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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Yaakov Stern’

Letters To The Editor

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

What’s In A Beard?

Yishai Fleisher laments the fact that the reggae singer Matisyahu shaved off his beard and is therefore, in Fleisher’s opinion, no longer “outwardly Jewish, so proudly different” (“Culture Wars: From the Maccabees to Matisyahu’s Beard,” op-ed, Dec. 23).

But later on in the article, Fleisher praises the Maccabeats (who of course have no beards) for helping to make “Judaism look attractive.” Perhaps it is time for people like Fleisher to ask themselves what it is they really like about these performers. Is it that these singers really produce a uniquely Jewish sound and feeling or is that they successfully copy music straight out of the secular world, and make Fleisher proud that our boys can do it while wearing a kippah – and even better, a beard?

The truth is, the Jewish public is not stupid. They know when they’re listening to secular music, and are increasingly listening to the real thing because they recognize a fraud when they hear one, and realize a beard is nothing compared to a sound when it comes to Jewish pride.
Yosef Tannenbaum
(Via E-Mail)

Auschwitz A German Camp

In “Disaster Barely Averted in Modiin Air Crash” (news story, Dec. 23), your Israel correspondent Steve Walz referred to “Poland’s Auschwitz concentration camp.” This is an unfortunate and inaccurate formulation. It was Germany’s Auschwitz concentration and death camp, imposed on occupied Poland.

The Anti-Defamation League has stated that “As an organization devoted to nurturing Holocaust remembrance, we share Poland’s concern over the frequent description of Auschwitz as a Polish camp, which suggests the object was built on behalf of the Polish nation.”

Meanwhile, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris has written: “The camps were located in German-occupied Poland, the European country with by far the largest Jewish population, but they were most emphatically not ‘Polish camps.’ ”

And the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin noted that “Auschwitz was a German death camp, built by German criminals on Polish soil.”

Poland and Poles don’t have a perfect record, but the Holocaust was carried out by the Germans.
Jan Niechwiadowicz
Cardiff, Wales

Christian Zionists And Israel

Re David Ha’ivri’s recent op-ed “Are Christian Zionists a Threat to Israel?” (JewishPress.com web exclusive):

There is no question that there are many fine, upstanding gentiles supporting Israel at this time. While certain strategic, moral and political alliances with the non-Jewish world are to be encouraged, it is both naïve and misleading to deny the serious costs involved in Israel’s unregulated relationship with impassioned evangelical Christians.

As content and research director of Jewishisrael.com, an organization that monitors Christian activity in Israel, I regret to say that Mr. Ha’ivri has chosen to diminish the concerns of those working in the counter-missionary field and those investigating growing Christian influence in the Jewish state.

Certain Christian individuals and organizations with whom Mr. Ha’ivri chooses to work may not be aggressively proselytizing in the classical sense. However, they are on a religiously driven mission with the intention to draw Jews close, or they strive for a theological unification between Judaism and Christianity. In addition, these parties are supportive of messianic Christian sects in the Jewish state and aspire toward a Christian restoration in Israel.

If Jewish activists like David Ha’ivri choose to work with devout Christians, they should be honest enough to acknowledge the problems and wise enough to use foresight, seek guidance, and draw red lines in such relationships.
Ellen Horowitz
(Via E-Mail)

Science And The Sages: The Debate Continues

The Solar Year

My position that the amora Shmuel erred in his calculation of the solar year’s length came under sharp attack in the December 16 Letters section. I had argued, in an earlier letter, that due to Shmuel’s error we begin saying “v’sain tal u’matar” approximately two weeks too late; we also recite Birkas HaChamah, the blessing of the sun, at the wrong moment.

In refutation, a responsum of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l, was invoked, in which he scolds a questioner who suggested that Klal Yisrael errs in setting the start date for “v’sain tal u’matar.” Rav Moshe insists that it is highly improper to propose that the entire people of Israel are wrong in how we practice a particular halacha.

One can debate this point; one certainly may not take it lightly, and I did not state in my letter that we should change the date for the commencement of “v’sain tal u’matar.” However, Rav Moshe goes further, by actually defending the possibility that Shmuel’s calculation of a 365-and-a-quarter-day solar year is correct. Rav Moshe writes that the Rambam was uncertain whether Shmuel’s calculation or a second calculation, attributed to the amora Rav Adda, is accurate. The Rambam leans toward Rav Adda’s view, but does not entirely discard Shmuel’s. We, therefore, cannot decide which position is precise.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Free Yom Tov Seating

 

   Once again Kehilas Mevakshai Hashem of Midwood, Brooklyn, is proud to offer free seats for the Yomim Noraim as a public service to the community.
 
   Anyone in walking distance of our shul, whether adult or mature (non-noisy) child, is welcome to daven in our well-lit, air-conditioned, roomy, ground level bais haknesses.
 
   Our address is 3011 Avenue K (between Nostrand Avenue and East 31 Street). To reserve your seat, kindly phone (718) 469-6999.
 
   Best wishes to all of Klal Yisrael for a k’siva v’chasima tova and thanks to The Jewish Press for publicizing this community service.
 

Rabbi Yehuda Levin

Kehilas Mevakshai Hashem

Brooklyn, NY

 

Warning On Honey

   As the New Year approaches, readers are advised to avoid giving honey to infants younger than one year because it can cause life-threatening botulism under that age.

   May we all be inscribed for a healthy and sweet New Year.
 
R.A. Cyrulnik, MD
Fellow, American Academy of Neurology

(Via E-Mail)

  

  

Hillary Pro
 
   I was pleased to see that The Jewish Press is not fixated on the past and saw fit to endorse Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary. As you mentioned in the editorial, you shared the early concerns of many Americans about what kind of senator Ms. Clinton would be, particularly on Middle East issues. I too was somewhat skeptical, but her performance in the Senate these past six years has convinced me that my fears were groundless. I cannot conceive of anyone being more firmly in Israel’s corner than she has been.
 

Frieda Averbach

New York, NY

 

Hillary Con

   Et tu, Jewish Press? Have you fallen in with the politically correct crowd? If not, how do you explain your endorsement last week of Sen. Clinton? Is this not the same Ms. Clinton who, as first lady, embraced Suha Arafat moments after the latter viciously libeled Israel? As I recall, The Jewish Press minced no words in condemning Ms. Clinton at the time.
 

   The fact that she’s said all the right things about Israel doesn’t really impress me – any senator from New York has to be pro-Israel. The real test of Ms. Clinton’s sincerity on Israel would come if she were a senator from, say, Iowa or Tennessee.

 
   In addition, the way she recently deserted Sen. Joseph Lieberman was offensive to me as an American, a Democrat and a Jew.
 

Harris Feinberg

(Via E-Mail)

 

Rebuild The Towers

 

   Five years after September 11, the World Trade Center site still remains as bin Laden left it. The current plan for Ground Zero was conceived in the aftermath of disaster. The desire of most Americans to see New York rebuild exactly what Al Qaeda took from us was stifled by fear and grief. Our elected officials said we couldn’t rebuild the Twin Towers because it was disrespectful, nobody would work there, and they, the towers, would be targets for Islamic fundamentalists.
 
   Amazingly, five years later they plan to build a taller, flashier, lone structure called “Freedom Tower.” Only a building shaped like a Jewish star and made of pork with a cartoon of Muhammad on top could be a more tempting target for our enemies.
 
   As long as we’re building a tall commercial tower whose height and moniker invite attack, there’s no excuse for not rebuilding the Towers.
 
   It’s not too late to do the right thing at Ground Zero.
 
Gary Taustine

New York, NY

  

  

  

Still More On Slifkin Controversy

 

Unwarranted Attack

 

      As he has done so often in the past, chronic letter-writer Dr. Yaakov Stern reveals himself to be a man of little tolerance for views that differ with his – as well as someone with an astonishingly narrow idea of what constitutes Torah Judaism (Letters, Sept. 8).

 
      His wholly unwarranted attack on Rabbis Student and Slifkin , simply because they are open to the idea that the theory of evolution does not necessarily contradict the Torah (“The Slifkin Torah-Science Controversy,” front-page essay, Aug. 18), was ugly and ill informed. It was also quite presumptuous – who is he to judge their frumkeit? Is he acquainted with either man?
 
      Fortunately for Dr. Stern, he has ample opportunity this time of year to do a cheshbon hanefesh and resolve not to cast aspersions on his fellow Torah-observant Jews.
 
Gary Blumenthal
Los Angeles, CA

 

Justifiable Attack
      Based on past responses to his strongly-worded letters to the editor, some readers will jump all over Dr. Yaakov Stern for his letter last week on the Slifkin controversy. I say to any and all of them: Tough. I cheer when someone like Dr. Stern stands up for our Torah and our gedolim. Jews with backbone have never been afraid to engage the Hellenizers, the apikorsim, the maskilim on their own terms, denouncing them for the dangers they represented to the neshamos of Klal Yisrael.
 
      Readers who cry crocodile tears whenever someone like Dr. Stern gives a full-throated response to those who disrespect our gedolim either don’t know or won’t acknowledge that Modern Orthodox pseudo-sophisticates are far more likely to scorn haredim than vice versa.
 
      The Slifkins of the world are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a very troubling phenomenon of our times: the growing number of frum Jews, most of them not nearly as intelligent as Rabbis Student or Slifkin, who think it makes them appear hip and intellectual if they question the authority of our rabbinic leaders.
 
      It’s a phenomenon all too visible on the Internet, specifically on the many so-called Orthodox blogs that engage in open mocking of our sages, in denigrating Yidden blessed with emunah shleimah as being nothing more than deluded simpletons, and in championing politics and politicians whose worldviews are anti-Torah to the core.
 
      That so many of the bloggers who spew derision at haredim are connected in one way or another to Yeshiva University – either as graduates, students or just hangers-on – should give that school’s administrators and rebbeim much cause for concern.
 
Pinchas Hernstein
 

Jerusalem

 

Middle Ground

      The part of Rabbi Student’s article I related to most was where he wrote of ” personal pain” and “a very loud cry of anguish being voiced” This moves beyond Rabbi Slifkin’s books, or even the general topic of the interface between Torah and science.

 
      Addressing issues and hashkafos (Torah philosophy) without addressing people’s individual feelings will not bring peace and resolution. True, tolerance and pluralism should not be a cause for accepting any possible distortions in hashkafah. The oft-quoted Netziv on tolerance in the preface to Bereishis can indeed be abused, like any other Torah source. But I feel there should be at least an acknowledgment, on both sides, of the plight of individuals caught in the middle of all of this. Realizing and acknowledging this, on both sides, is part of empathy – nosei b’ol im chaveiro.
 
      Whenever I participate in discussions of the issue, I stress that I am sanguine about the future. I am sometimes challenged for my optimism, but I nevertheless believe there is good reason for it. Somehow, people with different hashkafos will have to learn to accept and live with each other. The Jewish people have survived many tough challenges in the past, and we will survive this one as well.
 

Baruch Horowitz

(Via E-Mail)
 

 

Rebutting Slifkin’s Detractors
 
      In the past two weeks, several letter-writers have supported the ban on Rabbi Slifkin’s books about Torah and science in which defends evolutionary theory and concludes that the Talmudic Sages were not infallible in scientific matters. Allow me to address the main issues raised by these letter-writers.
 
      Dr. Yaakov Stern states presumptively: “Our Sages have divided the history of man into three 2,000-year epochs,” insisting that it is “sheer foolishness” to believe that a 7,000-year-old shard of pottery can be excavated. There are sources, from the Zohar through Rav Hirsch, Rav Dessler and Rav Kook, that suggest a world older than 6,000 years. Dr. Stern should argue with them before taking on Rabbi Slifkin.
 
      The Rambam, no fan of the steady-state theory that the universe has always existed, nonetheless writes that if that theory were proven true, we would find a way to reconcile it with Torah. The Rambam is making a critical point here. Two opposing truths cannot coexist. If Torah is true and a seemingly oppositional scientific fact is true, there must, by definition, be a way for the twain to meet.
 
      Evolution is at present a theory, but if it ever becomes established as fact we need not be concerned that it requires a non-literal interpretation of the creation chapters of Genesis. Belief in evolution does not mean denial of any principle of Jewish faith.
 
      Bezalel Fixler seeks to account for the archaeological record by advancing Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky’s thesis that all matter was created in its fully advanced state. The world was made in six days; it merely looks like it is billions of years old. Perhaps, but when we observe the death of a star that is five million light years away, we are witnessing an event that (scientifically) occurred five million years ago.
 
      Why would God destroy a star that never existed? Why would He create fossils of non-existent creatures? Why perplex us with a prehistoric man when there never was a prehistory? At any rate, whether the universe is actually 16 billion years old or was created to look that way, the scientific end result is the same.
 
      Shimon Helfman scornfully quotes from Rabbi Slifkin’s The Challenge of Creation that the scientific estimate for the age of the universe “might be wrong by a few billion years.” Asks Mr. Helfman: “Is he serious? In my opinion, a miscalculation of a few billion years constitutes an enormous blunder.” Rabbi Slifkin is saying nothing new here. Scientists readily acknowledge that the age of the universe has not been pinpointed. Still, “a few billion” is a hiccup when discussing a universe that has existed for up to 16 billion years.
 
      Finally, Shmuel Rosengarten declares that Rabbi Slifkin and his publisher, Gil Student, “undermine the authority of our gedolim.” Rabbi Slifkin did the yeshivish thing for his books, by obtaining haskamot from gedolim. How can Mr. Rosengarten accuse Rabbi Slifkin of undermining Torah authority when he actually obtained the approbation of talmidei chachamim?
 
      While Mr. Rosengarten would likely respond with a variation on the “my gadol is greater than your gadol” theme, let me suggest instead that he accept the fact that gedolim can make mistakes. For example, in a recent article in The Jewish Observer, Rabbi Chaim Dov Keller wrote that every 28 years we recite the Birkat Hachamah at the precise day and time when the sun was created. However, this is based on the erroneous calculation that the year is 365-and-a-quarter days long. Even in 2006, Rabbi Keller evidently remains unaware of the length of the solar year.
 
      The Sages of old were anchored to the science of their time. If we accept that science, we would be forced to believe that the world is flat, because that was the view of the Talmudic Sages. We would embrace the geocentric theory. We would believe in spontaneous generation. Rabbi Slifkin’s critics effectively make these errors into articles of faith. Denial of any of them would make one a heretic.
 
      I believe that Rabbi Slifkin is owed an apology by those who harmed him. In the meantime, I pray that he will continue his good work, and that we as a people will focus on what is true, not on what is comfortable.
 

Avi Goldstein

Far Rockaway, NY

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Lost Gemaras

Recently a Port Authority chaplain (who is also a chaplain at UMDNJ, my place of business) handed me two travel-size Gemaras he found at Newark Airport this past December. The chaplain, a Muslim, hoped I would be able to locate the rightful owner of the seforim. The name in both was in Hebrew: Eylon Yudelman. There was no other identifying feature, except a page of handwritten notes from a shiur. If any reader knows Mr. Yudelman, or, of course, if Mr. Yudelman sees this letter, please contact me at cohengs@earthlink.net and I will, b’li neder, contact you in order to return the Gemaras to their rightful owner.

G.S. Cohen
Staten Island, NY
 

Punish Brutal Soldiers

Re the confrontation in Amona: Not only should there be an inquiry into the shameful event, but IDF soldiers who brutalized Jews should be disciplined. Their mission is to defend Jews, not abuse them. Soldiers of the IDF should know better.

Saul Goldman
(Via E-Mail)
 

Great Idealist

An article in the Feb. 10 issue of The Jewish Press (“The Most Altruistic of Mitzvot”) focused on a wonderful human being named Chaya Lipschutz who donated one of her kidneys in response to a series of newspaper ads. I happen to know Chaya through her work for EMUNAH of America; she has always been a great idealist and in the forefront of every good cause.

Toby Willig
Hon. National President
EMUNAH of America
 
 
 
Creativity And Mitzvot

I applaud The Jewish Press for encouraging children’s artistic expression. I was very moved and impressed by the beautiful artwork, poetry and essays relating to Chanukah that were submitted by children and teenagers from all over the United States and even from abroad (special supplement, Feb. 17).

This type of forum allows children to express their individuality and at the same time fosters a love of Torah and mitzvot. I look forward to seeing similar features in the future.

Michal Azulay
(Via E-Mail)
 
 

Misplaced Priorities

It’s a crying shame that we always seem to have enough money to spend on luxurious and splendid hotels for Pesach, magnificent and exquisite cruises in the summer, and Atlantic City casinos during the rest of the year. But we never seem to have any money left for struggling yeshivas and their rebbeim. (I once overheard a person comment that he couldn’t pay full tuition because he needed the money to go away for Yom Tov.)

The Chofetz Chaim in his old age would travel all over the world for the Vaad Hayeshivas, the lifeblood of our nation. He wrote that there is no greater reward than for harbotzas haTorah. As the Beis Halevi writes in Parashas Vayigash, woe to the person who is shown to have been hypocritical when on his yom hadin he is asked, Why did you claim not to have any money for tzedaka, yet you had enough money to send your son to university?

Rabbi Moshe Shochet
Brooklyn, NY
 
 

The Evolution Debate

(Continued)

No Name-Calling

I have been reading with great interest the recent letters to the editor on Torah and science. Many observant Jews are able to reconcile evolutionary understanding with Torah teachings. The belief that Hashem created all natural processes, including evolution, is not incompatible with the belief that He also deliberately created unique features in humankind.
 
However, even though this approach works for me, I understand that some frum Jews do not accept the science of an ancient earth, or of creation longer than a 24-hour, 7-day period. I respect this belief system but take exception when pseudo-science rather than faith is used to back it up. Insulting another Jew – as was done by one of the letter-writers, Dr. Yaakov Stern – and casting aspersions another Jew’s Jewishness because he holds different views should have no place in a discussion such as this one. Let’s debate this issue, but let’s remain civil.
 
Helen Delson
(ViaE-Mail)

 

Unimpressed By Creationist Arguments

Dr. Yaakov Stern has a rare sense of humor, or at least it’s rare to hear a “Magilla Gorilla” joke these days (Letters, Feb. 10). In any case, he is mistaken in suggesting that I am trying “to portray this debate as religion versus science.” Reasonable people can differ on how to reconcile science and religion, but that is not the issue I was addressing. Rather, my letters were in opposition to certain negative attitudes in the yeshiva world toward science and scientists, attitudes I believe reflect poorly on intellectual standards in parts of the religious community.

Dr. Stern also imagines some deep significance in the fact that I did not address Amnon Goldberg’s “brilliant” letter of January 6, which “made quite a convincing case for a 6,000-year-old universe.” The brilliant part, I gather, was the list of “solid scientific evidence” that included about 20 hasty references to magnetic fields, short-term comets, pleochroic haloes, and other obscure phenomena. I don’t know the source of Mr. Goldberg’s compendium, but I’m sorry to say I found it neither brilliant nor convincing.

With regard to some of the items he mentioned, such as the “still ‘unwrapped’ state of the arms of the great spiral galaxies,” I could find no independent references. Other listed items, such as the “complete dearth of any human record or artifact older than 6,000 years,” are just factually in error. (Many weapons and tools have been found that are over 100,000 years old.)

Still other listed items, such as “human population statistics,” refer to extrapolatory mathematical analyses which are so naive as to be comical. Those items in the Goldberg list which have any prima facie plausibility are already discussed at www.talkorigins.org in far greater detail than is possible here. Scientifically literate readers willing to invest the effort of studying each example in detail will conclude, I think, that the “evidence” provided by these phenomena is of the most dubious possible character.  

In general, the proof-lists often compiled by young-earth creationists provide a wonderful illustration of what we typically call “missing the big picture.” A motley collection of ambiguous (and usually internally inconsistent) phenomena is held up as refutation to the massive converging evidence from biology, geology, paleontology, archeology, and astronomy, all indicating an ancient earth and an even more ancient universe. The big picture gets similarly neglected when Dr. Stern observes that “many outstanding scientists repudiate evolutionary theory” but fails to note that these individuals represent only a small and steadily diminishing proportion of working scientists.
 
Moreover, isn’t it a bit odd that the few scientists who reject evolutionary theory are considered credible, reliable, important, even “outstanding,” while the vast majority of scientists are dismissed as corrupt, misguided, incompetent, and deceptive? Strange how that works.
 
David Fass
Highland Park, NJ

 

Science Neither Invokes Nor Denies God

Regarding Dr. Yaakov Stern’s misrepresentation of evolutionary theory as “gazillions of accidents [that] somehow produced an ordered system with all elements in perfect harmony and function,” I’d like to point out that the ordered system on which evolution is based is the fundamental ordered system of the universe itself. Now, evolution does not account for the natural laws of the universe but it does indicate what those laws would produce given certain conditions.

Darwin’s breakthrough was to see that the natural world does not need a direct caretaker to produce complex systems. Evolution works like a ratchet – i.e., it can go easily in one direction but it’s much more difficult for it to go back. So if an accidental mutation is beneficial to the individual it will prosper and mate and spread its beneficial mutation throughout the species, but if an accidental mutation is detrimental then that individual will either die or not be competitive in nature and his genes will not be passed on. So, you see, natural selection selects for those individuals who are best fit to survive and mate thus retaining the improvements while keeping the failures out of the equation. Individual mutations may be accidental, but the path of evolution is progressive.

Furthermore, “perfect harmony and function” would certainly not describe the bodies we all have or the natural world in which we live. Granted, it’s pretty good and the system works, but human bodies frequently suffer from backaches, poor eyesight, morning sickness and a host of other physiological imperfections.

But if you were referring to the natural world in general in terms of ecosystems and interspecies relationships, here we see species always at odds with each other. It may be highly complex but at its root lies simple interactions in terms of things like competition, predation, and parasitism. Each species is looking for its own success and survival in contest with other species. A balance is inevitably met. This is hardly a harmonious arrangement when you get down to the nitty gritty where you see that organisms must kill other organisms to survive and where you must note that species extinction is a common event.

Now let’s take a look at evolutionary theory in general. While there are some theists who believe that the theory itself implies that there is no God (or that it is some sort of secular religion) and there are some atheists who believe that the theory gives them the freedom to say that no God exists, the fact of the matter is that evolution from science’s point of view does not talk about God at all.

To use an example, when one is discussing how water evaporates, a theist could claim simply that God is responsible while an atheist could say that no God exists because the water evaporates according to these laws of physics. But logically, both of these claims are found outside of strict science. Science neither invokes nor denies God. The physics of water evaporation merely explain how it happens, not the ultimate cause, nor does it tell us the foundation for the laws which are in operation. Likewise, evolution explains how species arose on this planet but not any add itional information.

Is Judaism threatened by the fact that the direct hand of God is not found in the physical equations determining water evaporation? I think not. Similarly, Judaism should not feel threatened when the direct hand of God is not found in our determinations of the evolutionary process. As Albert Einstein once said, “The Lord God is subtle, but malicious He is not.”

Space constraints make it difficult to write a full-bodied response too all the various issues raised here, but for those who seriously contemplate a young earth or for whom evolution just does not make any sense, I’d suggest taking the time to read a couple of books in geology and biology. And I do not mean the sensationalist kinds of titles that you hear about all the time (and after which readers feel comfortable to call themselves experts in the field) but a “boring” serious college-level book which can actually give you a feel for what this is all about.

Daniel Hagler
Brooklyn, NY

Letters To The Editor

Friday, June 6th, 2003

Editor’s Note: This week the entire Letters section is devoted to comments on Shlomo Mostofsky’s April 25 front-page essay, “Modern Orthodoxy in a Changing World.” Reaction to the article – as well as to last week’s first batch of reader responses -
has been unusually heavy and heated.



No Apology Needed

I feel that Mr. Mostofsky was way too defensive in his article, parts of which read almost like an abject apology on behalf of Modern Orthodoxy. He made it seem as though the practices of Modern Orthodox Jews up to about 25 years ago were basically a series of compromises made necessary by a considerably less inclusive society. But fear not, he assures the yeshivish world, now that society has evolved, we Modern Orthodox Jews are adopting the stricter practices you always urged on us.

Nonsense, I say. The only thing Modern Orthodox Jews have to be ashamed about is the way we’ve acquiesced in the diminution of our once proud and vibrant community. No one held a gun to our heads and forced us to move further and further to the right in terms of our observance; rather, we internalized the criticism hurled at us by the haredi community and bought the notion that we were somehow lacking in our Judaism.

How did it come to this? There was a time, and it wasn’t all that long ago, when even those rebbeim who’d been educated in the great European yeshivas forcefully spoke out against the rigidity – most notably in the increasingly widespread acceptance of all manner of chumras ¡? they saw overtaking the American Torah community.

I recall that as recently as the mid-1970′s the esteemed Rav Pinchas Teitz, zt”l, railed against those who claimed glatt as the only proper standard for kashrut. In articles in The Jewish Press and other publications, Rav Teitz would painstakingly lay out the halachas of kashrut and challenge the changing public perception of what constituted halachically acceptable kosher meat. I once heard him speak on the subject and he asked his listeners: Are we saying that our fathers and grandfathers who ate non-glatt in Europe were, G-d forbid, lax in their kashrut?

The Jewish Press’s own Rabbi Sholom Klass, zt”l, would more often than not counsel a more lenient approach within the parameters of halacha, and no serious person dared question the extent of his Orthodoxy.

I well remember the glory days of Modern Orthodoxy in America, and I’ll tell you this: In those years we didn’t have to suffer the pain and embarrassment of reading in the paper every other week of yet another scandal, another chilul Hashem, in the Orthodox community. We may have been somewhat less stringent in the practice of certain rituals and minhagim, but in terms of our ethical behavior, of our adherence to the mitzvos of ben adom l’chaveiro, of
the face we presented to the non-Orthodox and non-Jewish worlds as representatives of Hashem’s Torah – in those terms we were head and shoulders above the situation
that pertains today.

(Dr.) Irving Pollak
New York, NY



Either Or

This whole discussion of Orthodox/Modern Orthodoxy totally misses the point. The bottom line is that every Jew must take a serious accounting of where he is holding religiously. Either he follows the Shulchan Aruch or he does not. Either he respects Daas Torah or he does not. As Dr. Yaakov Stern pointed out in his letter to the editor last week, Rabbi Gifter, zt”l, was only interested in being a Torah Jew.

Life really is that simple, and when we come to grips with this, all the ¡°deep¡± philosophical questions that divide the “Modern Orthodox” and the “Orthodox” will become
clear real fast.

Nissim Shiman
University of Maryland


Guarding Hashem’s Torah

Rather than “Modern Orthodoxy in a Changing World,” the title of Mr. Mostofsky’s essay should have read “in a Regressing World.” We have come full circle to ancient Rome and Greece with acceptance of homosexuality, abortion, and a rapidly declining morality. More than ever, there exists a prime necessity to cling to Torah observance since the Torah, being the Will of G-d, has always existed and always will exist without change.

The first problem with the article is the label “Orthodox.” Declaring oneself “Orthodox” leaves room for acknowledging other brands of Judaism, even, chas v’shalom, Humanistic Judaism which denies the existence of G-d. Every Jewish neshama enters the world with the same 613 obligations designated by Hashem and honored with the special command to be kodesh, holy.

A much more appropriate designation for Modern Orthodoxy is “Conservadox.” It provides recognition to those who would claim a right for males to choose not to cover their heads in public, or who, for the sake of convenience, eat salad or fish in a treif establishment. It provides the right (or excuse) for women to use the mikvah only when they hope to conceive, or to not over their hair because they consider the sheitel a minhag which perhaps the husband’s family didn’t observe.

Within Modern Orthodoxy, a woman can find the “right” to be a feminist wearing tallis and tefillin, attending “prayer groups” while hoping that eventually she’ll be counted in a minyan and called to the Torah.

While mixed dancing may no longer exist at Modern Orthodox functions, dancing without a mechitzah is accepted, as is mixed seating at functions where there is no davening. The Modern Orthodox community places a financial burden on those who observe chalav Yisrael,
insisting that they trust the government and ignoring the stipulation that where chalav Yisrael is available, it should be used.

While I have observed many children from young Israel households becoming more observant than their parents, those children are often confronted with the same family problems as those who become observant and are criticized by non-frum relatives.

Perhaps I am most sensitive to these issues because I am a ger who chose to live by Torah and now guards it jealously for Hashem. After I spent the first 28 years of my life as a devout Catholic, Hashem has blessed me with 37 additional years as a Torah Jew, although leading me first through Conservative Judaism, which allowed me to experience life among those who chose to observe as they pleased. (After five years, I sought halachic conversion because I wanted to be bound eternally with the Torah of Hashem.)

In order to fulfill the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew, I must state that I do not fault those Jews who involve themselves in these movements. It is the fault of the so-called “rabbis” who tell gentiles they are Jews when they are in fact still gentiles, and those who soothe the conscience of non-observant Jews by condoning their non-Torah observance with unofficial heterim to violate the sacred halacha for convenience.

May we merit to see the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days, and witness the time when all shall believe only in Hashem, observing the seven Noahide Laws for gentiles and the 613 mitzvos for Jews.

Jocelyn Ruth Krieger
Southfield, MI



Adjusting To Rightward Shift

It was a pleasure to read Shlomo Mostofsky’s article as well as some of the responses to it. I would like to add some of my views on the subject.

The halachas were the same years ago as they are today; it’s just that today more people are willing to accept them, due to a larger yeshiva-educated population. Not all of us, however, are able to make an immediate 180-degree turn-around. It takes time and patience for many of us, especially the older folks.

Mr. Mostofsky mentioned that he was born in 1957. I was born in 1942, and from my perspective the move to the right in Orthodoxy today is even more pronounced than it is from his. Although I went to a frum, boys-only yeshiva through high school, I was raised in a Young Israel-type environment and went to co-ed Orthodox camps. Adjusting to chumras in kashrus such as kemach yoshon or chalav Yisrael is not a problem for me. Other things, such as sheitels, kol isha, and asking a woman to wear stockings and long sleeves on a humid 95-plus degree summer weekday is going to take additional effort and considerably more time.

What bothers me is when people try to enact additional chumras that are not mandated by halacha but more by minhag. I am referring specifically to the forced separation of men and women in other than religious settings. I am now 60 years old and in five years I will be looking to join a senior citizen center. The existing Orthodox senior centers here in Monsey are run under the auspices of chassidic organizations. As a result, social and recreational activities are run for the women only, while the men are conveniently parked in front of a Gemara all day, in a separate room.

If I want to learn Gemara all day, there are, baruch Hashem, many botei midrashim here in Monsey that are open 24 hours a day for this purpose. I should not be forced into it. Because of the existing situation, many Orthodox seniors go to the local Rockland JCC YMHA and take their own food along, because the YMHA kitchen is not glatt. However, they are not really comfortable there. The lectures are presented by Reform or Conservative clergymen and the vast majority of the seniors are not at all concerned with religious values.

It is very important that when people of my generation reach our golden years we have a Young Israel-type of senior center where we will feel comfortable. Folks such as myself may be dinosaurs, but as long as we are still here on this earth, our needs must be taken into
consideration.

Sol Zeller
Monsey, NY



Let’s Respect Each Other

The controversy engendered by Mr. Mostofsky’s essay on Modern Orthodoxy is disturbing. Perhaps the following story will help some people obtain a different perspective on the issues involved.

I know a baal t’shuva who has spoken to me about this rivalry we see eating away at the Torah community. He tells me that when he was first becoming religious some 30 years ago, he was fortunate to meet dozens of Jews across the broad spectrum of Orthodox observance who were kind enough to help facilitate his entry into our culture.

Every so often, some of these people would try to explain to him what to them were very bright distinctions between the different groups that made up Orthodox life. Now, my friend is not a stupid person but he remembers that for a good number of years he could not understand what these people were getting at. For a long time all he saw were just individual Jews practicing the same religion a little differently. Some ate g’brokts and some didn’t. Some put on two types of tefillin and others one. Some wore hats all the time but a good many others chose not to. He thought that this was wonderful. He could appreciate a belief system that saw so many ways to do the right thing.

Given Judaism’s emphasis on ahavat Yisrael, he found it strange and very sad that his mentors would sometimes denigrate the practices and the people of those groups to which they thought they did not belong but which he could not really see as separate at all.

He heard the nasty and sometimes hateful things we all say about each other in our jealousy and guilt and competition for the title of G-d’s favorite. It seldom angered him, but it did always hurt him.

He told me that after many years he finally began to see that there were indeed different groups with different philosophies in Orthodox life and that he had been exposed to all of them over time. Looking back, he remembers that none of them had a monopoly on virtue. He found people in each group who were charitable and others who were stingy; people who were very spiritual and people who were very materialistic; people who were very committed
to learning and others less so. I got the point.

My friend today davens in an Agudah shul but eschews a black hat. He still reads seforim and articles written by rabbis and laymen from a variety of different strains of Orthodox opinion and finds enlightenment in all of them. He still feels that the greatest strength of Torah Judaism
is that people of very different temperaments and mindsets can all feel quite comfortable within its embrace.

If we must judge other religious Jews – and sometimes this is not only advisable but also necessary and even mandatory – please let us look at individuals, and try not to attribute their personal failings or idiosyncrasies to the movements we assume they belong to.

If we need to critique another group’s philosophy or practices, let us do so fairly, intellectually and unemotionally – and without lashon hara. Let us always remember that each group is, despite its detractors’ rhetoric, committed to halacha, and can usually find good sources for its points of view.

On the whole, why not just try to accept other Orthodox Jews the way they are? We all have faults.

Mark Ian Binsky
Brooklyn, NY


Taking Issue With Dr. Stern’s Diagnosis Of Modern Orthodoxy


No Fear Of Worldly Knowledge

The condescending tone of Dr. Yaakov Stern’s letter to the editor in last week’s Jewish Press
compels me to respond. I try to maintain a civil tongue when dealing with my fellow Orthodox
Jews who like to play their “frummer than thou” games, but it’s really time for the more right-wing elements among us to learn a little respect and a whole lot of derech eretz.

I’m convinced that the denigration constantly heaped on Modern Orthodoxy in haredi circles
stems mainly from a profound ignorance of history. For example, how many of your readers are aware that at Lithuania’s renowned Slobodka yeshiva, talmidim were expected to read a newspaper each and every day?

No, Dr. Stern, Torah Judaism doesn’t mean building a fortress of chumras in order to isolate
oneself from the outside world. Rambam and the other Sephardic Torah giants were men of vast “secular” learning, as was the Vilna Gaon and other European misnagdish leaders.

It would be instructive to consider the prescience of Rabbi Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg, author of S’ridei Aish, who in his later years (he died in 1966) bemoaned what he viewed as the
encroaching extremism in Orthodoxy. To quote from his biographer, Marc Shapiro:

“Weinberg believed that while religious extremism was always harmful, with its anti-Zionism and opposition to secular studies it was now even more dangerous, for it threatened to cripple positive religious development in the newly created State of Israel. Extremist Orthodoxy,
which he regarded as entirely lacking in originality of thought, would never be able to present an alternative to the secular vision and would prevent Orthodox Judaism itself from experiencing a rebirth.”

Rabbi Weinberg, writes Shapiro, saw the creation of Israel as a momentous miracle, even the
inauguration of the messianic process, and stated that only those whose hearts were “completely frozen” could fail to recognize the Hand of G-d in the restoration of the Jews to their land.

In one of his letters Rabbi Weinberg wrote that it was solely due to the glory of the State of
Israel that he found the strength to persevere; in another letter he called the establishment of Israel “the joy of my life.”

Imagine that, Dr. Stern - a yeshivish European rabbi, a recognized Torah intellect, who valued secular knowledge and saw Zionism as the working out of Hashem’s redemptive plan for His
people. There were others like him, Dr. Stern, others whom you’d know about if only you made an attempt to broaden your horizons. A Torah man, Dr. Stern, one who arms himself with faith and discernment, need have no fear of the world and its knowledge.

(Rabbi) Lev Rosenzweig
Jerusalem



Throwing Stones From Glass Houses

Dr. Yaakov Stern’s description of Modern Orthodoxy is slanderous and irrational. He claims
that Modern Orthodox Jews resent ultra-Orthodoxy and therefore make specious accusations against it. However, his accusations that Modern Orthodoxy is materialistic and spiritually bankrupt show his resentment for Modern Orthodoxy and are totally hypocritical.

I am part of the “right wing,” but have always admired the Modern Orthodox for their sincerity
and ability to retain their Torah principles while being exposed to the secular world.

The Modern Orthodox are too materialistic? Anybody who takes a walk through Boro Park sees overdone multi-million dollar homes with luxury cars in the driveway. Everyone knows that in the right-wing world shidduchim are based on money – boys are constantly advised to learn at “such and such a yeshiva” so that they might land a wealthy father-in-law. Huge, extravagant weddings are the norm (necessitating a takanah that no one seems to be following).

The Modern Orthodox are spiritually bankrupt? There has been scandal after scandal of
fraud and embezzlement in the right-wing community, each one constituting a tremendous
chillul Hashem. When we see the perpetrators of these crimes in the media, they never look Modern Orthodox. The minyanim at the federal prisons invariably are comprised mostly of right-wing Jews, not Modern Orthodox Jews. There are also special drug and alcohol addiction centers geared specifically for the haredi community. The list could go on and on. Dr. Stern should understand that those like him who engage in irrational diatribes against others often are motivated by their own feelings of inferiority.

Modern Orthodoxy is a vibrant Torah movement with many of its own talmidei chachamim and gedolim. Does Dr. Stern think these great rabbis are spiritually bankrupt? Are the boys learning in hesder yeshivas who put their lives on the line defending their fellow Jews spiritually bankrupt?

Dr. Stern really ought to get out of his ivory tower and take off his blindfold before he engages
in ill-conceived triumphalist exhortations which are tantamount to lashon hara against a tzibbur
consisting of other Torah Orthodox Jews.

Samuel Hirsch
Brooklyn, NY



How Does One Measure?

I read with interest the response from Dr. Yaakov Stern to the article by Shlomo Mostofsky.
Dr. Stern says that Modern Orthodoxy is spiritually bankrupt and essentially irrelevant. Dr.
Stern, do you have a machine that measures spirituality in a person? How do you differentiate
between a Jew who is Modern Orthodox and one who is yeshivish or chassidic? Can you tell how much kavanah they put into their davening? Is there any difference between someone who never misses a minyan and davens in the Young Israel and someone who never misses a minyan and davens in a yeshiva? (Maybe the yeshivish or chassidic guy “shuckels” a little more.)

I commend you, Dr. Stern – you have spoken like a true fanatic. You, like Hashem, search the
heart of everyone. I have no doubt that if an anti-Semite were to come across your article he
would be very proud of you. You and him both seek to cause dissension among Jews.

By the way, to whom is the modern Orthodox Jew irrelevant? To Hashem? No, not to Hashem. Our sages said, “Every Jew has a share in the world to come.” Every Jew. Thank G-d that Dr. Stern is not the ultimate judge of the Jewish people; if he were, they would all be found wanting.

(Rabbi) Avi Inger
Suffern, NY


‘Religious Arrogance’

I’m afraid that Dr. Yaakov Stern tipped his hand in his letter to the editor when he referred to
Mr. Mostofsky’s fellow Modern Orthodox Jews as “his [Mostofsky's] co-religionists.” His co-religionists? Are Modern Orthodox Jews not Dr. Stern’s co-religionists as well? Is Dr. Stern
suggesting that Modern Orthodoxy is a different religion from what he considers his pure, ultra-right-wing brand of Yiddishkeit?

Based on his letters to the editor that have appeared in The Jewish Press over the past several
months, I’m afraid the answer is self-evident: In Dr. Stern’s eyes, it’s either his way or the highway; either you conform to his idea of Torah-true Judaism or he’ll cast you out of the House of Israel.

Unfortunately, this religious arrogance is by no means limited to Dr. Stern. As a Modern
Orthodox Jew who happens to wear a hat, I can “pass” among haredim who don’t know me – and the deragatory comments I constantly hear are enough to make me despair of Klal Yisrael ever achieving even a semblance of unity.

What kind of comments? Here are just a few recent examples of the lashon hara I’ve had to
endure: 1) This one’s wife doesn’t cover her hair, so just how frum can the family be? 2) That one doesn’t hold from Chalav Yisrael, so how strict is his kashrut? 3) I just found out that the lady over there sends her son to a yeshiva that marches in the Israeli parade, can you believe it? For some reason I always thought the boy went to a real yeshiva. 4) Him? He’s mechalel Shabbos, he uses the Flatbush eruv.

In each of the cases mentioned above, the individuals who were being denigrated in such an
ugly manner were sincere, devoted, Orthodox Jews. I don’t know whether I can say the same about those who were doing the slandering.

Gedalia Marks
Brooklyn, NY



Speaking Of ‘Spiritual Bankruptcy’…

I would like to address my letter to Dr. Yaakov Stern, who wrote last week to comment on
Shlomo Mostofsky’s article on Modern Orthodoxy.

Dr. Stern, my reaction to your reply was initially one of anger, and then of great sadness. You clearly do have some sense of hakarat hatov for what came before you, for the brave pioneers
who paved the way for what is observant Jewry today. You apparently appreciate the fact that in no way would you be able to practice Yiddishkeit in this country without the Modern Orthodox movement’s early beginnings; as you say in your letter, “for this we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.” However, you go on to state that we should go on “building on their sacrifices and adopting the religious practices which were beyond their pale.”

A fine sentiment, indeed. So necessary to dispel the horrors of “spiritual bankruptcy” to
which you feel we of the Modern Orthodox movement are doomed. You cite a man sitting next to you at an audition for a ba’al tefilah and his insensitive remark about a kollel yungeleit as representative of a whole group of people you feel are “irrelevant.”

If we are going to generalize by example, let me offer the following:

¡? The young man with a hat as big as his ego who told my elderly mother, after she had just
secured a parking spot in front of a fish store in one of your neighborhoods on a busy Friday afternoon moments before he got there, that she should give up the spot to him because “You old people had your turn already, it’s my turn now.” (I can only hope his kids were in the car with him to learn from his callousness and wish him arichat yamim!) That, Dr. Stern, is spiritual bankruptcy.

* The women at my table at a simcha – all yeshivish – who, after I, an outsider, cheerfully
introduced myself, proceeded to ignore me for the rest of the night. That, Dr. Stern, is spiritual
bankruptcy.

* The shiva for one of the pillars and founders of the Boro Park community – a woman who,
along with her late husband, established the Beth El synagogue and Yeshiva Etz Chaim among many other institutions in the early part of the last century in the heart of Boro Park – where a
minyan had to be imported every day from Teaneck so my neighbor could say Kaddish for his Modern Orthodox mother. That, Dr. Stern, is spiritual bankruptcy.

Dr. Stern, I want to be a “Torah Jew” too, and I am proud to be a Modern Orthodox Jew at the same time. Let us all stop pointing fingers at each other, work a little more on our “ben adom l’chaveiro,” and maybe we will have a chance at the ultimate ge’ulah.

Bonnie Eizikovitz
Teaneck, NJ

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-12/2003/06/06/

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