Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Does Talmud Torah Really offer physical protection?

Rabbi Slifkin has an interesting discussion on an article in Mishpacha Magazine on why Yeshiva Students should be exempt from army service.

The article in Mishpacha is not only poorly written, based on false history, and mis-represents Jewish sources, but its logic is faulty.

The article states that during the Shoah, there were many Talmedei Chachamim who managed to protect their cities with their Torah:

In Vilna, the protector was Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky. Hitler’s forces conquered Vilna, but were pushed back by the Russian army. Yet when Rav Chaim Ozer passed away, the Nazis succeeded in re-conquering the city. The same happened in Grodno. As long as the great Rav Shimon Schkop was living, the Nazis couldn’t conquer Grodno, and similarly the town of  Baranovitch fell into Nazi hands only after the passing of Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz.
First of all, the historical accuracy of these stories has a lot to be desired (look up the history of Vilna, Grodno, or Baranovitch during World War 2). But for argument's sake, lets assume that these stories are true - that these outstanding Talmedei Chachamim were able to protect the cities where they lived while they were are still alive.
What about the thousands of towns and Yeshivot that were completely destroyed during the Churban of European Jewry? Not only entire Yeshivot were wiped out, but entire traditions of Talmud learning were destroyed. Are we to assume that the bochrim and Rabbanim in those Yeshivot were only second-rate Talmedei Chachamim? Are we to assume that they weren't really learning Torah, or that that Torah they were learning is somehow flawed?
Does Rabbi Grylak believe that Talmedei Chachamim like Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, or the thousands of other Rabbis and Chassdic Rebbes that were murdered by the Nazis were less great than Rabbi Grodzonsky, Rabbi Ozer, or Rabbi Leibowitz.

It seems that if there was protection of cities during the Shoah, it wasn't because of the large numbers of men learning in Kollel, rather it was a few individuals who were outstanding in their learning in spite of their difficult surroundings.

If we were to accept the premise of Rabbi Grylak's article, the logical thing would be to identify the handful of Talmedei Chachamim who are able to offer that type of spiritual protection, move them to a small Yeshiva in the towns and cities in the most danger, and any Rabbi or Kollel guy who does not feel that he's greater than Rav Elchonon or any of the other Rabbis who were perished in the Shoah should be happy to serve in the army - at least they can protect the country with a gun, if not with their learning.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bibi's Choice

Bibi hasn't yet called me for advice on how to build his coalition, but here's what I think he'll do....

His first call will be to ...... Shaul Mofaz.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if he offers Kadima the chance to either merge with Likud or become part of his coalition, maybe even offer Mofaz a senior cabinet post like defence  (He has experience with a Defence minister from a left-wing insignificant party).

His next call may well be to .... numbers 4-7 from Tzippi Livni's list and offer them the chance to join Likud. Some of them are former Likud members (Meir Sheetrit) or have a religious background (Elazar Stern), and none of them seem to have any problem changing allegiance if something better comes along.

If Bibi can get Kadima and  at least a few of the Tanua members on board, that will strengthen Likud to 35 mandates or more and remove any talk about a "60-60 left-right split" (which I don't think really exists for reasons described by Life in Israel).

Bibi then has 3 possible combinations for a stable government:
  • Status Quo (Likud, Bayit Hayehudi and the Charedim). This would be the easiest coalition to form as these parties are regarded as the "Right-Bloc" and as natural partners. I don't think that this is Bibi's first preference, but if other negotiations fail, it's a good fallback plan.
  • A National Unity Government with Yair Lapid, Labour, and maybe Tzippi Livini. I don't think this is likely as Shelly would be foolish to join Bibi as a junior member of the coalition. She is a smart politician and would be much better off as leader of the opposition where she can formulate an alternative policy to the government which would give her a credible chance in the next election (provided that she can formulate a responsible alternative - not just scream the opposite of whatever Bibi says which was Tzippi's policy).
  • Coalition with Bayit Hayehudi, Yair Lapid. This would be the first time since Shas was founded that it was not included in a government, but it actually makes a lot of sense as Likud, Yesh Atid, and Bayit Yehudi have very similar policies on the economy, housing, social issues (reforming the Rabbinate), and drafting Yeshiva students.
In theory there could be a coalition that includes Yair Lapid and Shas, but I don't see any overlap between their stated policies and hard to see how they would sit in a government together.

OK - now all I need to do is wait for Bibi to call me for advice. Bibi - if you're too busy to call, I'm providing the info for you here on this blog free of charge.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Is "Love thy Enemy" a Jewish Value

As many readers know, the old Jewish Cemetery in Auckland was vandalised last year with anti-Semitic graffiti. It turned out that the perpetrator was not an organized anti-Semitic or Anti-Israel group, rather a couple of bored drunk teenagers with nothing better to do.

Interestingly, the Jewish community of Auckland is considering helping one of the young men fix up his life by helping him financially to get into university.

Sounds like a Kiddush HaShem and a chance to improve the image of the Jewish community in the eyes of at least one young man.

This from Stuff.nz:

Merciful Jews forgive Nazi grave vandal

The Jewish community has taken pity on one of the youths who desecrated graves at a cemetery in Auckland with Nazi symbols - causing worldwide outrage - and is even offering to pay his university tuition fees so he can turn his life around.
Robert Moulden, 19, pleaded guilty to a charge of intentional damage in the Auckland District Court last year and will be sentenced next month. His co-accused, Christian Landmark, 20, has pleaded not guilty and appears in court again on Tuesday.
More than a dozen headstones in the Jewish quarter of the Symonds St Cemetery were vandalised with images of swastikas and expletive-ridden anti-Israeli messages on October 19. It is proving incredibly difficult to remove paint from the porous headstones, which date back to the 19th century, and the repair job could cost as much as $50,000.
Moulden is a beneficiary, lives in a hostel in central Auckland, and says he has no family support. He has gone through a restorative justice programme with members of the Jewish community, has been taught about the Holocaust and has even gone to one member's house for a Friday night Shabbat dinner.
The chairman of the Jewish Council of New Zealand, Geoff Levy, confirmed that during a restorative justice meeting offers were made to pay for Moulden to attend engineering courses at AUT University.
"When we asked him what he wanted to do with himself he expressed a desire to follow engineering if he could," Levy said. "We've given this young man a chance to respond to the offers, and we've appointed someone to liaise with him to see whether he can be helped, or wants to be helped.
"He's going to have to want to do something himself. If we can help him, we're happy to do that. But it's got to be consistent with realising the damage he's done, paying the price that society demands of him and making sure it will not happen again.
"Hopefully we can provide him with support, mentoring and assistance in getting an education, so that he will be able to make the best decisions next time when faced with a choice."
It is understood others in the Jewish community are upset by the offer, believing Moulden does not deserve help. Levy admitted he was unsure if it was the right move, and nothing had been finalised.
Full article here:

Monday, January 7, 2013

WWRD (What Would Rambam Do)

If you were wondering how the RaMBaM will vote in the forthcoming elections, well wonder no more.
I wasn't sure whether I laugh or cry when I say this add in this morning's Yisrael Hayom....

Stay tuned for my election predictions, but in the mean time, if you base your vote on speculation over how various rishonim would have voted - Am Salm's your man.

BTW  - I have it on good authority that the RiF is voting Shas, RaSHBam is voting Jewish Home, RaMBaN is voting for Otzma leYisrael, the Rosh is voting Yahadut HaTorah, and Rashi hasn't decided yet.
Still looking for a Rishon to back Amnon Yitzchak's Koach L'Hashpia.
Rabbi Nachman isn't a Rishon - but we all know how he's voting this year.

If you are really interested in more information about the Rishonim as historical figures, I highly recommend my brother's history class on the Web Yeshiva: Who wrote the Commentaries on the Talmud