Friday, May 28, 2004

Second Part: Joseph Tzvi Rimon 

For those that enjoyed the first part of Dror Idar's essay on God and Hebrew poetry, the second part is in today's Ha'aretz.

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Monday, May 24, 2004

God in Hebrew Poetry 

When did God disappear from Hebrew poetry? Throughout the generations from Biblical times until not too long ago "God was the main subject in the historical drama of the Jewish nation" writes Dror Idar in Ha'aretz. But, he continues, "The New Hebrew poetry was born with the death of God" at the end of the 18th century (preceding Nietzsche by about 100 years).

Its not that God didn't continue to appear, it's that God in modern Hebrew poetry became an "idea" or an abstraction, not a real character in the personal and national lives of the Jewish people.

In the first of a two part article (in Hebrew only), Idar sketches what he calls "patricide", as Hebrew poetry made its break with the Father figure upon whom all hopes were laid. The main subject of the essay is the little known modern Hebrew poet Joseph Tsvi Rimon (1889-1958) who was ignored by the literary elite in spite of his modernist style and tendencies. Rimon's main subject matter was that personal and national God that was "killed" in the poetry of his time. In spite his being a modernist, Iday considers him the "religious poet, par excellence" who was not just a "religious poet", but a "poet of religion".

It's worth taking the time to read this essay (and hopefully the second part). Print it out and take a look during a break on Shavuot night.

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Friday, May 21, 2004

Its the Boys, Stupid 

Today's Ha'aretz has an article by Tamar Rotem on the ongoing "crisis" in the religious-Zionist community in Israel of the "ravakot" – or single women.

I think the time has come to stop with all the clichés that articles like this bring to the table. Its not that the article is bad – it actually covers a wide range of views and presents the cases and examples of many women. However, the "crisis" aspect of this is not the one that the article and the rabbis present. For many of the religious-Zionist rabbis, like Shlomo Aviner, the "crisis" is simply that we as a community are not haredi enough.

For those who have read these posts you will have noticed that we here don't have a lot of respect for Rabbi Shlomo Aviner. As a matter of fact, for someone who has written more books than there are topics and for someone who has an infinite number of volumes of Sh"UT (Halakhic Q&A), he comes off as little more than a fool of mediocre intelligence. So that when he says that we ought to re-institute the "shadchan" (matchmaker) he is saying what he says to the robots in Bnei Akiva who drink his every word like cheap bourbon – we are not haredi enough because we are not really on such a high level.

So, lets for the sake of sanity ignore the thoughts and views of Aviner and his misogynistic cohorts and talk about the real crisis of single women: There just aren't enough men/boys out there who were raised to respect women and girls.

The article alludes to this issue when it quotes a woman who was told by a hesder yeshiva graduate "if you're a lawyer, how will you take care of the home?". Or when the parents of the same woman told them not to send her to Midreshet Bruria in Jerusalem because that is a place "where the women have acquired a scholarly reputation" and the boys would deem her "to be too intelligent".

This all starts in the elementary school grades where most of the religious schools – even the ones with co-ed classes, start teaching the boys gemara in the 5th grade while the girls …. don't. What is a boy supposed to think when he is introduced to what he knows is the most difficult and most scholarly of Jewish activities – the learning of Talmud, and the girls go off doing something else?

What are the boys in junior high and high school supposed to think when they learn 15-20 hours a week of gemara while there females friends in Bnei Akiva have a "Beit Midrash program" ( of 2-4 hours a week) that has them draw pictures or put on skits based on midrashim? When you point out to the creators of these programs that the girls don't actually get a firm grounding in the study of Jewish texts – they answer "but the girls get a positive feeling about Yahadut".

Feeling good about their own ignorance is what they mean, I guess.

The "crisis" is not that these women have chosen some "alternative lifestyles". The crisis is that while these women have chosen to better themselves intellectually, culturally and even religiously, the boys have been raised in a religiously selfish environment where there own Limud Torah and their own fulfillment of mitzvot and their own religious and social betterment comes before what ought to be their own commitment to build a "bayit ne'eman b'yisrael" (faithful house in Israel).

In short – "it’s the boys, stupid".

Its the boys, their yeshivot and dare I say, their parents who have decided to raise them in an atmosphere of disrespect for girls and women. Its no wonder that I know an untold number of women in their 20's and 30's who would make a wonderful mate and can barely think of one normal, self-respecting and single man (or should I say boy?). Its not that "all the good guys are either married or gay", its that all the good guys were raised to be misogynists.

In the US, the problem of "dating" in the modern orthodox community is an attempt to make utterly rational the one truly romantic part of our lives – a problem which stems from a combination of extreme affluence and a fanatical dedication to a concept of halacha which drains it of all meaning.

In Israel, where extreme affluence is not (yet) a problem, we are left with an educational system for boys that demands of them to gain the tools to be talmidei chachamin and one for girls whose goal is to make them feel good about Torah without actually gaining any real knowledge of it.

Its time here in our modern Orthodox/Religious-Zionist community in Israel to start making religious and intellectual demands of our girls and by raising our boys to realize that they don't have a monopoly on learning God's word or doing God's work.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

George Eliot and Today's Jews (and Their Enemies) 

Way back in the 1970's and 1980's, when you wanted an intellectualized attack on anti-Semitism we looked at that unrepentant apologist for Stalinist horror, Jean Paul Sartre's "Anti-Semite and Jew". It is difficult to explain to the young generation of intellectuals and thinkers the challenge that Marxism presented to those who were trying to defend freedom and figure out their own place in the world.

Looking back, it appears tragic that some of the greatest minds of more than one generation (Sidney Hook, for example) spent a good part of their intellectual lives giving a critique of that destructive ideology and intellectual/philosophical system. But those were the times – Marxism and its tentacles reached to all parts of the political, intellectual, and religious world and many great people spent their time fighting against it.

That is the reason I guess, why when we wanted to show our intellectual peers that anti-Semitism was not just evil, but irrational (which to the intellectual is worse than being evil) we went to that fellow traveler who commanded the respect of the French left bank and those who wanted desperately to be part of it. But that book has nothing to tell us today – not to the anti-Semite and not to the Jew.

Thanks to my brother I have just read a long essay by George Eliot (1819-1880) that although was addressed to the British anti-Semite of those days can be equally relevant to present day anti-Semites as well as today's Jews. The essay is entitled "The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!" (in the book "Impressions of Theophrastus Such" – the link to the book is here, the last essay is the one we are discussing). The title is based on the chant of the crusaders as they entered Jewish towns in Europe (see the discussion of the essay by Cynthia Ozick in the NY Observer that led us to this essay).

I don't want to discuss the message to the anti-Semites of today, but to the Jewish people of today. The passages we are about to discuss were written to show the absurdity of anti-Semitism, yet, we can read those same passages today to show our modern day Jew of the absurdity of first fighting against our tradition and second of demonizing our fellow Jews.

We have discussed these themes before and don't have to repeat the disgust many of us feel when we again look to our fellow Jews as the "new enemy". If only it was one group, the left or the right, the religious or the secular who demeaned themselves (and the rest of us) by this behavior – but, alas, it is all of us who feel that the only way to win a battle (let alone a war) in our internal squabbles is to demean our internal enemies.

Writing to and of her fellow Englishmen, George Eliot today could be writing to us Jews:

"It is certainly worth considering whether an expatriated, denationalised race, used for ages to live among antipathetic populations, must not inevitably lack some conditions of nobleness. If they drop that separateness which is made their reproach, they may be in danger of lapsing into a cosmopolitan indifference equivalent to cynicism, and of missing that inward identification with the nationality immediately around them which might make some amends for their inherited privation. No dispassionate observer can deny this danger. Why, our own countrymen who take to living abroad without purpose or function to keep up their sense of fellowship in the affairs of their own land are rarely good specimens of moral healthiness; still, the consciousness of having a native country, the birthplace of common memories and habits of mind, existing like a parental hearth quitted but beloved; the dignity of being included in a people which has a part in the comity of nations and the growing federation of the world; that sense of special belonging which is the root of human virtues, both public and private,—all these spiritual links may preserve migratory Englishmen from the worst consequences of their voluntary dispersion. Unquestionably the Jews, having been more than any other race exposed to the adverse moral influences of alienism, must, both in individuals and in groups, have suffered some corresponding moral degradation; but in fact they have escaped with less of abjectness and less of hard hostility towards the nations whose hand has been against them, than could have happened in the case of a people who had neither their adhesion to a separate religion founded on historic memories, nor their characteristic family affectionateness. Tortured, flogged, spit upon, the corpus vile on which rage or wantonness vented themselves with impunity, their name flung at them as an opprobrium by superstition, hatred, and contempt, they have remained proud of their origin. Does any one call this an evil pride? Perhaps he belongs to that order of man who, while he has a democratic dislike to dukes and earls, wants to make believe that his father was an idle gentleman, when in fact he was an honourable artisan, or who would feel flattered to be taken for other than an Englishman. It is possible to be too arrogant about our blood or our calling, but that arrogance is virtue compared with such mean pretence. The pride which identifies us with a great historic body is a humanising, elevating habit of mind, inspiring sacrifices of individual comfort, gain, or other selfish ambition, for the sake of that ideal whole; and no man swayed by such a sentiment can become completely abject. That a Jew of Smyrna, where a whip is carried by passengers ready to flog off the too officious specimens of his race, can still be proud to say, "I am a Jew," is surely a fact to awaken admiration in a mind capable of understanding what we may call the ideal forces in human history."

It was not only in "Daniel Derronda" that Eliot's understanding of Jews and the Jewish need for normalcy was brought to the fore. Look at this passage and you have to wonder why our religious, intellectual and political leaders were so late in coming to the same conclusions – or why today, we have to defend again our right to be a free people. Here she writes:

"If we are to consider the future of the Jews at all, it seems reasonable to take as a preliminary question: Are they destined to complete fusion with the peoples among whom they are dispersed, losing every remnant of a distinctive consciousness as Jews; or, are there in the breadth and intensity with which the feeling of separateness, or what we may call the organised memory of a national consciousness, actually exists in the world-wide Jewish communities—the seven millions scattered from east to west—and again, are there in the political relations of the world, the conditions present or approaching for the restoration of a Jewish state planted on the old ground as a centre of national feeling, a source of dignifying protection, a special channel for special energies which may contribute some added form of national genius, and an added voice in the councils of the world?
They are among us everywhere: it is useless to say we are not fond of them. Perhaps we are not fond of proletaries and their tendency to form Unions, but the world is not therefore to be rid of them. If we wish to free ourselves from the inconveniences that we have to complain of, whether in proletaries or in Jews, our best course is to encourage all means of improving these neighbours who elbow us in a thickening crowd, and of sending their incommodious energies into beneficent channels. Why are we so eager for the dignity of certain populations of whom perhaps we have never seen a single specimen, and of whose history, legend, or literature we have been contentedly ignorant for ages, while we sneer at the notion of a renovated national dignity for the Jews, whose ways of thinking and whose very verbal forms are on our lips in every prayer which we end with an Amen? Some of us consider this question dismissed when they have said that the wealthiest Jews have no desire to forsake their European palaces, and go to live in Jerusalem. But in a return from exile, in the restoration of a people, the question is not whether certain rich men will choose to remain behind, but whether there will be found worthy men who will choose to lead the return. Plenty of prosperous Jews remained in Babylon when Ezra marshalled his band of forty thousand and began a new glorious epoch in the history of his race, making the preparation for that epoch in the history of the world which has been held glorious enough to be dated from for evermore. The hinge of possibility is simply the existence of an adequate community of feeling as well as widespread need in the Jewish race, and the hope that among its finer specimens there may arise some men of instruction and ardent public spirit, some new Ezras, some modern Maccabees, who will know how to use all favouring outward conditions, how to triumph by heroic example, over the indifference of their fellows and the scorn of their foes, and will steadfastly set their faces towards making their people once more one among the nations."

And she concludes with a passage that should embarrass some of us into changing our attitude towards ourselves and our co-religionists:
"The Jews were steadfast in their separateness, and through that separateness Christianity was born. A modern book on Liberty has maintained that from the freedom of individual men to persist in idiosyncrasies the world may be enriched. Why should we not apply this argument to the idiosyncrasy of a nation, and pause in our haste to hoot it down? There is still a great function for the steadfastness of the Jew: not that he should shut out the utmost illumination which knowledge can throw on his national history, but that he should cherish the store of inheritance which that history has left him. Every Jew should be conscious that he is one of a multitude possessing common objects of piety in the immortal achievements and immortal sorrows of ancestors who have transmitted to them a physical and mental type strong enough, eminent enough in faculties, pregnant enough with peculiar promise, to constitute a new beneficent individuality among the nations, and, by confuting the traditions of scorn, nobly avenge the wrongs done to their Fathers.
There is a sense in which the worthy child of a nation that has brought forth illustrious prophets, high and unique among the poets of the world, is bound by their visions.
Is bound?
Yes, for the effective bond of human action is feeling, and the worthy child of a people owning the triple name of Hebrew, Israelite, and Jew, feels his kinship with the glories and the sorrows, the degradation and the possible renovation of his national family.
Will any one teach the nullification of this feeling and call his doctrine a philosophy? He will teach a blinding superstition—the superstition that a theory of human wellbeing can be constructed in disregard of the influences which have made us human."
You should print out and read through this entire essay – teachers of young Jews (and young non-Jews) you should take a day or two (or three) and read this essay so that your students can know not only the thoughts of a literary genius, but the style of literary genius.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Jenin II ?  

We don't usually get into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on this blog, but we do discuss anti-Semitism quite a bit, so its often hard to ignore what is going on around us on a daily basis.

The press coverage of the current operation in Rafah smells very much like the "Jenin Massacre" story of two years ago. We have difficult battles going on, lots of bloodshed and much destruction. We have the foreign press egged on by the Palestinians and our own opposition politicians reporting on "war crimes" and "humanitarian disasters".

We are not here to deny the hardship this operation has on many innocent Palestinians, yet the press once again misses the main story. The purpose of the operation (as Ze'ev Schiff reports in Ha'aretz) is to stop the smuggling of arms into Gaza via the tunnels from Egyptian Sinai to Rafah. Kalachnikov rifles and RPG's are certainly being smuggled in as well as high grade explosives. The major fear is that parts for Katyusha rocket launchers (of Hizbollah fame) are also being smuggled into Gaza.

If this is the case – and it apparently is – then there is one way to stop both the destruction and the smuggling at the same time: Call Egypt to task. The smuggling is not being done across the Jordanian border because the Jordanian government won't put up with it. Why does the Egyptian government?

We can continue to condemn Israel for defending itself, or we can demand of our "best and oldest friend in the Arab world" to take control of their border. If it is root causes we are looking for – look to the southern entrences of the tunnels.

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Sunday, May 16, 2004

What a Gergele! 

I don't know if this interests anybody but the current issue of YU's "Torah U'maddah Journal" has a detailed description of a dissection of a giraffe, for the purpose of determining its kashrut status. I didn't think it would interest me, but it caught my eye, I started reading and found it fascinating.

It is only theoretical of course. I don't know that there is a market for any, let alone kosher giraffe meat, but seeing some scientists and rabbis studying anatomy together in itself seemed interesting.

If you don't want to go through all 19 pages I will tell you the ending: Yes a giraffe is kosher and yes, you can (theoretically) "shecht" (ritually slaughter) it. However, there may be other problems including restraint of the animal before shechitah and the ever problematic "masoret" or tradition of what is and is not kosher - so don't buy that extra large BBQ grill just yet.

Interesting diversion in these depressing times.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

If you want to Know ... 

... what it means to live in a Jewish country and have a Jewish army, you only had to watch the news tonight in Israel.

Tens if not hundreds of soldiers were crawling on all fours, shoulder to shoulder, searching for remains of their fallen comrades so that they can have a proper Jewish burial.

We are used to seeing the Zaka people after a terror attack looking and searching. Here are soldiers of all types doing God's work slowly and methodically. Here are soldiers dedicated to defending our land, our country and our traditions.

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Neighborhood of the Yekkes 

For a short look at Jerusalem's famed Rehavia neighborhood and its original German-Jewish (Yekke) inhabitants whose manners and refinement, for good or for bad, went the way of the steam engine.

Its great living in Israel and not having to wear a tie and jacket, ever .... But some politeness, even the "fake" kind would be nice every once in a while.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Jew and the Yid 

I just finished reading "Foigelman" by Aharon Megged. Megged is an older Israeli novelist from the generation preceding today's literary stars – A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz – a generation called the "Palmach Generation". This group of writers came of age before, during and immediately after the 1948 War of Independence.

"Fiogelman" is a good book, but not a great novel. The story, the themes Megged deals with are all fascinating and important. But the characters are too one-dimensional. They are all for the most part stereotypical. The Yiddish poet, the Israeli male academic, the Israeli female scientist, the officer son. Everyone does exactly what you would expect them to do. The relationships between the characters are also not fully developed, making it difficult to sympathize with anyone in any but a sentimental way.

However, the themes Megged deals with are too important to let you give up reading this book. Essentially the story of a Yiddish poet and his relationship with an Israeli historian of European Jewry, the issues brought up give one pause. How did we treat survivors of the holocaust? How do we look at our history? How much of a 'new Jew' has really been created?

In short, the main theme in "Foigelman" is "how does the Jew treat the 'Yid' ? In what ways do we Ashkenazic Jews come to terms with the suffering and horror that is so much a part of our history?

I don't know if this book will go down as a great one in Jewish literary history, but the problems that are its main focus will stay with us for a long time.

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Monday, May 10, 2004

Hungary Before and After 

Ha'aretz has another interesting article, this time a translation from the Hungarian of an article that appeared in Hungary by the half-Jewish Minister of Education Balint Magyar. Magyar details not only his ancestors sufferings during the Holocaust but the long history of first liberalism and then racism in Hungary.

The Jews were emancipated in 1849 with these words by Magyar's ancestor and then Prime Minister: "There is no religious community that has not produced heroic figures who have fought in our struggle for liberty and which has not produced victims of that struggle. However, you will find it very difficult to think of any religious community that could match the Jews in loyalty and in strenuous efforts on behalf of our national war. The declaration of equal rights is the necessary outcome of our birth as a nation. When we apply this principle to the members of the Mosaic faith, we are not only fulfilling our fundamental civic and human obligations; we are also awarding them the prize they deserve for their patriotism."

However, by 1920 the first anti-Jewish legislation was introduced in the Hungarian parliament. In the late '20s there had to be a declaration by the Rector of the university in Budapest to "ban violence against Jews".

Magyar ends his moving essay with these words to the Hungarian people:

"An integral part of the foundation of our national memory must be the perception of the Holocaust as a Hungarian tragedy. The victims, who constituted approximately 10 percent of the total population - that is, well over half-a-million Jews and Gypsies - were murdered as Hungarian citizens. Every third victim in the largest death camp was deported from Hungary by the Hungarian authorities, in compliance with the explicit instructions of the Hungarian government, which collaborated with the Nazis.

Although there are no graves in Auschwitz-Birkenau, that is the largest Hungarian cemetery in history."

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Sunday, May 09, 2004

Lag B'omer and the Power of Smoke 

If there was ever a way to prove that God watches over Jewish children, then Lag B'omer in Israel is it.

While growing up in the US, Lag B'omer was known to religious kids for two things: It was field trip day - or if we were lucky, a day where they took us to play baseball at a real field: And, because of that, it was a day sure to rain.

Here in Israel it is a day where thousands upon thousands of kids make bonfires the size of the Statue of Liberty and roast marshmallows in front of the searing heat. For weeks before the holy night, children all over the country ransack construction sites and garbage dumps looking for any type of wood: Old doors, beds, chairs, planks.

The most cherished of all items though is known in Hebrew as a "rav-soda" - no this is not the rabbi of Coca Cola - I don't know the name in English, but these are those wooden platforms piled high with all types of merchandise that only fork-lifts can raise. If ever the construction industry ended in Israel, so too, would Lag B'omer.

In any event, any and all empty lots are used for these enormous bonfires. Usually, not more than 15 or 20 feet separate one fire from the next and for the most part, Israeli children use the same caution around these fires that their parents use on the roads.

If ever you doubted God's election of Israel - just come here for Lag B'omer, close your windows to prevent all your belongings of smelling of smoke and look around.

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Friday, May 07, 2004

A Literary Relationship 

You always wonder who the "other guy" is.

Ha'aretz has a wonderful article in Hebrew on the relationship between Y.H. Ravnitzky and Chaim Nahman Bialik. You may know the name Ravnitzky if you have or have used the Sefer Ha'agadah (Book of Legends) that the two of them edited. Bailik we all know of course as the greatest of modern Hebrew poets.

The article goes through their relationship when the 32 year old Ravnitzky published the 18 year old Bialik's great poem "El Hatzipor" ("To the Bird") in Odessa, to the end of their days. It speaks of the mentoring that Ravnitsky did, the critiques he gave – and those requested by Bialik.

For example, in a letter quoted in the article Ravnitzky writes of Bialik's use of words from the Tanach with obscure midrashic interpretations: "You love sometimes to take from the lexicon of the holy works strange words with difficult meanings. Leave this for other poets for whom this is the only glory in their poetry. You don't need these adornments." To which Bialik responded that he felt it better to start teaching these words and meanings to a new generation of children.

Interestingly, the article points out that Ravnitzky refused to publish any of Bialik's love poems (or any love poems for that matter) - a practice also held by Ahad Ha'am. Did this have to do more with the dedication to modernist art or to the nationalist themes that were favored at that time?

It was also Ravnitsky who convinced Bialik to write in Yiddish – something he did with much reluctance, publishing only around a dozen poems in the momma loshen.

This relationship was one where a critic and editor of high standards nurtured a poet of equally high standards – a relationship of mutual respect that we are enjoying to this day. Read the article – get through the Hebrew, you will be rewarded for the effort.

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Individuals and Institutions 

There are two interesting news stories today that although not really of those that we often discuss here, go to the heart of the religious divide in Israel.

The first story deals with the vote today to appoint four new judges to the Israeli Supreme Court. The second has to do with something that I thought went out with Oliver Twist - debtors prisons.

It seems that there are debtor's prisons in Israel. It didn't surprise me as much as you would think because of the heavy handed way simple government agencies deal with citizens. The Israel Broadcasting Authority for example, has the right to break into someone's house and take away any and all electrical appliances if they haven't paid their 400 shekel Television tax.

Regarding the appointment of the new Supreme Court justices in Israel, the controversy is over appointing the current State Prosecutor, Edna Arbel. Now, Ms. Arbel has been a controversial figure for a number of years as she has not only gone after major politicians on corruption charges – but has lost nearly every one of the high profile cases she has brought. There is deep suspicion about her on the right and amongst the religious because here unsuccessful prosecutions have been more or less one sided.

The controversy boiled over because Supreme Court justices are appointed by …. Supreme Court justices. You see, there is a commission that includes the current Chief Justice and other justices along with the Justice Minister, members of the Israeli equivalent of the Bar Association and some Knesset members. But – the Supreme Court justices have a basic veto over things.

Now, what do these have to do with the essence of the religious divide in Israel? It has to do with the basic lack of respect for individual rights. The people literally have no say (even an indirect one) in the appointment those who sit on its highest court (as a matter of fact, there has never been a high court justice who has not received his or her law degree from Hebrew University). With regard to debtor's prison – well, there are institutional rights but little respect for individual rights. The IBA, banks, interior ministry, etc, all have rights – individuals on the other hand ….

And that leads to the disingenuousness of the claims against state sponsored religion in Israel. You can't but agree with the claims that the Chief Rabbinate tramples on the rights of the citizens of Israel – but then again so do all the other bureaucracies.

Does this justify religious coercion? No, it doesn't. But the problem is larger than the Chief Rabbinate – it goes to the heart of respect for the individual, instead of respect for the institution.

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Monday, May 03, 2004

Supply-Side Judaism 

A few days ago we discussed an article in Jewish Action bemoaning the lack of leadership in modern-Orthodox communities in the US outside of the major metropolitan areas. The problem simply is demand outstripping supply. The solution, since we don't want to decrease the demand for Jewish religious services, is to increase the supply of Jewish educators and religious leaders.

A few days later I was reading a short article in the YU student publication "Commentator" (sometimes nostalgia gets the best of you) on the first women recipients of a post-graduate certificate in Talmud study at Stern. This refers to the program run by Professor Rabbi Ephraim Kanarfogel that allows women to learn Torah sheb'al peh (Oral Law) on an advanced level.

Might we not alleviate the educational and rabbinic leadership problem of modern-Orthodoxy by employing these budding talmidei chachamot. Although I don't know a lot about the program my guess is that after two years with R. Kanarfogel they have learned on a high enough level that they are capable of teaching elementary school and high school boys and girls in all of the basic and advanced Jewish studies courses these schools offer.

If the local communities were to set up kollels where they could learn (with men??!!) they would then have the opportunity to build their knowledge further.

That leaves us with the problem of the lack of pulpit rabbis. Although I am not advocating using these women as pulpit rabbis they could certainly fill many of the functions that they perform.

Could we assume that a rabbi in one community would also act as a "regional rabbi" where he could do those tasks that halakhah forbids women from performing in a neighboring community while allowing these women an opportunity to serve their communities by acting in the other functions that rabbis perform?

These rabbinic but not halakhic functions, such as delivering sermons, teaching classes, counseling and being a spiritual leader and personal example in the community could form the core of a new category of religious leader that would allow dedicated women to serve the Jewish people. This would also alleviate the strain of modern-Orthodox communities having to hire haredi teachers and rabbis just to have a local religious authority.

It has taken a long time to reach the point where we are willing to educate our girls and women on a level that they deserve (although here in Israel we appear to be light years behind) – it would be a shame not to move to the next level and allow them to perform that greatest of mitzvot – to teach Torah to other Jews.

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Sunday, May 02, 2004

Answers ... 

... to this. You may think there are many correct answers to our Yom Ha'atzmaut quiz - but then you would be wrong.
1. H, 2. L, 3. C, 4. I, 5. E

6. N, 7. J, 8. D, 9. F, 10. M

11. G, 12. A, 13. K, 14. P,

15. B, 16. O

Winners will be invited to next years Yom Ha'atzmaut bash, all expenses paid (from Kfar Saba train or bus station)!

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Saturday, May 01, 2004

For a Great Story .... 

... on being a child and playing baseball, written by a great young boy of 11 (an unbiased view) - go here.

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