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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Congratulations to Jerusalem's New Chief Rabbis

Finally:
After more than a decade without, Jerusalem finally has two new Chief Rabbis.

The capital city's 48-member council began voting at the Jerusalem Municipal Hall at 4 p.m., with an initial list of 19 candidates for the Chief Ashkenazic and Sephardic positions whittled down to just nine, after several candidates withdrew over the past few days.

Polling closed at 7 p.m., and results were announced just before the 8 p.m. deadline.

Former Israeli Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar was elected as the new Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, with 28 votes, while Rabbi Aryeh Stern of the Halacha Brura Institute was voted in as Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi with 27.

Following the results' announcement, Rabbi Stern - who was a close student of the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook - vowed to represent all the people of Jerusalem.

"It is in my intention to serve as the rabbi of all Jerusalemites: secular, modern-orthodox and charedi alike," he said in a statement. "The Jerusalem rabbinate is a great merit, but it also comprises a hefty responsibility. I will make sure that the religious services will become accessible and friendly and will serve as an outstanding model for all of the other rabbinates in Israel"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Count the Sukkahs

Today is the last day of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabba. Soon we will be parting from the precious Mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah.
"Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."
I was in Ramat Beit Shemesh B the other day and took this picture after Minchah. Click on the pic and count the Sukkahs that you see:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Lost Ark?

On my way to the Western Wall today I saw this just outside of Jaffa Gate:

No, it is not the Holy Ark, just a reproduction. In any case it caused a lot of excitement. Many people gathered around it, snapping pictures. I was one of them.

May it be Your will, O my God and God of my fathers, that the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Bad News From Scotch Plains, New Jersey

For those of you that don't know, I grew up in New Jersey. However, it's been a long time since I've been there. For the majority of my sojourn in This World I have been privileged to live in the land of Israel. I am everlastingly grateful to God for giving me the wisdom and fortitude to leave the comfortable and familiar, and to pack my bags and return to the land of my fathers. I am grateful to live in a generation in which one can do so for the price of an airplane ticket.

That being said I still have a place in my heart for New Jersey, especially its Jewish community. One of the advantages of the age of internet is the ability to read news from the old country, to see "What's going on?" and "Whatever happened to?". One of the sites I visit regularly is the New Jersey Jewish News.

Recently I came across a disturbing report there from Scotch Plains, N.J.:

Bernard “BJ” Solomon and his husband Zev, better known as “Duncan” (ne William Hines, now Solomon also) called their huppa ceremony at Congregation Beth Israel on Saturday evening, Sept. 13, an “upgrade.” While it wasn’t exactly a first for them, it was the first same-sex wedding held at the Conservative synagogue in Scotch Plains.

The couple, who have been together for 12 years, had a Jewish marriage ceremony marking their civil union five years ago. But the celebration at CBI added the religious and secular recognition they wanted. “We feel more complete,” BJ said.

Held after the Havdala ceremony concluding Shabbat, it followed a bar mitzva celebration for Duncan, 35, during the Ma’ariv service that afternoon, and his conversion to Judaism last May. Their new license reflected New Jersey’s 2013 law granting gays full marriage rights.

How do you say, "Conservative Judaism is imploding!"?

I took a peek at Congregation Beth Israel's web site. If the Conservative Temple that I attended as a youth had a web site, it would probably have been similar. (Of course the Rabbi of my Temple, ob"m, would never have taken part in a "gay wedding" any more than he would have sold pork chops to his congregants.) Browsing the site, I saw that they have youth groups, "kadimah" and "USY".

The mention of USY took me down memory lane: the USY meetings, dances and conventions. I thought of those youth there in Scotch Plains, seeing their "rabbi" perfoming a gay marriage, and then going to Temple on Yom Kippur and hearing the Torah reading during Minchah:

1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: I am the LORD your God. 3 After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their statutes. 4 Mine ordinances shall ye do, and My statutes shall ye keep, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.
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22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination. 23 And thou shalt not lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith; neither shall any woman stand before a beast, to lie down thereto; it is perversion. 24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things; for in all these the nations are defiled, which I cast out from before you. 25 And the land was defiled, therefore I did visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land vomited out her inhabitants. 26 Ye therefore shall keep My statutes and Mine ordinances, and shall not do any of these abominations; neither the home-born, nor the stranger that sojourneth among you-- 27 for all these abominations have the men of the land done, that were before you, and the land is defiled-- 28 that the land vomit not you out also, when ye defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, even the souls that do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 Therefore shall ye keep My charge, that ye do not any of these abominable customs, which were done before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God. {P}
I imagine that they were quite perplexed. The Torah says one thing, yet the rabbi seems to be doing something else entirely!

The good news is that we are in the internet age. Authentic Torah is readily available on line. These confused youth, if they are interested, have the truth available at the click of a mouse.

After recovering from the shock I received from reading the article, I left the following comment at the NJJN web site:

The job of a rabbi is to uplift them to the Divine ideals of Torah and not lower tham down into the depravity of ancient Egypt:

“Lesbian relations are forbidden and it is among the “doings of Egypt” that we have been warned about as it is said, “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do”. The sages said, “What did they do? A MAN MARRIES A MAN, and a woman marries a woman, and a woman marries two men.”

From Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Relations 21:8

Monday, September 29, 2014

Moral Clarity: a Prerequisite to Teshuvah

The great mishnaic sage Hillel said, "...an ignoramous cannot be pious" (Avot 2:5). Unfortunately, in our age of widespread higher education and advanced degrees, ignorance abounds, that is to say ignorance of what the Torah requires of us. WIth this gaping lack of knowledge, the direct and unavoidable product of not learning, comes a lack of moral clarity. True and everlasting morality comes from the Torah. Anything that contradicts God's Will is intrinsically immoral.

It is astonishing how dull one's moral clarity can become. Take the Metropolitan Opera and its production "The Death of Klinghoffer" . The people who decided to produce this show are deeply lacking in moral clarity. All the attempts to disuade them from doing so failed. All those involved in this production, Jews, gentiles and apostate Jews, will bear everlasting shame, if not in This World then certainly in the World to Come.

Without moral clarity, Teshuvah is impossible. One of the purposes of this blog is to present moral clarity, especially in areas where it has been lost by the uninformed majority and is not thought of being as "politically correct".

One of the issues that I have spoken up about is intermarriage. It is wrong, just plain wrong. I will say it again and again. On this matter I am happy to be the compass that keeps pointing North while others have unfortunately lost all sense of direction.

Almost four years ago I wrote a post about MK Einat Wilf. The gist of the post was that a Jew who "married" a gentile is a "bad example" and as such cannot lead or educate the Jewish People. I stand by that post and am pleased to note that Ms. Wilf is no longer a member of the Knesset.

Not too long ago someone stumbled upon the post and wrote me the following email:

I came upon your blog because I was intrigued by Einat Wilf – after what I read what you said about her I have decided to become an atheist as well. No more wondering why we have an Eruv to make you feel better in walking your kids on Shabbat and more important why my building loses a lift because you cannot push a button on Shabbat. Opening a water tap is OK even though it triggers a pump. Cannot tear toilet paper but can say that we can get rid of all non-Jews in Israel. When I learnt bible it said that everyone had to fight in the army – that we forget because I would suspect you make up the rules as you go along. There is now a growing number of amazing youngsters leaving the Haradi fold to follow their dreams. I was in the army with a few and was told how incense and rape go unreported because that is what the rabbi says. You vote what the rabbi tells you and it is very sad. You sponge of the government of Israel and donations from everywhere. You do not create anything except live a life of cheating and lies. I am ashamed at what my home city Manchester looks like. You are fortunate you live in a country where most people get an education enabling them to create things and help humanity thereby being able to fund your life style. Einat Wilf is a very smart cookie and the truth is you are not. Have a good New Year and may you be inscribed in the book of life – you are lucky I don’t give advice on who gets in the book.
Much can be written about this email. The author ignores the issue of intermarriage entirely and instead blames the post for his own lack of faith. This reminds of what a rabbi once told a wayward student usng a play on words, "teirutzim (answers) for questions I am willing to give . I am not willing to give terutzim (answers) for teirutzim(excuses). He continues to rant about different issues in Jewish Law that he does not understand, and apparently does not want to understand. His questions, real and imagined, are simple and can answered by any Orthodox rabbi.

The reader continues, making assumptions about me that are simply not true ("You vote what the rabbi tells you and it is very sad. You sponge of the government of Israel and donations from everywhere. You do not create anything except live a life of cheating and lies. "). This is indeed unfortunate. Perhaps such prejudice is a result of repeated exposure to stereotypes often pushed by the mass media.

All in all I have hope for this guy. The fact that the post brought about a reaction, even a negative one, is a sign that the "pintele yid" is still there. May he merit to make Teshuvah and be written and sealed for a good life.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dvar Torah for Netzavim-Vayelech: Choose Life

This in my humble opinion is the climax and summary of the Five Books of Moses:
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances; then thou shalt live and multiply, and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest in to possess it. But if thy heart turn away, and thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I declare unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish; ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over the Jordan to go in to possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love the LORD thy God, to hearken to His voice, and to cleave unto Him; for that is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
The Torah is making things very clear for anyone who is willing to listen, as Rashi explains:
[God says: “Even though you have free choice, nevertheless,] I instruct you to choose the portion of life.” It is like a man who says to his son, “Choose for yourself a fine portion of my estate,” and then directs him to the best portion, saying to him, “This [is the portion which] you should choose for yourself!” And regarding this, the verse says,“The Lord is my allotted portion and my cup; You guide my destiny” (Ps. 16:5). [The last clause, אַתָּה תּוֹמִי‏ךְ גּוֹרָלִי, literally means “You laid upon my lot.” That is to say:] “You laid my hand upon the good lot, saying, ‘Take this for yourself!’”
These passages are worth meditating upon, especially with the New Year and the Ten Days of Teshuvah before us.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Dvar Torah for Ki Teitzei

"A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whosoever doeth these things is an abomination unto the LORD thy God" (Deuteronomy 22:5)
The prohibition seems somewhat unusual, not related to what is written before it or what follows. The Lubavitcher Rebbe gives us a novel insight into this verse, as he explains the folly of the Women's Liberation Movement, and how a Torah true house should function:

Jonathan Miller: Journalist?

Well, it sure seems that Jonathan Miller cannot be trusted to report the news objectively:

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