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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Secular Jews’

Revolutionary Marriage Reform Law Spells End to Haredi Domination

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The Knesset voted Monday night in favor of a bill sponsored by the Jewish Home party that in effect breaks the grip of Haredi rabbis on marriage permits in the country. It easily passed on second and third readings in the Knesset with the only opposition coming from Haredi Knesset Members.

The “Tzohar Law,” named after the organization of modern orthodox rabbis who have been vying for more influence in the country’s religious establishment, will allow couples to register for marriages anywhere they want.

The change is not minor. Certain cities are known to be a nightmare for couples who are often faced with local rabbis’ extreme demands concerning their being Jewish, their lifestyles, and also touching on customs that vary in different communities, such Sephardi and Ashkenazi, and which are not required to be observed by everyone.

One rabbi who has performed dozens if not hundreds of marriages told The Jewish Press that one city, which is not being named here in order not to blemish its name, is a known problem because of local Haredi rabbis’ conditions that often are “unreasonable.”

Now that a prospective bride and groom can register wherever they want, Haredi rabbis will lose any influence, good or bad, they once had over secular and non-Haredi religious couples. If the Haredi establishment had been a bit more flexible in the past decade, it could have won the respect of tens of thousands of Jews who might have been swayed to become more observant.

Instead, their insensitivity to Israeli’s desire for tradition without coercion has cost them their dominance and has allowed modern orthodox rabbis to take over as much more widely accepted role models.

The winners of the new law are the Tzohar rabbis and the Jewish Home Party, which is rapidly shaking off its predecessor’s National Religious Party stigma of representing only observant Jews and those that believe that Jewish development in Judea and Samaria is the only important issue for the country.

The party has attracted non-observant supporters with an election platform that supported civil marriages, and the Tzohar law is bound to attract more non-religious supporters who want to marry according to Jewish law without having to be subservient to Haredi rabbis’ ultimatums.

“We have opened the religious services market, “ said Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett.

The Tzohar rabbis recently lost an important battle with the Haredi establishment, which elected Rabbi David Lau as Chief Ashkenazi rabbi instead of Tzohar Rabbi David Stav.

The new law will also create a computerized database for the registrations, making the records accessible to all of the registrars.

Peres’ Eulogy: Rav Ovadia Was ‘My Teacher, My Rabbi, My Friend’

Monday, October 7th, 2013

President Shimon Peres  eulogized Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Monday evening, stating, “A few hours ago I went to the hospital to say goodbye to my teacher, my rabbi, my friend Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. It was a difficult time. Tears filled my eyes and my throat was choked with emotion. I held his hand which was still warm and kissed his forehead.

“When I pressed his hand I felt I was touching history and when I kissed his head it was as though I kissed the very greatness of Israel.

“Immediately after the fall of the Second Temple there were two greats of the Torah – Yochanan ben Zakai and Yehuda HaNasi. I mention them because they came to the conclusion that for the Jewish people to survive we need to study.

“Rabbi Yosef symbolized that and acted upon it, he was simply a great man. His greatness wasn’t measured but rather it was felt as a spiritual wind in every corner, lighting up the darkness in unexpected places. When I met him I sensed he was a great man with an unbelievable memory and the wisdom to share his knowledge with others. His contribution was his love for Israel and he solved problems no-one else could solve using his wisdom and spirituality.”

Rav Ovadia Calls Tzohar Rav Stav ‘Evil’; Tzohar Replies: Repent

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Revered Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a spiritual head of the Shas party and a former Chief Rabbi, castigated Chief Rabbinate candidate Rabbi David Stav in unprecedented terms Saturday night, calling him “evil” and a “danger to Judaism.”

The Tzohar rabbinical group responded by calling on Rav Ovadia, who by all accounts is one of the most brilliant Torah sages today, to “repent” and “ask for forgiveness.”

The epithets  by Rav Ovadia may boomerang and give Rabbi Stav sympathy support that could make him Israel’s next Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi.

They also give anti-religious Jews, both inside Israel and in the Diaspora, plenty of ammunition to fire back in their campaign against leaving authority for Israel’s religious affairs in the hands of orthodox Jews, Haredi or not. One can hear the refrain already, “And you call these people spiritual leaders?”

Rabbi Benny Lau, a national religious rabbi and the nephew of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, told Voice of Israel public radio that despite Rabbi Ovadia’s constant antagonistic comments in  his weekly Saturday night sermons, he once realized the greatness of the man when he spoke  with him in person.

But Saturday night’ wild attack on Rabbi Stav left Rabbi Lau without any explanation for his behavior.

Rav Ovadia’s weekly speeches are often geared for his Sephardi audience, many of whom see themselves as having been discriminated against for decades under the domineering thumb of Ashkenazi rabbis for years.

Even taking that into account, Rabbi Lau’s inability to explain Rabbi Ovadia’s venom points in one direction: Aryeh Deri, the Rav’s favorite political leader and who rules the Shas political party.

Deri has been trying to torpedo a bill that would allow Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar to seek a second term. The reasoning is that since he is Haredi, his selection would create more pressure to accept a non-Haredi Ashkenazi rabbi.

Deri, a crackerjack if not ruthless politician, simply had to turn to his trusted rabbi, Rav Ovadia, to help make sure Rabbi Amar will not be selected and thereby prevent the election of Rabbi Stav.

It is open to question how much Deri and other aides close to Rav Ovadia have sheltered him from reality and have fed him the news they want him to read.

Regardless of who is to blame, when a  rabbi, especially one as distinguished as Rav Ovadia, states that appointing another rabbi to the Chief Rabbinate is like bringing idolatry in the Holy Temple, it only takes a look at the calendar to realize how deep and slimy the pit into which the campaign for Chief Rabbi has fallen.

Next week, Jews being the tradition “three weeks of mourning” that concludes with Tisha B’Av, marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

The Second Temple is said to have fallen because of “loshon haRa,” literally the “evil tongue” by which Jews slander other Jews.

The Tzohar rabbinical organization accused Rav Ovadia of doing just that and accused Rav Ovadia of incitement.

When respected rabbis feel the need to call on a rabbi as revered as Rav Ovadia to “repent,” it is clear something is not kosher.

Rabbi Stav has conducted an unprecedented self-promotional campaign to become Chief Rabbi, but it can easily be argued there is no other way to change the outward face inward soul of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel that has managed to distance secular Jews instead of drawing them closer to Judaism.

In a pitiful understatement, aides to Rabbi Amar have charged that political elements are sowing the seeds of hatred between Torah sages.

The group of Tzohar Rabbis protested what they called the incitement of Rabbi Yosef against “another great rabbi in Israel whose entire life has been dedicated to love of the Torah by the People of Israel.. [His comments] prove the need for an urgent change in the Rabbinate of Israel.”

Shas officials insisted on the last word, which gets worse every time they speak. They  said it is “not respectful to respond to words of a heretic by people who call themselves rabbis but are worse than non-Jews.”

One Shas source, compared Rabbi Stav with Korach, who challenged  Moses’ authority and whose followers died when the ground opened up and buried them alive. ” When Rav Ovadia says he [Rabbi Stav]is evil, there is no need to explain,” said the source. Now , it is clear that all of them [Tzohar rabbis] are evil.”

Rabbis and Secular Jews in Petition War over Jerusalem Area Mall

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Ten rabbis have signed a petition to boycott a mall in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot because of “issues of modesty” while secular residents are organizing a demonstration in support of the shopping mall.

The petition alleges that Haredi rabbis in the Ramot area struck an agreement with the mall developers on rules concerning modesty, according to the Globes business website.

The rabbis charge that the mall owners have gone beyond the agreement on the assumption that the Haredi community in Ramot has not alternative but to use the mall for immediate necessities.

The rabbis urge a total boycott of the mall except for the pharmacy and bank.

The Jerusalem party in the municipality’s city council said it will hold a pro-mall rally on Friday.

Jerusalem Residents Protest Plan to Close Cineplex on Shabbat

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Approximately Jerusalem residents, including Meretz party supporters, protested on front of City Hall Saturday night against a plan to close a new movie theater complex on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

The complex, which includes restaurants and a 15-screen movie theater, is set to open this summer. It will close on weekends in keeping with an agreement between the Finance Ministry, the property developer and the Jerusalem municipality.

Among the groups protesting were Awakening, the Meretz political party and Be Free Israel.

 

 

Anorexia And Corrupt Dating Values In Our Community

Monday, April 18th, 2011

   The article last week in The New York Times concerning the explosion of anorexia and eating disorders in the Orthodox community highlights a tragedy that has long been buried.
 
   In November 2006 I wrote a column about an eighteen-year-old girl my daughter knew at a seminary in Jerusalem who died of anorexia (www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/19839). The seminary shrugged off any blame in the matter and cited some other illness, even though the girls at the seminary watched her wasting away with the administration seemingly oblivious.
 
   The tragedy is not only the danger posed to religious girls with eating disorders but also the growth of corrupt values in the Orthodox community. The Times article highlighted how matchmakers are calling about girls and asking what dress size they and their mothers are. What does this have to do with Jewish values? Sure, a man has to be attracted to a woman. But the narrow definition of the body as the only ingredient of attraction is a betrayal of the traditional Jewish definition of feminine beauty.
 
   Time was when a Jewish woman’s comeliness was determined holistically and based on five key components: her body, her mind, her heart, her piety, and her personality. Now, it’s been reduced to her dress size. Stick-thin scarecrow-like features are the foremost determinant of attractiveness.
 
   Being overweight is not healthy. But women who focus only on their bodies to the exclusion of their souls are equally unhealthy. And men who have practiced Judaism their entire lives but are blind to a woman’s righteousness and virtue, focusing exclusively on her form to the exclusion of her substance, are even more unhealthy.
 
   The crisis in Orthodoxy today is the practice of Jewish ritual to the exclusion of Jewish values. And in no area is this more evident than in the increasingly shallow dating preferences that are coming to define our community. King Solomon’s ode to the eishes chayil – the wife of excellence – we chant every Friday night risks becoming an empty refrain, with men paying lip service to its central proclamation that “physical beauty is misleading, but a woman who fears God is truly to be praised.”
 
   I never would have thought Orthodox Jews would arrive at a stage where our young men of marriageable have become so one-dimensional that their superficiality would begin to literally kill our young women. That their mothers – women themselves – are colluding in this corruption by calling the shadchan to ask a girl’s dress size in the same breath as asking about her level of Torah observance is doubly tragic.
 
   The Times article also cited the immense pressure Orthodox women feel to marry at a very young age and how they feel themselves to be failures if they are in their mid-twenties and not yet married with a few children.
 
   I have long advocated marrying young - for Orthodox and secular alike – because it allows a couple to grow up together and solidify their union with life’s formative experiences. But this has to be balanced against the benefits of young women being educated and using their minds, not just their wombs. It’s a beautiful thing to see Orthodox seminaries for women bursting at the seams. Jewish women today are being exposed to the great texts of Judaism, from Talmud and Midrash to halacha and chassidus. Stern and Touro are graduating Orthodox girls with degrees in international relations and public relations, girls proficient in the sciences and mathematics.
 
   Secular Jews have long dismissed the Orthodox attitude toward women as demeaning and misogynistic. They argue that we treat our girls as baby-making machines who belong in the kitchen. But the highly educated Orthodox Jewish woman gives the lie to these malicious accusations. Should we be so stupid as to prove our critics right by making women feel so much pressure to be married by the age of twenty? Is it not our responsibility to demonstrate that a woman can maximize her fullest intellectual potential alongside having a family and that she need not choose between them?
 
   I am, thank God, the proud father of nine children. I want my daughters to marry young and to marry virtuous men. I shudder at the idea that after my wife and I raised them to embody the virtue of the Jewish matriarchs, my daughters will meet Orthodox suitors obsessed with their external beauty to the exclusion of their inner spiritual commitment.
 
   I have spent my life critiquing the secular culture’s attitudes toward the feminine, especially in my book Hating Women, where I decry the reduction of women to a libidinous man’s plaything. But we in the Orthodox community dare not make our own mistake in reducing our women to pretty baby-making mannequins.
 
   Yes, family is the most important thing in Jewish life. And dating recreationally for ten years – as is common in secular society – is scant preparation for the lifelong commitment of marriage. I am a counselor to secular singles who suffer the effects of the recreational dating culture. They often experience the pain and heartache of endlessly going in and out of relationships.
 

   Orthodox Jewish life is meant to offer a radical alternative. But viewing women as frum Barbies, whose foremost responsibility is not learning Torah and practicing mitzvos but going on the treadmill and pumping iron, or seeing a woman’s education as inconsequential and making her feel old and discarded if she is not married by her early twenties, is hardly an attractive alternative.

 

 

    Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the bestselling author of 25 books, most recently Honoring the Child Spirit” and Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

A Vacuum To Be Filled (Part Two)

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

In last week’s column I published a letter from a young woman who was raised in an assimilated, Reform home, but something in her soul always yearned to make a connection with Hashem and her Jewish roots. Unfortunately however, despite the fact that she grew up in a predominantly Orthodox community in New York, no one reached out to her. None of her neighbors ever thought of inviting her for a Shabbos meal, to shul, or their sukkah, and the yearning in her heart remained unfulfilled. And so it was that she became easy prey for an evangelical missionary who enticed her into being baptized and joining a Messianic Christian sect.

For 13 long years she was a member of this group. However, she could find no peace and yearned for “Emes.” Then, one day, while visiting her parents [back in the Orthodox community where she grew up], she stopped in at the local public library where she discovered my first book, Jewish Soul On Fire. The book pierced her neshamah and her tears just flowed. At the same time, she bought an ArtScroll Chumash and read Parshas Ha’azinu. Thus, her journey home began. Today, Baruch Hashem, she is married, has two little children, and is blessed with a true Torah home.

She wrote to me to express her appreciation, and although I already responded to her privately, I felt it was important to share her experiences with you, my dear readers, so that we might learn from them and rectify the painful vacuum in our community. Her letter compelled us to ask “How?” Yes, how could it happen that a child, growing up in an Orthodox neighborhood in which Torah values prevail, could fall victim to missionaries?

How could it have happened that no one invited her for Shabbos? Where was Ahavas Yisroel (love of one’s fellow Jew)? Where was areivus – mutual responsibility? Where were these pillars of Jewish life? Why could they not protect her from those tragic 13 years?

Our Torah teaches that if a dead body is found abandoned, then the sages, the leaders of the nearest town, must make atonement and declare, “Our hands did not spill this blood” (Deut. 21: 6-7).

Could anyone in his right mind imagine that the sages would be guilty of such a heinous crime? Of course not. Nevertheless, if a man’s body is found on the road, forsaken, then the leaders of the nearest community must assume responsibility for this terrible neglect. Now if this holds true in regard to a forsaken body, we must ask ourselves how the Torah would view the abandonment of Yiddishe neshamos? The young woman’s question, “Why didn’t anyone reach out to me? Why didn’t any of my Orthodox neighbors invite me to their shul, Shabbos lunch, or their sukkah?” These are the questions that cut to the heart of the problem.

And if I may, I would like to add my own question. “How is it that no one even thought of giving this girl a book that would connect her to her Jewish faith – to Torah? Why did she have to discover my book by chance in the public library after 13 years of groping in darkness?” Who knows how many more innocent Yiddishe neshamos are being lost daily before our very eyes in our own neighborhoods?

It is for this reason that I decided to publish her letter, so that all of us might re-think and re-examine our relationship with our more secular, assimilated Jewish brethren, be they neighbors, fellow students or co-workers. The very least we can do (even if for some personal reason we cannot invite them for a Shabbos) is to offer them the gift of friendship, a book, or invitation to a Torah class.

Nowadays, Baruch Hashem, there are numerous such classes in every Jewish community. My own Torah classes take place every Tuesday evening at Kehilath Jeshurun at 125 East 85 Street at 7:30 p.m. and on Thursday evenings at the Hineni Center at 232 West End Avenue at 8:30 p.m. And if you e-mail me (rebbetzin@hineni.org) to alert me that you are bringing others I will be happy to welcome and speak to them privately.

At this point, I would like to make a disclaimer in defense of the beautiful Torah communities in New York and all over the United States. In all fairness, I believe that we can be justifiably proud of the incredible chesed in the Torah world nowadays. I know for a fact that every Shabbos, there are families hosting people who come from varied backgrounds in their homes. But, and here is the big but, this does not mean that there may not be someone who is totally disconnected to Torah residing on the very same block as an Orthodox person, without the two ever meeting.

Our 21st-century culture has conditioned us to believe that if we want to maintain peace, we have to “mind our own business” and not “meddle” in other people’s lives. So, while we may be very receptive to saying “yes” to hosting a group visiting our homes for Shabbos, we are hesitant to approach a neighbor lest we be accused of invading his or her privacy.

Thus it can happen that secular Jews living in religious neighborhoods may never experience the majesty of Shabbos, although its radiance can be glimpsed right next door. Similarly, the neighbors of this young woman may have been hesitant to approach her lest they be accused of “missionizing” or invading her privacy. Sadly, I have seen a number of examples of such incidents. Shamefully, the tensions between the religious and the irreligious living side-by-side can at times be very fierce and even ugly.

Secular Jews may feel that the Orthodox look askance at their life styles and have a holier-than-thou attitude. While in some cases, this may be valid, more often than not, these feelings are misread. Just the same, many sincere people are reluctant to reach out lest their gestures be misinterpreted.

To be sure, there are other difficulties as well. There are those in the Orthodox community who fear that the secular influence of the non-observant will negatively impact on their own families and therefore are hesitant to invite people into their homes. Then there are still others who simply feel inadequate: “What if they ask me questions and I don’t know how to respond?” they worry.

Bottom line, however, I believe that most Orthodox Jews would be happy to reach out to their brethren if they knew how to go about it. Lacking the tools, they live insulated lives, which is misinterpreted as “judgmental” by the non-observant. I encountered this very problem many moons ago, when I was privileged to launch kiruv – outreach, and while great strides have been made since those pioneering years, much still remains to be done.

The time has come to rectify the blatant neglect. Having lost six million holy neshamos, we can’t afford to lose millions more to a spiritual Holocaust. Every Jew who believes, every Jew who loves his people, must become pro-active and reach out. One day soon, G-d will ask us to give an accounting for the lost Yiddishe neshamos that were left abandoned on the highways of life – even at our own doorsteps.

Will we parrot the infamous words of Kayin, “HaShomer Achi anochi? – Am I my brother’s keeper?” or will we respond like the Patriarch Abraham who said, “Hineni – Here I am” and kindled the light of G-d in the hearts of all those with whom he came in contact.

(To Be Continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/a-vacuum-to-be-filled-part-two/2009/10/28/

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