In reading the ongoing conversation between Rabbi Ginzberg and Mr. Jacobson in the past few issues of the 5TJT, I cannot help but be struck by a few thoughts, not all my own.
Rabbi Berel Wein wrote this past week regarding this issue of chareidim serving in the army and joining the workforce. His perspective needs to be heard:
“Attacking the messenger may prove to be psychologically satisfying but it does nothing to deal with the realities of the problem under discussion. . . .
“The current debate about chareidi society’s participation in the general obligations and tenor of Israeli life is a case in point. Most of the chareidi media and its political representatives and spokesmen have expended their efforts in personally attacking those individuals who have proposed legislative and social changes that will undoubtedly affect chareidi life here in Israel.
“… The chareidi defense to the message being sent to them—that the rest of Israeli society is unwilling to condone their lack of participation in the defense of the country and in their abstention from the workforce—is to accuse the bearers of this message as being ‘haters’ and ‘blasphemers.’
“Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett, Dov Lipman may be the messengers and they bear the brunt of the personal attacks being leveled against them by the chareidi world’s spokesmen. But let us ignore who the messengers are and listen to the message. The current social and economic situation of the chareidi society in Israel is no longer tenable. There is a limit as to how many generations can consecutively be raised in poverty without there being a breakdown in that society.”
This is not about an anti-chareidi government. It is about a social and economic reality. In fact, as a close relative made the analogy, what if I decided to learn full-time and a benefactor agreed to support me, and instead of thanking him I denigrated and put him down. Yet he continued for decades to support me. Eventually, he tells me he can no longer afford to support me as he has in the past, and now instead of thanking him for years of support, I call him a rasha and spit on him and curse him. Are we not this kafui tov? Has not the Israeli government been the single largest supporter of Torah in Eretz Yisrael for the past few decades?
Is this about an anti-chareidi law, or about an uncomfortable reality? Change is difficult, but not always bad. What we take for granted as how things are is not necessarily how they should be. Universal kollel and unemployment had not been known in the Jewish world since we left Midbar Sinai until very recently. It is not what Chazal ever described except in yemos haMashiach, which unfortunately we are still waiting for. Are we sure it’s what we are supposed to be striving for?
Rabbi Ginzberg, I agree fully with your statement that “even the most ‘ardent Zionist’ amongst us knows full well of the designs of the early fathers of the state to remove all chareidi influence on Israeli society.” What if Ben-Gurion did not miscalculate when he gave yeshiva students an exemption? What if he recognized the potential of Torah and determined how to best keep its influence out of his secular society? If yeshiva bachurim do not serve in the army and are not part of the economy, they will be marginalized and their influence will be minimal. He calculated well. What would Israeli society be like today if yeshiva bachurim had been serving in the army for the past 60 years? It would probably look a lot more like the society frum Jews envision. I remember years ago in Camp Munk there were two color-war teams, Mekarvei Rechokim and Mechazkei Maaminim. What if we’ve been the wrong team all along?
What if Yair Lapid really believes and means what he has been saying, “Atem nitzachtem,” “You have won!” His message is not anti-religious; it’s about religious Jews taking responsibility for the country they will lead in a few years. Please listen to what he says, not what others say about him. You can hear him with English translation on YouTube (www.
youtube.com/watch?v=jNwAv6zpmh4) and you decide if his motivation is really anti-chareidi.
One final point. The only real issue I have with Rabbi Ginzberg’s article is that it blurs the lines between the tefillah for the state and the tefillah for the soldiers. I can understand the halachic issues with the tefillah for the medinah. But those objections do not apply to the Mishebeirach for the chayalim. I cannot understand anyone objecting to saying a Mishebeirach for fellow Jews who risk their lives to protect us. If you don’t like the Rabbanut’s language, create your own. What a kiddush Hashem it would be and how much ahavas Yisrael would be created if every shul and yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael said the Mishebeirach for the chayalim every Shabbos. If students from every chareidi yeshiva serve in the army, they just might.
Rabbi Barry Holzer, M.D.
Changes In Israel
Israel is a democratic country; citizens cast votes and a government is formed. In every government there are the so-called winners and losers. This time (not the first), the chareidi parties are not partners in the government. The signs bode bad news with threatening decrees aimed at bnei Torah and “settlers.” What the future holds is shaky, scary, and unknown. Words of anger, disdain, and hostility are the pen strokes of the day; name-calling and lashing out at rabbinic leaders who are in disagreement with a particular point of view, lifestyle, or hashkafah are frequent targets. Enough is enough!
If we stop for a moment to reflect, what is the underlying purpose of all this vitriol and bitter name-calling? Is it accomplishing its goal? Mideastern dialogue is quite different from our Western mode of communication in several ways. In Israel, words are caustic, dramatic, and media-ready; body language is fierce and “in your face.” Sentences are quoted randomly, without rhyme or reason, and strong bottom lines become headlines. Israelis have no time for drawn-out discussions; “go for the jugular” is the attitude in streets and in schools.
When a party is in the “opposition” (non-governing), it gets ignored and disappears into the woodwork, which is the last thing that these opposition parties desire. Silence and passivity accomplish nothing; therefore headlines, hateful posters, demos, yelling, screaming, and lashing out.
In most cases, American frum Jews silently shrug their shoulders; they just don’t get it or understand the why and what of this mode of speech and its intent. “Kindness and Zealotry” by B. Jacobson (June 21, page 29) touched on this fact that American chareidi Jews feel that due to “kanna’us” behaviors, a message of understanding, warmth, and respect is not coming through.
As we have noticed, there is a massive PR campaign imported from Israel and chareidi centers to “educate and inform” American chareidi brothers of the evil, harsh decrees and their consequences. I’ve been wondering why. An element of surprise has hit the surface: American and Israeli chareidim do not always think, feel, understand, or react as Siamese twins. Many in the American Torah kehillos (for numerous reasons) are not convinced or swallowing whole the headlines (shmad, evil, avodah zarah, destruction of Torah).
Open pocketbooks (i.e., money) is a dire need in order for the Torah world of Eretz Yisrael to grow and sustain itself in its present model. Masses of Israelis will not be leaving the country and setting up home chutz l’aretz. Donations, monetary contributions, and financial support are the future solutions . . . except that mosdos in America are hurting and closing due to salaries months behind and financial obligations that cannot be met. Where should askanim/gevirim put their bucks? When Rav Shteinman, shlita, says that “changes will happen,” I believe this is the underlying dilemma that is being alluded to.
Mrs. Caren V. May
What The Sulitzer Rebbe Stood For
As mispallelim in the Sulitzer Beis Medrash, we appreciate Rabbi Hoffman’s article about the passing of the Sulitzer Rebbe, zt’l, in last week’s 5TJT. It was a beautifully written article encapsulating what the Rebbe stood for and showed his great concern for the community. In addition, the author pointed out his unwavering ability to follow his mesorah in the face of opposition. We really felt the Rebbe provided a shemirah for our community. May he be a meilitz yosher for us all.
Pinky and Hildy Schorr
Singles Over 40
I was appalled at the callous, insensitive manner in which Mr. Barbanel classifies and crucifies the Orthodox Jewish singles in his article (“The New Shidduch Crisis: Over 40,” June 21). He insinuates that these “over 40” singles were in their predicaments due to situations that they had engineered. He vilifies these men and women by putting them in various nefarious categories, accusing them of living in a parallel underworld where “companionship and intimacy are increasingly seen as commodities that can be leased, not purchased.”
I read this article with increasing alarm and I felt compelled to dispel these fallacious and baseless insinuations. Every individual who is single in this age category has his or her own disturbing set of circumstances and chain of events that have resulted in their temporary marital status. To find Mr. Barbanel lumping these men and women into unmerciful strictly pegged corners was both abhorrent and inexcusable.
I personally know of many fortysomethings in the Orthodox mainstream that have suffered personal losses, whether in life or trust, and have gone on to rebuild their marital lives anew, bringing their children with them. Mr. Barbanel’s solution is dissolution and I find it impossible to believe that his outlook is as bleak as he portrays it to be!
Elissa Garrel, M.S.Ed.
A Crash Course In Achdus
I am always keenly aware of Hashem’s presence in my life, but a recent experience strengthened my belief that Hashem is in control and constantly protecting me and watching over me.
It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, the sun was shining, and, as luck would have it, there was surprisingly little traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway. The academic year was coming to an end, and as a schoolteacher, I wanted to get in early to get a head start on some last-minute responsibilities. While traveling on Rockaway Boulevard, I slowed my car, as the traffic light was changing from yellow to red.
While sitting at the red light and eagerly waiting for the light to change to green, I heard loud honking behind me. As I glanced into my rearview mirror, I saw the driver of a 12-passenger van urging me to get out of his way. Fear took over me and I had no time to react; his van slammed into the rear of my car going approximately 50 miles per hour. My car was thrown 200 feet from where it had been hit. I froze, my heart was racing, and my life flashed before me. My first thought, as tears streamed down my face, was to thank Hashem that my 3-year-old son was not in his car seat in the back.
When the shock wore off a bit, I was able to miraculously walk out of the car with minimal bruises. The damage to my car was extensive, and the crowd that grew, and all those who had witnessed the accident, were amazed that I was not only alive, but not seriously hurt. Hashem is my protector. A young religious man from the Five Towns community pulled his car over and came to see if I was all right. He stayed with me for over an hour. He told me that from a half mile away, he had heard the screeching of the van, as the driver who hit me had been stepping on his brakes and attempting to stop his car more than 500 feet from where the actual accident and impact occurred.
I was very frightened and shook up. I called my husband, and as I was describing the accident to him, out of the corner of my eye I saw a loyal friend and coworker, who happened to be driving by. She had stopped to see the “accident.” I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, as a result of the impact from the collision. My friend Kaila does not generally travel in this direction, as she does not live in my neighborhood. Hashem knew how alone I felt and made sure that we were on the same route that frightening day.
My husband, Avi, who has been a Queens Hatzalah member for many years, called Hatzalah to come and help me. Within moments they arrived. On the ambulance I realized the irony of the scenario. I was now a recipient of their great chesed. On a daily basis, my husband runs out on Hatzalah calls day and night to help members of the community. During kiddush, bedtime, Shabbos seudos, Shacharis, Minchah, or Maariv, family time, convenient or not, he, along with the other dedicated members of Hatzalah, are always willing and ready to help fellow Jews who are in need of medical attention. Husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers, sons, drop everything, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to help fellow Jews during their most vulnerable times.
I want to publicly thank and give hakaras ha’tov to the Rockaway-Nassau Hatzalah members who came to help me. While on the ambulance I didn’t feel like a stranger, knowing I was in the best of hands. B’chasdei Hashem I was protected from harm. My car, on the other hand, was totaled beyond repair. There were no other cars in front of me at the red light, and there were no cars coming in the other direction. Hashem made sure of that. It is such a heartwarming and comforting feeling to work and live in communities filled with such amazing people who drop everything at any time of day to help a fellow Jew. The feeling of achdus was just incredible. I am so thankful and proud to be part of the Hatzalah family.
One of the many lessons that I walked away with that day is that Hashem is indeed in control. He is always with us, always there for us, always in the right place, at the right time. We all have to try and put more trust and faith in Hashem, be abundantly grateful, and recognize that although we may have our own plan, Hashem always has the best plan for us.
Kew Gardens Hills
Peace In The Home
Men are women. Adults are babies. And we are suffering the consequences.
Rabbi Arush in his book Garden of Peace, a marital guide for men, quotes the Talmud in Nedarim. “What do you do to merit male sons?” Why the double language? Because they should have male characteristics. What are those male characteristics? Not to be emotional; that’s for the women. Of course men and women have things in common, whether they be emotions or other characteristics, but one has to listen to what the Torah is teaching us about what a true male is. The true definition of “a real man” from the Torah perspective is being able to take it, as we all recognize is required for positions like president of the U.S. or CEO of a large company. Don’t be overly emotional as a leader; yell at the press, and you’re in trouble.
I am writing this now because today I encountered another acquaintance who seems relatively accepting that he and his wife are living apart. Another friend is living home with his mother after being married about five years with two kids; he’s 50 and living with mom. Another is living across the street from his wife, and I’m sure there are lots more similar stories.
Why? It’s simple: the outside ideas of roles and relationships are permeating Jewish homes via the non-Jewish lifestyles and barrage of media. The rabbis warn against TV and Internet and making the outside culture one’s own. I don’t think people see it, and they think it’s fanatical when rabbis tell you to get rid of the TV, put a block on your home Internet, and stop going to movies. We’re picking up non-Jewish thought and philosophy, and it’s causing huge problems for us. It should make each of us cry when our friends move out or get divorced, but it’s so common today that most folks just go on with their lives, ignoring the epidemic.
Back to the opening: “Men are women.” Men have to better understand what it means to be a man—namely, to stop being so emotional and to be a giver. Rabbi Arush quotes the Zohar (Jewish mystical teachings), where it says that the man is the sun and the woman is the moon. A man must shine his light on his wife via attention, compliments, and no criticism. The reflection back in kindness from the wife is extraordinary and should be experienced by every man. It certainly is not easy, but more than worth the effort. Being an extraordinary giver pays dividends in this world and the next.
Now to share some of the blame with the women. “Adults are babies.” People in our society need to grow up and take responsibility for their marriages by being mature adults. So many men and women act like babies and are setting a really poor example for the next generation. Grow up, folks! Ask anyone who has been married for many years: there are good days and bad days, good years and bad years (go for help if it’s years). If you’re looking for a quick way to improve your marriage, our sages teach us, “I’ve never heard anything better than silence.” Keep quiet, folks. Don’t listen to our culture that says to tell all. Say less and stay married and walk the children to the chuppah!
I wish us all success with the important subject of peace in the home.
Dovid Mordechai Jasse
Wednesday’s Supreme Court Rulings
Society’s mores may shift and crumble but eternal verities exist. One is marriage, the union of a man and a woman. Its sanctity may have been grievously insulted by the High Court today, but that sanctity remains untouched.
Agudath Israel of America