Wednesday, 1 October 2025

Open Blog Format

This blog is meant to be a discussion, which might eventually lead to a self published book.

Please, send me any and all questions about the outline.
Please feel free to submit ideas or essays about any topic in the outline which will be posted as a guest post.
Do not by shy to comment about any of the topics in the outline

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Yori got fired for writing this

50 Thousand Haredim March So Only Other Jews Die in War By:

Yori Yanover Published: March 10th, 2014

They flooded downtown Manhattan with the anti-draft for Haredim message: everybody else is welcome to get themselves killed. What was even more astonishing was their honesty regarding the bankruptcy of their entire school of faith and study. Photo Credit: You Tube For the record, I believe the new Shaked-Lapid-Bennett draft law is by far worse than the one it came to replace, the Tal Law. Most importantly, because the Tal Law was getting results, without the idiotic, needless, divisive rancor generated by the new legislation. Killing the Tal Law, or, rather, issuing an edict that it had to be replaced by something that worked faster, was the parting poisonous gift of Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, protégé of that beacon of light unto the nations, Chief Justice Aharon (evil genius) Barak.

Since then we’ve seen one demonstration of a few hundred thousand Haredim against the new law in Jerusalem (but not a single day’s work was lost!), and yesterday, in downtown Manhattan, another 50 thousand Haredim marched to condemn the evil decree.

I went on the website to check out the rally, because I expected them to bring the authentic stuff. I wasn’t disappointed, even though they just lifted the AP story without attribution:

“We’re all united against military service for religious men in Israel because it doesn’t allow for religious learning,” said Peggy Blier, an interior designer from Brooklyn. “The Israeli government is looking to destroy religious society and make the country into a secular melting pot.”

Every single point made by Peggy Blier is a blatant lie. Of course the law allows for religious learning, it merely suggests that at some point—way past the age non-Haredim serve, and for half the time that normal Israelis give freely of their lives—”religious Jews in Israel” should participate in caring for the security of their country, or, if that’s too much, serve the equivalent time in vital organizations inside their own communities for their own neighbors.

That, according to Peggy Blier, is a conspiracy on the part of the Israeli government to destroy religious society.

Shmuel Gruis, 18, a rabbinical student from Phoenix studying at a Long Island yeshiva, said, “These kids, a lot of them don’t know how to hold a gun. They don’t know what physical warfare is.”

Are you kidding me? Have you ever been to a Shabbes demonstration? Those kids can throw a rock at police like born Palestinians.

“Their whole world and their whole lifestyle is peace and love and in doing mitzvahs,” he said.

OK, who can argue with that description of Haredi behavior? I’m sure non-Haredi women walking the streets of Beit Shemesh or boarding the bus in B’nei B’rak would attest to that pure goodness.

Some of the Hebrew prayers were led by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, a spiritual head of the Satmars living in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. If the IDF only enlisted the Satmar folks who ever participated in the clashes with the Satmar followers of the other spiritual head of Satmar, they could forge a most brutal and violent commando unit that would put to shame even the late Lee Marvin’s Dirty Dozen (and those included Telly Savalas and Trini Lopez).

Next Verena Dobnik, the AP reporter giving news content for free to Vosizneias, interviewed Yitz Farkas, a member of the Brooklyn-based True Torah Jews organization (step aside, all you False Torah Jews), who informed her that “The problem is, anyone who goes into the Israeli military becomes secular, and that would erase our whole tradition.”

I always enjoy that one. See, you and I are pretty sure the Haredi costume is just that – a costume, underneath which hides a regular Joe, with desires, even lusts, like you and me. The only thing that keeps Joe Haredi from going apecrackers is not the Torah he has learned and integrated into his personality as a shield against evil—it’s the long bekkesh, the velvet yarmulke and the shterimel. Take those away, and Joe Haredi will become a beast overnight.

That, essentially, is the main argument being advanced by the deans of Haredi yeshivas: We have no trust in the Torah we’ve taught our students. we know better. This is why the only means we have of keeping them in line are extreme social pressure and intimidation. You take those away and Joe will spring the trap and become a normal man, availing himself freely of the gifts of a modern society. We can’t afford that. If we do, as Yitz Farkas put it so eloquently, “that would erase our whole tradition.”

The word Haredim is based on Isaiah 66:5: “Hear the word of God, you that tremble at His word.” The “you that tremble” part in Hebrew is “Haharedim el dvaro.” Meaning that there’s urgency on your part to fulfill His word impeccably. It’s not about fear but about devotion.

But the post-Holocaust Haredi world is all about fear. Fear of new things. Fear of books. Fear of voices. And above all, fear that the education a young man receives during his 20 years in a Haredi yeshiva is worthless, because as soon as he encounters the outside world, those 20 years would vanish, melt away like Cholov Yisroel butter on a skillet.

What an astonishing degree of honesty regarding the bankruptcy of an entire school of faith and study.

You know, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was once asked how come he’s not afraid that his Shluchim, the emissaries he was sending out into the farthest and darkest corners of the Earth wouldn’t be tainted by the unholy stuff that surely awaits them there. He responded by citing the laws of kashering-cleansing a vessel in preparation for Passover: k’bol’o ken polto—the way the vessel absorbed the substance so it would let go of it. Meaning that, had the emissary remained clean in body and spirit during his training years, he has nothing to fear “out there.”

I miss him very much. This year marks the 20th anniversary of his passing, and his absence today is felt more than ever before. He would have devoted a segment of a Shabbat farbrengen to the draft bill, and it would have set the whole thing straight: these guys are right on this and wrong on that and vice versa. now go and behave like dignified yidden and stop attacking one another.

What a strange, low-key ending to a piece that began as an exhilarated attack on Haredi IDF bashing. I guess I got tired of it. We’re not going to change the Haredi leadership’s position, we just have to rejoice in a merciful God who made them, like the rest of us, biodegradeable.

(Click to Comment) 4 Responses to “50 Thousand Haredim March So Only Other Jews Die in War”

Margie Green says: March 10, 2014 at 12:27 PM I also miss "The Rebbe" In America there is "NO ONE TO TURN TO" I have tried to get help hr over the wrongful death of my son. I just got 2 replies from Israel

Log in to Reply Martin Michael Furman says: March 10, 2014 at 3:01 PM Those that do not adhere to their military call up should not be given any monies from the National Insurance, maybe when we get cleverer this will happen.

Log in to Reply Albert Karoll says: March 10, 2014 at 1:03 PM Perfectly stated!

Log in to Reply Heshy Friedman says: March 10, 2014 at 1:05 PM Thank you for saying what had to be said so eloquently.

Log in to Reply
Development and maintenance by Marc Gottlieb Creative Solutions | Log in

Related posts: Israeli Rebbes Against the Draft to Pitch their Tent in America

Yesh Atid Education Minister’s Ruling Challenging Lapid on Draft

Haredi MK Porush: Netanyahu Is a Dishrag, We’ll Avenge the Draft Law Close

Read more at:

Sunday, 15 December 2013

An overview Explanation of Halakhic Minimalism. (Topic: Only demand the bare minimum from other people. Demand the most from yourself.)

This post will soon be cross posted over at SettlerOfEmuna

What is Halakhic Minimalism? And why should you care about it?

With the concept of Halakhic Minimalism, we make a few base assumptions.

  1. The Jewish people are at their best when following Halakha.
  2. The more Jews following Halakha the better.
  3. Not every Jew in every place needs to behave in the exact same way. I.e There is no one true way to follow halakha.
  4. Every Chumra is a Kulah, and every Kulah is a Chumra. ("I'm not being meikil about eating on Yom Kippur I’m being machmir about pikuach nefesh." )

    Since the destruction of the first beit Hamikdash, there were less Jews in Israel than in any other country
or land in the world. Today however, the opposite is true. Because of our long exile, what this means is
that in Israel today, we have the largest collection of minhagim and interpretations of halacha all living
side by side together. The country, and the Jewish people in general, are divided among themselves.
In some places, this diversity of halachic thought creates a unique atmosphere, where members of the
community interact with one another, and most of the time, their differences are forgotten or ignored.
However, in most places, this is not the case. Instead, we divide ourselves up by one identifying feature
or another, and see most other Jews only as Kiruv opportunities for our own way of following Halakah.
The Goal of Halakhic minimalism then, is to give us all the tools, to create the ‘unique atmosphere’ that
in an ideal Jewish world, would not be unique at all. In those few and far between communities, where
Jews of all halakhic ways of life, are able to commingle, they are already practicing Halakhic minimalism.

    So what exactly is Halakic Minimalism? The term is not yet well defined, as only the Jewish people as a
whole will be able to properly define it, but, if forced, which I am, I would define it as this:

For every issue in Halakkah, there is a minimum requirement, a minimum cost, or a minimum impact on others. The job of the community is to enforce those minimums, accept those minimums, but also allow for others to expand upon them, as they desire for themselves.

   Before, getting into an example of how we might apply Halakhic minimalism today (I hope to do that in
a future post about Kashrut), let’s look at how we know what the Halkhic minimum is. The best way to
learn what the Halakhic minimum is, is to look at what the Halakhic minimum is not.


    The Kaarite Jewish community is famously known for taking a certain type of Minimalism. They profess
to follow only the written Torah. It would seem, that Kaarites, then hold of a Halakhic minimalism,
in which the Torah is the minimum framework with which they work with. However, a quick look at
Kaarite Judaism, will show that this is not the case. As we know, the Torah cannot be fully understood,
or followed on a practical basis without some sort of Oral Tradition. The Kaarites, then, are not Torah
minimalist, but rather offer an alternative “oral tradition”, and they have their own internal disputes as
well. We can learn from the Kaarite community, that a Halakhic Minium is not based on the Torah, or
Tanakh alone. The Oral Law is required as well.

Reform Judaism:

    The Reform Jewish community, is also famous for taking a certain type of Minimalism. In the Reform
platform, those halakhot which a person finds meaningful, or which are clearly aimed at improving
one’s moral character, or increasing justice in the world, are used as guidelines on how a Jew should
act. Those which a person does not gain meaning from, can be ignored. There are two problems with
this. One which is obvious to the Orthodox community, is that it removes the entire concept of Halakah.
You can’t have Halakhic minimalism, if you don’t even have Halakha, some basis is required. The other
problem is more subtle, and also more important. The past few hundred years, has shown us, that the
Jewish community as a whole just cannot tolerate this level of Halakha abandonment. Having a group
which accepts the Oral Tradition, but rejects the binding nature of even the most minimal components
of Halakha, splits the Jewish people in a way that cannot be easily mended. Reform Judaism teaches us
that a Minimal standard is required.

    So if we know that a minimum standard is required, and we know that the Oral traditions are required,
what is the minimal approach to Halakha?

Shulchan Aruch Judaism:

    I can hear some of you asking, “Shulcchan Aruch Judaism?? What the hell is that? Don’t you mean
Orthodox Judaism?” So, yes, and no. Since the Rambam wrote the Mishneh Torah, Halakhic Jews have
been trying to take the contents of the Misha, Tosefta, Talmud Yerushalmi, Talmud Bavli , Sifri, etc. and
put them into an organized, easy to read, easy to remember, code of Halakah law. If you want to know
what to do, you can look it up in the codex. These codexes have worked very well for the past centuries
for the Jewish communities they were written for. The Yeminites followed the Rambam, some groups in
Spain and Egypt followed the Rambam. Groups from northern and eastern Europe followed the Ramah,
those in the Middle East headed the words of R. Yosef Kairo. Chasidic groups have their own books of
law as well, such as the Shulchan Aruch Harav. As the Jewish people moved around, customs mixed,
and communities rose and fell, new code books were required, such as the Mishneh Berura.  It is interesting to note, that in many of these new books since the Shulchan Aruch, the process of  'best 2 out of 3' seems to be the norm. I refer to all of these different code books when I say “Shulchan Aruch Judaism”. The biggest common factor between all these books, is that they record what the customs and traditions of their communities were.

     Starting with the Shulchan Aruch, I would call these ways of codifying halacha as “Halakhic Maximalism”.
The shift of the Shulchan Aruch was the process of taking the best “2 out of 3” for any halakhic issue,
except for cases where the Ari’s understanding of the Zohar could be applied. This codification of
halakha has taken the Jewish people down a path that at one time made sense, but today, with the
complete mixing of the people, now seems to cause more harm than good. While once, Halakha was
decided by looking into the Talmud, and applying the principles to the situations of the day, now the
Talmud is learned only l’shma, and not for any practical purpose. Since the age of codification of Halkah,
the Jewish people have declined in observance of Halakhah. While 500 years ago, perhaps 80% of the
Jewish people felt bound to Halakah today, less than 20% do. What we can learn from Shulchan Aruch
Judaism, is that Halalkhic Maximimalism, or a one size fits all mentality, leads to less Jews on whom
Halakha fits at all.**  

    This is not the first time this has happened in Jewish History.  In the Book of Kings 1, chapter 12 verse 4, the leader of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, says to King Solomon's son, "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you."  The result of this request, was a "doubling down", and making the yoke even more harsh, causing the the Northern Kingdom of Israel, to reject Jerusalem, the line of David, and to put up idols directed towards no god in particular, and to make Cohanim out of  any tribe in Israel.  The Prophets tell us that in the future, they will return to a united Israel.  But if we act like Rehoboam, that will never happen.

Taking these three lessons together, we can define Halakahic minimalism.

  1. Halakha must be based on the Written and Oral Torah.
  2. The Minimal Halakhaic position, must not be so minimal as to be non-existent. It cannot survive as a pick and choose system. Rather, we will recognize the minimal requirements, even when in practice, we would rather go far beyond them.
  3. The Halakha must be clearly sourced in the Torah, Tanakh, Mishna, Talmud Yerushalmi, Talmud Bavli, Sifri or Tosephta. 
  4. We must try our best to include as many people’s practices into halakah rather than exclude.
  5. We must acknowledge the flexibility of halakhah, where it exists, (No amount of flexibility will allow us to eat a natural pig, or start a fire on Shabbat) within our own communities, not just in reference to some “other” community, that we don’t “hold by”.

** You can read an interesting analysis of Halackha here: and a response here:

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Reform Judaism (TOPIC: Right Idea, wrong method)

Today, I'm going to write something which will most likely upset everybody.  It has been 120 years, and the battle lines are clearly defined in everyone's mind.  They know to never cross the line.  If you are "Orthodox", the worst thing in the realm of halacha, is to smell of being "Reform".  If you are "Reform", the worst thing to do is to ever do something the way the "Orthodox" do it.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Reform movement, is the most "successful" of all Jewish movements.  However, considering the poor success of all Jewish movements, this isn't really very impressive.  For every Jewish movement, it is easy for the people who are not part of it to point out "where it went wrong."   It is also easy for us to look at the movement that we associate with, and point out "where it went right."  What is harder for us, is for the Orthodox to look at Reform and point out "where they went right" (pun not intended), or for the Reform to point to the Orthodox and do the same.  That however is the purpose of this post.

From the point of view of Halacha or halachic adherence, nothing is as damaging as Reform Judaism, outside of the Kaarites and Samaaritans1.  However, the fact is that most Jews in America who associate themselves with the Jewish religion, do so as Reform Jews, and more Reform Jews pass on reform Judaism to the next generation, then any other "sect" of the Jewish religion.  And so, I want to go through the Pittsburg platform (which most of is likely no longer relevant today) And point out that 90% of the things they wrote were actually correct. The 10% where they were mistaken, is actually the most important parts.  However, because of the 90% that they wrote, it has forever injured Halachic Judaism.

My source for the Pittsburgh platform is from here, I will assume it is correct.

The following points were agreed upon and became known as the Pittsburgh Platform:
1. We recognize in every religion an attempt to grasp the Infinite, and in every mode, source or book of revelation held sacred in any religious system the consciousness of the indwelling of God in man. We hold that Judaism presents the highest conception of the God­idea as taught in our Holy Scriptures and developed and spiritualized by the Jewish teachers, in accordance with the moral and philosophical progress of their respective ages. We maintain that Judaism preserved and defended midst continual struggles and trials and under enforced isolation, this God­idea as the central religious truth for the human race.
This first paragraph can be argued in "important" minor details and use of language. And that is precisely why it was written, to shift the idea of Gd, to that of "God in man", and to make claims about "Godidea" rather than Gd.  However, other than that it is my guess that this paragraph kept Reform Judaism within Judaism. Because of the principles of the Rambam, that Gd can not be defined by human language, I will, for the sake of Jewish Unity and using the principles of Halachic Minimalism, just say that this paragraph is "fine".   Nothing here to argue about.  The paragraph also seems to grant legitimacy to non-Jewish religious texts, but also here, as long as those non-Jewish religious texts preach the Unity of  a single Gd, that seems to be ok within Halacha.
2. We recognize in the Bible the record of the consecration of the Jewish people to its mission as the priest of the one God, and value it as the most potent instrument of religious and moral instruction. We hold that the modern discoveries of scientific researches in the domain of nature and history are not antagonistic to the doctrines of Judaism, the Bible reflecting the primitive ideas of its own age, and at times clothing its conception of divine Providence and Justice dealing with men in miraculous narratives.
Here to, except for the language, and saying "the primitive ideas", the paragraph is mostly correct.  If they were more interested in the unity of the Jewish people, perhaps instead of writing "the Bible reflecting the primitive ideas of it's own age", they could have instead written, "the Bible was written principally for the people of it's own age, and was written "in the language of man".  Ofcourse, because this led to a general delegitimization of the Torah and Halacha, culturally, within orthodox Judaism this idea was "purged." For many Halachic Jews, the writings of Radak, Rambam, and Ibn Ezra on this topic are largely ignored. The logic appears to be, that since Reform Judaism started with this platform, we must protect against it, lest it lead to a laxity in Halacha.  As far as I can tell from my research, it was at this point in History, that the arguments between the Chasidim and Misnagdim ended, and the Chasidim "won", with most of the Litvish world, being unwilling to risk their students becoming "Reform."  While the Haskalah in general, normally gets the credit for this, if one looks at the timeline, they will notice that the Haskalah was strong in 1797 when misnagdim managed to have the Russian government arrest 22 Chasidim.  (Though the platform is from 1885, these ideals had been behind the Reform movement since the 1820s)  The point here, is that until these beliefs, became associated directly with reduced halachic practice, "Orthodox" Judaism freely associated with either the Rambam or Ramban.  Afterwards however, only the Ramban was held as a communal norm in both America and Europe, requiring the creation of yet another movement,  "Modern Orthodoxy" or "Neo-Orthodoxy."
3. We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding only its moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization.
 This paragraph, and the next one, are the "10%" I spoke about earlier. These are the biggest problems, and yet they are also based on important truths of society, then and now.  Firstly, the first sentence is very important.  Halacha is the system which trains the Jewish people for it's mission and national life in Israel. In this they were 100% correct.  However, because the Reform movement, (despite the growing Zionist alyiot during that time) rejected the need or desire for Israel, as a land and a nation, they had a "logical reason" to reject Halacha.  The lack of belief in settling the land of Israel, or a future of the Jewish people within Israel, allowed for them to break with Halacha, when trying to adapt to modern society within a non-Jewish world.  (It is important to note that by 1937, the Reform Movement recognized the importance of Israel and corrected this historical mistake on their part)    However, the premise of their desire was correct.  The Jewish people were granted emancipation in Europe, and thus, since many halachot by that time, and many practices did not follow logically, and often felt to lack authenticity, Jewish people were assimilating and losing their Jewish identity.  The Reform movement rightly, wanted to reverse this trend.  However, because of their fatal mistakes, and a lack of proper tools,  they abandoned Halacha.  If I could go back in time, and alter the text and the thinking behind the text, I would suggest the following:

3. We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding above all, its moral laws and such ceremonies that elevate and sanctify our lives today. However, those laws and ceremonies which are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization must be taught and maintained, for the messianic era, when we will return to our national life in Palestine.
4. We hold that all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity, and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. They fail to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; their observance in our days is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual elevation.
Again, here was a key mistake.  I wish I could convince those people to write instead:

         4.  We hold that all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity, and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. We will therefore double our efforts to uplift our mental and spiritual state, so that these ideas will once again make sense to us. They fail to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; their observance in our days is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual elevation, and thus we will find ways to make these observances impress the modern Jew, searching for any source from which we can gain insight.

I suspect however, that this would not have been possible, since at that time the Jewish people were mostly strangers among the nations, rather than a nation of their own.

However, it should be recognized that the basic thrust of their paragraph was and likely still is, entirely true. The natural, rather than principled, changes and lack of changes within the Halachic Jewish community, has caused inconsistencies, and imperfect situations which requires each person to find their own logic or meaning in the mitzvot which we do or do not do today.  As a nation, our mental and spiritual state does not meet the needs of our mitzvot.  Different periods of the galut, made these inconsistencies more or less noticeable over time, but while we were in galuth, and while the beit hamikdash remains destroyed, these inconsistencies will always exist.  However, again, because of the fear of "Reform", and the lack of a national Jewish existence, we had been unwilling or unable to tackle these issues.  Today however, we have a national Jewish existence, and therefore, I feel confident that we have the tools, using a halachically minimal approach, to both address the needs of our current mental and spiritual states, and also to have the confidence and assurance, that by doing so, we will not be lost to assimilation.  As long as the halacha is our intellectual foundation, we can rely on the physical foundation of being the majority in our own nation, to support the needs of the people.
5. We recognize, in the modern era of universal culture of heart and intellect, the approaching of the realization of Israel s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice, and peace among all men. We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.
Here their fatal flaw is clearly stated. I do not think I need to go into this further.  But what I think should be noted, is the "fear" that crept into the orthodox world, of phrases such as "kingdom of truth", "social justice", "peace among all men".  (These phrases became replaced with "Torah true", "Jewish Justice", and "Peace in our homes" ) These ideas became associated with a rejection of halacha, rather than a fulfillment of it.  It should be noted however, that books such as "The Master Plan", and Tanach, make it clear that a "kingdom of truth, justice, and peace among all men", is in fact the goal of Halacha.  But for too long in our exile, the goal of halacha has been the perpetuation of halacha. Waiting for one day, being back in our national homeland.
6. We recognize in Judaism a progressive religion, ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason. We are convinced of the utmost necessity of preserving the historical identity with our great past. Christianity and Islam, being daughter religions of Judaism, we appreciate their providential mission, to aid in the spreading of monotheistic and moral truth. We acknowledge that the spirit of broad humanity of our age is our ally in the fulfillment of our mission, and therefore we extend the hand of fellowship to all who cooperate with us in the establishment of the reign of truth and righteousness among men.
Ironically, this is almost a direct summary of the position of the Rambam.  Again, a great Jewish idea was "lost" for generations among the majority of "Orthodox" Jews.  I wonder how many Orthodox Jews today would fully support this message if they were not told of it's source, or if they were told that the source was a person whom they respected.
7. We reassert the doctrine of Judaism that the soul is immortal, grounding the belief on the divine nature of human spirit, which forever finds bliss in righteousness and misery in wickedness. We reject as ideas not rooted in Judaism, the beliefs both in bodily resurrection and in Gehenna and Eden (Hell and Paradise) as abodes for everlasting punishment and reward.
This paragraph is important, both correct  and severely flawed.  To me, it is not clear if this paragraph is a response to Christianity, or a response to the beliefs of Jews at that time.  But everything in the paragraph, save the line about the bodily resurrection, is correct.  Gehenom, and Eden are not places for everlasting punishment or reward.  Ironically, it is only because of a bodily resurrection, that Eden is not everlasting.  On the other hand, a sophisticated understanding of a "techei Hamatim" does seem to be absent in our modern era.  Everyone has their own pet theory and understanding, but there does not seem to be a single understanding that all followers of Halacha can rally behind.
8. In full accordance with the spirit of the Mosaic legislation, which strives to regulate the relations between rich and poor, we deem it our duty to participate in the great task of modern times, to solve, on the basis of justice and righteousness, the problems presented by the contrasts and evils of the present organization of society.
What a great goal and desire!  Such a shame that it has been surrounded by cynicism and viewed as a rejection of Judaism and/or Halacha!   If there was only one change to Reform Judaism that I could have made, it would have been to remove this from the platform!  Perhaps then, all Jews, Reform or Orthodox, or any other movement, would all be involved in fixing society for all people, as the prophets instruct us to do.  Instead however, these catch phrases have become rallying points, and phrases of identity.  You are either on the team of social justice, or you are not. Each cause, and each action is not evaluated on it's own merits, but based instead on which "group" this now aligns you with.  By maintaining a halachically minimal standard, with each group or movement maintaining their own humrot, we can judge everything on it's own merrit, rather than the group it is align with.

I hope I have demonstrated, that just three mistakes: The rejection of Halacha, The rejection of the land of Israel, and the rejection of a messianic future, have caused damage to both Jewish Unity, and the ideas and practices of people who would otherwise consider themselves Jews who follow Halacha.  While also demonstrating, that acknowledging reality, and the world we live in today, and the ideals of the Torah, can unite us, and bring all the Jewish people towards one goal, which will not only help us, but help the world as well.

1 Food for thought.  Why didn't what happened to Karaism and Samaritanism happen to Reform Judaism?

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Halakhik minimalism and Open Orthodoxy

"Open Orthodoxy" has been in the news a bit lately.  And I was recently pointed to this well written article by one of it's "founding members"

I think the differences between "Open Orthodoxy" and what I call "Halachic Minimalism" is important, and also demonstrate many of the principles, of having a minimal framework for Halacha that all can work with.  Many people might think that Open Orthodoxy and Halachic Minimalism are really two names for the same concept, but in reality, they are worlds apart.

Firstly, some important things to point out.  Shmuly Yanklowitz's article on open orthodoxy is different from some of his other articles in one key way, it doesn't go into details.  Which means, if you read the comments, people point out that his "open orthodxy" doesn't just use Halacha to inform his social justice (as I think it should) , but also his ideas of social justice influence his halacha. (which I find problematic, but halachic minimalism should not)  Mainly, in regards to his public statement that maybe we don't need the Temple anymore, and mourning it is a bad practice, as well as creating what he calls "Vegan tefilin" which just means, making tefilin out of animals that died naturally, rather than using a cow which was slaughtered to be eaten.

And this is where "Halachic Minimalism" kicks in.  I will admit that I'm not aware of all the relevant sources, but I imagine, that I could not find even one, which suggests that the Beit Hamikdash is not needed, or will not be needed in the future.  Numerous halachot and minhagim center around the mourning of the loss of the temple, not just the loss of life which happened at that time.  (i.e. breaking the glass at the wedding, which even the most liberal weddings still seem to have.)  From the standpoint of Halachic Mimamlism, one must stand up and say "We miss the temple, not just what it represents"

On the other hand, the "vegan tefilin" are halachically 100% kosher. One might be worried, that it's based on an attitude, that killing an animal, even if for a good purpose, (the fullfilment of a halacha) is something to be avoided.  People who feel that way would have "what to rely on" as they say.  There are many sources which declare that using animals for good purposes, is a worthy goal, not just an allowance.  However, no matter what is motivating the decision, the fact remains that Vegan Tefilin are 100% kosher tefilin.  One who supports Halachic minimalism can not stand up and say, "We must have kosher shechitah for our tefilin", but what they can say is that "I want my tefilin made from an animal which was slaughtered via shechitah, and is not a neveilah"  That is the right for every Jew, to fulfill the halachot in a way that makes most sense to themselves.

What was very telling to me in the comments of the article I linked to at the top, is that there was an effort to discredit "Open Orthodoxy", not based on the premise of Open Orthodoxy ("social justice") but rather they wanted to know, if Open Orthodoxy lead to any ideas or behaviors which were not allowed.  In my view, this is entirely the wrong approach.  The correct approach is to say, "Open Orthodoxy sounds good", or "I don't like the idea of Social Justice, and therefore open orthodoxy sounds bad.", or "Centrist Orthodoxy does social Justice just fine.".  And then, on the particulars of the Temple, or Vegan Tefillin,  or Torah not from Shemayaim, one has halachic conversations about those details.  The movement as a whole, does not need to be attacked on the particulars of a mitzvah.  Better to support the movement, and argue that where they advocate things which violate halacha, that those things be corrected.  Sometimes the premise of a movement does in-fact violate halacha, but even then, perhaps there is room to rework the premise in such a manner so that it does not.

Friday, 18 October 2013

TOPIC: Power of Haredim by looking more numerous than they are. (Uniforms are Powerful Things)

Uniforms are Powerful Things

As I mentioned in a previous post, the make up of the Jewish people today does not speak well for Judaism.

If you do a google image search for the word "Jew" what you mostly see are what we call "Black Hat" Jews.  Jews that wear a uniform.  However, this image of a "Jew" is less than 300 years old.  Jews have been around for well over 2,000 years, and yet the literal image we have as Jews is really rather new.   This stereotype of a Jew however, is entirely inaccurate.  "Black Hat" Jews, are about 7% of the Total Jewish population.   Meaning, if you pick a random male Jew in the world, you have a 93% chance, that this person will not be wearing a black hat or jacket, and yet, for many people, the image of a Jew is exactly this type of person.

Ah, you might be thinking to yourself, that this is just because all the other Jews have assimilated, or don't study Torah, or aren't real Jews in the first place.    However, this is not true either.    Of those people who study in Yeshiva, only roughly 44% of them, will be wearing a black hat or jacket.      Meaning, you are more likely to see Jews with this on their head:

Than with this on their head:

Though in reality, your average Jew will likely have
 on their head:

Ok, fine cute, but what's my point?  My point is that uniforms are powerful things.  Because we see many people wearing the same clothing, or type of clothing, our prejudices, lump them all into a single group.  We also assume, that this group is monolithic in one way or another.    Most people will assume that all "black hat" Jews have the same philosophy and outlook towards Torah and Judaism.  Of course anyone who has ever worn a black hat, knows that this isn't true.   Just as nobody would make any assumptions about the people who wear "Nothing" on their head, also, we can't make any assumptions about the people who wear the black hats on their head.   

Some of you are thinking to yourself, yeah we know all this, so really what is your point?  Uniforms are powerful things.  Roughly 1500 years ago, the leaders of the Jewish community in Bavel, tried to put a Uniform onto the Jewish people.  However, rather than choosing a particular mode of dress, the leaders of Bavel decided that all Jews needed to follow the same halacha.  However, this was not always the case.  In the Jerusalem Talmud for example, we have many examples of Rabbis being perfectly accepting of the fact that some Jews in other parts of the country, were willing to behave different, than they behaved in their own area.  The most shocking example to Jews today, would likely be that given in both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, that the students of Rabbi Yose Hagalil would eat chicken cooked with animal milk.  The desire for a halachic "uniform" has waxed and wanes over the various centuries, sometimes it was very important, and other times it was not.  During the late middle ages for example, we find that Jews of Italy and Jews of Germany were perfectly happy living very distinct Jewish life styles.  On the other hand, during parts of the geonic period, we find some very nasty things said about a certain Hagadah, that until the Cairo geniza was discovered, was assumed to be a hagadah from a Kaarite Sect, but which we now know to be the Hagadah from Eretz Yisrael.

This need for Jewish Uniformity, rather than Jewish Unity, has IMO caused the current situation we have.  There were times in Jewish history where Jewish Uniformity has saved the Jewish people.  However, the Talmud Bavli is very clear, that this desire for Jewish Uniformity, is also what lead indirectly to the destruction of the beit Hamikdash. (-Talmud Bavli, Gittin 55-56)  Despite the desire we have for Jewish Uniformity in Halacha, the fact is that today Halachic Jews are very fractured*.  I believe, that if we push for a Halachic Minimalism, we can create Unity rather than Uniformity, yet still, we can benefit from the power of Uniforms.

The key to this unity, is in a grass roots effort, for everyone to learn and understand what exactly are the minimal halachic requirements.   And to then respect and accepts all the different self defined groups that will in the end be created or continued, recognizing that those Jews too, follow at least a Halachic minimal.  And not only to accept that "others" behave that way, but also to accept that if put in a less than ideal situation, you too can behave that way.   However, it is also important to recognize that his is a very hard and difficult task because, as I stated earlier.  Uniforms are powerful things.

* If asked which book is the main source of halacha today, answers will range from the Talmud,Mishne Torah, Shulchan Aruch, Mishna Bruah, Yalkut Yosef, Shulchan Aruch Harav, Kitzur shulchan Aruch hayi matim, varous halachic works from various chasidic rebbes,  the teshvuot of  "my rabbi", or,  "the Teshuvot of the Gedolim".  (And there are others, and of course, they all have contradictions witch each other in one place or another)

Friday, 11 October 2013

TOPIC Pharisees “won” because the “masses” followed it: (Doesn't it bother you that Judaism isn't Agile?)

Doesn't it Bother You that Judaism isn't Agile?

On the day that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef passed away, my secular co-worker (in computer programming) asked me a simple question. He asked what I thought of the Rabbi, and asked why he was so well known and respected.  His main reason for asking this, was because of recent statements said by the Rabbi which seemed to be racist or ignorant.   I gave a fairly canned answer on the topic, my own feelings being a bit torn, to which my co-worker then very insightfully asked me,  "Doesn't it bother you that Judaism isn't Agile?", I responded with a confused look on my face, and then he explained.

In our business of creating computer software, "agile" has proven to be a very effective method, of creating profitable and popular businesses.  What exactly is agile and what isn't is debatable, but one thing that everyone agrees on, is that agile responds to the market quickly and effectively.  You create something, you test it, you respond to the results of the test.  Nothing is assumed, everything is verified.  It works very well for what it's intended to do.  By contrast, he explained, Judaism is revered by adherence to old information. We, and this is especially true with halachic minimalism, look back to the oldest texts as being the most authentic.  The closer to Moshe, the closer to the times of the Beit Hamikdash, the more trusting we are of what we read.  There are no tests, no means of verifying what brings people closer to Hashem, or brings unity to the Jewish people.

I had two responses to this question.  One is simple and practical.  The difference between agile software, and Judaism, is that agile software it trying to make money and to be popular.  It's goals are well defined. The values of the system is not questioned.  The values date back and are taken as an assumptions.  The same is true of Judaism.  Talmud Torah isn't just about learning what is authentic, it is learning how to take certain values, and to apply them to all areas of life.

The second response to this question, is this blog.  The truth is that Judaism does need to become more Agile.  The truth, is that up until about 200 years ago, Judaism was one of the most agile religions on the planet.  Actions, not beliefs is what defines a Jew.  Actions are the ultimate "test", the ultimate verification of our assumptions.  Sure, a value like celibacy might sound holy it might even make one feel good about themselves.  It might bring a person on an individual level very close to Gd.  But in the real world, it's a value that fails most tests. You can not pass on celibacy to the next generation. It is not a value that the entire population can uphold.   If you read enough Jewish books, just about every idea is floated at one point or another.  Some have stuck with the Jewish people, some have not.  

However, the Jewish community at some point, began to stop being agile.  In the Talmud we are told, that if there is a question about what is correct, go out to the people and see what they do.   At other times, we are told the gathering of the masses is  glory to Gd.  Still again, we are told that the seal of Gd is Truth.  However, there came a time, that rather than viewing people leaving Judaism, or seeing the failure of the community to uphold our values and standards, as being a clear criticism of our society, we viewed those who left as bad, wrong, or not really Jewish to begin with.

We now living in a world where over 70% of the Jewish population are unaware of the value of Shabbat. 60% see no reason for Kashrut. The Torah, which told the world to protect the strangers, orphans and widows, is seen as irrelevant for these values by the vast majority of those who subscribe to them.  In my view the reason for this situation, is because too much of what people believe to be Judaism today, are not things found in the Talmud.  You will not find any JCCs mentioned in Tanach.  There are no Kashrut organizations within the pages of the Talmud.   You will find no mention of a uniform which all Jews must ware every day of their lives in any page of the Torah.   Some of the innovations in Judaism are tested and work well, others give cause for Jews "step away."   However, by going back to the core. By looking into the Tanach and the Talmud for our values, and our values actualized in practice, we can find a common core which all Jews can be taught to try, and evaluate.   There are too many layers of chaff, and husks around the kernal of Torah Judaism today.  Too many things which do not matter, which exist only to separate one type of Jew from another type of Jew.  And do not think that any current stream, brand, or method of Judasim today is working as intended.  The most successful form of Judaism today is the one that doesn't have any cohesion, the "unaffiliated".

So yes, it does bother me that Judaism today is not agile, and I believe that going back to our roots, and looking at true halachic minimalism, will help bring Jews together in our mission to be an "Am Kadosh", as our founding was intended.