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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘SC’

The Charleston Hashkafa

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Over the past ten months that we’ve lived in Charleston, SC, I’ve written about a number of reasons why we love living here: the beautiful downtown, the warm and embracing Jewish community, the amazing people we have met, and, of course, the dolphins.

Those are all true. But I’ve avoided writing about one reason, the main reason that I feel I’ve found a haven in this beautiful city: I rarely hear the words “modern Orthodox.” Nor do I hear the word “yeshivish.” People here do not know about, nor participate in what I non-affectionately call “the hashkafa (religious worldview) wars.”

I used to work in a school where the question often arose as to whether I am yeshivish or modern Orthodox. My students would analyze my practices to decide which camp I fall into. No TV – must be yeshivish. But she teaches oral law to women and loves learning halacha – modern Orthodox. Wears a sheitel without leaving out a lot of hair – yeshivish. Does not accept the concept that rabbis are infallible – modern Orthodox. Back and forth they would go, trying to neatly stack me and my husband in one of the two boxes that they knew.

I loved those kids, I loved the school, and I loved the community. And I would excuse these questions as coming from kids who have limited experience with different hashkafot. But the truth is, these questions are not limited to high school students. I’ve been asked by adults—very knowledgeable adults at that—from New York and from smaller communities, and even by friends. “I just don’t get you,” they’ll say, “What are you?”

And at moments like these, I feel bad for God.

Modern Orthodoxy is not a religion, although, quite honestly, I sometimes believe that people lose sight of what it’s all about and prioritize their hashkafa over God Himself. The words “modern Orthodoxy” mean, and should mean, something different to each person. There is no one modern Orthodox model, nor is there is one yeshivish model, and a person shouldn’t have to belong inside boxes.

The Talmud mentions a number of questions that God will ask us after 120 years. Among them are: Did you deal ethically in business? and Did you set aside time for Torah study?

I don’t profess to know it all, and I’ve never been dead before, but I can promise you: God will not ask if you stood rigorously on the principles of modern Orthodoxy. Nor will He ask if you followed the community’s standards of what is considered to be “yeshivish enough.”

We just enjoyed a fantastic Shavuot retreat in Charleston. Our committee worked incredibly hard on the program, ensuring that every detail would go well. The food, the decorations, the accommodations, the welcome bags… But what we realized is that there are two details (probably more) that you have no control over. The weather (which was, baruch Hashem, amazing) and the kind of people who attend your program. If people are complainers, or unfriendly, and refuse to mingle—you have a disaster of a program, no matter how well you planned.

When I first saw our participants on Friday night, I admit I was a little nervous. It was a real mix: some women wore sheitels and had husbands with beards, other couples appeared more “modern.” Would they mingle, I wondered, or stick to their hashkafa groups? Would our Charleston Jews see an example of the religious divide that often exists “up North?”

I feel so blessed to report that throughout the entire program, our participants were warm and friendly to each other and to our local Charlestonians (and amazingly, did not complain at all! Not only that, several sent donations and letters of appreciation!!!).

Hashkafa was not an issue. People mingled, they made new friends and it did not seem to matter if you came from Teaneck, Monsey or Los Angeles. It was fascinating, because while they came to absorb Charleston culture, they actually got a glimpse of what Charleston is all about without realizing it: there is no hashkafic divide in Charleston. There are no separate communities of yeshivish and modern Orthodox and shomer Shabbat and not-Shomer Shabbat. We are all one people.

Classroom Holocaust Demonstration Lands Teacher in Jail

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

A Bluffton, SC, seventh-grade teacher is being charged by police with pulling her student under a table and telling him “this is what the Nazis do to Jews.”

AP reported that the 12-year-old student complained that he was on his way to sharpen a pencil last week, when he felt the hand of his teacher, Patricia Mulholland, on his collar. She yanked him and ordered, “come here, Jew.”

She then pulled him about 10 feet to a spot under a table, and made the comment about Nazis and Jews, according to police.

Mulholland was arrested and now faces charges of assault and battery, as well as public disorderly conduct, according to a Bluffton Police spokesman.

The social studies teacher said she had taught the class a lesson about the Holocaust a day earlier, and was merely attempting to give her students a first-hand, follow up lesson on the subject.

Her attorney explained that his client’s “demonstrative attempt to teach about World War II and the Holocaust has been taken to mean an anti-Semitic rant and it was nothing like that.”

Iran to SC: Blame Israel for Absolutely Everything

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

AFP reports that Iran complained in a letter to the UN Security Council that Israel assassinated its nuclear scientists as part of a “war game,” at the same time denying any role in attacks on Israeli diplomatic targets in India, Georgia, and Thailand.

The letter, sent by Iran’s UN ambassador Mohammad Khazaee, said Israel has been allowed to commit crimes against others with “impunity.”

Khazaee said Israel had made “unfounded allegations and distortions” against his country over the recent attacks and bombings. Iran “categorically rejects the allegations concerning any involvement of its officials or organs whatsoever in alleged recent terrorist operations against Israeli targets in a number of countries, namely Thailand, India, Georgia or Azerbaijan.”

According to Khazaee, Iran has “suffered from terrorist acts including assassinations of her nuclear scientists due to the tacit and explicit support extended by the Israeli regime to terrorist groups. These operations, as well as attributing the violent acts, are part of the general war game waged by this regime against Iran.”

On the other hand, Khazaee accused Israel of “covert operations, cyber warfare, psychological war and assassination of nuclear scientists,” all the while threatening military strikes on Iran.

In summation, Iran’s UN ambassador said: “Regrettably, the impunity with which the Israeli regime has been allowed to carry out its crimes thus far, has emboldened it to continue and even increase its blatant defiance of the most basic and fundamental principles of international law and the United Nations Charter.”

On occasion it’s nice to read good things about one’s country, reflected through the eyes of a sworn enemy. If half of what Khazaee said about covert operations, cyber warfare, psychological war and assassination of nuclear scientists is true, then we should sleep quietly tonight…

A Nation’s Tears… and Redemption

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

“Ani ma’amin I believe with complete faith in the coming of Mashiach and wait each day for him to come.”

When I recently comforted an elderly widow with the standard age-old reassurance that Mashiach will be here soon and his coming will right all wrongs, she sighed, smiled ruefully and remarked rather cynically, “I’ve been hearing that since my childhood days and he still hasn’t come!”

And yet our hope does not fade with time; on the contrary, we’ve become ever more insistent and voice our expectation with increasing urgency, that God redeem us from our bitter exile.

Our yearning reaches an apex at this time of year, when our collective conscience is stirred and we weep at the memory of our painful separation from our Maker.

A Mother’s Love

They were a happy, compatible couple, save for their longing to have a child. When Hashem hearkened to their impassioned pleas, their joy was boundless and the world was theirs.

The expectant period was one of euphoric anticipation. But when the big day finally arrived, the parturient woman found herself in desperate straits – the child would not emerge. The labor was grueling and even the most prestigious physicians hastily summoned could not assure a safe birth.

The woman’s husband eventually was forced to make a heart-wrenching decision: the only way his wife could be saved was if their child was surgically removed, in pieces; for the child to be born intact, its mother’s life would need to be forfeited.

The devoted husband was beside himself with grief. How long they had waited, how many tears they had shed, only to be faced with such a tragic outcome. He nonetheless opted for the survival of his wife, while she, roused by the ensuing commotion, was unremitting in her insistence on deciding her own fate. She would not barter her unborn child’s life for her own. God in His infinite wisdom would do as He saw fit, but she would not consent to having her child’s life terminated.

At her behest, her family and closest friends gathered around her sickbed. With hearts breaking, they listened to the fatigued woman’s words as her life force ebbed away. She spoke tearfully.

“I know death is at my door. Tomorrow at this time I shall no longer be among the living; I will be lying in the ground and you will be lamenting the tragedy of a mother so young who gave her life for her child. You will escort me to my grave, but then you will all return to your homes, and with time you will forget.

“I ask of you now that you give me your word that when my child will mature, you will take him by the hand and lead him to my grave and tell him that his devoted mother’s love for her child superseded all; that her dying wish was that he should never forget her nor fail to recall her great sacrifice. All she craved was for him to be God-fearing and walk in His ways and to say Kaddish on her yahrzeit. And in this way her soul would be at peace.”

If I will forget you, O Jerusalem, may [the strength of] my right hand be forgotten (Tehillim 137:5).

Years later, upon learning of his mother’s selfless devotion, the young orphan fell on his mother’s grave and cried bitterly at the calamity that had befallen them both. He was, from that time on, meticulous in carrying out her desire and made his father proud.

With the passing years, however, his ardor cooled. He would visit the gravesite but would neglect to gather a minyan or say mishnayos for his mother’s soul. His tears gradually abated, and he all but forgot his mother’s love and ultimate sacrifice. His father grew angry with his wayward son whose flame of passion had so diminished.

As God distanced Himself from His children when they sinned in the Holy Land and incurred His wrath, Mother Tzion intervened and begged God to take her and allow her children to live. Thus the beautiful city of Jerusalem and the Bais HaMikdash were laid to ruin – a mother offering herself in order to spare her children. Her only behest was that they remember her yahrzeit – the day of the Churban – and spend all their days heeding God’s commandments, learning Torah and practicing charity and good deeds. In this manner, they would merit to be united once more.

When?

Reb Yehoshua ben Levi once asked Eliyahu HaNavi when Mashiach would come, to which the prophet replied, “Ask him yourself.”

“Where will I find him?” asked Reb Yehoshua.

“By the gates of Rome.”

“How will I recognize him?”

“He sits among the sick and impoverished souls who occupy themselves with the dressing and redressing of their wounds. Mashiach, who sustains his share of painful sores – the result of the sins of the children of Israel – cleans and re-bandages only one wound at a time before proceeding to clean and dress the next one. For in his perpetual hope, and as he waits for the divine call to redeem the Jewish nation, he wants to be ready at a millisecond’s notice and therefore cannot afford to be involved with the redressing of all his wounds at once.”

When Reb Yehoshua neared the gates of Rome, he instantly recognized Mashiach and addressed him with much reverence. “Shalom aleicha, rebbe u’mori.”

Mashiach returned the greeting. “Shalom aleicha, son of Levi.”

Reb Yehoshua dispensed with preliminaries. “When will [you] come to redeem us?”

“Today I will come,” replied Mashiach.

Upon encountering Eliyahu HaNavi again, Reb Yehoshua expressed his disillusionment: Mashiach had said he’d come “today” yet had not materialized. The prophet clarified that Mashiach had alluded to the verse “Hayom im bekolo tishma’u” – “Today [on this day], if you will heed His voice [he will come]” (Talmud Sanhedrin).

So Close Yet So Far

What are we missing? How are we to realize this elusive dream of ours – to have Mashiach appear in our lifetime? How do we “heed His voice”?

According to various sources, and as stated in Megillas Eicha, the [holy] land was devastated “al azvam es torasi” – “because they abandoned My Torah.” God endured our sins of idol worship, sexual immorality and the spilling of blood, but the last straw came when we neglected the learning of Torah. Hashem knew that the light of Torah would have rehabilitated us, and that having cast the Torah aside we didn’t stand a chance.

And yet, at a time when the nation of Israel and its people everywhere stand precariously perched on a precipice from where the likes of Eisav and Yishmael would gleefully push us over in an instant, the Supreme Court in Israel ruled just weeks ago to revoke monetary support of kollel students (married men who study Torah continuously and are guaranteed a minimum income toward their support).

The Israeli justices seem totally unaware that as long as the voice of Yaakov will emanate (from synagogues and yeshivas), the hands of Eisav will be powerless against us.

(One judge dissented on the ruling and wrote, “Torah study is a commandment [and] should be funded by placing on the public the burden of providing an income for Torah students.”)

Live and Let Live?

This most popular mantra of our time is completely antithetical to the Torah and endangers our very existence. To put it bluntly, the modus operandi of non-believing and secular Jews may be hindering our redemption.

In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer we beseech Hashem to rebuild Jerusalem in our days; contemporaneously, the Bais HaMikdash shel Ma’alah – the Holy Temple in the heavenly spheres – is being assembled, our mitzvos and maasim tovim here on earth serving as the building materials for this lofty purpose. Mashiach is slated to come just as soon as the project will be complete.

Constant interference, however, hinders this process, for even as the good deeds of the righteous form the celestial holy edifice, the non-believers’ denial of and disdain for Hashem and His Torah work to dismantle it.

The saintly Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, in a moment of deep spiritual meditation, envisioned a strange house of worship collapsing in the heavens and declared it to be the work of the Chozeh of Lublin, the tzaddik who, with his devout Mincha prayers, succeeded in demolishing the impure structure (Zera Kodesh).

Moreover in Shemoneh Esrei, the blessing of v’lamalshinim (which anathematizes the contemptuous “freethinkers”) appears before the blessing of boneh Yerushalayim to emphasize that the rebuilding of Jerusalem and God’s holy sanctuary are contingent upon the obliteration of the apikorsim (Talmud Megillah).

Culpability of the Righteous

The Master of the Universe has never backtracked on His word when conferring a benefit upon Klal Yisrael, with one exception – as related by the prophet Yechezkel (Talmud Shabbos 55).

After Hashem had enumerated the grievous iniquities of His children to the prophet, the latter discerned the Creator summoning His celestial servants, the malachei chabalah (angels of destruction), and charging them with the assignment of wreaking havoc and mayhem upon the city of Jerusalem.

Six figures promptly came into view at the upper portals of the Bais HaMikdash, each yielding an armament in preparation for warfare. In marked contrast, a seventh figure among them was outfitted in linen garb affixed with a dangling scribe’s notepad; this was the angel Gavriel.

As the seven took their place next to the copper altar in the holy Temple’s courtyard, Hashem removed His Holy Presence from His inner sanctuary and remained at the periphery of the Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies), signifying the onset of God’s withdrawal from the Bais HaMikdash.

“I escaped [from my children who caused me anguish] and became like a lone bird on a rooftop” (Tehillim 102:8).

The angel Gavriel was ordered by God to search the city of Jerusalem and to brand the foreheads of all its inhabitants with the letter taf; the righteous were to be marked with ink, the evildoers in blood, so that the angels of destruction could distinguish between them. The six malachei chabala were to trail the angel Gavriel and mete out swift and merciless penalty.

Before the onslaught could be carried out, the Midas HaDin (attribute of strict judgment) interposed itself to dispute the preferential treatment extended to the righteous. God explained that the tzaddikim were genuinely bewailing the deplorable conduct of the masses and deserved His compassion – whereas the Midas HaDin countered that the righteous, as spiritual leaders, had failed in their function to vehemently oppose the deeds of the transgressors.

Hashem argued that any exhortation by the tzaddikim would have gone unheeded, but the Midas HaDin was uncompromising and maintained that as mere mortals the tzaddikim could not ascertain such a fact beforehand and were thus remiss in their obligation to defend the honor of their Creator.

The objection of the Midas HaDin was sustained; the Master of the Universe reversed His original directive of sparing the righteous and commanded the malachei chabala to dole out punishment to the tzaddikim as well.

And so it was that even those who upheld the Torah did not escape the wrath of Heaven due to their dereliction of duty in dispensing appropriate mussar, which was incumbent upon them even at the risk of suffering verbal or physical assault in the process.

The Rest of Us

In this world of ours there surely are enough rebbes (spiritual leaders) to go around. That being said, individual choice does not give anyone license to malign or ridicule someone else’s preference – not to mention that to speak lashon ha’ra in the name of chassidus is hypocrisy of the first order.

Not long ago I was privy to an amusing incident that occurred between two middle-aged men – one a born and bred old-school Satmar chassid (an upstater), the other a recent ba’al teshuvah with Lubavitch leanings (an out-of-towner). The implausible pair had developed a comradeship after a chance meeting through a mutual acquaintance.

SC embarked on the hour-long drive to the borough of Williamsburg in Brooklyn to personally convey best wishes to a ba’al simcha. BT, who happened to be visiting New York at the time, decided he would tag along. Reaching their destination was half the hassle as they still needed to find a place to park in the notoriously overcrowded enclave.

While the two repeatedly circled the streets in search of a parking spot, BT received a call on his cell phone. “In Williamsburg,” he said into the cordless, obviously in reply to his caller’s query.

“What am I doing in Williamsburg?” BT repeated his caller’s next question. As he hesitated momentarily in his answer to this one, SC behind the wheel was quick to pick up the slack. “M’zich mer a rebbe” – “We are searching for a rebbe,” he offered impassively. (Williamsburg, a nucleus of vibrant chassidism for over half a century, has, to say the least, no shortage of rebbes.)

BT, an erudite fellow hardly ever at a loss for words himself, found his friend’s satirical remark hilarious. In fact, the unlikely duo considered the tedious time spent in their quest for a parking space a small price to pay for the enjoyment of each other’s company.

As the reader may have gathered by now, each appreciates the other’s wit, humor and intelligent contribution to the relationship – but, most importantly, they respect each other’s vastly dissimilar lifestyles (within an Orthodox framework).

Now if only the rest of us could get on so famously.

“The salvation is close for those who fear Hashem . Kindness and truth will meet, righteousness and peace will kiss . When truth will sprout from the earth, righteousness will peer from Heaven .” (Tehillim 85).

Rachel Weiss is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press.

Printed from: https://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/a-nations-tears-and-redemption/2010/07/14/

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