Monday, June 22, 2020

Rischa Daraiisa-24-Spurning Dveikus -Is Diaspora Jewry making excuses for not fulfilling the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel?

Rischa Daraiisa-24-Spurning Dveikus -Is Diaspora Jewry making excuses for not fulfilling the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisroel?

Season 1Ep. 24

Rabbis Kivelevitz and Bechhofer -respond to listeners' comments and critique of Rischa Daraiisa 23 where halachic and sociological rationale was offered for not moving to Eretz Yisroel.

The conversation becomes quite heated with the Rabbis arguing over the meaning of the Ramban and Rabbeinu Chaim Kohen's positions.

Whether Rav Moshe Feinstein's defense of the Rambam's reason for not counting Yishiv Eretz Yisroel as a Mitzvah, is considered a sufficient explanation for the entrenchment of Diaspora Jewry is similarly debated.

The Rabbis agree on why Tzitzis,despite being a Mitzvah Kiyimus ,has been virtually accepted as if it is binding on all males.

Kivelevitz elaborates why a similar mindset has not taken root for living in Eretz Yisroel.

Bechhofer's insistence on a person pursuing the status of a Mashpia,and staying in the place where they are being marbitz Torah, is countered by Kivelevitz by the examples of Rav Elyashiv Zt''l and Rav Chaim Kanyevski Shlita who shunned public positions.

The pair discuss the differences and risks between youthful and older immigrants to Eretz Yisroel with scientific data indicating how risky a move at a later age can be if not buoyed by support from an institution or a healthy retirement fund.

Bechhofer puts Kivelevitz on the defensive for being evasive and equivocal in his own explanation of why he hasn't picked up stakes and headed Mizrach,at one point comparing him to former President Bill Clinton.

He further assails him for harboring over romantic delusions of grandeur for thinking that he would have written important scholarly works had he lived in Eretz Yisroel through the years.

Kivelevitz reminds his co-host how the ultimate imperatives of constant Torah study and Dveikus to God are more accessible in that environment.and how he is certain that he would have discovered kindred spirits and mivakshei daas who shared his love of honest textual analysis.

Reading from his letter to another listener,Kivelevitz states, "...despite the ugly polarization that seems to perpetuate exponentially into the social fabric of the Medinah,a strong unifying sense of shared victim hood consistently rises to the top during crisis and reveals greater bonds.....cogent Limud HaTorah will always shatter partitions and make externals irrelevant..."

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Sunday, June 14, 2020

Rischa Daraiisa-23-Should the Pandemic and Social Upheavals in the United States spur massive Immigration to Eretz Yisroel

Rischa Daraiisa-23-Should the Pandemic and Social Upheavals in the United States spur massive Immigration to Eretz Yisroel

After listening to this episode-please send in your opinion to whether the Rischa Team could thrive in Eretz Yisroel having a larger impact than staying in the United States.

There have been many calls for viewing the last few months as a clarion call for Mashiach.

The strident columns penned by Rabbi Chananyah Weissman calling for Jews in America to plan their evacuation from the U.S.and begin resettlement in EretzYisroel have been widely circulated.

Weissman,on the heels of the recent social unrest and protests wrote a passioned histrionic piece entitled

"Why do Orthodox Jews want to stay in America?",warning of the dismantling of the safeguards of society to the peril of the Bnei Yisroel.

(The full text can be found at Orthodox Jews against Discrimination and Racism.)

Both Rabbis Kivelevitz and Bechhofer dismiss Weissman as an extremist, and instead discuss calmly if the forced lockdowns and weakening of schools should push younger persons who are able to plan their Aliyah.

Rabbi Bechhofer succinctly reviews the Halachic opinions if one is bound to move to Eretz Yisroel,now that free immigration is offered to all Jews.

He claims persons who are engaged in important Harbatzas HaTorah and are thriving have no responsibility to forsake their life calling to merely subsist without honor in the Holy Land.

Rabbi Bechhofer asserts that both he and Kivelevitz would be considered men of mere average ability in the midst of the towering scholarship that flourishes in every corner of Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak.

Furthermore due to their eccentricities,they would never find a following or create a successful Yeshiva in the highly polarized judgmental atmosphere that permeates the country.

Kivelevitz thinks Bechhofer is selling himself short,and points out that the activities both of them are managing in America hardly qualify as crucial work on behalf of the less learned of our people.

He cites the example of many Rabbis who adopted the strict mores of dress that was expected of them in Eretz Yisroel,yet remained true to their essence.

They were capable of disseminating their unique approach in that environment to truly appreciative knowledge loving students and chaverim .

Those Rabbanim submitted to the small minded dress expectations, yet gained in self fulfillment.

Why not two sixtyish red headed fellows like themselves?

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Sunday, June 07, 2020

Rischa Daraiisa-22-Reprimanding and upbraiding a Racist Rabbi

Rischa Daraiisa-22-Reprimanding and upbraiding a Racist Rabbi

Season 1Ep. 22

Rabbis Kivelevitz and Bechhofer stridently condemn the opinion piece published by Rabbi Moshe Ben Chaim

in his on line magazine.

Ben Chaim's essay,which Kivelevitz deems a screed,displays great insensitivity and recycles standard condescending racist attitudes. Ideas,both Rabbis insist,that need to be stamped out and denied a public forum.

Rabbi Bechhofer describes the racist attitudes that still prevail in his home town of Monsey in the populace and in the police as part of the larger ugly prejudice in our country.

Kivelevitz believes Bechhofer hasn't gone far enough,and while condemning the violence protesters have unleashed against police and private property,cites the instructive opinion essay penned by David Remnick and the approach offered by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. when he addressed the American Psychological association In September, 1967 in understanding social unrest and vandalism.

"Urban riots", King said, “may be deplored, but . . . they are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest.” Even looting, he insisted, is an act of catharsis, a form of “shocking” the white community “by abusing property rights.”

King quoted Victor Hugo to deepen his point: “If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”

Kivelevitz goes further in calling for education beginning at the youngest age in Yeshivos to breed tolerance acceptance and love for all mankind,including teaching the role slavery played in entrenching the odious attitudes that still filter in to our interactions today with persons of color.The Charedi schools remain neglectful in planting positive attitudes towards the African American wider community in their students.

Bechhofer attempts to see the fault lines for this development in the change of emphasis Rav Yitzchack Hutner

began in the 1950's when he rejected Rav Kook's inclusive agenda in favor of the Torah-only position of the Chazon Ish.

Hutner's Chaim Berlin produced many of the most important Jewish educators of the second half of the 20th century.

These administrators worked with blinders on,Bechhofer implies,and ignored the human compassion for others the Torah emphasizes.

Kivelevitz is quite skeptical in assuming that the roots for such endemic distrust and enmity lie in such a subtle source.

He does however describe how his Yeshiva high school education was laced with vile anti African American attitudes,and he often heard degrading racial epithets in Ner Israel bandied about by the Rabbeim.

He describes his childhood in Memphis,living in a neighborhood that due to white flight had become predominantly African American.The lessons of friendship and commonality he gained from his pleasurable innocent interactions with neighbors was cemented and enhanced by his Eastern European refugee father's displays of benevolence towards the Kivelevitz's African American tenants.

The elder Kivelevitz instructed his son that they were victims who were caught in a grip of poverty and frustration.

Sadly,that harmonious attitude was drummed out of him by his immersion in the Baltimore Yeshiva.

The school's zeitgeist was rife with the residue of anger lingering from the mid 1960's when ruthless attacks were perpetrated on Yeshiva students on the Garrison Boulevard campus.

The Rabbis make a pitch to share the ideals espoused in the Facebook group Bechhofer formed

Orthodox Jews against Discrimination and Racism.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Beautiful Drosho by Rabbi Schaffel on Current Events

Parshas Nasso - 5780

Delivered by:

Rabbi Gershon Eliezer HaKohen Schaffel

Young Israel of Skokie

What an amazing week it has been. Just when we thought that we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and life would return to normal, we now face riots and chaos in our cities. I would like to share some thoughts about the current state of affairs. Not to enter into a political discussion but a discussion about our perspectives and a possible angle for us to consider. Before we get to that topic, let us begin with a thought from the parsha.

Chazal take note of the juxtaposition of two seemingly unrelated topics in this week’s parsha. The first topic is the sotah. A sotah is a married woman who was warned against going into seclusion with another man and she violated that warning so that we now have strong reason to suspect her of infidelity. In order to demonstrate her innocence and restore shalom bayis, she must drink the bitter waters. The next topic is the parsha of the nazir. The nazir is an individual who vows to refrain from consuming grape products, cutting his hair and having contact with a corpse. The nazir could vow to observe these restrictions for a month or longer. Following a successful term of nezirus the nazir cuts his hair, offers some korbanos and resumes normal life again.

Taking note that these two topics do not seem related, Chazal (Sotah 2a) wonder why, in fact, did the Torah place them next to one another. They answer that שכל הרואה סוטה בקלקולה – anyone who witnesses the disgrace of a sotah, יזיר עצמו מן היין – he will take a vow of nezirus and refrain from wine, שהוא מביא לידי ניאוף – because wine leads to promiscuity. In other words, the reason why the parsha of nazir is not presented in the general parsha of nedarim is that a vow of nezirus is the appropriate response to seeing a disgraced sotah. One who is present when the sotah is brought into the bais hamikdash and is witness to the humiliation and disgrace that she must endure, must reflect and internalize the event. That contemplation and consideration must lead someone to commit to improve and change something about their lives with the goal of assuring that he will not allow himself to fall into a similar compromised position where he is suspected or perhaps commits some serious transgression.

This principle, that we must reflect on the events of our lives and use it as a springboard for growth, isn’t limited to one who sees a sotah in her disgrace. As believers of Divine Providence, we believe that Hashem orchestrates the events of our lives so that we see or experience specific things that will help us actualize our potential. Nothing happens in our lives that is mere coincidence or irrelevant. Everything is purposeful and planned. Our job is to reflect on our experiences so that we can grow from those events. This is the lesson the Torah teaches by juxtaposing the parsha of sotah and nazir.

The events of this week cannot pass over us like a wave without taking pause to think about a lesson or a thought that we can take in our personal journeys. There is a basic principle of halacha called kavod habriyos. Commonly, kavod habriyos is translated as human dignity. It is rooted in the belief that each person deserves honor and respect, simply by virtue of being a human being. Every person was created b’tzelem Elokim in the image of Hashem. It is not a status or privilege that one must earn or work to achieve. It is something that we are endowed with by our very existence. The principle of kavod habriyos is so essential that it can, at times, override Rabbinic prohibitions. This means that in terms of the hierarchy of halacha, maintaining and supporting human dignity, kavod habriyos, is a higher, more weighty principle than a Rabbinic prohibition. Another value that potentially suspends Rabbinic prohibitions is pain and illness. When one is in severe pain or suffering from an illness, there are times that the Rabbinic prohibition is pushed aside so that the patient can seek relief from their pain or illness. Maintaining human dignity, honoring the tzelem Elokim that each human being is endowed with is on par with, if not greater than, the consideration that is given to someone who is ill or in pain. The reason for this is obvious. To disrespect or disregard someone’s tzelem Elokim undermines the very essence of their existence, as endowed by Hashem. It is a rejection of Hashem’s efforts and that is a terrible transgression.

How exactly we restore kavod habriyos and the tzelem Elokim to a group that feels that it has been withheld or denied to them is a question that is well beyond my paygrade and way to politically charged at the moment for me to even consider addressing. However, there are some steps that we can take. The Gemara in Berachos (17a) relates the following:

מַרְגְּלָא בְּפוּמֵּיהּ דְּאַבָּיֵּי: ... וּמַרְבֶּה שָׁלוֹם עִם אֶחָיו וְעִם קְרוֹבָיו וְעִם כָּל אָדָם וַאֲפִילּוּ עִם גּוֹי בַּשּׁוּק, כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא אָהוּב לְמַעְלָה וְנֶחְמָד לְמַטָּה, וִיהֵא מְקוּבָּל עַל הַבְּרִיּוֹת.

Abaye was wont to say: One must … take steps to increase peace with one’s brethren and with one’s relatives, and with all people, even with a non-Jew in the marketplace, so that he will be loved above [in Hashem’s eyes], pleasant below [in the eyes of the people], and acceptable to all [of Hashem’s] creatures.

אָמְרוּ עָלָיו עַל רַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי שֶׁלֹּא הִקְדִּימוֹ אָדָם שָׁלוֹם מֵעוֹלָם, וַאֲפִילּוּ גּוֹי בַּשּׁוּק.

They said about Rabban Yoanan ben Zakkai that no one ever preceded him in issuing a greeting, not even a non-Jew in the marketplace, [as Rabban Yoanan would always greet him first].

This gemara has a lesson for everyone. Those who regularly greet others as well as those who do not regularly greet others. For those who do not make it a habit to smile and say hello to everyone you meet, make a greater effort to do so. When you look at them, take just a moment to remind your self that within the person that you are looking at is the image of Hashem, a tzelem Elokim. There are qualities and characteristics that this person possesses that are Divine. You may not be able to discern what they are, but that is your inability to recognize them, it has nothing to do with their possession of them. For those of you who are generally friendly and regularly greet others, remind yourself before doing so that what you are doing is a mitzvah. By smiling and saying hello to someone, one is promoting peace, as Abaye was wont to say. I saw a sign this morning that said, “pray for peace and pursue justice.” Although it is true that one should pray for peace, we must also, as Abaye instructed, pursue peace. We must make a greater effort in the area of kavod habriyos and learn to recognize the tzelem Elokim with which every human being was endowed.

IY”H all of the issues that surround us, both the medical and social, should come to a peaceful resolution and we should make sure to do our part to position ourselves to become worthy of that. That includes ongoing vigilance to safeguard our health and the health of our families, as well as make a concerted effort to be מרבה שלום to promote and pursue peace with everyone who crosses our path.