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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Torah Judaism’

New Lapid Bennett Axis Enters Coalition Talks Together

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Now it’s getting real, at least according to the newly right-wing daily Maariv: the chairman of Yesh Atid, the leather-jacketed, cool TV journalist and host Yair Lapid, and the chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, the knitted yarmulke wearing, hi-tech wizard, NRP resurrecting Naftali Bennett have agreed on coordinating their positions when facing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition negotiations team.

Both leaders – the two most distinct winners of the recent election – have been holding their own negotiations, and agreed to present a unified position as their conditions for joining the next government.

Together, their two parties present a formidable block of 31 seats, equal to the Likud-Beitenu yield in the elections. Should they stick by their mutual commitments—which, in itself would be a refreshing Israeli phenomenon—they could easily force Netanyahu’s hand away from a partnership with the two Haredi parties, Shas and Torah Judaism. Those two only have a measly 18 seats to offer the embattled PM.

According to Maariv, which has recently been purchased by Shlomo Ben-Tzvi’s Hirsch Media, owner of the right-wing daily Makor Rishon—and as such is very reliable on issues concerning Bennett and the settlements movement—the two parties agreed that they would either join the coalition together or not at all. (This means that, should both remain outside the government, Lapid would be Opposition leader, to Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich’s chagrin).

Senior Likud officials have confirmed, according to Maariv, that such an agreement really exists, adding that it significantly limits Netanyahu’s room for maneuvering.

Netanyahu’s ideal coalition government would rely on Jewish Home, Shas and Torah Judaism (61 seats) with Kadima’s additional 2 seats and Shaul Mofaz, possibly, as Defense Minister. Indeed, Bibi has no interest in inviting Lapid to a seat of power in his government, which could make him even more popular four years from now.

So that, strangely enough, it is Lapid who depends on Bennett rather than the other way around, to keep his word. But, political nickels and dimes aside, the two men can only help each other by being known to cooperate publicly: two young men, both successful in their own rights, injecting honesty and principles into Israel’s cynical, depressing, old politics. And as such they’re certainly making Bibi look bad.

One man to watch for is Israel Beiteinu’s chairman Avigdor Liberman, who appeared pessimistic on Sunday regarding the possibility of putting together a viable coalition. “It’s very difficult to find a common denominator here,” he said. “The ideological split is sometimes very polar, so the end result is that instead of compromise we get ‘shatnez’ (halachically unlawful hybrid between wool and linen) that doesn’t allow us to move in any direction, and it does not allow us to bring any of the changes that the people are expecting.”

Liberman said that, as far as he’s concerned, the main issue for the next government should be changing the system of government. He said the issue would be determined in the guidelines of the next government, without wasting time on various governance committees. Likud and Israel Beitenu will meet in the coming days to present an offer on this count that would be acceptable to both parties.

According to Liberman’s proposal, the head of the largest party automatically becomes prime minister. Each government will have 18 cabinet ministers and four deputy ministers. The ministers will give up their Knesset membership, to ensure the separation of powers.

The voting threshold should go up three percent, says Liberman. Removing the Prime Minister will require a special majority of 80 Knesset members, and failure to pass a budget will not dissolve the Knesset. Votes of no confidence will require 61 signatures.

All of the above proposals reflect Liberman’s mounting frustration with the workings of government over the past decade or so, as he has experienced it intimately. His notions of a solution are typically direct, if not outright brutal, favoring the larger parties at the expense of the very parties Likud-Beitenu wants to seduce into the next government: Shas and Torah Judaism. It’s no wonder, then, that he is pessimistic about the chances for an effective government.

Indeed, the new pact between the two young mavericks Lapid and Bennett has effectively created two major, right-of-center blocks: Lapid-Bennett Vs. Netanyahu-Liberman, each with exactly 31 seats. Expect Liberman to push for partnership with the other “big party” – even if it requires Netanyahu to overcome his fears of an even stronger Lapid.

Likud Continues to Sink, Left Rising, Jewish Home Third Largest

Friday, December 28th, 2012

It’s three and a half days before the January 22 election in Israel, and the major story continues to be Likud-Beiteinu’s downhill slide. The unhappy union of two major right-wing parties, which has been losing a seat a week since its inception, on Friday sank to 33 vote (down from their current 42) in the Yedioth-Dahaf-Mina Tzemach poll, which included an unusually large sample in Israeli terms – 1,250 likely voters, with a 2-3 seat margin of error.

The other big story is that the new beneficiary of Likud’s losses is no longer Naftali Bennett’s HaBayit HaYehudi, but the “near left” parties of Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid. These two personality-based lists are also siphoning off votes from Labor, which in Friday’s poll was clipped down to 17 seats. Lapid and Livni are holding 11 seats each

Naftali Bennett’s National Religious coalition received 12 seats in Friday’s poll, while Power to Israel scored 2 seats, same as its current presence.

Among the Haredi parties, Shas increased to 11 from its current 10 Knesset seats, Torah Judaism maintains its rise to 6 from the current 5 seats, and Rabbi Amsalem gets 2 seats, an increase of 1 from his current 1 seat.

The extreme leftist Meretz retains its 4 seats. The Arabs receive 11 seats – same as their current number.

The gap between the blocks is narrowing: Likud-Beiteinu, Jewish Home and Power to Israel get 47 seats, Labor, Livni, Lapid and Meretz get 43, the Haredi factions Shas, Torah Judaism and Amsalem get 19, and the Arabs 11.

The lower Likud-Beiteinu’s count, the less able will prime minister apparent Benjamin Netanyahu be to pick and choose among his potential government partners. In my humble opinion, his ideal coalition will include his own 33 seats (if the slide stops), Shas and Torah Judaism (17) and labor (17) for a stable, 67 member coalition.

This will create an interesting conundrum on the opposition side. According to the Knesset protocol, the head of the largest opposition party is appointed Opposition Leader – receiving a salary comparable to a government minister and getting monthly updates from the PM. However, should Naftali Bennett have the honor to head the largest opposition party, he would be facing 11 Arabs, 4 Meretz, and 22 Tzipi-Lapid members, all of whom fiercely oppose his platform.

In the past there was one case of rebellion against a coalition head under reverse circumstances, when Shas and Torah Judaism refused to accept the anti-Haredi Tomi Lapid (late father of the current Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid) as their representative.

This has a Supreme Court appeal written all over it. And guess who loses in Supreme Court appeals…

Eytan Kobre’s Anti-Religious Rant

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Once again I am disappointed at the Charedi reaction to a possible draft in Israel. This time it is attorney Eytan Kobre, who reacted in his weekly Mishpacha Magazine column Text Messages. And that’s all it is. A reflexive knee-jerk reaction. It is not any kind of rational argument to make his case that Charedim in Israel should not be drafted.

Unless you consider “Because the Gedolim say so” to be a rational argument. This of course assumes that there is universal opposition by rabbinic leaders to a draft. That would be false – since Religious Zionist leaders are in favor of it. Nonetheless his rabbinic leadership assumes that a universal draft will change the Charedi paradigm of learning full time. Which they consider a Yehoreg V’Al Yaavor.

First, I do not concede that this is a foregone conclusion.  Secondly, I don’t think that is a bad thing if it is done the right way – a position I’ve explained many times in the past but beyond the scope of this post.

My problem with Mr. Kobre is his assumption that anyone who is in favor of a universal draft is out to ‘get him.’  By ‘him’, I mean Charedim.  What motivates those of us who favor equalizing the draft, he says, is our distinct mission to destroy Torah Judaism. That is how he frames the issue.

There is not a single word addressing the question about the lack of equal sacrifice by all. No explanation about why all Charedim should be exempt. For Mr. Kobre it is all about ‘Good versus evil.’ The good guys being the Charedim - and the bad guys are anyone who would dare to suggest that Charedim should not be given an automatic exemption.

What makes matters worse is he impugns religious Jews as the worst among his detractors. He prefers that the opposition were coming from a secular or even anti-religious sources. That would of course make it easier for him to claim that this is all about anti-religious secular government.

His rhetoric is quite angry. He  accuses his detractors of false piety and lying about their motives. As though the true motive was to destroy the Torah!

What prompted Eytan’s rant was an interview in the previous issue of Mishpacha of Aviad Friedman, a Charedi member of the Plesner committee – charged with coming up with a proposal for a universal draft. Which they did.

Mr. Friedman who seems to have impeccable Charedi credentials supported drafting as many Charedim into the IDF as possible.  For this he was vilified and called a liar – applying to him the tired cliche of ‘showing his true colors.’  As if it is impossible to be Charedi and support the draft.

What was his lie? He said that he didn’t think that there is any real hatred of Charedim in Israel.  Really? That’s a lie? Yes – there may be some hatred by a few on the radical left, but for the most part, there is no mass secular hatred. Only a sense that an element of fairness is missing in the way the secular Jew is treated versus the way the Charedi Jew is treated – especially  when it comes to army service.

I take strong issue with Mr. Kobre’s description of religious Jews as the enemy just because they support a universal draft. That is a canard!

Just to be clear I will restate my own position on this issue. Israel should apply its conscription law equally to all demographic segments. Exemptions and deferrals should be applied equally to everyone.  If a solider needs to be put in harms way – every able-bodied citizen – no matter what segment they belong to should be subject to the that possibility. No entire segment should get and an automatic exemption from danger.

If the draft is going to be equally applied, religious sensitivities must be guaranteed to all. This means that the infrastructure must be created and enforced so that Charedim will be able to practice Judaism as they  best understand it.  The bottom line for me is that no Charedi mother should ever be faced by a Chiloni or Religious Zionist mother asking the question, “Why did my son have to die in battle while your son was safe in a Yeshiva?”

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Inaccurate Characterization

In his July 6 “Charming Nation” column, Dov Shurin wrote that the only death caused by Saddam Hussein’s Scud attacks on Israel during the 1991 Gulf War was that of a man who suffered a heart attack – a man Shurin characterized as an opponent of Shabbat road closures.

The truth is that man was not someone who opposed any Shabbat laws. He was a fine, Orthodox, God-fearing Holocaust survivor who had seen most of his family killed in Europe. His heart gave out when the Scuds started falling and air raid alarms were sounded.

He happened to have been a friend of mine and it was very disturbing to read Shurin’s claim that he had been against Sabbath observance.

Amy Wall
New York, NY

The Times Already Lost It

Re “Is the Gray Lady Losing It?” editorial. June 29):

The question really should be “When did the gray lady lose it?” While certain sections of The New York Times continue to be credible, the news, editorial and op-ed pages lost any credibility years ago. The motto of the Times should be changed to “All the news we choose to print” from “All the news that’s fit to print.”

Those looking for accuracy and balance should turn to a paper like the Wall Street Journal.

Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, MD

The Roberts Decision

Reams of analysis and debate will doubtless be generated in response to the incoherent and inexplicable legal finding by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts validating Obamacare (“Not the Supreme Court’s Finest Moment,” editorial, July 6).

The 2,700-page bill was passed through bribery, intimidation and funding falsehoods, though no one in Congress actually read it. Former speaker Pelosi’s (in)famous diktat “we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it” speaks to the hubris of the Democrats in Congress.

This mammoth legislation is the harbinger of an anticipated flood of new regulations to be administered by thousands of new bureaucrats enforcing the new rules still being written.

As for Chief Justice Roberts, his decision to deliver such a convoluted decision will set back the Supreme Court’s reputation for years.

Fay Dicker
Lakewood, NJ

Handful Of Fanatics

Re “Haredi Men Arrested in Yad Vashem Vandalism” (news story, June 29):

Neturei Karta is a small (albeit vocal) group that is in no way representative of the haredi community as a whole.

On the one hand, from a haredi perspective the Holocaust is seen as just another chapter in the history of persecution, albeit more efficiently executed and more recent. That is why haredim generally do not observe such commemorations as the Warsaw Ghetto anniversary, subsuming it instead in the general mourning on Tisha B’Av. This does not, however, mean haredim in any way approve of such offensive vandalism as was perpetrated by this handful of fanatics.

On the other hand, there is certainly a feeling in the haredi community that a wholly exaggerated cult of the Holocaust has become a sort of substitute religion for those estranged from Torah Judaism. Haredim object to this negative definition of one’s Jewishness by reference to the hatred of others rather than pride in one’s heritage.

Only someone completely prejudiced against haredim could consider these nutcases as being in any way representative of the greater haredi community – but unfortunately such an attitude is all too common.

Martin D. Stern
Salford, England

Making Our Own Choices

As the brouhaha over the Internet continues, I would like to make a few comments to those who vehemently oppose the Internet in Jewish homes.

New York City is home to many Jewish institutions but also, lehavdil, to a number of obscene and lewd establishments. Should Jews be prohibited from living in New York because they might be tempted to frequent such places?

We can use our two legs to take us to perform mitzvos, but we can also use our two legs to take us to commit aveiros. Shall we cut off our legs because they might take us to sinful places?

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum – but we do have the ability to know the difference between right and wrong and the strength, imparted to us by our parents and teachers, to follow a moral and ethical way of life and to make the correct choices for ourselves.

Pesach-Yonah Malevitz
Los Angeles, CA A

Shabbos In Midwood

Coming Full Circle: A glimpse at the inspiring work of Be’er Hagolah

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Tanya Rosen is the owner of Shape Fitness. She recently released a kosher, home-workout DVD for women. Dr. Natalie Zelenko is employed as a radiologist at the Cancer Center at Maimonides Medical Centers. Igor Lempert works as an actuary for New York Life. What they and thousands of others share is a life of Torah Judaism, despite having been raised in secular environments and due to the education and warmth they received at Be’er Hagolah Institutes.

Natalie Zelenko

In the 1970’s Marc Ratzersdorfer formed a welcoming committee to greet the flood of immigrants from the Soviet Union and provide them with assistance. Marc and his friends from the Young Israel of the West Side visited the hotels where the Russian immigrants were placed. Over and over he heard the same plea from those he met, “Please find a Jewish school for my children.”

With firm resolve, Mr. Ratzersdorfer set out to do just that. In a meeting at the Ratzersdorfer home on Motzei Shabbos HaGadol 1979, all those present decided that a school must be opened. Mr. Zev Wolfson donated the seed money, a Vaad Hachinuch was formed with Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l serving as chairman along with many prominent rabbanim, they hired a principal and Be’er Hagolah was born.

They secured the basement of a school and hung curtains to create makeshift classrooms. Be’er Hagolah opened its doors to welcome any student who wanted a Jewish education. Hundreds of children streamed into the building, the phones rang off the hook; the demand was enormous. The space they had was inadequate to match the growing number of children seeking to attend.

Rav Yaakov called for an emergency meeting with all yeshiva principals in the New York area. In a passionate speech, he implored them to each accept one class of Be’er Hagolah students into their buildings or these children would be lost to Judaism forever. One principal insisted he had no space in his building, but offered to rent a trailer for the “Russian class.” “No,” said Rav Yaakov, unsatisfied. “You put one of your classes into the trailer and make space in the building for the Russian children.”

The school hosted a bar mitzvah for a number of boys in 1990. At the event, Mr. Joseph Gruss z”l, a prominent philanthropist, approached Mrs. Pearl Kaufman, executive director since the school’s inception, and asked, “What would the boys like as a present?”

“The boys need a building,” Pearl responded. A smile spread across Mr. Gruss’s face and he turned to his friend and remarked in his heavily-accented Yiddish, “Ich red fun a kneppel und zi redt fun di gantze kleid (I am speaking about [giving] buttons and she is [asking for] an entire garment.)” He walked away without another word.

The next day, Pearl received a call from Joseph Gruss who told her, “I am going to build a beautiful building for the Russian children.” Along with noted philanthropist, Mr. Albert Reichmann of Toronto, Gruss invested in a magnificent, state-of-the-art, eight-million dollar building. The project was overseen by Mr. Jason Cury, currently president of the Gruss Life Monument Funds, and Mr. Joel Beritz, vice-president, who invested their time and effort to ensure that every minor detail be perfect. Since then, Mr. Cury and Mr. Beritz have remained intimately involved in Be’er Hagolah.

By the time it was completed in 1991, the impressive complex contained spacious classrooms that could accommodate the student body of nearly one thousand students.

In order to ensure that no parent would be forced to send their child to public school, Be’er Hagolah has never turned away a student due to their inability to pay. Most parents pay minimal, if any, tuition. “When it came time to register my son in yeshivah [gedolah] and I received a tuition statement,” says Tanya Rosen, “I was astounded. I didn’t know that the concept of tuition existed. In all my years at Be’er Hagolah, my parents never got a tuition bill. They would never have been able to afford tuition,” stresses Tanya. “I would definitely have been sent to public school. Because of the love of Judaism that my teachers transmitted, instead of being a statistic in assimilated Jewry, my husband and I are raising our family committed to Torah.”

From Chicken to Education

Gary Rozenshteyn was eleven years old when his mother brought him to register for school. Mrs. Rozenshteyn, an obviously secular woman, was taken aback and obviously offended by being asked to furnish proof of her child’s Jewishness, a routine part of the admissions process. Digging into her purse she pulled out a faded photograph of a distinguished looking elderly Jew with a long, white beard.

“Who is this?” asked the staff. “My father,” responded the woman. “How long ago did he pass away?” they inquired. She answered, “Oh! He’s still alive. He lives with us in our apartment in Brighton Beach.”

The Difference Between ‘Non-Jewish’ And ‘Un-Jewish’

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

     Not long ago posters appeared in a number of synagogues in Brooklyn banning a recently published book that, according to the posters, contained misleading halachic rulings. It certainly was not the first time a book was banned by some in the Orthodox community, and it won’t be the last.
 
      While it is not the purpose of this article to take a stand on whether a given ban is or is not justified, there is no question that observant Jews need to be careful about what they read.
 
      We have seen, over the past couple of decades, a tremendous increase in the number of books by publishing houses that cater to the Orthodox market. This is a wonderful development, as Orthodox readers can now choose from many more “appropriate” books and periodicals than was the case fifteen or twenty years ago.
 
      This does not, however, mean that every book available for purchase in a Jewish bookstore meets the standard of acceptability for every family.
 
      The situation calls to mind the multiplicity of products sold in “kosher” grocery stores. Fifteen years ago there were fewer items available under supervision than there are today, but not every product in these stores necessarily conforms to an individual’s particular kashrut standards.
 
      In short, there is no question that observant Jews have to be careful about being influenced by ideas that are not compatible with Judaism. We live in a decidedly non-Torah culture and are bombarded with messages and products that clash with our religious values. We must be discerning about what we accept from the outside world.
 
      But does this mean that everything from that world is to be rejected? We’ve all heard some people go as far as to categorically condemn anything that they consider to be “goyishe.” Are observant Jews really required to completely turn their backs on the culture around them? Must they shut themselves off from the entire gentile world?
 
      Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) lived in Germany at a time when many Jews were abandoning their religious observance. When he came to Frankfurt in 1851, he found a Jewish community controlled by “reformers” who had done their utmost to introduce non-Jewish influences into the life of a community that had once been a bastion of Jewish tradition and learning. He had to confront the issue of those influences head-on.
 

      Rav Hirsch did not condemn everything found in the surrounding culture. In an essay entitled “Religious Education” he writes,

     

         Our children need not forego the benefits of a worthwhile secular education; they need not sacrifice opportunities for the study of the arts and sciences in order to obtain all the treasures of truth and wisdom that Judaism holds for their lives. If both studies are nurtured hand in hand, there will be ample room for both; the one will reinforce the other and the result will be a Jewish education that will find favor in the eyes of both God and man.
 

         Of course, problems are bound to arise if your children receive the main part of their education at non-Jewish or (what is even more detrimental) at un-Jewish* institutions where the Jewish element in the curriculum is at best ignored or, as is mostly the case, presented from a distorted non-Jewish or un-Jewish vantage point. (Collected Writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Volume VII, page 21.)

  

      The curious term “un-Jewish” has an asterisk next to it that refers to the following footnote: “R. Hirsch uses the term ‘un-Jewish’ (unjudisch) to mean not in the spirit of Torah Judaism, as distinct from ‘non-Jewish.’”
 
      Rav Hirsch does not lump all things of gentile origin into the same class. Some things that come from non-Jewish sources are indeed completely incompatible with Judaism. These he classifies as “un-Jewish” – to be avoided at all costs.
 
      There are, however, many things that stem from outside the Jewish world that are to be considered as “non-Jewish” – that is, their source is not from Judaism, but they are compatible with Yahadut.
 
      A simple example of something from the non-Jewish world that is entirely compatible with Judaism is the Pythagorean Theorem, which, while named after the Greek mathematician Pythagoras, almost certainly predates him. Here we have a non-Jewish piece of useful knowledge that in no way contradicts anything in Judaism. It is non-Jewish but not un-Jewish and therefore completely “pareve” when it comes to Yiddishkeit.
 
      But what exactly defines something of gentile origin that is un-Jewish and hence unpalatable for Orthodox Jews? Admittedly, it’s difficult to give clear-cut, definitive parameters. In his excellent biography Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Architect of Torah Judaism for the Modern World, Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Klugman writes about the relationship that Heinrich Graetz, who eventually became a famous historian, had with Rav Hirsch (pages 242-243).
 
      In 1836 Graetz wrote to Rav Hirsch asking to become his student. Rav Hirsch agreed and Graetz lived in the Hirsch home for three years. In his diary “Graetz describes how he and Rabbi Hirsch began the day at four o’clock in the morning with the study of Gemara and Tehillim. He also studied Kant with Rabbi Hirsch.”
 
      In addition, “together they once read The Salon by Heinrich [Chaim] Heine, a book about the history of religion and philosophy in Germany.”
 
      Rav Hirsch obviously considered portions of the writings of these authors to be non-Jewish but not un-Jewish. For the record, Graetz eventually broke with Rav Hirsch. Indeed, Rav Hirsch eventually wrote a scathing criticism of some of Graetz’s writings, pointing out their errors and making it clear that they stemmed from Graetz’s anti-Orthodox prejudices.
 

      Insight into the basis for Rav Hirsch’s approach may perhaps be gained from the following:

     

         The realm of Jewish learning is not insular, remote from nature, from history, from the world and from the realities of life. On the contrary, it calls upon its disciples to study the heavens and the earth, to reflect on the connections that link the events and developments of history, to take an active part in every phase of physical, intellectual, moral and social life, and to gain the clearest, sharpest possible insight into all things and their relationship to one another. Moreover, consider that Hebrew, the language of the sacred literature of Judaism, because of the simple construction of its roots and forms, is singularly suited, as hardly any other, to stimulate and develop the powers of the human intellect and the aptitude for languages. As a consequence, Jewish learning can relate to every field of secular studies, helping and furthering their aims even as, in turn, it may look to secular learning for help and furtherance.
 

         And so these two areas of learning do not hamper one another, are not mutually detrimental. Rather, they can strengthen and reinforce one another in such a manner that the lofty goal toward which we strive in the education of our young can be promoted and achieved in the framework of normal school hours, without subjecting our young students to undue mental strain. And what is that goal? It is to educate our children to satisfy all the just demands that will be placed upon them by the age in which they live, on the one hand, and by Judaism, on the other. Equipped with the best of all truly humanistic training and guided by the Jewish Law of God and the heritage of our Sages that will constantly give them new strength, light, counsel, admonition and inspiration, they will be able to meet the challenges that life will hold for them. (Collected Writings VII, pages 24-25.)

 

      Rav Hirsch indicated how we should view the gentile world:

 

         The Jew knows that the good and righteous men among nations are working alongside him to build the Kingdom of God on earth. He also knows that the best seeds of the Jewish spirit have been implanted and taken root not only to rescue mankind from heathendom more than two thousand years ago but for the benefit of manifold areas of human endeavor. And then the Jew is heartened to develop all his energies in the service of God. He welcomes each new truth as a valuable contribution to the ever more penetrating revelation of God in nature and history. In each new art form, in each new science he sees a welcome addition to the means for perfecting the service and worship of God.
 
         Hence the Jew will not be opposed to any science, any art form, any culture that is truly ethical, truly moral, truly contributing to the welfare and progress of man. He will measure everything by the eternally inviolable yardstick of the teachings of his God. Nothing will exist for him that cannot stand up before the Divine Will. The more firmly he stands on the rock of his Judaism, the more conscious he becomes of his Jewish destiny, the more he will be inclined to accept and gratefully absorb all knowledge, wherever he will find it.
 

         Never at any time will the Jew sacrifice one iota of his Judaism, at no time will he bring his Judaism in conformity with the times. But he will gladly accept all values that his time will have to offer as long as they conform with the spirit of Judaism. In every age he will regard it as his task to evaluate the time and its conditions from the Jewish viewpoint in order to develop the spirit of his “old” Judaism to ever-fresh vitality, applying the new means produced by every age, with the new circumstances created by every period of history. Thus, with ever-renewed faith and devotion, he will be fully equal to the great tasks of his beloved Judaism. (Collected Writings VIII, pages 9-10.)

     

      It is clear that according to Rav Hirsch one should not reject something out of hand simply because it has a non-Jewish source. Instead, one should evaluate it to see if it is non-Jewish (simply of gentile origin) or un-Jewish (not in the spirit of Judaism). One must be most careful to stay away from all things un-Jewish. Not to do so could well lead to a lessening of one’s commitment to a Torah way of life.
 
      On the other hand, there are clearly things that come from the gentile world that need not – perhaps should not – be rejected. If something of gentile origin is non-Jewish, as opposed to being un-Jewish, then one need not reject it. On the contrary, one might very well incorporate it into one’s Torah weltanschauung and end up strengthening one’s Yiddishkeit. All gentile culture and knowledge should be evaluated in this light. The Torah does not require us to reject something of gentile origin simply because of its source.
 
      It bears repeating that the greatest care should be taken in deciding what is un-Jewish and what is non-Jewish. Such decisions have never been easy and are even harder to make today, given the moral deterioration all around us. Many things now considered acceptable by the gentile world would have been labeled scandalous thirty years ago.
 
      Indeed, there are many non-Jews who express deep and eloquent concern about the violence and immorality promoted by the media and the entertainment industry and the effect that has had on societal values.
 
      The challenge of ascertaining what is non-Jewish and what is un-Jewish is one that each of us has to deal with on one level or another. These decisions have to be made while exercising a goodly amount of seichel.
 

      Bottom line:Just because something is Jewish doesn’t make it kosher, and not everything gentile is to be considered treif.

 

              Dr. Yitzchok Levine is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. His regular column, “Glimpses Into American Jewish History” appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at  llevine@stevens.edu.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-difference-between-non-jewish-and-un-jewish/2007/07/25/

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