Friday, May 27, 2005

Bchukosei and Shabbos

To sum up the first Pri Zadok of Bechukosei look at the first and last paragraphs. To get something out of it - look how he gets there. Getting there is half the fun.

Directly preceding Parshas Bechukosei is the posuk that discusses shabbos. Why? The Michilta in Beshalech tells us that Shabbos is chok. It says by Marah Shum sum lo (There He gave them) chok umishpat – Chok is Shabbos and mishpat is honoring one’s parents.

Why is Mishpat Kivud av Vem and Shabbos chok?

Honoring one’s parents is a logical deduction. Chazal tell us in Kedushin and in the Midrash about the wonderful display of honor bestowed upon the parents of certain Akum. Why asks Reb Zadok did Chazal do this? We see that the gemara in Erchun tells us its user to to say kamuh nueh akum zeh? Therefore, Chazal weren’t telling us their masim rather it was a result of their reckoning. The whole world recognizes the mitzvah of Kivud av vem – it epitomizes logic.

Why is Shabbos a chok? First let’s understand what a chok is. The midrash in this weeks parsha tells us that while all kings set forth rules and policies and have their subjects carry them through Hashem performs His rules first. Bchukosei teleichu – the chukim – through these I was chukka – fashioned- the heavens and the earth. Hashem is conveying to us that to go in His path – His Midos - which is the very same medium by which He created the world.

Which mitzvah is to be fulfilled because Hashem wants us to emulate Him? Shabbos. He rested – we rest. What about the mitzvos like tefilin and davening which have Him doing it also? Unlike shabbos those ideas are learned through derashes and not stated outright – keep shabbos because I He created the woeld in six days and He rested on the seventh.

Reb Zadok gives some insight to the whole Marah episode when the Torah says shum sum lo chok umishpat.

Right before the Torah says shum sum lo chok umishpat the Bnei Yisroel were wandering in the desert for three days and could not find water. Chazal tell us in Baba Kama Ein mayim eleh Torah – Water means Torah. The Zohar tells us that Torah is Hashem. Thus, the water that the Jews were searching for was Hashem. They had just witnessed awesome revelation at Yam Suf and were thirsty to see it again. They came to Marah and their desire was quenched with chok and mishpat. The Jews were able to recapture the revelation they had experienced at yam Suf through the adherence to chok and mishpat. It was not just the adherence it was the adherence for the sake of the mitzvah, for the sake of fulfilling Hashem’s desire– the lshem shimayim aspect. Their thirst for water – Torah – Hashem could only be quenched by revelation and His will.

When performing Kivud av vem, one can do it because it makes sense and one can do it because it’s a way to fulfill Hashem’s wishes. The latter begets kedusha This concept of doing a mitzvah for Hashem is kedusha into ones being. When we make a bracha we say asher kideshanu bmitzvosav- we are infused with kedusha through mitzvos.

. We see in Meseches kedushin that when Reb Yosef heard his mother coming he heard the shechinah coming. He heard the commandment of Hashem coming and not the logical precept to honor ones parents. The posuk says Magid divarav lyaakov chukav umishpatuv lyisroel lo useh chen lchul goy umishpatim lo yaduem. A jew has the ability to reach kedusha through fulfilling the wishes of Hashem. An akum can perform a mishpat and can understand it. However he hasn’t the Daas – the revelation and recognition.

This is the connection between Shabbos and bechukosei. Shabbos is Chok – doing a mitzvah because Hashem desires so. If we incorporate this idea into everything we do – Im Bchukosei Telechu even our logical deductions - the idea expressed through Shabbos and the thirst quenching episode by Marah.

Perhaps Reb Zadok is alluding to Naaseh vnishmah – the idea of existing and operating to fulfill Hashem’s desire.

Perhaps we can better understand Shabbos being meain olem habuh when the whole world will realize that He is one.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Final Thoughts

I want to end this Toby Katz thing. However, a few of my friends and acquaintances whose parents went through the gehenom gave me a poignant shekoach for my attempt to point Ms. Katz in the right direction. We all share in many of the aforementioned sentiments. If you think I was strong you should listen to what they say and their fears of some teacher imparting their views of the Holocaust and Yom Hashoah to their kids.

I think the problems are:

a)Her direct insensitivity (and not her lack of participation) to Yom Hashoah and participators and indirect insensitivity towards the survivors.
b)The frustration in there being no channel by which the observant right wingers can reflect upon the Holocaust.
c)The author is a teacher who is guilty of a) and is part of the machine that festers b) who can very well be a conduit between Judaism and your child

Keeping silent and not participating is one thing. Showing contempt and disrespect is another. I really believe that any Rebbe, Rabbi or teacher that displays contempt for any other Yid or group of Yidden must be censured. It is beyond belief that the staff at Cross-Curents would remove comments that argue with their authors but would agree to post strong antipathy for fellow Jews. I’ll even take it one step further and hold the enchanted PC wand- ask any competent Rav if they feel Ms. Toby Katz was inappropriate.


Below is a private e-mail I sent to Ms. Katz.

Ms. Katz,

I thank you for your response, certainly something you didn’t have to do. Naturally, I find it more hospitable than the censorship on cross-currents.

On the one hand, I do agree that religion and politics are 2 different spheres. The distinction however is not always so clear. What I mean is often – too often- our religion and practices get distorted by chaos that comes in the forms of our egos, politics etc. The heated debates found in every corner of every Jewish address about every nuance do not always have the search for truth as the goal. The greatest value musar has to offer is its ability to question our motives for everything. Contemplate on how much better the world would be if everyone asked themselves is my next step or utterance lshem shimayim or is it lshem my ego or personal enhancement.

On the other hand, you would have to agree that everything should and does involve religion directly or indirectly. Every decision we make throughout a day, week, month and year is a decision that is right or wrong. I think it’s a Seforno that says in the beginning of Rueh that every step can be used lbracha or lklala every step is within the capacity of bechira.

You are not religiously bound to celebrate any secular holiday. While I agree that Yom Hashoa is not strictly a religious holiday there are many experiences involving that day that can be very religious. I grew up in a chasidesheh shtiebel where the old men with the tattooed arms observed it. These guys told the world that their tormentors could not stop them from starting all over again to produce Torah living families. Is it the proper day? Is it the proper month? Were the originators the proper people? All valid questions. However, Yom Hashoah is not a secular holiday either. I’ll even say something dramatic – I would never tell any kodesh that Yom Hashoah is a secular holiday and I hope you wouldn’t either.

While no one is bound to observe Yom Hashoah (I do not observe it either) you are bound to respect it. It is a sacred experience for many survivors, their children and grand children and even for Yidden that just feel connected to the Holocaust. No one who didn’t experience it directly has the right in any fashion to question it, certainly not to belittle it. Many of the Zionists that you criticize in your prior post were survivors themselves. Furthermore, Yom Hashoah, as you assert, does celebrate the Warsaw uprising as well. Yom Hashoah has a lot more to do with the humiliation. The Holocaust was humiliation. The uprising is probably to express some pride to accompany the humiliation.

I would like to reiterate, from my comment to your post, that you are a mechaneches and your post was also geared for young neshamos. Yom Hashoah should not be a political battle ground. Furthermore, some of the ideas you expressed were mere conjecture and not so accurate. Finally and of great importance, anything of such magnitude and sensitivity as the Holocaust requires at the very least the input of a Gadol. You have to ask what would Reb Moshe have said or Reb Dovid Feinstein say.

I have volumes to write on this issue. I wouldn’t know where to start. I certainly don’t know where to end. My gut reaction to your original post had me post a comment (Number 49) where I delineate some of my issues. I think you may agree with some of them.

Holocaust study is desperately needed. The Holocaust was not just one more bad incident that befell the Jewish people. It is needed to get answers from authentic Jewish sources. It is also needed for inspiration so that our kids will know who their grandparents and great grandparents were. I am talking about the very names that they have and the responsibilities that they now carry. In a sense, every day is Yom Hashoah. Too much is at stake to ignore it. As of 5765, the right wing Torah observant world has not organized a program or a day to do this not even on Tisha B’av. The faults with Yom Hashoah certainly won’t reflect the lessons of the holocaust.

May we all be nice to each other, patient with each other, respect each other, remember the lessons of our parents and grandparents and bring the goel zedek bmheira.

Monday, May 16, 2005

On Monday the Rabbi got censored

I commented on cross-currents in response to Toby Katz's tongue in cheek post that implies that it was really the Republicans that rendered the dinosaurs extinct.

Take a look

It was deleted. Why? When I was a young lad in school and had a question the teacher would say something like the Achronim speak about it - not rip out my larynx. Is this the teacher that plans to teach our children the ways of the creator? All I wanted to know is why she feels she has more in common with a Christian Republican and needs to be defensive for their cause and cannot display the same affection for a fellow Jew.

Ms. Katz,

As a mechaneches you must be on you toes for inconsistencies. In a previous submission you not only won’t recognize but actually teach contempt for Yom Hashoah because of its Zionistic origins. Ostensibly, you feel that any benefit to be derived from it would be negated by your religious differences. However, you will come to the defense of Republicans, of whom are a large majority non Jews, as if you are of a more similar cloth.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Those who can do, those who can't......

In a recent anti Yom Hashoah article posted on the blogspot cross-currents Toby Katz writes a long argument on how and why we can’t observe it. If she weren’t a mechaneches (teacher of Jewish studies) it would be at best impractical. She, however, is a mechaneches- it is downright scary.

This magnificent display of brilliance and sensitivity can be your own child’s teacher. I took out some of the highlights and my letter to her which of course went unanswered; not necessarily because she doesn’t want to but Baruch Hashem I was #49 in the comments. It is imperative that we as responsible parents stop all indignation inflicted on our kids. Any teacher that spews poisons to our pristine link to the future must be curbed. My respectful comments to Ms. Katz:

In a nutshell you claim that Yom Hashoah can’t be distinguished as a day of remembrance because it was a Zionist proposal. You also lay claim that it was the shame of the Holocaust victim that the Zionist is trying to avoid. I don’t know how factual this all is. I also don’t know if this is sufficient of a reason not to be able to use Yom Hashoah as a remembrance. With all due respect it sounds political.

Furthermore, the holocaust is a terribly sensitive issue for the survivors, children, grandchildren and anyone who considers himself a member of the children of Israel. It is also true that it has not been addressed on a large scale by the charedi school of thought. Although Tisha Bav is the most proper time to remember the Holocaust as you point out, it is rarely addressed even on Tisha Bav. If someone wants to read up on it he is welcome to do so but there is no structured source for it in the charedi world. The only avenue is the not charedi avenues. Your suggestion would only have children looking at questionable sources for answers.

You say that you are an educator, presumably to disseminate the Torah and its truths. I am not an educator in any capacity, other than being the father of my kids. Any question that deals with large issues such as the Shoah requires at the very least, the input of Gadol. In your lengthy article you neglect to mention any Gadol’s opinion, just yours. As an educator of any capacity the truth must be the goal for the children to attain. Difficult issues require guidance not rhetoric.

Here is the link and some blurbs:

…this date marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and it was chosen by the Israeli government. The secular Zionists who founded the modern State of Israel thought that the Holocaust was shameful and embarrassing—to the Jews. Why had weak and pale Jews gone like sheep to the slaughter? The feeling of shame and humiliation was so strong that for decades after the war, survivors in Israel would not talk about the Holocaust. I’ve heard the same about survivors in America and Canada. The only thing that redeemed Jewish honor, the Zionists thought, was the courage and strength of the Jews who battled German soldiers in the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto. Were all the other Jews cowards and weaklings? Were the young men and women of the Warsaw Ghetto the only Jewish heroes? ….. …. They were ashamed of the shtetl Jews, the yeshiva bochorim who pored over ancient tomes. They thought it was no wonder there was so much anti-Semitism in the world, given how weak and pathetic and cowardly the Jews were. They would fix all that. They would create a New Jew. The New Jew would be brave and self-reliant. There would be a Jewish army and Jewish policemen. Jews would get their hands dirty and work the soil and be productive. They wouldn’t be parasites anymore, living off of other people’s labor in a foreign land. Everyone in the world would admire and respect the New Jew…..

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

It really Happened...Remember

Thursday is Yom Hashoah. Now, if you ask any well behaved anti-Semite he will tell you it never really happened. Needless to say this is ludicrous. It is also chilling to think that it could be forgotten. So much lost - countless lives destroyed both during and after and so much Judaism annihilated. It also, to an extent, defines who we are today. Denying the Holocaust is denying not only our heritage, it denies our present existence.

I am therefore baffled as to why there is almost no Holocaust Education in our (Right wingers) Yeshivas and Shuls etc. The 2 kinos that were finally put into the kinos books are insufficient to relay the Holocaust as being more than an occurrence. Yes, there are 1001 reasons why we can’t. FDR also had 1001 reasons why he couldn’t help. (Any reason can be dealt with – Yidden gebbn an Atzuh).

Studying the Holocaust should offer great lesson learning opportunities. The Holocaust was not just the anguish of being broken. It was also the strength that rebuilt. It also provides us with how our people prioritize and what is important.

I probably did not need the formal education myself. As a kid I remember seeing the infamous tattoos on the arms of the old guys while putting on tefillin. I also remember telling my aunt that it is against Halacha to have a tattoo (She told me that she had a bad memory and it was her phone number). My very own grandfather once slipped and told me one “small” story and what they did to him. This provided the impetus to self taught Holocaust study. I am still fixated with holocaust stories and history because it explains so many of the people and events that shaped me. Studying this era is understanding me.

Without formal Holocaust study my kids will only know what the Holocaust was from myself and what they read. Their American (for the most part) grandparents were too young, I can’t really relay to them much and the media will not do it justice. Not only will they be denied the learning opportunities they will also miss out on who and why they are.

If Holocaust denial is so putrid then ignoring it should be right behind. We are cheating ourselves and our children out of one the most poignant epochs off Jewish history. The holocaust which was only 60 years ago remains as a resource of light to what and why we are as well as inspiration to what we should be. We can’t forget the history, the stories and the evil. We must never forget lessons, the inspiration and who we are and who are kids should be.

May Hashem avenge the pain and blood anybody afflicted on any Jew. May He also grant us the wisdom to learn and grow and bring the Goel Zedek.