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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

at the point of a knife...


 
 הלב נקרע.
אביתר בורובסקי ז"ל, עוד קרבן של ה"טרור השקט" ביהודה ושומרון, הובא היום למנוחות.
יהי זכרו ברוך.
אנחנו נמשיך להיאבק עד שה"טרור השקט" יחוסל.



Now that we b"H live here, i find these horrible incidents far harder to deal with. particularly the ones that involve the mourning of or for small children. our own children already are scared of arabs, nervous about the possibility of war, and ask for reassurance. all i can tell them is that Hashem is in control, and He decides what will happen when and to whom. I do not think that they find this hugely reassuring, and to tell you the truth sometimes i don't either.

It makes me think about these courageous, terrified, trusting, holy families who live in far more dangerous areas than ours, who daily tread the fine line between bitachon and histadlus, between life and death, between fear and foolishness. What do they tell their children? I assume that their children cannot help but know that they live their lives on the razor-edge of safety, that they cannot assume that someone driving out of the yishuv will return intact. Do they feel pride and safety, because they are doing a mitzvah in settling God's Land? Do they feel fear and trepidation every time, suffering every minute without relief? Do they live in a bubble of trust, believing that they and all they love will always be safe, that each incident is an aberration, a statistical abnormality from off the bell curve, and that it rarely happens?

all there is, is silence. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

New revelations about Rabbi Broyde

So far, the wincingly-embarrassing revelations that Rabbi Dr. Michael Broyde had used more than one pseudonym to express himself anonymously in the public arena have besmirched his personal reputation, but no doubt had been publicly cast over the rigour and reliability of his academic work and piskei halacha. 

But it seems that there are holes in his academic and halachic probity as well. My old friend Steven I Weiss has written an article for the Jewish Channel, describing a detailed, controversial article written by Rabbi Broyde for Tradition about women's hair coverings, the scholarship of which was buttressed by a letter from an elderly Talmudic scholar named David Keter. Weiss's article casts serious doubts on the existence of such a person. Read Weiss' full article here. Rabbi Broyde's online article for hirhurim, which substantiated his halachic claims by relying on David Keter's support can be read here. Nothing is yet proven, but if this is indeed true then his lack of yashrus moves from the childishly embarrassing to the shamefully dishonest.

I have another example of Rabbi Broyde's apparent fabrication of halachic proof. A couple of years ago, Rabbi Broyde was in London, UK, and gave a shiur to a coneference of Jewish doctors. In the course of his lecture, he referred to a letter from the Lubavitcher rebbe which permitted prospective medical students to take entrance exams on Shabbat. My husband thought that this was an unusual position for the Lubavitcher Rebbe to take, and contacted his own Rav, the Lubavitcher Chassid and talmid chacham Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, shlita. Rabbi Rapoport was also puzzled by this; he said that he had never heard of such a psak from the Rebbe, and that he does not think that the Lubavitcher Rebbe would have said such a thing, for a number reasons. My husband then emailed Rabbi Broyde, asking where he could find the source the Rabbi Broyde had refered to. Rabbi Broyde's response was "I do not think it has been published.". My husband felt that this was an unsatisfactory answer, and emailed him again to ask "If not, where can I find reference to it to look into it further?". He received no further reply.


At the time, my husband thought that this seemed strange. If a letter has not been published, then how can Rabbi Broyde know of it to refer to it? And the psak in this letter contradicts the huge amount that is documented already about the Lubavitcher Rebbe's stance in this regard. In light of the discovery that Rabbi Broyde has fabricated other material, which was not halachically sensitive, his reliability in presenting 'new' halachic proofs is also affected.


I had initially felt pure sympathy and embarrassment for Rabbi Broyde, along with the sense that it is such a stupid thing to do. How embarrassing to be derided in this way! How shameful for a man of letters and scholarship to engage in such petty, childish tricks! But my sympathy is slowly evaporating. To engage in childish games of 'bigging up' one's importance and blowing one's own trumpet anonymously is one - ridiculous, embarrassing - thing. But to present inauthentic academic scholarship is another. And, to my mind, to create proofs to substantiate a halachic argument which cannot stand on it own legs is a far more serious third issue.

Chazal tell us that in the next World, man is presented with a retrospective of his life. The tzadikim, who triumphed over sin, will look back at the desire for sin which they overcame and say 'It was like a huge chasm', while the wicked who gave in to the desire to sin will say 'it was like a small hole'. This seems to be the wrong way around; surely he who gave into sin should think that the desire to sin was as large as a chasm, while he who triumphed over the desire should view his desire as something small and easily overwhelmed. Yet the reverse is true. When the wicked look back at the sin they gave into, they will see how petty and meaningless that sin was. They will wish that they had overcome their desire to do something which was nothing but a waste. The righteous, when they look back at their lives, will recognise that the fact that they triumphed over their base desires was an achievement of pure will, and that their victory is indeed great.

It seems to me that Rabbi Broyde's actions are similar. Maybe when he did it, it seemed like something important; something that no one would ever know about; something that didn;t really matter, because he was right anyway. And now that it is all being dragged into the bright light of public opinion, perhaps he is realising how small his sin was.


I remember reading somewhere that the sins we really regret are not the huge sins of ideology or conscience, but the petty sins of desire and smallness. It is sad that someone who is a great thinker and a great teacher has dragged himself down in this way.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

different approaches to learning tanach

yesterday, i went to a shiur by r' menachem leibtag. i confess i got there late and so i missed the beginning of this particular tangent. He was teaching about the bracha of 'laasok b'divrei sorah (or laasok b'divrei torah, or however else you wish to transliterate it). he was discussing the different yeshiva approaches to learning tanach - either that of emunas chachamim, where you learn tanach through the prism of chazal, including the disinclination to teach anything negative about any biblical character (i think that there are probably ranges within this approach though), or where you first read and think about a text yourself, and then you turn to chazal to try to understand it.

R' Menachem is not a fire and brimstone person. He pointed out that both approaches have their dangers. The 'yeshivish' approach is far more successful at inculcating yiras shamayim, middos, and keeping kids 'on the derech'. But it comes at a price. (Those are his words.)

But without original study of original texts, one won't understand rabbinical statements (nor rabbinical writings such as the siddur, as R' Menachem is currently teaching us). So there are dangers and drawbacks to both sides.

And i am curious - what do you think? Do you agree that the 'emunas chachamim' approach is more successful? Do you think that the price R' Menachem refers to is worth paying? Or do you think that the 'original study' approach is better?

To speak personally, i was taught in a manner which was more in line with the 'emunas chachamim' approach. I grew up learning rashi along with chumash, and it truly affected how i read chumash. i would see the pesukim, but i would read rashi and midrash under and through and between the lines. for many years, this would be without realising it. i remember many times when my husband would raise a question on the parsha, and my response would be 'i don;t see any question, it's obvious, rashi says...' (if someone who doesn;t know me is reading this, he is ba'al teshuvah and did not grow up learning the meforshim alongside the pesukim). it would be hard for me to see the contradiction, because the rashi was so ingrained in my consciousness.

this means that i had to learn how to read the tanach simply, how to read what is there and see what could be there, should be there, shouldn;t be there. while i have no real complaints about the my limmudei kodesh education (well, i do in parts), it got me to where i am today and that is fine, it genuinely took years for me to be able to read some parts of chumash at face value - without the overlay of chazal and midrash. Nowadays that overlay is still there, but i am able to recognise it for what it is and push past it. nowadays, it means that i have a warehouse stocked with midrashic and rabbinic material which i am able to draw on, when i have spotted those puzzles and patterns that lurk amongst the pesukim.

to me, the effect of seeing rashi and midrash along with the words of tanach is like looking through smeared glasses. you can see better than without them on - but you still can't see clearly.

thoughts? opnions? experiences?

more reasons why i think shani taragin is fantabulous


in a shiur about the mishkan, she makes a convincing parallel between the death of Aharon and the point when luke skywalker discovers that darth vader is his father. And she does it with so much emotion!
 

designer labels for the bigdei kehuna?

something i learnt from Shani Taragin yesterday which should delight all my fashionista and/or crafty sewing friends: the phrase 'חכמי לב - chochmei lev', used in describing the artisans who worked on the mishkan, refers to the women who did the sewing and weaving. Every time that the bigdei kehuna were created - and will be created - the women who wove and sewed them could (and did, and will again) choose what pattern to design for the skirt of the ephod and (i think) me'il. In the pictures, it is usually shown as a block squares pattern, but it could be anything!

What would you choose? Paisley? Herring-bone? Chevrons? I think not the double-C of chanel.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Women of the Wall

I'm not sure why i think this is a good idea, but i'm going to share my thoughts on the current furore over the Women of the Wall.

So. I think that what they do is either unecessary or unexceptional. to daven with tallis and tefillin is unnecessary. The halachic truth (as i have heard it taught): it is not assur (forbidden) for women to wear either item. It is not required, and traditionally women never had worn them. Time has hallowed them to be men-only items, but that doesn;t mean that any woman who does wear them is breaking any laws. But it is not necessary.

So. i don't agree with the desire to wear a tallis and tefillin. i don;t think it adds anything. But nor am i going to get het up about someone else choosing to wear them. I will think her misguided, but not a sinner. she is someone who wishes to come close to Hashem, who thinks that this will increase her sense of spirituality and inspiration, and although in my opinion she is going about it in an erroneous way, she is not breaking any laws and is also not disturbing my ability to connect with Hashem.

I think that all these claims about the WoW causing disturbances and interfering with the ability of others to daven at the kotel are all spurious. Granted many (most) people there will not agree with it or like it. Granted, it may make them feel uncomfortable. But you know what? life is like that. it is full of things that make us feel uncomfortable. even when we daven. and as anyone who has ever davened at the kotel knows, it is an experience which is fraught with distractions and disturbances. Sephardi women hanging over the mechitzah at barmitzvahs, ululating and throwing sweets. Women asking for tzedakah. Christian tourists praying to Jesus the Messiah (i find that particularly disturbing). Women of all types pushing past you to touch the stones. Hot sun sizzling on your back. Women walking backwards to leave the prayer plaza and bumping into you or treading on your toes. Mobile phones going off. People sobbing loudly. If you want a peaceful, undisturbed prayer experience, the kotel is not the place to go.

I think that the complaints that the WoW davened too loudly or sang too loudly are also spurious. I accept that they might make it hard for men to daven (but see my point above). The men do have other places to move to to daven. They also could daven louder themselves, or join in, thus preventing themselves from hearing the women's voices. they could just wait a bit till they are finished. or they could be more consistent and request that barmitzvah groups at which the women sing (loudly) be evicted as well.

What is really going on is a part of the bigger debate about who defines Judaism in Israel, and who the kotel belongs to, anyway. A shul has every right to tell it's worshippers that it has certain rules, which preclude davening in this way, and so the worshippers concerned who want to continue in a way which is contrary to the rules will have to go elsewhere. If the kotel is a private shul, this is totally legitimate.

But. but the kotel is not a private shul. it is a public space. one of the most beautiful things about it is that everyone can attend, everyone can connect with Hashem in their way. So if some people are allowed to evict other people because they do not agree with the way they are doing what they are doing, that is contrary to the whole beautiful essence of the kotel. Furthermore, it is not the job of any individual to appoint themselves judge, jury and executioner over the way in which a person chooses to connect with God.

Personally, although i see the advantages of this egalitarian section proposed by Natan Sharansky, i would be sorry to see it come into existence. Because right now, there is a section for men and a section for women. this separation enables all jews to daven at the kotel plaza, at the same place under the same sky and same God, without divisions between one pray-er and the next. Once there would be an egalitarian section, then it would be 'us and them'. 'we' would look down on 'them', and 'they' would look down on 'us'. it would be a shame.

one last point though: i did read an article by a WoW-er. and i thought it was dreadful. it was the worst kind of fanatically feminist, man-hating cant, stating half-truths as established facts, and twisting facts into personal insults. It was poorly-educated attempt at at rabble-rousing rant, and it was just plain rude about anyone who might disagree with her. it did all women a dis-service, and especially those on her side.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

would fain reply...

i've decided to start a revolution to reintroduce the word 'fain' into everyday conversation. Here is the Cambridge dictionary's definition:

fain: willingly or happily: I would fain forget what I had done.

if bloggers can bring down governments and free dissidents, then surely i can reintroduce one four-letter word. it even begins with 'f', that's bound to help! perhaps if i were to graffitti it onto walls, then it would become more popular?  i bet people would ban it, and write it with asterisks if i did that: f**n. and then all the teenagers would want to say it all the time. it'd become the new swear word. shakespeare would love that, i'm sure.

 

lag b'omer: the story as it unfolds

this is going to be a breaking news post - to be updated regularly whenever there are new developments in the bonfire stakes. 

April 14:
Progress thus far



April 12:
The boys on the street asked if they can store their stockpile of wood for lag b'omer in our garden. so we said fine. Y, M & YC have now enthusiastically joined in the project. Y just came in and said 'Do we have a saw, or a hammer, or something very heavy that we could use? we have a really really big piece of wood, but we can;t break it'.

the evening after the day before

do you think it would be an abuse and a woeful waste of a blog to mostly people it with posts which are roughly he length of a facebook status? now might be your chance to find out, empirically.

i have fulfilled the most important obligation of the day - namely, to barbeque - with such enthusiasm that i am only now, 7 hours later, beginning to feel even the slightest nibble of hunger.

Monday, 15 April 2013

i do not change my militance against recorders....but i will admit that the simple harmony of a sextet of recorders playing hatikvah yesterday at Y's yom hazikaron tekes was very moving.

a collage on yom hazikaron and yom haatzmaut

Sunday, erev yom hazikaron: 


Now that we live here, i am definitely feeling yom hazikaron more this year than before. Now that we are committed to this place, i feel this day as the moment in the present which links the past and the future. Those who fought and fell did so in order that i can live here with my family in the security which i enjoy; and i move through this day with the awareness that one day, if Moshiach does not come first, my children will be part of this awesome group of men and women who protect us all.  

monday, yom hazikaron: 


has anyone ever thought about the significance of yom haatzmaut falling in chodesh iyar? i am noticing that from rosh chodesh, it's all already yom haatzmaut, kind of like how all of kislev is now chodesh chanukah. iyar is the month that is represented by the bull. Nissan is represented by the lamb - it stands for Hashem;s chessed to us, how He took us out of Egypt when we did not deserve it, gave us everything, and we followed Him like a lamb. and had no abiltiies or merits of our own. Iyar is the month when, like the bull, we rebel and exert our power in a rebellious way. also it is the month when Hashem withdraws His support, so that we can learn to walk by ourselvesa, so that like the bull we can discover our own strength and be ready to meet Hashem as equals who stand on our own feet (almost - not really equals, obviously, but with our own abilties like a husband and a wife in a marriage) in the month of sivan, which is represented by the twins - gemini, two individuals together. and i can see wehre it could be taken to prove that the medina/yom haatzmaut is a sign of our rebelliousness against Hashem. And also that it could be taken to mean that we were intended to discover the abilties and strength which Hashem gave us, to stand on our own feet before He meets us, like at har sinai, in a relationship which this time will never be broken.

Photo melange of the famous image of three young soldiers standing  by the kotel, which they have just liberated, alongside a photo of the same three soldiers today. 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151602519178627&set=a.152307933626.141355.142448283626&type=1&ref=nf

Friday, 12 April 2013

loud crash and clang from the kitchen. i ask Y what that was.
"oh, it's nothing. i'm just putting the challahs back"

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

the birth of a chumra

I'm reporting on an interesting trend. likely enough i'm not the first, but i'm reporting it nevertheless. you know those taliban women? the jewish women who wore something v close to a burka and were put into cherem by rabbonim for going waaaay beyond the pale? the leader was arrested for child abuse, eventually.
A-ny-way, while i have only seen one full burka lady, i am seeing a few women wearing their scarf swathed around their neck as well as their hair.

but most common of all, i see women wearing cloaks. short cloaks, that fall to just around the hip. it's becoming really common here, and i can see the goalposts moving. this is not a fashion statement, this is an 'extreme tznius' statement. i told ben, and he said that the rabbis had put the taliban women in cherem. and i said that no one has put wearing just a cloak in cherem, and no one will, because it's just a cloak, you might as well put 100 denier tights in cherem. but this is what happens when you absorb chumra into 'normative' halachic practice; people will come up with their own chumra. another 60 years, i think, and burkas will be normative for a good beis yaakov girl. let's daven that moshiach comes first.

Monday, 8 April 2013

yom ha'shoah

yom hashoah today . so i have my reservations about this day. that said. at 10am i was in our j'lem apartment having a heated discussion with the kablan (fixer guy). the siren went off, he said to the guy on the phone 'talk to you later, siren', closed his phone, folded his hands and stood silent for the duration of the siren. and everything around us also went still. a moment to reflect and think about who survived and who does not, who survives and who does not.

hitler - the ultimate revenge?

if you can forgive the mother pride, sharing a bit of my child's wisdom.
a few years ago, it was the first time i had to explain the holocaust to Y. i think he was probably about 5 or 6. i gave him an edited version, as one would tell a child that age, drawing heavily on his prior knowledge of the purim story. when i finished, he asked what Hashem did to hitler to punish him. i said that at the end of the war, he killed himself. and i waited for him to respond that that was not really fair.
instead Y said 'that';s so stupid! what a stupid thing to do, to actually kill yourself! that's a big punishment.'

it's funny. lots of people 'complained' when arafat died of natural causes, and maybe also complain that hitler didn;t suffer as he should have. but sometimes children see things more clearly than adults do. To Y, at age 5-6, the idea of ending your own life is a very big punishment.
(pls note this is not a comment on any other people who may have killed themselves.)