Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Future of Israeli Haredi Society: Can The Written Word Offer Some Insight? (And Assorted Other Comments)

The Future of Israeli Haredi Society: Can The Written Word Offer Some Insight? (And Assorted Other Comments)
by Marc B. Shapiro

 1. Months ago I was asked to write about the situation in Beit Shemesh that everyone was then focused on (and which will probably heat up again in the future). At the present, I don’t have anything to add to the discussion, and if I did it would be with reference to Jewish books, as this is, after all, a site devoted to seforim. While I have in the past given my views on various issues, it was in the context of Jewish books, and this case would be no different. This point was actually sorely missing in discussions of the Beit Shemesh situation and the haredi world in general. While what happens in real life does not always correspond to what appears in the books, knowledge of the latter is a great help in understanding what is going on in the community, at least with regard to the rabbinic elite. For example, if I were going to write something about the Neturei Karta faction that cozies up to Iran and Hamas, I would deal with how these people have tried to justify their actions from talmudic sources. They have even attempted to justify the sending of congratulations to Hamas after the latter succeeded in blowing up Jews in a terrorist attack.

I have also been asked a number of times to write about the more basic issue of haredi ideology and democracy, which is on many people’s minds. They are wondering if the Israeli haredi community really believes in democracy and allowing everyone the freedom to live as they see fit. More than one has asked me straight out if a haredi majority would mean the end of a democratic Israel.[1] I can’t speak about the haredi man on the street, but examination of the writings of the haredi leadership – and in the haredi world that is what really matters – shows that time and again they have expressed opposition to democratic values as well as democracy as a governmental system.

From the haredi leadership’s perspective, while at the present time the haredi world is forced to take part in the democratic process, they assume that if haredim ever became a majority they would dismantle Israel’s democracy and institute a Torah state (i.e., a theocracy led by the haredi gedolim).[2] Since that is their goal, stated explicitly, we have to wonder what such a society would look like. To begin with, if haredim were ever the majority, funding for non-Orthodox (and perhaps even Religious Zionist/Modern Orthodox) schools would be halted. There would be massive decreases of funding for universities, with the humanities taking the biggest cuts, and money for the arts, culture, and institutions connected to Zionism would dry up. Freedom of the press would be abolished, artistic freedoms would be curbed, and organ transplants would almost entirely vanish. Public Shabbat observance and separate-sex public transportation would likely be required. There would also be restrictions on what forms of public entertainment and media are permissible and on public roles for women. Of course, women’s sporting events would no longer be televised and men would not be permitted to attend them. From the haredi perspective, these steps are all halakhic requirements, and no one who reads haredi literature can have any doubt that these sorts of things are intended when haredi writers refer to the time when it will be possible להעמיד הדת על תלה. How many non-haredim will be affected by this is questionable, because as soon as the haredi numbers come close to a majority, the non-religious and non-haredi Orthodox emigration will begin (followed no doubt by the yeridah of some haredim as well). No one who has lived in a Western style democracy will want to live in a society where cherished freedoms are taken away.

Everything I am saying now could change. It is indeed possible that the haredi leadership could do a complete turn-around and decide that it is not helpful to take the country in a direction which while more “pious” would end up destroying it at the same time. But this would take some incredible acts of courage by the haredi leadership. They would have to break with a message that has been advocated for the last thirty years or so.

Here is what R. Shakh wrote about democracy (Mikhtavim u-Ma’amarim, vol. 5, p. 124):

בל נחשוב, שהשיטה הנקראת "דמוקרטיה" היא דבר חיובי . . . האמת היא שהיא אסון לעולם. היא נותנת הרגשה מדומה של "חופש" בו בזמן שלאמיתו של דבר היא רק הפקר, ותו לא . . . הדמוקרטיה היא דבר טרף, וכל כוונתם לעקור דרכה של עם ישראל ולהרסו

On p. 127 he writes:

ואנו תפילה להרבונו של עולם, אנא פטור אותנו מקללת הדמוקרטיה החדשה שנשלחה לעולם, שהיא ממש כמו מחלת הסרטן שנשלחה לעולם. כי רק התורה הקדושה היא הדמוקרטיה האמיתית.

If the “curse” and “cancer” of democracy is so bad, what would take its place in a haredi dominated society? The answer is obvious, namely, a theocratic state with a religously sanctioned parliament along the models of Iran. Reading the history of Iran in the years prior to and immediately following the revolution provides great insight into how religious figures learned to make use of the mechanisms of power which they had never before had access to. Just like in Iran the theocracy is for the people’s “own good”, so too will be the case in a haredi theocracy. Here is R. Shakh again, offering the paternalistic explanation as to why people should be denied democratic freedoms, freedoms that are the only guarantee that different types of Orthodoxy can flourish (forgetting for a moment about the non-Orthodox[3]; p. 126):

 האדם חייב לחיות בתוך מגבלות, לצורך אושרו וטובתו. ודוקא הדמוקרטיה ההורסת את המגבלות היא המחריבה את האנושות

Do any American haredi leaders agree with these sentiments, that it is democracy that is destroying humanity? I highly doubt it. But by the same token, I don’t think there can be any doubt that the Israeli haredi political parties, if they ever achieved electoral success, would put R. Shakh’s vision into practice by dismantling Israeli society’s democratic protections. So yes, the non-haredi segment of Israel has plenty of reason to be worried about the growth of the haredi electorate, especially when they hear the haredi triumphalist assertions that the future will be theirs. If the comments one sees on Voz is Neias and elsewhere are any indication, there are also many in the haredi world who recognize that the haredi ideology is really only suited for a minority community, and that troubles begin when people attempt to impose this ideology on others, or insist that no matter how large the haredi community is, its young men should never have to go to the army or receive any vocational training.[4] It didn't have to be this way, as there are plenty of precedents even in haredi writers for a different perspective. But those alternative views are entirely forgotten today.

If anyone still has doubts that the future growth of the haredi parties will present a serious threat to Israeli democracy, here is a passage, from R. Yissachar Meir, that appeared in an official Degel ha-Torah publication, Ve-Zarah ha-Shemesh (Bnei Brak, 1990), p. 630 (emphasis added; many other similar passages could be cited). What will take the place of democracy in the haredi state is spelled out right here:

טעות אחת טעו מנהיגיה הראשונים של המדינה, הם חוקקו חוק הנקרא "דמוקרטיה". כל אחד יודע דמוקרטיה זו מהי, על פי השיכורים הנמצאים במדינה – שלוש מאות אלף מסוממים חיים במדינה  ועל פי זקנים מסוידים וכו' נקבע השלטון. כמו כן בכל מיני שוחד, ודרכי כפיה, נקבע ע"י מה שנקרא "בחירות", איך תנהג המדינה בכל הנושאים העולים על הפרק. על פי דרך התורה, גדולי התורה הם הקובעים את המנהיגות.

Meir could have used a little lesson in history, because just like the Islamic world never had a theocracy until the Iranian revolution, Jewish history also does not know of theocracies (and the closest example we had, with High Priests involved in rulership, did not bring good results).[5]

The truth of the matter is that we get no honesty from haredi spokesmen in these matters. They go on about how the non-religious have such a negative view of them. Well, what about the reverse, namely, what the haredim think of the non-religious? One of the leaders of the extremist haredim is R. Moshe Sternbuch. Here is the first page of a responsum he wrote (Teshuvot ve-Hanhagot, vol. 1, no. 816) in which he states that if a non-religious store owner makes a monetary mistake (e.g., gives you too much money) there is no obligation to point out the error.

He even quotes a 19th-20th century authority (and one who has a fairly moderate reputation) that there is no obligation to save his life! If this is what a well known haredi posek is teaching his followers, by what right can one criticize the non-religious for what they think of the extremist haredim? Let me pose this question to Avi Shafran and the rest of the apologists: How exactly should the non-religious feel about the extremist haredim when the latter are being taught that they don’t have to deal with the non-religious in an honest fashion, and that their lives are not important?

(Quite apart from his religious views, Sternbuch's political views are perhaps even more distasteful. At the recent protest against haredim serving in the army, he said that "the Zionists expelled the Arabs from the Land of Israel." See here).

Here is another responsum, by R. Israel David Harfenes, Nishmat Shabbat, vol. 5 no. 500:4.

I know that people wouldn’t believe me without seeing with their own eyes. The author is asked if you can violate Shabbat to save the lives of irreligious Jews who came from the former Communist countries, that is, Jews who never had the benefit of a Jewish education. His answer is absolutely not, and he questions whether it is even permitted to save their lives during the week! Incredibly, he puts the Reform and Conservative in a better position than the secular Russian Jews, seeing the former as brainwashed by a false ideology. There is thus a possible limud zekhut regarding them.

None of this makes any sense, as people can be under the influence of a secular or anti-religious ideology much like they are under the influence of a Reform or Conservative ideology. If you can apply the logic of tinok she-nishbah to one, there is no coherent reason not to apply it to the other. For good measure, Harfenes also throws in that one who doesn’t believe in the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles is among those who should be killed. Taking a line from the Inquisition, he adds that killing these people is actually good for their souls, not to mention a benefit to the community at large.

In a previous responsum, 400:1, he discusses the same question with regard to the typical secular Jew and concludes likewise that one cannot save them on Shabbat. The only heter he can find is that if the haredi doctors don’t save them, then the secular doctors will refuse to save haredi patients. But unbelievably, rather than seeing this as a natural reaction of the secular Jews upon learning how people like Harfenes don't value their lives, and are even are prepared to let them die, Harfenes sees this as an example of anti-Orthodox hatred! You can’t make this stuff up.

שאם יתפרסם שרופאים חרדיים אינן מטפלין בשבת עם החולים החילוניים אז הרופאים החילוניים ינקמו נקם ולא ירצו גם הם לטפל להציל חולים מסוכנים מן יהודים חרדיים  (כידוע תוקף שנאת הדת הארצינו הקדושה ירחם ה').

Some might assume that this extremist Satmar outlook [6] is not to be found in the non-hasidic yeshiva world. However, this is not the case. I can cite parallels to what we have just seen in non-hasidic authors as well. I will mention just one such text, as it happens to be among the most depressing, and extreme, of the books to appear in recent years.[7] I refer to R. Menahem Adler’s Binah ve-Daat. Here is the title page.

This book engages in the most crude incitement of hatred for the non-religious that I have ever seen in a sefer, all packaged as a typical halakhic text. Are the views expressed in this book taught in any heders or yeshivot or held by any but the most extreme in Israel? Perhaps the fact that the standard haskamot from figures such as R. Elyashiv, R. Wosner, R. Scheinberg and others are missing is a sign that they didn’t agree with the author. It would take a complete post to cover this book properly (some aspects of the book were already discussed on Hyde Park here).

I will call attention to only some of the points Adler puts forth as halakhah. When I read things like this I wonder, how big can the Orthodox tent really be? When are the various communities in Orthodoxy so much at odds with each other that we must speak of two entirely different communities, much like the Protestants are divided into various sects?

One of the main points of the book is to argue that contemporary non-Orthodox Jews are not to be regarded as tinok she-nishbah, and thus they are subject to all the disabilities of brazen Sabbath violators. This means that they do not need to be treated with any respect or dignity. Those who know the relevant halakhot know what I am referring to, but let me cite some examples that you might not have thought of and which are results of his position. These come from chapter 31 and are stated with reference to most contemporary non-religious Jews (since only very few of them qualify as a tinok she-nishbah). How should the non-religious respond when they hear that this is what a rabbi is saying about them:

אין להקדים שלום לאדם רשע . . . אסור לראות פני הרשע . . . ונראה דהוא הדין תנוק שנשבה

In other words, although he denies that contemporary non-religious are tinok she-nishbah, even if you want to argue that they are, you still can’t look at them.

אין נוהג בו איסור אונאת דברים . . . נראה דאין כלפיו איסור "לא תחמוד"

And talking about humrot, how about this one?
יש מחמירים ליטול ידים אחר שנגעו בהם

When I saw this I thought of the following wonderful story recorded in R. Asher Anshel Yehudah Miller, Olamo Shel Abba, p. 415:

פעם ביקר אצל הרבי יהודי חילוני מגולח ובכ"ז הושיט לו הצדיק [ר' ישראל האגער] את ידו וקבל אותו בסבר פנים יפות, כדרכו בקודש. ישב שם אחד מחסידי צאנז, שהיה מוכר כמתנגד לבית-וויז'ניץ. לחש החסיד באזני הרבי ושאל "מדוע פושט הרבי ידו לפושעי-ישראל זה?" אמר לו הצדיק: "עד שאתה מתפלא עלי, תתפלא על הקב"ה, שגם הוא דרכו בכך, כמו שנאמר 'אתה נותן יד לפושעים וימינך פשוטה לקבל שבים

On p. 408 Adler writes:

המחלל שבת בפרהסיא (גם אם מחלל לתיאבון) יוצא לענין דינים שונים מכלל "אחיך" עמיתך" "רעך" ומכיון שיצא מכלל עמיתך, אין כלפיו את המצוות הנוהגות "בין אדם לחבירו" וכן אין נוהגים כלפיו את האיסורים, כגון הכלמה ולשון הרע.

Is there anyone in the kiruv world who believes this? Would anyone ever become religious if he even had an inkling that there are rabbis who advocate this position about the future baal teshuvah’s parents?[8] Aren't the many haredi hesed organizations that don't distinguish between Jews' levels of religiosity a good sign that the mainstream haredi world rejects the viewpoints of Adler and Sternbuch?

On p. 470 he says that it is forbidden to belong to an organization that has non-Orthodox members, and this even includes charitable organization. The reason given for this position is as follows:

כיון שהישיבה עמהם גורמת קירור בעבודת השי"ת, ומלבד זאת, אופן החשיבה וקבלת ההחלטות אינם לפי דעת תורה.

So we see that it is problematic for an Orthodox Jew to have any dealings with the non-Orthodox. Although the author cites R. Samson Raphael Hirsch to justify this extreme position, this is a complete distortion. Hirsch opposed membership in organizations that were led by the non-Orthodox or even had organizational ties with non-Orthodox groups. He never said that individual non-Orthodox Jews would not be welcome to join with the Orthodox for the betterment of the Jewish community.

On p. 406 Adler tells us that one cannot sell or rent an apartment in a religious neighborhood to a non-religious person. Will the author then complain when the non-religious don’t want to sell or rent to haredim (especially if they think that these haredim might hold the same views as Adler)? If it is OK for haredim not to want to live together with secular Jews because of  the “atmosphere” the latter bring, why have the haredi Knesset members cried racism when secular residents don't want an influx of haredim for exactly the same reason? In a democracy one can’t have it both ways.[9]

Adler is part of a growing trend in haredi writings not to see the secularists as tinok she-nishbah, with all the halakhic implications this entails. While Adler acknowledges the existence of tinok she-nishbah as a category, note what he puts in brackets which pretty much empties the category of any meaning (p. 31):

ולענין הלכה, מכיון שאין בנו כח להכריע, במחלוקות אלו, וגם אין כל הענינים שוים, מתי נקרא בשם "תנוק שנשבה" ומתי לא, ובפרט קשה ההכרעה המציאותית של "שיעור ידיעת כל אחד ואחד" בזמנינו, לכן, בכל הנוגע לדיני תורה, יש להחמיר ולנהוג כלפי מחלל שבת בפרהסיא [שלא ידוע ככופר] ככל דיני "אחיך", כגון לענין דיני גמילות חסד, לבקרו בחוליו, לתת לו צדקה, להלוות לו, להשיא לו עצה טובה. וכן יש להצילו ולהחיותו.

But when it comes to Shabbat, Adler states that it is absolutely forbidden to violate the Sabbath to save a non-religious person, even if he is a tinok she-nishbah! (p. 556).

I realize that, with only some exceptions, Adler hasn’t made up any of the material in his book, and even the most extreme rulings can be found in earlier traditional sources. So what does it say about so much of contemporary Orthodoxy, be it haredi, Habad, or Modern Orthodox, that its adherents would never dream of relating to the non-Orthodox the way Adler prescribes?[10] The reason they wouldn’t dream of relating to the non-Orthodox this way is not because they can point to other halakhic sources that disagree with the ones Adler cites (although the scholars among them can indeed point to these sources). There is something much more basic at work, namely, the moral intuition of people which even when it comes into conflict with what appears in halakhic texts does not agree to simply be pushed aside. Most Orthodox Jews of all stripes refuse to believe that what Adler is advocating is what God wants. It is impossible for them to accept that the Judaism they know and cherish, which has been taught to them by great figures, would have such a negative outlook, and all the halakhic texts in the world won’t be able to change their minds.

Since we are dealing with Adler, let me also note that he gives us advice on how to create anti-Semitism in the world and reinforce the stereotype of the “cheap Jew” (p. 415):

אין לתת לגוי מתנת חינם [כגון "טיפ" (-תוספת) הנהוג לשלם למלצר או נהג מונית]

On p. 417 he writes (emphasis added):

אין איסור לייעץ לגוי עצה שאינה הוגנת ולא זו בלבד אלא שאסור להשיא לו עצה הוגנת

As the source for the underlined halakhah he cites Sefer ha-Hinukh no. 232. To begin with, there is the methodological problem of recording something as halakhah because it is found in the Sefer ha-Hinukh when it is not found in the Shulhan Arukh or any of the classic responsa volumes. This is what I call cherry picking halakhot, and is quite common today. People write books on the most arcane topics and in order to fill the pages they cite opinions from any book ever written, and record all the opinions they find as if they are halakhah. In this case, however, the halakhah cited here does not explicitly appear in the Sefer ha-Hinukh. All the Sefer ha-Hinukh states is that there is a biblical prohibition to give bad advice to a fellow Jew. But who says that this means that it is permitted when dealing with a non-Jew? It could still be forbidden for a variety of other reasons (perhaps even rabbinic), just not from this particular verse. Even if the Sefer ha-Hinukh does mean what Adler says (and the Minhat Hinukh also assumes that this is the meaning), only in the note does Adler reveal that the Minhat Hinukh explicitly holds an opposing position. This is the general trend in the book. He puts extreme positions in the text itself, which are on some occasions based on his own understanding, while only in the notes does he reveal the authorities who disagree.

(R. Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg defends the Minhat Hinnukh's position in his Mishmeret Hayyim, vol. 1, pp. 125-126. But it still makes for uncomfortable reading as he writes:

כיון דבעלות דגוי אינו חשוב כל-כך אין לאו דגזל שייך גבי גוי, וכן באיסור רציחה דהאיסור הוא דנוטל נשמתו וגבי גוי דלא חשוב נשמתו כל-כך לא שייך לאו זה

It would be pretty hard to be an Or la-Goyim while at the same time following Adler’s prescriptions. In a previous post I already mentioned that there is no Modern Orthodox synagogue in the country that would hire someone who had his perspective, and this shows a real cultural divide between at least some haredim and the Modern Orthodox. (I say “some haredim” because I believe that in this matter many, and perhaps most, haredim share the Modern Orthodox perspective.)[11]

At the end of the section in which Adler records what I quoted from him about tipping waiters or cab drivers, he adds:
מפני דרכי שלום מותר

I would like someone to explain to me how it could ever not be darkhei shalom?[12] Adler is speaking to people who wear black suits and hats, the sort that everyone recognizes as Jewish. So by definition if you stiff the cab driver or the waiter it is an immediate hillul ha-shem? Therefore, what sense does it make to even quote the halakhah mentioned above? Isn’t it irresponsible to allow yeshiva students on their own to determine when their actions will cause a hillul ha-shem and when not?

Since this post has dealt with how to relate to the non-religious and non-Jews, let me now turn once again to something relevant in Artscroll. Originally I thought that the example I will now point to was an intentional falsehood, because the Hebrew Artscroll gets it right. However, based upon the note to the passage that we will see, I am now no longer sure. It is one thing to translate a censored passage in the name of good relations, but it is hard to imagine that people who know the truth would go so far as to insert a false note. As thousands of people doing daf yomi have been misled as to the meaning of the talmudic passage we will see, if the distortion is intentional this would seem to be a classic case of ziyuf ha-Torah. When authors added a note at the beginning of their books stating that all references to non-Jews referred to those pagans in China and India, everyone knew it wasn’t to be taken seriously, so there was no ziyuf ha-Torah. Yet people who reads the Artscroll translation and note assume that they are getting the Torah truth. As such, I am more inclined to think that what we will now see is a simple error, rather than a “tactical” mistake.

Avodah Zarah 26a-b reads:

העובדי כוכבים ורועי בהמה דקה לא מעלין ולא מורידין אבל המינין והמסורות והמומרים היו מורידין ולא מעלין

Artscroll translates: “Idol worshipers and shepherds of small animals, the law is that we neither raise them up from a pit nor lower them into a pit. But as for the minin, the informers and the renegades, they would lower them into pits and not raise them up.”

This is, indeed, a proper translation of what appears in the Talmud. Yet in every edition of the Talmud before the Vilna Shas of 1883 the text states אבל המינין והמסורות והמומרים מורידין ולא מעלין  . That is, the word היו, which makes the passage past tense (and thus no longer relevant), is not authentic but was added to avoid problems with the censor. The Oz ve-Hadar edition of the Talmud points out that the word היו was only recently added. Soncino and Steinsaltz also recognize this. What is particularly noteworthy is that the Hebrew Artscroll also knows this, and tells the reader that the word היו is not authentic.

In its note on the passage in both the Hebrew and English editions, Artscroll quotes the Hazon Ish, Yoreh Deah 2:16, that the type of actions referred to in the Talmud are no longer applicable. Why then didn’t Artscroll mention in the English edition that the word היו is not authentic? Furthermore, Artscroll’s citation of the Hazon Ish is mistaken, although as mentioned, I am not sure whether it is an intentional falsification. Contrary to what Artscroll states, the Hazon Ish’s comment was only made with reference to heretics. His “liberal” judgment was never stated with regard to informers.

In its note, Artscroll states: “It goes without saying that the law never applied in places where government regulations would prohibit such an act.” Once again, I am not sure whether Artscroll really believes that this is true. As a historical statement it is false. Here is a page from R. Reuven Margaliyot’s Margaliyot ha-Yam, vol 1, p. 91b (to Sanhedrin 46a), that shows how even in the not-so-distant past an informer could be killed.

2. In this post I mentioned the outrageous accusation, based on nothing at all, that the telegram from Kobe was actually sent by the Chief Rabbinate in order to be able to pressure other rabbis to accept the Chief Rabbinate’s position on the dateline issue. Dr. Dov Zakheim sent me the following valuable email:

I noted in your recent blog you point out that some chareidim are asserting there was never a telegram from Kobe. There was. My father zt"l sent it. He had been the legal counsel of the Jewish community of Vilna (as well as a musmach of Ramailes) and also Reb Chaim Ozer ztl’s personal assistant and legal advisor (see his introduction to his sefer Zvi ha-Sanhedrin). He escaped from Vilna in 1941 and managed the Mirer Yeshiva's legal affairs (where my uncle zt"l was a talmid) when they left Vilna, on the trans-Siberian, in Kobe and then in Shanghai.

Also in the post I referred to the letter published by R. Kasher in which lots of great rabbis refer to the State of Israel as the beginning of the redemption. I noted how Zvi Weinman has shown that this is a religious Zionist forgery, as at least some of the rabbis never signed such a letter. I mentioned that we don’t know if Kasher was responsible for the forgery (as Weinman appears to think) or someone else. Sholom Licht was kind enough to call my attention to this source from where we see that the letter Kasher published already appeared in Ha-Tzofeh many years prior, so Kasher clearly had nothing to do with the forgery.

3. In the last few posts I have dealt with Artscroll a good deal, as is only proper since Artscroll is the most significant Jewish publishing phenomenon of our time. I still have a lot more to say, but let me now turn to R. Jonathan Sacks’ siddur, and give an example where Sacks gets it wrong while Artscroll gets it right.

The blessing to be recited upon lightning and Birkat ha-Hamah is עושה מעשה בראשית This goes back to Mishnah Berakhot 9:2. Although the standard version of the Mishnah omits the word מעשה, it is recorded in various medieval texts and this is how the blessing has come down to us.

What does עושה מעשה בראשית mean? The first thing we must do is figure out if there is a segol or a tzeirei under the shin in עושה. Looking at the siddurim in my house that have English translations, I found that Sacks, Birnbaum, Sim Shalom, and Artscroll, have a segol.[13] This is also what appears in the Kaufmann Mishnah. See here. However, the Metsudah siddur and the Blackman Mishnayot have a tzeirei.

What is the difference between the vocalizations? If there is a segol than the words עושה מעשה בראשית should be translated in the English present, as עושה is a verb. If there is a tzeirei then עושה  is a noun, as in the words of Hallel (from Ps.115:15): עושה שמים וארץ, which means “Maker of heaven and earth.” Let us see if the translations follow this rule. Artscroll, which has a segol, translates: “Who makes the work of Creation.” This translation is correct, although I don’t know why the C in creation is capitalized. This translation implies the continuing work of creation, as reflected in the words of the prayer: המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית

Birnbaum translates עושה מעשה בראשית as: “Who didst create the universe.” This is incorrect, as the passage is not in the past tense. Sacks, who also has a segol, translates: “Author of creation.” This too is incorrect, as עושה with a segol is a verb, not a noun. Sim Shalom, also with a segol, translates: “Source of Creation.” This too is incorrect.

Now for the texts that have a tzeirei: Blackman translates: “the author of the work of the creation”, which is a correct rendering. Metsudah, on the other hand, translates: “Who makes the work of Creation.” Leaving aside the capital “C”, this is a mistaken translation. While Metsudah has עושה with a tzeirei under the shin, it translates as if there was a segol.[14]

Artscroll, while being correct when it comes to this blessing, does not get a pass when it comes to the word עושה. In the Artscroll siddur, pesukei de-zimra, p. 70, we find the words עושה שמים וארץ. This comes from Psalm 146:6. There is a segol under the shin which means that it is a participle and should be translated here with the English present tense, as are all the other verbs in this Psalm. Yet Artscroll translates עושה שמים וארץ as “Maker of heaven and earth”, which is incorrect. Sacks follows many other translations by rendering the words: “who made heaven and earth”. Yet this too is not correct and doesn’t follow the model of the Psalm, which has a series of participles that are to be translated as the present tense:
עושה שמים וארץ
השומר אמת לעולם
עושה משפט לעשוקים
נותן לחם לרעבים
מתיר אסורים
פוקח עורים
זוקף כפופים
אוהב צדיקים
שומר את הגרים

What about the word בונה in the blessing בונה ירושלים? There is a tzeirei under the nun in בונה which means that it is not a verb. Artscroll correctly translates the phrase as “Builder of Jerusalem”. Birnbaum and Metsudah also get it right. However Sacks (and also De Sola Pool and Sim Shalom) are mistaken in their translation. Sacks renders בונה ירושלים as if the nun had a segol: “Who builds Jerusalem.”

Since בונה ישראל must be translated as “Builder of Jerusalem”, and all translations are in agreement that גואל ישראל means “Redeemer of Israel”, does this mean that the conclusion of all the blessings of the Amidah should follow this model? What about חונן הדעת? Artscroll translates : “Giver of wisdom”, seeing חונן as a noun. Birnbaum and Metsudah do likewise. However, Sacks assumes חונן is a verb and translates: “who graciously grants knowledge.” This rendering (which I thinnk is in error) is also found in De Sola Pool and Sim Shalom.

How about מחיה המתים? Is the word מחיה a verb? Artscroll assumes yes and translates: “Who resuscitates the dead.” Sacks agrees with this, but Metsudah, striving for consistency, translates: “Resurrector of the dead.” Metsudah is, in fact, the only siddur that as a rule translates the concluding blessings of the Amidah along this model, while the other translations alternate between verb and noun. Here are some of Metsudah’s translations:

רופא חולי עמו ישראל – Healer of the sick of His people Israel
מברך השנים – Blesser of the years
מקבץ נדחי עמו ישראל – Gatherer of the dispersed of His people Israel
שובר אויבים ומכניע זדים – Crusher of enemies and subduer of the insolent

Although Metsudah follows this rule, for every rule there are exceptions, and even Metsudah translates שומע תפלה as “Who hears prayers”. Yet perhaps this is not an exception, and even here Metsudah intended “The hearer of prayers”, but since this doesn’t sound so good in English they came up with a more felicitous wording. It is true that the underlined words of the blessings המחזיר שכינתו לציון and המברך את עמו ישראל בשלום  have to be seen as verbs, and Metsudah translates them as such. But I think that these are a different type of blessings than the ones in the middle of the Amidah.

The question to be asked is must we assume that there is a consistency of form in a prayer like the Amidah? If the answer is yes, then Metsudah is the only translation to get it right, and they must be recognized as having picked up on something that eluded all their predecessors and successors.

Finally, let me return to the blessing מחיה המתים. I asked if the word מחיה is a verb, and noted that Artscroll and Sacks indeed translated it this way. However, they are both incorrect for the simple reason that in their siddurim there is a tzeirei under the yud of מחיה. There are siddurim, such as Tehilat ha-Shem, that have a segol under the yud. In such a case,  the word should be translated as a verb. However, when there is a tzeirei it must be translated as a noun. Metsudah once again gets it right, translating “Resurrector of the dead.” [15] Right before this, we find the words מלך ממית ומחיה. Here there is a segol under the yud, meaning that it is a verb and is to be translated as “Who causes death and restores life”.

Artscroll and Sacks also err in their translation of מחיה מתים במאמרו in Magen Avot in the Friday night service. There is a tzeirei under the yud meaning that it must be translated as “Resurrector of the dead with His utterance.” Artscroll mistakenly renders: “Who resuscitates the dead with His utterance,” using the same translation from the Amidah for the words  מחיה המתים.

I can’t figure out Sacks’ method here. In the Amidah he translates מחיה מתים as: “who revives the dead”, but in Magen Avot he translates: “By his promise, He will revive the dead.” This is incorrect, as it turns the sentence into the future tense, which it is not. Furthermore, if it was to be translated as such, why not do so in the Amidah as well, as the words are identical? Indeed, Magen Avot is nothing but an abridged version of the Amidah, so by definition the translation must be the same.[16] Translating במאמרו as “By His promise”, which I assume means “in accordance with His promise,”[17] is also incorrect, as the passage refers to God’s word, or better yet, the power of God’s word, not any promise.[18]

3. I want to briefly call attention to three books that have recently appeared and which I hope to discuss in future posts. The first is Gil Perl's The Pillar of Volozhin: Rabbi Naftali Zvi Judah Berlin and the World of 19th Century Lithuanian Torah Scholarship. The second is Eugene Korn and Alon Goshen-Gottstein, ed., Jewish Theology and World Religions. The third is Ben Zion Katz, A Journey Through Torah: A Critique of the Documentary Hypothesis. I know that there are many Seforim Blog readers who will find these books worth reading.

4. Those who want to post (or read) comments, please access the Seforim Blog site by going to  Only by doing this will you be taken to the main site (and not have a country code in the URL). We have recently learnt that readers outside the United States do not have access to the comments posted and in the U.S. We don't know why this is, or how to fix it, but the above instruction fixes the matter.

[1] As a result of these discussions, which led to investigations of haredi literature and discussions with haredi friends, another point became ever more obvious to me. It appears – and I welcome being corrected – that once someone has been crowned a gadol in the haredi world, it is almost impossible for him to lose this status, no matter what he says (and we have seen examples of this time after time). If, for instance, a recognized gadol expresses racist or misanthropic sentiments, or declares that a known and continuing sexual abuser or wife abuser must not be turned over to the authorities, even that would not be sufficient to “defrock” him. In other words, the “immunity” given to haredi (and hardal) gedolim is much more far-reaching than anything that could be imagined in the Modern Orthodox world.
[2] A January 2012 Avi Chai poll found that 7 percent of the Israeli population defines itself as haredi, 15 percent as dati, and 32 percent as traditional. Only 3 percent defines themselves as secular anti-religious. However, approximately 20 percent of primary school students are haredi, which shows the direction the future is going.
[3] It was actually the Religious Zionists who were responsible for creating the undemocratic situation in which Israel is perhaps the only country in the world in which Jews are not free to be married by the rabbi of their choice. I would like someone to show me where, in the entire history of halakhic literature, it is stated that people who are not observant must be forced, or even encouraged, to have a halakhic marriage. The current situation means that when secular Israelis leave Israel and then get divorced, being that they are secular most will simply get a secular divorce. Thus, any future marriage will be halakhically adulterous and the children will be mamzerim. Outside of Israel this is almost never an issue since non-Orthodox people generally don’t get married by Orthodox rabbis, which means that in the event of a divorce we can assume that the first marriage was not halakhically binding. But in Israel, where everyone gets married halakhically, it opens the doors to mamzerut on a massive scale. This was actually recognized by R. Eliyahu Bakshi Doron when he was chief rabbi. He created a big controversy when he revealed that it is a practice among some rabbis that when they perform weddings for the non-religious, they make sure that the marriage is not halakhically binding, precisely in order to prevent future mamzerut. Just this week R. Yaakov Yosef publicly advocated this position. See here.

[4] R. Eliyahu Pinchasi writes as follows in his Dibrot Eliyahu, vol. 1, p. 19:

החכמה נמצאת בגוי אבל היא רחוקה מאוד מלהיות דוגמת התורה. שהרי הוגי דעות נודעים בנו לעצמם פילוסופיה מתוחכמת הממלאים ספרים עבי כרס להצדיק את ההפקרות שנקראת בלשונם דמוקרטיה חופש הבטוי, רעיונות זדוניות מחרבי העולם.

The sheer ignorance of what democracy means is beyond comprehension. Do people like Pinchasi have so little knowledge of basic history that they do not know that it is only democracy that ensures protections for Jews around the world? Does he want the world to go back to the era of dictators when Jews suffered so terribly? Presumably yes, as he feels democracy is destroying the world.. I can easily provide parallels to the language used by Pinchasi in the writings of communists and fascists, especially from Weimar Germany. I was also shocked to read what R. Elhanan Wasserman writes in his Ikveta di-Meshiha, par. 2, published on the eve of the Holocaust.

"ראו כי אני אני הוא". הגיע כבר העת שתבינו, כי בלעדי אין מושיע. אבל העם מסרבים להבין. עוד נאחזים בשולי הדמוקרטיה הגוססת. אף היא לא תועיל, בדומה לעבודות הזרות הקודמות.

I can’t for the life of me understand how he could regard democracy as avodah zarah, and why he sees democracy as being in opposition to proper faith in God, as if we are dealing with a zero-sum game. Instead of democracy, what political system did R. Elhanan want the Jews to support?
[5] I have many other sources regarding democracy, including traditional sources very much in favor of it (especially in pre-messianic times). I hope to provide them on a future occasion. Reading the haredi attacks on democracy, I can’t help but be reminded of Pius IX’s 1864 Syllabus of Errors and the later silencing of John Courtney Murray. The Church identified certain doctrines as false, yet now recognizes that its position in these matters was mistaken. I mention these examples because I am convinced that the American haredi world also rejects the anti-democratic sentiments that I have quoted, seeing them as out of step with where their world is. 

It is worth contrasting the anti-democratic sentiments of haredi leaders with the response of the Church, which fortunately was able to examine its own long history of anti-democratic abuses and come to the conclusion (much later than it should have) that in modern times democracy is the only viable system. As Pope Benedict put it (see here), democracy “alone can guarantee equality and rights to everyone.” He continues with the following valuable words:

Indeed, there is a sort of reciprocal dependence between democracy and justice that impels everyone to work responsibly to safeguard each person's rights, especially those of the weak and marginalized. This being said, it should not be forgotten that the search for truth is at the same time the condition for the possibility of a real and not only apparent democracy:  “As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism”  (Centesimus Annusn. 46).

[6] R. Asher Anshel Yehudah Miller, Olamo shel Abba (Jerusalem, 1984), p. 308, reports that the Satmar Rav, R Yoel Teitelbaum, once declared that there were 50,000 Jews in the world. When asked how he could give such a figure when there were many millions of Jews, he replied:

בעיני, יהודים הם רק יהודים שששומרים תורה ומצוות כמוני . . . [שאר היהודים] או שיחזרו בתשובה, או שצריך להוציא אותם מכלל ישראל

[7] I will deal with Torat ha-Melekh in a future post.
[8] Alan Brill, Judaism and Other Religions: Models of Understanding (New York, 2010), p. 255 n. 43, has recently noted that since many laws stated with reference to non-Jews apply equally to heretical Jews: “the main problem is the fundamental use of a double ethic as described by Max Weber in his description of an ethnic economy.”
[9] Interestingly, R. Avraham Yosef has recently spoken of the spiritual advantages of living together with the non-religious. See here.

For Israeli haredim, there is now a mindset that they can only live among other haredim, and this is why they create exclusively haredi neighborhoods and towns. Such a concept is entirely new, and not only did it not exist in Europe but didn’t even exist in Israel in the first decades of the State. Many readers probably recall the time when hasidic rebbes lived in Tel Aviv.
[10] I have to admit, however, that one sometimes does find even moderate haredim who seem to have sympathy with Adler’s approach. R. Moshe Eisemann, who used to have a great deal of influence in the moderate haredi camp, wrote as follows with reference to the Jerusalem fanatics who throw stones at passing cars (not knowing, of course, if the drivers are Jewish or Arab): “If it is true that he who hurls a stone were well-advised to be pretty sure that he is doing the right thing, I believe that the one who feels no urge to do so, must engage in even deeper soul-searching.” Tradition 26 (Winter 1992), p. 34. Maybe I was absent that day in yeshiva, but I was never taught that it is normal to have an urge to throw a stone at a fellow Jew (which of course could kill him, as we have seen with the Palestinian stone-throwers). On the contrary, I was taught that I should have an urge to show the non-religious Jew about the beauty of Shabbat, which an invitation to a Shabbat table will accomplish much better than a rock in his windshield. 
[11] What is one to make of R. Shmuel Baruch Genot, Va-Yomer Shmuel (Elad, 2008), no. 84, that it is forbidden for Jews to oppose the death penalty in places where Jews are not affected (unless done for reasons of darkhei shalom): דאסור להציל גוף נכרי. This is the sort of pesak (and I can cite many similar examples) that in the Modern Orthodox world is regarded not simply as wrong, but as deeply immoral (especially since during the Holocaust so many non-Jews adopted Genot’s position vis-à-vis the Jews!).

While at least since Jacob Katz’s Exclusiveness and Tolerance scholars are now no longer deterred from studying the medieval Jewish view of “the other”, there is still great reluctance to examine contemporary views, for fear of how this might play into the hands of anti-Semites. I am curious to hear what readers think about this. How long can we keep all of this “under the carpet,” and should we even be attempting to do that?

Ruth Langer has discussed the medieval tradition in her new book Cursing the Christians? A History of the Birkat HaMinim (Oxford, 2012), p. 12:

For Jews engaged in dialogue, it has been much easier to identify the problems within Christianity than to turn that scrutiny back on our own heritage. Jews, after all, were very much the victims, not just of the Holocaust, but also of centuries of Christian anti-Jewish venom and oppression. Consequently, traditions developed among those studying Judaism in the wissenschaftflich mode to obscure embarrassing elements of the tradition rather than to confront them. . .  Christian anti-Judaism in its many expressions led to Jewish responses and attitudes that were equally vicious; the power relationships between the two communities prevented Jews from expressing this with physical violence, but Jews still lacked respect for their neighbors. . . . In our time, Jewish publishers are restoring uncensored versions of many texts, reclaiming a difficult heritage. While from an academic perspective, this has merit, there has been all too little discussion about its impact on the Jewish community.

I would, however, dispute the use of the expression “equally vicious.” Once Langer assumes that it was Christian anti-Judaism (and I would add “anti-Semitism”) that led to the Jewish responses and attitudes, then I don’t think it is correct to portray them as “equally vicious.” The one who is responding to widespread murder of his coreligionists, and responding only through the pen, cannot be regarded as “equally vicious.” Furthermore, considering the oppression that Jews suffered in medieval times, all the anti-Gentile sentiments found in texts from this period are completely understandable.
[12] I have often heard people pronounce דרכי as darkei. This is incorrect. There is no dagesh in the kaf.
[13] The Artscroll Talmud also has a segol but the Artscroll Mishnah has a tzeirei.
[14] There are times in the Bible where the word עושה with a tzeirei is to be translated as if it has a segol, but these are exceptions. When it comes to vocalizing a text, one should certainly not insert a tzeirei if one is going to translate the word as a verb. The exceptions, where we find a tzeirei under the shin, are Ex. 15:11: עושה פלא, which appears to mean “doing wonders”, although,  as R. Mazuz pointed out to me, it could also be translated as “doer of wonders”= עושה-הפלאים. Amos 5:8: עושה כימה וכסיל, and Ps. 14:1, 3, 53:2, 4: עושה טוב, could perhaps also be read in this way. However, in Jer. 51:15: עושה ארץ בכחו, the word appears to be a verb.
[15] See R. Mazuz’s comment in R. Yosef Hayyim Mizrahi, Yosef Hayyim (Jerusalem, 1993), p. 123, Or Torah, Adar 5772, p. 568.
[16] See Abudarham ha-Shalem (Jerusalem, 1963), p. 148:

וכיצד היא ברכה זו מעין שבע, מגן אבות בדברו כנגד מגן אברהם. מחיה מתים במאמרו כנגד מחיה מתים. הא-ל הקדוש שאין כמוהו כנגד הא-ל הקדוש . . .

[17] See Daniel 12:2.
[18] See Abudarham ha-Shalem, p. 148: מחיה מתים במאמרו על שם (יחזקאל לז) כה אמר ה' הנני פותח את קברותיכם


Nachum said...

No Muslim theocracies before Iran? What do you call Saudi Arabia?

It wasn't the Religious Zionists who set up the religious marriage requirement; it's a holdover from the British, and they from the Ottomans, at a point when all marriage, around the world, was religious.

Your pessimistic attitude about charedim taking over is best responded to by the oft-cited fact that charedi representation in the Knesset has increased not at all since 1948. (Leaving aside Shas, of course.) Something happens there.

Marc said...

<span><span><span>Saudi Arabia is not a theocracy.

When the State was established there was no automatic assumption that the status quo in all religious matters would carry on (see R. Herzog's constitution and the correspondence published there) Had the religious Zionists in 1948 argued that compulsory religious marriage was not a good idea, it never would have carried over.

I don't know if I am pessimistic about them taking over. I was simply dealing with the scenario if the DO take over, which is what they are hopeful of. It could be that when the government decides to let them work without going to the army that this will moderate them, since they will be out of the yeshiva and integrating. If that happens, then everything will change.

As for the interesting fact that the Knesset representation has not changed, surely you don't think if the haredi percentage was say 20 percent, that this would not affect the Knesset representation.</span>
<span>There are 120 members of Knesset and 5 are part of United Torah Judaism. If you assume that 2 Shas representatives represent a real haredi electorate, you still have less than the seven percent that we are told = the haredi population. But if the haredi population moves up percentage wise, you can expect representation to move up, not to exactly to parallel it.</span></span></span>

Anonymous said...

i am a sanzer chosid. and i was never taught all of this. my rebbe zt''l when he founded the laniado hospital he established part of the rules of the hospital that everybody must be treated equally charadi,dati, secular and non jews. he explicitly wirtes in his tshuvas that all chlonim are considered tinok shnehba. in fact almost everybody i know ( who are considered ultra othordox ) dissagree withe almost everything you write. 

Marc said...

I know the hospital well and I never would have included him as part of the "extremist" outlook. In the post I specifically contrasted the positions I mentioned with the outlook reflected in haredi hesed organizations, kiruv etc. Yet, the positions I discussed are also found in many seforim meaning that haredi society itself seems to be split, at least the learned segments.

Anonymous said...

He also said in his interview with hadvar that 98 percent of Jews in Israel are dati. When asked to explain himself he said that I'd you believe in god you are considered already dati.

sanzerchosid said...

he also said in his interveiw with hadvar that 98 percent of the jews in israel are datim. when asked to explain himself he said that by beleiving in god you are dati. 

sanhedrin said...

marc, thanks for the post. it's always refreshing to see someone discussing such a sensitive topic in an intellectually honest way, without apologetics. this was always something that bothered me about sack's works: he builds his theology on the bible (which in his view is universalist--very much debatable), and completely ignores the next 2000 years of theological development. he then calls his theology "the jewish theology/opinion/understanding". im fine with saying changing times and morality call for a different jewish viewpoint (a la r' kook), but at least be honest about it.
one thing that i have noticed recently is that the kabbalisic sources are far more racist than even the traditional rabbinic sources. the kabbalistic sources (including up to the present day,, useful for our pu

sanhedrin said...

sorry, the end of my comment got cut off. im currently typing on a phone, you know how it is :) . i meant to add that elliot wolfson, at the beginning of his book "venturing beyond", discusses at length the kabbalistic viewpoints on non jews up to and including the present day. he also decries at the beginning the pervasiveness of apologetics in this area among jewish intellectuals, mentioning levinas specifically. i think that the continuation of the abhorrence of non jews even in our present day pluralistic society can be partially attributed to the dominance of kabbalistic anti rationalist thought in chareidi society.

kalman neuman said...

Just for the information, Adler, the author of the book mentioned comes from a bona fide religious zionist family. I know his parents (the book is named after his mother binah) and his sister. 

Nachum said...

"<span><span><span><span>Saudi Arabia is not a theocracy"</span></span></span></span>

Semantics? It's certainly governed by religious law. If the Charedim do take over Israel, there'll probably be some "askan" figurehead running things. (Much as the fact that no "gedolim" ever serve in the Knesset, and even a frontman is current chief rabbi.) Maybe a "gadol" would be president, but that's if they can agree on who, which is doubtful- and speaks to a much bigger problem of theirs. It would still be a theocracy.

As to numbers, I suspect that if they do reach a certain point, things by nature would have to change- they honestly wouldn't know what to do, and perhaps would be prevented from running the state by hashkafa (after all, if the state if treyf, it's still treyf if it's charedi-run, at least according to some). Well, one can hope.

Finally, numbers-wise: They've been having seven-eight kids for 64 years. (Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if the percentage of charedim was much higher in 1949.) Why haven't the number of seats increased accordingly?

G.A. said...

 אמר לו הצדיק: "עד שאתה מתפלא עלי, תתפלא על הקב"ה, שגם הוא דרכו בכך, כמו שנאמר 'אתה נותן יד לפושעים וימינך פשוטה לקבל שבי<span>ם</span>

Fair enough, but how do we know that God doesn't wash his hands afterwards (with credit to my wife for the line).

Chaim said...


Marc, this is an extreme example of political self-censorship at it’s best. Who is dumb enough not to know the ancient Jewish position in regards to democracy?! Once you accept having a Navi - are you going to give him an equal vote with a gay pride Tel-Avivnik who is literally decimating the entire secular population? (you realize the only reason the Religious will take over is because no one else is ‘taking the trouble’ to have children.) If you were honest, you could use your vast knowledge of Jewish sources - from the Torah, Neviim…. all the way to Rav Shach which ridicule what Winston Churchill called “worst form of government except all..” Are you conveniently forgetting about the thousand year long Jewish monarchy?!
2. In regards to R. Harfenes - once you admit the Talmud being the sole source of Halacha (I know, blah blah that it could change with current ‘sensivities’…) it is stupid of you to call a Talmudist “not making sense’. Out of league!
Could it be that your ‘moral sensitivities’ are influenced by having a TV?
3. Contrary to what you write in your notes, America was built on the Bible - equality is only ‘under God’, and any religious freedom can only thank the Bible. Observant Jews believe that hatred of them is solely from God,. Have you already forgotten the lesson of Germany?
4.Obviously, REW was referring to Marxism which was the current scourge amongst his boys.

DF said...

The reality is that orthodox Jews, not just charedim, are not suitable for running a country. It's not just because they cant tolerate irreligious Jews, but also becasue of more fundamental problems. Like Shabbos. You know how much manpower it takes to keep a single power plant running safely? It doesnt happen by itself. Same with sewage plants and countless other jobs. Forget about shabbos, how many orthodox Jews, period, do we see involved in these types of heavy industry jobs? There are scores and scores of examples of why orthodoxy is not suited for being anything other than a small minority. Which has to give one pause.

There's tons of other interesting things in the post, which, like any classic Dr. Shaipiro post, can be grounds for both agreement or disagreement. But one thing you said made me laugh: "People write books on the most arcane topics and in order to fill the pages they cite opinions from any book ever written, and record all the opinions they find as if they are halakhah."

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

Anonymous said...

this post is idiotic even by the author's exalted standards. it distorts in a way which could be construed as antisemitic

Hesh said...

DF -- the dati leumi has tried for the past 100 years to develop a halacha that is compatible with running a modern state.  Rabbis and other concerned citizens have worked tirelessly for solutions -- some have succeeded, others less so.  No one has to apologize that we haven't solved everything yet!  Perhaps we're still too comfortable about letting hillonim running certain things (and letting them be hillonim).  And perhaps we need a new Sanhedrin to establish more broad-reaching taqannot.  But don't say that it's impossible!

G.A. said...

Be fair, DF.

Marc is one of the kings of Seforim-arcana, but in his hands these broaden peoples' horizons about the diversity of our tradition. In the books he is talking about, arcane statements have the opposite effect--narrowing the acceptable Halacha or Hashkafa and enabling the author to paint a bullseye around his arrow.

Nachum said...

DF, in Israel, religious people work in heavy industry all over the place. I suppose it would be shocking for an American Jew to see a guy in a long beard and black kippa collecting the trash, but that's what I see every time the garbage truck goes by.

Joe in Australia said...

If my experience of democracy, like R' Wasserman's, had been formed by my observation of the Weimar Republic and its chaotic death throes, culminating in the rise of Hitler and a new march to war, I would also think that democracy was a horrible idea.

Anonymous said...

<span>Kovner</span><span>   </span>
<span>The Nefesh HaChaim (I, chap. 2) introduces the concept of continuous creation, and brings proof from the language of davening המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית. And then he continues and writes that the authors of davening bring proof to this from the posuk (Tehillim, 136:7) לעושה אורים גדולים, that is, that it is written in present tense and not past. Yet there it is written with a tzeiri, and according to you it is a noun, meaning "maker of" and not a verb, meaning "who makes"</span>

Anonymous said...


<span>I happen to know Rabbi Adler quite well, and I can testify that he is a very sweet and kind person. He wrote the sefer because he deals a lot with baalei teshuva and many halachic questions arose in dealing with their non-religous relatives, so he researched that topic and wrote the most comprehensive work on it. He did not approach his writing with a bias and on the contrary looked for the truth in each halachah. He himself was shocked when according to his research it came out that the title tinuk shenishba is hard to come by these days, and its ramifications are difficult to live with. But he wasn't going to distort the truth because of that. He warns many times in his sefer that practically one should think long and hard before implementing the halachos that say there. If you have any halachic refutation of what he wrote he will gladly accept it and retract in a future edition. If he relegates certain lenient opinions to the footnotes it's because he honestly feels that according to the accepted halachic process the halachah follows the stringent opinion. He was not writing a PR book for Orthodox Jewry. He would be happy to hear your constructive halachic criticism, but he doesn't read English, so write him in Hebrew</span>

Anonymous said...

Good point. I should have mentioned this in note 14. It takes us back to the question I raised. Should the phrase here and also in the previous verses  be translated as "the maker of heaven" etc. "or the one who makes heaven". the problem with translating it in the present tense, while it makes for good derash, is that if you look at hte Psalm as a whole all of the events being described happened in the past. E.g., it says למכה מצרים בבכוריהם. You can't translate that in the present, which is why all the translations render this, and the rest of the chapter, in the past tense. This is so even though the verbs are participles. The one exception where for לעושה נפלאות the translations render this in the present, meaning that they are not consistent. It is a very difficult chapter to translate and I don't think the normal rules can apply here.

Abba's Rantings said...


"Finally, numbers-wise: They've been having seven-eight kids for 64 years. (Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if the percentage of charedim was much higher in 1949.) Why haven't the number of seats increased accordingly?"

because the high haredi birthrate is offset by mass immigration of non-haredi jews, i.e., you can thank the sephardim, russians and (non-haredi) DPs. now if only all of us american MOs (excluding yourself) who are concerned about a haredi takeover would create another mass aliyah wave . . .


"Forget about shabbos, how many orthodox Jews, period, do we see involved in these types of heavy industry jobs?"

i also wonder about shabbos. but as far as the absence of ortho jews in certain occupations, this is a sociological phenomenon, not a halachic one. and as nachum notes, it certainly doesn't apply in israel. (and even in america there are frum jews in manual trades, etc.). and how much does the israeli economy rely on "heavy industry" anyway?

Groinem said...

Was only a minority of klal Yisroel at Har Sinai?  Was Eretz Yisroel given to Klal Yisroel without the Torah?
I have no way of understanding your position. Every single Jew should keep the Torah and if we lived in Eretz Yisroel as we should with everyone keeping the Torah, we would have a melech, not democracy (except for municipal purposes see Choshen Mishpot 163) The halocho would be in the hande of the Sanhedrin, not democracy, and we would enforce Torah as we should. (I am not sure there would be separate buses, as I am unaware of any halachic basis for it, neither am I aware of any Gadol who supports it).
If you have a better system of runnng a state than G-d in his Torah, by all means make a revelation like Sinai. I am eagerly awaiting it (though not holding my breath)

moshe said...

"<span>The reason they wouldn’t dream of relating to the non-Orthodox this way is not because they can point to other halakhic sources that disagree with the ones Adler cites (although the scholars among them can indeed point to these sources). There is something much more basic at work, namely, the moral intuition of people which even when it comes into conflict with what appears in halakhic texts does not agree to simply be pushed aside. Most Orthodox Jews of all stripes refuse to believe that what Adler is advocating is what God wants. It is impossible for them to accept that the Judaism they know and cherish, which has been taught to them by great figures, would have such a negative outlook, and all the halakhic texts in the world won’t be able to change their minds."</span>

Isn't that somewhat of a slippery slope?

I don't think that anyone would deny that there are clearly some commandments that are counterintuitive from a moral perspective (Amalek, etc.) - should they too be disregarded in favor of that which is perceived to be the "real" will of god?

Additionally, moral standards - unlike "all the halakhic texts in the world" - have a tendency to vary by era and culture. Doesn't the above outlook allow for observance to be molded by the transient values of contemporary society (for instance while homosexual behaviour - something clearly forbidden from a biblical perspective - was, at one point almost universally considered immoral, it presently is considered a legitimate form of behaviour by an ever increasing number of contemporary (secular) people. May they too follow their moral intuition at the expense of halakhic texts?)

AryehS said...

There is a very big difference to be made over what our political values should be nowadays, and what they should be when we are redeemed. If we carry out nowadays the regime we would have when we are redeemed, it would be disastrous. Dr. Shapiro is making that point.

In addition, you forget that monarchy was a big b'dieved. Not only that, but the navi goes out of the way to show that monarchy was voted for by the people! And the first kings were appointed by God! None of that would be true nowadays.

And I also disagree with how you view the abilities of the navi and how things will be run. A navi would not have an extra push by virtue of being a navi in the Sanhedrin, the Rambam makes that clear. And additionally, the Rambam makes clear that the Sanhedrin gets its power by the will of the people. That is democracy!

Lastly, re: America being built by the Bible. Your history is wrong. Many of the founding fathers and constitutional writers were Deists. They didn't believe in the authority of the Bible. "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was added in in the 50's. The 1950's. They gave the right to religion because it was the moral thing to do. Do you really think the Torah preaches freedom of religion?

AryehS said...

While we're talking about segols and tzeres, I came across this manuscript when looking up the source in Berachot 9:2 about Oseh Maaseh B'reishit. It would appear that there is a segol under oseh, but there is also a segol under the reish in b'reshit. Is that how people should pronounce it? Is it actually "b'reshit bara elokim"?


Abba's Rantings said...


notice that in that mss. there is frequent substition between tzere/segol (indicating a lack of distinction in general between segol/tzere in this time/area?) and in general there is a lack of internal consistency wrt vocalization. so proceed with caution.

Chareidi said...

   I think your pessimist aprehension is off-mark this time. It is easy to reach conclusions such as those advanced in this post by knowing Chareidi Judaism only from books and newspaper articles, however those intimately familiar with the Chareidi world know that little, if any, of your fears regarding the future of Israeli society are realistically founded.

   Beginning with the negative qoutes regarding democracy, as a graduate of Chareidi Yeshivos, I too have often heard similar anti-democracy diatribe voiced by Roshei Yeshivah, yet the focus of these rants are purely inward, aimed at encouraging the youth, who are often attracted by the lure of the sense of freedom in the outside world, to keep to the straight and narrow path. None of this is intended for practical implementation, for the simple reason that as a society whose entire outlook is viable only as a minority/isolationalist faction within the general population, no-one in the Chareidi world has ever invested any thought or planning in the demographic eventuality that sees Chareidim in the majority in the not-so-distant future.

   In reality the Chareidi world, both the Lithuanian Yeshivah world as well as the Chassidic communities, are so isolationist that they have absolutely no interest in what Chiloni Jews do, as long as they don't see it in front of their faces, for that may have a negative influence on their children. The attitude to Kiruv in Israeli Chareidi circles is a classic example of this outlook. In the Chassidic community (bar Chabad), Kiruv is virtualy non-existent, and even in the Litvishe circles that have recently adopted various forms of Kiruv work (after years of condemning Chabad's Kiruv efforts), Kiruv is seen as Bittul Torah and involvement in its efforts is limited solely to those suffering from burn-out after years of Torah study, a kind of BeDieved alternative that is prefferable only over making an honest living. In his Kareinah De'igarta (a classic expositor of Isreli Charedi Haskafah), the Steipler Gaon is asked what efforts are to be made in order to bring our Chiloni bretheren closer to Torah, his response is that all we can do is mention them in our prayers that they may merit to see the light and be Chozer Bitshuvah.

   Another example of this isolationist approach (that is - somewhat surprisingly - more pronounced among the Litvishe circles), is the almost total lack of Parlimentary advocacy by Chareidi MK's on behalf of furthering Jewish education in the Mamlachti schools. Never has an issue of broader Jewish importance been on the list of Chareidi coalition demands, the attitude being one of "leave us to our own devices and we will not bother you". Illustrative of the latter is the Chareidi ambivalence on the issue of Mihu Yehudi, one would have expected from the purported bearers of authentic Torah tradition to take a decisive stance in favour of the Halachic definition of Who is a Jew, however no-one put it better than Rav Shach "this is not our problem and does not affect us".

   Further expressing this position is an anectode I recently heard from a first hand witness who heard it personally from former Israeli President Moshe Katzav, then responsible for the coalition-building efforts of then-PM Menachem Begin in 1977. Following his historic victory, Begin sought to introduce the Chareidi parties to his coalition government for the first time since the first Knesset. As an incentive, Begin offered, entirely unprompted, to immediately change the law of Mihu Yehudi to reflect the Halachic definition thereof, yet MK Shlomo Lorincz, acting (by his own admission) on behalf of Rav Shach, rebuffed Begin's goodwill gesture, explaining to the shocked [...]

Chareidi said...

   Although the Sanzer Rebbe zt"l was certainly different in his attitude to irreligious Jews than any other Chareidi, and certainly Chassidic leader (with the obvious exception of the Lubavitcher Rebbe), his attitude towards Goyim was negative in the extreme, to put it mildly. I am actually surprised that Marc didn't include any of his comments regarding Goyim, such as the American people being capable of the same atrocities of the Nazis, in his quotations. I can understand his total mistrust of non-Jews in light of his suffering in the Holocaust, yet it is still quite an extreme position that few, if any, Chareidim seriously subscribe to.

sanzerchosid said...

do really think that the americans are not capable doing what the nazis ymach shmo did? the jews in germany never dreamt what will happen to them. ( read marc's book between the yeshiva world and morden ortodoxy how some jews even when hitler rose to power still beleived that everthing will be alright) neither did the jews in spain before 1492 think they will be expelled. after all halach asiov soney lyakov. may god watch over us that it will never happen again 

DF said...

G.A. - Dr. Shapiro does exactly the same thing. Look at this post, for example. He finds relatively obscure seforim saying idiotic things, to prove his preconceived conclusions ("painting a bullsye around his arrow", as it were) about charedim. Other modern orthodox writers do the same thing. They mine databases to find previously unknown seforim in agreement with their viewpoint, and then say "you see! Women CAN wear tefillin!" (Or whatever they're trying to prove. It's nearly always something about women.)

Not trying to critique Dr. Shapiro specifically, whom I greatly respect. Just saying that he too is guilty of the same phenomemon he rightly attacks among the charedim. Everybody does it. 

Avraham said...

Regarding Rav Eisman's interesting point regarding stone throwing:
If I understand him correctly, he is making a valid point. If one's "connection" to shabbos is truly sincere, if his realization of it's importance to the almighty was so revered, would it not follow that the blatant desecration of shabbath's laws would bother him so that he may have the urge to throw stones? Albeit true that one should overcome this temptation, and his interaction with the shabbath transgrasser should be love and kindness, understanding and compassion; this does not exclude the sudden shock and dismay of the shabbath desecration.
For example, if one's child breaks a valued family heirloom simply because of negligence, of course the appropriete response should not be visible rage and verbal abuse. But if one does not feel some sense of anger, some sense fury, is it not a clear sign he really, really, could not care much about the heirloom.

DF said...

Hesh, nachum, Abba's ravings - there may be exceptions here and there, especially in Israel, but proportionately, there are very few religious Jews in heavy industry. And  its not just  gas and electric utilities where orthdox Jews are largely absent. There are 17 different construction trades - and yet its still rare to see a journeyman steelworker on a crew with a yarmulke. There are  plenty of small orthodox contractors, doing mainly smaler residential jobs, but not very many working for a company where you have to be on time at 6am every day. It doesnt fit the orthodox man's constitution, who has grown up with a very loosey-goosey environment, where coming late and coming on time have no meaning whatsoever.

Basically orthodox Jews fall into an extremely narrow band of professions. You will almost never see an orthodox Jew, other than ballei teshuvah, naturally, in, things like marine biology or archeology. Not too many orthodox pilots, airline or small commercial. It's so rare to see orthodox people in professions outside of the basic doctor lawyer accountant that jewish magazines run feauture stories on the occasional exceptions. Because its rare, and hence, interesting.

There are many reasons for this, all applicable in different settings. The age old stigma of working with one's hands, rather than with one's mind. The lesser pay. Having to live in settings without other orthodox Jews. Difficulty with zmanim. Difficulty with complying with rules deemed silly.  All sorts of things. But bottom line is, what the guilds and anti-semitism did to us in the mideival period, we orthodox Jews have done to ourselves in the 20th century. There are very few professions open to us.

sanhedrin said...

response to "chareidi": interesting points about contemporary chareidi isolationism. however, i think that they are moot points in relation to the issue being discussed. once chareidim take over the government, they will of necessity be forced to deal with the entire israeli population, including chilonim and other "distasteful" elements. it is wishful thinking that they will be as indifferent as they are now. besides, there are just as many counter examples of chareidi meddling into secular communities that have no effect on their children. for example, eli yishai sending druze inspectors to close stores open on shabbos in completely secular kibbutzim. many more such examples can be cited.

Marc said...

I disagree. I think the proper emotional response is sadness that the other person doesn't see the value of Shabbat, not fury and not the desire to harm another. I guess different strokes for different folks.

Abba's Rantings said...


i don't understand the analogy. in all the fury one experiences after a child damages an heirloom, is it acceptable for a parent to engage in behavior that could easily maim or kill the child (or potentially other innocent bystanders)? remember, throwing rocks at cars easily has the potential to end up as murder. remind me again what we call it when the palestinians engage in exactly the same activity?

Guest said...

"<span>i think that the continuation of the abhorrence of non jews even in our present day pluralistic society can be partially attributed to the dominance of kabbalistic anti rationalist thought in chareidi society.  "</span>

Agreed. The thing is, people believe this stuff is both actual kabbalah (i.e., received) and - true. And they have no method, ability or permission to see it any other way. So what else will they think?

Guest said...

There was a tremendous amount of antisemitism in both Germany and Christian Spain, including prominent parties whose sole platform was antisemitism in the former and at least a hundred years of forced conversions prior to expulsion in the latter. Futhermore both of those countries had a very homogenous identity which excluded Jews, even if by the 1920s Jews had finally won the right of citizenship in Germany, but only for a few decades by that point.

Maybe Americans are and maybe they are not capable, but I don't understand how you can make an analogy with Spain and Germany. 

Anonymous said...

the effect of liberty to indivuduals is, that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations. --well known charedi writer, Edmund Burke

Marc said...

I agree with Sanhedrin. Let me also add, responding to comments above, that people don't realize that democracy is the best thing for religion. Any time religion is connected to government is ends up hurting religion, as religion becomes identified with repression etc. Look at how strong religion is in the U.S. vs. Europe, which suffered under repressive religion for so long, and this led to strong anti-clerical feelings.

Religion can only thrive when it is freely chosen, not when it is compelled.

Avraham said...

Of course it is not right for the parent to engage in behavior that can maim a child. Nor should a religious Jew throw stones at those drivers on shabbos. The question is rather whether there should be an emotional response of fury and that it should be overcome, or perhaps there should be numbness. The argument ("the soul searching") is that if one has the ideal relationship with the holiness of shabbos it should bother him to the extent that his emotional response should be of rage that shabbos is being desecrated.

If one does not believe in capital punishment, should he not of the emotional response of seeking blood if his brother was murdered?! If he would not have this response, does that not show his lack of brotherhood? He does not believe practically that the murderer should be put to death, but this does not discount, nor discredit, his emotional response.

Should the response be sadness? (Oh what a shame, the murderer happens to lack the sensitivities we have to human life?!) Gosh, it's my brother........ Its my shabbos....  

Abba's Rantings said...

i agree that academically there are important ways that america is different than germany and spain and preclude a repeat of those types of events here. (best essay on why america is differnt is by jonathan sarna in History and Hate.) yet i still can't get myself to say "it can't happen here." doubtlessly german jews in the 30s also found important distinctions between contemporary germany and 15th spain to comfort themselves that *they* were safe.

Chaim >M said...

R. Marc - I may have to disagree with your assertion about American Haredim not being against democracy vs. Daas Torah. What they write on Vos iz Neias may be one thing, but explain to me how anyone with the slightest interest and knowledge in democracy and freedom of rights would have attended, say, the internet asifa? Do you mean to say that these people really value their democracy when the schools demand that every father attends or their kids will be thrown out of school?
We can debate the merits and weaknesses of this example. However, most of it comes from an experiance of the mainstream Haredi communities. While no doubt, as wth anyone, were their democratic rights to be taken away they would protest. However, there is no vestige of it anywhere near Haredi communities anywhere.

Chaim >M said...

I have heard this from RJBS, but I have not been able to locate where he says it. Religious fanatics tend to believe the opposite. See here:

cipher said...

<p><span><span>Dr. Shapiro, thanks so much for doing the research and writing this. It's absolutely chilling. The sources you cite, along with the comments posted here by Haredim, demonstrate what Israel would have in store for it if they weren't driving it into bankruptcy.  </span></span><span>
<span> </span>
<span>One point -   </span>
<span> </span>
<span>"Do any American haredi leaders agree with these sentiments, that it is democracy that is destroying humanity? I highly doubt it."</span><span> </span><span> </span>
<span> </span>
<span>I'm not so sure. I think it more likely that they simply don't care about America, as it’s part of the "goyische velt" and they realize they'll always be a minority here. They simply take whatever they can get from the system and refuse to engage it otherwise.</span></span>

Guest said...

<span>Thank you for your insightful research regarding the haredi position on Israeli secular society. I think it is nevertheless important to emphasize the context of the individuals - R. Shternbuch is the head of the Eda Haredit which represents Toldos Aharon, Satmar, Prushim... which in total represents 7,000-9,000 families (<span></span>העדה_החרדית), certainly not representative of Israel's 736,000 haredim (<span></span> Similarly, R. Harfenes is from Williamsburg, NY (Satmar?) and similarly not holding much sway on the general Israeli haredi populous. In the link provided to the Hyde Park discussion regarding R. Adler's book, the other posters on the forum have difficulty even identifying R. Adler and refer to him with great opprobrium. Nevertheless, it is unlikely to ever see an outright condemnation of these writers' objectionable works from the mainstream haredi world because everyone is too busy looking over their shoulder, rightward to continue to be considered in the 'holy camp of Israel.' Far more troubling are the statements from R. Shach and R. Meir (in his early career part of the National Religious camp) who certainly represent the more mainstream haredi camp. We can only hope that R. Shteinman arrives at a reasonable compromise with the government regarding army and national service (and subsequent opportunities for full-time employment), which would have a strong moderating effect on the haredi population. The fringes of haredi society are a lost cause, but there is still hope for the mainstream.</span>

Yeedle said...

Sanzer Chasid, it's true the Klauzenburg Rebbe was moderate regarding secular-Jews, his attitude towards gentiles was to hate them with passion.

Marc said...

In response to a question, R. Sternbuch says that if you can make a kiddush hashem then you should return the money to the non-religious store owner. This is no different than with non-Jews, that there is no obligation but if you want to, and there is a chance to make a kiddush hashem, this is the most appropriate path. I didn't want to get into this aspect of the responsum as I have already dealt with this approach in a previous post.

Anonymous said...

The orthodox man's constitution? Is that like the black man's constitution which makes him inherently lazy? Or the white man's constitution which makes him unable to work at temperatures above 80 fahrenheit? I thought we were past such pseudoscience.

I do think American Orthodox Jews fall in to a narrow band of professions (for some reason though, you only seem to be thinking about men, not women). But you clearly have no clue what religious society is like in Israel.

Anonymous said...

This isolationism is perfectly compatible with the thesis, as expressed in several of the above sources, that the chilonim would literally be better off dead.

Shlomo said...

How about then: "It's less likely to happen here than anywhere else in the world." (Israel included of course)

Shlomo said...

Your connection to shabbat is so strong that you further desecrate it by throwing stones? (definite violation of muktzah, and possible violation of melachot deoraita, depending how the stones hit)

Do you get so angry at your child breaking a heirloom that you go smash another heirloom?

Anonymous said...

It is not just a problem of the orthodox not being tolerent of the non-orthodox. There is now an attempt being made by the principal of the girls division of the Yeshiva of Spring Valley to "strongly encourage" parents who do not fit into her idea of orthodox, to take their daughters out of the school. These are families who are 100% shomrei torah uMitzvos, but either belong to the wrong shul, wear the wrong type of clothes, or even worse, may own an Ipad.

Ovadya said...

Marc, IMO it is extremely misleading and unfair by "qouting" R. Harfenes' responsa without bringing the basis for his argument. His responsa is actually pretty clear cut halacha and not some extreme view he concocted. He believes that the average Russian Jew living on Ocean Parkway or in Brighton Beach is considered a product of Jews who denounced their religion and the generations living here nowadays (amongst religiuos Jews) still follow in their footstep who in turn should likewise be regarded as mumarim. If you disagree with him, that's fine. But then the main debate should be of different nature: How to regard these Russians. Or forget the Russians, what would be the general din with a bonafide mumar from, say Malta, who is a self hating Jew? He'll presumabley say as the Rambam and others ruled and you'll say...? The next argument would be, even if they were to be "minim she'moridin etc.", does it apply today? But either way, by skirting his main nimukim you do no justice in setting out to expose his "extremism". Besides, even if he is wrong in his assesment of these Russians that he is referring to, that doesn't make him an extremist, it merely makes him wrong ("uninformed") as to what their true identity is.

Same goes with R. Shternbauch's responsa. He's ruling with support from the Rambam (mainly), a dry halacha, and your coming from a completely different angle, a sociological one. If you disagree with his understanding of the Rambam in question or in the way he applies it, then offer your understanding. But by playing the extreme card your not really disproving him.

Bottom line: Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Yirmiahu said...


The Sanzer Rebbe zy"a certainly said many things much more critical of <span>אומות העולם</span><span></span><span></span><span></span><span></span> than I've seen (almost) anywhere else, things that I have bothered me for some time (although understanding the personal side of the issue). Of course the Rebbe would often speak very sharply about the topic he was discussing, leaving later discussions to "balance" out the issue. The problem here is that I've had difficulty finding the counter-balance to the Rebbe's teachings on this topic. But this last week I read the following in the newsletter <span>בצילא דמהימנותא</span><span></span><span></span><span></span><span></span> by someone participating in a conversation with the Sanzer Rebbe of Eretz Yisrael shlita:

<span>פלא הדבר שכ"ק מרן זי"ע הביא במקום אחד מהרה"ק רבי פנחס מקוריץ זי"ע (עי' אמרי פנחס הנדמ"ח, טהרת המדות, אות ד</span><span> </span><span>ובהערה שם) שצריך לאהוב אפילו גוי, כי הוא נברא מהשי"ת</span><span></span><span></span><span></span><span></span>.

While I would greatly appreciate it if anyone could provide me ( with a published source for this teaching of the Sanzer Rebbe, this idea is found in the Noam Elimelech on parshas Vayishlach:

<span>והצדיק גם כן אוהב את השם ואת כל אדם בעולם, ועל דרך שאמר רבי יוחנן (ברכות יז): מעולם לא הקדימני אדם שלום בשוק, אפילו נכרי</span>
<span></span><span></span><span><span></span><span></span> </span>
And the Imrei Pinchas seems to reflect the Sha'arei Kedusha 1:5's instruction about improving middos, " <span>ויאהב את כל הבריות אפילו גויים</span><span></span><span></span><span></span><span></span>"

And of course whatever is to be said about the rhetoric used in various contexts, it is my impression, as I think that we can see in Sanzerchosid’s comments, that the Sanzer community learned from the Rebbe’s example with his hospital’s explicit directive to serve everyone regardless of their background or religion.

(Since this has been a topic on my mind for some time I would like to invite Sanzerchosid to email me so I can glean some of his insight as an insider on this topic)


Marc said...

<span>Re. Harfenes, I explained myself, and it should be obvious -- how can a Jew today living iin Ocean Parkway who grew up under communism be considered as one who denounced Judaism? If there was ever a tinok she-nishbah, it is one who grew up under communism. He writes that as soon as they left the Soviet Union and were now living among Orthodox Jews that since they didn't embrace Judaism they are now no longer regarded as tinok she-nishbah. This makes no sense and shows no "mercy" for our less fortunate brethren. The extremism is also seen in his method of argumentation, not merely the conclusion. If one concludes that all Zionists are heretics, that is an extremist philosophy also, and it is not simply because he is "uninformed".
As for Sternbuch, the sociology is mixed in with the halakhah. There is no way to separate them. If someone has a separatist ideology then he is already inclined to come to one conclusion (and the reverse is also obviously true).</span>

Ovadya said...

"<span>how can a Jew today living iin Ocean Parkway who grew up under communism be considered as one who denounced Judaism....</span><span> </span><span>He writes that as soon as they left the Soviet Union and were now living among Orthodox Jews that since they didn't embrace Judaism they are now no longer regarded as tinok she-nishbah</span><span>"?</span>

<span>Again, not fair. You left out the part where he writes "work among and/or with frum Jews .... and still [consciously] do not want any connection to their roots ...". And the parts about rejecting some of the principles of our faith and how even though there are many organizations whose prime goal is to establishe any connection with these Russians they still adamantly refuse any association with their heritage; you left these out as well. So on these grounds. R. Harfenes' rationalization can be </span><span>very easily </span><span>substantiated by way of the Radbaz (hil' Mamrim 3;3) - which honestly I find strange he didn't cite, unless he wasn't aware of the Radbaz. In fact, R. Elyashiv seems to also be of this opinion too as I pointed out here </span> Either way, you can't just qoute his view and call him extreme. He's under the impression that these Russians believe or act how they do, you disagree. Perhaps your the extreme one for considering them as full fledged Jews when other halachic authorities don't? Rather there's no extremism here, it's just a matter of what their status is. Since R. Harfenes is under  the impression that they choose not to have anything to do with their heritage, naturally he regards them as mumarim. 

"<span> The extremism is also seen in his method of argumentation, not merely the conclusion.</span><span> If one concludes that all Zionists are heretics, that is an extremist philosophy also ...".</span>

Hold on. Zionists? You're a Zionist, I'm a Zionist and so was Ben Yehuda (and probably R. Harfenes himself too, to some extent). So what type are you talking about? And besides, man d'char shmeh? I don't see him mentioning Zionists at all, let alone the word.

"<span>As for Sternbuch, the sociology is mixed in with the halakhah".</span>

Precisely, however he's providing halachic justification for his opinion, you aren't. That's my point by saying "you're coming from a completely different angle". It should be understood that when one disagrees with another there's no credence in simply disagreeing with the opponent's conclusion and calling him wrong, you must disprove his argument. And with all due respect, you did nothing of the sort.

"<span>If someone has a separatist ideology then he is already inclined to come to one conclusion"</span>

Why? Are you saying they (he?) draw a bull's eye around the arrow?

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Twistelton-Twistelton said...

<p><span>“</span><span>“If it is true that he who hurls a stone were well-advised to be pretty sure that he is doing the right thing, I believe that the one who feels no urge to do so, must engage in even deeper soul-searching.” Tradition 26 (Winter 1992), p. 34. Maybe I was absent that day in yeshiva, but I was never taught that it is normal to have an urge to throw a stone at a fellow Jew (which of course could kill him, as we have seen with the Palestinian stone-throwers). On the contrary, I was taught that I should have an urge to show the non-religious Jew about the beauty of Shabbat, which an invitation to a Shabbat table will accomplish much better than a rock in his windshield”</span>
</p><p><span> </span>
</p><p><span>You are being disingenuous. You know good and well what he means, that one who doesn’t want to protest Chillul Shabbos should wonder why. Probably because he doesn’t really care about Torah. He was not calling for the throwing of rocks on cars on Shabbos, and you know it!</span></p>

Marc said...

<span>Unfortunately, you read too quickly. I never said that he was calling for the throwing of stones. He was perfectly clear though that one should feel an urge to do so, and if you don't feel this urge that there is something wrong with you.</span>

Avraham said...

Shlomo, seems like you missed the point. I never wrote that one should desecrate shabbos, nor did I write that one should break another heirloom. Rather, the desire, the passion, the despair. Please read what I wrote!!

Ploni said...

I think the Abarbanel advocated for a modified Democratic system modeled on the Venitian system in place in his days. IIRC he argued this was Yisro's suggestion on some level to Moshe.

Fotheringay-Phipps said...

Re democracy in particular, I think Dr. Shapiro understates the issue. If charedim take over the state and attain unbridled power there will no real democracy. At most you'll have something similar to what you have in Lakewood, where you have elections, but the unelected leadership endorses one faction and expects the masses to follow. The real democracy is that different factions compete against each other.

I would expect zero funding for anything disaproved of by charedim, e.g. universities etc. Miminal funding for Chardal institutions, at most.

Of course, that's if they have unbridled power. And that's if they don't change on their way to assuming power. The responsibilities of power can have a moderating influence. After all, it becomes your responsibility to make sure things actually work.

B'nai Barrack said...

Rav Shach is clearly talking about libralism , he does not mean a political form of goverment.
<span>מקללת הדמוקרטיה החדשה , is democracy new , ? of course not , he means librilism.</span>
His point would also apply to people that believe that if the majorty vote in a certain way than its the correct way, if for example same sex marrage democraticly become the law than it become exceptable.
Wont you agree that when American shuls democratly voted to become take down the mechitza in the 60z and 70z
that was the begining of the end for the future jewishness of the those people (look at the numbers) but many of the people that voted to keep the mechitza stayed there anyways because "it was a vote" ( i heard that from people)
These are the issues Rav Shach had and I dont see why that is so far off . yes the language is strong but he cared about the Those Jews.

Y said...

Some (more optimistic) thoughts:
1. It will be a few decades before charedim are a majority. By that time, they will have had plenty of time to develop numerous conflicting schools of thought about what should be done when charedim are in the majority.
2. Chabadniks will oppose imposing halachah on the population, since that would be against everything the Lubavitcher Rebbe stood for.
3. The staunchest anti-Zionists will oppose creating a halachic state (until Moshiach comes, and sets up such a state himself.)
4. Even those wanting a theocratic state will disagree among themselves, and set up different parties and factions. There will be coalition-style government like today, instead of an Iran-style regime with one official interpretation of the religion dominating society.
5. The moderate Dati Leumi will still exist (they won't all become chardali). They would rather die than be ruled by a charedi theocracy, and they have guns and know how to use them (unlike the charedim). This alone could be enough to prevent a theocracy.
6. The moderate, "new" or "post-" charedim will look like other charedim but accept, at least to some degree, democratic political philosophy and modern economics and governance.
7. The moderates will urge the others not to drive the secular away, because that would destroy the economy and cause a rift between the Jewish people.
8. They might argue for separation of shul and state, allowing each halachic community to rule its own people, rather than using the machinery of the state (some charedim even argue for that now, I believe).

Shlomo said...

If a person's despair over broken shabbat/heirlooms leads to the breaking of more shabbatot/heirlooms, then one of two things must be true. 1) The person's mind is extremely confused and/or sick, or 2) the supposed concern for shabbat/heirlooms is simply the excuse used to justify destructive acts whose actual motivation is universally agreed to be wrong.

Either way, I don't think these people can serve as role models in any way.

Shlomo said...

<span>"There will be coalition-style government like today, instead of an Iran-style regime with one official interpretation of the religion dominating society."</span>

Actually, the Iranian government includes people with many different interpretations of Islam, who try to form coalitions and advance their views in a quasi-democratic manner. The problem is that every one of those interpretations is too extreme for us. Similarly, any interpretation that could reasonably be expected to come out of the charedi community would also be too extreme for us.

Yirmiahu said...

"<span>Religion can only thrive when it is freely chosen, not when it is compelled."</span>

How is it not intellectually dishonost to affirm a religion which instructs at very least some degree of enforcement of its practice (at least when feasable) while deciding to ignore such inconvienient considerations?

thanbo said...

Further, how much social contact does R Harfenes think there is between the Russians (who stick together) and the frummies (who stick together) on Ocean Parkway?  Esp. with the language divide?  In what way are these recent immigrants to gain knowledge of the beauty of Shabbos if not for the massive black-hat kiruv campaigns (what kiruv campaigns?)?  The only ones doing this are Chabad, many of whom still speak Russian, and in Midwood they are pretty thin on the ground.

My old boss explained it (he came over from USSR in 1986) - his parents were Chabadniks, but they had to work 14 hours a day, leaving him & his siblings to fend for themselves.  When were the parents going to inculcate a love of Torah and Hashem in their children?  Even so, he had some minor connection - when his aunt died, he arranged to pay someone to say kaddish.  When his parents died soon afterwards, he said kaddish himself at the office mincha minyan.

Ovadya: I'm talking about the ones with whom I work, as well as the ones I see on the subway or in the street.  A few have made some effort to move towards observance, but most really do not. Simple proximity to guys in black suits and women in long sleeves and skirts does not convey sufficient education to lift someone out of the tinok shenishbah category, IMHO.  To be an apikorus requires that one know the system and reject it.  Simple ignorance is not sufficient.  And who is trying to bridge that knowledge gap?  Almost nobody besides Chabad.

This R Harfenes seems not to know much about social reality beyond the four ells of his "halacha".

thanbo said...

Should one throw small stones, large stones or stones with holes in them?  Depends on where one learned.

Y said...

Shlomo: see #2, 6 and 7. Given the Lubavitcher Rebbe's kiruv philosophy, no self-respecting Chabadnik would endorse a halachic dictatorship (or Iran-style "democracy"). Charedim are only about 10-20% of the population now, and already "new charedim" -- those who don't follow the extremist gedolim, have doubts about da'as torah and are unashamed to work for a living -- are growing in numbers and confidence. There are even charedi political parties that aren't run by a committee of sages. It is only a matter of time before they have their own gedolim, and political philosophers for that matter. Basic civil liberties (freedom of speech, religion, etc.) and democratic governance (free multi-party elections) are so obviously necessary to have a tolerable and functional society that eventually pragmatic charedim will endorse them, and at least large chunks of the charedi masses, in the anonymity of the voting box, will vote for these moderates. Since Hashem sends us everything for a reason, it's only reasonable to conclude that He sent us regimes like the USSR, Iran and Taliban-run Afghanistan to show us NOT how to run a society.

Chareidi said...

However it is incomparible with taking any action concerning Chilonim. As per the condemnations of Democracy, which has enabled the unprecedented flourishment of Torah study across the free world, assisted by government welfare, these pronunciations are intended for internal consumption only, to bolster the faith of the believers. 

Chareidi said...

incompatible. Typo.

Y said...

Another thing to keep in mind is that there will be a period, of at least a decade or more, in which orthodox Jews are the majority in Israel, but charedim are not. During that period, there will probably be coalition governments between the dati leumi and charedi parties. It is hard to imagine that after having served together in coalition governments for a decade or more, charedi parties would impose a dictatorship that their former coalition partners would fiercely oppose. The transition to a charedi majority will happen slowly, and there is plenty of time for cooperation with other sectors and other moderating influences to take hold.

Big Maybe said...

Shlomo, you aren't reading what Avraham wrote. Your comment is not a response, so please don't enter it that way.

YH said...

1. You are forgetting about our thousand year reign of kings that was not 'disastrous'. Have you ever heard of Plato's 'philoshopher king"?
2. I assume you believe in the commandment 'som tasim...' It appears you got confused with a medrash you picked up!
3. mixing up democracy with sanhedrin is ridiculous! It is exactly the point - your vote cannot be counted unless you meet certain criteria. Ignorant farmers should vote only about matters they can understand.
4. do you mean to say that Deism is any less from the bible than christianity?!
6. morality comes from Sinai. Where else?!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Shapiro,

Disregarding the rest of the post, you made a bit of an unexpected blunder in reading R. Elchonon. R. Elchonon wasn't speaking at all of democracy as a practical form of government. He was speaking about those who thought that it was the salvation of mankind, the beginning of a Messianic type of era which didn't require the Torah or Hashem. That is what he was referring to when he said they made it into their avodah zarah. Pretty clear-cut. His other writings abound with this sentiment vis a vis communism, socialism, and every other -ism that was elevated to the status of a redemptive movement.

Mr Messy said...

Dr Shapiro,

You don't like the idea that hareidim might suggest that chilonim should not be given medical treatment on Shabbos or that giving that bad advice and refusing them tips is acceptable. You don't like the interpretation of tinok shenishbah given by some hareidim.

And I do not like the idea myself. But I also do not like the idea that the only reason to give a non-Jew medical treatment on Shabbos is mishum eivah. I do not like the idea that it ok to give bad advice to or refuse tips to non-Jews or to even a mumar who has been brought up Orthodox but does not believe in God. Sure the interpretation of halacha given by some hareim is obnoxious but deep down isn't the halacha problematic anyway?

Marc said...

<span>I am aware of this, but I am still shocked by his language, because it seems that he doesn't see any significance in democracy whatsoever. I would think that a system that gives people freedoms that they never had before is indeed somewhat "messianic" (with a small "m")</span>

Anonymous said...


<span>regarding democracy i think you are being unfair. most of the sources can be understood as referring to the spirit of permissiveness which arises from democracy not on the ideals of democracy
regarding r adler you would be surprised how much outrage has been voiced in the hasidic and yeshiva world about many of his conclusions, and complaints about sources and methods, and it would be unfair to lump everybody in the same category</span>

Anonymous said...


I don't believe that there was outrage about R' Adler's methods and sources. After publishing his work, he received a few letters with halachic comments, and those which were justified were included in his next edition. He is a kindly, agreeable talmid chochom who sits quietly on a small moshav in Israel learning Torah day and night, and writing halachic works. He is a typical member of the litvish haredi world. He has no ax to grind, and merely summarized what exists already in halachic literature, althogh when there is a machlokes he wrote as a conclusion what he truly feels is correct according to the prevalent halachic process. He wasn't looking to arrive at the conclusions which he did.</span>

AryehS said...

1. In what way was the kingship not disastrous? It lasted for a few kings until there was a huge split, lots of rebellions, and constant wars. Evil kings were setting up idols and commanding the people to bow down to them. Can we look at how the Navi describes these stories and see a glorification of kingship??

2. "Som tasim" is subject to a huge debate whether it is a kum v'aseh, or a kiyum mitzvah if people desire a king. Look at the context of the psukim. Realize that the people did not, in fact, appoint a king until much, much later after they were living in Israel. Please read Shmuel Aleph 8 and tell me if having a king was considered a good thing.

3. How do people become dayanim? Only when they are accepted by the people. The people give them power. That is democracy. In effect, they are what we would call Congress. We elect those who go to congress, and they are the ones who actually vote.

4. What is wrong with your dictionary?? Deism believes that God exists but doesn't interact with mankind at all. That is not Biblical.

5. What?

6. Morality precedes Sinai. "Shall the Judge of all earth not judge justly?", or "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Kayin was wrong).

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