Thursday, April 27, 2017

Drawing the Wrong Conclusions

Yeshiva University class of 2012
I was pointed in the direction of a Pew Research study that concluded the following: If you are Jewish - the more educated you are the less religious you are.

This may shock some people. But it doesn’t shock me at all. Pew defined education in terms of whether one attended college or not. If there is any place that tends to focus on empirical explanations of phenomena while ignoring or completely rejecting spiritual explanations - it is academia. I say this not as someone that rejects a college education but as someone that is a college graduate and supports it.

As a religious Jew how - one may ask - do I reconcile my support for a college education with the fact that it might weaken religious belief? For me the answer is rather simple. If one has a good Jewish education having attended a Yeshiva for all of elementary and high school, one becomes grounded their religious beliefs. 

One can then withstand the suggestion that the only things that matter in the world are things which are physical. Which can easily result in the kind of thinking that says if you can’t experience it with at least one of the five physical senses, then it doesn’t exist. Thus belief in a Spiritual Being (God) is a non starter.

But a good Jewish education will teach you that there is a spiritual side to reality that cannot be detected with our given biological senses. Once we understand that - we can easily deal with an education that tries to counter it the way academia does. We can then proceed to study the physical world without having to give up our beliefs. Instead remaining firm in them. 

Jews much smarter than I have remained devout despite getting advanced degrees. Just to name 2 of the more prominent ones, the Rav, and Rav Lichtenstein. 

There are, however, some very bright Jews that have had excellent Jewish educations and have nonetheless become skeptics and atheists after being exposed to the disciplines and biases of academia. The reasons for that are not all that clear to me – and outside the scope of this post. I do believe, however, that the vast majority of those of us that have a good Yeshiva education have remained religious despite the pressures of academia. Yeshiva University is a prime example of that.

Unfortunately, however, those without the underpinnings of a good Jewish education can easily succumb to the lure of seeing the world only in terms of the physical.

So what’s the story? Are only stupid uneducated Jews religious? Are the smart ones that have a college education the ones that abandon their beliefs? That might be the conclusion drawn by this study. But that would be far from the truth.

Greater religiosity is unrelated to their intelligence level. The fact is that many non college educated Jews  are quite brilliant. They do not attend college because they do not value a secular education.  I strongly disagree with them. But that does not make them stupid.  They avoid college because they have been indoctrinated against it. The reason for that kind of indoctrination is - in part - because of what this study shows – corroborating the fear that going to college endangers one’s faith.

There are some pretty brilliant Jews in Lakewood that have not - and will not attend college. But most of them would do very well there and would not be swayed against their beliefs.

So how do we arrive at such a reverse correlation between educated Jews and religion? I think it may be because Pew defined ‘educated’ only in terms of attending college – implying that without it, one remains ignorant and thus more dependent on religion to explain things.

Fortunately there are large numbers of religious Jews with strong Yeshiva backgrounds that have - and do attend college. Virtually all of MO does and an increasing number of Charedi Jews do. If Pew were to take a poll of college educated students with strong Yeshiva educations - my guess is that the results would be entirely different. I believe that the vast majority of them would be as strong in their beliefs and practices as they were before they attended.

Curiously, the study showed that Christian religiosity tends to be unaffected by college. That would seem to lend credence to my thoughts about college negating ones religiosity. It doesn’t.

Why do Christians fare better than Jews in this regard?  I can only guess at the answer. But I don’t think it’s is because they are less intelligent or more ignorant. If I had to guess, I would say that it is because it’s easier to be a religious Christian than it is to be a religious Jew. It is also because America is a Christian country. 71% of the population identify as Christians.  Christians also tend to compartmentalize. They see religion as going to church on Sundays. They otherwise don’t really think about it that much (except for Evangelicals).  So that in a poll, it would be a lot easier for a Christian to say they are religious than it would be for a Jew.

When looked at in the light of all this, then in my view the Pew study cannot be taken as indicative of how a college education affects the Jewish people. At least not for those Jews that have been sufficiently educated about their religion.

Hat  tip: Jerry Gottheil

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Withdrawn Post and an Apology

My conscience has been bothering me all day about today's post. I have therefore deleted it. No matter how justified I may have felt in writing it, I should not have done so. It wasn't appropriate. It was not sourced in my usual search for Emes. It was instead a vengeful act. I didn't see that at first. Now I do and regret publishing it.

I am only human. I make mistakes. This was one of them. I apologize to anyone that may have been hurt or offended  by it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Tale of Two Issues

Agudah Spokesman, Rabbi Avi Shafran
I find it quite amusing (and unfair) when Agudah spokesman Rabbi Avi Shafran is constantly bashed for simply expressing his opinion. There is almost a sense of glee on the part of some of his antagonists when he errs. Which to his credit, I find relatively rare. 

I can already hear the skeptics guffawing at that. But I am certainly not one of them. Not that I always agree with him. I don’t. But most of the time I do.  Unfortunately this is not one of those times.

In a recent oped for the Forward, Rabbi Shafran spoke to 2 issues that I have dealt with more than once. One of them is the current practice in Charedi circles of erasing women from the public eye. This most frequently happens in Charedi publications like Mishpacha and Hamodia. They have a policy of never publishing any pictures of women.

This is a phenomenon that is relatively new in the non Chasidic world. In the not too distant past this practice was almost exclusively a Chasidic one. The Non Chasidic Charedi world published pictures of women all the time. No less a Charedi figure than Rav Moshe Feinstein (the Posek Hador according to most non Chasidic Charedim)  had been photographed together with his wife. That picture was published to what I am pretty sure was no objection by Rav Moshe. In fact, Rabbi Shafran’s own Agudah never refrained from publishing pictures of women when the occasion called for it in its now defunct publication, the Jewish Observer.

Here is what Rabbi Shafran says about that:
Many haredi publications, in the interest of the Jewish idea of modesty, have always refrained from including photos of women; that’s no new or ominous development. Ms. Jaskoll is welcome to find the position extreme, and I would tend to agree.
But then he says the following:
But we differ in that I don’t disparage people for making choices I wouldn’t make. The word for that is “intolerance.”
This is where we part company. While I agree that there is a certain degree of intolerance in some cases, the complaint about it is not only from them. It is even from many in the Charedi mainstream. What seems to be happening is that otherwise moderate Charedi publishers – in an effort to be inclusive are accommodating those to their right (primarily the Chasidic world) in order to broaden their base. That means increased revenue. There is nothing wrong with trying to broaden your base by tying to accommodate their views of what is and isn’t modest. But there is significant collateral damage in doing so that is being ignored.

Just last Shabbos I had occasion to pick up an otherwise marvelous book (Don’t recall the name.) It featured illustrations by artist Gadi Pollack. On each page there was an illustration and questions about the illustration. To answer those questions, the reader had to find clues in the illustration. It was a real brain teaser. But I was disappointed at the illustrations. There was not a single woman in any of them. Even the ones where there should have been. Like sitting at a Shabbos table eating a meal with the family. The father and children were there. But no mother!

What kind of family value is being suggested by a picture like this? Are families not supposed to have their wives/mothers sitting with them on Shabbos? I know of no family – not even Chasdidc ones that makes their women sit at another table. Although in some Chasidic circles in pre Holocaust Europe this did happen!

If a book like this has becomes mainstream, we are all in trouble. 

I’m glad that Rabbi Shafran considers this extreme. But I am disappointed that he does not see the damage such pictures do to the minds of innocent young children. They are now learning an entirely different set of values with respect to modesty than those of their parents or their wider community.

Now I too am opposed to disparaging the Chasidim that have this standard. But in my view when the rest of the Charedi world follows suit, that is ominous and deserves the ciritcsim it has gotten. 

And then Rabbi Shafran makes the following observation about an incident that I dealt with a while back: 
As to the ugly incidents, Ms. Jaskoll relates that a “young girl was caught in the middle of an anti-draft protest” in Jerusalem and was kicked, first by a child and then, when she grabbed the boy, by demonstrators. The “young girl,” readily available video shows, was an adult woman; and her presence in the middle of a large protest is unexplained and suspicious. Do those facts justify her treatment? Of course not. But also unjustified is mischaracterizing her age and presence. 
Again I have to take issue not only with his conclusion that her presence at that protest was suspicious. There is no indication of that published anywhere. Is it curious that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Sure. But it happens to all of us. The protest did not take place in an isolated part of town. It took place in a place where a lot of people are found.

I also have to wonder why he questions the veracity of a person commenting about events in her town - which is thousands of miles away from his own? Just because it was not reported in the media, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

What he was trying to say, I suppose is that we shouldn’t paint the Charedi world with such broad brush strokes. I agree. I have been accused of that myself. And I completely reject that I do. But there are certain segments of Orthodoxy that do paint with big brush strokes about the Charedi community. He’s right about that and it ought to stop.

The bottom line for me (and I’ve said this before) is that it’s true that the actions that we all abhor are being done by extremists. It is also true that mainstream Charedim reject that behavior and even condemn it. But is equally true that the rhetoric one hears from some of the Israeli leadership is extreme and is used as justification by extremists who feel that their actions are in service to those ideals.

All this is not new. I’ve said it before.

So even though I have a great deal of respect for Rabbi Shafran and truly believe that he does not deserve the thrashing he often gets form his detractors - on these issues, I think he kind of missed the boat. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

MbP and Herpes - Alive and Well

Circumcision - tools of the trade (JTA)
Jewish newborns are still at risk for an entirely preventable health problem in the form of MbP (Metzitza B’Peh or Metzitza b’Feh if you prefer the more grammatically correct term). Little has changed. The Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (the common cold sore) is alive and well and still available to seriously affect the health of your child.

In case anyone has forgotten, Metzitza B’Peh is the ritual performed immediately after a newborn male baby is circumcised – usually 8 days after his birth. The purpose for this procedure - which involves drawing blood out of the circumcision wound - is explained in the Gemara as a Halachicly required health procedure. The method used to do that has for centuries been via direct mouth to wound oral suction by a Mohel.

The problem with the herpes virus is that a Mohel can be infected without being symptomatic in the early stages. So that unaware he places his herpes infected  mouth directly on a baby’s open circumcision wound easily leaving it open to infection.

As I’ve noted in the past many times, the Gemarah does not mention how to draw out the blood (Metziza). It just tells us to do so. Doing it B’Peh (by mouth) developed post Gemarah. And for centuries was considered the most efficient way to fulfill the Metzitza requirement. Until the discovery of micro organisms that can negatively affect the baby’s health.

Mohalim that do MbP are aware of the problem and still do it, claiming that they rinse out their mouth with antiseptic and the transfer of herpes to a baby via MbP is extremely rare and unproven in any case.

Unproven and rare though it may be, many Poskim – even as early as the 19th century have ruled that one may fulfill the Gemarah’s Metzitza requirement by using a sterile pipette that avoids direct contact, or a piece of gauze.

The problem is that most Chasidim believe that one MUST use the mouth. And as the Chumra chaisng world turns these days many non Chasidim prefer it be done that way, too. Most Mohalim will accommodate the parents. Some Mohalim will not do it any other way!

So what’s the problem? Well, disinfectants do not do the job. A herpes virus can withstand those disinfectants and cause the baby serious health problems and even death.

This came to a head a few years ago when there were a couple infant deaths via herpes contracted around the time of the circumcision.  Although there was never any direct proof that MbP was the cause - the circumstantial evidence was pretty strong.

In an attempt to protect the health of infants that undergo circumcision, New York City’s health department – backed by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg mandated a consent requirement. Parents that wanted a Mohel to do MbP had to sign a form stating that they understood the dangers of their newborn being infected and still wanted to do.  

A battle royal ensued. Chasidim felt they were being denied their religious freedom. They were backed by Agudah who joined them in fighting this new rule.

I supported consent requirement. I did not feel it violated the religious rights since it did not ban the procedure itself. Knowledge is power.

There were those that felt this requirement did not go far enough since the risk of a herpes infection still existed.

I understand that. But as long as a parent is informed and the risk is relatively low I felt that informed consent was the best compromise. The Chasidic community and Agudah didn’t like it, though. They felt it was an undue infringement of their religious rights. Adding that a consent form unfairly stigmatized MbP - and opened up a slippery slope to banning circumcision altoghter.

Shortly after that New York elected a new mayor, Bill de Blasio. He had  promised Chasidic voters he would revisit this issue if he was elected. He kept his promise. In a deal reached with Chasidic leaders and Agudah, de Blasio canceled the consent requirement. Instead it was agreed by all parties that the public be made aware of the problems with MbP and that Mohalim would be carefully monitored. If found to have infected a baby with herpes by doing it, they would be banned for life.

I am not happy with that compromise. But I guess it’s better than nothing. I am not happy because despite the claims made by supporters of MbP that there is no direct DNA type biomedical proof that any Mohel ever infected a baby with herpes via MbP - there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that they did. 

The argument that there is no direct biomedical connection yet established sounds like the old argument made about cigarette smoking and lung cancer. The evidence was only statistical. In fact I believe the direct cause is still not known. Is there anyone that would make the same argument about smoking they are making about MbP?!

It isn’t only about a baby dying - a distinct but rare possibility. It is about causing permanent damage to a baby that survives the infection. Here is how Rav Hershel Shachter feels about it (From a 2013 Forward article): 
In a public lecture last February in London, Schachter, who is a rosh yeshiva, or senior chief rabbinic authority, at Y.U.’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, claimed that his daughter’s hospital treated three cases per year of Hasidic babies infected with herpes. The infections were “obviously because of metzitzah b’peh,” Schachter told his audience. 
4 babies per year seen in just one hospital in one city! If I were a parent with a newborn baby boy, I would demand that MbP NOT be used. Sure, the chances are low. But not low enough for me. Especially when we can have a 100% guarantee that a Mohel will not affect a baby by MbP by not doing it at all – instead using one of the sterile methods described above.

He added that his daughter said these cases are under reported by her hospital because their Chasidic clients would not return if they were made public!

The reality is that babies are still contracting herpes from infected Mohalim that do MbP. The people that prefer it for religious reasons are unmoved by any warning issued by their community or their Mohel – even assuming they get one. They want the ‘Frummest’ circumcision they can get.  And that means that MbP is a foregone conclusion and not negotiable. Besides - they’ve seen it used so often without consequence that it simply does not enter their minds that there is any danger.

But what if it does happen? Is the Mohel going to be banned as agreed upon by Chasidic leaders and Agudah? Not so much, I guess. From a JTA article
The New York City Health Department said it cannot complete an investigation into who infected four infants with herpes through a circumcision rite because the boys’ fervently Orthodox families will not identify the mohels. 
“Unfortunately, some in the community are resistant to sharing the name of the mohels,” Health Department spokesman Christopher Miller told DNA info New York on Tuesday. “This is a very insular community.” 
According to DNAinfo, six families in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have seen children contract herpes since 2015 from metzitzah b’peh, which involves the ritual circumciser, or mohel, cleaning the circumcision wound by oral suction. Among the six families, only two have provided the names of their mohels, Miller said. 
In March, the city ordered those two mohels to stop performing metzitzah b’peh. 
How sad that babies in any number are subject to such preventable risks. How sad for their parents who now suffer the consequences of having been needlessly convinced that MbP is the best way to fulfill Halacha. Because I am convinced that it is a terrible way to fulfill the Mitzvah of Pikuach Nefesh.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The ‘Gold’ Standard, Eytan Kobre, and Me

Eytan Kobre
No, I don’t have a split personality. Nonetheless one might be tempted to think that by reading this post after reading Rabbi Shalom Gold’s open letter last Thursday.

First let me say that I largely agree with Rabbi Gold’s critique of Eytan Kobre (and to a lesser extent Mishpacha Magazine). Rabbi Gold expressed unmitigated outrage at Eytan’s perspective on Israel. Quoting many passages from the Torah, Chazal, Rishonim and Achronim he set out to prove that Eytan’s dismissal of the importance of the land of Israel as defining of our national character (that only the Torah does) - was far from the truth. The fact is that the Torah is exactly that instrument that tells us of the importance of the land, thus making Eytan’s claim somewhat curious to say the least.

That said - I found Rabbi Gold’s attack to be quite the over-reaction - although I understand why. For example I do not think that Eytan’s words were a smorgasbord of nonsense, apostasy, or blasphemy. If you believe in the Torah, you believe that what it tells us is important. Eytan knows importance attached to Israel by the Torah. He was trying to express (rather badly in my view) the Charedi criticism of religious Zionism. Primarily its obsession with the land. That is not the sum and substance of the Torah. And yet if one pays any attention to the content of most religious Zionist rhetoric, it is about making Aliyah and little else.

The right sees that as only one of the 613 Mitzvos and not to be focused upon almost exclusively as do religious Zionists. More significantly the right also sees the State of Israel as the antithesis of the messianic redemption because of its secular founders who they view as anti religious.

Religious Zionists, on the other hand, see the creation of the State as the first flowering of the redemption.

Eytan’s anecdote about a Russian Jew’s desire to move to Israel and ultimately doing so - being the work of Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) was in extremely poor taste!

All of this explains why Rabbi Gold, a strong religious Zionist, was so upset. I don’t blame him at all.

I do not see the State of Israel the way either of them do. I do not believe it is the first flowering of our redemption, despite the occurrence of many miracles enabling the Jewish people to regain sovereignty over it for the first time in 2000 years. And even despite the return of Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Temple mount! (Which also involved miracles.) There are just too many things countering that notion.

But I do value the creation of the state as one of the most important and positive developments of the 20th century. I look at all the achievements the state has accomplished with pride, whether it be in Torah study, agriculture, high tech, medicine, science, military prowess, and many other fields. I give credit to the Theodore Herzl and the secular Zionist founders for making it all happen. They were the instruments God chose to accomplish it.

Why He chose secular Jews over religious ones is a question only He can answer! But it is a fact that no one can deny. A fact that has benefited the Charedi world as much as anyone. The sheer numbers of people studying Torah L’shma (for its own sake) in the State of Israel is unprecedented! But as Rabbi Gold pointed out in very strong terms, Torah study is not what the land of Israel is about.

Yesterday I was told a story by someone that studied in Yeshivas Chaim Berlin. It demonstrates how Rav Yitzchok Hutner felt about it.

Right after Rav Aharon Lichtenstein made Aliyah (and before he became Rosh Yeshiva of Gush Etzion) he came back to the US and visited his Rebbe, Rav Hutner. Rav Hutner asked him how he liked Eretz Yisroel. Rav Lichtenstein proceeded to answer that it was wonderful… that there were so many Yeshivos and so many people learning Torah. 

Rav Hutner did not like that answer. He started rebuking at his prize student! He told him in so many words that Israel is not about Torah study. It’s about the land itself. To walk the streets of Israel and behold the land is a merit he now has that even Moshe Rabbenu didn’t - even though he yearned to do so. 

Sounds more like Rabbi Gold than Eytan.

And yet, I appreciate Eytan’s perspective as an Orthodox Jew living in America. Something we have in common. It was in response to an earlier column by Jonathan Rosenblum who noted that  America had changed since he lived here and had become far more polarized politically than Israel. 

I recall being amused by that comment considering that Israel is one of the most polarized places in the world. Is there any real doubt about extremes that exist in both the Charedi camp and religious Zionist camp in Israel? Their American counterparts are nowhere near as extreme. Here, most members of each are pretty moderate - despite having ideologies that are pretty divergent with respect to Israel (and other religious issues).

Eytan tells us that he doesn’t feel guilty about not making Aliyah – citing his Gedolim ‘who direct Jews to live wherever it’s best for them…’ As someone that lives in America, I can certainly appreciate that perspective. But at the same time I realize that as a Jew, living in Israel is an ideal I can’t fulfill. I have just grown too comfortable here. And would find making Aliyah a tremendous hardship for a variety of reasons that I will not get into here.

On a totally unrelated matter, I have to give credit to Eytan for his comments about the OU’s new President Rabbi Moshe Bane. Specifically the following: 
As a past national lay chairman of NCSY, he witnessed the “excitement, creativity and dynamic Torah-oriented programming” it invested in its outreach programs for Jewish teens, and expresses the belief that “if Judaism were as inspiring to us as it is to those NCSY students, we would find the time to focus on religious growth.”  
A few weeks ago, I noted Rabbi Henoch Plotnik’s column in Mishpacha where he made the following observation: 
Way too many of our young men and women have been forthcoming enough to admit that they are truly not “feeling it,” but simply “doing it.” 
Wouldn’t an NCSY type program for Charedi youth be a way to turn much of that apathy into ‘excitement and creativity’?  

Friday, April 21, 2017

When Violating Halacha is Required

The Kushners on Sukkos
First things first. Ivanka Trump is Jewish. There should be no question about her status as a Jew. She was converted by a rabbinic court which – if I understand correctly - had Rav Hershel Shachter’s imprimatur and has been officially accepted publicly by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. 

Some people have questioned whether her conversion was sincere since she has been seen and even photographed wearing clothing that would not be considered modest by any Orthodox Jewish standard. But even leaving aside issues of Halachic modesty and the various interpretations as to what is and isn’t considered modest clothing according to Halacha, there is the far more serious charge of violating Shabbos. Which she has been seen doing ever since her father, Donald Trump was elected President.

The Gemarah tells us that if someone goes through the procedure of conversion –  which at the moment of their conversion requires acceptance of all Mitzvos (even if they don't know what they all are),  immersion in a Kosher Mikva, and for a man a cricumcision - then even if  they immediately proceed to purposely violate Halacha, they are still considered to be a Jew albeit a ‘sinning Jew’. This is an undisputed Gemarah.

That said, 20th century Gadol (and to many the Posek Hador of his time), Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that in our (his) day when there are so many sham conversions with questionable religious courts and where sponsoring rabbis knew the convert would not be observant - converting only for purposes of marriage… then one can judge a person’s sincerity by how they behave Halachicly immediately after the conversion.

For example if a woman is converted before her marriage to a Jew and then she and he fiancé celebrate the conversion by going to McDonalds and eating cheeseburgers, there could be ‘no greater proof’ than that, says R’ Moshe, that the conversion was not sincere, a sham,  and therefore invalid. I never fully understood how R’ Moshe’s ruling squares with the above-mentioned Gemarah. But in Inavka’s case it doesn’t matter since the conversion was done by a trustworthy court; with a world class Posek in Rav Hershel Shachter participating.

So the question is not whether she is Jewish but whether she – or even her husband, Jared, is considered Orthodox. How can they be, one may ask? Now that they are so much in the public eye, they have both been observed and photographed violating Shabbos, the sine qua non of Orthodox Judaism.

Is it possible under any circumstance to consider them Orthodox? What about the Shabbos violations? Doesn’t that automatically disqualify them from being observant since in our day? 

The answer is not so simple. There are circumstances where violating Shabbos is not only permitted, but required. Famously one of those circumstances is Pikuach Nefesh – saving someone’s life. If Shabbos must be violated in order to do so, one MUST violate it. A less famous but equally legitimate form of dispensation for violating Shabbos is something called ‘Karuv L’Malchus’ – being ‘close to the king’. In such circumstance such closeness can strongly influence the kings decisions in matters that affect the Jewish people under his control. The Gemarah discusses such scenarios and history has had instances where this dispensation has been applied.

Ben Rothke has written a very thoughtful piece on this very subject on Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer’s blog YGB.  

I am certainly not an expert on the subject. In fact I know next to nothing about the parameters of such dispensations. The problem is that there are few if any people today that do, it seems. Nor has there been much (if any) responsa on the subject of who and what would qualify for it today.

It can certainly be argued that no one is closer to the American President (king) than Ivanka and Jared Kushner. If that law were applied to anyone - they would be the ones. They are not only ‘close’ to the ‘king’ - Ivanka is his daughter and Jared his son in law. According to many observers, they are the President’s closest advisers.

But is the President the same as a king? A king surely has more power than a President. How ‘close’ to power must one be? And how powerful must that ‘power’ be in order to get that dispensation? Halachic dispensation granted via being Karuv L’Malchus may not be applicable to a President since he cannot order executions of individuals the way a king can. 

On the other hand a President can surely affect the well being of the Jewish people to the point of Pikuach Nefesh. Does that fact meet the parameters required for the application of this dispensation? 

Those that defend the Kushners’ violation of Shabbos have claimed that they had rabbinic dispensation for it. To the best of my knowledge no Orthodox rabbi has come forward and acknowledged that it was he that gave them the dispensation. But if one rabbi did, how far did it go? And was it really in accordance with Halahca? 

For example the Kushners were seen riding in a car on Shabbos (Friday night) on the way to one of the inaugural balls.  Does that qualify for dispensation of Shabbos observance? It can  be argued that riding in  a car on Shabbos when a non Jew is driving is not technically a violation of Shabbos – if someone opens and closes the door for you. Which is almost certainly the case with Jared and Invanka.

But even if that were a technical violation in the circumstances of an inaugural ball, it could be argued that not attending would have adverse consequences on the influence they might have on the President which could affect his decisions on matters vital to the Jewish people.

As Ben points out, there is little or no precedent on how a Posek should rule in this instance.

I recommend reading Ben’s excellent review of those issues. I also recommend that Jared and Ivanka not be judged based on what many perceive are blatant violations of Halacha. Because they may actually not be in violation of it but rather in compliance of it based on their particular situation of being Karuv L’Malchus.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

An Open Letter to Eytan Kobre and Mishpacha Magazine

Guest Contribution by Rabbi Sholom Gold - Ish Yerushalayim

Tomatoes grown in Israel 
Rabbi Sholom Gold, a renowned Religious Zionist Rabbi who lives in Israel, has asked that I publish his rather strong response to Eytan Kobre. Eytan had written a column in Mispahcha Magazine (issue 653) about what he believed is the Torah Hashkafa about what is truly important about Israel – and what is not. Rabbi Gold's response is a bit longer than my usual posts but well worth reading. As always the views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my own. His words follow.

Re: Issue 653, 24 Adar 5777, pages 32-33 Kobre writes that: 
“Nothing other than our possession of the Torah plays any role in our national character, nothing whatsoever. Not a common land, language and culture.”
Eytan Kobre’s article is a smorgasbord of nonsense, apostasy, blasphemy and a rejection of the very essence of all of Torah. The tragedy is that he believes that he is expressing the true, authentic, genuine Torah hashkafa, certainly approved by “Gedolei Yisrael.” The greater catastrophe is that thousands of innocent Jews read it and blindly and naively accept it. The damage done to their souls and minds is enormous. 

Let’s take a closer look at what he writes and study four words: “not a common land.” A common land, he says, does not play a role in our national character. He must be talking about Eretz Yisrael. Does he mean that the only land in the world where all mitzvahs (613) apply; the only land in which it is a mitzvah to live (to the absolute exclusion of all others); the land about which Torah says “that the eyes of Hashem are on her from the beginning of the year to the end of the year? Does he mean the land to which Hashem commanded Avraham Avinu to journey and there make him blessed and a great nation, a source of blessing to all the nations of the world? 

Does Kobre mean the land that Moshe Rabbeinu prayed for permission to enter, the one that G-d swore to Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yaakov to give to their children, to which He promised to bring His people back at the end of their long exile? Is it not the land about which it says “there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael”? Does Kobre really believe that “a common land” plays no role in our national character? 

When I was rabbi at the Young Israel of West Hempstead I had a neighbor on the block, a baal teshuva. We became good friends. A few years after moving to West Hempstead he told me that he was going on aliyah. He told me “Rabbi, I have been listening to the Torah reading every Shabbos for five years and the whole Torah is about Eretz Yisrael. I’m going.” 

The ability to read Torah and see the truth is something that Kobre has taught me cannot be taken for granted. My baal teshuva friend got it. Kobre just doesn’t get it. 

I find it very difficult to believe that Eytan has forgotten the hundreds of pesukim in Torah that are devoted to “the land.” Of the many I choose the pasuk that is often said in davening in Selichot and appears in the Parshat Hateshuva. 
Then Hashem, your G-d, will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which Hashem, your G-d has scattered you. 4If your dispersed will be at the end of heaven, from there Hashem, your G-d will gather you in and from there He will take you. 5Hashem your G-d will bring you to the Land that your forefathers possessed and you shall possess it; He will do good to you and make you more numerous than your forefathers. (Devarim 30:3–5 3)
I have asked many people to explain the three words “מאבתך והרבך והיטבך – He will do good to you and make you more numerous than your forefathers.” For some strange reason they couldn’t say anything that made sense. 

Historians estimate that the Jewish population of Eretz Yisrael during the Second Temple period peaked at 2,350,000. The rest of the Jewish people, numbering around 7,000,000 were in Bavel and Asia Minor. Modern Eretz Yisrael achieved that number 2,350,000 before the Six Day War and has been rising ever since. There are now 6,500,000 Jews here, kein yirbu. 

I am fond of quoting an article that appeared in the Jerusalem Post in 1990. The author predicted that by the end of the century a man, woman or child will step on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport and a dramatic milestone in Jewish history will have been reached. At that moment the Jewish community of Eretz Yisrael will become the largest Jewish community in the world. The last time Eretz Yisrael held that distinction was during the period of the First Beit Hamikdash!! I usually admit to my audience that I am not so brilliant that I remember an article from 1990 – it’s just that I wrote it. מאבתך והרבך והיטבך the three-word promise of Hashem has been fulfilled. 

How can Etyan say that the land does not impact on the character of the people when Rashi says on the pasuk in the second parshah of Shema “You should place these words of mine on your heart”? Even after you will go into exile be distinguished through the performance of commandments such as putting on tefillin, making mezuzot, so that they should not be new to you when you will return (Devarim 11:18). 

The Ramban (Vayikra 18:25) quotes the pasuk from Devarim and explains “that they should not be new to you when you return” and adds “because the essence of all mitzvot is for those who live in the land of Hashem, therefore the Sifrei says, “Yeshivas Eretz Yisrael shkula kchol hamitzvot – the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael is equal to all the mitzvot.” Study that Ramban well. 

I assume that by now it is unnecessary to quote all the pesukim in Tanach about kibbutz galiyot. 

Further Kobre writes “not ranking on some non-Jews’ list as the world’s eighth strongest power.” That too is as unimportant as “a common land” in Kobrespeak. 

Kobre doesn’t begin to understand the awesome religious meaning of that fact. That list of eight includes China, Japan and India. What Israel achieved in 69 years or less took them thousands of years. Germany and Russia needed about five hundred years, and America about a hundred and fifty. That’s not all. Israel is the smallest country of them all with the smallest population and has nowhere near the natural resources of the other seven. 

Furthermore Israel made it while being in a constant state of war, surrounded on all sides by sworn enemies. Jews had no military experience for 1900 years. According to Janes, Israel’s air force is the best in the world. I don’t have the words with which to describe the incredible nature of that accomplishment. 

A thinking Jew has to ask himself, “Well, how did it happen?” The answer is simple yet profound. For 69 years the Ribbono Shel Olom has been fulfilling his promise, a promise we say so many times. We sing it (I love Carlebach – I cry when I sing it) Hashem oz l’amo yitten. He is working 24/7 to make us a mighty nation. He has done it. He wants the world to see His people in His land as a strong, mighty and powerful nation. The past 69 years have been a constant, incessant, outpouring of Hashem’s strength to His people. The power of the Israeli army should be a religious inspiration to every Jew. A clear manifestation of His presence in our midst in Eretz Yisrael. 

Kobre doesn’t get it. I would have him write one thousand times, “Hashem oz l’amo yitten” until it begins to penetrate his neshama. 

I also object to his obvious snide remark about “a non-Jews’ list.” First, that’s Hashem’s whole purpose, that non-Jews should see us as strong people, which is a Torah value. (See the great Meshech Chochma in Parshat Chukas 21:2. It’s an eye opener.) 

Has Kobre forgotten the pesukim in Hallel: 
הללו את ה' כל גוים שבחוהו כל האמים כי גבר עלינו הסדו ואמת ה' לעולם הללו יה. 
Praise Hashem, all nations; praise Him, all the states. For His kindness has overwhelmed us, and the truth of Hashem is eternal. Halleluyah. 
Kobre becomes all good hearted when he writes, 
“Of course we should hope and pray that Israel’s economy thrives and feel great when it does – and then the Reason (get the capital “R”) for it, too.” 
Kobre reduces the thriving Eretz Yisrael to “parnassah for Jews.” He’s far off the mark. He has missed the magnificent and majestic prophetic process playing itself out in real life so carefully orchestrated by “the One who foretells the generations from the very beginning.” 

Two years ago I had written a response to an abusive letter to me by a recognized spokesman for the “religious” world. I had said in a shiur, “If you want to speak to the Ribbono Shel Olam go to the Kotel, but if you want to see Him, go to Shuk Machane Yehudah.” The following is from that letter which I had asked my son-in-law Yehuda Goldreich to put on the web. That day it was reported that three yeshiva students had been kidnapped. Immediately I contacted Yehudah and told him not to publish the letter because then was the time for unity and prayer not debate. Here it is now. 

* * * * * 
The Tomatoes 

Rabbi, you write: 
"It should likewise be pointed out Rabbi Gold's exaggerated words, upon being inspired by the abundance of produce found in the Machane Yehudah market: 'If this is golus then I can't begin to imagine what geulah is.' An abundance of fruits and vegetables is indeed a blessing; however, the final redemption will be exalted and spiritual, with material abundance being a mere by-product. Until then, it would be wise to seek and find Divinity in the world of Torah, whose growth and develop[ment] is infinitely more astounding than that of the tomatoes and cucumbers in the market." 
I must introduce my remarks with a thought, a story, and my deep feelings. 

The Thought – After the League of Nations in 1922 voted that Eretz Yisrael should be a homeland for the Jewish people, Reb Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk, The Ohr Sameach, wrote a letter encouraging Jews to participate in the building of Eretz Yisrael and that the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael is in full force. 

At the beginning of his letter he writes that in the desert Jews committed two sins, the sin of the egel (the golden calf) and the sin of the meraglim (the spies). The former was an assault on G-d Himself, the latter was a blow to Eretz Yisrael. On His own honor He was mochel but He was not forgiving for the disgracing of Eretz Yisrael, therefore He said that because of the sin of the meraglim the entire generation shall all die in the desert. 

Rabbi – you unjustly attacked me a number of times in your letter. I can handle that – but when you trivialized the tomatoes of Eretz Yisrael, you just went too far. For that sin I'm not mochel. 

I heard the following story in the 1950s. A chosid had come from Chutz L'Aretz to visit the Belzer Rebbeh and brought a tray of fruit. When he presented his gift to the Rebbeh he refused to touch them and said to the poor chosid – "Ask forgiveness from the fruit of Eretz Yisrael that you shamed." 

Rabbi – you have shamed me. I can be forgiving. You denigrated the tomatoes of Eretz Yisrael – for that I am not mochel. Since you refer to my agvaniyot as "material abundance" it is obvious that you don't have a clue to what the produce of Eretz Yisrael means. The Bach says that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, enters the Jew through the produce of Eretz Yisrael. They are the conduit to bring sanctity. That's "material"?? (See Tur, Orach Chaim, Siman 208). 

Rav Kook writes that "The produce of Eretz Yisrael brings 'internal sanctity.'" Be careful, he warns, of food from out of Eretz Yisrael. If one longs for Eretz Yisrael, then even his golus-produce gains in sanctity. "It is a mitzvah to taste with one's full mouth the delight and sweetness of the brilliant and fresh sanctity of (the fruit) of Eretz Yisrael. I could go on and on. The tomatoes are spirituality, ruchniyut, not gashmiyut. 

But there's much, much more. My tomato talks to me and tells me a tale of such drama and pathos. 

I'll tell you what my agvaniyah says to me. Rabbi Ploni, from here on I hand over the letter to my tomato. 

My tomato to Rabbi Ploni: 

"After the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdosh a message came from Heaven to all the flora and fauna of Eretz Yisrael to stop growing. The word went from cedar to hyssop, to vine, to olive, to flowers, to grain, to all plant life – The Ribbono Shel Olom has decreed that we stop growing until we receive new instructions. We were told that only when Klal Yisrael begins to return from golus will we come back to life. We were all very sad to see our people going off into exile – but we heeded the 'Dvar Hashem.' 

As He said in Bechukotai – 'And I will make the land desolate.' We were told not to respond to enemies of Israel who will enter the land, and we obeyed – Romans, Byzantines, Moslems, Crusaders, Tartars, Saracens, they all came and we did not respond to their attempts to bring us to life. We were told that we would be informed in good time before Klal Yisrael begins to return so that we could wake up from our long slumber. 

"Rabbi Ploni, don't you know the Gemorah in Sanhedrin 98?: 
ואמר רבי אבא - And R' Abba said אין לך קץ מגולה מזה -  There is no clearer indication of the "End" than this, שנאמר – as it is stated: ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל בי ...לבא קרבו – But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel, etc. [when they are about to come].
"Rashi comments that when Eretz Yisrael gives out its produce in abundance that is the greatest sign that 'the end – the keitz' is coming. "

Cecil Roth wrote that the years after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdosh there was severe drought in Eretz Yisrael – you know why? Because, in keeping with the Divine Order of the day we all began to go into hibernation. We didn't know that it would last for nineteen hundred years. We hoped that it would be for only a brief period of time. 

"During that long period there were moments at which we thought that the end of our sleep is coming. We thought that our children are coming home. In the twelfth century we heard reports that 'they are coming.' The rumor went underground from root to root, the cedar to the hyssop, the vine to the olive, the tomato to the cucumber – we heard that they are coming home. Then we learned to our utter dismay that 300 Baalei Tosafot from the Rhineland arrived but no more. 

"We had other false alarms. The Ramban in 1267, Rav Ovadiah miBartenura in 1492, Rabbi Yehuda Hachosid and his followers in 1700, the students of the Baal Shem Tov and the students of the Vilna Gaon, but we did not receive the message from Hashem. So we waited, we hoped, we prayed. Then, toward the end of the 19th century rumors began again beneath the surface of the earth. There was a report that after Mark Twain left Emek Yizrael that there were angels telling blades of grass: 'grow, grow.' We were skeptical at first. We didn't want to be disappointed. 

But the reports became increasingly urgent. Birds flying overhead, clouds cruising the skies said, 'They are coming.' You should have seen (but of course you couldn't) what was going on beneath the surface of Eretz Yisrael. We were all cautious but excited. More and more reports of sightings were coming in. 'They are coming – they are coming home' – and then the word came directly from Hashem:

                           אתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנוי ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל כי קרבו לבא 

'They are finally coming home! Grow! Respond to the work of their hands! Don't check their tzitzis, it makes no difference whether they are religious or not. Grow – they are My children and they are coming home. Grow even in Shemittah, if it's with the Heter Mechira. Grow, give out your fruits. Grow.' 

"You should have seen the joy and jubilation beneath the surface. You didn't know but we knew. You should have seen how they all started waking up from the 1,900-year slumber, stretching their roots, yawning, smiling. I had not seen such activity in millennia. We were told by the Ribbono Shel Olom that we are commanded to turn little, dry, arid, dusty, nearly dead Eretz Yisrael into a verdant, fruitful, agricultural world super power. And we did it with joy (Google: Israel Agriculture – Wikipedia – It will blow your mind away. Trust me, do it.) 

"I (remember, it's my tomato talking) don't understand how Jews don't realize that we are the bearers of a message that G-d wants all His children home (study that Gemorah in Sanhedrin again)." 

* * * * * 

Kobre has succeeded in trivializing all the manifestations of Hashem’s Presence in our midst. Strong healthy economy, abundance, military prowess – all mean nothing to him. And what is wrong about “hearts swelling with national pride, etc.”? There is a total absence of G-d from the modern miracle of Eretz Yisrael in Kobre’s thought. The awesome fulfillment of so many prophecies is lost to him. 

It has been my misfortune to have just read Kobre’s piece in issue 656, which reveals that he has no longing, yearning or desire to live in Eretz Yisrael. It all is the result of what he recently wrote, “then some people made a state.” Hashem’s greatest gift to a bleeding, battered, decimated people emerging from Auschwitz is reduced to “then some people made a state.” All the pieces of Kobre’s perverted hashkafa are falling into place. There is more. Many years ago I predicted that the incessant finding fault with “the medina” will eventually morph into a rejection of Eretz Yisrael itself. The sin of unbridled rejection of the state has its own built-in punishment. My prediction has proven to be prophetic. 

In issue 656 Kobre writes the worst piece I have ever read. I wonder whether I should rent my garments. 
There’s more than a kernel of truth in the story told of a Jew who, flush with spiritual inspiration, decided he’d had his fill of the tumas eretz ha’amim and would instead make the Holy Land his home. He quickly wound up his affairs, gathered his kin and set out on his journey, his Russian hometown now a mere memory. Entering Yerushalayim, his heart quickened as he made his way swiftly to the Kosel Hamaaravi, the focal point of every Jew’s prayers. 
But strangely, as he prayed passionately for the first time before the ancient stones, he sensed a presence beside him. He looked up and – lo and behold! – it was the yetzer hara, right next to him at this holiest of sites. Stunned, all he could mutter was, “B-b-but I thought I left you behind in Russia!” Came the swift reply, “Silly one – who do you think brought you here?” 
Kobre must ask his gedolim if there is a way to do teshuva for such absolutely despicable trash. 

I have a great deal more to write, about Kobre’s articles but this latest one has wiped me out. I am going to take a break and begin to cleanse and purify myself in preparation for Yom Haatzmaut and the 50th Yom Yerushalayim. 

G-d willing, bli neder, there will be a continuation. 

While reading and thinking about the Kobre papers I was haunted by a still small voice telling me that it rings familiar. Then one morning in the middle of davening it came to me like a flash – the meraglim. That’s exactly what they said, that if we have Torah who needs a land. 

In 1907 HaRav Avrohom Yitzchak HaCohen Kook wrote that what he called “meragliut” or in our idiom “meraglimhood” or “meraglimism” is alive and well. It sure is. Just read Mishpacha. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Why I Criticize

Illustration form Mishpacha Magazine
I sometimes wonder if my sense of right and wrong is guiding me properly. When I write a critical post about an Orthodox Jew that committed a crime, I often get challenged by some people that accuse me of violating the laws of Lashon Hara, gossiping about fellow Jews. Or worse spreading false rumors about them that have been unproven. And even if they are proven, the laws of Lashon Hara forbid me to spread that news to others.

The criticism I get varies from mild rebukes asking me if I have checked with Posksim - to calling me the vilest of names - condemning me to an eternity in Hell. Sometimes  get a private e-mail about it. And sometimes I will get a comment on my blog about it. The truly vile comments I tend to ignore. It is the thoughtful critics that I sometime wonder about. (I should add that the vast majority of feedback I get is very positive. But the few negative comments affect me more.)

The last edition of Mishpacha Magazine featured  an article by Eytan Kobre about a symposium the magazine held. Several Orthodox journalists and one Yeshiva leader expressed their views on how observant members of the media that care about these issues as a matter of Halacha - should properly deal with them. The responses assured me that I am on the right track.

The participants were Ner Israel President, Rabbi Sheftel Nueberger, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, Agudah spokesman and noted columnist Rabbi Avi Shafran, Mishpacha reporter Binyamin Rose, and community leader Marvin Schick.

Does an observant journalist have a different standard than a secular one?  Should they be holding Orthodox institutions accountable for their behavior? What news is fit to print – or not fit? How does such reporting impact observant Jewry?  Do general journalistic standards comport with Orthodox standards? These are the kind of questions asked of these 5 people.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, Rabbi Neuberger’s approach was the most troubling for me. He said that an Orthodox journalist must be guided by the desire to always make Orthodoxy look good. And to try justify questionable behavior if there is a credible way to do so.

I will give Rabbi Neuberger the benefit of the doubt. I do not believe he meant that we must lie about an Orthodox Jew that was caught in criminal activity. By credible - he meant that if there is any way that can legitimately put a positive spin on it on a negative media report about an Orthodox Jew, we should do it. But only with the truth.  An example might be providing evidence that there was no crime at all – and the that media report was mistaken on the details, or incomplete. But even if that is what he meant, this approach comes dangerously close to whitewashing bad behavior. Especially if the media reports end up being the more credible version. The result of that kind of ‘positive spin’ just makes matters worse... making it seem like we are trying to excuse the behavior!

A far more reasonable approach was taken by Jeff Jacoby. He  made the point I often make here about accusations of Lashon Hara. That it is not only permitted but perhaps even required when an Orthodox Jew gets caught in a crime. This issue came up in a critical column he did about a convicted Orthodox Jewish lobbyist that was involved in a heavily covered scandal. He discussed the gravity of the Chulul Hashem that a Jew that was identified in the media as an Orthodox Jew. 

After that column was published, he caught flak in a letter from a fellow Orthodox Jew who was a friend of that lobbyist - berating him for speaking Lashon Hara about someone that had done many Mitzvos. His response was similar to my own when I am challenged that way. Publishing that criticism will help deter other Orthodox Jews from doing things like that. In other words, there is a Toeles – a legitimate purpose that overrides the Laws of Lashon Hara.

Rabbi Shafran made the point about staying above politics and trying to be objective about the political leaders in the country. Judaism is neither Democrat or Republican. One should therefore look at each individual act or policy by a politician and judge that, rather than who said it and which political party they are from. I fully agree with him there. That the Torah’s values should always be our guide in how we report things and that we should be honest about it - is something I agree with too. As he indicated every reporter is a human being and is informed by their own biases. It would be nice if they all admitted it instead of pretending to be objective.

Binyamin Rose basically just talked about how sources differ between the mainstream and the religious  media – making the claim that religious media sources tend to be more credible because the relationship that develops with an Orthodox source ends up being much closer than is the case with a mainstream media source. He also said that an Orthodox news publication does not practice ‘gotcha journalism the way the mainstream media does. Orthodox journalists are not motivated by catching someone in a lie, but rather in finding out the truth of a story.

It was Marvin Schick whose view most closely reflects mine. It was similar to Jeff Jacoby's view .There is no absolute Halachic or Hashkafic ban on publishing criticism of other Jews. Even Orthodox Jews. By name when appropriate. As long as it is done with a goal of prevention of future behavior of this kind. There is no hiding misdeeds anymore. Anyone can google a story and find out in an instant what an Orhtodox Jew is guilty of. Without offering pubic criticism it appears to green-light such behavior as long as it can be gotten away with.

What about Teshuva? If a miscreant truly regrets his behavior and turns his life around, that criticism will not be erased from the internet. It will remain there forever and hurt an individual whose Teshuva is sincere. But without criticism those that engage in criminal behavior will have think they have a green light to continue doing so. To put is the way Mr. Schick did: 
Scamsters and serial fraudsters depend on and are nurtured by an environment that mandates silence. 
I will add one more important reason for public criticism of Orthodox miscreants. By publicly condemning such behavior it counters the Chilul Hashem they make as an obviously Orthodox Jew. You are letting the public know (Jew and non Jew alike) - that kind of behavior is not OK. It is a violation of the Torah. These people may look religious. But they are criminals and do not represent the high ideals of the Torah.

This pretty much sums things up. I will admit that I sometimes err and when I do, I try to correct the error and apologize. But I hope that in the vast majority of critical posts, that they are justified.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Weaker Sex

Are women in the military a good idea?
I can already hear the loud sneers about the title of this post from the more militant feminists. But this fact should be obvious to any rational person. Men and women are different in not only biological ways but in psychological ways as well. Ways that should impact on egalitarian ideals. And yet those differences are treated as though they were nonexistent. I mention this in light of a recent Mishpacha oped by Jonathan Rosenblum (available at his website Jewish Media Resources) that makes eminent sense to me.

It is clearly politically incorrect to say that women are the weaker sex. But what about that? Is it so unreasonable to consider gender differences as a factor in certain jobs? This is not to say that there can’t be individual differences between women where in some cases they may be as good or even superior to men in tasks that are traditionally male. But is it wise to ignore gender altogether?

Let us take a look at Jonathan’s military example. In theory we might just set parameters of service and let both men and women apply.  It is almost certain that most women will not be able to complete those tasks that men – with their greater upper body strength – will be able to perform. Should we therefore open the gates to the few that can perform those tasks equally with men?

As mentioned - this sound good in theory. But experience has shown that this would not satisfy some feminists. That’s because it would still make the composition of the military lopsided in favor of men. Egalitarianism would demand that the tests be revised so that more women would pass. The claim being that the lower standards would not significantly reduce the effectiveness of the military.

The military will be forced to accede to that egalitarian political correctness. Referencing Stephanie Gutmann’s 2001 work on gender integration in the U.S. military, The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? – Jonathan makes the following observations: 
The average woman is five inches shorter, has half the upper body strength, and 37% less muscle mass than her male counterpart. The only way to integrate women into combat units is to dramatically lower standards and the intensity of training. Gutmann reports how "women were allowed to come into basic training at dramatically lower fitness levels and then to climb lower walls, throw [grenades] shorter distances, and carry lighter packs when they got there." "Teamwork" is stressed to cover for women who can't perform standard tasks; "ability groups" accommodate those who can't keep up the pace, and training "time-outs" provide for those who are overtired or overstressed. 
The differentials between men and women affect not only training standards, but have real world consequences on the battlefield. In the first Gulf War, men took over taking down tents and loading boxes because most women were incapable of the heavy-lifting required. Few women can carry a male colleague on their backs. Yet the ability to do so can be the difference between life and death for a wounded soldier. 
Is Egalitarianism worth the increased risk of harm under combat conditions that could very likely happen?

This doesn’t even take into consideration the religious and moral problem of young men and women working together in close proximity where the power of the sex drive will surely be a factor. Here are some sobering statistics to ponder - quoted in Wikipedia
A 2011 report found that women in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by fellow soldiers than they are to be killed in combat.[1] At least 25% of U.S. military women have been sexually assaulted, and up to 80% have been sexually harassed.[2] A 2012 Pentagon survey found that approximately 26,000 women and men were sexually assaulted. Of those, only 3,374 cases were reported.  
Feminists will cry that men will just have to learn to better control themselves. But that doesn’t always work as all too many women in the military have unfortunately found out. Sexual harassment is far more likely to happen in the military. With all the scandals (e.g. Tailhook, and more recently Marines United) coming out about this - that should not surprise anyone. Is it a mere coincidence that this is happening now that we have a more gender integrated military? How much intelligence does it take to realize that the command structure of the military leaves women vulnerable to the sexual advances of their superior officers?

Feminists will counter that women should not be denied opportunity because of this. And that with proper oversight and strong sanctions this problem will be eliminated. I have to question the wisdom of that claim.

There are other example of problems created by women serving equally with men in the military. Like this fact quoted by Jonathan: 
During the first Gulf War, for instance, 31% of the female sailors on two U.S. aircraft carriers had to be evacuated from ship because they were pregnant. 
Then there are the psychological differences between men and women. Gender based psychological differences clearly exist but it is politically incorrect to even mention them.  

As I’ve said many times. I consider myself a feminist in the original sense of the word. Equal pay for equal work. And equal respect between men and women. Men and women are both human beings and should treat each other with equal dignity. But modern day feminism has evolved into a complete negation of the any real differences between men and women. Biological differences are seen as irrelevant  and psychological differences as non existent. And that has a negative impact on us all.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Why Do They Keep Doing it?

Peleg's hated Charedi soldier
I don’t get it. I really don’t. The harassment of Charedi Jews continues. Harassment that is apparently sanctioned by Peleg, the Jerusalem faction of Charedi Jews led by Rav Shmuel Auerbach. Who is himself Charedi. It is Rav Auerbach’s ‘Jews’ that are doing the harassing. 

Peleg which essentially means divide or division (an apt name for a group if there ever was one) is the movement that has set itself up as the most zealous ‘keepers of the faith’. They are the guardians of the pure. Those that will not sit idly by when they see another Charedi Jew has ‘joined the enemy’. Which in this case is the Israeli army.

Their ire is not being raised by National Religious or even just plain religious Jews. It is being raised by people that are  Charedim that have crossed the line into the hated IDF. Which they see not as a defense force without which they would all be living in Palestine under Sharia law controlled by Hamas – but instead as a house of Shmad and a national brothel. 

So when one of their ‘own’ joins the enemy, they are treated worse than secular soldiers. Worse than national religious soldiers.  And even worse than Islamist terrorists! How dare they put on that uniform?! It doesn’t matter that they have joined new units specifically geared to Charedi needs. No… that’s just a ploy by the IDF to eventually assimilate them! And it must be fought tooth and nail.

That is at least what it seems like from the increasing numbers of attacks against Charedi soldiers that cross a Peleg’s path.

It happened again just a few days ago – on Chol HaMoed Pesach - in a public and well traveled area of Jerusalem.

Fortunately no one was hurt this time. But that does not excuse the harassment of this poor fellow who did nothing wrong at all other than looking like a Charedi while wearing an IDF uniform.

Unfortunately this is happening so frequently now that it is no longer news.  So why do I bring it up? Because it sticks in my craw that seemingly normal young Charedim that do not look extreme are acting like extremists. These young people are not the Charedim of Meah Shearim. They do not look to the Eida HaCharedis for hashkafic guidance. They look like they could be students of any mainstream Charedi Yeshiva. Like Mir or Chevron. 

How mainstream? If you look closely at the mob chasing down that Charedi soldier, (video below - more at YWN) you’ll notice many of them have smartphones and are trying to take videos while they chase down that poor soldier.

Their behavior is not all that different from the Meah Shearim extremist types that spit on reporters; throw rocks at passing cars screaming ‘Shabbos’; or yell ‘whore’ at little girls not dressed in accordance with their modesty standards. In other words they look mainstream but behave like extremists.

The fact is that most Charedi youth are not like this. Most of them actually register for the draft. And certainly do not harass a Charedi soldier. Most Roshei Yeshiva forbid their students from participating in these kinds of activities. Even the Satmar Rebbe of Kiryas Joel has in so many words condemned it. And if anyone is extreme, it is Satmar. They are as opposed to the army as Rav Auerbach is. More… even! But even so, Satmar’s leader still condemns this behavior.

Why do the Peleg youth continue do this, oblivious to any criticism? There is only one answer. Their leader encourages it. He must be swelling with pride every time he hears that his young people have harassed a Charedi soldier.

While I can’t say this for an absolute fact, there is no other explanation for the increased behavior by seemingly mainstream young Charedim. If Rav Auerbach hasn’t told them directly to attack Charedi soldiers, he has certainly inspired them to do it by his rhetoric. And done nothing to discourage further attacks like this.

What I don’t fully understand is how mainstream yeshiva students from normal Charedi backgrounds – some of whom carry smartphones - can end up like this. How can they fall so far from the mainstream values of the rest of the Yeshiva world? How can they diverge from the teachings of most mainstream Roshei Yeshiva? Why do they ignore the Chilul HaShem this makes? Why do they choose to listen to a radical like Rav Shmuel? Is it his last name? Well it shouldn’t be. Because no apple has fallen so far away from the tree as Rav Shmuel has from his father.

What is the draw of this man on so many young minds? Is there anyone that can explain it? Until we can answer that question the rational behavior by so large a swath of young Yeshiva students that used to be the norm - seems like a dream about a past that will never return. And I have no idea how to begin to understand it, let alone prevent it from ever happening again.