Friday, June 29, 2018

Jewish Identity ... Can it be saved in America ...? (guest post)

Parshat Balak by Rabbi Shmuel Knopfler

 Fearing an Israelite takeover of Moabite territory should the People of Israel pass through his realm, King Balak of Moab summons the prophet Bil'am and asks him to curse the Jewish people. Try as he might, Bil'am proves unable to do the king’s bidding, and the Parsha draws to a close with a host of marvelous blessings, perhaps the most beautiful things ever said about the Jewish People. Bil'am also plays a crucial role in why this Parsha concludes on such a dramatically dismal note. “Israel settled in Shittim, and the people began to commit harlotry with Moabite women”. Nothing in this verse could prepare us for the depravity that resulted in the terrible plague that cost the lives of twenty-four thousand Israelites. The juxtaposition is striking. We have just finished reading about Bil'am’s wonderful blessings, only to discover that the people faltered on an epic scale, publicly fornicating with gentile women. And a short while later, they worship idols of Baal Peor, committing some of the basest forms of idolatry in the ancient world. How did this happen? The Torah’s description is rather vague: “Bil'am arose, went, and returned home, and Balak went on his way.” This cryptic account of Bil'am simply returning home contains no allusion to Bil'am's influence on the Israelites’ behavior. Yet a few chapters later, when Moses criticizes the nation for sparing the women in reprisals against the Midianites, he says: “They were the same ones who were involved with the People of Israel on Balaam’s advice to betray the Lord over the incident of Peor, resulting in a plague among the congregation of Hashem.” In other words, Bil'am was the one who devised the idea of ensnaring the Jewish People, sending Midianite women to the Israelite camp to entice the men. If things were so bad, why did the Torah not simply relate all of this when this week’s Parsha’s main event transpired? Often, the Torah expands on certain issues while glossing over others. Why, then, is the Torah silent about Bil'am’s attempts to cause the Israelites to sin, while going into such great detail in its description of Bil'am’s blessings?

Logic would have it that it should have been the other way around. Faced with this problem, some commentators suggested that Bil'am was not directly involved in the Israelites’ behavior, an idea alluded to in one of Bil'am’s blessings: “He does not look at evil in Jacob…”, as if to say that Bil'am had not seen anything sinful in their behavior. This blessing implies that once the Israelites could be brought to committing a sin, its enemies would find a way to successfully fight them. This is, however, an enormous departure from the simple meaning of the text, and Talmudic sages have also explicitly stated that Bil'am was the one who devised the scheme of causing Israel to sin with the Midianite women. Why, then, does the Torah not divulge this information when the event occurs? The Torah is teaching us a central tenet in how a person is to take responsibility for his or her actions. If, for example, scientists, historians, sociologists and anthropologists were to study the assimilation of North American Jews in the twentieth century, they would undoubtedly discover many reasons for the phenomenon, such as their financial situation, the disconnect from their Eastern European roots, a desire to fit into American society, and just amalgamate. We can safely assume that all of the above are correct. Yet when individuals do their own soul-searching, they would need to answer questions such as, “What did I do right, or what did I do wrong, in contending with this issue?”

 The easy way of evading personal responsibility is to simply state the causes of assimilation, as mentioned above. But that is precisely what the Torah wants to prevent. Had it elaborated on Balaam’s contribution to Israel’s sinful conduct, a case could be made for those who pinned the blame on this great heathen prophet who instigated the Jews’ licentiousness with the Midianite women. Who could resist such temptation? What were the Jews to do once the very man who penned the phrase, “It is a nation that shall dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations” now calls for doing away with Israel’s unique status and intermingling with native women? The Torah, therefore, describes this as a standalone event, one that has nothing to do with Bil'am. Each of us has to stand in front of the mirror and ask ourselves what we could have done differently. Thus, it is only later, as the book of Bamidbar concludes, that the Torah mention Bil'am role in this tragedy. We may come up with a slew of political, theological, and technical excuses – some of which may be true – as to why so many Jews in the Exile or comfortable Diaspora feel estranged from Judaism, the Jewish People, and the State of Israel. But such analyses, on their own, certainly will not help in any way. We need to ultimately decide what we can do, and have not yet done, to ensure that more Jews remain connected to their Jewish identities.

 Those who live in Eretz Israel are the true Lovers of Zion whether "observant" or "not-yet observant." In 1948 we had 500 Yeshiva bachurim; with Jewish population of 600,000 now we have 50,000+ out of a population of 7 million+ "Ken Yirbu." In the Goldene Medina USA we currently have 5.5 Million Jews. Before WWII we also had 5.5 Million. (Core Jewish). With normal geometric progression we should have 55 Million. Granted we have Yeshivot and nice pockets of "frum" Jewish neighborhhods; that does not set off the attrition rate due to ZPG (zero population growth) which is 1.8 Children per family; coupled with assimilation & intermarriage; we are left with a Large "Beis HaChayim" Contrast that with Israel. Despite the "visionaries of doom" of the "Secular State" not to be created, Israel thrives on with miracles. There is more Torah learning in Eretz Yisrael than the entire world combined. Over 300 Seforim per month published. In World Economy Israel is No# 1 to invest in just ask Warren Buffett who is looking for more firms in Israel besides Iscar purchased for $10 Billion Dollars with management intact & promised NOT to move the firm outside Israel. A simple gentile from Omaha Nebraska who is fascinated with The Holy Land of Eretz Yisrael & its people.
 בברכת התורה והארץ‎ שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם
 B'Birchat Hatorah V'Haaretz
 Shabbat Shalom
 Shmuel Knopfler

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Happenings at old BMG

The Rosh Yehiva Reb Hillel Zaks recalls a story that happened in BMG. An elderly Rov who he does not name here, spoke in BMG in front of RAK and said that Reb Yisroel Salanter said if I would've met the גר"א I would've rebuked him for keeping to himself and not going out to teach the masses and be משפיע on them. Reb Aron got very upset and grasped his shtender with all his might to keep himself from lashing out at the Rov. He later told Rabbi Zaks I would've stopped him if not for his stature and reputation. So were RYS' words not correct? Or was the problem the audience he was repeating the story to? Maybe he didn't believe the story? Well, he explains it in the second paragraph.
 .. .

Sunday, June 10, 2018

....א חתונה אין בריסק

It looks like grandiose weddings are becoming the norm even in reclusive families like Brisk. Well, that's how it looks in the pictures, anyway. I don't know if it was grandiose in the sense that they had a choice of beef or chicken and a smorgasbord. But it's a nice hall in Talpiot with a lot of people in attendance. They did, it seems however, follow the תקנות of yesteryear not to have full כלי זמר,  only a drummer=פויקער. The wedding here took place last week in Yerushalayim. Velvel Soloveitchik ben Reb Dovid is married to Reb Berel Povarsky's daughter. His son now married the daughter of Reb Peretz Meyerson, son-in-law of Reb Refoel Soloveitchik, Reb Dovid's younger brother. Keeping it in the family, just like the Rebbes and leHavdil royalty. (At least until recently that's what royalty did.) So, I guess whoever didn't come for Reb Dovid came for Reb Berel.

My personal favorite: The מחותן: רבי נתנאל פרץ מאירזון חתן רבי רפאל סאלאווייטשיק. If I was a Brisker I'd likely look like him. Maybe I should become one.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Reader responds to a recent back-and-forth in Mishpacha

Image result for neo-hasid

Photo Source

[The following was received via e-mail. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of Circus Tent, Hirshel Tzig, their families or friends.]

Dear Mishpacha Magazine:

I followed the exchange between Rabbis Noach Shafran of Baltimore and Moshe Weinberger of Woodmere, [See articles here, and Here] with rapt interest. Clearly, two serious yidden are engaged in dialogue about the most important topics; how to properly serve הקב''ה. That is inspiring. Yet, I am very troubled about what R. Weinberger says, doesn't say, as well as the style and substance of some of his arguments and innuendos. It goes without saying, that Rabbi Weinberger’s sincerity is not doubted. His keen discerning of a thirst and a yearning among many - for something that is both something deep and meaningful - is laudable and commendable. His attempts at challenging those feelings towards something positive and challenging is a big zechus. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he agrees that working and toiling in learning is the ultimate accomplishment.Yet, that being said, Rabbi Weinberger makes a chulent from advocating learning Pnimiyus Hatorah to going to Lizhensk, experiencing hisbodedus and participating in farbrengens. It seems to me that there is a lack of appreciation for מבית מדרשו של הגר''א and what that represents in the discussion. It appears that according to Rabbi Weinberger, if one wants to experience depth and pniymiyus on a practical matter, one has to look elsewhere. Why doesn’t Rabbi Weinberger wax on about learning from the Gaon’s Cheder? Does that not constitute “pnimiyus hatorah?” Is that not all about, to paraphrase, getting a closer look and relationship with the Aibershter? If the writings of הגרי''א חבר ז''ל, that were studied by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, are not enough to inspire those who, I paraphrase, want to “shlug op their chavrusas”? Isn’t he aware, of the big lamdanim, who took part in the weekly transatlantic shiurim of Reb Moshe Shapiro, by invitation only?

 Moreover, Rabbi Weinberger points to the fact that people recently flock to certain kivrey tzadikim as proof to the legitimacy of his claims. Where was he michunach that he makes such arguments? At YU? Yet, with regards to going to kevarim, we all know how many times Reb Chaim Volozhiner went to the Gaon’s ohel to daven. But what does beseeching the Creator for השגת התורה have to do with hype and pomp? With all due respect, some people get this fuzzy feeling dancing around a fire that even influenced Skver to enact new customs after decades, so what? What if some of those people don’t get as inspired, in the same “ethereal” manner, by הויות דאביי ורבא? Of course, there is no mention of חכמת המוסר. Did we try to understand Reb Yeruchem? Do we know what he wanted, what he was driving at? Don’t get me wrong. I’m among the many whom also appreciate Piasecna. Undoubtedly, his ability to make Chassidus practical is appealing, as well as his gift at using exquisite meshalim. Perhaps, the Piasecner’s ability to fuse pniymiyus with practicality based on his mesorah, is what this is all about. 

I appreciate your printing my letter.

 The author can be contacted via Mishpacha.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

אז מ'האלט ביים באנקראטירן ליידיגט מען אויס דער תירוצים קאסע

קטע מדברי רבי אהרן טייטלבוים אב"ד סאטמאר קרית יואל ביום כ'סיון העעל"ט בענין דעת בעל ה"ויואל משה" בעניני ציונות וכיו"ב ולמה ההלכה כמותו

 ענטפערן פאר יעדען איינעם יא! דער רבי זכרונו לברכה איז געווען א יחיד בדורו, ער איז ניצל געווארען מציפרני  הרשעים מיט'ן צלם אלוקים על פניו, די דיקנא קדישא, דער נזר אלוקיו על ראשו, ס'איז שמן משחת קודש, פון הימל א ראי', סייעתא  דשמיא, לכל דבריו. קיינער האט צו דעם נישט זוכה געוועזן, יהי' מה שיהי', וה' עמו שהלכה כמותו בכל מקום נגד יהי' מי שיהי'. קיינער האט נישט זוכה געווען צו דעם, קיין שום צדיק, קיין שום גדול בעולם. , ס'זאל  זיין נכנס בשלום ויצא בשלום מיט'ן צלם אלוקים על ראשו. ממילא מ'דארף נישט כאפן קיין התפעלות 

נו, גיי דינג זיך, אפילו אויב ס'איז שוין יא אמת. די מדינה שטייט נאך גאנץ פעסט. די ישיבות זענען מלא על גדותיהם. אידישקייט וואקסט פון אלע זייטן. איז טא וואס זאל מען טוהן אז די גאנצע שיטה איז געבויט אויף דאס פארקערטע? איז דא קומט אריין די אמונה פשוטה וואס בכללות זענען די אנשי סאטמאר נישט חשוד אויף אזא סארט עבירה. למשל ביי סיפורי צדיקים אד"ג. בייגעלייגט איז א בילד פון "רבי'ן זכרונו לברכה" אין געטא קלויזענבורג מיט'ן דיקנא קדישא פארדעקט. אלץ קינד האב איך געהערט אז די פאטשיילע איז געווען צו ווייזן אז ער האט כאילו א צאן ווייטאג און מ'זאל אים נישט באדערן. און די רשעים האבען עס געגלייבט און בדרך נס האט קיינער אים נישט געבאדערט. די בילד איז פונעם ספר "שקיעת החמה" וועלכע איז ארויס אין תש"מ און געפינט זיך אינעם אוצר הספרים ביי אונז אין די משפחה

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

if only he'd wait a l-i-t-t-l-e longer....

 In the aftermath of another Belzer wedding production, and after all the praise of taking a chassidus decimated by the holocaust and the loss of the uncle the tzaddik haDor, when people thought that he wouldn't have a minyan the first Rosh Hashonoh of his Rebbisteve, and now look at all the thousands of chassidim...

.... Here's some food for thought: The Belzer Ruv has made one wrong political move after another. He fought the עדה החרדית till it came back to bite him and had to send 10 dayanim to ask mechillah in Kiryas Joel. The Villimsboorger Chassidim at the time of the break off started a fight, their main argument being that he is undermining a beis din that גאוני קדמאי established.  Even old the Pupa Ruv was dragged in to this mess. Now, when 50% of the eidah does not follow the Eidah zali party, and the Zali Rebbe completely ignores the ראב"ד רבי משה שטערנבוך, his people throw pashkevillen against him with the worst names and epithets,  and Rav Sternbuch isn't visiting him or his "payroll Rabbonim," It's not גאוני תקופאי anymore. They can be disregarded and ignored. I recall when the eidah came in 1978 (and 1988) to Williamsburg; what hype they created! Every Joe Shmoe was like in an elated mood! they celebrated non-stop! The whole eidah Rabbinate even came to Pupa to shalash seudos. Besides for Reb Moshe Arye. I think they said then there there were some issues still back from Hunyadi in the old country, involving their 2 fathers.  [the ויגד יעקב was Rov there first, followed by RMA's father...] But the Belzer should have waited until the eidah's prestige dissolves on its own.  He is like the בני אפרים, he chases the geulah prematurely. He wants prestige as a tzadik, like the Belzer Rebbes were considered universally in the past. He wants a legacy of a tzaddik, but that will, unfortunately for him, not happen.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Good old-fashioned Tolner-Chernobler Ahavas Yisroel


The Skverer Rebbe has a few words on Ahavas Yisroel from the holy Reb Duved'el Tolner. Some of you may be surprised by this (by the Skverrer repeating it) in light of recent happenings in Skver to the contrary, but here it is, black on white. Read them and see what Chassidus was trying to accomplish.

Which reminds me: This Yom Tov I encountered a Rebbishe kind who lately feels sick of the hate machine of a certain Hungarian/Rumanian chassidus, and for example their general gatherings and 70th year celebrations of their leader.... He learned in their Cheder and was bullied for being a Rebbishe einikel from a different "hoyf," which shall for now remain nameless. They used to harass him by lunch break, like, "say with your mouth that Chaim Kanievsky is s zionist and will go to gehenom." Or say "Chaim Meir Viznitzer is a Tziyoni." I explained to him that these kids are good boys, it's only one person's fault, and it's all in his books....  He did not chap the reason of saying nishtakcho is because of the ahavas Yisroel of chassidic seforim. I had to show him inside and how all this hate was manufactured.