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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘wall’

Back Against The Wall

Friday, January 6th, 2017

In Parshas Miketz, the Torah records that the brothers returned to Yaakov in Canaan and related that the Viceroy of Egypt had instructed them that they could no longer seek provisions in Egypt unless their brother Binyamin accompanied them. Yaakov was beside himself and insistent that Binyamin not go.

Then, as time went on, their provisions began to dwindle. Reuven boldly announced that he would guarantee the safe return of Binyamin at the cost of the lives of his two oldest sons. Yaakov promptly refused his offer. It was not until Yehuda pledged that if Binyamin did not return with him he would forfeit his portion in this world and the next that Yaakov finally relented.

Why did Yaakov only agree to send Binyamin when Yehuda pledged everything away?

At the beginning of Parshas Vayigash, the moment of truth arrives. The seemingly volatile viceroy announces that the culprit – Binyamin – in whose sack the royal chalice was found, will remain a slave, while the rest of the brothers are free to leave.

The parsha opens with the words, “Then Yehuda approached him.” It is one of the most dramatic confrontations in the Torah. Yehuda approaches Yosef to plead Binyamin’s case and emphatically states that he will not leave without Binyamin at his side. “For your servant took responsibility for the youth from my father saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I will have sinned to my father for all time.’” Yehuda’s arguments push Yosef over the edge and he reveals his identity to his brothers.

Many times we are faced with daunting and demanding situations. We struggle mightily and apply ourselves as much as we feel that we are able. But when we feel that we are no longer progressing, we are forced to concede defeat so that we can invest our efforts elsewhere. However, when a person is heavily invested in something, he is slower to admit defeat and walk away. Even when he feels he has exhausted his efforts and done as much as he could, if he is truly committed, he will somehow figure out a way to try again.

Yaakov undoubtedly trusted his children and believed they would utilize every means to ensure that Binyamin return home to him safely. But doing their utmost was insufficient. To Yaakov, losing Binyamin was tantamount to dying himself. Thus, he would not allow Binyamin to go unless he felt that someone would have the same level of commitment for Binyamin’s wellbeing as he did.

It was only when Yehuda put everything on the line that Yaakov reluctantly agreed to let Binyamin go. Only then did Yaakov feel confident that Yehuda would risk his own life to ensure that Binyamin return home safely.

When Yosef insisted that the rest of the brothers return to Canaan in peace, the brothers might very well have reasoned that there was nothing more they could do. They may have rationalized that the best they could do at that moment was to return to Yaakov to seek his advice before they returned and tried to formulate a plan to rescue Binyamin. But to Yehuda, leaving was not an option. He had no recourse but to take up the cause immediately because, to him, nothing else existed besides the welfare of Binyamin. Such is the power of commitment.

On March 13, 1964, a woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens section of Queens, New York. The reason her case made headlines was because of the apathy of her neighbors. The New York Times article detailing the events was titled, “Thirty-eight who saw murder, but didn’t call the police.”

“For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched… three separate attacks in Kew Gardens. Twice the chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned… Not one person telephoned the police during the assault.”

The case became symbolic of the cold and dehumanizing effect of urban life. It seemed that nobody cared enough to bother to call, and therefore all the neighbors remained indifferent even as a woman was being killed.

The truth, however, is somewhat more complicated and intriguing. Two New York City psychologists subsequently conducted a series of studies to try to understand the “bystander problem.” They staged emergencies in different situations to see who would come forward to help. What they found was that the one factor which predicted who/how many people would come forward was how many witnesses were present at the time.

For example, in one experiment, a student who was alone in a room staged an epileptic fit. When there was only one person in the room next door listening, that person rushed to the student’s aid 85 percent of the time. But when the subjects thought there were four other people overhearing the seizure, they came to the student’s aid only 31 percent of the time.

In another experiment, people who saw smoke seeping out from under a doorway reported it 75 percent of the time when they were on their own, but only 38 percent of the time when they were in a group.

The conclusion was that when people are in a group, responsibility for acting becomes diffused. Everyone assumes that someone else will act, and if no one else does, they assume that it must not really be a serious problem.

Thus, in the case of Kitty Genovese, it wasn’t that no one called despite the fact that thirty-eight people heard her screams; it’s that no one called because thirty-eight people heard her screams. Had she been attacked on a lonely street with only one person around, the story may have ended differently.

According to the old quip the Israeli army always fights with incredible determination and gusto because they have “General Aleph Bais.” Aleph Bais, the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, is an acronym for the words, “Ayn b’rayra – there is no choice!” In other words, the Israelis know against whom they are fighting, and that they are always fighting defensive wars. Surrender is simply not an option; they have no recourse but to fight until the end.

There is simply no comparison between the efforts invested by one who is committed and one who is uncommitted. One of the shortcomings of our world is that there is a general lack of commitment to ideals and values. Any successful marriage requires a great degree of patience, tolerance, and understanding. But above all, there must be a sense of commitment to ensure that those other vital characteristics are fostered.

Our personal level of service to G-d is also bound to our level of commitment. Those aspects of Judaism to which we are not committed often fall by the wayside as soon as the invariable obstacles surface. It is only when we are fully committed that we oblige ourselves to traverse all impediments to ensure that we maintain our obligations.

The brothers all realized the severity of what was transpiring, but it was only Yehuda who stepped forward to protect Binyamin because he had committed himself to the cause.

Rabbi Dani Staum

Women of the Wall: Warring Against Torah

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Before I proceed with the topic of this article, I should clarify that I oppose many contemporary and popular versions of “Wall Worship” associated with the Kotel (Western Wall). For one, I consider the practice of inserting kvitlach (letters to G-d) into the ancient stones to be a distorted one, which has no place in proper Jewish thought. This isn’t my personal position but one shared by many genuine Torah scholars. On a more basic level, I am also concerned with the unbridled religious fervor many people have for the actual physical structure, which people sometimes deem as something fit to venerate and worship.

In many ways, I view the wall in the same manner as I do the graves of the righteous. It has its place in Jewish context, but usually not in the popular way that it is manifested. On the contrary, those who visit graves as “holy sites” are often the last people who should be visiting them. And oftentimes those with connect notions are reticent to engage in such activities, because they are aware of the many halachic and hashkafic problems relating to such visits. Certainly, at the very least, one who visits graves or the wall should be careful that their thoughts and actions accord with proper Torah notions. Proper deyot (thoughts) make for a proper visit. False notions ensure a less than ideal experience.

The Kotel is a sign of the enduring churban. A place which reminds us and in certain cases mandates the tearing of kriyah as a sign of mourning. Yet our energies should be focused on the Arab Waqf’s control of Har Habayit (the Temple Mount), which is our holiest site. This should be the true battle, not Herod’s lone retaining wall which remains firmly in our hand. The presence of The Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque are an intolerable chillul Hashem and the greatest example of the destruction of the Temple, and of the current degradation of self-imposed dhimmitude to appease the Jew hating world.

Yet the Western Wall is indeed important, historically, symbolically, and religiously. The custom of praying and crying out to G-d at the Wall is well entrenched, and in that sense, it has become the world’s most prominent synagogue. For those who won’t halachically ascend, for one reason or another, it is the closest location the average Jew will approach to the site of the Temple. As such, basic standards of Halachah should be enforced, and the site should certainly be regulated by religious figures. (I will not get into a discussion of political religious forces which unfortunately exist and typify the dilemma of the invariable clash when religion becomes politicized.) And those who would seek to publicly trample upon Jewish mores should be stopped. The “Woman of the Wall” are one such feminist group.

Feminism’s War Cry

I oppose feminism and the proponents of this subversive ideology, be it the standard secular version, or the supposed Jewish version which even draws religious women to their ranks. “Women’s rights” is the purported desire, but in truth, it is an ideology opposed to the most basic constructs of a Torah life. The basic premise is that men have imposed a patriarchal chauvinistic template of societies throughout history, a system which supposedly oppresses and limits women’s expression.

Invariably, women who abide by this ideology have radical beliefs when it comes to what they call freedom of choice, namely that abortion is the right of a woman. We Jews are not Catholics and the Torah recognizes degrees of viability of life, and so in Judaism the mother’s physical welfare always comes first. Regardless of whether the Torah views the life of the fetus in precisely the same manner as the life of the mother, the Torah mandates strict regulation to ensure that the baby isn’t harmed. In fact, deliberate abortion is a capital punishment for the Noachide. So, one of the most important issues of feminism has no place whatsoever in a Torah Jew’s ideology. Nor can many of their notions be reconciled with Torah, despite the pathetic attempts of “religious feminists” to use strained distorted pilpulistic tactics (despite it being an invention of “patriarchal Rabbis”!) to further their agenda.

Shrill Angry Feminism

Each month, we are forced to endure orchestrated l’hachis (deliberate) stunts from the angry shrill feminists of the “Women of the Wall” who seek to alter traditional religious customs of prayer and decorum at the Kotel. The more recent controversies with these troublesome malcontents involves the prohibited smuggling of Torah scrolls into their designated prayer section. They have no interest in concessions or designated spots which they choose to ignore. They want to cause provocation in the main plaza. These women refer to themselves in Hebrew as “Nashot Hakotel” and the reason given shows that they are a definite byproduct of Western feminism with a Jewish face. Consider their explanation for the linguistically incorrect term “nashot”:

Why Neshot Hakotel?

In Hebrew, the word for women is nashim. Since – ‘im‘ is generally a masculine plural ending and –’ot’ is generally the feminine plural ending, nashim is an exception to the linguistic rule. We chose to use neshot, similar to the way second-wave American feminists have chosen to use womyn for woman and wimmin for women. It is a pro-female assertion that seeks to remove the linguistic dependency of the word woman or women on the word man or men, since unfortunately these female words have largely and historically been characterized as a derivative of the male, a statement with social implications.

Their agenda is naked. Theirs is a carbon copy of the American version of this malady. Which gets to the crux of the issue, many of the leadership are radical American Jewish women and men and they are importing their distorted philosophy to Israel. While some were born in Israel and many have been olim for many years, their ideology is a Western movement which doesn’t even resonate with most secular Israelis. But in time, if left unchecked, their impact will only grow, and yet another anti-Torah voice will be given a chair at the table of Jewish thought. It won’t be long before a renegade “open orthodox” Rabbi will publicly join their movement and give it a troublesome stamp of something that can accord with Halachah.

Why trample upon Halachah if only to agitate? Is the wall so critical for those who would have deemed the halachic system of male Kohanim and male Leviim to be misogynistic? Were there any women in Sanhedrin? Those who would have a problem with the historical background of what they would deem “male chauvinism” should have no say in matters relating to an ancient religious Jewish site, or the mores of religious practice pertaining to the location.

The fact that they are provocative and loud and insistent that men “hear” them speaks volumes. The fact that many of them oppose the alternate site, a quieter, less “touristy” location shows clearly that they aren’t interested in accommodating all sensibilities. They are fueled by anger and they want to evoke a reaction, and they have. Some reactions are coarse and aggressive. But it is hard for me to sympathize with these vindictive types. When I saw footage of a religious woman putting one of these obnoxious Women of the Wall in a headlock, I couldn’t help rooting for the judo tactician. Deliberate vindictive types are a chillul Hashem, and one woman clearly had enough.

And yet these “live and let live types” are the most intolerant of all. Reverence for the Kotel means nothing. If anything, they hope to evoke a violent response, since it will invariably weigh in their favor, if the response is vicious enough. That will delegitimize all mainstream religious efforts to oppose them, and will probably lead to some unprecedented ruling in their favor.

Many similar issues relating to women’s partnership minyanim were introduced to several prominent poskim in the 1970’s and 80’s. The general consensus was that even on issues that were deemed theoretically OK, such actions were prohibited because they would surely be motivated by un-Jewish values. There may very well be righteous women in the world who require tefillin (phylacteries) to fulfill themselves religiously, having actualized themselves in all other religious realms. Such woman may have even been granted permission from respectable mainstream gedolim (Torah sages) to engage in this worship. But such women would be unknown to us, because their intrinsic modesty would never allow it to become a public issue. They would be as far from feminism as heaven is from hell.

Fortunately, the most recent visible counter-response to the WOW were from religious women, thus saving us from the vile editorials from Ha’aretz, demonizing religious men. If the “Women of the Wall” continue their provocations next month and the authorities don’t clamp down on them, there will be more whistles, headlocks, and who knows what else. Because their l’hachis malicious nature is finally getting to people who are fed up with their chutzpah. If they persist in their brazen disregard for tradition, they should be locked up and fined. V’zehu.

The orchestrated spectacles of the notorious “Women of the Wall” has little to do with “religious rights” or equality. It is the “Jewish” version of militant feminism run amuck. These WOW malcontents are angry, bitter, people who derive pleasure from offending traditional Torah sensibilities. Militant feminism masquerading as a cause for equality. They hate men. They hate religious Jews. They hate “the rabbis” and they want you to know it. That is their cause.

Donny Fuchs

Lebanon Also Decides to ‘Build A Wall’

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

It seems President-elect Donald Trump has fans outside the United States, liberal demonizing notwithstanding, and even Israel’s security measures are perhaps not so outlandish after all.

Construction workers began placing the first blocks of a security wall this week around the Ain al-Hilweh “refugee camp” in Lebanon.

Ain al-Hilweh, home to thousands of Arabs and their descendants from Judea and Samaria who fled during and after the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel, is located southeast of the port city of Sidon.

The wall, to include four observation posts, was planned together with all of the factions within the community. Nevertheless, residents of the community were outraged as the first blocks went up, expressing their frustration online via social media and dubbing the project a “wall of shame.”

Construction of the wall forms part of an agreement between the camp factions and the Lebanese authorities; it’s designed to contain recent conflicts between those inside the camp and the Lebanese military, according to the UK-based Al Araby news outlet.

Hamas official Abu Ahmad Faysal, of Ain al-Hilweh, told the Lebanon Daily Star earlier this month the wall is intended to “decrease the confrontation between the inhabitants and the army.”

The target date for completion of the construction is 15 months away, according to the Lebanese al-Modon news site.

Hana Levi Julian

Excavation Reveals Spot Where Romans Breached Jerusalem’s Wall 2,000 Years Ago

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Exciting evidence of the breaching of the third wall that surrounded Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period was uncovered last winter in the Russian Compound at the city center. The discovery was made in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted in the location where the new campus of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is slated to be built. In the course of the excavation, archaeologists discovered the remains of a tower jutting from the city wall. Opposite the tower’s western facade were scores of ballista and sling stones that the Romans had fired from catapults at the Jewish guards who were stationed at the top of the tower.

Dr. Rina Avner, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Dr. Rina Avner, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Dr. Rina Avner and Kfir Arbib, excavation directors on behalf of the IAA, “This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple. The bombardment was intended to attack the sentries guarding the wall and provide cover for the Roman forces so they could approach the wall with battering rams and thereby breach the city’s defenses.”

The historian Josephus, an eyewitness to the war, provided many details about this wall. According to him, the wall was designed to protect the new quarter of the city that had developed outside its boundaries, north of the two existing city walls. This quarter was named Beit Zeita. The building of the Third Wall was begun by King Agrippa I; however, he suspended its construction so as not to incur the wrath of Emperor Claudius and to dispel any doubts regarding his loyalty. The construction of the Third Wall was resumed some two decades later by the defenders of Jerusalem, as part of fortifying the city and the Jewish rebels’ preparations for the Great Revolt against Rome.

A 2,000 year old jar as it was discovered in the field.

A 2,000 year old jar as it was discovered in the field.

Josephus described in detail the route of the wall that began at Hippicus Tower, which is now identified with David’s Citadel. From there the wall continued north to the enormous Psephinus Tower, which defended the northwestern corner of the city wall. At that point the wall turned east and descended toward the Tomb of Queen Helena, which is identified with the place known as the Tombs of the Kings.

A spearhead from the battle against Titus’ army.

A spearhead from the battle against Titus’ army.

It seems that the new discovery has resolved a debate among researchers reaching back to the early twentieth century, as to the location of the third wall and the question of Jerusalem’s boundaries on the eve of the Roman onslaught led by Titus. According to the dig in the Russian Compound, we now have proof of the wall’s existence in that area.

The excavation findings will be presented at a conference entitled “New Studies in the archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region,” Thursday, October 27, at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Israeli Postal Service Delivers Letters to God at the Wall Ahead of Rosh Hashanah

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Israel Post Director General Danny Goldstein on Monday met with Western Wall and Holy Sites Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, to deliver to him a consignment of letters addressed to God. The holy mail was delivered ahead of the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays, and will be placed in the cracks and crevices of the ancient stones of what used to be a supporting wall for the Temple. The letters were posted from Israel as well as from Russia, China, France, Nigeria, Spain, the Netherlands, the US, and the UK.

Letters to God

Letters to God

Hundreds of letters are mailed to Israel annually addressed to “God,” “Jesus,” “Our Dear Father in Heaven” and “the Western Wall.” These letters, most of which lack a return address, are sent to the Israel Post Lost and Found Dept., which then sends them, every few months, to be placed among the stones of the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Back in 2006, a company called Letter to God Ltd. announced a service of placing letters to God, written on the customer’s home computer, in the cracks and crevices of the Western Wall. We are not sure what happened to them, but their website, letter2god.com, is available for the right price. Another example of free enterprise losing out to the nanny state.


Cat Rescued from the Western Wall [video]

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Somehow, a cat found itself stuck in the Kotel wall.

Using Jewish ingenuity, along with some tables, chairs and shtenders, prayer-goers helped the cat get down.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Women of the Wall Caught in Mix of Bad Timing, Bad Taste

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

On the same day thirteen and a half year old Hallel Yaffa Ariel from Kiryat Arba was murdered in her bed by a 17-year-old Arab, and just as hundreds assembled to bury her on Thursday afternoon, the organization Women of the Wall sent out an email blast with the subject: “Demand Justice for Frannie.”

It turns out there were other girls out there whose suffering needed our attention. In the case of twelve-year-old Frannie — well, she is “traveling over 6,000 miles to join Women of the Wall for her Bat Mitzvah. Will she be able to hold a Torah scroll on her special day?”

Yes, this is what constitutes an urgent cause these days in the minds of the organizers of the WOW: will this American girl, who could have her Bat Mitzvah literally anywhere else on the planet, including all of the land of Israel (other than the Temple Mount, where Jews these days are verboten) — will she be embracing a Torah scroll in front of the supporting wall King Herod erected outside the temple he renovated circa year zero.

Women of the Wall will meet next week on July 7 at 7AM in the women’s section of the Western Wall for Rosh Hodesh Tammuz prayers and for Frannie’s Bat Mitzvah. And they declare with fierce determination: “We will ensure that Frannie has a Torah scroll to read from for her Bat Mitzvah ceremony.”

Indeed, the urgent email continues, “Despite police harassment, intimidation and detainments, we will be bringing a Torah scroll in to the Kotel. Will there be more arrests? Will another woman be arrested for the act of simply holding a precious Torah scroll?”

This is so brave and subversive. It’s also going to take place around the time the family members of Hallel Yaffa Ariel will rise from the Shiva week, so maybe they, too could come and support the courage of the WOW.

With about 300 people in all of Israel giving a hoot about Reform Judaism in general and the WOW in particular, and in light of the seriously tough times Israelis are having these days, Women of the Wall Executive Director Lesley Sachs could have probably waited a couple of days with her urgent message this time.

Happy birthday, Frannie, may you grow up to marry a Jewish guy some day if you are so inclined.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/women-of-the-wall-caught-in-mix-of-bad-timing-bad-taste/2016/06/30/

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