Saturday, September 30, 2006

CN Publications

CN Publications: "Iran’s proud but discreet Jews"

As this article so accurately portrays, many Jews from the Persian/Iranian communities have left Iran to pursue religious freedom, nonetheless, there remains a small remanant of Jewry in a part of the world where anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is officially sanctioned by the govenment.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Be a man

Rabbi Shlomo (Gustav Karl Friedrich) Wolbe (1914- 2005) explains[1] what it means to "be a man." He writes that a man recognizes his places in the world. Great men recognize their role and understand that there are those who are superior to themselves and there are those inferior to themselves. Evil men, on the other hand, become haughty, and many instances become bent on world domination[2]. This can explain why Rabbi Yochanan said[3] that Adam is an acronym for ash, blood, and bile in the middle of a Talmudic discussion about haughtiness and superficial pride. When a human realizes who insignificant he truly is, he will see that he is only a conglomeration of blood, ashes, and bile. According to this understanding, one can even understand that Adam refers to the Adamah (ground), and that the fact that humans are made from the ground and destined to be buried there serves to remind man about his role in the great scheme of existence and especially in comparison to the greatness of man's creation. A man, by nature, is a damager, whether intentional or inadvertent[4]. A man must also rely on others, therefore only a married man is a true man,[5] and so the Rabbis introduced a blessing detailing the creation of man to be said at every Jewish wedding[6]. Since a man needs to rely on others, he needs land upon which to stand, so the Talmud also said[7] that a man who does not own real property is not called a man because the Torah says, "And the land was given to the sons of Adam.[8]" Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman (1875-1941) writes[9] that the degree of one's manhood is measured by his amount of fear of heaven, as King Solomon wrote, "In the end, [after] all is heard, fearing HaShem and observing His commandments is all [there is to the definition of] man.[10]"

[1] Alei Shur, Volume 2, 1:1
[2] See Chullin 89a
[3] Sotah 5a
[4] Bava Kamma 3b
[5] Yevamos 63a
[6] Kesubos 8a
[7] Yevamos 63a
[8] Psalms 115:16
[9] Kovetz Mamaarim
[10] Ecclesiastes 12:13

Thursday, September 28, 2006


As Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement approachs, I would like to ask forgiveness from all those on the blogosphere whom I have wronged. Off the top of my head, I can only think of Danya, Jill, Aviel, and Liorah Chana but I am sure there were more (it's late at night, and I just got back and should really go to sleep). I hope everyone forgives me and I forgive them so that we can enter the new year with totally clean slates because we cannot afford to bear the burden of our previous year's sins in addition to all the sins which we likely will inevitably commit this upcoming year. Now is a a time for repentence, which includes asking HaShem and people for forgiveness. This Shabbos is Shabbos Shuva, in which the prophet tells the Israelite to return to HaShem. The following is an essay sent to me by Reb Chaim Braverman, written by Rabbi Nachman Kahane.

BS"D Shabbat Shuva or Shabbat Teshuva 5767

A resident of Boro Park devised a scheme which was destined to make him rich; he would buy a cow and feed it 100 liters of milk a week and get back in return 90 liters. When his wife questioned the mathematics behind the plan, he explained that it was simple. He would give it 100 liters of chalav akum (non rabbinic supervised milk) and get back 90 liters of chalav yisrael (rabbinic supervised milk), and the difference in value will make them very rich.

The humor behind this anecdote loses some of its charm when we substitute treif chickens for milk, and Monsey for Boro Park. And instead of the cow being fed, replace it with many thousands of God fearing Jews whose Shabbat tables, weddings and religious ceremonies and daily meals were "blessed" with the finest treif meat, provided by one of their own who made it rich by buying "chickens akum" and selling them as "chickens Yisrael."

When I first heard the story my "knee jerk" reaction was "impossible"! But it is true. Satmar hechsher meat was in reality mahadrin treif meat. I visualized how the person involved would, after davening shake the hand of the rabbi and his own friends, and while looking them straight in the eye wish them "gut shabboooos" in full knowledge that the recipients of his blessing were also the recipients of his nevaylot (carcasses). His friends would return home, and when opening the door the wonderful aroma of the luscious Shabbat meal would fill their entire being. They would bless their children, sing shalom aleichem and aishes chayil, recite kidddush, wash and recite the brachot over washing and the challah, and then sit down to fill their bodies with his treif meat.

I have no particular interest in dwelling on this man’s past, nor on his future, for which he will be called to account for his unforgivable deeds, for two reasons: 1) what he did is beyond anyone’s capacity to assess; 2) He is not the only "chacham" ---. I am quite certain that there are other holy communities around America who are at this very moment falling victim to Kashrut scams.

What does interest me however, are the people of Monsey.

A Ben Sorer, a wayward youth, who must be executed, is one of a trilogy of mitzvot in the Torah regarding which the Gamara in Sanhedrin 71a quotes an opinion that the conditions for their fulfillment never came about and never will; and their inclusion in the Torah is only for the purpose of study and receiving its reward.

The other two are: Bayit Ha'me'noga, a house in which there appears a Tza'ra'it blemish which requires the house’s destruction; and Ir Ha'ni'dachat, a city in Eretz Yisrael where the majority of it’s inhabitants worship Avoda Zora and are to be killed and the entire contents of the city burned.

The Gemara goes on to disclose the particular conditions surrounding each of these three mitzvot - to kill a Ben Sorer, to destroy a house with a blemish and to kill an destroy an Ir Ha’ni’dacht - which renders each one impossible to fulfill.

Now if Hashem created the conditions rendering these mitzvot inoperable, and the motive for their inclusion in the Torah is to study them and receive the reward, I see a problem here.

So I would suggest the following:

In the basic law of the Torah these three ordinances were meant to be implemented. But then Hashem in his great love for Am Yisrael had "second thoughts". For if the court was to kill a boy who is a Sorer Umoreh, the matter would never be forgotten and the family name would become for all time synonymous with the crime of this boy. If the court would destroy a house with a Tzara'it blemish, the name of the town which contained it would for all time become synonymous with the crimes which bring about Tzara'it. If the court would destroy a city in Eretz Yisrael, the land would for all time become synonymous with the crimes which brought about the mass punishment of Jewish citizens and the destruction of an entire city.

So, Hashem in his love for Am Yisrael and his zealousness to protect his children from shame, includes them in the Torah, but makes certain that their impossible conditions would never permit their implementation.

The name of Monsey is indelibly inscribed in the Jewish mind as the city where thousands of observant people ate prohibited treif food for a period of years. And anyone coming from there will automatically raise in the minds of whomever he meets the question: Were you one of the unfortunate victims?

When one is informed that he is suffering from a fatal illness, one's initial reaction is usually one of disbelief, but once it becomes clear that it is true, the next reaction is, "why me?"

The people of Monsey should be asking themselves, "why us?". And they are correct in their dilemma; for that community is outstanding according to every Jewish criteria. There are shuls of every kind, yeshivot, mikvaot, acts of kindness and charity. The homes are open for the many shnorrers which barrage them constantly, and they give tzdaka with a smile. So why indeed did this happen to them?

It is the answer to that question on which I wish to dwell.

But first a word of clarification:

The sin of the residents of Monsey is not unique to them. It is shared by all Jewish communities in the galut; but I believe that Monsey was chosen by Hashem to demonstrate the problems which have engulfed our people.

I will explain.

The book of Yehoshua recounts that the Jewish army lost 36 soldiers in the battle for the little town of Aiy. Yehoshua was devastated at the loss, and when he appealed to Hashem for enlightenment, he received the heavenly answer

חטא ישראל וגם עברו את בריתי אשר צויתי אותם וגם לקחו מן החרם וגם גנבו וגם כחשו וגם שמו בכליהם:

Israel has sinned and has transgressed the covenant which I have commanded them. and they have taken from the sanctified articles and have stolen and denied it and have hidden them in their vessels

What does Hashem mean that "Israel has sinned", when it was only one person, Achan ben Karmi, who stole from the sanctuary! And what does it mean that they have stolen and hidden them in their vessels?

The answer is that only one person, Achan, actually stole from the enormous treasures which were taken from the city of Yericho and then sanctified for the mishkan; but he was not alone in his desire for these treasures. Hashem, who reads the minds of men, knew that many thousands of people lusted after these objects; but each, for reasons of his own, refrained from actually gratifying his urges.

Achan was the man who typified the sin which was present in many people.

The person who fed thousands of people treif food sold his soul to the devil for money and comfort, but by doing so he also revealed the rot which set into the religious communities of America, for they too share in the value system which puts wealth over all else.

But this aspect is the minor part of the corruption, what it lead to is infinitely worse.

There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah, 248 affirmative and 365 of abstention. Each has its reward and punishment. Some are capital crimes; others demand financial retribution; and others require the bringing of a sacrifice. But there is an unwritten sin which is equal in its severity to all the other sins combined. It is the sin of attempting to thwart the grand design of Hashem. What does that mean?

There are surges of historical events when Hashem initiates great spiritual and physical movement. The Jews’ exodus from Egypt was one, and the liberation of Eretz Yisrael in the time of Yehoshua was another. And whoever attempted to confine, restrain, obstruct, or interfere with the purpose that Hashem is directing his people is anti God. Paro sought to disrupt the exodus and he was killed; the seven nations of Canaan sought to prevent the Jews from entering the land and they were destroyed.

Today we are living in the greatest Jewish experience of all time - the in-gathering of millions of Jews to Eretz Yisrael from the far flung corners of the world. Never has such a scenario occurred in the history of mankind. The survival of our people for 2000 years in galut and our return to our ancient Biblical homeland is truly unique.

Hashem is closing the book on each of the Jewish centers in the galut - one by one.

But the Jewish communities of the United States, which are represented by Monsey, with their high standard of Jewish Torah life and material gifts, are declaring that it is not necessary to leave the galut. One can be as good a Jew in Monsey or Teaneck or LA, and perhaps even a better one than the residents of Tel Aviv or Haifa.

This declaration is anti-God.

It is a negation of the great God initiated movement of the ongoing Geula, which began when the last shot which was fired in the Second World War.

The unwitting eating of treif, known by only two in the world, the perpetrator and Hashem, comes as a huge message that as much as one might try, one cannot today be a Torah true Jew outside of Eretz Yisrael. This is the sin which has engulfed the last big obstinate Jewish community in the galut - the dwindling Jews of the United States.

The eating of treif as bad and noxious as it is, is less severe than the sin of negating the will of Hashem in the redemption of His people Israel.

How does one do teshuva for being anti-God? No amount of immersion in a mikva, nor days of fasting nor chapters of Tehilim, can exonerate this sin.

The only way is to join in the direction which Hashem is showing us: to leave the galut and use our resources and Jewish genius in the creation of a Torah based society in Eretz Yisrael.

I pray that in this very critical year in Jewish history, that the will of Hashem that all His children return home, will be aided and abetted by His children and not thwarted or foiled by their myopic leaders who seek to enhance their personal careers at the expense of Jewish redemption.

Gemar Chatima Tova

Nachman Kahana

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