Monday, November 30, 2015

Israel Is Not the Enemy

Stop hating us! Stop lying about us! Stop killing us! This is my message to the Palestinian people - and to all Muslims and Arabs if they really want peace. 

One thing needs to be made perfectly clear. The current violence against innocent people in Israel has long ago passed the point of being a response to the events that I and many others believe precipitated it. The haters among them have found a way to kill us in a consistent and steady daily flow. They have succeeded in instilling morbid fear into us. It is virtually impossible to walk out of your house in Israel without the fear of being violently attacked to the point of serious injury or even death. 

As I have said countless times - the attackers have been indoctrinated with over a century of Jew hatred. A hatred based on the view that Jews do not have a right to a country in Palestine (which is how they think of Israel.) To them we are evil infidels of the worst kind – Jews. Jews that have forced their way into their homeland and displaced indigenous residents. 

They opine, what right did we have to do that to them? Palestine is their land?! They have been there for centuries, long before Jewish imperialists calling themselves Zionists came into the land claiming false historical rights. And using their money to buy up land in Palestine from absentee Arab owners who couldn’t care less for their Palestinian brothers. Palestinians that have lived on that land for centuries. Suddenly they were kicked out by Jews with new deeds claiming ownership.

Every Muslim knows that Palestine belongs to the descendants of Ishmael. This is what it says in the Koran. The Biblical claim that Israel was promised to Isaac? Lies! - Jews distorting the truth in their bible. 

Every child is taught that Jews are blood thirsty devils out to rule the world starting with the usurpation of Palestine. How do they know? Just read the protocols of the Elders of Zion for the truth!  Arabs are thus taught to despise the international Jew with designs to take over the world. They are weaned on this kind of thinking. They are indoctrinated to see Jews the way Hitler saw us. Which the reason Mein Kampf is such a big seller in Middle Eastern countries, Even in relatively friendly ones like Egypt – with whom Israel has diplomatic relations.  

Cartoons that Muslim children watch depict Jews as monsters. This is the kind of propaganda that permeats the culture.Childre are taught to hate Jew practically from the womb.  Is there any real wonder why young Arabs are jumping out of the woodwork with knives and stabbing innocent Jews? For them, there ARE no innocent Jews. In Iran Israel is considered worse than ISIS. 

To illustrate just how matter of fact all of this is, an 11 year old Palestinian boy recently attacked some Jews with a knife. After he was apprehended his response was that he just wanted to go back to playing with his friends. As though he didn’t really do anything all that wrong and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about!

These are the real reasons they want to kill us. It is the reason that the Mufti of Jerusalem supported Hitler’s decision to exterminate the Jews. He viewed it as the best way to prevent us from the outrage of taking Palestine away from the Arabs – the legitimate owners dating back to biblical times.

But perhaps things might be changing a bit in the Arab world. Editorials by formerly implacable Arab enemies are beginning to sing a different tune. An editorial in a Saudi publication actually urged the President to listen to Prime Mister Netanyahu during the debate over the Iran Nuclear deal. And just last week Israel announced that  they are setting up a diplomatic level mission in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. 

All this is a reaction to ISIS. They are beginning to see Israel in more practical terms rather than ideological terms.  Israel has never had any designs to take over Arab countries and turn them into versions of their religion. It is ISIS that is trying to do that.

This is all well and good. But the violent attacks in Israel are ongoing. And they will no doubt continue as long as they see how successful they are in their ultimate goal of destroying the Jews and retaking Palestine. This is all based on centuries of  teaching  hatred of the Jew. And it has to be untaught. 

It is time for the Arab Nations to see what Abu Dhabi sees – that Israel is not the enemy. This should be the new educational paradigm for the Arab peoples. In the homes, in the schools, in the mosques, and in the culture. 

They must stop selling ‘The Protocols’ as truth and label it the lie that it is. They must stop children’s programming that depict Jewish cartoon characters as monsters. They must stop adult TV productions that do the same, and replace it all with the truth – that Israel is not the enemy; that if you stop killing us, we just may be able to have a true peace between the nations of the Middle East. A warm peace of international trade and cooperation that will produce prosperity for the entire region. Won’t that be better than what we have now?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why the Increase in Palestinian Violence?

Scene of recent knife attack in Jerusalem (Yahoo News)
I have always admired Rabbi Moshe Grylak, publisher of Mishpacha Magazine. Even when I disagreed with him, Which is rare. He is unafraid. A man in his eighties, he speaks his mind regardless of the fallout. He has done it again in the latest issue. And as I have often said about others with whom I agree on various subjects, I could swear he read my blog on this subject.

The subject is what precipitated the current spate of Palestinian violence. Which has been ongoing for months. Just yesterday another attack against some Jews in the Old city (East Jerusalem). It seems to never end. It is as though they figured out the best way to terrorize us. Instead of occasionally blowing themselves up along with Jewish victims in their vicinity in a suicide attack, they now are attacking us piecemeal on a daily basis, one or 2 people at a time. With knives. Or cars. Daily. And anywhere. Randomly selected targets and locations. Placing fear into the lives of every single Jew in Israel. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who leaves his home every day wondering if he will be the next victim.

By this time it is almost besides the point about what caused all this to happen. But as I said back on September 30th – it did have a precipitating factor.  Which was increased presence of Religious Zionists types on Har HaBayis, the temple mount. There is not a doubt in my mind about that. Nor is there any doubt in the mind of Rabbi Grylak. Or in the mind of Israel’s security apparatus. As Rabbi Grylak pointed out - to a man they all believe that the aggressive Jewish presence on the Temple mount combined with various declarations is what triggered the new wave of murders. The Mossad, the General Security Service, and the intelligence branch of the Israeli police force are all in agreement about this.

When Rabbi Grylak expressed that view in an earlier editorial, he was viciously attacked by those who have gone up to the Temple mount (and their supporters) finding it to be a spiritually uplifting experience. Basing themselves on the Halachic view that are certain parts of the Temple Mount that we are permitted to alight, they went up there. Despite the fact that most Poskim forbid it based on the prohibition of entering the area of the Beis HaMikdash in our current presumed state of Tumah (spiritual impurity).

They counter that there are areas which are not subject to that prohibition (as delineated by Rav Shlomo Goren). And they should allow them to go there. And they do. But as Rabbi Grylak retorted, the fact that some rely on that Psak and go up there – even if they are careful not to tread on the forbidden areas - will appear to the many sincere Jews with limited knowledge that they can go up there and tread anywhere they want. Thus violating a prohibition so serious that it is an Issur Kares - a very severe violation of biblical level law if done intentionally.

Does this not concern them? Even if their intention is L’Shem Shamoayim – for the sake of heaven, does it not concern them that they might be Machshil (become stumbling blocks to) others? Is one the self serving spiritual goal of an uplifting spiritual experience worth tripping up other Jews up? Is that really what God want’s them to do?

This is the reason that the vast majority of Poskim forbid going up there at all. They know that certain areas are technically permitted. But they forbid it for these reasons.

There are those who use another argument. That of showing the Arabs who’s boss. That might seem like a good idea to them. But what about all these Jews that have been wounded or killed because of it? Was it a good idea to their grieving families? What have they accomplished other than getting more Jews killed? They might retort that Arabs don’t need an excuse to kill Jews. The problem with this argument is that in most cases a spate of terror has a precipitating event, whether real or imagined. That increases the numbers of attacks. How blind someone is who thinks that their incitement doesn’t matter, that they will kill us anyway.

As I have said in the past many times - the Jew hatred with which most Arabs have been indoctrinated has caused them to have a mindset that they would just as soon kill us as look at us. But do we have to give them a reason? Do we have to do things that will cause these feeling to surface to the extent that they will virtually come out of the woodwork to kill us? …now on a daily basis?

I don’t know if I would go so far to say those who alight on the Temple mount (and their supporters) have blood on their hands. I wouldn’t call them Rodfim (pursuers of Jews with intent to harm or kill him) as some Charedim have. But I do think they have a certain degree of responsibility for what has happened and continues to happen. Would there have been other incidents without that? Probably. But as has been indicated by all of Israel’s security services, what is happening now had a cause. And as I have said before, it could have been avoided.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Why We Can’t Remain Silent

Conservative Rabbi David Wolpe
One would think that the differences between Open Orthodoxy and Conservative Judaism are in fact significant at some level. Even though many of us have said that Open Orthodoxy is just a newer version of an old song. 

For the most part I believe that’s true – as Rabbi Avi Shafran pointed out in a Jewish Week article that was republished on Cross-Currents. Part of the reason for all of these protests coming from just about all of Orthodoxy to their right is that Open Orthodoxy’s members are in fact observant of Halacha. And that is how Orthodoxy has always been defined. Their female rabbis who are married cover their hair. And obviously observe Shabbos, Kashrus, and Taharas Mishpacha.

But as those of us to their right keep saying their ideology departs from tradition so radically that it takes them out of our orbit. Especially their tolerance for the kind of bible criticism that too easily leads one to conclude that the Torah was written by man.

They retort - often with a degree of anger - that Orthodoxy was always about observance. And they observe Halacha no less meticulously than any other Orthodox Hashkafa. I will go them one better and say Open Orthodox Jews are probably more sincere than many to their right. There are a lot of us to their right that may not be as meticulous in some areas of Halacha as they are. That is human nature. 

It is the nature of large groups of people of a particular ideology to have a spectrum of belief and observance of it’s tenets. Which makes some of them more meticulous than others. So whether Charedi or Centrist we have our share of slackers. I tend to believe that Open Orthodox Jews by their very nature are sincere people and are as meticulous about their observance of Halacha as they are sincere about their ideology of abandoning those traditions they feel are no longer relevant.

That is why it is important to speak out. To assure anyone listening (or reading) – including those who may consider Open Orthodoxy a real option in Orthodoxy – to realize it really isn’t. That virtually the entire rabbinic body of Orthodox Jewry to their right rejects them. It must be made clear that observance of Halacha while rejecting centuries old Mesorah (tradition) because of the currents of 2015 is problematic. Traditions should never be changed except in rare cases of existential threat.

Which brings me to an article in the Huffington Post (republished in the Jewish Journal) written by Conservative Rabbi, David Wolpe.  Some of Rabbi Wolpe’s message could have been written by almost any Orthodox Rabbi. He described his life in terms that any Orthodox Jew would describe. For example he said that he Davens 3 times a day. But then he says the following: 
Conservative Judaism is quintessentially the Judaism of relationship. Balancing relationships with other Jewish denominations, reaching out to the non-Jewish world, and most important, understanding our tradition as one in continuing dialogue with God. Every relationship is both a legacy and a promise; it depends upon what has gone before, but if it does not grow and change, it cannot live. 
This is where it gets dicey. I suppose one can debate exactly what he means by ‘Balancing relationships with other Jewish denominations,(and) reaching out to the non-Jewish world…’. But what I think he meant is what Open Orthodoxy means. Embracing all denominations – thus legitimizing them. It isn’t too difficult to embrace those to your right as legitimate as does the Conservative Movement with respect to Orthodoxy. But what about those to your left? Both Rabbi Wolpe and Open Orthodoxy say we should embrace them too.

Let me be clear. There is no Jew that I would not fully embrace no matter what their denomination. It is ideology I am talking about. Not people. And by embracing their spiritual leaders we are in essence tolerating their ideology. And the greatest rabbis of the 20th Century including Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, ZTL, the universally recognized leader of Modern Orthodoxy forbade it.

Often I have heard the claim that times are different now and the dangers of appearing to recognize their theology no longer apply. But I doubt they would have changed their minds. To illustrate - feminism was already making inroads into other denominations in Rav Soloveitchik’s heyday. Heterodoxy responded by beginning to ordain female rabbis. 

Rav Soloveitchik was adamantly opposed to it despite the changing cultural climate of his time. He would not permit the innovation of female rabbis any more today than he did then. And yet Open Orthodoxy has bowed to the demands of the times and has begun ordaining women.

Interestingly, Rabbi Wolpe seems to use the same argument that Open Orthodox rabbis do. That tradition is a ‘continuing dialogue with God’. I assume that he means that we can change tradition as part of that dialogue in effect ‘presenting our case to God’ that the times mandate changing tradition in order to remain relevant to the modern Jewish mind. Same thing that Open Orthodoxy believes.

My understanding is that Rabbi Wolpe is an observant Jew that follows Halacha. At least the way the Conservative Movement defines it. Which to the average eye, would appear to be no different than how Orthodoxy defines it. And I recall an article he once wrote urging Conservative Jews to become more observant. I have also been told that he accepts the conclusion of many bible critics that say the Torah was written by man – different parts in different eras.

I have to ask: In what way is Rabbi Wolpe any different than the rabbis who lead Open Orthodoxy? It is no wonder they seek interdenominational cooperation with Conservative rabbis. It’s because there is no real differences between them.

Which is why so many of us consider them Neo Conservative. It’s because they so obviously are.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving and Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan and Esther Pollard - after his release
I’m usually in agreement with Rabbi Benjamin Blech. I believe  we tend to see things from the same perspective. But I am disappointed in an article he wrote for the Aish website on the subject of Jonathan Pollard’s release. 

First let me say that I am happy Jonathan Pollard has finally been released from prison. The former naval analyst has in my view long ago paid for his crime of spying against his country. Even though he was spying for Israel, a friendly nation, it was still a crime. The US government rightly claimed that any classified information that is released is compromised even when it is given to a friendly country. In Jonathan’s case the government said the information was so vast and so sensitive that the government claimed it put Americans serving in foreign countries at risk.

There has been some controversy about the accuracy of that claim. It appears that the damaging information attributed to Jonathan’s spying may have come from other spies who were caught much later. Whether that’s true or not, in my view Jonathan’s life sentence seemed unjust. Especially after he was promised a lighter sentence in a plea deal in exchange for cooperating. Which he did.

But I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to prosecutors who claimed that his crime was so terrible that if he were to be released early it would have a most demoralizing effect on all agents working in the CIA and like agencies. 

On the surface it was hard to fathom how any information he stole from the US to give to Israel was that devastating. But since I am not privy to the exact nature of what he stole, and the fact that all Presidents since he was sentenced have refused to grant him an early release, a pardon, or to commute his sentence to time served - I have to believe there was more to the story that we just don’t – and for reasons of security – can’t know about.

Looking at it from a human standpoint, it was hard to see a man being punished so severely for spying for a friendly country. And as a Jew whose support for Israel is so strong, it was doubly difficult for me to see something like this happen. Nevertheless, it always troubled me that so many well intentioned people tried to put an antisemitic spin on this.

To the best of my knowledge, there was no evidence of that. I doubt for example that Presidents Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama were all so antisemitic that they would overly punish someone who didn't deserve it. All of them refused to grant Jonathan any kind of clemency. So I have always chalked this up to simply not knowing the classified details of his crime.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t support efforts to get him released early after a while. I did. After 20 years of his life was spent in prison and it was rumored that he was ill - I saw releasing him as a humanitarian gesture. He wasn’t released. But was it because of antisemitism? I just didn’t see it.

In any case now after 30 years he was eligible for parole. Last Friday he was released from prison. Apparently the guidelines of his release are such that he will be under a version of house arrest for a period of 5 years. Which limits what he is allowed to do, and when he can leave his home. He has also been denied a request to immigrate to Israel as per these guidelines.

I understand the disappointment he must feel. His wife Esther has been living there and he wants to live there with her.  But this overlooks the very positive news that he is finally out of prison and living with his wife in New York right now. He is basically a free man albeit with a few restrictions. And yet some, like Rabbi Blech are Kvetching about it. And saying that the government decision preventing him from moving to Israel reeks of hypocrisy! 

I cannot understand him. Why is he stirring the pot? Jonathan is a free man. Being forced to live in the United States for a few years is not the end of the world. In fact it’s a pretty great place to live. I know that Jonathan is not well. But to the best of my knowledge he does not have a life threatening illness.

Why not just celebrate his freedom now …and celebrate it exactly the way it is now? With no fanfare. No parades. No speeches about the injustice he suffered. Celebrate the fact that he is free and living with his wife. Let us celebrate quietly with him. He is a man who paid his debt to society. This is as it should be.

Making noise about the injustice of America not letting him move to Israel is the wrong move. It serves no purpose. And it is unbecoming of a rabbinic figure like Rabbi Blech to do so just before Thanksgiving. A day where we ought to instead be thinking about the meaning of day we celebrate. Thinking about ways to express Hakoras HaTov - giving thanks to this great country and more importantly to God for the privilege of living here in the 21st century.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Prayer for These Troubling Times

An Hour at the Ezra Schwartz’s Shiva Home 
Guest contribution by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz 

Ezra Schwartz, H'YD and his siblings(Forward)
I am once again pleased to host a guest contribution from Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. Unfortunately I am not pleased by the circumstances that generated it. As he indicates below and as I have often wondered, Why does it take tragedies to unite us? And I mean all of us? Even those of us that are not observant. There are very few civilized people that do not sympathize – and even empathize with the victims of terror.

One very prominent Jew showed it by having his sports team observe a moment of silence before a nationally televised game. That Jew is Robert Kraft, owner of the last year’s Superbowl Champions, The New England Patriots. And as a further gesture he was Menachem Avel (paid a Shiva call to) the Schwartz family during the game.

Rabbi Horowitz was also Meanchem Avel the Schwartz family. And brought with him a list of people who had e-mailed their condolences. The rhetorical question asked of God is once again evident: Mi K’Amcha Yisroel? -  Who is like Your people Israel? Rabbi Horowitz’s words follow.

On behalf of Ezra’s parents, Ari and Ruth Schwartz, I would like to thank the 140+ people who took the time from your busy schedules to write shiva/condolence emails to them. The emails were deeply appreciated on so many levels. Ari read the top letter in the stack to the people in the room, and as he scanned the poignant notes from Jews worldwide he was simply overwhelmed that so many people were sharing their family’s sorrow. 

Another 30 emails arrived since I left home early this morning. I will print and overnight those to the Schwartz family tomorrow morning; so if you would like to convey a shiva message to them, please email it to before noon EST tomorrow.

Often, when I find myself at a loss for words to describe something, I “go small” and think of one-word descriptions for those emotions.

Such was the case this morning after a shiva call to the grieving family members of Ezra Schwartz Hy’d, who was recently murdered in yet another horrific terror attack in Eretz Yisroel. And the words that came to mind were:

Ordinary & extraordinary.

Similar feelings permeated the homes of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali last summer when they were sitting shiva for their beloved sons (See Basically; Just What You Saw which I wrote after observing their generosity of spirit during those awful days.)

A consistent theme that emerged during discussions in their home this morning was the level of achdut (unity) they were experiencing – meaning that they were getting emotional support from Jews of all backgrounds and all levels of religious observance.

For example; one of Ezra’s aunts approached me as I was leaving and shared with me that a Satmar chasid who owns a bus company personally drove a bus to New Jersey to pick up friends and family members of the Schwartz family. She was moved to tears as she described how this man they never met took them to Sharon, MA for the funeral, drove them home when it was over – and refused payment!  

After her words settled in, all of us in the room looked at each other, thinking the same thing: “Why does it take unspeakable calamities to engender this level of unity? Shouldn’t we try and maintain this in good times as well?”

With that in mind, permit me to share a prayer that I imagine Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev, the “defense attorney” of the Jewish people, would compose nowadays as the blood of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel is being spilled each day:

“Master of the Universe; we commit ourselves to building and maintaining unity among our people. In this merit, spare us from this gezeira (decree), and usher in the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our times.”

To help us reach that goal; please find below the lyrics of “Aderabe;” a beautiful song which is taken from a moving prayer written by the chassidic master Reb Elimelech of Lizensk.

Here are two musical renditions composed for these verses by my friend Yossi Green; one by Avrohom Fried and one by by Ohad Moskowitz with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Play it at home, hum it to yourself, teach it to your children and sing it with your family this Shabbos. Speak to your kids about the values these stirring words represent and think of ways you can model these values to them.

Please share these lines and/or a link to this post with your friends and on your social media and let’s collectively work to foster the unity that will usher in Hashem’s blessings to all His children.

Yakov Horowitz  

Aderaba, ten belibeinu
Shenireh kol echad mal’as chavereinu
Velo, velo chesronom

On the contrary, place in our hearts the ability to see only the good in our friends and not their shortcomings

Veshenidaber kol echad es chaveiro
Bederech hayashar veharatzui lefonecha
Ve’al ya’aleh belibeinu, shum sin’ah
Me’echad al chaveiro cholilah

May we speak to each other in a way that is proper and desirable in Your eyes and may there be no hatred between friends, Heaven forbid.

Usechazek osonu be’ahavah, be’ahavah ailecha
Ka’asher goluy veyodua lefanecha
Sheyehei hakol nachas ruach
Nachas ruach ailecha

Strengthen our ties and our bond to You with love, as it is revealed and known to You that we strive to give You only satisfaction and pleasure.

Omain kein yehi rotzon

Amen, may it be your will.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Two Kinds of Terrorism and How to Stop Them

Typical scene of  Palestinians celebrating attacks against the US or  Israel
What will the United States do if it is God forbid attacked by ISIS in a Paris style terrorist attack? I think I know the answer. Or at least what should be the answer for our Commander and Chief whose primary obligation is the security of the American people. Given this assessment, why aren’t we doing that before we are attacked? 

When the homeland is attacked, we must do whatever it takes to defeat the attackers. We have the most powerful and technologically advanced army in the world. Homeland Security says that an attack by ISIS is highly likely – given the promises by them to do so; their proven ability to carry them out; and willingness to do so on pain of death.

This question has been on my mind and the minds of many people ever since ISIS slaughtered 129 innocent people in Paris about 10 days ago. ISIS - and what to do about them has become the focus of both the media and political candidates on both sides of the political aisle. There are almost as many opinions about that as there are people expressing them. 

But the one thing almost everyone agrees upon is that the President’s policy isn’t working. Airstrikes will do a lot of damage. But unless troops are sent in to secure the areas that were bombed, ISIS will just retake them. Nature abhors a vacuum. The world has to respond in a unified manner with joint troops on the ground.

After Paris, US leadership should be able to convince our European allies – and perhaps more importantly to have a untied allied force consisting of proportional members from every civilized nation.  We have to enter Syria; re-take and secure all the land captured by ISIS. If they are defeated to that level, they won’t be able to do much recruiting. 

What to do afterwards? Good question. I have in the past suggested a Marshall Plan of the type that rebuilt a crushed Germany after World War II. It might have to be done a bit differently since Middle Eastern culture is so different from European culture. But I think it can be done if the world (including Syria’s neighbors) unite. But first things first. The status quo cannot be allowed to remain.

But this isn’t even the main purpose of my post. I bring it up in the context of the daily carnage taking place in Israel. Carnage that has been going on for months. Every day we hear of yet another random and sudden attack from individual terrorists. One or two or three killers at a time attacking innocent Israeli civilians going about their business. If one adds up the number of people killed during that time it may number as many as were killed in Paris. 

And yet it is hardly a blip on the world media radar screen.  The focus on this comes mostly from the Jewish media – both secular and religious. Is it any less tragic when terror is spread out over months accumulating masses of victims than it is when it happens all at once? I think not. The victims were all killed or maimed and their families no less affected. In fact I would think that spreading out unlimited terror over time on a daily basis is even more terrifying.

I can understand why the media focuses on the kind of grand scale attack that happened in Paris and not on the daily individual attacks going on in Israel. No one will say it is less tragic. Nor do I believe it is antisemitic. It is just much scarier to see major carnage happening in one day than it is to focus on an individual being killed in Israel on the same day. Making it harder to see it from the perspective that I described. Added to that is the fear of that happening here. By contrast no one is worried that a Palestinian in America will come out of the woodwork and start stabbing people on a daily basis.

Which is why I bring it up. Despite the inclination to see Paris as a much bigger deal than Israel right now, I don’t think it should be. Ask the families of those killed.

The obvious question is what to do about it? How do we stop these knife wielding attackers? The answer to solving this problem is – in my view – exponentially more difficult than solving the ISIS problem. These attacks are generated by on factor. And it isn’t ‘the occupation’. It is plain and simple rabid Jew hatred. 

Arabs in all of Israel’s neighboring countries and beyond have been indoctrinated to hate Jews. Decade upon decade of hate has been instilled into every Arab man, woman and child in the Middle East. They see us as infidel usurpers of their land, coming from Europe under the pretext of a Holocaust that - to many of them - never happened. And even if it did, it isn’t their fault. Why should they give up their land? Our grievances should be to Europe, not to them. Why should they suffer because of what Europe supposedly did to us? They are of the variety that would just as soon exterminate us as look at us.

I don’t see how we can just change hearts and minds now, no matter what we do. This is no doubt what fueled young teenage girls to attacked innocent shoppers in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda open air market. One of those attacked was an Arab innocently shopping there. Those teenagers thought he was a Jew. 

At this point it doesn’t really matter anymore what precipitated all these attacks. Success breeds more success. So they are no doubt going to continue attacking us this way. So rabid is their hatred of us that they don’t care what happens to them – knowing full well that they may very be killed themselves by police or civilians carrying guns. They don’t care - as long as they succeed in terrorizing us. 

How do you fight something like this?

Ezra Schwartz, H'YD
Which brings me to the following. One of the more heart rending murders reported in the Jewish media is that of 18 year old Ezra Schwartz of Sharon, Massachusetts. He was a was a gap year student at a yeshiva in Bet Shemesh. Can it be that every single Muslim is so heartless to the point of cheering his death? This often seems to be the case among Arabs of he Middle East. 

They see every successful attack against us as a victory for Islam. Who will forget the cheering Palestinian masses on the West Bank as they heard of the successful attack against the World Trade Center. I will never forget those images anymore than I will forget the images of those twin towers coming down. 

But they are not all like that. There are some like Abdul Rahman Ahmad the Imam of a mosque in Sharon.  His condolence letter to the Schwartz family was so poignant that is actually gives me some hope. It can be read in its entirety in the Forward,  who said about it that ‘It was a heartfelt and genuine gesture that did not feel forced or fake’. I agree. We need a lot more Imams like this. And a lot less Imams or Muftis like the far more common Haj Amin al-Husseini types.

And therein lies the problem. This is not the first time I have seen a Muslim leader express sincere regrets over what fellow Muslims are doing to the Jewish people. Nor is it that uncommon to find isolated pockets of cooperation and even love between Arabs and Jews in Israel. Haddasah Hospital comes to mind. They are blind to ethnicity and religion there. 

Sharei Tzedek Hospital is another. Who can forget the lifesaving operation performed by an Arab surgeon there on a young Jewish American woman who was seriously injured on a bus blown up by a Muslim suicide bomber?  They created a bond to each other that no doubt exists to this day.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s something about the nature of hospitals that can break through the hatred. But at least we know it can and does happen. The only problem is that it is so rare, that it is seems to be the exception that proves the rule. Which is the  extreme hatred of the Jew by indigenous Muslims of the Middle East.

The real key to solving the problem there has little if anything to do with settlements. It is all about the over 100 years of hatred passed on from one generation to the next. That has to be changed. How we do that is a mystery to me. But that is the solution. And in my view the only one that will really work.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Female Halachic Advisors

Yoetzet Halacha, Dr. Deena Zimmerman
For me the argument in favor of Yoatzot Halacha is compelling. I have been a supporter of this innovation since I heard about it over 10 years ago. I wrote about it back then. It was one of my earliest posts. I have not changed my view. In fact my support for it has been strengthened.

For those who don’t know – a Yoetzet (singular for Yoatzot) is a halachic adviser specially trained in Hilchos Niddah (commonly referred to as the laws of family purity). These are an intricate set of laws involving a woman’s menstrual cycle and when intimacy with her husband is or isn’t permissible.

Breifly (and perhaps to over- simplify) it is severe violation of Halacha for a man to have sexual relations with a menstruating woman. The violation applies to both the man and the woman. That prohibition remains in place until the menstrual cycle ends. When no more blood is detected and after a short waiting period the woman immerses in a Mikva, and sexual relations between a husband and wife may resume until the next menstrual cycle begins.

Although this sounds pretty straight forward and uncomplicated (I almost hate to use the overused cliché – but here goes…) the devil is in the details. These laws are very complex and require a lot of knowledge to be properly observed. I am not going to go in to any of the details. There are volumes upon volumes of Halachic written material that deal with this issue. Which are certainly beyond the scope of this post.

Although most observant men and women learn the basics prior to marriage, situations often arise requiring more than basic knowledge. These situations require a Shaila (a Halachic question) to be asked of an expert in these laws - a Posek that has studied them extensively and had Shimush – a kind of internship with an experienced Posek in the field.

The problem is that that sex is obviously an embarrassing subject to talk about with your rabbi. Especially for a woman . It cannot be easy for a woman to ask a man a question about the most intimate part of her life. But that is the way it has been done throughout the ages. And it has worked. Up to a point.

But as I have said in the past (and as Shoshana Keats Jaskoll said so much more eloquently than I ever have) embarrassment leads to not asking a Shaila at all in many cases. That results in 2 possible outcomes – neither of which are good. In some cases a couple may think a problem is no big deal and violate these laws. But in a far greater number of cases, refraining unnecessarily creates its own set of Halachic problems. It can also cause serious problems in the relationship – and even prevent conception.

This is where Yoatzot Halacha come in. They have been trained in these laws exclusively and are prepared to answer many common questions that come up. The more difficult questions are referred to a Posek that has the knowledge and the years of experience to answer them properly. The advantages of this system are evident in the statistics cited by Mrs. Jaskoll in her Cross-Currents article: 
To illustrate: in one particular community, the rabbi had been hearing 5-6 questions on taharat hamishpacha over the course of a month; when a yoetzet joined that same community, she received 5-6 taharat hamishpacha questions per DAY. The number of questions skyrocketed when the voice on the other end of the line belonged to a yoetzet…
The yoetzet hotline for halachic questions fields between 30 and 40 questions each night, not including calls made directly to independent or community yoatzot. Approximately 16,000 questions have been catalogued on Nishmat’s website, which gets an average of 300 hits per day. Indeed, it is likely the largest repository of halachic responsa on taharat hamishpacha in the world. 
These statistics speak for themselves. And yet there has been no endorsement of this innovation by any rabbinic leader. Certainly not in the Charedi world, but even in much of the Modern Orthodox world.

I have never understood this opposition. Except to say that it might be rooted in the fear that the Yoatzot Halacha program is rooted in 21st century feminism. Or that they fear the slippery slope. While I’m sure that the first concern may be true in some instances. I don’t think this is what motivates most of the women who seek this knowledge. They are not rabbis and don’t claim to be. They are women who are aware of the need and responded. A need that is mainstream and not based on the spirit of the times that fuels Open Orthodoxy. Nor do  I know of a single Yoetzet that has slid down any kind of slippery slope. To the best of my knowledge none of them have decided to become rabbis. They continue to be Yoatzot and fill a need.

As mentioned Shoshana Jaskoll has written a powerful argument in favor of Yoatzot Halacha in Cross-Currents, I could not agree with her more. That article includes a thoughtful rebuttal by opponents. It is well worth the read. 

What is significant about this is that it was published on a Charedi website. Although Cross-Currents is moderate, I do not recall them ever publishing a view that was in opposition to the broad consensus of Charedi rabbinic leaders. They have done so here. I am also that are other Charedi rabbis (albeit moderate ones) that have changed their minds and are now aboard with this program.

For the record, I did not buy the opposition’s arguments. Their concerns which may or may not be legitimate, pale in comparison to the obvious benefits. Which are primarily enhanced observance of Hilchos Niddah.

Just to refute one of their objections. They seem to be saying that the expertise of a Rabbi who is steeped in these laws having studied them for many years is far more knowledgeable that any Yoetzet ever could be. We should therefore retain the old system and not worry about women being too embarrassed to ask them questions. Because it will be the husband doing the asking.

The problem is that it hasn’t worked to the extent that the Yoatzot program has. One can see that just by the statistics cited above. What about the greater expertise of the Posek? That is actually built into the program. These women are trained to ask them the more difficult questions.

What about the rabbinic opposition to this program? One of the primary arguments made against the innovation of female rabbis is that it is vehemently opposed by all rabbinic leaders of any stature in both Charedi and Modern Orhtodox circles. I am 100% convinced that they will never be accepted. I stand by that.

The opposition to Yoatzot on the other hand has not generated the kind of heat. They have not been ‘thrown out of Orhtodoxy’. In essesne they are tolerated to an extent even if they are opposed in principle.

Chicago has innovated a program of its own. Founded by the Rosh Kollel of the YU Kollel Torah MiTzion, a group of women have been trained to answer common Shailos on Hilchos Niddah and a hot-line has been created. They are not called Yoatzot  in order to avoid the politics of the issue. Nor do they have the extensive training that Yoatzot do. But they essentially perform the same function. And they have a Charedi Posek they ask Shailos to. The Charedi rabbis in the city have not given their blessing. But they have not spoken out against it either. I’m sure it is because they see the value of it.(Not to mention that Charedi Posek that answers the more difficult questions.)

I don’t know if the rabbinic leaders that have opposed Yoatzot will ever come around with a more positive approach rather than a ‘look the other way’ approach. I hope they will. We’ll have to wait and see. But stranger things have happened.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Another Voice in Opposition to Open Orthodoxy

Guest Contribution by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky

Three recently ordained Open Orthodox Rabbis (Ha'aretz)
Spare me your tears. This might be the response I get for expressing my sentiments about the direction taken by the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy. I understand the umbrage. If I were in their shoes I might feel the same way. But I can’t help it. I am sad - depressed even. I cannot think of a more devastating blow to observant Jewry than yet another break away from it. Especially if it attracts otherwise observant Jews. 

And yet that is exactly what has happened. Open Orthodoxy (OO) has broken away and created a new denomination… for the same reasons the Conservative Movement was created. The latter having been a reaction to the excesses of Reform and designed to appeal to the melting-pot spirit of the times. I am not going to re-hash the problems inherent in OO. I have done that more times than I can count. And as far as this post goes it is almost irrelevant.

What is relevant is that they are becoming increasingly ostracized from mainstream Orthodox movements and rabbis. It is plainly obvious to me that they will never be accepted in their current incarnation. Unless they return to their roots and abandon their questionable compromises in pursuit of current trends, they will become just another heterodox movement. I cannot tell you how much this pains me. I have close relatives that support and are even a part of Open Orthodoxy. Relatives that I love and who are among the finest and most sincere people I know. But then again I also have relatives that belong to the Conservative movement – and I can say the same thing about them.

There are many that ask, ‘Why should they care what those to their right think’? That may be a valid question. But they do care. They would not be fighting so hard to retain their status as Orthodox if they didn’t. That’s what’s so frustrating. I want to retain them under the big tent of Orthodoxy. There is a place for the left just like there is a place for the right. But they have chosen to be divisive while accusing mainstream Orthodoxy of it by their strident opposition to them.

Well I guess it depends which side of the fence one is standing on. But it is they who are departing from the mainstream. The rest of us are just reacting to it. It is with that in mind that I present a submission by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky. He is yet another voice in an increasing number of voices across the spectrum of Orthodoxy to oppose them. He is responding to an article written in their defense in Ha’aretz. His words follow.

Criticism has been directed at the RCA resolution about ordaining women as being politically based, rather than Halachically based. Rather than obfuscating the issue, I believe the RCA should own up to that accusation, since the justifications given for ordaining women, and for most of the Open Orthodoxy agenda, is political in nature, rather than Halachic. Politically based decisions deserve politically based responses.

A recent article by Yehoshua Looks, published in Ha’aretz, shows just how much the Open Orthodox (OO) agenda is governed by politics, and how little by Halacha and authentic traditional Jewish sources. There is nothing wrong with a Jewish group basing their decisions on sources that are not rooted in Torah. But it can’t be called “Orthodox Judaism”, Open or Otherwise.

Some excerpts from that article make the political nature of their arguments clearer than anything we could accuse them of.

In posing the question about the authority to define Judaism, the author introduces two models of Judaism, implying that both are rooted in the foundations of our tradition: authoritarian and democratic. This certainly smacks of politics, and moving us away from a discussion of religion, since the authority to define Judaism is supposed to be the Torah. What he probably meant was “who has the authority to interpret the Torah.” But the dialectic he presents demonstrates without a doubt the he is not speaking about Judaism, but about a politically based aberration of it.
“The authoritarian model views Judaism as theology and dogma. The democratic model is more nuanced (isn’t that a nice-sounding adjective – sk); it views Judaism as process oriented, as a journey, the goal of which is to discover one’s authentic voice (by what measure? – sk) within the tradition.”
While the “democratic” model he describes has no basis in our traditional (authoritarian?) Torah sources, and “process” has always been the foundation of Talmudic study and authentic Halachic decisions, the historical example used to illustrate this “democratic” model demonstrates the complete inverse of his thesis.

In an almost breathtaking sleight of hand, he contrasts...
“…the authoritarian mitnagdim (those opposed) and the original Hasidim, the Baal Shem Tov and those that followed him. The Baal Shem Tov saw the holiness in all human beings, as a spark waiting to be ignited.”
So original Hasidim and the Baal Shem Tov serve as the source of this “democratic model” in contrast to the authoritarian model! The Baal Shem Tov, and most Hasidic Rebbes must be turning in their graves. Hassidut was always a completely authoritarian model of Judaism – the Rebbe’s voice was THE authority, unquestionably followed.

What Hassidut introduced was the emphasis placed on daily actions of the simple Jew, in contrast to the emphasis on a more intellectual practice of Judaism. But to use this as a model to justify the free-for-all that OO is creating in the Halachic decision making process is a perversion of Jewish history and Jewish philosophy. Calling this “democratic” is one of many indications of the truly political dimension of OO.
After misrepresenting Hasidut in a way that was sure to make the Baal Shem Tov turn over in his grave, he quotes Hertzel Hefter quoting Eric Fromm about proper way for the Halachic system to operated, implying that our great poskim from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Moshe Feinstein back to the Vilan Gaon, with their “authoritarian “view, create the danger that our relationship with God was becoming stagnant and ossified.

Anyone delving in to the finely tuned balance of fidelity to our sources and penetrating vision of the contemporary situations manifest in the complex responsa of these poskim, would find it an uniformed insult to accuse them of being “blind to the unique circumstances of the present. And instead seeing them only in terms of the past, …incapable of appreciating the challenge of what is new and fresh… characterized by fear and lack of faith in the Torah’s ability to meet the challenges of the present authentically.

Really amazing words.

It is of course the OO people who have no faith in the ability of the Torah to authentically meet those challenges. That is precisely why they need to import political arguments to justify their positions, while casting doubt on the Divine nature of the Torah and Talmud on which we base our Judaism. We have been through this before. The arguments they use are not new. They are valid from a political and even religious perspective. They just have nothing to do with Orthodox Judaism. Their insistence to the contrary leads them right in to historical revisionism and logical fallacies.

Public discourse is wonderful for political decisions. I don’t think the author would want a cardiologist or oncologist to throw open life and death decisions to public discourse influenced by political agendas. And he would certainly insist that “seats at the table” to make these decisions not be open to doctors whose credentials are based on internet degrees or access to searchable databases.

In medicine we want our opinions coming from great doctors with many years of rigorous study, training, and field experience. We want their qualifications screened and acknowledged by a broad spectrum of other experts. The foundation of Orthodox Judaism is the belief in a Torah, both written and Oral, that is a Divinely revealed system. The transmission and interpretation of that system was given over by God to human beings who are completely immersed in the study and continuity of that system, and our standards for “seats at the table” are very high. 

If Open Orthodoxy wants to be a player in influencing the ongoing development of Torah Judaism, it has to start by being Orthodox. Otherwise, it will suffer the same fate we are witnessing with other heterodox movements in Judaism.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky is co-founder and Dean of Shapell’s/Darche Noam and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya in Jerusalem. He has been involved in the education of English speaking Ba’alei Tshuva for 35 years, and has over 3,000 graduates. (Bio from Klal Perspectives)

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Differences are Significant

Abdelhamid Abaaoud 
I guess my article opposing Syrian refugees entry into this country at this point in time - resonated with both supporters and opponents of that view. I was interviewed by’s Cody Derespina yesterday after he read my article in the Times of Israel. He has published my off the cuff responses in his own Fox News article. Which is sympathetic to my point of view. Which I truly appreciate.

But  Ha’aretz columnist, Chemi Shalev had a different take. Quoting from my Jewish Press article he argued against my primary reasons for severely restricting Syrian refugees entry into the United States. Here is the excerpt he published from my blog: 
“There is a big difference between Jews seeking refuge then and the Syrian Muslims seeking it now,” blogger Harry Maryles wrote in an article published in the right wing Jewish Press, in an effort to explain how a Jew whose parents survived the Holocaust could join the restrictionists. “Not a single subset of the Jewish people threatened the world with take-over under a caliphate. They were not threatening to destroy democracies like Israel or rattling their sabers shouting, ‘Death to America’. Or burning American flags. No segment of Jewry was beheading infidels. No Jew ever blew himself up in a suicide attack. There was not a single Jew that wanted anything more than refuge in a safe country.” 
To me that makes all the difference in the world.

As I said ISIS has caused so many Syrians to uproot themselves from the only home they ever knew and make a dangerous trek into foreign countries unsure of what their fate would be. Those images broadcast all over the world is one of the hardest things that I have ever witnessed. The obvious identification I have with them as a child of the Holocaust is palpable. That’s because (as many supporters of allowing Syrian refugees into this country have noted) we Jews know what it means to seek refuge and be denied it. And we know the carnage against us that ensued because of that. But as I said there are major differences militating for extra caution in our day.

But Shalev tries to undermine those reasons. Here in part was his response: 
But that’s easy to say now; it’s not what most Americans believed at the time… For many Americans, the Jews were not refugees running for their lives or simple people looking for save haven. They were Communist agents if they came from Russia, Nazi saboteurs if they hailed from Germany and Austria, criminals, lowlifes, swindlers and scavengers if they arrived from anywhere else. 
These as well as some additional comments along these lines is what negates my arguments according to Shalev. But I would argue that they might actually reinforce them. For example to say that Jews were ‘Nazi saboteurs if they hailed from Germany and Austria’ is such nonsense that only an antisemite would make them.  Can anyone imagine a Jewish Nazi in Hitler’s Germany? 

That Jews were kept out of this country during Hitler’s era for reasons similar to those made today about Syrian refugees is so ridiculous that it hardly deserves a response. But I’ll give one anyway. It is the same response I gave in the first place. 

ISIS Muslims in Syria have proven just how much they desire to sabotage every western democracy in the world, and have clearly indicated that the US is their primary target. Not only with words. But with deeds like those of last Friday in Paris, And again this morning in Mali

It has also been established thaAbdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the Paris attack immigrated to Belgium through Syria. The likihood of someone like this entering our country as a Syrian refugee is exponentially higher than it was for a German Jew to be a Nazi saboteur in Hitler’s era. If anything Chalev makes my argument for me. There is a major difference between Jews fleeing Nazi Germany seeking refuge here then – and Syrian refugees now that have been shown to have ISIS terrorists embedded with them disguised as refugees. 

In the first instance antisemitism played a major role. In the second instance anti Islamism has nothing to to do with it. How do I know that anti Semitism was the real reason for barring Jews –and not because people really thought they were Nazi Saboteurs? Aside from that being obvious, Chalev answers that question himself: 
Decades of nativist, anti-Semitic incitement that had started with the arrival of waves of Jewish immigrants at the end of the 19th century had left Americans fearful of the hordes of Jews that were coming to take over their livelihood and their lives. 
So I stand by my original opposition. Not because of any innate prejudice against Muslims or Syrians. I do not have an ounce of prejudice against them. And if it were possible to call 411 in Syria and properly vet them, I would welcome them all with open arms. But since that is currently a virtual impossibility, better to be safe them sorry. 

As I have also said, if any Syrian could be properly vetted, I would have no objection. I just don’t think it is really possible. But the humane nature of this country being what it is, security personnel may unknowingly allow ISIS terrorists into this country by giving some of them the benefit of the doubt. We will then have an increased ISIS presence. An ISIS that promises to do to America what they did to Paris last Friday.

What about the fate of these poor refugees and their families? I feel truly sad about the conditions they may be forced to live in. Refugee camps are not Disneyland. But they will live. Literally. Until Syria can be liberated – when they can return to their homeland. Which was not the option Jews had when they were refused refuge. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Agudah and the OTD Phenomenon

Guest Submission

Image taken from Unpious
I received a communication from a highly respected and well credentialed mental health professional. He is not only well respected professionally, but as a Charedi Jew he is well respected religiously by that community as well.

It is with these impressive credentials in mind that I feel his words have added meaning. He speaks from experience about a subject discussed here many times - most recently in a guest submission from a ‘card carrying’ member of Agudah who reported his impression of their recent convention weekend. One of the primary topics of that weekend was about the OTD (Off the Derech) phenomenon. (I hate that phrase but it has become the common identifier of those who were raised to be observant and have chosen to abandon it.)

His observations on this subject should be taken very seriously by all segments of Orthodoxy. These are observations much of which are based on his practice in which many of his clients (they are not really patients) are young people that have gone OTD and/or their parents. In fact Agudah has consulted him on this issue many times. For reasons which will become obvious in his message - he has asked to remain anonymous. I have agreed. My hope is that the Agudah leadership – both lay and rabbinic will somehow read these words and absorb its message. His words follow unedited in their entirety.

I have not viewed any of the videos from the convention, nor have I read detailed transcripts of what the speakers said.  But I perused the comments on the report in an earlier post. Some reactions.

Firstly, some of the commenters would gripe about anything said at the convention, except perhaps Shema Yisroel at davening. 

Secondly, I would join many in expecting the speakers to have presented “party line”, where they bash parents and defend chinuch.  It seems this did not happen. 

Thirdly, it was pleasing to see that they did not make fools of themselves to blame it on the internet (one version of chareidi OCD), which would explain none of the OTD cases that predate the web.  For those who know the OTD scene, the internet follows the move to leave the derech.  It doesn’t cause it or even play a role in the initial steps.

The topic is well chewed already, and the brief breath of fresh air by several speakers finally saying the obvious is welcomed.  I am put off by the nonsensical comments that refer to keeping kids in the fold by “singing extra zmiros on Shabbos”.  That is, defensively, an effort to make Torah and Mitzvos enjoyable. 

The kid that finds davening a pleasant experience, whether the singing, or better yet, the emotional transcendence of connecting to HKB”H, will come on time and not miss.  All the discipline (punishment) in the world cannot accomplish what a little Ahavas Hashem can.  Meanwhile, our average yeshiva talmid is told that the failure to excel or to conform means he is an “oisvorf”.

Pray, tell me, where is the Ahavas Yisroel here, and in what way are we fulfilling the mitzvah of ואהבת את ה' אלקיך –  שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך (יומא פ"ו ע"א)?  The mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem is fulfilled by causing others to take pride in HKB”H and his mitzvos.

Kids go OTD for varying reasons.  Mostly they are emotional, but a few are intellectual.  All cases of OTD are kids escaping.  Why are they running from Yiddishkeit?  Because it is somehow painful for them.  Exactly what and how is unique to each. 

Another common theme, which is actually universal, is rejection.  This rejection can come in the form of abuse (whichever kind is politically acceptable to discuss), or the undeserved punishment, the suspensions and expulsions, the public shaming, the labeling a talmid as a failure, etc.  Ask anyone who has been involved with the kids and/or parents.  The rejection factor is universal. 

The community prefers to avoid this issue, as no one will admit to the mistakes of rejecting, nor does anyone feel safe recognizing the massive amounts of rejection that characterize the current chinuch system.  That is horrifically unpopular. 

The subject of yeshiva expulsions has been discussed in some of the frum media, and it was addressed at Torah Umesorah.  All the Gedolei Yisroel at Torah Umesorah were in agreement that the current state of affairs is not good.  There is better understanding of the subject now than there ever was, but the fears about tampering with the status quo of chinuch are intense.  Overcoming them will be a challenge, at the very least. 

It is easier, in the short run, to exact punishment and compel every talmid to comply with rules and conform.  But this will rarely, if ever, produce a talmid who loves Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvos, and conducts his life with Ahavas Hashem.

Many of today’s Gedolim speak to the public about the critical role of Emunoh.  But there is precious little in the curriculum of the yeshiva that helps talmidim develop and refine emunoh.  The speakers at the convention highlighted that, from the panelists on the OTD forum, the Sadigurer Rebbe shlit”a, and others. 

Mechanchim are notorious for refusing to respond to questions on the subject, and are more apt to label the questioner an apikores and slate them for expulsion.  This rash statement is not outdated, nor is it exaggeration.  Everyone has questions, and we should engage in the process of inquiry until we reach a satisfactory answer.

I have no answer for the community at large.  I do, however, lend my voice to those who seek to instill Ahavas Hashem in children from birth and onward.  If we are told לפתח חטאת רובץ, we should at least try to counter with the soul gratifying connection to HKB”H.