A Life-Giving Stadium
I had the zechus, together with my wife, to travel down from Canada to attend the Siyum HaShas at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. I was truly astounded at the concern of the organizers for everyone sitting in the cold weather. Hand, feet, and body warmers were provided for all the participants, as were free coffee and tea.
The person seated at my left, without asking, brought me tea and offered me some of his sushi rolls and an apple, while the fellow seated at my right offered me a can of Coca-Cola he had bought. I thought to myself, “Mi k’amcha Yisrael!”
The morning of the siyum, I joined a Daf Yomi shiur in Staten Island. Amazingly, the daf that day, Niddah 70, had a connection with the siyum that took place later that day! The Gemara asks if the son of the Shunamite women who was resurrected by Elisha was tamei. The answer is “Met m’tamei v’ein chai m’tamei – A corpse transmits ritual impurity, but a living person does not.” Immediately, I blurted out, “MetLife!”
The maggid shiur responded by saying that invariably, the daf is tzum zach, on target, with events happening in the Jewish world. Later, I realized that MetLife was the perfect location for making the siyum for another reason: The first word in Talmud Bavli, “Mei’amasai,” begins with the letter “mem.” The last word, “halachos,” ends with the letter “tav” – together spelling the word Met! (The Gemara also begins with the word “Tanna,” whose first letter is “tav.”)
“Ki hem chayeinu…” Learning Shas from “mem” to “tav” is what gives us life, or, in other words, MetLife!
Slaughtering the Unborn
I would like to praise The Jewish Press for its excellent anti-abortion coverage. Dismembering unborn children in the womb goes against the pro-life values of Judaism, and it is an outrage that so many organizations under the banner of Judaism – such as the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, and the Anti-Defamation League – are vocal supporters of the willful termination of innocent human life in the womb.
The Jewish people – or at least moral-minded and religious Jews – need to step up more and protest the massacre of innocent human lives. Over 61 million unborn children in America have had their lives ended since Roe v. Wade in 1973, and while there are many Christian groups that speak out against abortion, the Jewish community in America has been essentially silent.
With approximately a million developing humans terminated every year in America, we Jews should not be silent as many Jews (and others) were in the late 1930s and 1940s as millions of human lives were terminated.
I hope The Jewish Press will keep up its great work in bringing attention to this modern-day Holocaust.
Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (I)
Rabbi Chananya Weissman has a problem with women learning Daf Yomi, and Talmud in general. I wonder if he would relegate women only to Tzena U’rena as was the case in the not so distant past.
Years ago, there were no female physicians or attorneys. Would Rabbi Weissman object to women studying medicine or law because it simply wasn’t done years ago? Furthermore, does a female professional automatically abrogate her role as an akeret habayit because she studies something that was previously denied to her?
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l, taught the inaugural Gemara shiur at the Stern College Beit Midrash and instituted girls Gemara study at the Maimonides School in Boston. Rav Aaron Lichtenstein, zt”l, supported the study of Gemara by women and noted that the Bais Yaakov movement a century ago was met with criticism just as women’s Gemara study is today. Were these noted luminaries wrong?
Studying Talmud has brought countless bnot Yisrael closer to Hashem and more devoted to Yiddishkeit. It is not the threat to the Jewish nation Rabbi Weissman seems to believe it is. Women should have access to all our holy texts the same way they have unfettered access to secular knowledge and higher education today. They should have the skills to study and benefit from them as well. It will only serve to strengthen Orthodox Judaism.
To deny Jewish women this access and these skills is an affront and disrespectful on so many levels.
Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (II)
The article by Rabbi Weissman questioning whether we should celebrate women’s Daf Yomi was deeply disappointing. I’m quite frankly shocked that The Jewish Press was willing to publish an article dripping in sarcasm and deep-seated anger towards women.
The author wrote, “I don’t have to think hard to come up with numerous Torah sources severely discouraging Talmud study for women.” If so, he should have included these sources instead of simply assuming that everybody reading his article is aware of them.
I will leave it to the gedolei Torah to decide whether women learning the daf is permitted or worthwhile. My primary issue with the author is his gratuitous attacks on women who take part in this endeavor and his questioning of their motives and integrity. It was completely uncalled for.
He characterizing these women as “agenda-driven activists on the very fringes of religious Judaism who view traditional halacha and norms as being little more than burdens to be overcome.” Does he know any of these women? Has he ever spoken to them?
While Rabbi Weissman may or may not have halachic sources to back up his opinion, he is in no position to judge these women or what they are doing.
From what I understand, not every woman feels it sufficient to be thanked for letting her husband study while she tends to more mundane household matters. Many of these women wish to be active participants as opposed to merely passive observers.
Steven Y. Steinhart
Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (III)
Rabbi Weissman’s missive, “Should We Be Celebrating Woman’s Daf Yomi?” was informative but somewhat disingenuous.
It is a woman’s choice whether or not to educate herself and become more familiar with her heritage. It’s also her choice what commitments to prioritize in life.
The views on women learning Daf Yomi among the young ladies in my college classes – all religiously observant – range from disinterest to pedagogical enlightenment. They all, however, feel that it is their choice whether or not to pursue it.
We should not be dissuading the fairer sex, or anyone for that matter, from seeking the erudition of scholarly pursuit. Daf Yomi is not the man’s domain; it is assuredly mankind’s domain.
Ronald Neal Goldman
Professor of English
Touro College and University System
Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (IV)
I was interested to read Rabbi Weissman’s article on the topic of women’s Gemara learning as I was hoping to better educate myself on some of the rationales given against this practice.
Unfortunately, Rabbi Weissman’s article provided no such rationale. Mainly, he noted that it is a relatively new phenomenon and tied it to radical leftist breakaway streams of Orthodox Judaism.
But I have witnessed many women taking to the spiritually-rewarding activity of Gemara learning – not because of feminist ideology – but because they wish to grow in their adherence and appreciation of the Torah.
In fact, most women I have seen taking to Gemara learning are not feminists, are perfectly fine with the age-old distinct customary roles for men and women, and can in no way be described as adherents of radical non-mainstream Orthodox movements.
It’s true that Gemara learning among women was not widespread in centuries past. But then again, Torah education of any kind for women was not prevalent for most of our history (mirroring to some degree the state of women’s education in general society).
By Rabbi Weissman’s logic, the Bais Yaakov movement championed by Sara Schenirer in the early 1900s should be shunned because, in addition to reflecting the desire of traditional Orthodox Jewish women to study Jewish subjects on a more serious level commensurate with their intellectual capabilities, women’s Jewish education happened to have also been encouraged at the time by more liberal non-mainstream revolutionary feminist elements.
This logic seems to me a perfect example of throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (V)
Rabbi Chananya Weissman writes beautifully and argues his position forcefully, but I take exception to his basic thesis. Rabbi Weissman categorically asserts that a gathering in Jerusalem for women who completed Daf Yomi – as well as the burgeoning Daf Yomi movement for women – is a manifestation of the leftist, feminist agenda.
I love a good conspiracy theory, but I’m not buying this one. Rav Moshe, zt”l, was asked about women wearing tefillin. He said that if a woman desires to wear tefillin because she wants to be like a man – i.e., she has some ulterior motive – she shouldn’t wear them, but if she desires to wear them out of a sincere pure desire, it’s permitted.
I have a hard time believing that 3,000 women (that’s the number of estimated participants at the women’s siyum) got together to work out a sinister plot to undermine Judaism as we know it. Daf Yomi is a seven-and-a-half-year commitment!
There are two other points Rabbi Weissman made that I would like to challenge:
1) He makes it seem as if Daf Yomi goes back thousands of years. In fact, it is less than a century old, and it’s only in the last 30 years with the advent of the Schottenstein Shas that it has become fashionable for the masses to join it.
2) Rabbi Weissman suggests that learning Talmud must be at odds with halacha since it’s a novelty. But so is women entering the workforce (the Gemara makes it clear that a woman should ideally be at home while her husband supports the family). Yet, thousands of kollel wives work and some boast advanced degrees from prestigious universities.
Why has this been accepted? Simple. Because that’s the only way to keep the kollel system functional. When the times change, we have to adapt.
Dr. Yaakov Stern
Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (VI)
I was very disappointed to see Rabbi Weissman’s disapproval of Daf Yomi for women.
He wrote that numerous sources discourage Talmud study for women, but he cites no such sources.
Thanks to the great work of ArtScroll and Rabbi Steinsaltz, the Talmud has become very accessible to the Jewish masses, and the desire to study it on the part of so many is simply a natural extension of the passion for Torah we strive to instill in our boys and girls.
Rabbi Weissman argues that women learn because they feel like it or it makes them feel good – as if this were somehow bad. Men, he writes, learn even if “it’s difficult, frustrating, confusing and boring and even if [they get] nothing out of it.” I was at MetLife in 2012 and on January 1, 2020, and I know many men who have completed the Daf Yomi cycle. I challenge anyone to identify a man who completed it without enjoying it on many levels.
I thank my wife for her support, which enabled me to complete the Daf Yomi cycle in 2012. Now that our daughters are grown, she feels she has more time to dedicate to learning, and I am proud that she has started Daf Yomi and I will encourage her to stay with it for the next seven years.
Rabbi Weissman mentioned how he would respond if his daughter told him she didn’t enjoy learning. I hope that if his daughter expressed how much she enjoyed learning and wished to pursue learning Daf Yomi, he would encourage her as a way of benefiting herself and all of Klal Yisrael.
Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (VII)
In his article on women’s Daf Yomi, Rabbi Weissman describes how the daughters of Zelaphchad came to Moshe reverently and respectfully to plead their case. However, there is much more to the story. Chazal says that not only were the bnot Zelaphchad brilliant; they were learned as well. They planned for their meeting with Moshe and put together a very cogent argument that ultimately Moshe could not refute.
Hashem subsequently declared that they should inherit their father, as should any daughter in a family with no boys.
Note that the bnot Zelaphchad could only come up with their argument based on their knowledge. As brilliant as they were, without their knowledge, they would not have had a case.
Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (VIII)
Please tell Rabbi Weissman that I found his article to be extremely offensive. I was denied the opportunity to study Gemara as a child. Thank G-d, I can study it now with the support of my father, husband, sons, and daughter. Educated women only add to Judaism.
Rabbi Weissman Is Wrong (IX)
The op-ed by Rabbi Weissman was beyond offensive to all frum women who learn Talmud and are committed to studying Daf Yomi – and there are many. This is not some crazy slippery slope, as the article implies.
You should be thrilled that women have this commitment and are making time for Torah. Please applaud them.
Bracha Leah Atlas
Trumpeldor – Felicitous Timing
Kudos to Saul Jay Singer for his wonderful article about Joseph Trumpeldor in the Parshas Vayechi issue. His citation of “Gur aryeh Yehuda” (Genesis 49:9) – which we read that Shabbos morning in shul – was most meaningfully selected by the memorial’s sculptor, Avraham Melnikov.
Dr. Nisan Hershkowitz,
Grace and Brotherhood
In “America the Beautiful” we sing, “G-d shed his grace on thee, and crowned thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” It’s “grace” and “brotherhood” that I think have been sadly absent from the American experience since President Donald Trump has taken office.
It shook me to the core when I heard the president speaking some months ago at a rally in western Florida about how to stop illegal immigrants from coming in from Mexico. One attendee shouted out, “Shoot them.” And the president of the United States – the man from whom we are supposed to take our cues from as to what our nation stands for – chuckled at the remark and said, “Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”
He repeated “Only in the Panhandle,” and he got laughs and cheers. No repudiation of the remark by the president. No softening. Just laughs and cheers. Good-bye grace. Good-bye brotherhood. Hello to shameful hatred. Heartbreaking.
Stop Taking Trump So Literally
It’s reassuring that The Jewish Press is not taken in – as even some Jewish newspapers are – by the claim that the most philo-Semitic and witty American president in history is somehow sending “dog whistles” to anti-Semites. Actions are more important to thinking human beings than words – or whistles – and certainly more important than whistles that can only be heard by dogs.
Too many people unwittingly fail to appreciate President Trump’s wit. To quote Salena Zito, “The press takes President Trump literally, but not seriously, whereas President Trump’s supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” Exaggerations and witticisms are not lies. Referring to the president as an anti-Semite, though – after all he has done for the Jewish people – is a lie.
President Trump’s most outspoken and well-known lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, may not be more Jewish than George Soros, as he claimed (again, with tongue in cheek) but, as is the case with the president, Rudy’s public behavior and actions are more Jewish in many respects than those of many “Jinos” (“Jews in Name [or birth] Only”).
Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq.
Kew Gardens, NY
Free Self-Defense Classes
In response to the recent epidemic of anti-Jewish attacks in New York, Yuri Foreman, a former World Boxing Association super welterweight champion, has joined with two krav maga experts to offer two 90-minute, free-of-charge self-defense classes every Sunday to the Jewish community at Gleason’s Gym on 130 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY.
Note that the going rate for this type of training is usually at least $180 per month: Free training of this nature is almost unheard of.
Note also that I have no connections whatsoever to this program. Rabbi Yuri Foreman, and the two krav maga experts – Ms. Jackie Atkins and Mr. Norman Weiner – are even my competitors in a sense (as I currently am looking to offer martial arts instruction myself). I felt, however, that the urgent needs of the community were more important than my self-interest.
Killing Soleimani (I)
Some people question whether Qassem Soleimani was an imminent threat and whether killing him was justified.
Soleimani had a long history of being a bloodthirsty murderer. In just a two-year period, between 2005 and 2007, IEDs designed to kill American troops were built and shipped to Iraqi terror groups by Soleimani. They claimed the lives of about 600 American servicemen.
According to a New York Post report, Soleimani was directly involved in planning and financing the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. intelligence facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed there.
The list of his atrocities goes on. To say that Soleimani was an imminent threat is an understatement; he was an unrelenting, ongoing threat. With his background, you can be reasonably certain he was planning more attacks on Americans. What other possibility was there? That he’d give up terrorism and study to become a bookkeeper?
Some people counter, “But he was a state official.” A terrorist is not above the law because he happens to be a state official. Taking out Soleimani was not only justified; it was a moral imperative.
Killing Soleimani (II)
Once again, I am very disappointed in so many Democrats in Congress. Qassem Soleimani was the worst terrorist in the world. He was responsible for the deaths of more than 600 Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. His forces helped kill a half million people in Syria during that civil war.
How dare these Democrats criticize President Trump for stopping Soleimani from attacking four American embassies simultaneously one day, a day that would be the terrorist highlight of the decade?
If a Democratic president had done the same thing, Democrats would have praised him to high heaven. Since it was done by Trump, they have a vastly different opinion. It’s time for Congressional Democrats to end their three-year temper tantrum and behave maturely. It’s long overdue.
Fort Lee, NJ
Amend the Law of Return
Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rav Yitzhak Yosef, spoke the much-needed truth the other week, noting the spiritual danger non-Jewish Russians pose to Israeli society.
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, 430,000 non-Jewish immigrants have been allowed to enter Israel in the last 30 years under the Law of Return. This law states that all Jews get automatic citizenship in Israel, but the law does not define “Jew” according to halacha.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said Rav Yitzhak’s statement was “out of place.” He also declared that immigrants from the former Soviet Union are a great blessing to Israel and the Jewish people.” But in another great blessing found in Shemoneh Esrei and Havdallah, these words appear “Thou hast made a distinction between Israel and other peoples.”
Rabbi Yosef is correct. His secular, misguided critics will slowly whittle away at the religious foundation of Israel if the Jewish majority allows them to by their silence. The Law of Return must be amended. It must declare that “Jew” means “Jewish according to halacha.”
Two New Apples
Your article in November about the cosmic crisp apple was very interesting. I’d like to note two new apple varieties that were recently introduced by Cornell University: SnapDragon and RubyFrost.
SnapDragon is a cross of Honeycrisp and an unnamed Cornell apple variety; its flavor is spicy and sweet. RubyFrost is a cross between Braeburn and Autumn Crisp. Its flavor is a perfect balance of sweet and tart and is very high in vitamin C and slow to brown.
I have tried both SnapDragon and RubyFrost and I would highly recommend them!