Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Novominsker Rebbe publicly discusses child molesting at Aguda Conference

The following is a link to a recording of this year's Aguda Convention. Between minutes 31-35 the Novominsker Rebbe publicly announces that it is time to take the issue out from under the rug. While he places the main responsibility on parents  and does not acknowledge any responsibility of the yeshivos or community - accept to praise the Aguda and Torah uMesora for producing behavioral standards for teachers in conjunction with their lawyers and  fighting against the Markey Bill -  it is clearly a small step forward that is long overdue.

2010_Thur_Night_Session_01 - 01 - Track 1.mp3 9.55 MB

Chinuch: Divine Providence applies only to man

Chinuch (#169): There are some groups that believe that Providence applies to every living creature - both man and animal. There are also those who extend Providence further and say it applies to every entity in the world - living or non-living. In other words they say that the smallest entity only moves as response to G-d’s will and decrees. They go so far as to say that even when a single leaf falls off a tree that G-d decreed that it should fall. That it is impossible that its falling be delayed and advanced by an instant. However such a belief is ridiculous - extremely far from human intelligence. There are also evil groups that assert that there is no such thing as Providence for anything in the world whether for people or the rest of living creatures. This view is the view of heretics and it is evil and bitter. However we Jews believe that Providence applies to living creatures only in general – other than man. In other words, the different species are sustained so that the species themselves don’t become extinct. In contrast we believe that regarding man that there is Providence for each and every person which varies according to his deeds. This teaching we know by tradition passed down by the great sages - as well as many verses that teach these principles.

Child Abuse:October 17 JBAC program - corrected audio links

Latest medical reversal: High levels of Vitamin D & calcium not needed!


The very high levels of vitamin D that are often recommended by doctors and testing laboratories — and can be achieved only by taking supplements — are unnecessary and could be harmful, an expert committee says. It also concludes that calcium supplements are not needed.[...]

Child Abuse:October 17 JBAC program in Chicago- audio & video download links

Received the following announcement with permission to post

Rabbi Eidensohn,

ll the video files are on You Tube.  Search on "JBACChicago" (one word). Some of the content will not show up unless you create a You Tube Account and are logged in.

anyone who is having technical difficulties to contact us at chicago.awareness@gmail.com,

Here are the links to the audio versions of the files.  These are stored so anyone who has the link below can access them.  They can be downloaded (right click on link) or played directly from where they are (left click on link):

Download link                                                           Filesize
http://boxstr.net/files/6909461_5zqo9/01_Dorron_Katzin_intro.mp3            2 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909462_gtdvn/02_Vivian_Skolnick_intro.mp3         10 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909463_8ulgt/03_Elliot_Pasik_intro.mp3            23 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909464_fbvjv/04_Rabbi_Gedalia_Dov_Schwartz.mp3    22 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909465_sfeca/05_Mark_Weiss.mp3                    25 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909466_hnylq/06_Pinny_Taub.mp3                    33 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909467_qpszc/07_Patricia_Sudendorf.mp3            14 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909468_nsjfq/08_Vivian_Skolnick.mp3               20 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909469_cbxm3/09_Rabbi_Mark_Dratch.mp3             25 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909470_ofhd1/10_Asher_Lipner.mp3                  19 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909471_9oiul/11_Rabbi_Moshe_Soloveichik.mp3       15 MB
http://boxstr.net/files/6909472_0gnig/12_Elliot_Pasik.mp3                  23 MB

Here are the links to the video versions of the files.  They can be downloaded, but not streamed, from this location.  People who want to stream without downloading should use You Tube.

Download link                                                            Filesize     Min Sec

http://boxstr.net/files/6910153_aqqoi/01_Dorron_Katzin_intro.mp4            36 MB       01:22

http://boxstr.net/files/6911461_7mxac/02_Vivian_Skolnick_intro.mp4         180 MB       06:53

http://boxstr.net/files/6911462_lohmu/03_Elliot_Pasik_intro.mp4             69 MB       02:38

http://boxstr.net/files/6911463_agtlg/04_Rabbi_Gedalia_Dov_Schwartz.mp4    411 MB       15:46

http://boxstr.net/files/6911504_4gyfy/05_Mark_Weiss.mp4                    474 MB       18:14

http://boxstr.net/files/6911525_umkxz/06_Pinny_Taub.mp4                    622 MB       23:56

http://boxstr.net/files/6911708_pr6f9/07_Patricia_Sudendorf.mp4            268 MB       10:14

http://boxstr.net/files/6911709_ffw4k/08_Vivian_Skolnick.mp4               377 MB       14:28

http://boxstr.net/files/6913025_7pjsn/09_Rabbi_Mark_Dratch.mp4             482 MB       18:30

http://boxstr.net/files/6913026_5ta7q/10_Asher_Lipner.mp4                  368 MB       14:09

http://boxstr.net/files/6913617_ywrfa/11_Rabbi_Moshe_Soloveichik.mp4       289 MB       11:06

http://boxstr.net/files/6913618_8auhe/12_Elliot_Pasik.mp4                  436 MB       16:44

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rav Dessler: Yeshiva should deny self-esteem to those not fully involved in Torah study

Rav Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu 3:356-357): [translation copyrighted ]The Frankfurt school system taught secular subjects and viewed going to university as an accepted part of education.  The price that they paid for this approach was the reduction in the number of great Torah scholars that came from their students. And even those who went on to learn in the Lithuanian and Polish yeshivas after learning secular subjects in Germany – only an extremely small number...went on to become great Torah scholars. On the other hand the advantage of this system was that only a very small number of the students ended up leaving religious observance. In spite of this minimal loss, there was a definite problem about the purity of religious faith in the Torah. Whenever there was a conflict between Torah and the sciences, they would make strange compromises. As if it was possible to have contradictory beliefs in one heart. Nevertheless almost all of them remained faithful to observing the mitzvos with dedication and self-sacrifice. And many were extremely careful to observe even the finer details of the mitzvos. In contrast the Lithuanian yeshivos focused on a single goal – to create great Torah scholars who were also G-d fearing people. To accomplish this they prohibited going to university. They realized that there was no other way to produce great Torah scholars except by concentrating all their students’ energies and desires exclusively to learning Torah. Don’t think that they didn’t realize from the beginning that this approach would ruin some who would not be able to deal with this extreme lifestyle and would consequently leave religious observance. But this is the price that they paid for the sake of producing in their schools great Torah scholars who were G‑d fearing. Obviously they tried their best to deal with those who could not remain full time yeshiva students – but not in a way which would encourage others to follow in their path of leaving yeshiva. For example, those who had to leave the yeshiva were advised to become storekeepers or other low-status jobs which were not professions. These were jobs which didn’t require training or studying and would not be attractive or interesting to the students. However those who had a strong desire to learn a profession and surely those were interested in become academics were completely abandoned and not dealt with at all. This rejection was done so that the actions of these students wouldn’t harm others by giving them any legitimacy by trying to help them in any way. I heard that they found support for such an approach by the statement found in Vayikra Rabba (2:10), One thousand students enter to study Bible and only one comes out as a posek and G-d says “that is the one I desire.” They also mentioned the words of the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim, “It is better that 1000 fools die in order to obtain one Torah scholar.”

[It is important to note that the medrash cited by Rav Dessler does not support this program as it is simply describing natural attrition. It is not prescribing a program which might destroy the majority of students. Just as problematic, the Rambam never said the words attributed to him. The Rambam did say in Moreh Nevuchim that we teach the truth even if 1000 fools are messed up by misunderstanding the truth that we present them.The Rambam's words are the following: [translation by Prof S Pines] "To sum up: I am the man who when the concern pressed him and his way was straitened and he could find no other device by which to teach a demonstrated truth other than by giving satisfaction to a single virtuous man while displeasing ten thousand ignoramuses - I am he who prefers to address that single man by himself, and I do not heed the blame of those many creatures. For I claim to liberate that virtuous one from that into which he has sunk, and I shall guide him in his perplexity until he becomes perfect and he finds rest." The interpretation cited by Rav Dessler is actually from Shem Tov's commentary to the Moreh Nevuchim [page 10 of the standard edition] and is clearly not the intention of the Rambam.]

[Rav Sternbuch told me to append a note to this letter of Rav Dessler’s letter. He said that the halacha is clear that it is not allowed to produce gedolim if it causes others to stop being observant. He said that Rav Dessler doesn’t mean that it is certain that people will go off the derech because of this approach – but only that it can happen. In addition that going off the derech here refers to a possiblity of losing the yeshiva standard of observance  - not giving up religious observance entirely.]

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Israel to build detention center for illegal immigrants


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet approved Sunday a proposal to establish a detention center for illegal migrants on Israel's southern border with Egypt.

As the cabinet prepared to vote on the proposal, which was aimed at curbing the mass numbers of African migrants trying to enter Israel, Netanyahu clarified: "We will not detain refugees of war, but we must stop the massive entry of infiltrators."

"There is a swelling wave threatening Israeli jobs, a wave of illegal migrants that we must stop because of the harsh implications for Israel's character," Netanyahu added. [...]

The problem of social morality during the time of Yeshaya Hanavi:

From the essay "Social Injustice: When Leadership Fails " found here: http://www.marbitz.com/yeshaya.html

What is Social Justice?

Over and over again, as we have now seen, the prophet admonishes his people over their neglect for others - especially others left vulnerable by difficult lives. Clearly, the problem is more than just a relatively isolated weakness in Torah observance (as we might classify a failure to properly observe the laws of, say, kosher food), but stands directly and violently opposed to everything that a Jew is meant to be.

Overwhelmingly, Isaiah's rebukes are delivered in the context of the words "justice" and "righteousness" - משפט וצדק. Before properly understanding the larger subject, we should see if we can't achieve a better understanding of these words themselves.

(This discussion is drawn from "Collected Writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch" Vol IV, pp 69-70.) The verb "shafet" (שפט) means to bring something to its proper place. Its noun, "mishpat" (משפט) is hence a process which seeks (to paraphrase Rabbi Hirsch) the satisfactory fulfillment of justified demands. In other words, a human being has a right to his lawful property, status and dignity. When he is illegally deprived of these possessions, he has the right to demand their return. The institution of mishpat - justice - is the tool through which his claim should be addressed.

The noun "tzedek" (צדק), on the other hand, denotes the place where things belong. An act of "tzedaka" - righteousness - therefore, involves acting as one should; disposing of assets as God would have them disposed. Or, in Rabbi Hirsch's own words: "doing one's duty...in accord with the will of God...The fulfillment of the Torah...It takes into account the requirements, rather than merely the legal claims, of the person concerned."

Thus, mishpat acknowledges and promotes the legal rights of individuals when they come in conflict with each other or the state. While Tzedaka places the burden of Divinely-inspired perfection directly on the shoulders of each individual and each instrument of the state, regardless of the purely legal strengths or  weaknesses of their opponents' claims.

These principles, tzedek and mishpat, are what we mean by the phrase "social justice." Both of these together - the sense of responsibility towards the rights of our fellow human beings and the sense of obligation to the morality of God's Torah - form the only reasonable foundation for a Jewish community. Their absence is inherently corrupting of both communal and private life.

Now, in light of these tzedek and mishpat ideals, let's take another look at the prophet's particular criticism.  Nearly all of the examples from our list above involve abuse of privilege: members of society's powerful classes seeking to enhance their own positions at the expense of the poor and weak. There can be no doubt that crime is wrong no matter who commits it and no matter who is the victim. The poor may no more expect a court to wrongly tilt justice towards them than the rich (see Rashi to Deut. 1:17). But, nevertheless, Isaiah largely ignores the Robin Hoods of the Jewish world. While they, too, may be reprehensible thieves, they are not guilty of quite such a grievous form of oppression.  Tzedek and mishpat are primarily the responsibility of the powerful. Of leaders.

Who constituted the powerful classes of Isaiah's world? Kings and government officials, judges, the wealthy, large landowners and Torah scholars (for particular reference to Torah scholars and judges, see TB Shabbos 139a)...anyone whose social standing allowed him some control over others and who could call on highly-placed allies when needed. These are the people who are most tempted by crimes of power and it is to these people that Isaiah's message of social morality is addressed.

Yeshiva education causes low self-esteem & susceptibility to Internet addiction

Just noticed this haskoma that Rav Reuven Feinstein gave to "Bringing Out the Best" by Rabbi Roll. The book describes how to build self-esteem based on the wisdom of the Alter of Slobadka. What isinteresting is Rabbi Feinstein stating:
 "In yeshivos today there is literally a pandemic of low self-esteem. An outcome of this most horrible condition, is that once a person has achieved a state where self-worth and self-value are diminished, that person is literally open to all foreign pressures, both within and without our community. Once those pressures are given free reign, the outcome is without exception, negative."
I asked someone who is a principal about this and he said simply it is a serious problem in the litvishe yeshivas but not in the chassidic or Sefardic ones. He said it is an inherent result of the elitist philosophy that if you are not the best in learning you are nothing. He agreed that this is a reflection of the success of the view espoused by Rav Dessler in Michtav M'Eliyahu. See Rav Dessler - producing gedolim at expense of others. In the chassidic and sefardic yeshiva systems it is possible to have self-esteem in ways other than being the top guy in learning.

My question is since the pandemic of low self-esteem is apparently a direct and inevitable consequence of the yeshiva education itself than why is it being lamented? This is akin to the son who killed his parents and then pleads for mercy since he is an orphan. You can't deliberately develop an educational system that inevitably destroys self-esteem and then bemoan the fact that yeshiva kids go off the derech because they have low self-esteem.

This is related to my recent post about the dangers of the Internet. While the yeshiva world is warning of the huge danger that the Internet presents to our communities - they seem to be ignoring the risk factors which make people susceptible to Internet addiction. One of them happens to be low self-esteem.

In short, it is well within the capability of the yeshiva world to build up self esteem in their students and thus diminish the real dangers from the outside secular world - but they chose not to and instead focus on restricting access to the outside world. An exercise in futility.

Is Yoga avoda zara?


Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it.

But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism. [...]

Friday, November 26, 2010

Falsely asserting that Rabbinic law is Torah law - to ensure compliance

Daas Torah page 209


Chasam Sofer (Kovetz Teshuvos #58):
I wrote to you previously that “Innovation is prohibited by the Torah.” I did not write that Orlah or Kelayim…but innovation. That is because I understood from our Sages that it is required to be one who preserves the Torah. They warned against those who provide an opening and seek leniencies for the radicals of our people who desire them. If these radicals find a minute crack, they will greatly expand it into a breach…. Therefore, it is best to elevate and exaggerate the nature of the prohibition [and say that Rabbinic prohibitions are Torah prohibitions]… That is because due to our many sins there is a great increase today of people who say they have no concern with Rabbinic prohibitions since G-d did not command them… We find the wicked writing on Shabbos because they claim it is only a Rabbinic prohibition. They have no concern with anything which has been commanded only by our Sages and not by G-d Himself…


Maharetz Chajes (Darchei Hora'ah #6): I disagree with the Chasam Sofer’s ruling that one should say that a Rabbinic prohibition is a Torah prohibition i.e., to upgrade the nature of prohibitions. Even though we see our Sages viewed it permitted to frighten with their descriptions of the seriousness of prohibitions as we see in the Rambam (Sanhedrin 7:4)…They said that certain things are equivalent to murder and worshipping idols. Many other things they have described as deserving of the death penalty. All this is only to frighten and scare. However to say that a Rabbinic prohibition is really a Torah prohibition - the Rambam (Hilchos Mamrim 2:9) clearly states that this itself violates the Torah prohibition of adding to the Torah. Such a practice also violates the Torah prohibition of lying - even if it is done for a good reason. Our Sages were always very concerned to identify and keep separate that which is from the Torah and which are Rabbinical legislation - even if there were no practical halacha involved.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Dibros Moshe Kesubos Tshuva 3:6): You assert that it is correct to describe something as a Torah prohibition - when in fact it is fully permitted or only a rabbinic prohibition. You make this claim even though you know that the Rambam (Hilchos Mamrim 2:9) views it as a violation of the Torah prohibition of adding to the Torah. You claim that it is permitted when there is an emergency need to establish something and have people accept its validity. Your justification is from the fact that extra-legal punishments are permitted in emergency situations. However, when you give such extra-legal punishments and claim they are from the Torah, the Rambam rules that this is a violation of the prohibition of adding to the Torah. Everybody would agree that there is a prohibition to falsify that which was given at Sinai - whether for a leniency or restriction. The Yam shel Shlomo (Bava Kama 4:9) rules that such upgrading of the prohibition is a form of rejecting the Torah itself and in fact he requires martyrdom rather than to alter the status of a halacha…Obviously he views it as much more serious a transgression than the sin of adding to the Torah…Furthermore even when extra-legal punishment is given for emergency situations it is required that it be openly stated that this punishment is extra-legal…

Krav Maga: Israeli Self-Defense Goes Global


Getting pummeled by three men with kicks, punches and jabs is not how I typically spend my vacation. Yet there I was on Military Base 8 defending myself from a trio of Israeli attackers. But my assailants — brothers Avi and Shlomi Moyal and Haim Sasson — weren't trying to rob me, they were simply doing their job: training me to protect myself via the increasingly hip Israeli self-defense technique known as Krav Maga.

Literally "close contact" in Hebrew, Krav Maga has its roots in 1930s Europe, where its founder, Slovakia-born Imi Lichtenfeld, developed the martial art to protect himself from anti-Semitic street gangs. A decade later, Lichtenfeld had immigrated to Israel, where he introduced his distinctive fighting system to the nation's then fledgling military, which made it part of its combat training. Today, Krav Maga is a veritable international phenomenon, with the Los Angeles–based Krav Maga Worldwide offering instruction to over 230 civilian affiliates in 17 countries and 500 law-enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. Embraced by the FBI and SWAT teams alike, Krav Maga is also a staple of high-end gyms across the globe, where a faster-paced and less-combative version provides a workout that could literally save your life. [...]

Absolute refutations and absolute answers are rare

Daas Torah page 206

Ramban (Introduction to Milchemes HaShem):
For those who look at my sefer, don’t say in your heart that all my responses to the Ba’al HaMeor are in my eyes absolutely correct and obviously true and would therefore force everyone to acknowledge them. For everyone who studies our Talmud is well aware that concerning disputes between the commentaries that there are no absolute proofs or absolutely unanswerable questions. In fact, in this area of wisdom, things are not clear and unambiguous as we find in mathematical proofs. The main effort is to show that one position is more likely and more reasonable than the alternatives - rather then to show that one is entirely correct and the other is entirely wrong.

Skeptic who also rejects truth worse than fool who believes everything

Daas Torah page 203

Rabbi Nachman (Sichos HaRan 103): It is better to be the fool who believes in everything’ (Mishlei 15:15). In other words, it is better to believe and have faith - even if you end up believing in stupidity and lies - if you at least also believe in the truth. This is far superior to the other extreme of being a cynical skeptic who successfully rejects stupidity and lies but at the same time also rejects the truth because of his reflexive skepticism and ridicule of all beliefs. This is what Chazal (Eduyos 5:6) say, ‘It is better that I be called a fool all my life and not be wicked for a moment before G﷓d’.

Maharal :Silencing questions & suppressing dissent indicates a weak religion

Daas Torah page 202

Maharal (Be’er HaGolah #7): One should not reject something which is against one’s views…especially if it is not presented as an attack on religion but is simply is an honest expression of the other person’s understanding of faith. Even if it is against one’s religious faith, he should not say, “Be quiet and shut your mouth.” Because if one silences sincere questions there will not be a clarification of that person’s religious understanding. In fact, such a person should be encouraged to speak and fully express how he feels. If sincere questions are silenced that is indicative that the religion is weak and needs to be protected from inquiry. This attitude is the opposite of what some people think. They mistakenly think that silencing questions strengthens religious faith. In fact however suppressing of dissent and questions indicates a weak religion. Thus, we find with our ancestors that even if they found something in books against religion they would not simply reject it…

Rabbis who insist that their students are subordinate forever

Daas Trah page 202

Maharik (12:62):
There are some rabbis who want to dominate their students more than is appropriate and they assert that whoever has been a student even as a child is forever subordinate to them and can never disagree with them in any issue. They claim that this is true even if the student has become their equal or even their superior in learning because they assert that the main factor is where the relationship started not where it is now. They furthermore assert that even if the rabbi has clearly erred or behaves incorrectly, that disagreeing with the rabbi is the same as contradicting G-d and other such claims. The answer to this is that even if the student is forever subordinate to his teacher as these rabbis assert, nevertheless is quite obvious that that is only in relationship to honoring him by standing up for him or ripping his garment irreversibly in mourning for him. However, concerning matters of Heaven e.g., he saw his teacher err in Halacha which is a chilul HaShem - there is no requirement to honor his teacher. This can readily be seen in the many examples in the gemora such as the events with Rabban Gamliel (Berachos 26b)…

Blogger released from Egyptian jail after four years


A blogger who endured a four-year stint in an Egyptian prison for his writings has been released, saying he was jailed for defying convention.

Abdel Kareem Nabil -- known by his blogger name, Kareem Amer -- is a self-proclaimed secularist who was convicted and imprisoned by Egypt for "spreading information disruptive of public order and damaging to the country's reputation," "incitement to hate Islam" and "defaming the president of the republic," according to a statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists.[...]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Seridei Aish Key to learning Torah is challenging Sages who are presumed to be correct

Daas Torah page 193

Seridei Aish (1:113): I frequently comment on the apparent contradiction found in Avos (6:5) concerning those factors involved in acquiring Torah i.e. analysis of the students and faith in our Sages. Furthermore, what does faith in our Sages have to do with acquiring Torah? However, the explanation is that if one doesn’t believe in the truth of the words of the sages then one readily dismisses them for the slightest reason. With an attitude of condescension, one proclaims that they didn’t know what they were talking about. Consequently, one makes no effort to investigate and try to validate what they said. However, in the end we find that in fact we are the ones who have erred. … Therefore it is characteristic of the truly wise to presume that the sages have not erred, G-d forbid! In fact we, with our limited perspective and limited understanding, have erred. On the other hand to blindly believe and not struggle to comprehend with our intellect the apparent difficulties, saying simply that they knew and we need merely to mindlessly rely on them, that is also not correct. We need to wrestle mightily with the apparent contradictions and doubts as if they are people like us. With this approach, we will come to a much profounder and sharper comprehension. Thus, we see that both factors - emunas chachomim (faith in our sages) and pilpul (intellectual evaluation) - work together to the purpose of the acquisition of Torah.

Elisha ben Abuya became a heretic because he couldn't resolve a contradiction to the Torah

Kiddushin (39b): R’ Yaakov said: “There is no reward for mitzvos in this word. For example, the Torah says concerning the two mitzvos of honoring parents and sending the mother bird from her nest, that one’s life will be prolonged and go well. A proof that there is no reward in this world can be seen if someone’s father asked him to climb up the a nest to fulfill the mitzva of sending away the mother bird and thus fulfill both these mitzvos and yet he falls and dies on the way down the ladder. Obviously there would be no happiness or long life resulting from doing these mitzvos in this world, so it must be that the reward of mitzvos is in the next world. However, perhaps this scenario has never happened and thus there is no proof? R’ Yaakov in fact saw this happen… Yet R’ Eleazar has asserted that those who are involved in mitzvos are not harmed? … But the case that R’ Yaakov saw involved a weak ladder so that harm was likely and where harm is likely one must not rely on miracles. This principle of not relying on miracles is learned from Shmuel who was afraid of being killed by Shaul. [Thus, the principle that there is no guarantee of reward in this world has been proved]. If Acher [Elisha ben Abuyah] had understood this principle propounded by his nephew R’ Yaakov he would not have sinned. Acher saw something of this nature. Others say that he saw the tongue [from his mutilated corpse] of the righteous Chutspis being dragged in the street by pigs. He lamented, “The mouth that has uttered pearls of Torah now licks the dust.” Thereafter he rejected Torah observance and became a sinner.

We are commanded to know how to answer heresy

from Daas Torah page 192

Rashbatz (Magen Avos 2:19): … The Sages have commanded that we diligently learn Torah in order that we should be able to refute their claims. In the time of the gemora these apikorsim would antagonize the rabbis with their claims from the Bible. Our Sages commanded that we be diligent in learning Torah in order to be able to refute the claims of the apikorsim. In addition, it was necessary to decree a special beracha against heretics in the Amida - Berchas HaMinim. Furthermore, we have been commanded to know how to answer heretics. Therefore, we have assumed a leniency to learn their wisdom so that we can demonstrate to them on their own terms that they have no refutation of Torah. This study of their wisdom is not related to the warning that “whoever reads the external books has lost his portion in the World to Come.” That prohibition only refers to their books which are lacking in wisdom and are just a waste of time. Similarly, the prohibition against learning Greek wisdom does not refer to intellectual endeavors but refers to a specific skill, learned in those times, of speaking in hints. Even that would be technically permitted except for a specific historical occurrence that led to a decree against it. … Therefore, those books that are based upon logical proofs were not included in the prohibition. Someone who studies them can accept that which is true and should endeavor to refute that which is against the Torah. This is what we find with Rabbi Meir who learned from Elisha ben Abuyah who had become a heretic. The gemora says it was comparable to a pomegranate. He ate the valid content and threw away the peel…”

Founder of Human Rights Watch slams the organization he established for moral failures in its treatment of Israel.

JPost by Robert Berstein

You may wonder why a man just shy of his 88th birthday would get up at five in the morning to fly to Omaha to give a speech. Frankly, since accepting this kind offer, I’ve wondered myself. Here’s why. Having devoted much of my life to trying to make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights come alive in many places in the world, I have become alarmed at how some human rights organizations, including the one I founded, are reporting on human rights in the Middle East.

In reading about the discussions and actions of students on American campuses, I learned, of course, that the Israel-Palestine issues were very polarized, sometimes hostile, and that a lot of the hostility was by students angered over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the endless process of trying to establish a second state.

I know we all believe in free speech.

We believe in equality for women. We believe in tolerance of each other’s religious beliefs and in an open campus. [...]

Accepting G-d's authority is difficult for Jews

Netziv (Shemos 13:9): Don’t be surprised that G-d requires us to do so many mitzvos and techniques to acquire bitachon (trust) and emuna (faith) in G-d’s Providence. The fact is that it is known that the Jews do not readily accept authority until they are forced as we see by the plagues. That is why G-d took us out of Egypt with a strong hand because it was not easy for us to accept His dominance. This is seen in the medrash which discusses, “The Jews did not listen to Moshe because of their irritability and stress of their enslavement.”  The medrash explains that they didn’t want to listen because they were immersed in idol worship. In other words, the medrash means that in fact they did not want to be redeemed. In truth though the first time when they were told that G-d had remembered them and sent Moshe to save them that all of them believed and bowed down. The reason that they responded differently the second time was that at that time He informed them that He wanted to be their G-d. In other words, they had no problem acknowledging G-d except when it meant they would be supervised and controlled by G-d depending on their behavior. Thus, they didn’t want to accept G-d’s control until G-d took them out of Egypt against their will. Something which is difficult for a person to accept requires many activities to implant in his heart.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

R' S. R. Hirsh: Consequences of religious anti-intellectualism

R’ S. R. Hirsch (Nineteen Letters #18): [The leaders of Orthodoxy] became at first enemies of this philosophical spirit, and later of all specifically intellectual and philosophical pursuits in general. Certain misunderstood utterances [e.g., Bereishis Rabbah 44:1] were taken as weapons with which to repel all higher interpretations of the Talmud . . . The inevitable consequence was, therefore, that since oppression and persecution had robbed Israel of every broad and natural view of world and of life, and Talmud had yielded about all the practical results for life of which it was capable, every mind that felt the desire of independent activity was obliged to forsake the paths of study and research in general open to the human intellect, and to take its recourse to dialectic subtleties and hairsplitting. Only a very few [e.g., R’ Yehuda HaLevi’s Kuzari and Ramban] during this entire period stood with their intellectual efforts entirely within Judaism, and built it up out of its own inner concept [Drachman translation]…. we are left with two generations confronting each other. One of them has inherited an uncomprehended Judaism, as practiced by men from habit, a revered but lifeless mummy which it is afraid to bring back to life. The other, though in part burning with noble enthusiasm for the welfare of the Jews, regards Judaism as bereft of any life and spirit, a relic of an era long past and buried, and tries to uncover its spirit, but, not finding it, threatens through its well﷓meant efforts to sever the last life nerve of Judaism - out of sheer ignorance [Paritzky translation].

Internet dangers: Family & personality risk factors

In frum circles there is a constant clamor against the Internet as something which must be banned, censored and controlled. The director of one major organization told me that the greatest threat to our community is internet. Ignored in all of this - as with other issues such as off the derech children - is the failure of our family, community and schools to address personality risk factors as well as interpersonal and social risk factors that they create or fail to ameliorate. Internet isn't simply some external evil created to destroy innocent soul. It is a powerful tool for good and evil. It harms those who are susceptible. Those susceptibilities need at least if not more attention as the banning and controlling of internet access. This denying of at least contributory significance is a major concern in general with the way we deal with problems. We need to stop automatically placing the burden of responsibility on external factors. We need to stop say "He or it made me do it."

Aish HaTorah by Rabbi Keleman

The Necessity of Identifying Risk Factors

It is clear that there is a need to protect one's children from the distractions and corrosive elements of the net. Limitations to Internet access, the use of filtering software and pre-filtered Internet providers, placement of computers in highly visible areas of one's home are all good ideas.

Ultimately, restricting Internet access is a necessary but insufficient solution. But what is needed is healing the personality weaknesses that virtually guarantee some individuals will fall victim to Internet temptations. Studies show that those most likely to get into trouble are not deterred by limits on Internet access. Given the net's ubiquitous presence, they will find a way to get online -- at the local public library, if not elsewhere. Therefore, a key challenge to parents and educators is identifying the risk factors and the individuals most at risk.

Researchers describe four pre-existing conditions that put an individual at high risk for getting into trouble on the Internet.  They are: lack of family bonds; low self-esteem; inability to express opinions and questions; and inability to socialize.

My Nigerian identity thief responds to Rabbi Blech

This same identity theft happened to me

Aish HaTorah

Last week I was viciously assaulted.

No, this wasn't a physical attack. And I've since discovered I wasn't the only one to suffer the horrific consequences of a new kind of criminality made possible by modern technology.

What was stolen from me was not my money but my identity. I have no idea how it was done. As part of the generation who still remembers using the old Remington Royal typewriter, computer language is geek to me and Google is a miracle that totally transcends my understanding. But I've come to treasure my email and wonder how I ever got along with the snail mail of stamps and postal service. I love how I can reach out to all of my contacts with just a touch of the keyboard - or at least I did until I discovered that someone could somehow steal my password, reach out to all the people I know and tell them whatever suits his nefarious purpose.[...]

Palestinian Auhority denies Jewish connection to the Western Wall


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev called on the Palestinian leadership Tuesday to publicly disassociate itself from the Palestinian Authority “study” denying Jewish claims to the Western Wall, saying “this is not the sort of statement to be expected from a partner in peace.”

“Denying the Jewish connection to the Western Wall is to deny reality. If you deny the Jewish connection to the Western Wall you are in fact denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the land of Israel itself,” Regev said. “When they deny the Jewish connection, they are unfortunately raising very serious questions as to their true commitment to reconciliation.” [...]

Video: Guma Aguiar Talks About his Breakdown

Crown Heights.info

Piety is primarily in motivation - not unique deeds

Daas Torah page 153

Derashos HaRan (#6):
Someone who devotes his body and soul to G-d and strongly desires to serve Him [even without being a scholar], will reach a higher level than someone who is a scholar [but is lacking this desire]. This principle is found in Berachos (20a). “Why did miracles happen in previous generous but not now? It can’t be because they were more learned because in fact the current generation is more learned than in the past? The answer is that they were willing to devote themselves totally to G-d while the current generation is not so devoted.” Thus, we see that G-d is most concerned with what is in a person’s heart, when he does good deeds, and not with knowledge per se. It follows from this principle that when a person’s motivation is to come closer to G-d - then even when he is engaged in mundane activities such as business - his activity is actually total service of G-d. On the other hand, someone who isn’t motivated to come closer to G-d - even if he thinks he is serving G-d - is actually rebelling against Him. This issue causes much error amongst the masses when they see tzadikim involved in mundane activities. We also err when we learn that the Avos engaged in activities such as farming or business. Error is produced when we learn from our sages that Yaakov risked his life for some small jars. The masses conclude from this that tzadikim - despite all their piety - act just like the common man. Woe is it to the people that see but don’t understand what they see. They can only see the action but not the internal motivation behind it. In fact, the righteous do everything for much purer spiritual reasons than lesser individuals. This problem is related to the observation that the masses can’t distinguish between a good and bad doctor. The explanation is that the activities of all doctors seem identical in that they provide medicines and ointments. The good doctor however prescribes the medicine to the right person at the right time at the right dosage - in contrast to the bad doctor. We can say the same about the performance of mitzvos. The masses equate the pious individual and the common man in terms of their activities. However, the activities of the pious person are of a higher nature because of the higher-level motivation which is the most important aspect of the mitzva. Also concerning sin - thought about transgressing can be as damaging as the act itself (Yoma 29a).

In light of what is happening: Taking a stand for Integrity

Just received the following


In Cybertherapy, Avatars Assist With Healing


His talk was going just fine until some members of the audience became noticeably restless. A ripple of impatience passed through the several dozen seated listeners, and a few seemed suddenly annoyed; then two men started to talk to each other, ignoring him altogether.

“When I saw that, I slowed down and then stopped what I was saying,” said the speaker, a 47-year-old public servant named Gary, who last year took part in an unusual study of social anxiety treatment at the University of Quebec.

The anxiety rose in his throat — What if I’m not making sense? What if I’m asked questions I can’t answer? — but subsided as his therapist, observing in the background, reminded him that the audience’s reaction might have nothing to do with him. And if a question stumped him, he could just say so: no one knows everything. [...]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dentistry: Radiation for fun & profit


Because children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to radiation, doctors three years ago mounted a national campaign to protect them by reducing diagnostic radiation to only those levels seen as absolutely necessary.

It is a message that has resonated in many clinics and hospitals. Yet there is one busy place where it has not: the dental office.

Not only do most dentists continue to use outmoded X-ray film requiring higher amounts of radiation, but orthodontists and other specialists are embracing a new scanning device that emits significantly more radiation than conventional methods, an examination by The New York Times has found.

Designed for dental offices, the device, called a cone-beam CT scanner, provides brilliant 3-D images of teeth, roots, jaw and even skull. This technology, its promoters say, is a safe way for orthodontists and oral surgeons to work with more precision and to identify problems that otherwise might go unnoticed. [...]

Security: Choice between molesting travelers or profiling them


Should the US adopt Israeli-style airport security measures? A debate over just that issue has been running at full steam over the past few days due to profound public criticism of invasive security techniques which include a full body search and pat down in intimate areas.

House or Representatives delegate for Utah Jason Chaffetz, on Monday called for a probe into methods employed by Transportation Security Administration agents and for a look into alternative methods which would be based on the use of sniffer dogs with secondary use of screening machines and implementing behavioral profiling as Israel does.

In the past, Americans vetoed the security system used at Ben Gurion Airport claiming it casts suspicion on one sector in an inclusive fashion, namely, against Arabs and Muslims. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explained on Monday that the reason US authorities refused to adopt Israeli methods was because "Israel has one international airport and we have 450 of them that makes all the difference".

Four supporters of Elior Chen sentenced to prison


Four Hasidim, supporters of Elior Chen, sentenced to prison terms for serious child abuse, including severe burning, beating, binding, food deprivation.

One of the Hasidim, David Kugman, was sentenced to 20 years behind bars, while Avraham Maskalchi and Shimon Gabai were given 17 years. Roi Tzoref, whose role in the affair was relatively small, was sentenced to two and a half years.

The judge wrote that the accused "undermined the basic understanding that children need to be protected from evil," adding she hoped the children's faith "had not been extinguished forever." [...]

Chasam Sofer - Jews were protected from assimilation by being despised and uncivilized

Chasam Sofer (Derashos—BeShalach): G-d took the Jews out of Egypt which was the lowest type of society that did all types of disgusting abominations which G-d hated. The Jews at that point were a despised lowly people - not even a distinct nation. In Egypt, they were primitive slaves working with bricks and mortar and were without doubt devoid of even minimal knowledge of culture or science. They even lacked elementary knowledge of civilized conduct. Our sages (Yoma 75b) say that the Jews in Egypt were comparable to chickens pecking in a garbage dump until Moshe came and taught them the concept of meal times - breakfast and dinner. [Seforno —they were like animals]. We see that they were totally primitive like the slaves of the barbarians. So how could this debased people be immediately brought to Sinai where they were shown the most profound secrets of the universe and became prophets with unbounded understanding of spiritual issues? This question is reinforced by the fact that they remained primitive and uncultured people as we can see from their lowly behavior and outrageous complaints during this time? Wouldn’t it have been better to gradually educate them in civilized conduct to the level of the best of the nations of the world. They should have at least been raised to the level where they could be considered a nation. Once they were civilized, they should then have been refined level by level until they were prepared for receiving the Torah at Sinai? In truth, it is impossible to keep the Jews as a distinctive people unless they are completely separated from the other nations. That is accomplished by not learning knowledge which is common to other nations even Bible on the level of translation. The natural tendency to assimilation can only be prevented by going to the opposite extreme. If G-d had first educated the Jews in worldly knowledge, they would never have acquired the truth of the Torah and faith. Before they would have reached, this final goal they would have already rejected them because these studies would have given them the universal identity common amongst all the nations. Moreover, even if the Jews had understood that the gods of the nations were worthless illusions and reject them, nevertheless they would also have completely rejected G-d also.

From Koogle to Yideotube, efforts to provide a kosher Internet

LA Times

Reporting from Bnei Berek, Israel — From a drab office in this ultra-Orthodox Jewish stronghold, three devout young women hunch over computers and surf the Internet — looking for pornography, celebrity gossip and a laundry list of other items banned by their rabbis.

It's odd work for this trio, dressed modestly and wearing wigs in keeping with their beliefs. But it's their job at Israel's first ultra-Orthodox Internet provider, Nativ, as it tries to launch a product that could transform the traditionally sheltered community: kosher Internet.

Because racy images of women are the most common offensive content found, the company decided it would be less objectionable to hire women to scour the Internet so ultra-Orthodox customers can surf without worry. [...]

In a Sliver of Indonesia, Public Embrace of Judaism

NYTimes  hat tip to Joseph

MANADO, Indonesia — A new, 62-foot-tall menorah, possibly the world’s largest, rises from a mountain overlooking this Indonesian city, courtesy of the local government. Flags of Israel can be spotted on motorcycle taxi stands, one near a six-year-old synagogue that has received a face-lift, including a ceiling with a large Star of David, paid for by local officials.

Long known as a Christian stronghold and more recently as home to evangelical and charismatic Christian groups, this area on the fringes of northern Indonesia has become the unlikely setting for increasingly public displays of pro-Jewish sentiments as some people have embraced the faith of their Dutch Jewish ancestors. With the local governments’ blessing, they are carving out a small space for themselves in the sometimes strangely shifting religious landscape of Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

The trend comes as extremist Islamic groups have grown bolder in assailing Christian and other religious minorities elsewhere in Indonesia, with the central government, fearful of offending Muslim groups, doing little to prevent the attacks. Last November, extremists protesting the 2008-9 war in Gaza shut down what had been the most prominent remnant of Indonesia’s historic but little-known Jewish community, a century-old synagogue in Surabaya, the country’s second-largest city.[...]

Information from Neturi Karta broke Chareidi fraud ring


[...] "The investigation shows that dozens of organizations were founded and transferred fake names to the Education Ministry in order to illegally receive funds," a police official said.

The police began to covertly monitor the illegal activity a few months ago, when members of the Neturei Karta sect found out their names were being used to receive stipends from the State, and informed law enforcement officials. [...]

Scientific statements of Chazal might only be according to the science of their day

page 142 Daas Torah

Michtav M'Eliyahu  (4:355):
When Rav Dessler was asked concerning certain halachos that the reason that had been given for them is not in accord with modern science... [for example] (3) This that it is permitted to kill lice because they don't reproduce sexually (Shabbos 107b. Rav Dessler stated that concerning this matter and those like them the Halacha never changes even though the reason doesn't make sense to us. We are to hold on to the Halacha with two hands whether to be strict or lenient [not like the Pachad Yitzchok]. The reason for this is that the Halacha was known to Chazal by tradition through the generations and they also knew things through experience.... The important point is that the reasoning they gave did not create the Halacha but rather the reverse was true, the Halacha created the reasoning. The reasoning given in the gemora is not the only possible explanation. If they happened to give explanations on occasion which were only true according to the science of their day, we have an obligation to search out alternative explanations that will justify the Halacha according to modern science.... Even if one cannot find a convincing explanation,we must still believe with perfect faith that the Halacha is still true and we hope that G﷓d will enlighten us with an appropriate explanation.

Validity of views R’ Sherira Gaon & Rambam’s son (page 138 in Daas Torah)

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shemiras HaGuf v'HaNefesh): [Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was asked why the view of Rav Sherira Gaon and the Rambam's son - that the medical and scientific knowledge of our Sages was that of their times - should be listed as a minority view? He replied:] "At the present I don't remember whether there was anyone who actually disagreed with their views or even whether anyone has the authority to disagree with them. However, rabbinic authorities typically explain disparities in medical and scientific understanding [between the views of our Sages and contemporary science] as the result of change in nature. They do not utilize at all the reason that medical knowledge has advanced from the time of our Sages. That is why I commented that this view should be classed as a minority view. Especially since concerning the laws of Shabbos, there are rabbinic authorities that permit violating the Shabbos [in certain circumstances that our Sages say are medically dangerous] despite the fact that contemporary doctors assert there is no danger at all.

Authority of scientific statements of our Sages

R’ Sherira Gaon (Otzair HaGaonim—Gittin 68b page 152):
Our Sages were not doctors and what they said is merely a reflection of what was known by the medical experts of their times and therefore there is no mitzva to accept their statements concerning medicine….

R’ Avraham ben HaRambam (Discourse on Agada): We are not obligated to accept the views of the sages of the Talmud on matters concerning medicine, natural science or astronomy — simply because of their greatness and authority — as we are concerning their explanations of the Torah. That is because concerning Torah, they were the ultimate experts and they had the exclusive authority to teach it as it says in the Torah, “You should do according to the Torah that they teach.”

Ramchal (Introduction to Agada):
It is important to know that when our Sages expressed important issues in terms of nature and astronomy — they utilized the science of their days as a metaphor or analogy. Thus, the validity of their ideas is not dependent upon the validity of their descriptions which served only as vehicle to express the ideas. In fact had they expressed their ideas in the more accurate science of today they would not have been understood. It is also important to understand that they believed that material things are influenced and directed by spiritual forces such as angels and demons. The physical world is thus influenced by the higher spiritual worlds and the converse is also true — that the physical world impacts the spiritual world. Whoever isn’t aware of this cannot comprehend our sages at all.

R’ S. R. Hirsch (Letter on Agada p 9–10): in my humble opinion the first principle for understanding the words of our Sages is that they were experts in the law of G﷓d. They received, transmitted and taught His Torah, commandments, laws and statutes but they were not necessarily experts in science, mathematics, astronomy or medicine — except when it was relevant to knowing and observing the commandments of the Torah. We do not find that secular knowledge was transmitted at Mt. Sinai… The greatest of our Sages knew the wisdom and the science according to what was accepted as true by the leading secular scientists of their day. Thus, they were the equals of these scholars but they did not transcend the secular knowledge of their day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Students in Chareidi schools pray for supreme court to allow segregated buses



הבוקר: ילדי החרדים מתפללים למען קווי המהדרין

במוסדות החינוך החרדיים הקדישו זמן מיוחד לתפילה למען הצלחה בדיון בבג"ץ בעניין ההפרדה באוטובוסים. דובר ועדת הרבנים שפרסמה מודעה המבקשת את התפילה: "פסיקה נגד הקווים תגרום לקיפוח הציבור החרדי"