Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Unity of a People Alone

Rav Shaul Alter at Gush Etzion (image sent by a reader)

I have to disagree with Merriam-Webster's word of the year. It should not be ‘authentic. The word of the year should be ‘unprecedented’. There have been so many unprecedented things that happned this year that I’m sure it was used more than the word ‘authentic. And I am going to use it again. 

What is happening in the Jewish world today is unprecedented. I’m not talking about the brutal massacre, torture and kidnapping of Jews by Hamas un October 7th. Nor am I talking about Israel’s response to that in Gaza. Or the increase I antisemitism  all over the world -  not seen since the Holocaust. Or the protest that took place in Washington a couple of weeks ago. Or the divisiveness between right and left; religious and secular, both here and in Israel. Or the massive number of indictments of the immediate past President of the United States.

 The list goes on. All of which are unprecedented events. I’m sure I’ve already used that word in all of those contexts - and more. What I’m talking about is  the silver lining that this unprecedented tragedy has brought about.

In a world where divisiveness is increasingly the order of the day, I do not ever recall the kind of unity among the Jewish people that I am now witnessing. It is almost as though my dream about the unity of the Jewish people - which I have longed for as far back as I can remember -is unfolding right before my very eyes.

One of the most divisive issues separating the Jewish people is how the IDF viewed.  Both in Israel and here. The Charedi world has long eschewed army service for their young. Instead of seeing the IDF as the defense force it really is (which is now clearly being demonstrated) they have consistently characterized it little more than a secular Zionist social engineering tool whereby Charedim would be integrated into Israeli society - and ultimately disabused from their religious moorings. 

They refused to say prayer for the safety of its soldiers because by doing so, they would be giving tacit recognition to the secular Zionist state they saw as virulently anti Torah.  So opposed are they that even after October 7th massacre, many Charedi rabbis did not allow that prayer to be recited in their Shuls. Instead - relying on general prayers (Tehillim) for the welfare of all the Jewish people.

It appears, however, that the majority of the Charedi world that had consistently opposed praising the IDF  has changed their tune. They now openly support the IDF. As noted in the JTA this attitude has spread beyond the borders of Israel at an Agudah event: 

When 3,000 Orthodox men packed into a New Jersey event hall late last month to mark a milestone in their 7 1/2-year cycle of Talmud study, they added an unusual component to the celebration.

In addition to sermons from prominent rabbis and collective prayer and study, the men watched videos showing uniformed Israel Defense Forces soldiers studying, singing and dancing with haredi Orthodox men and visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem. 

Charedim in Israel that had up until now studiously avoided military service volunteered to serve in the IDF to the tune of 3000. As noted in the Forward: 

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, hundreds of Haredim have enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces, a phenomenon widely celebrated as a milestone in the integration of the community into Israeli society… 

In recent weeks some 360 Haredi men, of more than 3,000 applicants, have concluded two weeks of basic training and joined the IDF’s reserves. Israel mobilized about 360,000 reservists after Hamas killed more than 1,200 people in Israel last month, and kidnapped more than 330. 

Many Israelis have noted how Haredi rabbis have refrained from criticizing those who have signed up. The Haredim considered Torah study essential for young men, and Haredi leaders in the past have insisted upon the exemptions. 

This is truly an amazing turn of events. Recall that one of the main issues dividing Israel beofere October 7th was secular/Dati resentment at exemption from IDF of all able bodied Charedim. That no longer seems to be an issue: 

Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, suggested that these Haredi soldiers could build a foundation for a center-left government that includes Haredi parties.  

In yet another unprecedented event, Rav Shaul Alter, the leader of a a huge and growing ‘breakaway’ segment of the large Chasidus of Ger- delivered a Shiur in the Beis Medrash of Yeshiva Gush Etzion – the Hesder Yeshiva headed by the late Rav Aharon Lichtenstein. Where students alternate Torah study with military service. 

Never thought I’d see anything like that.

While there are certainly outlier Charedi rabbis that still do not value or appreciate the IDF, they seem to be in the minority and have been rebuked by Charedi leaders for expressing those views.  

It’s true that this is a grass roots effort inspired by the evets of October 7th. And it may yet wane once the war ends. as was the case in an earlier tragedy. On that score - this is not the first time that the Charedi  world expressed a degree of unity with their ideological opponents in the religious world

Recall that the late Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv who was considered the Gadol Hador by the Charedi world joined the funeral procession of the 8 students murdered by Palestinian terrorists at Merkaz HaRav, the flagship Yeshiva of Religious Zionism. It took a tragedy then. And it took a tragedy now.

Rav Elyashiv’s gesture wore off after a while and the 2 sides went back to business as usual. Where neither side had anything to do with each other and rejected the legitimacy of the other.

But this time is different for several reasons. At least I hope it is. The tragedy of October 7th is exponentially greater than the one at Merkaz Harav.  It has also  opened up level of antisemitism not seen since the days of Nazi Germany. Jew hatred is directed at all Jews. Religious or not. Left wing or Right.

As Majority Leader, Chuck Schmuuer who although not observant reminded us yesterday in a speech delivered to the senate –We are an Am Levadod Yishkon. We are a people that resides alone. We must all realize that we cannot rely on the good intentions of even the friendliest country to the Jewish people in the history of the world. A country I truly love. We must therefore be united in support of Israel at the most precarious time in its over76 year history. Encouraging its leaders not to be deterred from its mission regardless of the pushback by some of the political leaders in this nation its closest friend. To paraphrase the words of Hillel in Avos (1:14) If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?! 

It is my sincere hope and prayer that all that old animosity between us will fade into oblivion. Never to raise its ugly head again! If there is anything good that can come out of this tragedy - it is that.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Does the Pope Have a Jewish Problem? Or a Liberal Problem?

Pope Francis and Conservative Rabbi Abraham Skorka (Angelus)
Does what the pope does matter to the Jewish people?  The answer is yes. It absolutely does. Not in any religious sense. That should be obvious since our belief systems are incompatible. But in the sense of his influence in the world. Which extends well beyond the Roman Catholic constituency he serves. With a popular pope like Francis, that influence in not insignificant.

He is widely admired for his warm embrace of all people. People of all faiths.  Sinners and saints alike. His liberal approach to Church doctrine has surprised many in the Church hierarchy. 

People with a resume like that tend to be seen as exemplars of high moral  character.  Their views on world events can heavily influence people that admire him outside of the church. He could in theory sway public opinion well beyond his natural constituency.

This is why Pope Francis’s close friendship with Conservative Rabbi Abraham Skorka in his home country of Argentina was a welcome sight for people like me. Historically popes have not been all that kind to the Jewish people. Pre Vatican II - centuries old old church doctrine held that we lost our claim to be God’s chosen people. We were therefore either condemned to hell for not recognizing their god - or targets for heavy handed conversions. Which is what the Crusades and the Inquisition were all about.  

Although that type of heavy handed treatment has waned over the years we were nevertheless seen in the same negative light .Whose special stature as the chosen people of God was lost and replaced by them.

It took a pope of tremendous courage who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust to change all that. During the Holocaust, before he became Pope John XXXII,  Bishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli had saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish children from the hands of the Nazis. With no religious strings attached.  After he was chosen, Pope John mandated a  change in church doctrine that went from rejection of Judaism by God to acceptance of it as a brother religion to Christianity. His successor, Pope Paul, presided over Vatican II which followed his bidding.

Pope Francis took this new ‘brotherhood’ to a new level.  While still a bishop in Buenos Aires he became close to Rabbi Skorka. They ended up coauthoring a book together in a spirit unprecedented ecumenism. And they have remained friends ever since. It was in that spirit that Pope Francis traveled to Israel twice - one of which included a visit to the Kotel together with his old friend, Rabbi Skorka.

A recent article by John L. Allen Jr. in Angelus questioned how genuine Pope Francis’s affinity toward the Jewish people really is.  Asking whether he had a ‘Jewish problem’!

He based that question on what seemed to be a turn away from sympathy for the Jewish people in favor of sympathy for Palestinians. Allen gave several examples where his concern for Palestinians suffering exceeded his concern for Jewish suffering - on several notable occasions well before the the horrendous massacre of 1200 Jews and kidnapping 250 Jews by Hamas on October 7th.  As well as at least one time after. The latter of which was described this way: 

The fact that Francis delayed meeting a group of family members of Israeli hostages, an encounter originally requested in October but denied on the grounds that he was too busy with the Synod of Bishops, until he could also see on the same day a group of relatives of people from Gaza affected by the war, created the latest frisson in terms of his perceived pro-Palestinian tilt. 

There were also theological comments by Francis about Jewish inability to receive salvation through the Torah. That salvation could only be received through embracing their god.

Does that mean Pope Francis’s affinity for the Jewish people was fake? Was it some kind of publicity stunt to show how ecumenical the church has become? Was that what his friendship with Rabbi Skorka was all about? PR?

Not that the pope needs me to defend him. But I believe that nothing has changed. First that the pope believes salvation comes only through his church should not surprise anyone. More importantly, however, is the fact that Pope Francis entire worldview is that of the quintessential arch liberal. Who is open to all people. He  sees human suffering and responds to that. The liberal mindset does not look very hard at context. It sees suffering and insists it stop immediately and unconditionally. 

In the case of Palestinians, the liberal mindset sees devastation in Gaza, huge numbers killed, and millions more displaced; with little in the way of sustenance coming their way. All because of Israel’s defense initiative. 

So Francis the arch liberal turns his attention to Palestinians. The liberal sees Israel as the oppressive occupier and Palestinians as the oppressed occupied. people That injustice is what the arch liberal addresses. That is the one that gets their immediate attention. 

Not that he does not have sympathy for the hostages, or the  families that suffered lost loved ones on October 7th.  But that is all back burner stuff to an arch liberal like Francis. Israel’s assault is uppermost in his mind. As are the sheer numbers of Palestinians that have died or survived in a state of homelessness with nowhere to go. Their numbers by far outweigh the numbers of Jews suffering. So Francis’s sympathy lies there.

That not a single Palestinian in Gaza would have been harmed, had Hamas not done what it did; and that there would be far less civilian casualties had Hamas not imbedded themselves among sensitive civilian populations - such as schools and hospitals - matters to the liberal. In the moment all they see is human suffering on a major scale. So they get the lion's share of the pope’s sympathy.

This ‘Jewish problem’ is not the pope’s alone. It is a ‘Jewish problem for the liberal mind. Which is why liberal Democrats for example are more likely to have a knee jerk reaction to the violence and more inclined to ask for a cease-fire in Gaza - than are conservative Republicans who tend to see the bigger picture.

Liberal concern for the underdog comes from a good place. But it is a ‘good place’ without context. Which changes everything. 

The current pope is about as politically liberal as possible for the head a doctrinal religion like Catholicism. So it isn’t really a ‘Jewish problem. It is a ‘liberal problem’. 

Just my two cents.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Argentinian President-elect Milei's Affinity for Judaism

President-elect Javier Milei visitng the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s gravesite (JTA)
Javier Milei has just been elected president of Argentina. He has been described as a right wing  fanatic by his detractors. And has generated  intense criticism by advocating radical, provocative policies. Like solving their inflation problem by abandoning Argentinian currency and replacing it with the American dollar. Don't know if that will work. But I like the idea since it would strengthen the American dollar’s dominance over world currencies. But I digress.

What fascinates me most about Milei is his strong affinity for Judaism. So strong in fact that he expressed a desire to convert from the Catholicism in which he was raised. He also has strong ties with Lubavitch. One of the first things he did as President–elect was to visit the gravesite of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe.

I don’t know about anyone else. But I like the idea of having someone like that running a country with so many Jews in it. What about the fear that his right wing policies will hurt the liberal democratic nature of that characterizes western democracies? I can’t answer that question.  But if you are a religious Jew that believes in the values of the Torah., I think you should be pleased by his election.

This will of course not sit well with liberals .And there are plenty of liberal Orthodox Jews who are no doubt aghast at someone like Milei who they might see as an undemocratic autocrat that will undermine any semblance of democracy in that country. 

But still, why would any Orthodox Jew be upset at someone whose values are so close to Jewish values?

As I often say my political views I lean conservative. The reason for that is because most conservative values are in line with Orthodox Jewish values  like abortion rights and LGBTQ rights..If you are an Orthodox Jew, why would you not support the candidate whose views are closesst (even if not identical) to your own?

Do Orthodox Jews on the left feel his politicly conservative policies outweigh his strong affinity for Judaism? Would they reject him for that? Doe the anti authoritarianism that is the hallmark of liberalism mean they reject him no matter what?  

The truth after all is that Judaism is an authoritarian religion. Those of us who believe that the essence of Judaism is the Torah are by definition authoritarian. As believers, we follow a set of laws whether we like them or not.  It’s true that there are various different interpretations of the Torah which allows for legitimate differing views about what exactly the Torah requires of us. That has been true ever since post biblical times. The point however is that at the core the Torah is authoritarian.

I think this helps explain the massive degree of Orthodox Jewish support for former President Trump (And if the polls are anywhere near correct he will return to the Oval Office in 2024). They see his politics with respect to religious values being far closer to Orthodox Judaism than are the policies of those to his left. 

The sad reality of this is that they don’t seem to care about anything else. There are many serious issues with Trump that disqualify him from high office. But if not for that I actually liked his mostly conservative policies and would vote for him.   

The same thing can be said for Javier Milei. As far as I know he does not bring the disqualifying baggage baggage to his office that Trump would. So if I were an Argentinians Jew, I would probably have voted for him and would be proud to have contributed to his victory at the polls.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Elon Musk's Antisemtism Conundrum

Musk and Netanyahu at the site of the massacre (JTA)
On the scale of what is important in the world right now, Elon Musk would not seem to rate very high on the Totem Pole of world events. But with the rise in antsemitism, it is worth examining whether this influential multi billionaire actually is one. 

There are two types of prejudice one may have about the Jewish people. One is rather harmless and at times even a bit amusing. It is the type of prejudice that late comedian, Jackie Mason made a career out of: The common stereotypes that  may or may not be true but as noted are harmless. 

Those who do not know us well, might actually believe all of those stereotypes. And in many cases were to be found laughing their heads off (along with Jewish attendees) at one of Mason's concerts. But that does not means they hate us. 

The other type of prejudice is based on hate. The stereotypes they use are anything but harmless. Like the rhetoric that Hitler used against us during the Holocaust. Which is still in use among White Supremacists and the like.

Where does Musk fit in? And does his thinking on the subject reflect the broad view of us by he American people? 

These are important questions as they may help explain why there has been such an increase in antisemitism these days.  

Clearly the increase in anti Israel protests are result Israel's war with Hamas. Those protests are populated by Palestinians that support Hamas as well as people that genuinely (but mistakenly) believe that Israel is committing genocide against civilians in Gaza. I suspect, however, that a lot of them are closet antisemites that have always hated us and have now been given 'permission' to hate us publicly 

What Musk originally did on X was legitimize that kind of thinking. He 'liked' and replied by saying, "You have spoken the actual truth' to a tweet that said Jewish people have been pushing 'dialectical hatred' against whites.

At first glance it would appear that Musk is of the latter approach. Hard to call accusations of Jewish  'dialectical hatred' of whites harmless.

At the same time, there is this - as reported by JTA: 

Elon Musk...visited Israel on Monday and toured the devastation at a kibbutz ravaged by Hamas on Oct. 7 alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu...

 Afterward, Musk and Netanyahu spoke live on X, formerly known as Twitter, about Musk’s reaction to seeing Kfar Aza and a video that Israel compiled showing footage from the day of the massacre.

Musk said the experience was “jarring” and that he was struck by what appeared to be “joy” on the part of the terrorists in the video.

“The rebuttal is often made that well, you know, Israel has killed civilians also in Gaza,” he said. “But there’s an important difference here, which is that Israel tries to avoid killing civilians, doing everything it can to avoid killing civilians. And, you know, there’s not sort of joy expressed.”

This  followed  ADL's CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt praising Musk for a tweet promising to donate revenue associated with the war to hospitals in Israel and the Red Crescent - after at first after asking advertisers to boycott X  because of his original tweet.

So which is it? Is he or isn't he an antisemite?

I don't think he is where it counts. That was made plainly evident by his visit to Israel at a time of war, his reaction to the carnage, and by his earlier donation to Israeli hospitals

I do however think that his original tweet was a gut reaction. That tends to reflect an actual belief. Which as noted is far from harmless.

What this means is that all the antisemites of the world will use that as proof of their own views espousing the same 'truth'  about us. And considering the massive increase in antisemitism exposed by all these protests, that is not a good thing. 

I'm happy he went to Israel and said the things he said. I'm happy he donated money to Israel hospitals and the Red Crescent. But if he really wants to do 'Teshuva' he needs to do more. And as CEO of X and with his kind of money, he can do a lot.

Just sayin... 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Is the Mainstream Media Fair and Balanced?

Face the Nation moderator, Margret Brennan
I can’t let this pass. This morning as I was watching the Sunday morning talking heads, I was aghast at what I saw on CBS.  Face the Nation moderator, Margaret Brennan  interviewed Jake Sullivan, National  Security Advisor for the Biden administration... and then UNRWA High Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, about the current situation in Gaza.  I do not recall a time where anti Israel bias was more evident than during those interviews.

First she questioned Sullivan why the President isn’t putting more pressure Israel to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza as well as insisting on the  creation of a Palestinian state as a condition of further American support.

And then she took as Gospel UNRWA’s Lazzarini’s comments that Israel has been blatantly guilty of indiscriminately killing civilians and UN relief workers in Gaza in unprecedented numbers.

The obvious implication in those questions is that Israel is in fact guilty of ignoring Gaza civilians as the reason for the high casualty count. And the US is at fault for not making these demands as a condition of further support - as some members of congress were suggesting. 

The fact that she was talking about saving innocent lives makes it seem like she is articulating the higher moral position. Makes her questions seem eminently fair and caring.

And doesn’t the suggestion that the creation of a Palestinian state is seem like the  most just solution to the conflict?  (As if that was the most moral position to have.) Whether she actually believes that is an open question. But even if she does, it is at best the result of journalistic laziness.  

I am sick and tired of journalistic sloppiness. The unvarnished truth about about the issue of civilian casualties is that no country goes to as great lengths as does Israel in trying to minimize civilian casualties. That it does so in the context of an existential war is even more remarkable.

The  reason that there are so many civilian casualties is that Hamas prefers it that way. They deliberately  place themselves is areas that will maximize civilian casualties. Whom they refer to as martyrs! 

She also deliberately ignores the fact that not every Palestinians casualty is a civilian. Hamas does not wear uniforms. Discovering a body wearing civilian clothing is therefore counted as a civilian casualty. Who know how many of those casualties were actually civilians?!  

She ignores how this war began. Which was the most barbaric attack against the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

She ignores the fact that Hamas has openly promised to have more of these kinds of attacks until Palestine is liberated from the river to the sea. Making this a war for Israel's very survival.

She ignores the fact that the vast majority of all Palestinians support Hamas  and what they did on October 7. 

What about her suggestion that the creation of a Palestinian state should be a condition for US support.? 

First of all, who in their right mind would oppose a Palestinian state that would see the end of hostilities? Where both Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security in a spirit of mutual cooperation. One that would become a model of coexistence?  Can anyone imagine a better a scenario than where there would be no more wars; no more suicide bombings; no more Intifadas; and no more attacks like the one that precipitated this war?  

The problem is that that scenario is impossible.  Does anyone in the right mind believe that Palestinians in Gaza will suddenly go from supporting the Hamas to becoming Judeophiles? 

4-year old Abigail Edan is among the latest hostages released by Hamas
If there is anyone that should be aware of all of these facts it should be a mainstream media journalist like Brennan who anchors a weekly broadcast and has covered the conflict for years! But she has either been negligent in determining the above mentioned realities - or she is a closet antisemite? I don’t know if she is or not. But she has not done anything to convince me that she isn’t.

On a more positive note, as I write these words, more hostages have been released by the Hamas. That is cause for celebration. But it is a muted celebration because of all the hostages that remain in the hands of Hamas. And because Hamas has not yet been exterminated. Thankfully the Biden administration has not changed its mind in support of Israel’s mission to destroy Hamas. That must happen for the sake of all the Jewish people – and for the sake of the entire civilized world. 

More Info on Accessing Comments

In the interests of trying to solve the problem some are still having getting access to the comments, I am happy to post this suggestion sent by Michael Sedley a reader and occasional commentator to Emes Ve-Emunah. His words follow:

This has been a problem for me for several weeks - I finally found 2 solutions that work - Rav Harry, you may want to suggest the following in a short post (as by definition, users who cannot access the comments will not see this comment).

When you open the blog, if it opens to:
Delete the "s" at the beginning to access an unsecured version of the site, i.e.,:

If this doesn't work, you can access the comments directly by logging into:

This shows the comments by themselves, without the text of the blog post (which you need to open separately)

Kol tov, (and good to finally have access to the comments again)

Friday, November 24, 2023

Sickened by a Charedi Rosh Yeshiva!

Rabbi Yisroel Bunim Schreiber (Rationalist Judaism)
It’s hard to imagine a more disgusting approach to fellow Jews than is the approach of one respected Rosh Yeshiva in Israel. Rabbi Natan Slifkin notes that he is on the more extreme end of the Charedi world. But unlike Neturei Kara Rabbi Yisroel Bunim Schreiber is not outside of it. He apparently has a lot of respect and influence in that world.

What he said in a filmed interview shocked even me. And I’ve been around the block a few times. I know full well that there are unapologetic extremists in the Charedi world that have a lot of influence. One need look no further than the late R’ Shmuel Auerbach and his devoted students. But Rabbi Schreiber takes the cake. From Rationalist Judaism.

During a recent talk to a group of yeshiva students in Jerusalem, apparently mostly or all from Mir, Rav Schreiber was asked what their attitude should be towards soldiers in the IDF, and whether they should express gratitude. Note that while many charedi shuls in Israel are saying tehillim for “the situation,” very few will actually specify the IDF. Rav Schreiber explains why one need not feel gratitude to the soldiers or even concerned for the injured...  here is a translation of some extracts:

“There’s no need to express gratitude to soldiers fighting in Gaza any more than to street cleaners.”

“The soldiers who draft are nebuchs. I don’t think anyone drafts willingly… if there was no obligatory draft, nobody would join, other than perhaps a few crazy mizrochniks…. They do it because they have to do it…. Why is there any need to have appreciation any more than with a plumber? …If a doctor heals you for free, then you should certainly thank him. But if he charges money? Then very nice, that’s his job! And if he’s forced to heal you, you don’t thank him.”

“ ‘Our relationship to the injured?’ Who says that there needs to be a relationship? What’s your connection to them? Why do you need to have a relationship with them?”

“A ‘community tragedy’ is not if 1200 people were killed… A community tragedy is one that affects everyone.”

“ The Meron tragedy? Lehavdil! Lehavdil! You feel connected because they were your friends, they were your family, they were your people.”

“Acknowledgment of good? For the entity called ‘The State of Israel,’ regarding which it is superfluous to talk about our opinion, there is no ‘acknowledgement’ and no ‘good.’”

I don’t even know where to begin. The idea that he is entitled to his opinion on this matter differs little from an opinion that says Hamas was justified in its barbaric massacre of 1200 innocent Jews. 

Do not misunderstand. I am not saying that they have the same degree of moral repugnance. Of course they don’t. But morally repugnant they both are. It is morally repugnant to not be grateful to those who are literally risking their lives to protect them. It is morally repugnant to say that one should feel pain only when religious Jews get hurt. 

It’s one thing to be opposed to the state of Israel and by default  the IDF. But to tell people they should not care about the life and limb of Jews that are not like him is a level of  insensitivity I would never have expected from a mainstream Charedi Rosh Yeshiva, no matter how far to the right he is. 

In my view, Rabbi Schreiber’s ingratitude for the IDF is so low that condemnation alone is not enough. If the rest of the Charedi leadership does not do more that the mild rebuke that forced him to make a non-apology, then they are not leaders at all. At the very least he should be removed from his position as Rosh Yeshiva

And yet, sure as I’m sitting here, that will not happen. Most rabbinic leaders of the Charedi world are elder statesmen whose Torah credentials make them widely respected. Anyone that would show any disrespect to them along the lines I suggest will be given the boot. They will be considered Chutz L'Machaneh - outside the camp of authentic Judaism! 

Nonetheless, I don’t know how any sane, intelligent, seriously religious Jew of any stripe can ever look this Rosh Yeshiva in the face again, with any degree of respect.\

I doubt that his opinion has any real sway on the vast majority of the Charedi world. Especially the Mir where Rav Chaim Shmuelvitz went out of his way to publicly express gratitude to the IDF. 

I guess he thinks R’ Chaim was a fool. But R’ Chaim was no less Charedi that Rabbi Schreiber is.  And that he has any sway at all on any Jew is beyond troubling.

Off my soapbox.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Unity? Perhaps. But with One Big Exception

Rabbi Moshe Hauer
I am a huge fan of OU Executive Vice President, Rabbi Moshe Hauer. And I wish I could share his optimistic view about the unity of the Jewish people at this moment in time. But Rabbi Hauer must have been wearing his rose colored glasses when he spoke about the two events that demonstrated it for him. Both of which were indeed very powerful – as he noted. Here is how he describes them:

On the National Mall last Tuesday (November 14th) (…there was a)  massive gathering of Jews… expressing our shared commitment to the future of Israel, to our ability to live without fear as proud Jews in America, and to the plight of our beloved brothers and sisters held hostage. 

Last Monday (November 13th) was similarly impactful. While we could not see it with our own eyes, we knew that across our entire community people were dedicating extra efforts to tefillah, that shuls and schools everywhere were saying extra tehillim, and that in places like Brooklyn and Lakewood you would have to search to find a minyan that was not reciting the expanded tefillos of Yom Kippur Katan. 

Both rallies were powerful. Both rallies demonstrated with intensity and feeling that every corner of our varied community has a powerful love of Israel and Judaism and a deep concern for the soldiers and hostages. 

This is true. There is not a doubt in my mind that the vast majority of the Jewish people regardless of their level of observance or their Hashkafa are united in support of Israel and the Jewish people - in what is perhaps unprecedented ways. What is not true, unfortunately is what he said after that: 

They showed how the Jewish people today, after its most fractious year in memory, have pulled together to focus on what is most important to all of us. 

I wish it was true that we  - ALL - pulled together. But we did not. Monday’s event was indeed participated by virtually the entire observant community – regardless of Hashkafa. But Tuesday’s event was boycotted by the ‘Daas Torah’ of 5 members of Agudah’s Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. 

It was close to being unified. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades.

What those rabbis did was the opposite of unity. It was Pirud - separation - from the rest of the Jewish people. Rabbi Aharon Feldman made it clear that the Charedi community should have nothing to do with that rally (for reasons that are beyond the scope of this post).

Unlike Rabbi Hauer who desires  to not focus on that Pirud at a time when unity is so important, I believe this is exactly the time to focus on it for the following reason. 

Agudah is too big to ignore. They are no small organization. Agudah represents the largest and fastest growing segment of Orthodoxy. One of their foundational principles is that disagreeing with their ‘Daas Torah’ (which they attribute exclusively to members of their Moetzes) is tantamount to a violation of the Torah’s commandment not to veer to the  right or the left of Torah law  This is why what those 5 members said on the eve of the March for Israel cannot be ignored. 

Fortunately The Moetzes parted with their tradition of speaking with one voice on this occasion. That allowed for 2 conflicting views about what the Daas Torah about the March really was.  

The problem is that only one voice was made public. The one that insisted on Pirud. 

That the March for Israel exceeded all expectations of attendance (nearly 300,000) did not phase them. Nor did  the multiplicity of Jews from all segments of Orthodoxy. Nor the numerous instances of Kiddush HaShem.  

All of it has thus far been completely ignored. Almost as though it didn’t happen. 

Not a single word about it in any of their subsequent press releases. Which I have received in abundance because of their upcoming annual banquet next week. A banquet that includes a getaway weekend with catered meals fit for for a king. And  numerous Charedi Roshei Yeshiva and many popular Charedi personalities speaking throughout the weekend

Having a banquet like this seems to contradict the somber moment we all feel at a time like this. When the Jewish people are experiencing right now trauma unlike anything since the Holocaust. At best it sends the wrong message at a time when Jewish soldiers - many of whom are observant - are laying their lives in the line for the Jewish people. Some of which have paid the ultimate price, Rachmana Litzlan. 

Now I am 100% sure that the tone of the banquet will be subdued and most of the speakers will be taking in somber tones about these events. Arguing as they always do that the ‘remedy’ for what ails us is stricter observance of Halacha, more intense Torah study, and more prayer.

Which is all fine and good. We need all the help we can get from Above. But I am willing to bet that the idea of having a mass rally in Washington consisting of the tens of thousands of Jews who consider themselves adherents of Agudah’s Daas Torah will not be considered a option for them.

Agudah is calling for the unity of the Orthodox community at this time of travail. But what kind of unity is it that rejects a call for the larger community and instead only seeks religious Jews to be united  in improved personal religiosity?

Please do not misunderstand. I actually support Agudah. It is one of he most active and effective advocacy groups for the Jewish - and especially the religious - community. We all own Agudah a debt of gratitude for all they have accomplished over the years. 

But this does not excuse their Pirud at a time like this. Nor does it excuse their silence over the disagreement in their ranks. That they mentioned nothing about a March for Israel atended by nearly 300,000 Jews of all stripes it speaks as loud as anything they would have said about it in a negative way.   .

When Rabbi Hauer says we should focus on the positive - it is impossible (at least for me) to ignore the elephant in the room. A giant elephant whose prominence cannot be ignored. An elephant whose religious leaders are among the most learned of Torah in our time. You cannot have unity when the Pirud one of the largest Orthodox advocacy group was made so public.

The Problem With Accessing Comments

Frustrated by the inability to see comments?
 A lot of people seem to still be having difficulty accessing comments. Not sure how to fix it other than to repeat what works for me. And if that doesn't work to suggest another way to access them. First let me reiterate why the problem exists in the first place. It is due to the incompatibly of Disqus (which hosts the comments section) and blogger (The website that hosts my blog). 

A while back Blogger ipgraded their website to be secured. It still has the older site that is not secured. Disqus is unsecured. Comments can only be accessed on the unsecured version of blogger. 

As I said in a previous post on this subject - the way I get comments is by googling Emes Ve-Emunah (spelled exactly that way) and then clicking on it. 

The unsecured version will then appear. DO NOT CLICK ON THE TITLE OF THE POST that you want to read. Instead scroll down to the comments of the post you choose and then click on them. The post and the comments will appear and you should be able to read and post comments.

I should add that I have subsequently been told by readers that tried this and it didn't work for them. My gut  feeling is they did not follow the directions  precisely I told them. But who knows. It may also be a browser problem. I use Chrome. It's possible that other browsers won't pick up the comments no matte what you do.

I was informed by a reader who tried my solution and said it didn't work for him, that he switched to Firefox - another popular browser. And he had no trouble getting comments after that. I don't know if that will work for everyone. But it is certainly worth a try.

The only thing i can do from my end is to replace Disqus with another commenting platform. The problem with doing this is that the Disqus comments on all pats posts will disappear. So I am very reluctante to do that.

I apologize to readers that are having this difficulty. But for the moment, this is the best advice I can give.

On a more positive note, I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Of Released Hostages and Rabbi Eisenman’s Journey

Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman at the rally
I’m happy to report that a hostage deal has been reached. 50 of the hostages (women and children) will be returned in exchange for 150 Palestinians woman and children currently in Israel prisons. (I suspect that the so-called ‘children’ are teenagers that were not just caught with weed. But are in jail for something a lot more serious.. But I digress.) Hamas will also get a brief pause in the war.(4 days?). 

I am overjoyed that some of the innocent Jews taken hostage by one of the most savage terrorist organizations on the planet. But my joy is tempered by the realization that nearly 200 hostages will still remain captive. 

That is not my only concern. I worry that the pause will enable Hamas to re-group and making it more difficult for Israel to defeat them. And may even may result in more IDF casualties.  

Another thing that worries me is that Israel will  then be pressured to make it permanent. That would be a mistake of tragic proportion. Hamas has already promised to do October 7th again and again  until they liberate Palestine.

My hope and expectation is that Israel will not lose sight of its mission and finish the job. And then to make sure that no like minded terrorist group arise to rule Gaza in its place. 

On a completely different (but obviously related) matter one of the best (if not THE best) responses to Rabbi Aharon Feldman's explanation of why the March was banned was given by one of my heroes, Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman. In his weekly Short Vort he describes in great detail why he attended it despite concerns over his own health. And the tremendous Kiddush HaShem that unfolded before his eyes. In numerous ways. 

If Rabbi Feldman wants to know why he was so terribly wrong he should read it. The following are some excerpts. But I urge everyone to read it in its entirety. It is riveting! Whether you are observant or not you will not be disappointed. It will make you proud to be a Jew: 

I was thrilled to be informed that there would be a Tuesday morning Vasikin Minyan, Rosh Chodesh Kislev, at the White House.

This was particularly meaningful to me as the last time I davened at the White House- which was for Mincha on Thursday, May 18, 1978- I was kicked in the head by a Secret Service Officer… 

This time would be different. As I was met by the smiling Secret Service Officer, she politely asked me, "Are you here for the Prayer Service? Is so, right this way!" 

It was 6:20 in the morning, and dozens were already present. I entered a spiritual paradise I have never experienced in my over six decades of existence in this perplexing world.

I was met by a crowd that would swell to hundreds of the holiest Jews I have ever had the privilege to bask in their presence. I felt total Jewish unity. Achdus in the truest sense of the world.  We were there to daven at sunrise in front of the house of the most powerful person in the world. 

There was no agenda other than saving Jews and loving Jews. This was not arranged by any political organization or agenda-driven group. Rather, this was a grassroots effort by Jews, some who had risen at 2 in the morning (or never slept) to daven at sunrise and beseech Hashem with our collective hearts. 

The Tefilla was something I had never experienced in my life… I felt sorry for my fellow Jews who did not experience such a davening that was unmatched in the annals of communal Jewish Tefillah. No one cared what you wore or what group you were aligned with. …no need to ask if you were Modern Orthodox, Chareidi, or secular- it was a time when the entire Jewish people were in danger and a time to unite in Tefillah…

(Later at) the National Mall…  I saw hundreds and hundreds of Yidden coming from every direction possible. There were Jews with  headcoverings and many (perhaps most) Jews without head coverings. They were happy, smiling, joyful, and friendly.We all greeted each other with love and understanding…

I met one Jew- tattooed from elbow to hand. I asked, "How long did it take you to get here?" "It took me nine hours!"

 "Wow, that's certainly a commitment to your people!"

He added, "The bus we hired refused to take us when they found out where we were going. So, a few of us grabbed an Uber. It cost us $900."

My face displayed shock and disbelief. Would I spend $900 to sit in a car for nine hours?" Yet, his face displayed disbelief right back at me.

 "Is it not worth $900 to help save the hostages and save additional Jewish lives?"

(T)here were numerous Minyanim for Mincha. Plentiful amounts of young men were offering to oblige many men who were pining to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tefillin, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Young men and women were distributing cards to find a Torah partner. The atmosphere was a total love for the Jewish people and authentic Jewish tradition.

I did not listen to any of the speeches… The point was physically being there…I did not meet one person interested in the content of the addresses or the speakers… Someone told me that a clergyman from a different faith spoke. However, even if a non-Jewish clergyperson spoke, it caused me no concern.

Pastor John Hagee never once mentioned (I listened only on my return to his remarks) even the slightest hint that any Jew should join with him (during) his short nine-minute speech… 

Yet, even his presence, could it be possibly considered wrong? Are we never to court or count non-Jews among our friends? Indeed, did not Agudath Israel of America file an Amicus Brief supporting the Archdiocese of New York's appeal on assisted suicide?