Sunday, June 30, 2013

Significance of Rav Salanter meeting Rav Hirsch?

I found the following description strange on many levels. Rav Salanter had been in Germany since 1857 dealing with kiruv issues and had not met Rav Hirsch nor was he familiar with his writings. In addition despite being involved full time with kiruv he had not apparently not mastered German after 15 years? (Prof. Etkes said he knew enough to read the newspapers.) This account indicated that they didn't really have much to talk about nor did they meet again or work together on a common project. In addition Rav Hirsch was devoting years pursuing the legal right for his congregation to separate from the official government sanctioned Jewish congregation - something that not only his congregation wasn't interested in nor did the leading halachic authority of Germany - Rav Wurtzburger - think it desirable and basically snubbed Rav Hirsch over this matter. I would have assumed that meeting with Rav Hirsch as well as Rav Hildesheimer  and the Malbim would be primary goals - working to stop Reform and the Haskala - but it didn't happen. Why not?

[This is from Rabbi Elias' edition of the 19 Letters] In the Israelit, on March 22, 1906, Rabbi Naftali Hertz Ehrmann published an account of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter's stay in Berlin  about thirty years earlier and of his desire to meet Rabbi S. R. Hirsch. Translation from (The Light, on 14 Nisan 5738):

At about this time, Rav Shimshon (ben R'foel) Hirsch arrived in  Berlin. He often came to Berlin at the beginning of the 1870's in order  to prepare the way for the" Austrittsgesetz, ,,' which was finally passed  in 1876. Three years older than Rav Yisroel, he was always under  great strain and beset with many different types of work which made  great demands on him at all hours of the day and night throughout his  stays in Berlin. He sought out ministers, ministerial advisers, and  influential representatives in every area and, through personal represen­tation of the case, tried to win over the authoritative factions in favor  of the law. In the evenings, his correspondence and writing awaited  him, and this often kept him occupied until well into the night. Rav  Yisroel had a great longing to become acquainted with Rav Hirsch and  to hear his views on the measures for consolidation of traditional Jewry  in Russia. He had great respect for the regenerator of German Jewry,  and no one else was more deeply convinced of the desperate need of  Russian Jewry for such a personality. Questions of etiquette-regarding  which of the two was to visit the other first-did not exist for Rav  Yisroel. He asked me (as I was taking care of a few small duties for  Rav Hirsch during his stay) to ask Rav Hirsch when would be the most convenient time to visit him .... When I saw how the time of this great  man was so completely taken, up, I hardly had the courage to mention  Rav Yisroel's wish, for I knew that its fulfillment would cost him more  precious time ... I therefore ventured to remark that the matter was not  so urgent and the visit could easily be postponed for a few days.  However, Rav Hirsch refused to hear of it, and asked me to ask Rav  Yisroel to honor him with his visit the very next evening ...
More than 30 year have passed since the memorable evening. But  the overwhelming impression of the meeting between these two great  personalities has remained with me until this day. Their similarities and  their differences; the overflowing wisdom of their thoughts, and the  restrained modesty of their spoken words. The expression in Rav  Hirsch's eyes from which his great, noble soul seemed to pour forth,  and the flashing sparks which shot out from the gaze of Rav Yisroel  and blazed around his great learned brow. All that and so much more­ all of it remains in my memory as vividly as if it had just happened  yesterday. How different were the two great men in speech and bear­ing, and in various other external aspects which draw the attention; and  yet how similar and related were they in their thoughts and their  spiritual life-in short, in everything which makes a man a Jew. Never  have I sensed the binding and brotherly strength of the Torah l'tzaref  es hab'riyos more deeply than in the moment when the two men  reached out their hands to each other. Rav Yisroel who, even in  general conversation, never let a word leave his lips which had not  been carefully considered from all sides, and who knew in addition  how precious Rav Hirsch's time was - particularly then - came straight  to the matter which lay on his heart more than on anyone else's. He  explained the dangers which he believed threatened the future of  Russian Jewry and asked Rav Hirsch for his views on how best to  combat them. Rav Hirsch, in his modesty, thought that he was not  familiar enough with Jewish life in Russia to be able to express an  authoritative opinion. Rav Yisroel however, he reasoned, must surely  have thought about the problem a great deal himself, and he therefore  asked him to first state his opinion. Rav Yisroel pointed out that the  best means of preserving the younger generation for Jewry - to win  back their respect - was through literature in the Russian language  permeated with the true Jewish spirit. The exceedingly salutary results  which would ensue from writings of this nature were to him quite  indisputable. The tragedy was, however, that those Russian Jews who were permeated with the truth of Judaism could not write Russian, and  those who had acquired a secular education and had mastered the  Russian language had broken with traditional Judaism. So that the  production of such writings seemed unimaginable. Rav Hirsch suggest­  ed that if this was the case, then perhaps it might be proper to translate  into Russian works written in the German language for this purpose.  The translation, if necessary, could even be done by a non-Jew. This  idea met with Rav Yisroel's full approval, and he asked Rav Hirsch to  specify a few suitable works for this purpose. Rav Hirsch suggested the  works of Salomon Plessner. At this point, I allowed myself to enquire  whether the writings of Rav Hirsch, himself, would not be especially  qualified, particularly such a work as The 19 Letters. Rav Hirsch  replied that it would naturally please him greatly if, through a translation of his writings, this great undertaking could be accomplished.  Neither was fundamentally opposed to a Hebrew translation. I later  heard this from their own mouths. But they believed that the great  benefits which they hoped would result from the propagation of the  spirit of these writings could be effected more easily and more perma­nently if the remedy was given in the same form as the disease had  been transmitted. On the way home, Rav Yisroel asked me to procure  for him that very evening a copy of The 19 Letters and to read through  it with him so that he might be able to form an opinion for himself.  That was, however, easier said than done. At that time, Rav Yisroel  had hardly begun to read German, and so we read until deep into the  night and for still another few days after that, until we finished the first  letter. Another few weeks passed before we finally completed the book.  Rav Yisroel summed up his opinion of it, "The book must not only be  translated into Russian, but also into loshon ha-kodesh."

Negel Vasser – An Overview by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

negelvassercup5tjt    When we wake up in the morning we wash our hands from a vessel in a specific manner: three times on each hand, switching off each time.This is called “Negel Vasser.”  There are two customs as to when the blessing on Neggel Vasser is recited.  The prevalent custom is to recite the bracha immediately (MB 6:9), but some recite it together with the morning Brachos in Shacharis. 

Generally speaking, we recite Brachos before we do the actual Mitzvah.  Why is it different for Negel Vasser?  The answer is that when our hands are impure, we shouldn’t recite a bracha!  So here, Chazal enacted the bracha afterward.

What is the reason that we wash our hands in the morning?  This is actually a four way debate between the Rosh, the Rashba, the Orchos Chaim (Rav Aharon of Narbonne), and the Zohar.  The Rosh (Responsa #61) writes that the sages enacted this obligation because our hands invariably touch parts of the body during the night that should be covered, and we must wash our hands before praying.

The Rashba (Responsa 1:191) writes that we are renewed every morning based upon the Pasuk in Eichah (3:23).  Therefore, the sages enacted that we must wash our hands from a vessel just as the Kohanim wash their hands from the Kior (a vessel) in the Bais HaMikdash.

The Orchos Chaim (cited in the Drisha in OC Siman 4) writes that during the nighttime an impure spirit rests upon the hands and does not leave until the hands are washed three times. The Shla (Chulin, Derech Chaim) explains that there are three separate impure forces.  Therefore, three washings are necessary to remove them.

The Zohar (Parshas VaYaishev 184) states that when the Neshama leaves it leaves a spirit of Tumah, impurity in the body.  When the soul re-enters, the impurity travels to the limbs.  Water can remove the impurity from the hands.    Why the limbs?  The Shla explains that the limbs correspond to the outer extensions of the universe, where the powers of impurity are strongest.

How does the Shulchan Aruch rule?  He rules that a bracha is only recited when both the Rosh’s reason and the Rashba’s reasons apply.  The other reasons may be reasons to wash one’s hands, but as far as the sages enactment goes, the Rosh and the Rashba are the main reasons. [...]

My Guidelines for Reporting Abuse Cases

I was recently asked in a Face Book discussion about the guidelines I use for reporting abuse cases. The issue was whether a particularly horrific case involving allegations of incest, gang rape and torture should be published. I decided not to publish it at present. I was asked why I view this case differently than the Weberman and Kolko cases which also involved allegations but which I have extensive reporting? I thought it might be useful to publish here my response to the question.

I don't automatically put a news item on my blog just because it involves accusations of abuse - it involves a judgment as to the costs vs benefits. In the case of Kolko and Weberman - I had additional reports from those I consider reliable that the charges were valid and more important that significant pressure was being applied to have the charges dropped. Therefore there was a major need to counterbalance the community pressure in these cases. A case that is widely covered in the secular press is generally also reported to avoid the impression of cover up. A situation where there are multiple victims is also reported in order to encourage reporting to the police. In situations where the perpetrator has escaped - I generally report it so hopefully he will get caught. Cases that illustrate that the abuser is often a respected or beloved individual is also reported in order to break down the stereotype that a crazy stranger is the abuser. In the present case - there was a single accuser, no indication that there was any evidence or that she was viewed as trustworthy. More important the details reported were especially horrific. I could not find other news sources that were reporting it. I could not think of an obvious benefit to publishing this anonymous case and the negative consequences of publicizing it are obvious. I often - though not always - publicize convictions so that people understand that abuse is not a rare event. There is also the issue of balance - I don't want to simply report all the negative items about our community - people stop reading the items or assume that is all that is going on in the world. in fact I will also publicize related articles from outside our community if it helps provide a context for abuse - such as the Penn State scandal or the Catholic Church

Beth Alexander fights an insensitive Austrian justice system to regain her twin boys

Vienna Review   by Nina Cranen and Franziska Zoidl    

 Law without Justice

As in most countries in the West, Austrian family law is meant to serve the best interests of the children. But what if Justitia errs? [....]

Family law has a long tradition in Europe, either as Catholic countries or as Protestant.” However, that should not have mattered here, as both parents are observant Jews, a tradition in which mothers are held in very high regard. “Respect for motherhood is deeply rooted in Jewish culture,” confirmed the Viennese rabbi. Jewish identity itself is, in fact, matrilineal, i.e., being passed on through the mother. A child born of a Jewish father and Christian mother, for example, is not considered a Jew.

However, for Judge emeritus Lilian Hofmeister, Alexander’s case comes as no surprise in the Austrian legal system: “This is particularly true in custody wars over sons,” Judge Hofmeister said. “There seems to be a new ‘rule of thumb’, which states: ‘Sons belong to their fathers’,” she said. “In the course of my pro bono work, I have come across cases that I wouldn’t have thought possible from my understanding of the law,” she added. While she was not familiar with all the details of this case, she said that especially with parents raising their children religiously, courts often prefer the fathers to the mothers. “I often get the impression that fathers use women as baby machines,” Dr. Hofmeister said, “As soon as the baby is born, they want to get rid of the mother(…), with foreigners, it is even easier.” As a social critic and feminist, she sees the situation in Austria as “a ‘war against women as mothers’, something not yet being examined by the courts.”

As the twins were born in Austria, Alexander’s case is governed by Austrian law: After a 1.5-year custody battle, Judge Susanne Göttlicher granted full and immediate custody to her husband, basing her decision on one psychological report. In the report, a court-appointed psychologist deemed her unfit to parenting: “The mother has limited parenting abilities (…) she inadequately interacts and bonds with her children.” For Alexander, the report has been fabricated – a procedure that has just caused a scandal in Salzburg, where a courtappointed psychologist is believed to have written 13 reports for courts predominantly in custody wars, using pre-fabricated textual elements and having manipulated the psychological tests.

To prove the report wrong, Alexander had herself re-assessed privately, leading to a second court-commissioned evaluation, by Dr. Werner Leixnering. Both reports contradicted the initial report and stated that she was perfectly sane and a good mother. To date, Judge Göttlicher has declined to accept these reports in evidence. Claiming bias, Alexander filed for a replacement of the judge in January, which has put the case on hold for nearly six months. [...]

However, just before press time, a decision was handed denying Alexander’s request for a change of venue, stating that “a transfer of jurisdiction to the Bezirksgericht Josefstadt is not in the interest of the children at the moment.” But with every day that passes, the legal argument grows that the children are now “used to their father”, as the psychiatrist Wörgötter knows from her 15-year experience as a court-appointed expert. [...]

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Modeh Ani – An Overview by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

5tjt    [...] The Mishna Brurah quotes it and writes, “When we arise in the morning we say, ‘Modeh Ani lefanecha, melech chai v’kayam, shehechezarta bi nishmasi b’chemla, rabah emunasecha.’ This means, ‘Before You, I thank you, O’ living and everlasting King, that You have returned my soul to me in mercy.. How great is your faithfulness!’

Why do we say this? The reason is that our bodies are not just hydro-carbon based cells, proteins, water and minerals.  We are also imbued with a Neshama, a soul, – called in Sefer Iyov a “Chailek Elokah Mimaal. – A Divine portion from Above.”  When we sleep at night, our Neshamos leave our physical bodies and arise to Heaven.  Hashem in His Chemla – kindness, returns our Neshama to us when we wake up in the morning.  The Modeh Ani is a way of expressing gratitude which makes us into better people, but it is also more than this.  There is an element of yearning for Geulah in it too.
The last words, “Great is your faithfulness is based upon a verse in Aicha (3:23), “They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.”  The Psikta Zutrasa explains that since each and every morning You renew our souls, we know that in the future You will redeem us as well.

The words “that You have returned my soul to me” come from the Avudraham, a Spanish Rishon, in his Hilchos Krias Shma.  Yet, he did not advocate this formula as something to recite each morning upon awakening.  It seems that the author of the Seder HaYom combined these elements together in conceiving of the Modeh Ani. [...]

Friday, June 28, 2013

5TJT Op-Ed on Supreme Court Ruling Repealing Doma

Five Towns Jewish Times    We are deeply saddened by the trajectory of this week’s Supreme Court ruling concerning the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Founders of this great nation embraced the idea of building a moral and virtuous society in this country in a manner that would enable all peoples to be able to fulfill both their inalienable rights as well as their inalienable duties.

These inalienable rights and duties are part of what can be called Natural Law.  From Moses to Cicero, to Washington, Jefferson, andFranklin, Natural Law has always defined the distinction between that which is just and that which is unjust, between right and wrong.  The idea of “Justice at Nuremberg” was characterized by Natural Law, since according to Nazi German law – the murder of Jews, gypsies, and certain other groups was entirely legal.  No society or government should be able to legislate laws or rules that undermine these Natural Laws. Just as a government is proscribed from legalizing murder and theft, so too may it not undermine other Natural Laws.

Marriage has been defined by the very fabrics of history, universal cultural norms, and Natural Law as being between man and woman.  Marriage combines in a union of life, love, and fidelity two people, capable of fathering and mothering offspring. It is more than mere kinship or friendship, it is a social and legal bond designed by Natural Law to procreate and continue the existence of mankind.  Undermining an institution that has been designed by history and Natural Law to vouchsafe the future of mankind can be compared to unleashing chemical and nuclear hazards that can also undermine mankind’s future.  Same gender marriages undermine Natural Law.

Furthermore, once we begin to redefine the basic integrity of the family structure in this nation, state, or city, we begin to fall down a slippery slope.  Such a move will give rise to a movement to legalize the right to have multiple wives.  It will give legitimacy to those who wish to allow marriages to one’s sister, daughter, son, or to two sisters simultaneously.  It will even give legitimacy to those who wish to enter the bonds of matrimony with favorite pets and animals. 

Modern social science and scientific inquiry has demonstrated the need of both a mother and a father to help foster the normal psycho-social development of children.  While there are times when this is not possible, government should make every effort to improve the ideal environment in which children should be raised.  Redefining marriage will lead to a disaster similar to that which Romania experienced in its orphan crisis in the late sixties and early seventies.  The Romanian orphan crisis led to a situation where thousands of children were raised outside the structure of families as envisioned by Natural Law.  The results were catastrophic and dysfunctional behaviors.  There will always be exceptions, but it is clearly in the state’s interest to ensure that future children be given the best chances of success possible.  Redefining marriages against the state interest in order to allow some members of society to co-opt a term is wrong. [...]

Hirsch: Daas Torah & Agudas Israel

Prof Alan Mittleman ( The Politics of Torah- History of Agudas Israel page 85): In Hirsch's view, the constitutional centrality of Torah implies a republican political philosophy. The stress on lay participation in Torah study means that no religious profes­sionalism - the clergy model of Christianity which he blames the Reform Jews for importing into Judaism—is acceptable." The decisions of the rabbi and the elected officers are accepted as authoritative only when the people are imbued with Torah. If the people are not steeped in Torah, the officers elected by them will lack discernment and the rabbi's decisions will bescorned. Hirsch interprets the rabbinic maxim, "raise up many students" (Avot 1:1) as a rule for rabbis: make yourselves superfluous, when all are full of Torah, your leadership will be unnecessary."

A number of strands come together here. What Hirsch is  proposing is a complete sublimation of the political dimensions of communal life in a system of sacred administration.  The sovereignty of the Torah, the total identification of any  authoritative public decision with the dictates of the Torah, subsume the sphere of political action into the routine of  administration. Hirsch seems to envision, like other nine­teenth century thinkers ,the replacement of politics by ratio­nal administration. Hirsch’s is a liberal utopianism, albeit rooted  in an incipient tendency of the Jewish political tradition, in  full flower. The social reality of the Jews can be ordered  according to the sacred ideas of the text as it has been rationally explicated by the sages and their followers. The  Religionsgesellschaft is to be the embodiment and the model  for this subordination of the uncertain world of politics to the  certainties of the sacred canopy.

It is interesting to note that Hirsch minimizes the role of  rabbinic authority. His view points in the opposite direction  from the Eastern European Orthodox elevation of “ daat  Torah,” the application of charismatic rabbinic authority to  contemporary political questions." Hirsch does not present the rabbi as a kind of oracle, but rather as representative of the  community by expressing those truths of which everyone is  (or should be) aware because they underlie the community's consensus. As in the late medieval kehillah, the rabbi's authority is strictly derivative. It depends on the will of the com­munity board, on the one hand, and his demonstrable competence in legal matters, on the other. Appeals to a supra-rational  charism are out of order.

Hirsch employs what we have termed an empirical or historical model of Jewish community. Drawing perhaps from the social contract tradition of Rousseau, he understand Israel and its public institutions to be a product of decision and choice. The people band together and form authoritative insti­tutions in order to better fulfill the Torah (which they freely accepted) than they could have on their own. The Torah is phenomenologically primary. The community is derivative and instrumental. Yet once composed by covenant or contract, the community has the right to compel its members to continue to acknowledge the basic norm of their collective enterprise. The tradition, according to Hirsch, values mutual compulsion for the public good." Rousseau's tendency toward maximal consensus and his thick view of the common good, expressed in his notion of the volonte generale come to mind here."

Hamodia vs RCA regarding Satmar Rally against Draft

Hamodia - The Hypocrisy of the RCA -    The most disturbing part of the RCA statement is that it says that the rally, which was called for and planned under the direction of the Gedolim, including both Satmar Rebbes, was “an insult to the memory of the Satmar Rav … For all his well-known opposition to a secular state, he always put the protection of Jewish lives first. It is unthinkable that … he would have countenanced aiding and abetting our enemies.” (It is important to point out that the opposition of other Gedolim to the rally was not for the reasons the RCA condemned it. It was a question of how we, as frum Jews, are supposed to work to get rid of this gezeirah, and whether public protest is an effective method.) It would seem that the RCA president is guilty of the very thing the Chasam Sofer was worried about, and is ascribing his own opinion to the Satmar Rav, zt”l.  

Hamodia - The RCA responds   Review the pictures of the rally, especially the signs speaking of a war on religion, and the lack of freedom of religion in Israel. Can you understand what a victory this is to millions and millions of deep-seated haters of Jews who wish to counter the support for Israel that she asks for as the Middle East’s only democracy? Satmar knows that its sons will never be drafted, and they don’t take money from the “illegal Zionist entity.” What were they protesting, other than the existence of the State itself? We cannot understand — and will not accept — acting in concert with them. We believe that the Gedolei Torah who said to stay away from the rally did not just differ with the organizers about which methods will be effective in countering the proposed measures. It is our understanding that some or all of them understood the terrible effect this could have, consciously or otherwise, on non-Jewish Americans whose favorable image of Israel is under constant attack. Satmar wanted to co-opt the anger and frustration of the Torah community over the Lapid proposals for its own cynical agenda. They wanted to maximize the impact of anti-Israel feeling; our job was to minimize it. Hence, we asserted that those who attended the rally are a small but vocal minority that should not take away from the image Americans have for strong support of Israel. If Americans sense that Jews are not supportive of their own state, they ask themselves why they should be supportive. If any members of Congress were negatively impressed by the rally, organizers will have Jewish blood, G-d forbid, on their hands.

We had one purpose, and only one purpose in our statement: to counter the image of Israel that the rally placed before the American public. We did not comment on the Lapid measures. One reason is that our members are split on how to react to them. We have some members who have been working hard to counter these measures, some of them taking their concerns straight to the Israeli government. We also, however, have members who refuse to label demands for chareidi participation in all parts of the life of the nation and insistence upon the teaching of basic educational skills in schools as a “gezeiras shmad.” Because different points of view are represented among our membership, we sometimes have to stay away from certain issues — just as Agudah does to maintain its fragile alliance between Litvishe and chassidishe elements.

Hamodia - Lets-state-the-true-facts   In reality, the rally that the RCA condemned was endorsed and attended by leading kehillos whose viewpoints strongly differ from the Satmar approach, including Sanz-Klausenberg, Belz and Boyan. The Rebbes of Skulen, Vizhnitz, and Rachmastrivka urged their followers to attend. Among those who participated were Roshei Yeshivah and Rabbanim such as, shlita, Harav Aaron Schechter, Harav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, Harav Noach Aizik Oelbaum, Harav Yaakov Horowitz, Harav Osher Kalmanowitz, Harav Simcha Bunim Paler, Harav Moshe Meiselman and others. Anyone who recognizes these names will be able to see that the protest was reflective of the broader Torah world. Indeed, both Satmar Rebbes were involved in the planning, and attended — but this wasn’t a rally against the legitimacy of the State of Israel. It was a rally in defense of Torah Judaism.
Forward  update  “Today’s rally is a declaration of war against the enemies of God and the enemies of religion,” said the Monsey, N.Y.-based Rabbi Yaakov Weiss, who was the protest’s opening and closing speaker. “We hope the evil Zionists will not be successful in destroying our holy Torah studies.”

Speakers used the Yiddish word reshoim, or evil people, to describe Israeli politicians specifically and Zionists generally. And Rabbi Nachman Stauber, who leads a Satmar yeshiva in Queens, made a comparison in his address between Zionists and Amalek, the biblical Jews’ greatest enemy.[...]

The JCRC, which has particularly close ties to the leadership of Satmar in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, defended the group’s right to protest, but objected to their language. “Sunday’s Foley Square protest against an announced Israeli policy was an expression of free speech,” said Michael Miller, executive vice president and CEO of the JCRC, in a statement issued in response to a Forward inquiry. “However, some of the speakers attempted to outrageously demonize the IDF and the government of Israel. We consider such rhetoric offensive and we categorically condemn it.”[...]

Posters advertising the event, however, suggested a broader anti-Israel message. “The evil rulers in the Holy Land want to incite and seduce young men and teenagers to acquiesce to idol worship and to participate in the impure army,” read Yiddish and Hebrew posters, copies of which were obtained and translated by the Forward.

Gershon Barkany pleads guilty to $62 million fraud

F.B.I.   Earlier today, Gershon Barkany pleaded guilty at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York, to wire fraud. The proceeding took place before United States Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay. When sentenced, Barkany faces up to 20 years in prison. As part of his plea agreement with the government, Barkany agreed to a $62 million money judgment payable to the United States.

The guilty plea was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, between December 2009 and March 2013, Barkany induced seven investors to give him approximately $62 million by promising to use their money in “risk-free” deals to purchase and then immediately re-sell at a profit commercial real estate properties located in New York City and New Jersey. However, no such deals existed and the investors lost their entire investments.

In one instance, Barkany approached an investor he knew from the community and who placed his trust in the defendant. Barkany preyed on that trust to convince the investor to invest $46.5 million that was supposed to be used as a down payment to purchase an office building in Manhattan, a hotel in Atlantic City, and properties in the Bronx and Queens. Barkany explained that he would find a buyer for those properties who would pay a higher price before the actual closing, resulting in a profit for Barkany and the investor. Barkany assured the investor that the real estate deals were risk free because if Barkany was unable to find a buyer before the closing, the owner of the properties would refund their money. In fact, those real estate deals did not exist and the investment was not refunded. [...]

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rabbi Yisrael Eichler Speaks up for Torah Jewry

Guest Post: Translation by RaP


Yaakov Weingarten alleged to have stolen large sums of money from charity donations

Courthouse News Service   [See also NY Times ]   A Brooklyn man and his cronies swiped "hundreds of thousands - if not millions" of dollars in donations intended for Israeli charities, New York's attorney general claims in court.

     Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Yaakov Weingarten, his wife Rivka Weingarten, and two of Weingarten's principal employees, David Yifat and Simon Weiss, in Kings County Supreme Court. Their last known addresses were in Brooklyn, except for Weiss, who lived in Queens, according to the lengthy complaint.

     Also sued are at least 19 entities Weingarten has run for at least the past five years - some of them nonprofits, some corporations organized under the Religious Corporations Law - to prey on a "vulnerable public's charitable instincts, and in particular the charitable impulses that many persons of the Jewish faith have for Israel," New York says in the complaint.

     Weingarten and his employees "use deceptive and highly aggressive tactics to raise millions of dollars from donors," the lawsuit states, "ostensibly for Israeli charitable causes such as Emergency Medical Services programs and programs for terror attack survivors, cancer victims, the sick and the poor. [...]

Also named as defendants are the alleged charities Hatzalah Rescue of Israel Inc.; Shearim Inc., aka Shearin; Bnei Torah Inc.; Chesed L'Yisrael V'Chasdei Yosef Inc.; Yad L'Shabbat Inc.; Hazalah Shomron Inc.; Pulse Foundation Inc. aka Pulse; The Israel Leukemia and Cancer Society; Agudath Chesed Bikur Cholim Israel Inc.; Kupat Reb Meir Baal Haness Bnei Torah Eretz Yisrael Inc.; Congregation Yad L'Shabbat Inc.; Shearim Hayad L'Torah Center for Hatzalah L'Shabbat and Chesed L'Yisrael Inc.; Israel Emergency Center; Magen Israel; Hayad victim Assistance Fund; Lmaan Hatorah; Our Children; Zaka Israel, aka Zaka; Yaldei Simcha Yisrael; and Yad Yisrael

Epigenetics - a bump in the road for Darwinian Evolution

Click this link of Dr. Eva Jablonka
Now this kind of thing is resisted because it is felt that this is going against the prevailing view of evolution, where natural selection is the only factor that is shaping adaptation.  If you introduce epigenetic inheritance, and the inducible aspects of epigenetic inheritance into evolutionary theory, it looks like Lamarckian inheritance – it looks like you have the inheritance of a quiet epigenetic variation, which are or can be sometimes a specific response to the environment.

Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

New York Times    Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrated the Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday as landmark decisions that brought the nation closer to full equality. Opponents said the court had badly overreached in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, and they vowed to press on against same-sex marriage in the courts and through a constitutional ban. 

“This doesn’t end it,” said Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas. “If anything, it’s been ignited and continues to be discussed.” He said the court action was an attempt to “short-circuit the process and to undo a decision, a strong bipartisan decision, signed by President Bill Clinton and supported by then-Senator Joe Biden; for this court to overrule it, I think folks are tired of judges dictating.” 

Backers of same-sex marriage in Washington and around the nation embraced the rulings and welcomed what they said was the demise of a biased federal law that turned gay Americans into second-class citizens.[....]

But he insisted that same-sex marriage opponents had scored a victory in the case involving California’s ban, Proposition 8. Rather than embrace a broad constitutional right to same-sex marriage, as the lead lawyers Theodore B. Olson and David Boies had urged, the justices issued a ruling that ensured a return to same-sex marriage only in California.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rav Kook at Hebrew University - The importance of a University if subordinated to Torah

Rav Kook  (Hebrew University): some excerpts from Tradition Magazine. 29:1 1994 page 87-92.

 It is interesting to note how similar his vision is to   Rav S. R. Hirsch and how different from Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

It is also important to understand that this speech has been severely misunderstood and misrepresented in the Chareidi world - in particular by the Yated. 

The prophet of consolation prophesied (Isaiah 60:4-5 ):
Your sons shall be brought from afar, your daughters like babes on shoulders.As you behold, you will glow. Your heart will fear and rejoice for the wealth of the sea shall pass on to you; the riches of the nations shall come to you. [...]
But why "fear"? Why did the prophet preface the phrase "Your heart will rejoice" with the notion of fear? When, however, we look back in retrospect at past generations, and at the spiritual and intellectual movements that have influenced us, we readily understand that the notion of fear) in conjunction with rejoicing, is appropriate.

Two tendencies characterize Jewish spirituality, One tendency is internal and entirely sacred; it serves to deepen the spirit and to strengthen the light of Torah within. Such has been the purpose of all Torah institutions from earliest times, especially the fortresses of Israel's soul - the ycshivot. This includes all the yeshivot that ever existed, presently exist, and will exist in order to glorify Torah in its fullest sense. This spiritual tendency is fully confident and assured. "Those who love Your Torah enjoy well-being; they encounter no adversity" (Psalm 119:165). Despite such confidence, Rabbi Nehunyah ben Haqanah, upon entering the house of study, used to pray that nothing go awry with his presentation and that it not lead to error.

The second tendency characterizing Jewish spirituality served not only to deepen the sacredness of Torah within, but also as a means for the propagation and absorption of ideas. It served to prop· agate Jewish ideas and values from the private domain of Judaism into the public arena of the universe at large. For this purpose we have been established as a light unto the nations. It also served to absorb the general knowledge derived by the collective effort of all of humanity, by adapting the good and useful aspects of general knowledge to our storehouse of a purified way of living. Ultimately, this absorption too serves as a means of a moderated propagation to the world at large. Toward the attainment of this end, the Hebrew University can serve as a great and worthy instrument.

Here, dear friends, there is room for fear. From earliest times, we have experienced the transfer of the most sublime and holy concepts from the Jewish domain to the general arena. An example of propagation was the translation of the Torah into Greek. Two very different Jewish responses to this event emerged. In the land of Israel, Jews were frightened their world darkened. In contrast, Greek Jewry rejoiced. There were also instances of absorption. Various cultural influences, such as Greek culture and other foreign cultures that Jews confronted throughout their history, penetrated into our inner being. Here too, many Jewish circles responded to absorption with fear, while other Jews rejoiced.

When we look back on the previous generations, and reckon with hindsight, we realize that neither the fear nor the rejoicing was in vain. We gained in some areas and lost in others in our confrontation with foreign cultures. This much is dear: Regarding those cirdes that welcomed absorption and propagation joyously, with unmitigated optimism and with no trepidation, very few of their descendants remain with us today, participating in our difficult and holy task of rebuiling our land and resuscitating our people. For the vast majority of them have assimilated among the nations; they found themselves caught up in the waves of the ''wealth of the sea" and the "riches of the nations" that have come to us ..

Only from those who resided securely in our innermost fortresses, in the tents of Torah, enmeshed in the sanctity of the law, did emerge the truly creative Jews-that great portion of our nation who are loyal to its flag who work tirelessly to build our great edifice. Among these were many who propagated and absorbed. They exported and imported ideas and values on the spiritual highway that mediates between Israel and the nations. Their attitude, however, toward this undertaking was never one of rejoicing only. Fear accompanied their joy as they confronted the vision of the "wealth of the sea" belonging to the "riches of the nations."

Quite rightly did the prophet say: "As you behold, you will glow. Your heart will fear and rejoice for the wealth of the sea shall pass on to you; the riches of the nations shall come to you."

But how does one overcome the fear? How do we assure the safety of the nation against the mighty stream engulfing it?

As a representative of the Jewish community, standing on this honored platform, I submit to you the reflections of many distinguished segments of the community of traditional Judaism. It must be understood that the Hebrew University by itself cannot fulfill all the educational requirements necessary for the success of Our national life. We must realize that, first and foremost, it is the great Torah yeshivot, those that now exist and those to be constructed that are worthy of the name including the Central Yeshivah which we are establishing in Jerusalem, which shall be a light onto Israel in all areas of Torah, whether halakhah, aggadah, Jewish action, or Jewish thought that uphold the spirit of the nation and provide for its security. Moreover, the Hebrew University must maintain standards so that the name of Heaven, Israel, and the land of Israel are sanctified, and never desecrated, by it. This applies to administration, academic staff, and students alike. In particular, it is essential that academicians teaching Jewish studies, ranging from biblical study the light of our life to talmudic study, to Jewish history and thought, aside from their academic excellence, be personally loyal emotionally and intellectually to traditional Judaism. Only then will the fear we experience, together with the magnificent vision we behold this day, lead us to glow and rejoice in blessing.

These are our aspirations regarding the institution crowned today with the glory of Israel by the "wealth of the sea" and the "riches of the nations" that have come to us. May the prayer of Rabbi Nehunyah ben Haqanah be fulfilled in us: May my presentation not lead to error. [...]