Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Follow-up Thoughts on the Rabbi Dov Lipman Interviews

In response to a few commenters and some who have corresponded with me offline regarding this post and this post, which shared interviews with Rabbi Dov Lipman, I want to share a couple of thoughts.
[Update 8/1/13 @ 10:59 a.m.] [As a side point, although I believe it is clear from the context, I want to clarify for the record that in this blog I speak only for myself. Do not assume that something I say in my own name either is or is not a representation of Rav Moshe Weinberger's views. The only thing which definitively represents Rav Weinberger's views are the drashos where I write that he has reviewed their content. That being said, my own personal belief is that Rav Weinberger has no aversion to studying the positions of those with whom he disagrees and I do not believe he generally condones misrepresentations of those with whom one disagrees and would agree that one should oppose people for what they actually stand for rather than what people misrepresent them as standing for.]
First, it has been fascinating to hear how strongly people react to (i) the very idea of hearing or facilitating others' ability to hear a viewpoint which differs from the majority of gedolim and roshei yeshiva in E"Y and (ii) the content of Rabbi Lipman's interviews.
With regard to the first point, the Shulchan Aruch (Rema YD 246:4) forbids studying sifrei minim (books of heresy). While Rabbi Lipman may be pursuing a solution different from the majority of gedolim, barring some stretched explanation of the definition of sifrei minim, it is permitted to hear what he has to say. Therefore the question "How could you give such a person a platform?" is spurious. Are we so insecure in our convictions that we cannot hear out a dissenting viewpoint?
The second point regarding the content of the interviews is also interesting. Several people who do not agree with Rabbi Lipman at all have commented to me that they are grateful that I shared these interviews because (1) they were misinformed by speakers and frum media outlets regarding what the current coalition is actually proposing and appreciated the fact that the actual plan is more moderate and considerate than there were heretofore told and (2) they were under the impression that nothing but publicity-seeking, pandering, and hatred of the Torah and those who study it could possibly be motivating Rabbi Lipman and those in his party's coalition. Watching the interviews caused them to realize that while they may strongly disagree with his policies, they saw where he was coming from and why he sincerely believes that his plan is the best one to strengthen the Torah and the Jewish people.
The first reason why I believe it was important to share these interviews is that it is unjustifiable to suggest that it is better to believe in a false, demonized caricature of a fellow Jew simply in order to avoid shaking our faith in our position, even if that position is similar to that of the gedolim we follow. As I have repeatedly written in the comments to the above-linked posts, it is better to disagree with people on the merits than to condemn them personally, especially here where it's a frum person, a rabbi, there are other rabbeim who support his general proposals (though he says he cannot name them lest they be threatened as he has), and when their intentions are for the benefit of klal Yisroel.
But there are a lot of people out there with whom I disagree and I do not go out of my way to understand what makes them tick.
The thing that fascinates me about this person is that he is addressing a problem which has broken my heart for a long time and which has been going almost unaddressed until now. And that has nothing to do with secular attitudes toward chareidim or their lack of service in the army. The fact is that whether we understand why He did so or not, given the infinite value of learning Torah, Hashem designed us such that the tafkid for the majority of Jews is to work for a livelihood in one form or another while learning Torah and living ehrlich lives. We have ignored the following teachings of chazal at our great peril:
  • "Harbei asu k'Rabbi Yishmael v'alsa b'yadan; k'Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai v'lo alsa b'yadan – many followed the path of Rabbi Yishmael and were successful; many tried the path of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and were not successful" (Berachos 35b) [Obviously doesn't mean there aren't exceptions but this is the general outcome.]

  • "Yafa talmud Torah im derech eretz she'yegias shnei'hem mashkachas avon," "Learning Torah along with making a living is beautiful because toiling in both makes one forget sin." (Avos 2:2)

  • "Kol she'eino melamed es b'no umnus k'ilu melamdo listus," "If anyone does not teach his son a trade, it is as if he taught him to be a robber." (Kiddushin 29a)

There are others along these lines, but we went down a path of pretending that we could ignore these ma'amarei chazal without consequences and have experienced how wrong we were, with our children and our own ruchnius as the korbanos. I hope I do not have to recount how each of the consequences spoken about by all of these ma'amarei chazal have come to pass, and then some, l'da'avoneinu.

Anyone who has read about the recent events in Bnei Brak or has come into contact with the "shababnikim" produced by the one-size-fits-all shita cannot help but shed a tear. And that is just the most extreme example. I mourn when I contemplate the diminishment of the tzura of klal Yisroel that results from the fact that such a large number of yungerleit, who are living an ostensibly Toraso Umanaso life, are not living in accordance with their personal tafkid. This has a wide variety of somethwat more subtle, but devastating and widespread effects. We cannot deviate from Hashem's plan for us without consequences.

I do not personally endorse the government's plan or everything Rabbi Lipman says. But I want to hear those who speak about the issue and at least hear and understand what they have to say. That is why I love reading Jonathan Rosenblum (though he certainly disagrees with Rabbi Lipman!), Rabbi Adlerstein, and Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. I cannot understand how anyone can tolerate the continuation of the status quo which is destroying our children.

We need a new plan to solve the issue perhaps. Do you know what I would love to see? I would love for the Gedolim to bypass any askanim and say "The current coalition's plan is a no-go. But we understand the deleterious effects of teaching a one-size-fits-all life path. We also understand those legitimate concerns of the non-chareidi communities. We therefore institute X Y and Z policies for our communities and will enter into direct negotiations with the current coalition to arrive at a solution we can agree to." Halevai!!!

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

High School in Israel Helps Kids Connect to Themselves so They Can Connect to Torah

This high school for American boys in E"Y, A.C.E. looks like an excellent program. I know the outdoor program director Ariel Fishman from Shor Yoshuv years ago who had a passion for this challenging oneself in a natural setting even back then. I remembered him when I read a very inspiring article that mentioned him in Family First Magazine (part of Mishpacha Magazine) this past week called "Free Fall." It seems to help kids find their "derech eretz kodma" so they can connect to Torah.

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Another Very Enlightening Interview with Rabbi Dov Lipman

Following up on yesterday's post, here's another enlightening interview giving an insight into Rabbi Dov Lipman, his background, and what's motivating him. Again, I have issues with some of his statements here regarding having non-orthodox marriage in Israel in the form of "civil unions"and marriages under orthodox auspices considered "marriage" and regarding the Kotel. I can't get comfortable with that or see how those are truly within halacha. I appreciate the fact that he's trying to find a way to find compromise/consensus on more than just the big issues I'm concerned about like army/sherut l'umi/work/secular education, about which he's talking about going back to being more true to Chazal/ratzon Hashem and has the quiet support of some rabbonim. He's also trying to find agreement on marriage issues where I don't see how you can truly justify the compromises he's suggesting. I get what he's trying to do but addressing all of the major problems and that's admirable but I don't see how he can go so far. If you listen to the interview, he has bases and justifications but I still don't hear it.

[Update 8/1/13]: You can click here to see my follow up comments on this interview and the one linked to above.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Rabbi Dov Lipman Interview Asks Almost Every Tough Question People Discuss Re Chareidi Draft

It would be very worthwhile to see this 43 minute interview between Rabbi Daniel Korobkin (Ner Yisroel musmach and Rav in Toronto) and Rabbi Dov Lipman (also Ner Yisroel musmach and MK in the Yesh Atid party). Rabbi Korobkin gives Rabbi Lipman a platform to address his very strident critics by bringing up almost every serious cricicism/question people generally direct at him. Very enlightening. With regarding to the last question in the interview (how he understands what the current coalition is doing with regard to drafting chareidim to the IDF/sherut ulami and secular studies in yeshiva ketana) notwithstanding the opposition to such policies by almost all of the gedoleim in E"Y, he quasi-sidesteps the question. Nevertheless, the interview is extremely enlightening in getting to know the must-talked-about Rabbi Lipman much better. HT Rabbi Yakov Horowitz.
[Update 8/1/13]: You can click here to see my follow up comments on this interview and the comments on this post.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reflecting on why Hashem Wants us to "Waste" our time Sleeping

Just before I got married I spent a Shabbos with Rabbi Paysach Krohn, who, beyond his books, speeches, and work as my son's mohel, is an amazing person even in "real life." He asked a question (to which he said he did not have a satisfying answer) that Shabbos which has stuck with me in the last fifteen years. He asked why Hashem made us with the need to sleep. He pointed out that He could have created us any way he wanted to and that he could understand good reasons for many other aspects of the human body and nature but sleep stumped him. One can point to all of the neurological benefits of sleep but all of them are built upon the fact that Hashem built us with the need for sleep. Why did He do that in the first place?

Rabbi Krohn suggested that the need for sleep could be explained by Hashem's desire that people always start each day anew and should not feel bogged down with what happened the day before. But ultimately he felt that sleep is such a waste of time and takes so many hours that this explanation by itself was unsatisfying. Why the need for 5-8+ hours every single day for the ability to refresh? Why not one hour a day or five hours once a week?

I would therefore like to share an  idea of mine in response to this question:

That idea is  based on the assumption that the only people bothered by how much sleep human beings need are truly great people; people who are driven to achieve as much as possible.

The need for sleep demonstrates that as great as they are, the people bothered by this question simply do not have the same priorities Hashem has. Those with this question assume that G-d, like them, wants them to achieve and do the maximum good in their lives, whether that good is in the form of any of the myriad of subcategories of Torah study, prayer/inner work, or performing acts of kindness for others. The fact that Hashem constructed human nature with this innate need to spend five hours per day "wasting time" is a message that on the deepest level, Hashem did not create a world and human beings to accomplish things in the world. He Himself, or through any of his multitude of agents, can accomplish anything He wants without us (thank you very much).

The main thing He wants from us is to want and work to serve Him. In the language of the Brisk school of Talmud study, this world is a din in the gavra, not in the cheftza; Hashem cares more about what kind of people we make ourselves than the impact we have on the world around us. As the Gemara says, "Rachmana liba bo'i," "Hashem wants the heart."

He therefore created us in such a way as to give us the message, "I want you to accomplish as much as you can in Torah and mitzvos during your time on earth, but remember that the ultimate goal is not that you accomplish things outside yourselves. Go to sleep for a few hours so that you will understand that ultimately I am responsible for the outcomes of the world; not you. I can accomplish much more than you could by other means if that were My primary goal. What I want is that you should want to serve Me, do good, and be good."

Happy to hear anyone else's thoughts on the issue. I believe that there is also a "yerida l'tzorech aliya"/"stira al m'nas livnos" aspect to it as well. I.e., even the greatest people must completely negate/destroy their current level of attainment (as opposed to merely build upon it) in order to achieve a qualitatively higher level. [Update: See more on these ideas here and here.] But I don't know that this angle adequately explains why Hashem chose to create us with the daily need for so much sleep. The same goal could ostensibly be accomplished with less sleep, less often.

Happy to hear any other input/thoughts!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Baal Shem Tov and Bankruptcy - My New Article in Ami Magazine

I am happy to share an article of mine which appeared in this past week's issue of Ami Magazine! It is a short article and starts with an observation I made about claims made in a heated bankruptcy litigation and how it connects to a profound and famous teaching of the Baal Shem Tov as taught by Rebbe Nachman in Likutei Moharan. I'll include the first couple of paragraphs below but click here for the full (one page) article.
I was struck by recent events in a corporate bankruptcy case, which were eerily reminiscent of a powerful teaching of the Baal Shem Tov...
...This reminded me of a striking teaching by the Baal Shem Tov, as quoted by Rebbe Nachman. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that before a heavenly decree is issued against an individual, the person must agree to the designated consequence. Who would ever agree to his own punishment in advance? He answers that the heavenly court uses the following ingenious strategy...

Click here for the full article.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mashiach Did Not Arrive -- Again - Must Read Article by Jonathan Rosenblum

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote a fantastic column which appears in this week's issue of Mishpacha Magazine. A must read. See below for the beginning and please click here to read the full article, which I recommend. HT Rabbi Yakov Horowitz.
The phenomenon of chareidi soldiers in uniform, or even out of uniform, being verbally accosted and made to feel otherwise unwanted has spread far beyond Meah Shearim. Wallposters against "chardakim" (chareidim da'at kal) can be seen in chareidi neighborhoods around the country, with religious soldiers in uniform portrayed as missionaries. These attacks by chareidim on one another recall nothing so much as the bitter internecine fighting in Jerusalem that preceded the destruction of the Second Temple. 
Rabbi Ben Tzion Kokis once pointed out at a convention of Agudath Israel of America, that then too those attacking their fellow Jews did so in the name of their greater faith. The zealots destroyed the firewood and water that would have permitted Jerusalem to withstand siege for years, in order to force a direct confrontation with the vastly superior Roman forces, and they accused Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai and the chachamim of lacking faith in Hashem's power. 
As the Netziv (Devarim 32:5) writes of that period, "Most of the killing was done for the sake of G-d. . . . It was difficult to separate the good from the bad since the bad was done for the sake of Heaven." 
If today we again find such bitter divisions within the chareidi community itself, can we really hope that the sinas chinam for which we entered this long galus will soon end.

Click here to continue reading...
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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Temple Institute's Videos Showing Children Ready to Rebuild Beis Hamikdash

See below for two videos by the Temple Insititute depicting children ready and willing to recognize that the time has come to actually rebuild the Beis Hamikdash. Because actually doing so would start a war, what is the take-away point of the videos? It could just be to awaken a tshuka, longing, to rebuild it, even if we cannot physically do so now. Also, even if it awakens a desire that can't yet come to fruition until Moshiach comes, there is something to be said for at least wanting to do so anyway out of a feeling of "ahava mekalkeles es hashura," loosly translated as "love is not bound by logic." Any other thoughts?

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Beautiful Video Interview Between Rav Dovid Grossman and Yair Lapid

See below for an amazing video interview between Yair Lapid and Rav Dovid Grossman. B'etzem b'etzem b'etzem, this man is a Jew and has no inherent problem with Chareidim. The key is to really connect to each other. Like Rav Grossman says here, he looks beyond the artificial, external labels of Chareidi, Chiloni, Sefardi, Ashkenazi, etc. Those are not the essence of the person. That is why he can connect with every type of Jew and show them something greater about themselves. Listen to this shiur Rav Moshe Weinberger recently gave for more on this topic and how to heal what is going on in Israel now.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Animals for Slaughter, Korbanos... The Deeper Reasons - Guest Post by Rebb. Devorah Fastag

I am happy to present, below, a guest post by Rebbetzin Devorah Fastag, author of The Moon's Lost Light, which is a  book I found to be very enlightening in better understanding why things are the way they are in these "last few minutes before Moshiach," as Rav Moshe Weinberger always says. We featured a guest post about the book here at Dixie Yid here and you can see some of her other guest posts here. All the best.
His Mercy is on All His Creatures
By D. Fastag
Recently I came across a story about a student in a ba'al tshuvah yeshivah who objected to korbonos, saying "I don't kill animals". The teacher answered that we don't kill animals unnecessarily – that would be tsa'ar ba'aley chaim – but since animals were created to serve human beings, it is perfectly acceptable to kill animals for our valid use. So ends the discussion.
But does it? True, this is from Hashem, but The All Merciful One is not like a human king who makes decrees without caring if it hurts others unjustly. Hashem is totally just, good, and kind.         Why, then, would He want to cause suffering to feeling creatures?
To emphasize the question, one needs only to look into Ashrei, which is taken from Tehillim 145. There we say "Hashem is good to all and His mercy is on all His creatures". Yet how can we understand that it is merciful to animals to have them killed, and that this is called being good to them? 
Ashrei also says: "Hashem is a tsaddik in all His ways and does chessed with all His deeds.  Yet where is the fairness and righteousness towards the animal who is killed for our needs?
Some answer that the animal reaches a tikun, a rectification, through becoming the vehicle of a mitzvah.  But the animal is dead. What good does it do the animal that it reached a tikun if it does not feel or know about this tikun?
The answer is that it does feel and know about this tikun. In order to understand this, we need to realize that the superficial level with which we view the world, is far, far, from accurate. It is like taking pieces of a story out of context, leaving out essential factors.  This is true not only of the way we view physical reality, but even of the way we view Torah. Our understanding is incomplete because the secrets behind the mitzvos will be revealed to us only in the future. Rashi, explaining the second pasuk of Shir Hashirim says: 
"… He gave them His Torah and spoke to them face to face, and that expression of love is still more precious to them than any pleasure. And He promised them that He would appear again over them to explain to them the secret of its reasons and the mysteries of its hidden content, and they beseech Him to keep His word. That is the meaning of 'He shall kiss me from the kisses of His mouth'"
This is also the meaning of Chazal's statement that Hashem says: "A new Torah will come forth from me" (Vayikrah 13:30). The new Torah is the hidden meanings of the same Torah we have now. Until we receive this, we are missing eye opening parts of Torah which would make us aware of its greatness, goodness, and depth.
But why did Hashem do this to us? Why didn't we receive the whole Torah at Har Sinai?
Forty days after the giving of the Torah, while the Jewish People were still encamped at Har Sinai, they made a golden calf.  This happened on the 17th of Tamuz, which later became the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and it is the fast day that begins the three weeks leading to tishav ba'av. The sin of the golden calf forced Moshe to break the first luchos. Had those luchos remained we would have received the full Torah at that time. We would have learned it all effortlessly, with great love and passion, and never would have forgotten our learning.
But the sin of the golden calf changed all that. That sin became the first link in a chain leading to our present galus. And since then, at some level, the Torah itself was also in galus.  From then until the coming of Moshiach we must fulfill the Torah out of pure emunah, without understanding the reasons behind it. Emunah, like the moon, is the light which guides us through the darkness of the night of galus.   
 Yet our period in history is like none before it. According to the Zohar we are now in the period called the erev Shabbas of the world, and just as on erev Shabbos one is supposed to taste of the Shabbos food, so in our times we can – and should – begin to taste of the secrets of the Torah, the spiritual food of the world's Shabbos. This is how the Ba'al Shem Tov explained his teaching the Jewish masses Torah secrets, and this was also the policy of the Vilna Gaon, the Ohr HaChaim, the Chofetz Chaim, and many others, who spoke openly of Torah secrets which had previously been known only to very few tsaddikim.
So now let us look into some of those great secrets.
The Sfas Emes on parshas Emor (5658) comments on a medrash which draws a corollary between bris milah, performed on a baby's eighth day, and the law that a baby animal may be sacrificed only on its eighth day. The Sfas Ems explains that just as milah is super natural, connected to things above and beyond this world, so sacrifices are something outside and above nature, something other worldly. He then goes on to say:
"… therefore regarding animals that were slaughtered outside [the mishkan] it is written 'it is considered murder [literally blood] as one who spills human blood. Because when it was sanctified as a korbon, it rose to the aspect of a human being, as explained above."
In other words, when an animal is sanctified as a korbon it rises to the aspect of a human being, so that if it was not afterwards sacrificed properly this is considered as having murdered it. That is why regarding this sin the Torah uses a term reserved for murder.
 Mind boggling!!
And so the Sfas Emes gives us a tiny peek into the great secrets of the Torah to be revealed in the future. And with it we get a gleam of understanding of Hashem's caring for His creatures. Far, far from being the decree of an uncaring king, Hashem, the ultimate of love and kindness, has, through korbanos, given the animal the ability to rise to the level of a human being.
Shchitah, too is for the animal's benefit. Far from what people imagine, the spirit of an animal does not expire with its death. Koheles tells us that the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth. And so earth is placed over the animal's blood which contains its spirit.
Where into the earth does the spirit go? What happens to it then? Why does the animal need a tikun?  Perhaps we will have to wait until the ge'ula to find out. In the meantime, we are, in the words of Rashi, "beseeching Hashem to keep His word" and teach us the mysteries of His glorious Torah.
May it be very, very soon!
Devorah Fastag is the author of The Moon's Lost Light, a deeper explanation of the turbulence surrounding contemporary women, (originally published under the pen name Devorah Heshelis) and the Jewish ebook, Whatever Happenedto the Aschalta Degeula. She can be contacted at
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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Monthly Phone Shiur by Bilvavi Author Starting Tomorrow

Please see below for information on a monthly phone shiur for women each Rosh Chodesh. Please click on the link below to register. The first shiur is tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. but can be listened-to afterward by mp3 for those who register.


LIVE Phone Shiur

for Women Only

Rabbi Itamar Schwartz,
author of the life-transforming series

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh

will be giving a ten-class
Rosh Chodesh phone chaburah
on the "avodah" of the month.
The Rav will be speaking in
hebrew accompanied by an english translation
Begins this Monday Rosh Chodesh Av 9:30am EST
(All classes will be recorded and
available via phone playback and mp3 for all who register)

100% countable towards maaser

Please click on this link
to receive more information
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Friday, July 5, 2013

NCSY Summer Program Video with my Old Advisor from 1993!

You may want to turn down the background music but this NCSY promo video for their summer programs b/c of the Three Weeks, but this is so cool. In 1993, I went to Israel with NCSY's ISS (Israel Summer Seminar - their mostly public school, co-ed, well-supervised tour trough Israel). Their current equivalent of that program has a different name but one of my madrichim on the trip, Barry Goldfischer, is apparently still involved! You can see him at about 1:30 in this video. It's scary but that was 20 years ago this summer. Ouch I feel old. But baruch Hashem, KA"H I now have a daughter who's old enough to go on an NCSY program (though as a BY girl, she wouldn't). Yasher koach for everything NCSY!!!

NCSY Summer 2013 - Where the Journey Begins from NCSY on Vimeo.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Worthwhile Video on Preventing Child Molestation


Worthwhile for adult/camp counselors to watch. And if you hear of a case of someone touching a child inappropriately, make sure the matter goes immediately to the secular authorities and is not handled "internally." Anyone concerned with issues of mesira or lashon hara can read this psak by Rav Aviner, or other articles discussing the issue citing to the Tzitz Eliezer and others. Better to be machmir on the issue of sakanas nefashos of the child than the potential for "mesira" which is probably not applicable because we live in countries with proper justice systems.

It would also be worthwhile to watch these three brief videos on speaking to children about proper guideliness which will, IY"H, prevent abuse:

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