Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday 30 June 2013

The Entitlement Syndrome

One of the tactics used to win a debate is to bring up an irrelevant or inaccurate comparison, present it as relevant and accurate and then build a whole argument around it before one's opponent can protest that the comparison is illegitimate in the first place.
This is the tactic used by Rav Avi Shafran in his latest piece supporting the ongoing fight by the Chareidi community in Israel to avoid the implementation of a universal draft.  His comparison is to - wait for it - a single welfare mom.
Earlier this week, though, Cindy, and hundreds of thousands of others like her, received word that the government is ending those programs. Budgetary concerns were one reason given but the letter Cindy received also noted that she could still qualify for some of the benefits she was receiving if she found and accepted a full-time job. “When citizens like you, Cindy,” the personalized form letter explained, “are a regular part of the workforce, it benefits not only you and your family, but the economy as a whole. And that is something that every loyal citizen should appreciate!”

The comparison is a joke to begin with.  The majority of people on social assistance in North America are not there by choice.  Yes there's a minority which has decided that the welfare lifestyle is for them and have no ambitions for rising above it but most people on social assistance are there because of circumstances, illness or lack of opportunity due to economic decline.  These people would, given any chance, grab the first reasonable job offered to them in order to escape the welfare trap.  What's more, even if they see themselves as trapped on assistance until they hit their pension years they all hope their children will finish school, get some kind of usable education and join the economy.
Which is exactly the opposite of what the Chareidi community current presents as its core values.  Consider Rav Shafran's protests:
Over the past decade or so, their social services – primarily in the form of child allowances – have been drastically cut, several times. Now what is left of the allowances is under the knife again. And charedim are being pressured to forgo full-time Torah-study, their “most important asset” and first priority. They are told that they must enter the army, even though there is no need for them in the military (as its leaders have repeatedly stated) and they fear the impact Israel’s “military melting pot” will have on their lives. They are vilified without pause, and cajoled to act not in what they consider their best interest (and the best interest, ultimately, of the entire country) but rather just to do what they are told. All, of course, for “the economy” and the “greater good.”

No one, to be sure, can claim a “right” to social service entitlements. And one can, if he chooses, take the stance that no citizen of any country should expect, for any reason, that the government needs to take care of him in any way. That’s a perfectly defensible position, at least from a perspective of cold logic.
But every compassionate country recognizes the rightness of assisting the poor. And a country that calls itself the Jewish one, it can well be argued, has a special responsibility to underwrite the portion of its populace that is willfully destitute because of its dedication to perpetuating classical Judaism (which, as it happens, is what kept the connection between Jews in the Diaspora and their ancestral land alive for millennia, and allowed for a state of Israel in the first place).
Yes there have been ongoing cuts since Bibi Netanyahu was finance minister under Ariel Sharon way back in the early 0's but those cuts were, in part, due to a lack of sufficient tax revenue to pay for the social services then in place.  The Chareidim have long complained that they suffered disproportionately from these cuts and that's true because of their larger families but imagine if a sizeable proportion of the community, instead of living off social assistance, had been working successfully and paying taxes?  Might that have alleviated the revenue shortfall by increasing taxes and reducing the number of people needing handouts?
Then there's the argument that the chareidim are being forced to forgo their first priority.  But they're not.  The Israeli government is simply saying that it won't pay for them to do it anymore.  If they want to they still can but not on the general taxpayer's agorah. 
Then there is the claim that the Chareidi community has been villified without pause.  Now while there is some hostility on the secular side against the Chareidi one ask to ask Rav Shafran: Have you not read your own press lately?  If there is any edge in hostility, false claims, and villification it belongs to the Chareidi press which has outdone any fascist 1930's Central European newspapers when it comes to presenting the situation in Israel.  Just ask Rav Dov Lipman, a genuine practitioner of Chareidi Judaism except for the part where it comes to checking one's brain at the door, what happens when you don't tow the party line 100%.
Finally, of course, his statement that no one has a right to social service entitlements is just laughable since this is exactly the crux of the Chareidi community's argument.  Since their Torah study protects the country (except when it's under attack) it is a privilege for secular Israelis to support their welfare lifestyles.  They are not only entitled to unlimited access to Israel's tax coffers, they are bewildered as to why the secular folks are upset by this. 
Refusing to support oneself, demand charity from the government while simultaneously attacking it for being unJewish and evil and then announcing that Israel has to support them because it's Jewish country is like the old case of the man who kills his parents and then asks for mercy from th court because he's an orphan.  Chutzpah!
Cindy would be insulted by the comparison, by the way.
The Chareidi PR's tactics until now have been relatively simple: scream bloody murder, drive the seculars to the point of responding angrily and then screaming that Chareidim are hated.  Let's hope that this tactic isn't successful.  The repercussions would be terrible.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Sometimes Intention Is Everything

It's a well known dispute in the Gemara in Berachos as to whether kavannah, intention, is necessary for the proper performance of a mitzvah.  It is, however, pretty well agreed upon that negative kavannah, intending not to fulfill one's obligation, while performing the mitzvah, does invalidate the act.
One historical example of this is the appointment of Shaul as the first king of Israel.  The Torah in Devarim clearly states that it is a mitzvah to establish a monarchy in Israel.  Various places in the Talmud delineate when this became obligatory after the initial conquest and settlement of Israel under Yehoshua but no one denies that there is a mitzvas aseh to have a king in Israel.
If that's the case why is the response of Shmuel haRo'eh, the leader of our ancestors at that time, mainly negative?  The Bible details his response to the people's request for a king and it isn't a positive speech.
The answer to that is contained in the speech.  It is clear to Shmuel that the desire for a king had no holy aspect to it.  It was about politics and matching the nations around that had monarchies and central governments.  It wasn't "I want a king because I want to fulfill the mitzvah" but "I want a king to be like all the nations around me".  This negative intention nullified the religious value of the kiyum hamitzvah which is what so annoyed Shmuel.
I was thinking about this while reading through the back and forth debate between Cross Currents and Morethodoxy on the recent "ordination" of three new Mahara"ts.  It's a fascinating discussion to follow because, while it appears interactive, it is quite clear that both sides are not interested in talking to one another but rather in talking at one another.  Nothing Rav Avraham Gordimer says is going to change the minds over at YCT and nothing Rabbi David Wolkenfeld writes in response is going to change Rav Gordimer's mind.
But in my humble opinion the entire point of this debate is being missed.  This whole discussion isn't about whether or not female rabbis are permitted in halacha.  The real point is seen in blogs and Facebook comments of people who support the YCT initiative and can be summarized by one particular post I saw: "This is a step in the right direction".
The right direction?  Doesn't that strike one as a little arrogant, relegating the vast majority of Torah-observant poskim who oppose the YCT initiative as a group going in the wrong direction?  If one stands up and states that after a careful analysis of the issue one opposes the ordination of female rabbis one is automatically wrong?
And if so, why is one wrong?  What makes the ordination of women a step in the right direction?  Does it add to the general kedushah of our nation?  Does it increase habatzas Torah?  Is it necessary to stem something which is widely perceived as a problem among the majority of Torah-observant Jews?
From the various comments I've seen as well as the posts on Morethodoxy none of these seem to be the case.  Rather we get back to our ancestors' request of Shmuel.  Secular society around us is egalitarian.  Most Chrisian denominations these days, with the notable exception of Catholicism, are egalitarian or close to it.  We want, the YCT folks seem to be saying, to be like the secular society around us.  They have women priests, women politicians, women executives and we think that's right.  Therefore becoming more egalitarian by ordaining women as rabbis is a step in the right direction.
Although this might harsh, I would like to bolster my point by bringing up a never-mentioned (to my knowledge) consideration.  Up until now the YCT crowd has been emphasizing the supposed need for women to have a greater role in Jewish life and for Orthodoxy to be more egalitarian.  This means women need to start leading services, need aliyos to the Torah and need to be rabbis.  (Oddly there's no similar effort to ensure men start lighting Shabbos candles or baking challah)  But there's another important community position, one often forgotten about by lots of folks but which is amazingly essential for the Jewish community.  Like the position of rabbi, there's no mishnah or gemara that forbids women taking this position.  In fact the Mishnah bpfeirush states that women are permitted to perform its duties.  The Shulchan Aruch brings that mishnah as halacha as well.  Yet all over the world there are no women doing the job.  Not only that but there's no outcry from the YCT crowd about this.  There are no women lining up to break the glass ceiling surrounding this profession.
Have you guessed what the job is?
The local shochet.
Why is it that with all the clamouring from LWMO about women assuming equal roles with men, community leadership and so on that there is no demand from women to be taught about how to slaughter animals?
I'll tell you why: there's no glamour to it.
Many of the demands of women to assume male roles in the Jewish community is, I believe, driven by the behaviour of Jewish men.  Think about it: how many men wear a glitzy tallis and parade around proudly in it like it's a status symbol?  How many men make a big deal out of getting an aliyah instead of approaching the bimah in dread and awe of the responsibility of performing the mitzvah properly?  And don't even get me started on chazzanim.  Is it any wonder that some women want in on the action?
But being a shochet?  That's messy, smelly and pretty much anonymous.  The hours are lousy, the work is hard and since the cost of making a mistake is not only problematic al pi halacha but also financial in terms of losing the animal for kosher sale.  It's not something most men want to do.  What a surprise that YCT isn't running a shechitah program for its Mahara"ts.
Ultimately that is what undermines the legitimacy of the YCt crowd's arguments.  After all the picking and choosing of halachic supports, the main reason they are so passionate about their initiative is because they want to bring their Orthodoxy closer to the values of secular liberalism that they aspire to hold by.  They want Orthodoxy without conflict and Orthodoxy without conflict, without differentiation from the outside world, isn't real Orthodoxy.

Sunday 16 June 2013

The Necessary Synthesis

In Rav Dov Schwartz' book on the history of Religious Zionism he notes that the movement faces a critical issue in defining itself.  During the 20th century two rabbinic leaders towered over the ideology and did much to define it, the Rav, zt"l, and Rav Kook, ztk"l.  From today's perspective their influences were seen as different from one another.  The Rav's approach was strictly halachic, being faithful to his Brisker roots and his belief in the pre-eminence of halacha in all areas of Judaism.  Rav Kook, on the other hand, is recalled from the mystical perspective he brought to Religious Zionism which is quite different.  The followers of Rav seek to develop Religious Zionism along practical, halachic lines while the students of Rav Kook see things in a more messianic fashion.  The differences make it difficult to find common ground between the two factions.
But it seems to me that this doesn't necessarily have to be so.  For one thing we must remember that in addition to being a pre-eminent mekubal Rav Kook was also a major posek.  Yes he wrote a great deal in the mystical fashion but he also appreciated good halachic methodology just like the Rav.  The gap between the two authorities isn't as great as one might think.
What's more, recall that Rav Kook himself was a special synthesis of the two pre-eminent traditions in the Torah-observant community of his time, the Yeshivish and the Chasidic branches.  In his writings one can find evidence of his efforts to unite the two disparate philosophies and show that together they form one comprehensive and complete vision of Judaism.  As the Final Redemption draws closer it's important to encourage efforts like this so that what has become a fragmented faith with all sorts of different traditions finds an inner unity.
Why is this important?  On both sides of centrist Torah observance there are troubles brewing.  On the left side there is the movement that wants to bring secular liberal ethics into Judaism but still call itself Orthodox.  On the right the Chareidi world has become a self-righteous ethnic group more concerned with preserving itself than properly observing the Torah it claims to be the defender of.  Only with strong positions in both halacha and kabalah can centrist Orthodoxy, Navonim if you will, stand as viable alternatives to both.
For all those Chareidim who are fed up with the narishkeit their leadership is serving them there is little perceived alternative.  It's either the Oreo cookie outfit or complete secuarlism.  Centrist Orthodoxy, with its current emphasis on academic approaches to Judaism combined with a perception that it is "Orthodoxy-lite" does not seem to them to be a serious alternative.  As a result many bright and committed individuals who might find a home in a religious rigorous but moe rational Judaism are lost to Torah observance.  Centrist Orthodoxy could fill this gap if it were to know how much deep halachic commitment and mystical awareness are part of its heritage.
Similarly on the left such stands could finally define what is acceptable according to a rationalist mesorah and what is simply playing "pick a posek" Judaism.  This can only occur if centrist Orthodoxy demands firm loyalty of its followers to the proper halachic methodology.
It therefore seems to me that what is important for centrist Orthodoxy, both the MO and DL communities, is to unify around a greater commitment to learning the works of the Rav and Rav Kook and building a community around their values and traditions.  In this way an amorphous group can form a strong alternative.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Kick Them Out Already

The angry resistance to the Israeli governments intentions to draft all its Jewish citizens equally continues to rage out of the Chareidi community.  Not a day seems to go by without further insults, accusations and enmity being expressed by their representatives, they who speak in the name of the "Gedolim" who, of course, know the mind of God Himself.
Is it any wonder they're so angry at recent events in Israeli politics?  For decades the Chareidi leadership has worked to crate an image of Judaism that fits its ideological agenda.  Jews were always Chareidi right from Matan Torah on down.  Moshe Rabeinu even wore a shtreiml at Har Sinai.  Why wouldn't he?  In this world view there was no debate, no variety within the Torah community through the ages, all was monolithic and agreed upon until those nasssssty Reforms and Haskalah types appeared in the 18th century and created new, evil movements that claimed to be Judaism.  What's more, it's Chareidi learning that sustains and supports the Jewish people and the land of Israel, nothing else.  Its "Gedolim" have "Dass Torah" and, through their special ruach hakodesh, possess infallibility and therefore require unquestioning obedience.  And it's always been this way, always!
Yet after the recent election this carefully contructed ideology faced severe problems.  Large numbers of religious but non-Chareidi Jews were elected to the Knesset, many of them on the slate of a secular party.  What's more they had no intention of giving the usual obedience to the Chareidi leadership's dictates.  They had the arrogance to assume that their version of Orthodoxy was also a legitimate expression of Torah behaviour.  They had the temerity to insist that Chareidim do not have a God-given (forgive the pun) right to sit and learn all day while receiving funds from the State they enjoy slandering.  Jews claiming to be Orthodox and not towing the Chareidi party line?  Chutzpah!
As bad as all that was, the response continues to show a lack of moral integrity within certain elements of the Chareidi world.  We already saw the Neturei Karta demonstration in which they dressed their children up as concentration camp inmates.  We had editorials in Chareidi publications insisting that Israel has simultaneous obligations to pay the Chareidim to sit and learn while not expecting them to serve in the army.
Now we have a major Torah authority in the United States spreading lies about what Naftali Bennett said in support of drafting Chareidim.  Not interpreting in a hostile fashion or selectively quoting but outright lying, in the name of Torah-true ethics no less!  And if that couldn't be outdown the recent demonstration by the Satmar Chasidim (an oxymoron if you know what the word chasid means) featured competing claims as to whether the Gaon Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit"a, supported the protest.  Some Chareidi blogs prematurely trumpeted the announcement that he did only to discover afterwards that Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, the Rav who made the announcement, hadn't actually heard such from HaRav Kanievsky.  To top it all off a written letter was produced which was claimed to be from HaRav Kanievsky in support of the rally and it was shown to be a forgery!  So now we have Roshei Yeshivah lying in the name of Gedolei Torah in order to support an ideological position and say it's approved by Daas Torah.  And as Rav Slifkin notes, the public propaganda put out by these groups strongly implies that if you don't agree with them you're not a real Jew at all.
It boggles the mind!
Perhaps it's time to stop expressing annoyance at provocations like this.  Perhaps it's time to stop simply blogging and editorializing and take a stronger stand.  For far too long one of the spot-on criticisms of Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Zionism is that the two groups accord respect and authority to the Chareidim while the opposite takes place in reverse.  For far too long we have come to accept that "real" Gedolim and "real" learning mostly occur in the Chareidi community.  This is not true and cannot be accepted any longer.
It's time to push back.  It's time to declare that the principle that sitting all day and learning while wearing the "right" outfit is not an automatic ticket to being designated as righteous.  Both Modern Orthodoxy and Religious Zionism have their own leaders and the followers have to start asking them the hard questions: are they really leaders or just quiet stand-ins for Chareidi authorities?
We are all taught that quiet responses calm bullies and make them go away.  We all know from real world experience that the opposite happens.  Bullies are only intimidated when challenged by superior force and the will to use it.  Are we willing to say that not accepting the legitimacy of the State of Israel is wrong?  Are we willing to say that saying tachanun on Iyyar 5 and acting as if nothing important happened in Jewish history on that day is wrong?  Are we prepared to stand up and reclaim Jewish history from those who have perverted and revised it to fit their narrow agenda?  In short, are we prepared to stand up for the truth and say that those who don't accept it have no place among us no matter how long their peyos?

Sunday 9 June 2013

How To Deal With The Women Of The Wall

The first step in dealing with a group is to understand that group's purpose and its internal dynamics.  This is something excitable types never seem to want to do but in the current conflict between the Chareidi authorities at the Western Wall and the Women of the Wall it is crucial that we observe those factors if we are to responsibly deal with them.
Therefore we have to note a few important points:
1) This group is not homogenous.  This is not a gathering of hairy men-hating lesbians who want to destroy the Torah.  Well, some of them might be but most are not.  It seems instead that the group breaks down into two basic parts.  The first is the more vocal one, the followers of Anat Hoffman.  While I cannot comment on their shaving status or sexual preferences it is quite clear that they are not interested in approaching the Wall from a position of halachic acceptability.  They have picked and chosen those public Jewish rituals they find personally meaningful, redefined the word Judaism to create a new religion that only cares about those things and then demanded equal access to the Walls since they call what they practice "Judaism".
2) The second group are women who could be categorized as left-wing Modern Orthodox, the YCT type of folk.  These women are quite different from the Anat Hoffman group.  They are genuinely interested in being proper halachic Jews but their understanding of how decision-making in halacha works is flawed.  As a result they seek to  approach the Wall solely within the basis of what they think halacha allows.  They have been lumped into the other group and are not distinguished from them but their aims are quite different.
3) Both groups thrive on attention.  They are well aware that the Chareidi position is perceived by the vast majority of the Jewish population of Israel, including many well-meaning folks in the Modern Orthodox community, as hostile and intolerant and therefore inherently "unJewish". They know that the more they poke the bear, the more outsiders to the conflict will side with them. They know they have the secular court system where real legal power lies on their side so they have everything to gain from creating confrontations.
As a result, responding to the WoW's must take these factors into account.  To wit:
1) We must understand that no compromise like that offered in the Sharansky plan will be acceptable to the WoW's.  The Anat Hoffman group isn't interested in creating a small egalitarian prayer group over at Robinson's Arch.  They want to bring their new religion and its smattering of Jewish practices to the main plaza because they need the attention to survive.
I well recall years ago the night that the Conservative synagogue I grew up in went egalitarian.  When women were asked afterwards if they would now regularily attend services they all replied in the negative.  Having won the battle for their "rights" they had no interest in exercising them.  Anat Hoffman surely knows that much of her crowd is there for battle, not prayer.  In the absence of a confrontation many of these women will no be interested in simply showing up and praying.  How dull.
2) The second group, the LWMO one, must be taken more seriously.  These are women who are interested in genuine worship of God but simply have some misunderstandings leading them in the wrong direction.  An education outreach, an understanding of what they are interested in and an implementation of accepted halachic leniencies is certainly in order here.  This is all the more important because this group is not interested in an egaliatarian group at Robinson's Arch.  They are not seeking Reformative worship but rather they want to be Orthodox within certain understandings.
3) The most important thing to do is to demand calm from the Chareidi side.  The more riots there are, the more screaming and violence, the more inflammatory statements, the more the WoW's gain public and legal sympathy.  Honestly, who would you rather side with, an aggreived woman in a tallis who just wants to pray or a slavering Chareidi protestor screaming about the purity of Torah?  Knowing this, and knowing that the WoW's know this the response to their provocative actions must be muted or creative.  The attempt by the local Beis Yaakov schools a few weeks ago to swamp the women's section at the Wall was creative.  The subsequent Chareidi rioting from then men's section was not.  Once their spotlight shrinks their movement will lose its momentum.  Condescending editorials, screaming, and promises of violence will only do the opposite.
Above all we should remember what the fighting is about.  Newspapers love to state that the Wall is Judaism's holiest site.  Well it isn't.  It's the elevated piece of land beyond the Wall that is the Har HaBayis, our holiest site.  How odd that we're not even thinking about fighting over that with its current occupants.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Calling All Real Chareidim

One of the problems with having English as one's first language is forgetting that Hebrew words actually mean something.  I mean, we say "Beit Shemesh" but never think about visiting someone in the "House of the Sun".  Similarly there are millions of Jews who call themselves Chasidim but aren't especially pious.  The title comes with the outfit and lineage, not personal middos.
It's especially important to remember that Chareidi is a real Hebrew word as well, meaning one who trembles, as in one who trembles before the Lord and His Torah.  Like chasid the term has ceased to be used appropriately and has now become an ethnic designation for a specific group of Torah-observant Jews.  And like chasid one doesn't have to actual tremble before the Lord, just wear the right outfit and swear loyalty to the right rabbonim.
Having said that I am well aware there are countless members of the Chareidi community that are actual chareidim as well.  However it also follows that one can be chareidi and not a Chareidi.  How many folks in the Dati Leumi community, especially among the followers of Rav Kook, spend their days learning and performing mitzvos with a keen awareness of the Ribono shel Olam just like their Chareidi brothers?  Why there might even be a few in the Modern Orthodox community who fit such a description, folks for whom pleasing God is the number one priority in life even if their approach doesn't fit the prefab model presented by "the Gedolim".
Perhaps this is the answer to the question of achdus amongst us.  A person who is sincere and honest in his desire to fulfill God's will in This World will seek out like-minded individuals regardless of how they look or talk.  We all know of the stereotypical Chareidi, the one who looks at a non-Chareidi observant Jew and automatically dismiss his legitimacy.  Let's get past that.  Yes there are lots of narrow-minded individuals among the Chareidim but there are also many decent ones for whom a common love of Torah trumps an interest in what kind of hat one wears.  It's those that we should be reaching out to.
How do we reach out?  There is only one legitimate answer: through Torah study.  After all the words of ahavas Yisrael and talk of charity and good deeds there is one primal mitzvah that defines us as observant Jews: learning Torah.  If we non-Chareidim wish to be taken seriously by "open minded" Chareidim then we must take Torah learning seriously.  It's not enough to say "We're Orthodox too!"  The proof of one's Orthodoxy comes with the desire to learn Torah.
There is a famous story of how the Satmar, back in the 1920's, was asked by his allies to go to Israel and try to argue with Rav Avraham Kook, ztk"l.  He refused reputedly on the grounds that he was worried that Rav Kook, far from being convinced he was in error, would convince the Satmar he was wrong! 
This approach to Torah is exactly the one we must oppose.  A position which is maintained by ignoring, avoiding or shouting down any genuine opposition is weak and not worthy of being observed.  The best Torah observance is one that demands its practitioners' full willingness to defend it from opposing points of view.  It is only this form that thrives, provided its adherents with proper spiritual satisfaction and can stand up to pressures from the outside world that seek to distract us from our holy path.
Let us then consider approaching those Chareidim for whom honest belief in Torah trumps blind ideological loyalties and see if ties can be built that will heal some of our schism.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Disappointing Darkness

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Like many other die-hard fans I recently had a chance to take in Star Trek Into Darkness, the latest installment in the venerable sci-fi franchise.  We've been waiting for this one since 2009 when the JJ Abrams helmed reboot warped into theatres.  Was the wait worth it?
For me: no.
Let's take a step back.  The 2009 film could have been one of two things, a reboot to get the franchise up and producing again or a great tribute film full of in-jokes for long-time fans and revved-up action for the unwashed masses.  The sequel, for me, would decide this.
The plot, in short, is that a mysterious figure is terrorizing Starfleet.  Using a proxy he blows up an important research station.  He then attacks a meeting of admirals and captains that is discussing the attack, killing Captain Chrisopher Pike (which, I guess, beats spending the rest of your life horribly scarred and sitting in a wheelchair that can only go 'beep').  In the meantime Captain Kirk saves a primitive population from being destroyed by a volcano but gets demoted because he broke the Prime Directive (don't interfere with primitive cultures, just sleep with their women on the sly) to do so.  But with Starfleet's finest either dead or bleeding profusely from the attack Kirk is tasked to capture the terrorist which he does, almost a little too easily.  He's all ready to celebrate when he learns that the terrorist is a former pawn of an ambitious Starfleet admiral which used him to build a dreadnought, the USS Vengeance.  There is a big exchange of phasers between the Enterprise and the Vengeance and in the end the bad guys are destroyed and the Enterprise gets rebuilt.
Lots of cute lines, great action and amazing special effects.  So why was I disappointed?
Well, who was this mysterious bad guy?  None other than Khan Noonien Singh.
Yes, that Khan, the one from the original episode Space Seed and the greatest Trek movie ever, The Wrath of Khan.  Khan, you may recall, was a genetically modified superman who, in the aftermath of World War III in the 1990's, fled into space in cryogenic freeze with his followers.  In the original series timeline his ship, the Botany Bay, is found floating in deep space.  Khan and his followers are revived, he tries to take over the Enterprise and they are exiled to a remote savage planet.  In the new timeline the Botany Bay was discovered by Admiral Marcus who revives Khan and uses him to build the USS Vengeance while holding the rest of Khan's people hostage.
So there's a twofold disappointment here. The first is that, with a whole reborn galaxy to work with, Abrams et al go for the comfy, easy repeat by dragging out the most infamous Trek villian ever.  Then they fill the movie with "sneaky nods" at the original with a twist.  Were you expected Kirk to scream "Khan!" again?  No, this time it's Spock.  (I don't give a damn about his personal proclivities.  Zachary Quinto is a wuss compared to Shatner, it does not work when he does it).
And more than that, Khan is played by Benedict Cumberbatch who may be a great actor but is also pasty white.  Khan was Indian.  They're brown!  In the original Space Seed they at least had the good sense to use a well-tanned Ricardo Montelban.  This time we have to sit with serious faces as a guy the colour of milk announces "My name is Khan!"  Puh-leeze.
So yeah, more and more it looks like the 2009 movie was a great tribute and the future holds a bunch of generic acting and stolen lines.  Pity.