Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Their Morality and Ours

Once again Rav Avi Shafran has gone after the YCT crowd's recent decision to crown a woman rabbi.  Now, while I'm not a big fan of that move and have criticized it in the past, I do find Rav Shafran's approach somewhat contemptuous.  It begs a simple question:
What is the difference between Modern Orthodoxy and Chareidism?
There are many possible answers to this question but I think one way of looking at this is to examine what each group does wrong when it comes to proper Orthodox behaviour.
For Modern Orthodoxy, the failings including a lack of proper appreciation of lomdus, a lenient approach to some halachic issues that should be taken more seriously and a trend towards liberalism for its own sake, not because it's based on a true Torah outlook.
The worst offenders in Modern Orthodoxy are guilty of spending too much time worrying about how to help the gentile world improve itself and inventing new titles for women rabbis.
For Chareidims, the failings include a propensity towards smug self-righteousness, a belief that lomdus is the be-all-end-all of Judaism and a trend towards stingency for its own sake.
The worst offenders in Chareidism are guilty of rioting, attacking and destroying the property of others, attacking and injuring those who they disagree with and inventing new chumros to justify this behaviour.
Wow, I can see why people look down at the Modern Orthodox...

Monday 22 March 2010

Boring and Repetitive

Christopher Hitchens gets a lot of play these days.  His columns are carried in multiple syndicated newspapers and his videos are all over Youtube.  But am I the only one who thinks the message he is shilling is a little repetitive?  Everything of his that I have ever read can seemingly be summarized as follows:
1) I think that all religion is evil
2) It's only my opinion and I have no hard evidence to back up my beliefs
3) Nevertheless I'm right and anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot
4) Because religion is so evil, I have a right to insult anyone who disagrees with me
5) But I'm allowed to show umbrage when religious people insult back
Fortunately, it looks like I'm not the only person who's picked up the repetitve and boring message that Hitchens and his friends are selling folks.  As the far more articulate Rex Murphy notes:
The author of God is Not Great is one of the most militant, abrasive secularists of our time, perhaps only second in renown to the increasingly tedious and tendentious Richard Dawkins. Militant secularism is a peculiar phenomenon. It prides itself above all on reason, but reason in a very shrunken capacity — a kind of blustering, blistering, angry half-logic that perpetually targets the anachronistic straw-man conception of God as a big, bearded White Guy in the sky.
This is the kind of stuff that gives caricature a bad name. It may be that the very simply devout, in the very simplest of times, held such an obviously incomplete understanding of the concept of the Christian God. But to ascribe so fatuous and infantile an understanding of the Deity to the majority of adult believers is not so much a misrepresentation as a kind of wish fulfillment. It is the kind of puppet-image God that Richard Dawkins imagines crowds the cramped minds of those dolts (as he sees them) who don’t agree with Richard Dawkins.
The mischaracterization is adolescent in tone and substance, something of a Dawkins’ speciality. There is something fatally supercilious and egotistic in the scorn of the professional atheist/agnostic, as in Dawkins’ sneering description of those who order their lives in conformity with belief, faith — Christian or otherwise. “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” Well, that’s, by Dawkins’ standard, a fair reading of say, Pascal, or Chesterton, Bernard Lonergan, or John Paul II. By his self-satisfied reading they were all cowards, not brave enough for “real” thought, intellectual and moral shirkers. He, of course, is a moral tower, a veritable G.I. Joe of fearless inquiry.
The same dismissive scorn showed up in Hitchens’ piece, particularly in the coda to his loose pseudo-arguments about Pope Benedict’s “responsibility” over the alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in Germany: “Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil ­— a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel.”
Murphy goes on to note some obvious things.  Despite whatever disagreements I might have with the former Cardinal Ratzinger, I cannot deny that he is an intelligent man who is possessed of tremendous scholarship.  Atheists and skeptics like to say that, having tested the evidence, they cannot believe in the Divine.  Ratzinger has also tested the evidence, as uncomfortable as it might be for some to admit, and decided that there is a God.  This is something Hitchens, with his self-righteous assuredness reaching almost.... religious levels, cannot understand.  As Murphy concludes:
There’s a touch of uncouth high-schoolism in all this, that callow bravery of the 15-year-old knocking daddy and mommy’s most sensitive beliefs. But while a little coarseness and some impudence is, in a sense, almost proper and certainly unsurprising in 15-year-olds. It’s a little more than tiresome, and certainly a hell of a lot (if that conception may be allowed here) less than brave coming out of the mouths or flowing from the digital pens of the pack of adult reason-worshipping evangelists who make such a good business out of harsh and mean assessments of their differently-believing, more pacific brothers on this good earth.

Perhaps this is how the new atheist movement will finally end, when people get tired of the same banal lines, the same straw man accusations.  It will disappear from history not with a bang but a yawn.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Sacrifices and Vegetarians

One of the controversial aspects of discussing the (imminent) rebuilding of our Holy Temple is that of the sacrificial service.  Many Jews unfortunately do not yearn for a return of the Shechina to Yerushalayim. Even many of those that do are fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea of sacrifices in "this day and age".
Yet on closer examination, there seems to be a double standard at play here.  Many of the folks who think the sacrificial service is outdated and shouldn't be restored might pontificate that view over a nice steak or plate of ribs.  Possibly they would enjoy chicken wings to go while explaining how a good part of the Torah should be tossed into the dustbin of history.
There's an old saying that people who enjoy cold cuts and the law shouldn't watch either being made.  In our sanitary society where meat is something that comes shrink-wrapped in a package, all clean and ready for cooking, we have forgotten the mess it takes to get it to that stage.  We have no trouble eating beef but the idea of watching a cow getting killed, sliced up and then offered on an altar seem to be repulsive.  It almost makes one want to be a vegetarian.
Except that this also isn't much of a solution.  As Rav Dov Lior recently noted, Rav Kook, zt"l already pointed out years ago that a humankind that isn't prepared to show mercy and love unconditionally to one another isn't ready to embrace the concept of vegetarianism out of compassion.  According to Rav Kook, it would only be in the future when humanity is raised up spiritually to see the spark of holiness that is an intrinsic part of all life that vegetarianism, not out of compassion for animals but rather because of an awareness of that holiness, would be in order.  Until then we would eat meat as part of the natural order of things.  And if we're going to eat meat, how are sacrifices any worse other than forcing us to confront the part of our dietary needs we don't want to see?

Thursday 18 March 2010

Of Seders and Sandwichs

Every year at the seder we reach a part called korech where we put some marror on the matzah, announce that we're making like Hillel in the times of the Temple and then eat the stuff.  But two good questions could be asked about this:
1) Why make the sandwich in the first place after eating the matzah and marror separately
2) Why mention Hillel?  If the Rabannan disagreed with him, why are we following his custom?  And if they agreed, why mention him?
In fact, in the Mishneh Torah, hilchos Chametz U'Matzah, 8:6-8, the Rambam goes through the routine of korech and mentions zecher l'mikdash without mentioning Hillel, implying that everyone does agree you should eat the sandwich.
The Talmud in Pesach 114a says:
Rabhina said: R. Mesharshia the son of R. Nathan told me, that so said Hillel, quoting a tradition: A man should not place the bitter herbs between unleavened cakes and eat them in that manner. Why not? Because the eating of unleavened cakes is a biblical commandment, while the eating of bitter herbs in this day is only a rabbinical ordinance. Now if the two be eaten together, the bitter herbs might destroy the taste of the cakes, and thus a rabbinical ordinance would supersede a biblical commandment; and even according to those who hold that one commandment cannot nullify another when both are fulfilled at the same time, such is only the case where both are biblical or both are rabbinical; but when one is a biblical and the other a rabbinical commandment, the rabbinical nullifies the other, and hence their joint fulfilment is not allowed.
Who is the Tana from whom we have heard that the fulfilment of one commandment does not nullify that of another? That Tana is Hillel, as we have learned in a Boraitha: It was said of Hillel, that he would take a piece of the paschal offering, an unleavened cake, and some bitter herbs, and eat them together, as it is written [Numb. ix. 11]: "With unleavened bread and bitter herbs shall ye eat it."
R. Johanan said: "Hillel's colleagues did not agree with him, as we have learned in a Boraitha: Lest we assume that the paschal offering, the unleavened bread, and the bitter herbs must be eaten together, therefore it is written, 'With unleavened bread and bitter herbs shall ye eat it,' which signifies, that each may even be eaten separately." R. Ashi opposed this: "If this Boraitha is supposed to be in opposition to Hillel, why does it state that each may even be eaten separately? (If they may be eaten even separately, then surely they may be eaten together.) Therefore the Boraitha means to state, that even if the three things were eaten separately the duty was acquitted, though they should rather be eaten together."
Now in this day, when it is not known whether the Halakha prevails according to the opinion of Hillel or of the opposing sages, the mode of procedure should be thus: A blessing should be said over the unleavened bread and a piece thereof eaten; then another blessing should be said over the bitter herbs and a piece tasted, and finally the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs should be put together and eaten at the same time, saying: "This is in remembrance of Hillel's actions when the Temple was still in existence."
Harav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l, brings the following analysis of the sugya in his work Chavos Binyamin:
The Rashbam says the gemara brings three opinions on the eating of pesach, matzah and marror.
1) Hillel holds that mitzvos ein mevatlos zeh es zeh so we eat all three together in a sandwich
2) The Rabannan hold that the unusual word yochluhu used instead of the more common yochlu implies a plural - you can eat them separately or together and both ways you fulfill the mitzvah
3) The Rabannan according to Rabbi Yochanan hold that mitzvos mevatlos zeh es zeh and therefore we must eat all three separately.
According to Tosafos on 114a, there are two opinions:
1) Hillel holds that it's ideal to eat all three as a sandwich but the word yochluhu means it's not essential.
2) The Rabannan hold that each can be eaten separately but also together because the principle mitzvos mevatlos zeh es zeh does not apply in this case.
Now, it's important to remember that the seder in Temple times was significantly different from post-Temple times because of the presence of the paschal offering and all the rules surrounding it.  Nowadays in its absence matzah still has a d'oraysa obligation associated with it because the Torah gives it a separate one independent of the Temple but marror is only eaten d'rabannan.  How does this play out?  If we were to eat the matzah and marror together right off the top, the Torah-level matzah would mevatel the Rabbinic level marror, interfering with fulfilling the two oligations.  So we eat them separately, each with their own blessing and then announce zecher l'Mikdash without making a further blessing.
However, according to Rambam, in the times of the Temple the routine was different.  According to him, the procedure was as follows:
1) Take the matzah and say  HaMotzi, then eat some
2) Take matzah and marror and say Al achilas matzah u'maror and then eat it
3) Take the paschal offering, say al achilas Pesach and eat it.
One of the problems with this is that the gemara says that in Temple times we say al achilas maror right after the borei pri ha'adamah earlier one because after filling one's belly with marror, it makes no sense to then say al achilas maror.  This should apply to matzah too.  Having said hamotzi and eaten some, how can you then say al achilas matzah?
Further, the Rambam's order is difficult.  First say hamotzi and eat some matzah, then say al achilas matzah and eat some more?
Now, according to Tosafos elsewhere mitzvos tzrichos kavannah which means I can eat the vegetable earlier on in the seder and have in mind that I am not fulfilling my obligation to eat marror and it is of avail.  However, Rambam holds that mitzvos do not require kavannah so eating the matzah after hamotzi fulfills my specific obligatoin to eat matzah even if I don't have it in mind. 
The Rambam therefore holds that in Temple times the sandwich isn't just a preferred option, it is the obligation.  By eating matzah separately I do not fulfill the obligation of the verse al matzos u'merorim tochluhu so eating the matzah after hamotzi is not a problem.  According to Rambam, even if one eats the matzah and marror separately first, one can still make the blessing al achilas matzah u'maror on the sandwich because this is the actual obligation which has not been fulfilled yet.
But then Rambam says that the paschal offering is eaten separately after the sandwich while the gemara implies that both Hillel and the Rabannan hold that it should be eaten together with them.  How does one reconcile this difference?
Rav Israeli explains that the Rambam has a unique way of understanding the sugya that goes in a different direction from what we have been assuming until now.  Remember that he says that the sandwich is zecher l'mikdash but doesnt mention Hillel.  Why?
Until now we have assumed that the issue of whether or not mitzvos mevatlos zeh es zeh revolves around what happens when you mix matzah and marror.  The Rambam holds that this is, in fact, not the basis of the dispute.  Rather the dispute is over whether or not to mix the paschal offering with the matzah-marror mix.  This is because the verse al matzos u'merorim yochluhu obliges us to mix the matzah and marror together so the whole mitzvos mevatlos zeh es zeh doesn't apply to it.  Therefore the gemara is discussing an argument between the Rabannan who say you can`t mix the paschal offering with the sandwich because mitzvos mevatlos zeh es zeh and Hillel who says you can because mitzvos don`t mevatlos zeh es zeh.
Rabbi Yochanan understands the argument as being over whether one can put the paschal meat in the sandwich or not.  Rav Ashi, on the other hand, understands the Rabannan as not only agreeing that one can put the paschal meat in the sandwhich but that there is a chiyuv to do it in the first place.
All this applies to Temple times but nowadays, as noted before, matzah is a Torah level obligatoin and marror is only rabbinic and everyone agrees that mitzvos mevatlos zeh es zeh.  This means we have to say hamotzi and al achilas matzah sequentially because we also hold mitzvos einam tzrichos kavannah.  Afterwards, like the gemara says, we say zecher lMikdash  as a reminder of the previous procedure when our Temple (may it be speedily rebuilt) was standing.  According to Rabbi Yochanan, this follows the view of Hillel but since the Rambam says everybody holds this way, he does not include the name of Hillel in his hagadah since there is no need.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Time To Switch Sides

If there's one consistent feature to BH Obama's foreign policy since he came to power, it's been the simple principle: Suck up to your enemies, screw your friends.  Although many would like to see Obama as the most anti-Semitic president since Jimmy Carter, and while there is probably some truth to that supposition, an unbiased look at his record shows a far more disturbing pattern of betrayal of those who trust in the United States as a beacon of freedom and honour.
Look at how Poland and Czech, both countries existing in the shadow of an aggressive Russia asked NATO for help to protect their hard-earned freedom from the (formerly red) Bear.  While busy spending time groveling to Putin and his cronies, Obama has also done what he can to assure the Russians he will do nothing to protect these two countries, officially allies of America, from Putin's ambitions.
South Korea might like some help dealing with bellicose North Korea.  Unfortunatley, Kim Il Jong or whoever else is running the North these days is more likely to get his phone answered by Obama than the president of South Korea, again a US ally.
So as the diplomatic crisis between America and Israel over a routine housing announcement builds to a feve pitch, it should not make Jews think that we are once again being singled out.  The pattern fits: the same president who wistfully dreams of sharing a shwarma and coffee with Ahmedwhositnow in downtown Tehran is looking to throw Israel under the bus.  No surprise.
In fact, Israel should be able to extricate itself from this mess with great ease.  All it needs to do is declare itself an enemy of the US.  Propaganda should be printed describing how the US is an evil aggressor looking to impose its white colonialist ways on another innocent country.  Shout out about how impotent Obama is how much Israel would like to see him humiliated on the world stage.
This will put Obama in a difficult position and finally unmask his true colours.  If he suddenly turns around and favours Israel, well that fits the pattern.  If he continues to show enmity, that should prove once and for all to the liberal Democratic Jews that the current president has a hostility towards us (just like his two court Yids, Axelrod and Emmanuel).

Monday 15 March 2010

Reading the Bible

One of the big divides between authentically observant Jews and the Orthoprax is how to understand the Torah and other parts of the Bible.  The former group sees the Torah as the divine word of God, pretty much unchanged since the original copy was deposited by Moshe Rabeinu, a"h, in the original Aron Kodesh at the end of his life.  The letter see it as a hodge podge of various writings that were sloppily redacted together in what must pass for the worst editing job in history.
The core reason for this difference in approach is due to each group's view of the origins of the Oral Law, that huge section of the Torah that didn't make it into the orignal Chumash but is considered just as divinely created.  Observant Jews believe that the Oral Law has been an indivisible part of the Torah since it was handed over to Moshe Rabeinu.  The Orthoprax and friends believe that it was an invention designed to give "the rabbis" control over Jewish life and religious practice.
The reason this difference of opinion is so important is because it affects how one reads the Torah and draws conclusions from it.  For the Orthodox, variations in the text are clues to corresponding areas of the Oral Law.  Wording is, far from terse, highly specific and meant to be read in only certain ways.  Omissions, changes between two repetitions of the same narrative, all these things hint towards the deeper layers of the Torah, the ones contained in the Oral Law.
For the non-observant, however, the lack of an authentic Oral tradition dating back to Sinai means these changes in the text contain no deep legal or spiritual significance.  As a result, they are wrongly interpreted as mistakes, errors or proof of multiple authorships.
As a result, when an observant Jew reads the Torah he is doing so from its perspective as a book whose purpose is to impart God's plan for the world and the laws by which He wishes us to live.  He sees a cohesive whole which comes together through the lens of the Talmud and which has relevance down through the ages.  When a non-observant Jew reads it, he sees part of it as a history book, part of it as an ethics manual and part of it as a legal text.  For him, the history is inaccurate or downright wrong, the ethics are questionable and the laws archaic.
On Rav Gil Student's blog, there has been a recent posting regarding that hero of the Orthoprax, James Kugel.  Kugel is famous for his book How to Read the Bible which is yet another entry in the never-ending blather that is biblical criticsm.  In it he purports to show how the Bible should be read in light of modern scholarship's analysis of the book.  However, there are two problems with this approach that he does not, to my understanding, address.
The first is the essential difference between the Torah and the rest of the Bible.  While Torahs have always been prepared and copies according to very strict rules, the rest of the Bible cannot make claim to this.  Unlike the Torah which was put finished and completed into the Aron Kodesh at the end of Devarim, Biblical books were written in parts during the lifetimes of their subjects and only later edited and assembled.  As a result, there is a fidelity to the text of the Torah that is lacking in the rest of the Bible.  This should not shock anyone.  The Torah, as the revealed word of God, had to be keep intact to act as a proper companion to the Oral Law.  The rest of the Bible is on a lower level than that.  If one of David's tehillim went missing over time, Jewish life could continue on.  A missing or changed verse in the Torah would have incredible ramifications and couldn't be afforded.
The second is that Kugel does not give validity to the belief that the Oral Law is contemporary with the Written Law.  Well, why should he?  He rejects Sinai which is the easiest way to get around having to deal with the Oral Law in the first place.  As a result, he can only approach the book from the position of scholarship and cannot see the "errors" in the text for what they truly are, those hints to something deeper.
Several months ago, Climategate revealed that the science of climate change is not what its proponents would like people to believe it is.  Instead of admitting these limitation however, those proponents led by high priest Al Gore continue to soldier on repeating the same mantras and discredited statements.  A recent piece by Al Gore even referred to Climategate as irrelevant because it is so "obvious" that climate change is happening.
Biblical Criticism and modern scholarship on the subject are nowhere as definitive as the scholars would like it to be.  Despite oozing confidence, there are huge holes in each and every one of the theories which, in turn, are based on evidence-free assumptions.  Scholarship might explain a thing or two on the obscure sections of the text but it cannot disprove the legitimacy and integrity of the Torah.  The only reason scholars can continue to do so is because, like their climate change fellows, they dismiss all opposition as unworthy of debating with so that they don't have to confront the weakness of their position.
As a result, there is no point from our perspective in debating with them.  As the old saying goes, one does not try to teach a pig to sing.  It wastes one's time and annoys the pig.

All The News They Don't Know

Elior Chen is a name that will live in infamy for the next little while.  As detailed recently in the news, he is a man who has taken a deep and spiritual part of Yiddishkeit and perverted it beyond recognition, all while posing as a pious Jew.  After a time on the run, he has come back to Israel to face trial for his crimes.
And now another unthinkable event as happened.  As detailed here and here, the leading rabbonim of the Chareidi community have come out in support of his innocence.  Inconceivable!
Or is it?
I am not going to suggest that the Chareidi "gedolim" who signed onto to document did so because they think that what Chen, may he rot in jail forever if found guilty, did was all right.  We can all safely assume that they believe the crime of child abuse deserves to be punished and that someone posing as a frum Jew who creates such a chilul HaShem should receive no protection from their community.
I am go to say this: I don't think they know what Chen did.
Think about it for a moment.  How do we get our news in this day and age?  The television, the radio, the newspapers, the internet, we ar all surrounding by an unending deluge of information.  If a news story of any importance breaks anywhere on the planet, we can find out about it from at least a dozen different angles along with dozens of editorials telling us what we should think about it.
What if we couldn't access that information?  What if we were completely cut off from the information stream?
Because that's what the Chareidi "gedolim" are.  They don't watch the televsion or listen to the radio, they don't read newspapers and chalilah that they should go anywhere near a computer that has internet access.  Western Europe could have a massive earthquake and fall into the Atlantic and if no one told them, they would never find out it happened unless someone told them.
And that is the weak link in all of this.  Like Rav Sliffkin and Lipa Schmeltzer before this, just to name two examples off the top, they are completely reliant on their askanim, a group of men who have their own agendae.  The history is there for all to see.  None of the "gedolim" who put Rav Sliffkin in cherem had read a word of his book.  They were convinced that he was guilty of heresy by others who patently misrepresented his position at that time.  Lipa Schmeltzer's big concert in New York was banned by "gedolim" who had been told that there would be mixed dancing and other forms of peritzus.  Apparently daas Torah gives you the ability to decide the halacha unilaterally but doesn't help you figure out that the guy sitting in front of you is slandering someone else for his own personal ends.
Now it's happened again but, because Chen is "one of ours" it has gone the other way.
People who are astounded by this proclamation are feeling that way because they have access to multiple sources of information on what this menuval has been accussed of.  But the "gedolim" don't have that kind of access.  They rely on their askanim and maybe testimony from the family.  As the article in Ynet noted, the family is convinced of his innocence.
Now, let's say the askanim came to the "gedolim" with limited information like : "There's this guy, Elior Chen, and he's a big marbitz Torah, mamash, and the police arrested him for no reason or worse, because of a bunch of lies. Can you support helping him?" Now this announcement makes more sense.  A Chareidi guy wrongly accused by the accursed chilonim, who wouldn't want to sign on to that?
Or worse, what if the askanim simply bypassed these "gedolim", drafted the pronouncement and simply signatured-stamped it because, after all, they just know that these gedolim would approve?  Would we be able to tell the difference?  With the rife amount of "pronouncements" coming out of the Chareidi community in the name of this authority or another that turn out to have been written and signed by various askanim, is it so absurd to think that this proclamation is just another forgery?
No decent person can read about Chen's crimes and not feel absolute revulsion for how he twisted the Torah and for how much suffering he caused innocent children.  If he is found guilty, there can be no punishment that properly makes him know what pain he caused others to feel. 
You know it and I know it, but it's plain the Chareidi leadership has no idea what's really going on here.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Let's Go Toboganning

Honestly Frum has a nice piece on Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's recent rebuttal to Rav Aharon Feldman's attack on non-Chareidi Jewry.  His heartfelt cry for Modern Orthodoxy to stand up for its values and resist the current attempt by some in the Chareidi community to delegitimize their brand of Torah observance is quite forceful.   Unfortunately, I don't know how effective it will be.
Rav Lichtenstein thoroughly demonstrates how Rav Feldman's conclusions were reached through a limited use of sources that seemed to agree with his predetermined conclusion.  This has, in recent years, become an area of division between Modern Orthodoxy and Chareidism.  The halachic method has never been to give equal weight to all sources but to still examine as many relevant opinions as possible before reaching a decision on pertinent issues.  Chareidism has veered in one direction by choosing to ignore all those sources that contradict its ideology as if they don't exist.  Modern Orthodoxy has steered in the other direction, giving equal weight to any posek, no matter how obscure or unaccepted by other authorities.  For the Chareidim, it doesn't matter if Tosafos, Ritva, Rashba and Rif permitted something.  If the Ran and the Rosh said no, then it's no and it's a universal "no".  For the Modern Orthodox, if Tosafos, Ritva, Rashba, Rif, and Ran all said no but the Rosh said maybe, then it's "Well, we found an opinion permitting it!".  Neither is ideal but the Modern Orthodox method is more honest in its examination of the sources.
To expand on my comment to the post: To answer Rav Lichtenstein's final question over the division that has sprung up between the Modern Orthodox and Chareidi communites: No they shall never sled again. Global warming, no snow, right?
All right, seriously though, no they shan't sled again because Rav Feldman cannot be seen as being chummy with Rav Lichtenstein for fear of the fallout he'll get from his own community.
Time was that the Rav and Rav Moshe Feinstein could hang out together. It wouldn't happen today. Time was Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch could espouse Torah Im Derech Eretz and the Seridei Eish could get a PhD in a German university and still be accepted as giants in the Torah world. Not today.
Today Chareidi thought, as exemplified by the ongoing attacks on Sliffkin, are based on limited sources and historical revisionism. Is Rav Feldman aware of the dissenting views that Rav Lichtenstein cites? I have no doubt he is, but they interfere with his central thesis so they do not rate a mention, just as the ooddles and oodles of support Rav Sliffkin has for some of his positions don't matter because his thesis contradicts Chareidi theology.
Modern Orthodoxy needs to be careful in how to react to Chareidi attacks on its legitimacy. On one hand, there is the YCT crowd which has responded by emphasizing a Reform/Conservative approach to emphasizing secular values and trying to push the boundaries of what is considered Orthodox in order to practice them. The disadvantage of this method is that it effectively cedes that which is seen as Orthodox to the Chareidim.  Yes, the YCT crowd proclaims, we may not dress tznius, we may be very lenient with certain issues around kashrus and Shabbos, but we're very makpid on helping out at the local food bank!  Real Modern Orthodox must be open-minded and allow for a proper investigation of halachic issues without preconceived conclusions but must not be so open-minded that their brains fall out of their heads. It is this balance that the leadership needs to endorse and the membership needs to follow because this is the true traditional Jewish method that both sides have currently abandoned.

A Useless Position

Having been born and raised in North America, the concept of a chief rabbi is someone foreign to me.  Canada has never had, to my knowledge, such a post.  The last person to hold such a title, Rav Avraham Price, zt"l, was the last chief rabbi of Toronto and died in 1994.  I don't know if the other two large and old communities, Winnipeg and Montreal, ever had one.
In Israel the post is more political than anything else and others have noted that it is a position of leadership with no followers since the chilonim don't care about what the Chief Rabbi has to say and frum Israelis all have their own rabbonim to ask questions of.
It seems that in Europe there is a much older tradition of having national chief rabbis although again it seems the position is more political, possibly an appointment to be the de facto representative of the Jewish community to the government as opposed to a religious leader.
Is there a place for a chief rabbi nowadays?  I would venture that despite the positive examples set by such folks as Rav Jonathan Sacks, there is no real point to having one anymore.  There are a few reasons for this.
a) The Jewish community is extremely diverse and, unlike in eras past, not willing to acknowledge the authority of halacha.  In the past, there were essentially two types of Jews - those who kept the rules, and those who knew the rules were there but didn't bother keeping them for whatever reason.  The more recent innovation of Jewish "streams" that insist they are good members of the faith but predicate their observance on non-obedience to halacha adds a layer of complexity to who can represent the Jewish community.  An Orthodox rav cannot speak on behalf of those who do not share his values.  A secular leader often does not understand or care about the priorities of the religious community.
b) As I noted above, the position of Chief Rabbi does not carry any religious authority with it.  Rav Yosef Eliashiv is, in essence, the Chief Rabbi of the Litvish community.  Rav Moshe Sternbuch is the Chief Rabbi of the Mea Shearim community.  Rav Shlomo Aviner is the leading Mizrachi authroity.  Rav Ovadiah Yosef runs Sephardic Orthodoxy.  Each Chasidic clan has its own rebbe to follow and there is no universally recognized authority in the Modern Orthodox community.  There is no unifying figure whose psak would cut across "party lines" and be seen as binding on all Torah-observant Jews.  Certainly the two current Israeli Chief Rabbis both get their marching orders from other authorities and are glorified followers at best.
Is there any purpose then to maintaining such posts or should they be relegated to the dustbin of history?  I would suggest that they should since their continued existence does not add anything to the communityj except a cost for the maintaining of their position.

Unfair Criticism

The condemnation following Israel's announcement that it was building 1600 new homes for Jews to live in last week was predictable.  From Joe Biden through Hillary Clinton and down to the liberal anti-Israel press, the idea that Israel would dare to build on its own land raised the usual spectrum of criticism.
On the surface, the criticism does seem justified.  The timing - during Joe Biden's trip to the region - was admittedly poor.  The announcement seems to go against Israel's own promise to engage in a building freeze in "the disputed territories" which further undermine's the Netanyahu government's credibility.
However, scratch beneath the surface and a different perspective arises.
The first is to address the American government's outrage at the announcement.  Exactly what was wrong with it?  The new units are slated to be built in the eastern half of Yerushalayim.  When Netanyahu announced the building freeze, he expressively excluded Yerushalayim from it.  Therefore, this announcement does not break any agreements or promises.
The second is the issue of embarrassment.  The problem with the United States claiming that this announcement undermines their efforts ignores the reality that the Obama administration itself has done whatever it can to overtly support Israel's enemies over the last year while paying little more than lip service to the traditional U.S. - Israel alliance.  Joe Biden himself has a long history of less than enthuasiatic support for Israel while Obama is on record as saying that he believes Israel only exists because of the Holocaust, not because we have a millenia-old claim to the land.  That's not insulting?  Apparently the U.S. can say whatever it wants but Israel is held to a different standard.
This announcement is an opportunity for Bibi Netanyahu to make it clear that there are still red lines that the Israeli government will not cross and that if these lines are too far over for our enemies, there is no point in meaningless peace talks that will consist of unreasonable demands from the other side and pathetic encouragement from our "friends" to take a chance for peace.

Saturday 13 March 2010

Here A Ban, There A Ban, Everywhere a Ban Ban

By now most of you have heard the latest chumrah-of-the-week (I wish I was making this up):
A group of haredi rabbis in New York caused a row within the local Jewish community after ruling that salmon is not kosher.
The rabbis said salmon, as well as other types of certain fish, may contain a tiny parasitic worm, Anisakis, which is not kosher. This renders the fish non-kosher as well, the rabbis said.
The ruling has caused alarm among many New York Jews, who have made the famous bagel and lox a staple of their diet. Moreover, the decision may hold significant financial implications: The smoked salmon industry makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year in the US, with the Jewish community considered its main consumer as result of the fish's price and the fact it's kosher.
However, the controversy is far from over, as the Union of Orthodox Congregations of America announced that the haredi rabbis' ruling is invalid. "Salmon is kosher for consumption, don't worry," said Rabbi Moshe Elefant of the group.
The agenda behind this initiative is clear: A rabbi in Israel named Karp has used salmon as a weapon to further delegitimize the RCA's authority.  Why the RCA?  Because its leader is named Rav Basil - wait for it - Herring. 
As I've noted before, if the RCA is going to mount  an effective defence against such attacks, it needs a leader named after a more fearsome fish.
At any rate, in the spirit of banning everything, I have investigated and discovered that air, that invisible stuff we all breathe, contains countless microbes, if not more.  With every breath we inhale these non-kosher organisms and assimilate them into our bodies.  How great the damage to our spiritual well-being with every inhalation!
Therefore, I am going to contact a home oxygen company and make available to the frum public tanks of specially prepared oxygen, oxygen which will only be touch by Jews during its processing.  The tanks will be supplied along with suitable masks.  By inhaling exclusive from these tanks, Torah-observant Jews can be sure that the air they breathe is as pure as possible to minimize the damage to their souls.
Accept no substitutes.  Only those tanks marked Avir Yisroel with my seal of approval can give you the proper assurance that you are not inhaling any microbes that the Torah expressly forbids you too.  Look for the Ironheart seal of quality to confirm that when you look down at your fellow Jew who is breathing avir stam, you can sniff with snobbish self-righteousness and know that you are sniffing Avir Yisroel.
As a concluding thought, if Chareidism is about banning innovation ("All new things are forbidden by the Torah") and Chareidism itself was an innovation of the Chasam Sofer, then isn't it guilty of being the very thing it forbids?

Friday 5 March 2010

Not A Necessary Conflict

Anyone holding a radical position which isn't very defensible will usually work overtime on delegitimizing his opponent's position.  A good offence is, after all, the best defence.
This is quite obvious when it comes to the issue of understand the process of evolution in the context of the Torah's narration of the creation of the world.  For folks on one side, there is only the literal reading of the Torah.  Aware or not of the weakness of this position, they spend great effort on constructing theories that sound, to outsiders, like they're completely absurd, such as the "ready made dinosaur bones" idea.  They then busily attack any who disagree as heretics who don't deserve a hearing for their ideas.
Their opponents on the skeptic/atheist side are no different.  If natural history is different than the Torah's narration, then the Torah must be wrong, there must be no God, chalilah, and everything can be explained by the randomness of evolution.  They then work on villifying religion as irrelevant or a source of all the wrongs in the world, despite all the evidence that it's not religion but rather the abuse of it that causes much of what is wrong out there.
But what both sides save their worst energy for is the middle ground, the group that says that there is no conflict between Torah and science.  For extremists at either end, this way of thinking is the real threat to their position.  Having staked out a "Things must be exactly the way I describe them" position, a working compromise that accomodates both concepts fully is a great threat.
However, this does not change the legitimacy of the middle ground, especially when it is the only position that can answer all the questions being asked without having to resort to dogmatic or scientifically incorrect statements.
This is why I was pleased to read Israeli Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz' comments on the compatibility of evolution with the Torah:
Minister Hershkowitz was asked whether the Education Ministry's chief scientist's reservations regarding evolution are just cause to oust him from his post. As a rabbi and a scientist, Hershkowitz responded that there is no contradiction between religious faith and Darwinism and that the chief scientist's position need not be a pretext for his dismissal.
Hershkowitz elaborated: "First of all, we can observe that from the perspective of faith, there is no need to oppose Darwin's theory of evolution. Harav Kook already wrote about it: '…even if we were to learn that the order of Creation was in accordance with the evolution of the species, there still is no contradiction as we gauge through the simplicity of the Torah's verses, which are much more relevant to us than any other former knowledge with which we do not have a deep connection. The Torah certainly speaks obscurely of Creation…'"
According to Hershkowitz, "It is also worthwhile to read the book by Rabbi Yitzhak Shilat, 'The Teachings of Rabbi Gedalyah' (on the writings of Rabbi Gedalyah Nadel, the student of the Hazon Ish), that shows Ovadiah Sforno, who lived more than 300 years before Darwin, proves from textual verses that the creation of man in God's image is the end of a long process that started with a non-rational creature, which belonged to the category of animals, and progressed until he had human intellect alongside the physiological structure of man with which we are familiar."
As Rav Nosson Sliffkin has already (too) famously pointed out, there are plenty of significant authorites in Judiasm who have no difficulty with the concept of an old Earth and universe.  The attacks against his position have been typical, with accusations of "quote mining" from some and others claiming Rav Eliashiv, shlit"a, said something to the effect of "They could say it, we can't."  None of these rebuttals have been terribly convincing.  The opponents who accuse Rav Sliffkin of quote mining prove their position only by doing the exact same thing, only this time picking those commentators whose positions are favourable to them.  As for Rav Eliashiv's statement, if he indeed did say it, there is a simple reply: Maybe we can't say it, but we can read that they did say it and know about it.
On the other side, there are those for whom any whiff of legitimacy to religion is equally heretical from a secular point of view.  Raise questions about the holes in the theory of evolution and be prepared to face intellectual wrath equivalent to a Neturei Karta mob on a Sunday afternoon outing to burn down the local gas station.  Those who are willing to discuss evolution, take it for granted that some form of it can explain the development of life on Earth but wish to see it as a process directed and controlled by God are, for the skeptics/atheists, just another form of religious fanatic.
Look, there is no quesiton that there is ample evidence that evolution has directed the development of much of life on Earth.  Anyone who questions the legitimacy of natural selection can safely be laughed at.  Examples happening in real time, like the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and new viruse strains, abound.  It is simply not intelligent to declare that this process is not happening. 
On the other hand, do Darwin's theories explain everything about the current form of life on Earth?  No, they don't.  One quick and easy example is to look at the belief that men descended from monkeys.  In fact, there is now evidence of a common ancestor of both apes and man which points to separate evolutionary pathways, something inconceivable just a few years ago.  Needless to say, the famous "missing link" has already still not been found.  Proponents of evolution say that this is due to gaps in the fossil record and therefore can be assume to be present.  Possibly, but they have no evidence, just consistent theorizing to prove this.
Therefore a middle position understand that the Torah's account of creation is not meant to be understood in a literal sense and an embracing of the knowledge of science to help understand God's means for designing and running this world would be an emminently sensible position to take.  It removes conflict, allows for belief and an examination of the evidence, and presents the most plausible explanations to many difficulties. 
No wonder opponents on either side work so hard to destroy this middle ground.

Thursday 4 March 2010

Our Responsibility

"And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments. For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb"(Shmos 33:4-6)
There are two obvious problems with these three verses:
a) Right after the text tells us the people took off their ornaments, God then commands them to do so.
b) So they do it again?
The Malbim, with his usual incisive analysis of the fine points of the text, notes something most people miss: "the people" and "the Children of Israel" are not the same thing.  If they were, why would the Torah use two different terms, especially in consecutive verses?  He notes from his experience that the term "the people" usually refers to the hamon am, the great masses while the term "the Children of Israel" refers to the leading portions of the nation.
In this case he differentiates based on the recent debacle of the golden calf.  The Malbim notes that the majority of our ancestors did not worship the calf, but they also didn't protest against it and stop its worshippers from carrying out their foul actions.  As a result, God withdrew his decision to allow His presence to rest amongst the people.  Instead of building a Mishkan, the Bnei Yisrael would travel from Sinai directly to Israel, guided by an angel, not the presence of God.
The masses who had been eagerly expected the arrival of the Shechinah evinced their disappointment and regret over events by removing their "ornaments", the crowns that the malachei hashares had given them when they said na'aseh v'nishma not so long ago.  But the Children of Israel, the leading elements of the people, didn't. Why not?
The Malbim brings an astounding answer - they didn't feel the right amount of regret over the golden calf!  Yes they recognized that it had been a bad affair all around but since they had never given up hope in Moshe Rabeinu, a"h, coming back with the Aseres HaDibros and therefore had not participated at all in what had happened, they felt that the God's angery and the subsequent punishment had nothing to do with them.  Thus while the average people knew what to do in order to begin the process of teshuvah they sat back figuring that nothing had changed for them.
But it had because when part of our people stumble, the damage affects us all.  As Chazal note, all Jews are responsible for one another.  The parable is told of the people in the boat where one of them starts drilling a hole under his seat.  When teh others try to stop him, he tells them to mind his own business because he can do what he wants under his private seat.  The others call him a fool because his private hole will flood the entire boat.
Here the situation was the opposite.  It was as if some of the passengers had begun drilling holes while others said "What do I care, it's nowhere near me", oblivious to the obvious, that they would be drowned along with the others.
For me, the lesson can be grimly applied to the frumi community today.  We are a minority amongst our people.  The majority of our brethren do not observe the laws of the Torah either out of ignorance or an arrogance born of fundemental misunderstandings of how God works in this world.  They are the great masses, we are the Children of Israel.
As such, it is our responsibility to reach out to them through personal example.  Sitting back, criticizing those who know not better and saying to ourselves "If bad things happen it won't affect us because we're shomrei mitzvos" is not what God would seem to want of us.  We must reach out to our brethren through positive expression of the Torah's moral valuese and show them what they are missing.  Otherwise, we are just flooding the boat through our inaction and will be drowned with the rest.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Would Your Shul Give Them An Aliyah

The Neutrei Karta are well known for their idiotic stunts which they perform in the name of what they think is Torah Judaism.  Whether it's meeting and giving succour to Israel's enemies, participating in Holocaust denials, or just the usual burning of Israeli flags, it's clear this is a community of mentally unstable individuals whose hatred for their fellow Jews has consumed their rationality and turned them into bekisher-wearing primitives.  Certainly any group that prefers Nazi imagery to Israeli symbols is in urgent need of injectable anti-psychotics.
And yet they are still called ultra-Orthodox.  They are still perceived as fiercely, even violently religious and their barbarities excused as excesses due to their great passion for God and Torah.
This is false.
We are quick to condemn Rabbi Avi Weiss when he appoints a woman as a "rabbah".  What a threat to Judaism that is!  Are he and his group really still Orthodox?  A shande.  But when Neturei Karta authorities come out with this beauty...
One of the organizers of the ceremony in Jerusalem told Ynet, "We must keep in mind that Amalek's goal was to make the people of Israel sin and not necessarily kill them. Therefore, the true Amalek is Zionism and the State of Israel."

A few days before Purim Ynet reported that Neturei Karta had distributed flyers asserting that Nazi costumes and accessories are preferable to any costume which includes Zionist elements.
...then we must come out and ask the same question: Is this Orthodoxy? 
I am going to give my answer clearly: No, these people are not Orthodox.  Frankly, I don't know if they're even Jewish anymore, no matter how kosher their meat and how perfect their Torah scrolls.  They have placed themselves as enemies of the Jewish people because the other 99.9% of us don't see things their way and have used violence and treason to accomplish their goals.  They cannot be considered part of klal Yisrael.  If one of them shows up in shul, is it appropriate to give them an aliyah?  Even count them to the minyan?
I would say that if we're kicking anyone out of Orthodoxy, it should be them.

Sleeping With the Enemy

In the important history book, Pillar of Fire, the details of the Hebron massacre of 1929 are covered.  One of the chilling recollections notes that many of the Arabs that the Jews thought were their friends gleefully joined in the pogrom and showed great enthusiasm in attacking their former neighbours.  It was something that would haunt many to their final days and still serves as a lesson to us: ultimately we can only completely trust in our Father in Heaven.  Everyone else is negotiable.
It's a lesson some have forgotten, especially Rabbi Hyim Shafner and his friends who, in their eagerness to make friends and show that the world really is a wonderful, happy place, will cross any lines to prove their point.
In this recent article, Rabbi Shafner recounts a recent visit he made to Beit Lechem, once a Jewish town and now one in which Jews with Israeli passports are now forbidden to enter.  As Shafner notes:
Two weeks ago I traveled with 40 Rabbis, Rabbinical students and educators to Bethlehem, and spent two days talking with Arabs in the West Bank who have committed themselves to solving the looming problems of the Israeli Palestinian conflict peacefully. I slept overnight in the very nice home of a Christian family in Bethlehem. None of us visitors were Israeli citizens since they are not allowed in Bethlehem which is part of Area A, the Oslo section of the West Bank that is solely under PA control.
Now there are several things to point out from this first paragraph that show that Rabbi Shafner, despite his sincerest intentions, is actually quite clueless about how things work in the Middle East.  The first is to note that he really thought that there is value in talking with the average "Arab on the street".  This is a typical mistake for Americans to make.  After all, having been raised in a democratic system where politicians must seek out voter approval on a regular basis and where the free expression of ideas is encouraged (outside of university campuses, but that's another post) they blithefully assume that this is the case everywhere.  Talk with enough Arabs, the thinking goes, and they can effect change in their societies that will lead to peace tomorrow, or possibly the day after.
Of course, the flaw in this thinking is that all Arab societies are dictatorships in which power in concentrated in a small ruling class that is insulated from and completely controls the actions of the general populace.  Arabs in Yesha have as much control over the political events that affect them as a fish does on Michelle Obama's menstrual cycle.  Sometimes small groups will exist that dare to speak about peace with Israel.  Rest assured they remain small because the minute they start to become even remotely influential they disappear with the sound of a few guns firing.  99.9% of the populace of Yesha could want peace with Israel tomorrow.  If Hamas and Fatah do not, there will be no peace.  How much more so when the vast majority of the populace is either honestly anti-Jewish or willing to publicly display such sentiments out of fear of reprisal?
The second red flag, one which Shafner should be ashamed of ignoring is in his statement: "None of us visitors were Israeli citizens since they are not allowed in Bethlehem."  In fact, that's not entirely true.  Arab Israeli citizens have no trouble getting into and out of Bethlehem.  Only Jewish Israeli citizens are forbidden entry.  This should have stopped Shafner cold but again, what is common sense against blazing liberal zeal?
I., as many Anglo Jews and perhaps Israeli Jews, always imagined that to enter the West Bank was to take one’s life in one’s hands; that all West Bank citizens want most of all to kill Jews.
I can't imagine why anyone would think that.  Oh wait, yes I can: In October, 2000 two Israelis driving near Yesha made a wrong turn and wound up in Ramallah.  An Arab mob grabbed them, dragged them to the local police station and ripped them apart like wild animals.  Who can forget the picture of one of the ecstatic murderers in the window, blood all over his hands?  Well, Shafner could.  He also seems to have forgotten how for several years after the sound of Arabic in parts of Israel was associated with suicide bombing which led people quite rightly to become nervous when they heard it.
it is also true that there are real people on the other side of the wall, Christians and Muslims, who do not fit the stereotype.
Yes there are, and many of them want little more than to live in peace.  However, the dynamics of their society are completely different from Shafner's, something he may come to understand one day if he bothers to try.  Those same Arabs who were probably wonderfully warm hosts would become part of the next pogrom if their leaders ordered them to, no matter how many kind words of appeasement were spoken to them.  And folks like Hyim Shafner would be that much more mystified when it happens.

Monday 1 March 2010

Size Matters?

There's a Youtube video advertising the state of Israel making the rounds in North American Jewish communities that has caused, for some, a huge stir of outrage.  I'm not going to post a link to the video because, based on what I've been told (and everyone's account is the same), I don't feel that I should be advertising it directly or participating in increasing its view count.
In brief, the video portrays two young people in bed.  The girl looks down at the guy's genitals and comments on their diminutive size.  The guy counters that it's not size but power and boy, is it powerful!  Apparently at some point the sheet pulls away to reveal a map of Israel. 
The rav in my shul went bananas over this video on Shabbos.  Although he is renowned for his calm nature (it took me four years of goading to get him to yell at me, no he doesn't know it was a contest between me and a friend to see who could do it first!) he apparently shouted fire and brimstones to the congregation (I wasn't there, I haven't heard a sermon of his in... how many years has he been in town now?) about the video.  He went on and on about how using sex and related innuendo to sell Israel to people is degrading and shows that we really don't understand our mission as Jews, and so on.
At kiddush, everyone was talking about the video and the sermon.  The best line was "It was awful, totally lacking taste.  It was so unbelievable I had to watch it three times to completely understand how bad it is!"
Today I got two e-mails from members of my shul imploring me to protest to the local Jewish Federation at how terrible it is to use this video to promote our land, especially because of the proximity of Israel Apartheid Week at all the local universities.
But try as I might, I can't see the reason for the outrage.  As I wrote to one of the concerned congregants:
First of all, it was clearly

not meant to be marketed to the religious crowd. Frankly, if it's the same kind of people
doing this as what run our JCC, I don't think they even know a religious crowd exists or
are peripherally annoyed by our existence at best.
In the non-religious Jewish community, like the surrounding secular culture, sex sells.
Sexual jokes are considered humorous. Sexual objects are considered attractive. We may
be disgusted by such animalistic behaviour but that disgust doesn't change the
perceptions of the non-religious crowd. As a result, a video using a man's penis size
and sexual innuendo around it is no different that an ad using a scantily clad woman on a
magazine cover. It's all about what gets attention and in non-religious Jewish morality,
there's nothing wrong about it at all.
For non-religious Jews, Israel Apartheid Week, like the Holocaust, is very nerve
wracking. Having built a whole culture around fitting in and trying to be
indistinguishable from the surrounding population, they are thrown into great fits of
discomfort whenever someone points out that they are still targets of hatred for their
minimalistic beliefs. The same people who have no problem with this video, who spend
their Saturdays at the mall and bring magazines to read to pass the time in shul on Yom
Kippur suddenly feel threatened when their right to support Israel, possibly their only
connection to real Judaism, is attacked.
For religious Jews, however, IAW is no big deal. Aware as we are of history, this is
just another step along the lines of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Pact of Omar, the
pogroms of Eastern Europe and the blood libel. In fact, IAW is a pretty good thing
because at least they're not spilling into the streets and looking to burn our homes down
after their meetings. That's progress!
In response to a point he tried to make about the need to portray the State of Israel in a morally upright fashion, I rebutted:
Are you going to call Tel Aviv's city hall and demand they not host the next

international Gay Pride parade? Are you going to demand that they send all the Russian
prostitutes walking the boardwalk on the TA beach back up the Volga?
Yet the actual message: Jews are what they are by virtue of the Torah and only through
its proper observance can we elevate ourselves and show real pride in our nationhood -
must remain unsaid because it will alienate all the non-religious who, by the way, don't
have a problem with this video in the first place!
One reaps what one sows.  If one feels that it is important to have Israel exist as a modern, inclusive and liberal democracy, then one must expect that its culture will be as degraded and amoral and any other Western country's.  Turning around and saying "Well, yeah but since it's Jewish it should be better than that" cannot be reconciled with that.  As a people we have prayed for the rebirth of a Jewish state, not a state that happens to have a Jewish majority.  As alienating as it may be to the non-religious portion of our community, that doesn't imply an inclusive, liberal state.  Eventually they will have to make a choice and it's not going to be pretty but shouting about videos like this just emphasizes the confusion they are currently feeling.