Friday, May 31, 2013

Rav Triebitz: Challenges of Modernity and Rav S. R Hirsch

This Thursday night at 8:45 Rav Triebitz will continue the discussion about the dealing with modernity - with a discussion of the Seridei Aish's article on Hirsch. Meeting will take place at his home at 6/16 Katzenellenbogen in Har Nof.

Please contact me if you are planning on attending

Did the Gra strongly oppose the Maskilim as he did Chassidim

In Yale Professor Eliyahu Stern's recently published book on the Vilna Gaon - inserted below - asserts that he didn't publicly oppose maskilim such as Mendelssohn. 

In contrast in Rabbi Dovid Eliach's 3 volume work on the Gra - he cites letters which clearly indicate that the Gra was active in opposing the Haskala.

Prof Etkes in his biography of the Gra cites  the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe claim that the Gra was very pleased with Mendelssohn's translation and encouraged its distribution. Etkes rejects it as baseless. Any thoughts?

Update Prof Stern's Review of R' Eliach's book:MODERN RABBINIC HISTORIOGRAPHY
AND THE LEGACY OF ELIJAH OF VILNA:A REVIEW ESSAY (Modern Judaism 24 (1 )2004

Nowhere is the modern-day significance of the GRA highlighted more than in Dov Eliach’s The Gaon: The Story of His Life and an Explanation of the Teachings of Our Teacher and Rabbi the GRA. Upon opening his work, the author informs us of his cultural biases (though, of course, never calling them such). Eliach wastes little time publicizing that his unique and groundbreaking book has been blessed by his rabbi, Chaim Kanievsky, a leading figure in Haredi circles—a man who seldom if ever gives his blessings to such books. For our purposes, this blessing is mixed. On one hand, it signals an immediate red light to the critical reader. On the other hand, it also notifies the reader just how important and relevant this book is in present-day Haredi society. [...]

In volume 2 of The Gaon the strength and uniqueness of Eliach’s work emerge. Here, he offers one of the most comprehensive overviews of the GRA’s relationship to Torah study and secular knowledge. As is the case with every subject touched on by Eliach in this 1,300-page tome, it is obvious that he read through every book, manuscript, and document (though not all are cited) relating to the GRA’s stance toward knowledge not normally identified with Torah. [...]

However, the main novelty in Eliach’s analysis is his employment of the GRA as a historical marker. Specifically, Eliach uses the GRA as a figure through which he paskens (decides the religious status) on abroad range of different issues and figures identified with modern intellectual Jewish history. A paradigmatic example of Eliach’s historiography is his analysis of Maskillim such as the Av Beit-Din of Berlin, Tzvi Hirsch Levin, and Nafatali Hertz Wesseley. The GRA had little, if any, contact with these Berlin rabbinic figures. Yet Levin’s involvement in writing the only approbation for Mendelssohn’s controversial German translation of the Bible, coupled with Levin’s close ties to many individuals in the GRA’s inner circle, compels Eliach to ask how present-day Haredi culture should perceive these Berlin Jews’ religious identity. Unlike modern historians, such as Jacob Katz, who would have sought to verify whether or not someone such as Rabbi Levin was a Mendelssohnian modern, a Rabbinic apologist, or a Traditionalist, Eliach has concerns that are different but no less descriptive. Namely, he attempts to discern whether Levin or Wesseley should be termed “friend or a foe” of the GRA’s world and, by extension, modern-day Haredi culture. In Eliach’s narrative, historical categories are replaced with subjective sociotheological modes of definition. On some levels, this shift is only semantic. What the historian labels as modern is what Eliach calls “foe,” and what Eliach calls “friend” is what the historian might call traditionalist. However, in other respects this shift marks profound differences. Whereas the intellectual center for most modern Jewish historians is Western Europe and the universe and language of Moses Mendelssohn, Eliach makes the Vilna Gaon and the language and categories of the Eastern European rabbinic elite the basis from which to understand modern Jewish intellectual history. Eliach’s privileging of an Eastern European and rabbinic historiographic paradigm offers him the material to connect modern Jewish history to present-day Haredi society. This connection champions the claim of almost every leading Haredi rabbinic figure: namely, that Haredi yeshivot and social institutions are carbon copies of those thatexisted in pre–World War II Eastern Europe.[...]

Nonetheless, Eliach’s historiographic choices come with a heavy price. His attempt to make the GRA into a general in a war against the Haskalah is historically impossible. Ironically, in describing the GRA’ s relationship to the Haskalah Eliach employs a military trope. Somehow for Eliach the GRA goes from being the frail Talmudic Sage described in volume 1—a man who speaks glowingly about a diet consisting of bread and salt—to a powerful “warrior” “fighting” against the Haskalah described in volume 2. Nonetheless, the stark structuralist lines and oppositions that Eliach draws between the GRA’s Lithuanian community and Mendelssohn’s Berlin world simply could not have existed during either of their lifetimes. It was only after the GRA’s death that a demarcation between these two communities could be seen. As Edward Breuer and others have pointed out, during the GRA’s lifetime these two communities shared a great deal of intellectual currency and did not perceive each other in a hostile manner.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A review of Masoras Moshe by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

 [see my previous post on this subject Mesores Moshe - What is it?

update: see my recent post  Get Me'usa an apparent contradiction between Igros Moshe and Mesoras Moshe

Five Towns Jewish Times   [...] R. Mordechai Tendler, who had kept notebooks and letters of his saintly grandfather’s rulings in his 18 years as serving as his grandfather’s Gabbai, has just printed a new book of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s oral rulings.  The rulings number well over one thousand, and most of the them are quite fascinating.

The book has approbations from both of Rav Moshe’s sons, Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlita, and Rav Reuvain Feinstein Shlita, as well as Rav Shmuel Fuerst from Chicago and Rav Dovid Cohen from Brooklyn, both leading and well-respected Poskim in the United States.  Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita, of Bnei Brak, appended his signature as well to Rav Dovid Cohen’s approbation. [Rav Dovid Cohen and Rav Chaim Kanievsky are very close]. [...]

It is interesting to note that a similar but much thinner volume of rulings from Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was published approximately two years ago by Rabbi Aharon Felder from Philadelphia.  Indeed, the Rav Felder volume contains rulings that were significantly more controversial than this more recent volume.  Certainly, R. Tendler was aware of these rulings as well, yet either he or, more likely, the editors of this volume chose to exclude them.  Of course there have been rulings emanating from Rav Feinstein that appear neither in this most current volume nor in the Rav Felder volume. [...]

In this author’s opinion, the vast majority of Rav Moshe’s rulings that entered into general acceptance when he was alive still remain generally accepted.  There are some rulings, however, where the trend has been to look elsewhere.  For example, Rav Moshe permitted the use of rebar to prevent cement from cracking when pouring cement for a mikvah.  [Rebar is short for reinforcing bar which helps reinforce or compress concrete through either a bar or wires made of carbon steel]. He held that the metal was batel to the cement.  The tendency for the past number of years of Mikvah builders is to stay away from rebar.  Perhaps this can be explained by the development of greater proficiency in pouring, but conversations with Mikvah builders indicate that there is a halachic trend at play here. In a similar vein, numerous Bnei Torah now look at the U shaped insertable Cholent pot as a problem of Hatmana – insulating, relying on the view of Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.  This is a position that was summarily rejected by Rav Moshe.

Perhaps only time will tell, but the question of how the arrival of this new volume will affect current halachic rulings of contemporary Poskim is certainly an interesting one.  Finally, family members have confirmed that there will be a total of eighteen volumes to be published. The Sefer is available at all major Jewish bookstores.

Jerusalem Formula: Jewish solution oriented therapy by Dr. Shulem

This is the introduction to Dr Shulem's new book. It deals with how to do sucessful solution-oriented psychotherapy while being consistent with Torah values. Focus is on the precise use of language to cause cognitive shifts and reframing. Dr. Shulem has successfully used this approach and taught it to hundreds of students over the years. On the one hand it seems simple - but it does require proper practice and guidance to be done properly. It clearly demonstrates that good therapy doesn't have to be long or focused on the past.

Why Lapid is strengthening radical Chareidim or How not to draft the ultra-Orthodox

Times of Israel   by Rachel Azaria  a Jerusalem councilwoman representing the Yerushalmim Party

The government’s Peri Committee is offering a solution to the unequal burden of military service that is far from ideal. Why? Because it won’t result in the ultra-Orthodox joining the army, at least not for the next four years. If so, why are Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid determined to pass the law? Ah… It’s simple: they live in Tel Aviv. In other words, they have never actually met the ultra-Orthodox. 

Over the last decade, Jerusalem residents have witnessed a lengthy, difficult struggle over the character of our city. We have succeeded on a number of fronts: the fight against excluding women from the public sphere, retaining the pluralistic character of neighborhoods, and so much more.

We have succeeded because we became acquainted with the ultra-Orthodox community and we realized one key fact: the ultra-Orthodox community is undergoing significant changes, with two distinct undercurrents pulling in opposite directions. The first trend is an increasing interest in being part of Israeli society. These are people who feel Israeli and value the State of Israel. The other group is increasingly disinterested in joining society at large.

The ultra-Orthodox who wish to integrate into society face two main challenges. One is that they don’t know how to join society, so many don’t. But given the chance, they will gladly find their place. The second challenge is pressure from their more radical peers, who deny their religious devotion, threaten to not accept their children to schools, and other such sanctions. [...]

What we’ve learned in Jerusalem is to encourage the moderate voices in the ultra-Orthodox community, those who wish to join the Israeli and Jerusalemite public sphere and to resist the zealots.
The problem is that the Peri Committee does exactly the opposite. According to its plan, it will continue to exempt the entire ultra-Orthodox community from service. And in four years, anyone who doesn’t join the army – will go to jail.

This precisely empowers the more radical voices, who are waiting for a chance to prove that the secular want only to harass the ultra-Orthodox. Of course they’ll fight the Committee’s plan. It is clear that being jailed will be equated with “martyrdom for the sake of G-d,” playing right into the hands of the more radical groups [...]

Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum Guidlines for Mesira Regarding Child Abuse

Dr. Baruch Shulem's new book - The Jerusalem Formula: A Religious Alternative to Psychotherapy



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nachlaot Abuse Scandal: Rav Moshe Shapiro accused of instigating the beating of a woman who was alleged to be involved in pedophilia and missionizing

The Nachlaot pedophile scandal is back in the news with the indictment of Rav Moshe Shapiro  for allegedly soliciting aggravated assault regarding the severe beating of an alleged missionary woman - who is not named in any of the reports but is apparently Sara Vorst - a very controversial figure. It is important to remember that indictments are not convictions. It is also strange since there is a letter alleged to be from Rav Shapiro praising her. Nachlaot abuse letters in English translation

See this link for some of the confusion and conflict as to who she was  


These are the items discussing the indictment

YNET   See BHOL see Israel Hayom for a translation Israel HaYom

It is important to keep in mind that the Nachlaot scandal was originally described by police as the biggest case of pedophilia in Israeli history. Then it was eventually revealed to involve pedophilia but was grossly inflated by mob hysteria. The  top link is the most recent.

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/117839/panic-in-jerusalem




Rabbi Micha Berger: Why Yeshiva World preferred Mussar Movement to Chassidus

I asked Rabbi Micha Berger: Would you be interested in writing a guest post ... including an explanation why Lita was not receptive to Chassidus but was somewhat accepting of Mussar?  It is also interesting to note that while the Gra was strongly against Chassidim - apparently was not so regarding haskala. In fact the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe accused the Gra of facilitating the spread of Mendelson's commentary. In addition he was viewed as the spiritual father of the Mussar movement which seemed to be as revolutionary in its own way as Chassidus.

Rabbi Micha Berger responded:

I don't think it's a mystery. Mussar is founded on the writings of the Vilna Gaon. E.g. the title of Even Sheleimah ch. 1 tells us that the essence of Torah is the breaking of [bad] middos. In the next generation, Nefesh haChaim is an ambiguous work depending on how you understand the relationship between the first three she'arim, and the fourth. One way produces the yeshiva movement. Read the other way, and you see how R' Chaim Volozhiner had R' Zundel Salant as a student.

R' Zundel is the one who noticed a young Yisrael Lipkin trying to stay out of sight as he watched his behavior and meditations in the woods. He set R' Yisrael on the path that would become mussar when he shouted to the youth, "ישראל, לערן מוסר, אז דו זאלסט וערען א ירא שמים — Learn mussar so that you will be one who lives in awe of [the One in] Heaven!” (I don't know Yiddish well enough to know if I remembered the conjugations correctly.) In Nesivos Or, R' Itzele Petersburger writes that Rav Yisrael Salanter called the moment a “thunderbolt” that changed his life.

So, hashkafically, what divided Mussar from the Yeshiva velt isn't goal, but means. The yeshiva velt believes that learning is metaheir, like a miqvah. (Mashal taken from NhC sha'ar 4) Personal refinement doesn't require a conscious work on middos, because "barasi yeitzer hara, ubarasi Torah tavlin -- I [Hashem says,] created [yeitzer hara], and I created the Torah to spice it." Mussar believes that it does require a conscious commitment to work on one's middos; to view avodas Hashem as a conscious process of growth.

The gap is thus FAR smaller than that between Litta and chassidus. At worst, Mussar was seen as a waste of time better spent on learning. Not a misdirection in purpose.

But it did hit opposition. The last volume of R' Dov Katz's history of Mussar (Tenu'as haMussar) is titled Pulmus haMussar. Modern editions, following the general trend to revise history, omit it. The only copy I have I had Lulu print from Hebrewbooks.org. (Available here.) The primary issue was taking time from learning. This issue led to Kamenetz breaking away from Slbodka as a yeshiva for those who wanted a more normal curriculum. And the matter also led to fights within Telzh.

But there were those who objected because they saw any change as being Haskalishe. And their arguments were simply about chiddush -- how could mussar be of value if generations of ancestors didn't need it? (An issue the Alter of Novhardok raises in the title lecture of Madreigas haAdam is to explain what he believes changed in RYS's day to require the innovation.)

I don't think everything quieted down until the Alter of Slabodka sent talmidim out to keep other yeshivos afloat.

Rav Eliashiv: Moderation is normally required but extremism is required in times of spiritual danger BK (60b)

Bava Kama(60b): Our Rabbis taught: When there is an epidemic in a town, one should not walk in the middle of the road, as the Angel of Death walks then in the middle of the road, for since permission has been granted him, he stalks along openly. But when there is peace in the town, one should not walk at the sides of the road, for since [the Angel of Death] has no permission he slinks along in hiding.

This is explained by Rav Eliashiv (Yeshurun #28) in his commentary to Avos to refer to one's approach to religious observance. This is elaborated by Orech Yesharim.

Orech Yesharim (brought by Daf ahl Daf to Bava Kama 60b): As a general rule a person should always go in the moderate path and not be an extremist. However when there is an epidemic in the city i.e., there are many people who deviate from the proper path of observance – then one can no longer take a moderate position and he should not follow the majority in sin. Rather he should take an extreme position. That is because the Angel of Death who is Satan can easily seduce people to sin at this time. It is only during a time of peace i.e., when people are observant and attached to G‑d – then it is necessary to take a moderate position. In fact if a person takes an extreme position during times of general religous observance he places himself in great spiritual danger. Because at that time Satan has domain over those who conduct themselves as fanatics and extremists since their conduct is not for the sake of heaven.

Chaim Weiss Murder: Reward for Info about NY yeshiva student killed in 1986

Received the following letter:

To whom it may concern,

I thought this was an Interesting shaila, as it is something I have been thinking about recently. 

The murder investigation into the Long Beach yeshiva killer was re-opened. If you do not remember the story, a boy Chaim Weiss was killed some 25 years ago in long beach yeshiva. The police never solved the case yet they suspected someone in the yeshiva committed the murder. I have always believed that the one who killed Chaim was a specific bochur. It is not based on anything other than age. behavior, and a few specific things about him. He also is appx the same size as the suspected killer was. I don't know this guy well, not do I know which yeshiva he learned in. Anyway, is it permitted halachically to tell his name to the investigator on the case that I suspect he may have killed him?

======================
Rav Meir Treibitz told me -  in response to the above question - that someone who has information or even suspicions is obligated to report it to the police. I conveyed this psak to the one who wrote the letter and he said he will contact the police.

Anyone with information is asked to call Nassau County Crime Stoppers at  1-800-244-TIPS , log onto the county Crime Stoppers Web site, or text code word NCCS and a tip to CRIMES (274637.)

Update HaModia of May 28 reports Mesivta of Long Beach asks for cooperation with police
  See also Hamodia's article on Crime Stoppers
The Nassau District Attorney felt that the productive way to gain the community’s cooperation and trust was to involve the Orthodox community directly.
Which is what brought Gregory Quinn, a 40-year veteran of the Nassau County police homicide division, and James Carroll, the lead detective in reopening the Weiss files, to Hamodia last Thursday.
         “We need you,” Quinn said at the meeting with Hamodia.
The yeshivah seconded the DA’s call, urging anyone with knowledge to come forward, in a statement released to the public on Tuesday.
“The Mesivta of Long Beach applauds the perseverance of the Nassau County Police Department as it commences the reinvestigation of the tragic but unsolved murder of Chaim Weiss in November 1986,” the release read.

“We at the Mesivta have met with the Police Department and pledged our full cooperation in the investigation. We encourage all who have relevant information that could prove useful to the investigation to extend their full support to this process.”

Huffington Post  The unsolved killing of a 15-year-old rabbinical student found bludgeoned to death in his dormitory at a suburban New York yeshiva in 1986 is receiving renewed attention from homicide detectives.

"There's somebody out there that knows a secret," said Lt. John Azzata, commander of the Nassau County Police homicide squad. "I'm looking for that person to give me that secret."
Flanked by the victim's father, county officials announced Tuesday they were increasing the reward for information leading to the arrest of Chaim Weiss' killer from $5,000 to $25,000. The announcement came at a press conference intended to spark renewed interest in the case, Azzata said, adding that police have already begun to receive telephone tips. [...]
Weiss was described at the time as a bright student. He was found bludgeoned to death in his room at a religious school in Long Beach, a Long Island community east of New York City, after he failed to show up for morning prayers. [...]
There were no signs that anyone broke into the room.
It was later revealed that the victim's body had been moved to the floor from his bed, where he is believed to have been slain with a sharp, blunt object. Also, a window in the dormitory room was left open despite late autumn temperatures that hovered in the low 40s. Some have suggested the moving of the body and the opening of the window were somehow related to the young man's religious faith.
On Tuesday, chief of detectives Rick Capece specifically addressed the Jewish community, saying that detectives were aware that witnesses may be reticent to suggest those who may have been involved in the killing without having "positive proof" of their involvement.
"We are sensitive to and respect that belief," Capece said. "However a homicide has occurred and we need any information that can help us solve this case and bring justice and peace to the Weiss family."
Anton Weiss, the boy's father, spoke briefly at Tuesday's news conference [...]
He noted his son's classmates would be in their early 40s by now.
"His classmates by now are married, are parents on their own and understand what it means to be a parent," Weiss said. "I am appealing to you and urging you in the strongest way, if you have any information that you feel the police might need in this murder investigation, I ask you, I urge you, to please contact the police department." [...]
===From my sefer Child and Domestic Abuse volume II my copyrighted translation
Maharam Schick (C.M. 50): [In the case of someone’s brother who had died suddenly and his sister‑in‑law is suspected of poisoning her husband. Based on Bava Metzia (83b) regarding R’ Eliezer catching Jewish robbers for the Roman the halacha would allow reporting her to the police.]. While that is the halacha, nevertheless that gemora itself indicates that it is inappropriate for gedolim to be the ones to report the transgressor to the secular authorities. This is also the view of the Rashba cited by the Beis Yosef (C.M. 388). An even greater proof against reporting transgressors to secular authorities – even when there is a possible danger in not reporting – is found in the Rambam. The Rambam (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 5:5) writes that if non‑Jews specify which Jew they want and they will kill all the Jews if he isn’t handed over – they should give him over. However the Rambam notes that if that wanted Jew deserves the death penalty he can be given over to save the others – but this halacha is not to be publicized. This is also the view of the Yerushalmi (Terumos 8:4)…. Consequently while one should not protest against those who follow the straight halacha and report the criminal to the authorities - which has many poskim to rely on - nevertheless the gedolim should not get involved in reporting these crimes but rather should be passive. This is as we saw with Shimon ben Shetach who did not have proper evidence that someone was a murderer - even though it was obvious – and therefore he did nothing. Also look at Sheilas Yaavetz (2:9)…

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Yated Ne'eman's editorial today against the draft


Rav Steinman's call for more Torah study to protect against draft


'Boy or Girl?' Gender identity become a new challenge for schools

Oregon Live   From the time they are born, we put our boys in blue beanies and our girls in pink ones. It's a societal norm, an expectation even, that you just are what you are born — a boy or a girl.

From early on, we divide toys and activities by very distinct gender lines, with superheroes and trucks and muck on one side and princesses and dolls and all things frilly on the other.

Many children land, enthusiastically, on the expected side. Others dabble in both "girl" and "boy" things. But what if your kid, even from an early age, mostly showed interest in doing opposite-gender things? More importantly, what if they wanted to BE the opposite gender — or a less-defined mix of both? And what if they wanted to test those limits in public places, like school?

It's not, of course, that pat of a process. Parents don't just decide to let their kids switch genders. But, whether parents are dragged through the process, or if they decide to work it through more openly, more kids are challenging the boundaries of traditional gender, and going public at younger ages.

And they are doing so with the guidance of a growing faction of medical experts who no longer see this as something to be fixed. Last year, the American Psychiatric Association removed "gender identity disorder" from its list of mental health ailments.

Some experts predict that views on gender will evolve in much the same way they have for sexual orientation, since homosexuality was removed as a mental illness nearly four decades ago. Today, the gender spectrum includes those who are transgender, who see themselves as the opposite gender, and those who are gender variant, or gender nonconforming, whose gender is more "fluid." For kids, it means they identify part of themselves as boy and part as girl.

Increasingly, those students are making the transition as early as elementary school, if not before.

Ryan, a fourth-grader in suburban Chicago, is one of those kids.

Most people, upon seeing her big blue eyes, long lashes and flowing blond hair, would never know she's anything but a girl. But underneath, she is still physically a boy.

Doctors call that gender variant, though Ryan prefers to call herself a "tomgirl.

"I feel that I'm a girl in my heart," she says, "and a boy in my brain."< Her parents allowed her to be interviewed and also agreed to speak to The Associated Press on the condition that the family's last name, the name of the town where they live and the school Ryan attends not be used in the story.

Though the decision to publicly express publicly as a girl happened at the end of kindergarten, Ryan had slowly been becoming "she" at home for a long time, even when she still had a crew cut.
Six months after her second birthday, her parents say Ryan was drawn to all things pink and sparkly. Ryan, the boy, wore pajama pants on his head, pretending it was long hair, or acted out girl roles from movies. [...]

Were the Shoftim the transmitters of the Oral Law? Rashi vs Rambam

http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20252&st=&pgnum=474

Monday, May 27, 2013

Regarding molesters: True Hishtadlus is that which works

Guest post in response to R' William Handler's nonsensical rant that was published by the Jewish Press

Getting rid of molesters…. with TRUE effort

A story is told about a small church in town, which had a garden that has become completely overgrown. Years of neglect have turned it into a veritable jungle of thorns, bushes, and weeds. Among the members of the parish was a man who was quite a talented and accomplished gardener. The sight of the overgrowth bothered him week after week, until he finally decided to do something about it. He put on his gardening gloves and began pulling weeks, removing bushes, tilled the earth, planted grass, transplanted flowers, and over several days, the garden started to look really lovely.
He worked up to the last minute before services, and was on his hands and knees in the garden, finishing up, as the priest walked by.

Looking around appreciably, he said “My word, isn’t it amazing what man could accomplish with the help from Providence!”

The gardener stood up, brushed of his hands, and responded. “With all due respect, father, you should have seen this place when Providence had this place to himself!”

Obviously, the gardener was trying to point out that it was his actions that brought about the beauty before them. And, just as obviously, the priest was trying to point out that without a God to cause seeds to germinate, grass to grow, flowers to sprout, and beautiful colors come forth, all of the work the gardener had done would have also been for naught.

This is the concept of “Hishtadlus”, loosely translated as “requisite effort” that is basic to the Jewish faith. Ever since God commanded the Jews to first travel into the Red Sea before he split it, the understanding is that God will do “his job” as long as we do “our job” 

This responsibility to do our Hishtadlus carries on to earning a livelihood, to keeping our bodies fit, and to safekeeping ourselves……. and our children.

How much Hishtadlus one is required to do is up for debate, but what is NOT up for debate is that whatever Hishtadlus entails, one is obligated to do.

If you are continuously failing in what you are trying to accomplish, you must change your game plan, your Hishtadlus.

How do you reconcile “If you fail, try try again” with “It’s not working, time to try something else”?
If you have a logical reason explaining why what you have tried did not work, and now it might, then it might pay to continue. If you have tried everything, and still have not had the success you have been hoping for, Hishtadlus might very well rule that it is time to figure out a new game plan that will work and get you the results you desire.

Continuing what you had been doing is not an option,

For decades, some of our children have been living in a veritable jungle of fear, in an undergrowth of distrust, with the thorns of molestation thrust upon them through the neglect of the community that should have protected them.

During that time, the understanding was that the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” were “dealing” with the problem.

However, it was not working. The jungle life in the garden continued to wreak havoc, one Korban at a time.

Clearly, what was being done was not working. We are now coming to the realization that logically, going to the Rabbonim with was not true Hishtadlus.

How could it be Hishtadlus? The Rabbonim with don’t have the resources, training, equipment, or ability to conduct a criminal investigation.

Upon hearing of the recent guilty plea, I was flummoxed. Where was the siyata d’shmaya? How could an Adam Gadol, who was so POSITIVE that the accused was innocent, be so WRONG, in such a SPECTACULAR fashion? The only explanation I could come up with is that “siyata d’shmaya comes as PART of Hishtadlus. When a person has a Shaila about a chicken, his Hishtadlus is to go to a Rav. And the Rav will be given siyata d’shmaya in his ruling. Since proper Hishtadlus for a molestation victim is to go to the authorities, “siyata d’shmaya was withheld from the Rav in that situation who was not doing HIS Hishtadlus in that situation, by referring the case to people who are properly equipped to investigate the situation, prosecute the culprit, and assign proper punishment.

Our Gedolim are Tzaddikim who lead us, guide us, in areas of Halacha, Mussar and Hashkafa. They need to be looked up to, and follow their dictates, which indeed DO have tremendous siyata d’shmaya in areas of Psak Halacha.

Conducting a criminal investigation is not an area in which our Rabonnim have been trained or properly outfitted for.  Not only are they not qualified to conduct the investigation, they are even less qualified – or even able – to mete out appropriate punishment.

Clearly, while Halachically one is ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED to perform proper Hishtadlus, to save the lives of their children, paradoxically there were many the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” who were stopping this very Histadlus from being performed.

Thankfully, though, the tide has turned. 

Along came certain gardeners who have worked to start weeding out the evil from amongst us.
Slowly, beauty is emerging in the absence of this evil.

The people harming our children are being incarcerated. Many more are put on notice that we will not stand by and let them prey on our young.

A beautiful garden is growing.

But, make no mistake.

The eradication of this evil is being done by gardeners performing their Hishtadlus, the parents who are going to the authorities to protect their children.

None of this beauty, none of our now convicted molesters ending up in jail came about by “Providence” alone. Nor through the work of Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya”.  If anything, recent court actions show that due to the insistence of  Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” molesters have been free to continue to molest, to the point where we now have second generation molesters in our community, who have molested children AFTER the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” have been informed of their activities. In this particularly embarrassing case, the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” were absolutely CONVINCED, after “thorough investigation” that the accused was innocent… Until the accused stood up in court and admitted guilt to each and every charge.

Moreover, if the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” had their way, Nechemia Weberman would still be giving “therapy” to teenage girls in a locked office with a bedroom for 12 hours a week, Yosef Kolko will still be a camp counselor, and Jordan Murray would still be teaching 5 and 6 year olds.
It is only through TRUE Hishtadlus, going to authorities, that this problem can be dealt with.

It is clear that when people like Rabbi William Handler tell us that we should leave the issue in the hands of the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya”, we MUST stand up, brush our hands off, and tell him “You should see what a jungle this place was when the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” had it to themselves”

Rav Nachman describing the impact of Modernity

There was was once a time says the master of prayer when each of us had gone to his own special place. The warrior. the orator. and all of the king's men - each had gone lo renew his particular strength.

At that time a great wind storrn swept over the world. The entire earth was confounded. Dry land was transformed into sea and sea into dry land. Deserts came up where there had been towns. And new towns sprang up in areas where there had only been desert. The whole world was turned upside down by the wind.

When the wind came into the king's palace, it did no damage at all. As it whipped through the palace, however. it grabbed up the beautiful child and carried him away in an instant. The king's daughter ran off in pursuit of her child. Soon she was followed by her mother. the queen. and then by the king himself. Thus all of them were scattered and nobody knows their place.

None of us was there when this happened, as we each had gone off to renew our strength. When we did return to the palace. we found no one there .... Since then we have all been scattered. and none of us can now get back to that place where he needs to go to renew his strength. Since the wind came and turned the entire world around, changing land into sea and sean into land. The old paths no longer are of any use. We are now in need of new paths because all the places have been altered. Meanwhile we can not renew out former strength. We do, however, retain an imprint of those former times and that in itself is very good.

Modernity impacts halacha when 1)government intervenes 2) people rely on their own judgment

Dr. Jacob Katz (Changing Position and Outlook of Halakhists in Early Modernity) The beginnings of modernity, as we all know, can be dated in relation to the phenonmenon the history of which we wish to trace. The attempt to fix time when the position of the rabbis, the official bearers of halakhic authority, changed, eliciting as a result an alteration in their outlook as well, may well be facilitated by observation of two corresponding proceses. One of these was the growing intervention of the respective governments in the  affairs of the Jewish communities, undermining the autonomy upon which the authority of the rabbis depended. The other was the emergence of a group of people within the communities who, relying on their own judgment contested the prerogative of the rabbis to control the religious conduct of  their congregants. The two phenomena are not independent of each other.  The tendency of the modern state to appropriate functions formerly the domain of religious institutions and the endeavor of individuals to exempt themselves from religious authority are both an expression of the expanding spirit of rationalism in the course of the eighteenth century.

Children of refugee's welcomed by Sweden - riot & hate Sweden - why?

NY Times    In Stockholm and other towns and cities last week, bands made up mostly of young immigrants set buildings and cars ablaze in a spasm of destructive rage rarely seen in a country proud of its normally tranquil, law-abiding ways. 

The disturbances, with echoes of urban eruptions in France in 2005 and Britain in 2011, have pushed Sweden to the center of a heated debate across Europe about immigration and the tensions it causes in a time of deep economic malaise. 

The riots, now subsiding, have produced less damage than the earlier ones in Paris and London, which also involved mostly immigrants. But the unrest has shaken Sweden, which has a reputation for welcoming immigrants and asylum seekers, including those fleeing violence in countries like Iraq, Somalia and Syria, and regularly ranks in surveys as one of the world’s happiest places. 

“I don’t know why anybody would want to burn our school,” Ms. Bromster said. “I can’t understand it. Maybe they are not so happy with life.” 

Peri Commision on drafting Chareidi deadlocked over penalties

Times of Israel   A committee meeting tasked with passing new rules for drafting youth into the army — particularly ultra-Orthodox — ended in argument early Monday morning as sides failed to agree on punishment terms for draft dodgers. The termination of the Peri Committee meeting followed several hours in which the panel found broad consensus and approved several points from a recent draft proposal. 

The main bone of contention arose between Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, who heads the eponymous group drafting the new rules, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The two agreed to meet in an attempt to hash out their differences later on Monday.

Ya’alon said before the vote that he would oppose any measure that automatically criminalized ultra-Orthodox draft dodgers. However, Peri and his Yesh Atid faction consider sanctions a central part of the plan, which is intended to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into military or national service. [...]

During the meeting, which lasted past 1 a.m. Monday, the panel agreed on most of the draft proposal’s measures, including allowing top Torah scholars to be exempted from service and not extending the new rules to Arab youths along with the ultra-Orthodox.

The panel also agreed to lengthen service for those in the religious hesder serve/study program by a month, and not by eight months, as was originally proposed.

Hesder students currently spend 16 months in service and several more years in yeshiva study.

Super computers match fragments of Cairo Geniza

NY Times   The idea is to harness technology to help reassemble more than 100,000 document fragments collected across 1,000 years that reveal details of Jewish life along the Mediterranean, including marriage, medicine and mysticism. For decades, scholars relied mainly on memory to match up pieces of the Cairo genizah, a treasure trove of papers that include works by the rabbinical scholar Maimonides, parts of Torah scrolls and prayer books, reams of poetry and personal letters, contracts, and court documents, even recipes (there is a particularly vile one for honey-wine). 

Now, for the first time, a sophisticated artificial intelligence program running on a powerful computer network is conducting 4.5 trillion calculations per second to vastly narrow down the possibilities. 

“In one hour, the computer can compare 10 million pairs — 10 million pairs is something a human being cannot do in a lifetime,” said Roni Shweka, who has advanced degrees in both computers and Talmud and is helping lead the effort. “It’s going to be a very powerful tool for every researcher today that’s going to work on one fragment. In a few seconds, he’ll be able to find the other fragments, like finding the needle in the hay.” 

The genizah project is part of a growing movement to unleash advanced technology on the humanities. In recent years, geeks and poets have been collaborating on databases and digital mapping that are transforming the study of history, literature, music and more.[...]

The 320,000 pages and parts of pages — in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judeo-Arabic (Arabic transliterated into Hebrew letters) — were scattered in 67 libraries and private collections around the world, only a fraction of them collated and cataloged. More than 200 volumes and thousands of academic papers have been published based on the material, most focused on a single fragment or a few. Perhaps 4,000 have been pieced together through a painstaking, expensive, exclusive process that relied a lot on luck.  [...]

Saturday, May 25, 2013

ORA Post removed - Rabbi Jeremy Stern said item was unauthorized

I removed the recent posting regarding Ora. Rabbi Stern said that the item posted on his web site  had not been approved for posting. It has in fact been removed from the ORA website

Friday, May 24, 2013

Peri Committee recommendations for drafting Chareidim & severely limiting exemptions

Times of Israel   Jewish Home party officials late Thursday hailed a government committee’s recommendations for a revolutionary universal conscription bill that would severely limit the number of ultra-Orthodox Israelis exempt from the draft.

Sources within the national religious party, headed by Naftali Bennett, called the Peri Committee’s plan a “historic compromise,” and credited Bennett’s alliance with Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid.

Jewish Home party officials late Thursday hailed a government committee’s recommendations for a revolutionary universal conscription bill that would severely limit the number of ultra-Orthodox Israelis exempt from the draft.

Sources within the national religious party, headed by Naftali Bennett, called the Peri Committee’s plan a “historic compromise,” and credited Bennett’s alliance with Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid.

Problem of silence and coverups of coach abuse of young athletes

NY Times   A woman who was sexually abused as a teenager in the 1980s by a Hall of Fame swimming coach used the occasion of his sentencing Thursday to demand the departure of three leaders in USA Swimming who she said knew about the coach’s misconduct and failed to act.

For five years beginning when she was 13, the woman, Kelley Davies Currin, was sexually abused by Rick Curl, her coach on a suburban Washington team that he founded. On Thursday in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Maryland, Curl, 63, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of child sexual abuse in February.

With her case against Curl concluded after three decades, Currin, 43, called for further investigation into actions that helped “create a culture that protects predator coaches and vilifies young victims.”

The issue of sexual misconduct by coaches has been percolating in the sport since at least the 1960s, but it rocketed to the surface in 2010. In a highly publicized case that year, Andrew King, then 62, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading no contest to charges of molesting a 14-year-old girl who swam for him in San Jose, Calif., and two women he coached on other teams in the 1980s and 1990s. He was accused of molesting more than a dozen swimmers.[...]

Should new couples be given genetic tests for adult on-set diseases?

Haaretz    A panel of experts is considering adding tests for diseases that develop in adulthood to the standard genetic tests given to young couples when they are starting a family. Currently, these tests only cover diseases that develop in childhood. [...]

The National Bioethics Council, which advises the Health Ministry, set up the panel in response to a proposal to add one specific test, for a mutation of the GNE gene that is common among Jews of Persian origin and causes HIBM, a neuromuscular disease for which there is currently no treatment. HIBM begins with muscle weakness, usually when the patient is in his thirties, and ends in total paralysis.

The National Bioethics Council, which advises the Health Ministry, set up the panel in response to a proposal to add one specific test, for a mutation of the GNE gene that is common among Jews of Persian origin and causes HIBM, a neuromuscular disease for which there is currently no treatment. HIBM begins with muscle weakness, usually when the patient is in his thirties, and ends in total paralysis.

The National Bioethics Council, which advises the Health Ministry, set up the panel in response to a proposal to add one specific test, for a mutation of the GNE gene that is common among Jews of Persian origin and causes HIBM, a neuromuscular disease for which there is currently no treatment. HIBM begins with muscle weakness, usually when the patient is in his thirties, and ends in total paralysis.a

Because the current tests relate only to diseases that develop in childhood, this counseling only addresses the possible implications for the couple’s children, while ignoring the implications for the parents. Yet a genetic mutation can affect the parent even if he hasn’t developed the disease it causes. For instance, a mutation of the FMR-1 gene can cause autism or developmental delays in children, but women who carry this mutation face an increased risk of early menopause and of developing neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s later in life.[...]       

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rav Sternbuch: The nature of the prohibition of not accepting lashon harah


Guest Post: 1) The following is a teshuva from R Sternbuch, my translation, which  R Eidenhsohn  has graciously agreed to print. I was excited to find this Teshuva because it addresses a basic question I've had for a long time: How can we be told whether to believe a story -don't we do so automatically based on whether we think it makes sense?
2)I found this Teshuva particularly hard to translate as it seemed highly repetitive and I'm not completely certain of R Sternbuch's conclusion. (Where exactly do you draw the line between chazakah and reality?)
3)I have opted for a somewhat freer translation. Readers who can do so, are obviously advised to consult the original teshuva

Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:555):
A question regarding accepting Lashon Harah {Henceforth LH}

The holy Chafetz Chaim zt"l in Hilchos lashon hara (6:10) rules that it's forbidden to accept LH that one heard on his friend- rather he must assume that the guy  remains with his status of not having sinned. Nevertheless, one may take precautions and it's necessary to investigate and clarify, however he must not have even a doubt in his heart- as the guy retains his presumed innocence {Chazakah}

And his words are very difficult: are people angels that when he hears from someone he trusts and who does not hate the guy he's speaking about and therefore the listener suspects in his heart that it might be true how can we say that this is an issur of accepting LH?  Now, of course he may not harm the person spoken about at all based on hearsay, but in his heart he's going to have doubts that the report may be true! And it is hard to even imagine that he 'suspects' only in order to investigate but in truth he has no real doubt.- the law of chazakah itself leaves us unsure of the reality, just Halacha dictates to act as if the previous status remains! But it's never been ruled that even in one's heart it's prohibited to be in doubt of the true reality! But rather we have a doubt what the true reality is, and the presumption of innocence (chezkas kashrus) doesn't decide on this.

I likewise saw in the sefer Pe'as Sadcha (from RSD Munk zt"l) #29 that he reported that he asked the Chazon Ish zt"l about this and he replied "who can behave like that- this [the halacha regarding LH] is just lomdus". And he means as we said before that it's impossible to behave like this and the torah was not given to angels.

Therefore, it appears that that the Chafetz Chaim's intent was that since when one who hears LH,it's human nature to believe the reporter, especially if he's a reliable person, and it therefore becomes a full blown doubt by him that the LH may be true. And on this the opinion of the holy Chafetz Chaim is that he must know that the rules of the torah require that he presume everyone innocent-  just that the halachah is that he is permitted to suspect- and as a precaution against something that's likely to cause him harm if the report is true. But, beyond this, it is definitely prohibited to tell others or cause the person in question any pain or the like. And this doubt that is permitted here to act on,  is for himself to doubt the guy's innocence despite the general rule of chezkas kashrus,  and to act as if the rumor might be true; but in his heart he needs to know clearly that the guy keeps his chezkas kashrus and therefore the LH report is false {Sheker}- and the torah was not given to angels.

In any case, we are commanded to "judge everyone favorably" - to find a mitigating factor {be melamed zechus} as much as possible. And there is no limit to how many mitigating factors one can find- as well as to entertain that the teller did not see what happened exactly or all the details and therefore did not relate all that was involved etc

And the primary prohibition of LH is that after one has heard the gossip, he should not change the way he relates to guy he heard about at all, and  that as relates to the guy he does not  suspect him of anything, even if he cannot be an angel who it would be clear to, as we have said. 
תשובות והנהגות כרך א
  סימן תקנה
שאלה: באיסור קבלת לשון הרע וגדרה 

הקדוש בעל "חפץ חיים" זצ"ל בהלכות לשון הרע (כלל ו' סעיף י') פוסק שאסור לקבל לשה"ר ששמע רע על חבירו רק יש להעמידו על חזקתו שאין בו עולה, ומ"מ למיחש מיהת בעי לברר וליזהר, אבל אין לו עוד אפילו ספק בלבבו כל זמן שיש חזקה. 

ודבריו תמוהין מאד, אטו בני אדם מלאכי השרת הם, וכששומע מאדם מהימן שאינו שונאו וחושש בלבו, היאך נימא שזהו איסור קבלת לשון הרע, ונהי דאי אפשר לו לנגוע בחבירו כמלא נימא על סמך שמועה, מ"מ בלבו מסתפק שמא השמועה נכונה, וקשה אפילו לצייר שחושש רק כדי לברר אבל באמת אין אצלו אפילו חשש, והלוא מדין חזקה גופא נשאר ספק רק הלכה לנהוג כמקודם, ומעולם לא נפסק בחזקה שגם בלב אסור להסתפק כלל, ועכ"פ יש כאן ספק במציאות והחזקת כשרות לא מכרעת על זה. 

וכן ראיתי בספר "פאת שדך" (מהגר"ש מונק זצ"ל) סי' כ"ט מביא ששאל מהחזו"א זצ"ל והשיב "מי יכול לעמוד בזה אין זה אלא לומדות" וכוונתו כנ"ל שהרי אי אפשר לעמוד בזה ולא ניתנה תורה למלאכי השרת. ולכן נראה בכוונת הח"ח דכששומע לשה"ר הלוא טבע האדם הוא להאמין למספר ובפרט אם הוא אדם נאמן, ונעשה לו עכ"פ ספק גמור, ולזה דעת הקדוש החפץ חיים שצריך לידע שדין התורה הוא להעמיד כל אחד בחזקתו והרי הוא בחזקת כשרות, ורק הלכה היא שמותר לחשוש וכחששא לענין זהירות מדבר שעלול ליגרם לו נזק אם השמועה היתה נכונה, ומלבד זהירות זה האיסור בתורת ודאי לספר לאחרים או לצערו וכדומה, וחששא זו שהותר בזה היא שלעצמו חושש שלא כדין חזקת כשרות, אלא כאילו כן האמת, אבל בלבו צריך לידע ברור שחזקתו בכשרות, ולכן סיפור הלשה"ר הוא שקר, ולא ניתנה התורה למלאכי השרת. ובכל אופן מצווים אנו "בצדק תשפוט עמיתך" ללמד זכות כפי האפשר ואין גבול עד כמה אפשר ללמד זכות, וגם לצדד שההוא לא ראה בדקדוק או את כל הפרטים ולא סיפר או יודע כל הנסיבות וכו'. 

ועיקר איסור קבלת לשון הרע הוא לאחר השמיעה שלא ישתנה אצלו היחס לחבירו כלל, וליהוי כאילו לא שמע, שלגבי חבירו אינו חושש כלל, אף אם לעצמו אינו כמלאכי השרת שברור לו, וכמ"ש.