Friday, July 31, 2009

Ma Rabbu Ma'asecha Hashem

True, some of this is pretty gross, but how anyone can see this kind of stuff and attribute it to evolution boggles the mind!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Score one for the boss! (I work p/t fpr AS)

Tisha b'Av and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Tisha b'Av and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

...a disorder in which a person deliberately causes injury or illness to another person,
usually to gain attention or some other benefit. (Wikipedia)

Completely separate from the issue of whether the mother in the episode that is ongoing in Yerushalayim is obsessed by MSbP or not, is the question of the message that Hashem is trying to send us by having had this episode unfold specifically in Bein HaMetzarim.

The answer is rooted in the Cheit HaMeraglim, the “original sin” of Tisha b'Av in which all the day's later tragedies are rooted. What was the cause of that sin? As I heard many years ago from Mori v'Rabi Rabbi Shimon Zelaznik zt”l, the Zohar HaKadosh explains that, great individuals that the Nesi'im who were sent to be the Meraglim were, they were concerned that upon entering Eretz Yisroel all Jews would be holy and lofty, and their nesi'us would no longer be necessary. This negi'a led them to mistakenly conclude that it would be better – not only subjectively but even objectively – for Am Yisroel to remain outside of the Land of Israel, so as to benefit from the leadership of the Nesi'im.

Thus, the Meraglim deliberately attempted to inflict the terrible injury of the loss of Eretz Yisroel upon Am Yisroel – in order for them to retain the attentiveness of the people to their leadership and direction. In short, the Meraglim were guilty of the sin of MSbP. Rather than seek to retain their status by elevating themselves, they sought to retain their superior status by degrading others.

This is the yesod ha'yesodos of Sinas Chinam. What is the difference between your everyday, plain old Sinah and Sinas Chinam? There are people that I am entitled to hate – say, a Haman or a Hitler. But Sinas Chinam means that I hate someone who I really have no reason to hate, and who is not deserving of hate (see the Siddur Otzar HaTefillos on Al cheit she'chatanu lefanecha b'Sinas Chinam). The problem is, that this may make him my equal, and my ga'avah and kavod will not allow me to see anyone else as my equal (as my better, perhaps yes – that's a different story, but not as my equal!). So I seek to retain my superior status by degrading him. Sinas Chinam=MSbP.

Societies can self-define in two different ways: By who they are, or by who they are not. They can say: “We are different because we have a certain superior aspect;” or they can say: “We are different because they have a certain negative aspect.” At first glance, these might seem like two sides of the same coin, but they are not: When we define ourselves by what we are not, we accentuate their flaws. This approach has two pretty negative corollaries: Complacency (i.e., just by me being me I'm the greatest, so there is really no need for me to change anything, is there?) and dehumanization (i.e., those guys are such lowlifes that we obviously don't need to treat them with mentchlichkeit!). In short, societies that self-define in the latter manner are engaging in MSbP wholesale.

When frum Jews call non-frum or less-frum Jews “Erev Rav,” or “Nazis,” or “Amalek,” they are engaging in MSbP. They are defining themselves and rationalizing anything they might be doing by dehumanizing others. In fact, even if I just say: “Well they do the same thing, they're no better than us,” or charge them with maintaining a double standard (both of which may be perfectly true), I'm still guilty of MSbP: I'm not engaging in introspection to see if I'm worthy, or in and self-growth to become worthy, of attention and respect – I'm great, you've/he's got problems/issues; are anti-frum/anti-Charedi/anti-Modern Orthodox; are a self-hating Jew; are antisemitic; are a mosser.

Which leads us to the other messages that Hashem has sent us during this very unique Bein HaMetzarim:

First, the protests in Yerushalayim. Again, I am not getting into whether the protests are justified or not. But how could they have come to overturning garbage bins and setting them on fire, and to the wanton destruction of public property, etc.? Would these same people under the same circumstances have protested so violently in another country? I think we all know that the answer is, no. So why in Eretz Yisroel? MSbP. Because that segment of Orthodox Judaism has long defined itself by what it is not (“Tziyoinim,” “Mizrachistin,” etc.) and in the course of that self-definition they have succeeded in delegitimatizing and dehumanizing the State, its society, its institutions and its representatives to the point that they are unworthy of mentchlichkeit.

Second, the alleged criminal activity of the arrested Rabbonim and other Orthodox Jews. Again, I am not getting into whether they are guilty or not. Let us hope,even assume, that they are not. But in orchestrating the arrests in and of themselves, Hashem clearly intended to send yet another MSbP message. We bandy about catchphrases (usually irrelevant and misapplied!) such as Eisav sonei l'Yaakov or Atem keruyim Adam. Sometimes it's for a “worthy” cause – to caution us in regard to our public behavior, or to castigate the others' immoral behavior, etc. But this too is ultimately a manifestation of MSbP. We thus delegitimatize and dehumanize our non-Jewish neighbors (or kidney donors), which leads too often to dishonesty, fraud, racism, etc. So Hashem says to us: “Hello?! Is this what you think I meant when I told you to be a Mamleches Kohanim v'Goy Kadosh?! Do you really think this is being Ohr LaGoyim?!” So let's even stipulate that the crimes are all trumped-up charges (halevai!) – but do we seriously deny the middos problems that could lead to such crimes?

Third, the curious phenomenon of the focus on the heinous act of the moser. We have seen this focus exaggerated to such an extent that the message one might be excused for getting is that the real problem is the mesirah! It is reminiscent of the Gemara that states (not l'maskanah!): “It is not the mouse that steals, but the mousehole.” Again, let us stipulate that the moser is a rat fink of the lowest kind. But in essence, focusing on him is like saying that even if the crimes were (chas v'shalom!) committed, the real problem is that they were exposed. Is there any greater manifestation of MSbP?! Moreover, somewhat on a tangent, do we really think mesirah is such a problem amongst us that the Hashgachah made this happen to highlight that problem? And, by the way, I would like to propose a daherr: The Gemara says the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. In calling the missing guest “Kamtza” and the moser “Bar Kamtza,” it is evident that it was the matter of Kamtza that was the primary and major cause – the “Bar” (son of) Kamtza matter was but the secondary and minor cause.

The Torah itself alludes to MSbP. (By the way, we also suffer from Munchausen Syndrome in its non-by-Proxy strain, but that's not for now. And the book “The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen” is very engaging reading, but that's certainly not for now.). The way in which Munchausen is spelled in Hebrew (מינכהאוזן) equals 189 in gematria. This is equivalent to the words לא ימצא טוב in the pasuk (Mishlei 17:20): עִקֶּשׁ לֵב לֹא יִמְצָא טוֹב וְנֶהְפָּךְ בִּלְשׁוֹנוֹ יִפּוֹל בְּרָעָה. Of course, the person afflicted with MSbP will not find good in others – on the contrary, he will seek to accentuate the bad. Thus, 189 is also equivalent to the words ילעג למו in the pasuk (Iyov 22:19): יִרְאוּ צַדִּיקִים וְיִשְׂמָחוּ וְנָקִי יִלְעַג לָמוֹ, for the quest to accentuate the bad is in order to denigrate the other as an excuse for not focusing on building oneself. Finally, the 189th pasuk in the Torah (Bereishis 8:5) is the first pasuk in Tanach to reference the 10th month – the month of Av...

All of us are guilty of MSbP in some way or another. It's impeding the Geulah. Hashem has brought it out in the most blatant ways possible. What can we do about it?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Great Inyana d'Yoma Post on Havolim

and part 2:

Ben Brafman, tzum zach!

Wow! From a Yated Columnist!

New York - The Elephant in the Room

Published on: July 29th, 2009 at 11:58 AM
News Source: VIN News By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

New York - Agudas Yisroel sponsored an event last night in Borough Park entitled, “VeAsisah HaYashar VeHaTov.” The conclusions of course were that the bottom line is that Chassidim and all Hareidi Jews should conduct their financial activities lawfully. Whether one is in business for himself, or works for someone else, or whether one is in the lofty field of AVodas HaKodesh, there is no excuse to cheat.

There is an expression known as “an elephant in the room” and clearly, even though the hall was packed there was a rather large elephant in that room. The expression means that there is an important and very obvious topic, which everyone present is thoroughly aware of, yet for some reason it is never discussed. It is too uncomfortable to discuss, and it will not be discussed.

So what is this elephant? You can see it in virtually every comment that is posted on VIN News. You can see it on the labels of packaged kosher Heimish produced food. You can see it in the demographics of bank managers in Borough Park.

One Shabbos after I bought my first house I bought a number of packaged Heimish cakes to bring home. They were fairly good tasting cakes but my wife knew that it was out of character for me to buy packaged cakes. They were labeled “Spunch Cake” and were produced by a Heimishe bakery in Borough Park.

Go into any bank in Borough Park and you will see a bizarre reality. Of all the branches of every bank in the community there is only one Hareidi bank manager. There are no Hareidi tellers. Why is that?

The answer is quite simple and is also the never discussed elephant in the room. Chassidim cannot spell. As a general rule, Chareidi English skills are notoriously deficient at best, and completely non-existent at worst.

Our secular education in Borough Park, Williamsburg, Monsey, Kiryas Joel. Lakewood and the many other Charedi communities ends at 6th or 8th grade. Sure, sure, the system allows you to study for ninth grade regents examinations, but it is always optional. Usually, study time is limited to about thirty minutes and to a time when the other boys have their supper break. What kid wants to study for regents when every single one of his friends are running around eating and generally enjoying themselves? Teachers are present to help, but no instruction is given.

Some drop out immediately. Some drop out in tenth grade. And those are the better ones.

There is a Gemorah in Kiddushin which lists the obligations a father has toward his children. There are five obligations and it is debatable whether swimming is a sixth. The list, however, should not be a list that remains stagnant. As society and technology has changed, the too have the obligations. We should be teaching our kids how to get along in life so that they will be able to earn a parnasa and serve Hashem properly. We need to get with the program and in this case it means making sure that we have decent communication and writing skills.

As the situation stands now, the socio-religious atmosphere in Chareidi circles actually discourages education. Kollel Yungeleit are discouraged from leaving Kollel and even preparing for a Parnasa until they have a family to support. At that point, who has the time or money available to get an education?

Touro College has a program called the Parnasa Institute, and it is shameful that the people behind this initiative are not treated as heroes that are addressing a real social problem – indeed, a crisis.

Even in the Litvish world, our Roshei Yeshiva are not encouraging the Kosher programs that are available to their students for those that will not be entering Klei Kodesh fields, or even to have it as a backup plan.

Those in the Chareidi world who did enter the fields of medicine, accounting, or the job force in the general corporate world did so against all odds and despite our system of education – no because of it.

Some former yungeleit are, in fact, successful. They enter businesses of their father or father-in-law. But most do not have these options. One writer wrote in and explained how right out of Kollel he obtained a job in a medium sized company where the principals were Chassidish. After a few years he was laid off due to the economic crisis. He needed another position. To his shock the only positions available due to his lack of English skills were entry-level positions.

I quote from his letter below:

“The reason why I don't stand a chance at a decent job is simply, because the education side of my resume ends after 8th grade. No company would look at a resume for any worthy position with a (sic) education that doesn't even include any high school.”

Shlomo HaMelech tells us “Soneh Matanos Yichyeh” – one who disdains gifts will live. Rav Dessler zatzal interprets this verse as a philosophical recommendation for life. Let us always be givers and never be takers.

This is, of course, excellent advice but without an education we cannot step into the general workforce. Chareidim are forced to be takers – section eight housing, food stamps, wic, school vouchers and much more. And then come the challenges of maintaining our principles of honesty and integrity.

In stressing this point, a common and typical response is, “But there are thousands of people that have made a fortune without having an education! Bill Gates never graduated college. There are plenty of millionaire businessmen, many of them Chassidim that never had an education – and they fabulously successful!”

The answer to this is that it is true. There are many millionaires that did not have an education. But it is also true that there are many, many, people that never brush their teeth and have no cavities. Dentists cannot and should not deny this. However, it is also true that overall it is a terrible mistake not to brush your teeth and it is a terrible mistake not to get an education.

The stark conclusion is that we need to retool our entire education system and we need to retool it now. Our high schools have to teach English, writing and communication skills, and math skills. They have to do it and do it well. Our parent body has to demand it. They cannot be embarrassed about demanding excellence in education, either. Perhaps they should band together in groups and approach the principals of the schools with their desires.

Our elementary schools have to destroy the atmosphere that is pervasive in many chareidi elementary schools that English classes should be derided and abused. They are the life line that will vouchsafe the future honesty and integrity of our children.

This is the undiscussed “elephant in the room” that existed in the room last night. The problems addressed in the Agudah sponsored meeting will never be resolved until and unless the underlying causes are addressed.

The dire and terrible incidents of the past week should be viewed as wake-up call. We must act and act now. Perhaps another Asifash should be called. These issues are as important as any and they are necessary to ensure that our children have the skills necessary not only to thrive but to survive.

Just like in gardening one cannot resolve a weed problem by merely cutting the weeds in the middle. They must be pulled by the roots. So too must we resolve the underlying social problem in our system. We need to value the skills of communication, reading, and writing and to realize that education is the key to the future.

The author may be reached at

You can view this article online at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Interesing Article, Kind of an Obit on PAI

The Poalei Agudas Yisrael movement

Rav Binyomin Mintz was the founder of the Poalei Agudas Yisrael movement

Motty Meringer 07/06/2009 14:00
The Poalei Agudas Yisrael movement was founded for the purpose of addressing the needs and concerns of the chareidi worker. Whilst still based in the diaspora it fought its first battles for the rights of chareidi workers, and transplanted later to Eretz Yisrael the movement founded numerous organisations and settlements all across the country, in every location where chareidim had settled.

The ‘Poalei Agudas Yisrael’ movement (PAI) was originally founded as a branch of the Agudas Yisrael political party that was to cater specifically to the chareidi worker, but it later broke away from Agudas Yisrael and began to operate independently. Fourteen settlements in Eretz Yisrael were at one point associated with the movement.

The movement was founded in the year 5693 in the city of Lodz, Poland, with the stated objectives of encouraging chareidi business and fighting against the phenomenon of chareidim establishing business partnerships with gentiles, so that they could operate their businesses as usual on Shabbos and Yomim Tovim. Many chareidi Jews in Lodz joined the new movement, and it quickly spread to additional cities. Although the Agudas Yisrael movement was very active in protecting Jews in Poland, in general it refrained from opposing Jews who had formed partnerships with gentiles – it was in fact this point that was the source of many of the disputes between the two movements that occurred throughout the years. In the Thirties, unemployment soared among the chareidi population, as it did also among the general population, and Poalei Agudas Yisrael intensified its battles, until at one point, the disputes entered the walls of the batei knesses, and prevented the tefillos from commencing, finally, the Jewish manufacturers agreed to employ chareidi Jews in their businesses in place of their former gentile workers.

During this period, Rav Yehudah Leib Orlean hy’d, who was one of the founders of Poalei Agudas Yisrael, composed his essay ‘To the Satiated and to the Hungry’. In it, he wrote; “The phenomenon of lack of available employment and poverty is especially prevalent among chareidi workers, who are discriminated against simply due to their being chareidi. Not just non-Jewish employers, or even non-religious Jewish employers, but also even religious employers refuse to employ them in their businesses. These religious employers are simply driving away the religious workers, since they are unable to work on Shabbos, and in their place, they employ christian workers on the basis of a ‘document of sale’ [similar to the ‘Heter Mechirah’ used in Shemitta years, against which battles are still being fought today], and in this way they operate their businesses on Shabbos as during the week. Chareidi Jewry must now internalise that to conduct oneself in such a way, in which one makes a living at another’s expense, is a grave sin, and that mitzvos between one’s fellow man and oneself are beloved by the Creator no less than mitzvos between oneself and one’s Creator.” Later in his essay Rav Orlean attacked Agudas Yisrael for its lack of support of the struggle and its insufficient concern for the welfare of the workers. 

The initiator of the idea of establishing a movement was Rav Binyomin Mintz, who united the worldwide movement and was also a minister and a member of the Knesset as a representative of the party.

Rav Mintz was born and grew up in Poland where he associated himself with the Gerrer chassidus. In the year 5693, after he immigrated to Eretz Yisrael, he established, together with other activists, the Poalei Agudas Yisrael movement. When the Second World War broke out, Rav Mintz was one of the first to sound the alarm at the danger hanging over the heads of the Jews of Europe, and when the Vaad Hatzolah was founded in Eretz Yisrael he was one of its main activists.

On the twenty-fourth of Shvat 5709, following the establishment of the State of Israel, the first elections to the ‘Organised Gathering’, as it was then known, took place in the Holy Land. (Later it would be known as the Knesset haRishonah). In these elections all the religious parties competed under one banner, as the ‘United Religious’ list. The list was comprised of members of the parties of Agudas Yisrael, HaPoel HaMizrachi, Mizrachi, Poalei Agudas Yisrael and the Religious Union. This list gained sixteen seats in the Knesset, of which three were allotted to Poalei Agudas Yisrael. Their three Knesset members were Rav Avraham Yehudah Goldrot, Rav Kalman Kahane and Rav Binyomin Mintz. Rav Mintz was also appointed as chairman of the Knesset Committee of Internal Affairs.

In the elections to the second Knesset, Poalei Agudas Yisrael stood independently for election and gained two seats. In the two ensuing election campaigns, Poalei Agudas Yisrael ran together with the Agudas Yisrael party under the title of ‘the Religious Front for Torah’. In both of these elections, the list gained six seats, but during the term of the fourth Knesset, the two parties split, and each faction subsequently acted independently in the Knesset. During the fourth Knesset, Poalei Agudas Yisrael alone of the two parties decided to join the Mapai government headed by David ben Gurion, and Rav Mintz was appointed Minister of Communications. It was during his stint in this position that, on the 15th of Sivan in the year 5721, Rav Mintz was niftar. The settlement of Yad Binyomin which was established by the Poalei Agudas Yisrael movement as a central settlement for all farmers of the area of Shurak was called by this name in memory of Rav Mintz.

In the coming election campaigns, up until the eighth Knesset, Poalei Agudas Yisrael competed alone. In the elections to the eighth Knesset, another attempt was made at creating a combined Poalei Agudas Yisrael – Agudas Yisrael list, but again it ended in failure when, during the term of the eighth Knesset, the parties again split and Poalei Agudas Yisrael went its own way as an independent party. Therefore, Poalei Agudas Yisrael ran alone again in the elections to the ninth Knesset, but it only gained one seat – in the elections to the tenth Knesset, it failed to pass the threshold. In the elections to the 11th Knesset, Poalei Agudas Yisrael ran together with the Meitzad party which had been established by former members of the Mafdal, who had been disappointed with it – together they called themselves ‘Morashah’. This list gained two seats in the Knesset, but in the course of the Knesset’s term, the Meitzad representative Chaim Druckman returned to the Mafdal, and the remaining representative of Morashah, Rav Avraham Werdiger, renamed the party ‘Morashah – Poalei Agudas Yisrael’. Later still, he united his party with that of Agudas Yisrael.

Over the years, Poalei Agudas Yisrael aroused the opposition of the Gedolei Yisrael, the leaders of chareidi Jewry, such as the Chazon Ish zt’l, Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (the Steipler), Rav Eliezer Menachem Man Shach, and Rav Yosef Zev Soloveitchik zt’l, the Brisker Rav. The Brisker Rav dealt the organisation a crushing blow when he ruled that it was forbidden to vote for them.

Yet despite this formidable opposition of the Gedolei hador, there continued to be those who did support Poalei Agudas Yisrael, largely those living in peripheral communities, chareidi farmers and other religious manual labourers who found the stance of Agudas Yisrael too extreme. For such people, Poalei Agudas Yisrael seemed to be a suitable alternative.
The movement of Poalei Agudas Yisrael established many organisations in many towns all over the country. In areas such as Bnei Brak, Rechovot and Haifa, there are still synagogues standing that were set up by the movement. Poalei Agudas Yisrael even brought out its own journal, called ‘She’arim’ (Gates) which could be found in chareidi and other religious homes across the country.

Over the years, the political wing of the Poalei Agudas Yisrael movement represented a sizeable section of the chareidi and religious populations in Eretz Yisrael, who saw reflected in the party their own ideals and views. Today, however, the party is no longer operational, the organisations it established have shut down, the journal is no longer in existence and even the many synagogues it established no longer identify themselves with the movement, but are instead affiliated with the various kehillos within the towns where they are located.

Interesting Article! (Especially the Last Three Paragraphs)

Last update - 00:00 23/03/2006
United they stand - for now
By Yedidia Meir