it Rabbi Stulberger, who understands that such a view is at best completely misguided?

Yeshivish, the Language

Monday, November 26th, 2012

One of my personal pleasures these days is listening to an Iyun Kal (“lightly in depth”) Shiur on Shas Illuminated. This is a website designed for people who learn Daf Yomi and want t go into a bit more depth on the subject matter discussed in that day’s Gemarah. I have promoted this website a couple of times since my own son is one of the Magidei Shiur (lecturers). He did the first Perek (chapter) in Shabbos and is due to do the 12th Perek. Having it ‘spoon fed’ to me daily is quite a treat.

I love listening what various Rishonim, Achronim, and modern day Poskim have say on the those Sugyos (topics). I get quite a bit out of someone else’s hard work researching those sources.

But I wonder how many people are able to understand the language spoken by some of the Magidei Shiur. One might ask, “Don’t they give those Shiurim in English?” The answer is, sort of. The language they use is something called Yeshivish. That is a combination of English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic.

For most people who have attended a Yeshiva through high school and beyond – this is not a problem. This is the way most of us have learned Torah. We use this “Language of Learning”. It is in our blood. Using words like “Mutar and “Assur” are far more natural for us than using their English translations of “permitted” and “forbidden”. It is far more comfortable for us to use the language of the Talmud itself in certain words and expressions.

In fact this is one of the problems I have with ArtScroll English Shas. They translate too much. But I am not criticizing them for that. I actually applaud them for it. They should use as pristine a version of the English language as possible so that everyone can study the Talmud despite their backgrounds.

So what’s my problem? It is the following. If one becomes accustomed to using Yeshivish instead of English one may actually come to forget how to speak the language. Not everyone will be able to understand them. In some cases the Yeshivish becomes so ingrained and so extreme that they become completely incomprehensible to the untrained ear. They may not even realize that normal English speaking non Yeshivishe people have no clue what they are saying.

I will never forget a Sheva Brachos I attended one time. The Chasan’s older brother who was born and raised in America but had been learning in a Yeshiva for over a decade after he was married was asked to speak. He realized that not everyone in the room understood Yeshivish and said so.

He therefore said that he was going to say his D’var Torah in English. And he proceeded to speak incomprehensible Yeshivish anyway. Makes me wonder what his actual Yeshivish sounded like. The point is, however, that he actually thought he was speaking English!

This is a tremendous failing in the right wing Yeshiva world. Secular studies are denigrated so much that the ability to communicate with the non Yeshiva world is completely hampered. These students are either never taught or they completely ignore English grammar and never try to increase their vocabulary.

I don’t think I am alone in noting that this is a problem. I believe that many even right wing Roshei Yeshiva believe it is a problem. I recall reading that Rav Avreimal Ausband, the Rosh HaYeshiva of Telshe Yeshiva of Riverdale saying he felt this way. And yet I don’t believe that any Roshei Yeshiva are doing anything about it.

If the right wing wants to communicate their ideas to an educated Orthodox public, speaking or writing in Yeshivish will not do the trick. They should be able to put together complete sentences that do not contain Yeshivishe words.

Nor will they be able to even teach Torah to anyone who has not gone through the Yeshiva system. Which brings me back to The Magedei Shiur at Shas Illuminated. They are all Tamidei Chachmim, Talmudic scholars. But not all of them speak English – even though they think they are.

My son does. In his Shiurim on that website, he utilizes the vocabulary and English grammar he learned in high school and college. Although he also uses some Yeshivishe words, they are only the ones that are most commonly used. His Shiurim are therefore more broadly understood. But some of the other Magidei Shiur use a Yeshivishe jargon that only those with a serious Yeshivishe background will understand.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/yeshivish-the-language/2012/11/26/

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