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Published by Mizrachi South Africa



PESACH 5772 PESACH IS a time of reaching across generational gaps and forming the chain of Jewish destiny. The Torah’s almost exclusive focus is on parents communing with their children: “You shall tell your son on that day…” In this edition of the Observer we examine this idea from a few different angles.

Staying with family, we explore the intertwined Sephardi-Ashkenazi legacies which grace the Sassoon family and offer a practical guide to making your seder child-friendly. Also on this theme, we have a contribution from one of the candidates on our YAD-Rabbinical development program, Daniel Kaplan.

Given the challenges to Jewish unity we’ve all had to confront over the past few months with the events in Beit Shemesh, we examine the very concept of a common destiny and our mutual responsibility. The inspiring Hachnasat Sefer Torah (Sefer Torah Ceremony) conducted by Bnei Akiva on last year’s camp is a wonderful example of the formation of our common links and we take a look at that, too.

The Hagaddah also deals with external threats to the Jewish people, as we sing every year, “v’hi she’amdah lavoteinu”: “For in every generation, they rise up to destroy us,” and it is this which the Chief Rabbi addresses regarding Iran and the deafening silence from the rest of the world.

PUBLISHER: Mizrachi South Africa PO Box 29189, Sandringham, 2131 60 Mejon Street, Glenhazel EDITORIAL BOARD: Saul Adler, Melissa Chipkin, Julian Gecelter, Wendy Kahn, Avrom Krengel, Natalie Liknaitsky, Rabbi Laurence Perez, Rabbi Doron Podlashuk, David Rabinowitz, Warren Sher, Rabbi Ramon Widmonte EDITOR: Ronit Chaya Janet SUB EDITOR: Elaine Porter EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS: Rav Avi Amittai, Ryan Davis, Sharni Glick, Chief Rabbi Dr Goldstein, Ronit Chaya Janet, Daniel Kaplan, David Lawrence, David Rabinowitz, Sarah Sasoon, Robyn Shapiro, Stan Smookler, Rabbi Ramon Widmonte

Pesach highlights the potential for radical change for good latent in the world, if only the right person (for example, Moshe Rabbeinu) will step forward to be

the catalyst for that change. In this vein, we profile two outstanding leaders, our own Rabbi Tanzer ‫ א”טילש‬and the late Chanan Porat, of blessed memory. In light of the Festival of Freedom, we review the movie The Help, and take a look at issues of the fear and deindividuation inherent within a context of slavery and the like. And on the opposite end of the freedom spectrum, Rabbi Doron Podlashuk introduces us to the wonderful, liberating life in Yad Binyamin. Don’t miss our regular features: recipes, book reviews, a look at Art and Judaism and the indomitable Stan the Good Shabbos Man. On behalf of the entire team we wish you a chag kasher vesame’ach! Rabbi Ramon Widmonte □

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ANYBODY GOT A GOAT? Over the past few months, the images and headlines coming out of Israel have been concerning at the least and, in some cases, truly terrifying. We’ve seen

young boys dressed up as concentration camp inmates and sobbing eight-yearold girls afraid to go to school. The Star has featured headline’s like, ‘Girl’s plight highlights Israeli bias,’ while Newsweek ran ‘Israel’s (ultra) Orthodox problem’.

Three key approaches have been taken regarding these events. Some have lashed out at the media for provoking the scenes unfolding before us – the claim being that as part of an



anti-Jewish and anti-religious agenda, the Israeli media has gone out of its way to create the very tension which is gripping us all. Others have lauded the media for a job well done and have eviscerated so-called Chareidi Jews, sometimes in almost anti-Semitic overtones. A third segment blames a ‘group of extremists’ who tarnish the good name of G-d-fearing, ethical and loving Jews. But through it all, I cannot shake the feeling that we all just really, really, want a goat. Any goat would do, but some scapegoat there must be and without it we would all be lost. And I must admit, it is this attitude which worries me more than the images and headlines themselves.

YITZCHAK RABIN IS DEAD I remember exactly where I was when I received the news. As a young Yeshiva student living in the West Bank, my experience of those early days of the peace process was a rollercoaster ride. There was a palpable optimism – the hope and prayer that peace in the Middle East would actually be a reality in our time, juxtaposed against the real fear that the process was nothing more than a ruse by the other side to gain an advantage over Israel. Adding to the emotional turmoil was a schism within the Jewish community in Israel – the left versus the right.


Both heads of my Yeshiva, Rav Amital zt”l and Rav Lichtenstein shlit”a were part of a small group of religious leaders who supported the peace process and had consistently warned of the dangerous rhetoric that both left and right were directing at one another. Some on the extreme right wing printed posters of Rabin in Arab clothing and called him a turncoat and a mosser (a heavily loaded term in Halachic literature which describes a person who hands a Jew over to foreign, non-Jewish authorities). Some on the extreme left wing labelled ‘settlers’ as ‘Nazis’ (the use of which term we examine elsewhere in this edition of the Observer).

But through it all, I cannot shake the feeling that we all just really, really, want a goat. I remember secret meetings held by rightwingers in the Yeshiva at 1:00am to organise parties to go out and settle hilltops. All in all, the atmosphere was exciting and exhilarating and frightening. And then a young religious-Zionist law student, one of our own, Yigal Amir, gunned down our Prime Minister. At that point, I expected Rav Amital and Rav Lichtenstein to stand forth in righteous fury, turning to all those religious leaders who had opposed them and to all those on the left, saying: “Look! We were right! You were wrong! Look at what you extremists have wrought! You

are in blood so far steeped! Your hands have shed this blood!”

REAL RESPONSIBILITY How wrong I was. Instead, Rav Lichtenstein took responsibility. He took responsibility for the faults within his own religious-Zionist group. But beyond that, he took responsibility for the whole nation. In his speech at the Yeshiva, he said: “Last week I visited my teacher and master, Harav Aharon Soloveitchik zt”l, whose fierce opposition to the peace process is well-known. As soon as I walked in, he repeated over and over, ‘A badge of shame, a badge of shame.’ “For two days he hadn’t slept out of shame and humiliation. This shame, that our state, our people, should have fallen to such a level, should be felt by everyone – religious, secular, right and left. For to the extent that we feel any sense of unity within Am Yisrael, to the extent that we feel like a single body, then the entire body should feel shamed and pained no matter which limb is responsible for this tragedy. “We should feel deep shame that this method of supposedly solving conflicts has become part of our culture. “But naturally, this shame should be felt by our camp – the National Religious camp – more than any other. Here was a man [Yigal Amir] who grew up in the best of our institutions. A day before the

BRIDGING THE GREAT DIVIDE murder, he could have been cited as a shining example of success and achievement, and a source of communal pride… “Today, we hide behind the phrases ‘a wild weed’, ‘an extremist from the outskirts of our society’. But if a day before the murder we would have said proudly, ‘See what we have produced’, we must say it now as well – ‘See what we have produced!’ “It is indefensible that one who is willing to take credit when the sun is shining should shrug off responsibility when it begins to rain. Let us face our responsibility, not defensively, but as our Sages would see it. I cite words which are so terrible that it frightens me to say them. I am not saying that we should apply them literally, but let us examine how our Sages see such things and what is their standard of responsibility. “Concerning one who worships the Molekh (a type of idolatry) the verse states: ‘I shall put my face against that man and his family (Lev. 20:5).’ The Gemara asks: ‘If he sinned, did his family sin? Why should they suffer for his sin?”

“The Gemara answers: ‘This teaches you that there is no family that includes an extortionist where they are not all extortionists, and none that includes a robber where they are not all robbers – because they protect him.’ (Sh’vuot 39a) “Let us not fool ourselves – to a great extent we are all his family. Protection is not only after the fact, but also before; not only cover-up, but also nourishment and support.”

ALL OF ISRAEL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ONE ANOTHER On the same page cited by Rav Lichtenstein (Sh’vuot 39a), the Gemara teaches us a fundamental principle of Jewish living: “All of Israel is responsible for one another.” This is inextricably intertwined into our experience of daily Judaism. The fact that one person can say Kiddush on a Friday night for family and guests, is a simple example of this. How can one person, perhaps a stranger to me, discharge my obligation to hear Kiddush, the Shofar or the Megillah on Purim? The answer is simple. In reality, he is no stranger. He bears a responsibility for me, and I for him, and if I have not yet discharged my obligation, then he too is lacking. If only we applied this principle as widely as we should, as Rav Lichtenstein did. When Yigal Amir shot our Prime Minister I was, in part, responsible. I need to feel that. When a Jew in Beit Shemesh terrifies an eight year-old girl I am, in part, responsible. I need to know that. This has to be the starting point. It’s so easy for me to


go and lay the blame at someone else’s feet. It would have been so easy for Rav Lichtenstein to blame those on the religious right-wing – he’d even warned them! It would be child’s play for all of us, right now, to congratulate ourselves on our particular brand of ‘normal’ Judaism while condemning those ‘blackhatted’ maniacs dressed up as holocaust survivors. If we adopt this ‘divide-and-blame’ strategy, we are destroying the very idea and image of the unity which binds all Jews together. This is the source of the divide, and we have been generating this disunity for a long, long time before any of us heard of Beit Shemesh.

BUT PRACTICALLY, WHAT CAN I DO? I can start thinking ‘unified’. If I really believe that all Jews are part of one body, then my thoughts and words will be very different. I will be uncomfortable living with the knowledge that Jews are not living up to the highest of religious and ethical standards, no matter how they dress and no matter where they are. I can celebrate what my group adds to the Jewish world without needing to deride any other group. I can do an honest reckoning of my group without seeking to find the failings of others (which is often a great technique to avoid doing anything). I can pray. I can pray that Hashem helps us all to find the right path. Prayer is not a small thing. I can educate. I can educate my children and students about these issues, first and foremost asking them to take responsibility for all of Am Yisrael and secondly inspiring them to confront the substantive issues we are facing right now, with humility and hope. In this way we can bridge the divide in our minds, hearts and actions. He Who makes peace above will make peace for us, as we will have made peace amongst ourselves. □






THIS TIME there are no excuses. No one can say there was no warning. In a speech delivered recently during mosque prayers, and which was broadcast to the nation, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Iran would support any attack on Israel, declaring: “The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off. And it definitely will be cut off.” This was followed by the publication of an article by Alizera Forghani, a top Khamenei strategist, on an Iranian government-supported website, Alef, setting out in detail the legal and religious justification to kill all Jews and to annihilate Israel. (The meaning and context of Forghani’s article are exposed and explained by a senior analyst on The article, which has since been published by most state-

owned sites including the Revolutionary Guards’ Fars News Agency, and thereby officially endorsed by the Iranian government, quotes from the Koran and other sources to justify theologically the murder of all Jews and the destruction of Israel. The document presents detailed military plans for how the genocide can be achieved: using official statistics, the article suggests that with its Shahab 3 ballistic missiles, Iran could target the three major metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of Jews – Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa – annihilating most of these inhabitants. And this is not the first time. For years, and especially in recent months, senior Iranian leaders – especially the President – have openly stated that they intend to destroy Israel and murder its


CHIEF RABBI ON IRAN entire Jewish population. These are no empty threats. Iran, via Hezbollah and Hamas, has been waging a proxy war against Israel and has even attacked Jewish communal targets in other parts of the world. And yet, international indifference prevails. William Kristol noted how The New York Times, when reporting on Khamenei’s most recent speech, didn’t even include Khamenei’s reference to Israel as a cancer tumor that needed to be cut out. This is emblematic of how so many government leaders tolerate the threat of genocide against Jews with equanimity. The silence, and its accompanying acquiescence, is morally reprehensible, even absurd. Where are the statements of condemnation from the governments of the world? From the United Nations? From religious leaders? Where is the horror, the outrage? One of the great codifiers of Talmudic law and ethics, the Rambam, writes (Laws of Repentance 2:1) that the test of true repentance is when a sinner is faced with the same circumstances he or she faced when first committing the sin and then, demonstrating sincere repentance, refrains from committing the sin again. In the lead up to and during the Holocaust the world sinned by ignoring the desperate plight of Europe’s endangered

Jews. So many nations prevented Jews from finding asylum from Nazi Germany. Boats of terrified Jewish refugees were turned away and sent back to their deaths in Europe. And when horrific reports of the gas chambers and crematoria came through, the Allies refused to bomb the railroads to Auschwitz and other death camps. Memorializing the Holocaust has become part of an international ethos, which even the United Nations supports. There is a claim of regret and a desire to repent for the sins of the past, the omissions and commissions which led to the death of six million Jews, including more than one and a half million children. Now is the test to see if this repentance is genuine. The nations of the world are confronted with the same set of circumstances in which they committed their original sin against the Jewish people. And now is judgment time before G-d. No one can claim they weren’t warned. No one can say that genocidal threats against Jews are deranged rantings not to be taken seriously. History proves otherwise. This time there are no excuses. We all hope and pray that sanctions will work, but there isn’t much time left. If and when the crunch comes, G-d forbid, will the Jewish people once again stand alone? World leaders must ask themselves this: would you wager the life of your children on the mercy and reasonableness of the Iranian government? And the question may not be hypothetical either. Hitler came after the Jews first, and then he attacked the world. The Jews are Iran’s first target; certainly not its last. There is one major difference this time around, and that is G-d’s blessing of Jewish sovereignty in Israel, with its accompanying political and military power. In Nazi Europe our faith was tested by our helplessness and vulnerability. Now,


our faith is being tested by our power. Arrogance is our temptation. Do we see the remarkable achievements of the State of Israel – technological, military, economic, agricultural and scientific – as blessings from G-d? We are warned about this in the Torah, which says (Devarim 8:11-18) “Lest you eat and be satisfied and build good houses … and amass much gold and silver … and you become arrogant and forget the L-rd your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt … and you say in your heart ‘my power and the might of my hand has made for me all these achievements.’ And you shall remember the L-rd your G-d, for He is the one who gives you the power to achieve, in order to establish His covenant that He has sworn to your fathers on this day.” Humility is to recognize with gratitude and loyalty that everything we have comes from G-d. At a time like this we need to renew our faith in and commitment to G-d and His Torah, and to realize with humility that power and success are Divine blessings which cannot be separated from their Source. It is eerie that this nightmare has returned to the world. It is unprecedented and incomprehensible that one nation should face the threat of genocide twice within living memory. These events – and indeed all of Jewish destiny – cannot be understood in terms of the normal laws of history. It is perhaps the very surreal nature of these events which calls on us to see G-d’s hand in our history and that, together with the appropriate political and military preparations, we need to realize that our strength and direction come from G-d and His moral vision for us as given in His Torah. And so while this is a time of repentance for the nations of the world for their sins of indifference, it is also a time for us, as Jews, to introspect. □ “This article comes from the Chief Rabbi’s regular column published in the ‘Jerusalem Post’




WHEN YOU see Rabbi Avraham Tanzer today, brimming with Torah wisdom and insight, it’s difficult to imagine him as a, “young, inexperienced 27-year-old teacher,” as he puts it, arriving in South Africa in 1963. Rabbi Tanzer and wife Marcia packed up their three young children to visit South Africa for the first time then, only planning to stay for a two-year adventure. Forty-nine years later they’re still here and have built a true legacy as David Saks wrote in his book, Yeshiva College, the First Fifty Years.”

THE BEGINNING YEARS Born to Jacob and Vita Tanzer in Williamsburg, New York on 13 October 1935, Rabbi Tanzer was raised in a religious household. He attended a religious school, Torah Ve Da’as, in Brooklyn and then furthered his learning at the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1956, he married Marcia Charrick, daughter of a Baltimore Rabbi and a student at a teacher’s seminary in New York. Once qualified, Marcia began teaching at a school in New York.


PROFILE OF A LEADER While at Telz Yeshiva, Rabbi Tanzer was selected to become the associate Rosh Yeshiva to Yeshiva College in South Africa by the Telz Rosh Yeshiva at the request of Rabbi Michael Kossowsky z”l.

“We came on a two year stint that we viewed as an adventure.” – Rabbi Tanzer Yeshiva College had been in existence for ten years at that stage, due to the efforts of Rabbi Kossowsky z”l, Rabbi Joseph Bronner and others. They had a vision of providing a Torah education for South African Jewish Youth. Rabbi Tanzer also brought out Rabbi Azriel Goldfein z”l, a fellow Telz Yeshiva Alumnus, to be co-Rosh Yeshiva. Rabbi Goldfein z”l left to establish the Yeshiva Gedolah of Johannesburg. When they arrived in South Africa, the Tanzers moved into the hostel master’s flat adjoining the school’s hostel for county children. Marcia took on the demanding task of being the hostel’s housemother, despite the needs of her own growing family, holding the position for five years. Then the Tanzers moved into the home where they raised their six children and still live today. At that stage Yeshiva College was a boys’ high school with 50 boys in total. Most students were the sons of other Rabbonim in South Africa, though some came from the few religious families that existed at the time. “That was my most tiresome and heaviest work,” recalls Rabbi Tanzer, who went from door to door to try to stimulate interest and persuade parents to send their children to a religious school. The level of education provided by secular studies was perceived as being lower than that provided at government schools at the time, making this task especially difficult. But Rabbi Tanzer’s charisma, warmth and wisdom endeared him to those he met and he succeeded in encouraging

many parents to send their children to Yeshiva College. Because of his humble recruitment methods, Yeshiva College can proudly claim to have produced some of South Africa’s most respected leaders, teachers and Rabbis. Many families today are observant because of Rabbi Tanzer’s nonjudgemental demeanour and his diplomatic nature. In 1965 the Yeshiva College nursery school opened its doors and the first minyan of the Glenhazel Hebrew Congregation took place with Rabbi Tanzer at the helm. At the time, a Rosh Yeshiva who was also a Rabbi with his own budding community was unique. Marcia took on the task of inviting people to attend what would be the first Rosh Hashana service on the school campus and 25 couples arrived. Rabbi Tanzer fulfilled the main roles of ba’al tokeah, ba’al tefilah and Rabbi. “When we first arrived I could never have imagined myself as leading a community. And here we were, two years later, leading a Yom Tov service,” says Rabbi Tanzer. Since that first humble minyan, the Yeshiva College campus has grown to host seven minyanim on Shabbat at its main campus and its incredible new addition, the Beit Mordechai Campus Kollel. In 1967 the Menora Primary School was established and Rabbi Tanzer became the Rosh Yeshiva. Then, in 1969 the Leila Bronner Girls’ High School was established. Rabbi Tanzer also brought out Rabbi Azriel Goldfein, a fellow Telz Yeshiva Alumnus, to be co-Rosh Yeshiva. Rabbi Goldfein left after years of service to establish the Yeshiva Gedolah of Johannesburg.

A VISION SURPASSED “I remember Rabbi Kossowsky z”l saying in 1963, while we stood together

and watched the 50 boys write their final exams in the study hall, that this was the reward for all that he does,” says Rabbi Tanzer. “At that time Rabbi Kossowsky’s z”l goal was to create a school with 200 students. Unfortunately he died a year later, but a campus with more than 950 students surpassed both our imaginations.” Yeshiva College continues to grow and flourish, endowing students with rich Torah knowledge and Jewish values. It continues to produce well-respected members of the community who maintain the Tanzer’s legacy by becoming well-respected leaders, in South Africa and abroad.

“Our goal was to create a school with 200 students”. – Rabbi Tanzer Such success must be attributed to Rabbi and Marcia Tanzer, who have dedicated their lives to building this community. Next year, Yeshiva College celebrates its 60th birthday, while the Tanzers celebrate their 50th year in South Africa. Rabbi Tanzer continues to be the longest serving Rabbi in South Africa, guiding the Glenhazel Congregation for 47 years. May the Tanzers continue to reap bountiful rewards for all they have given to the South African community. □

DID YOU KNOW •Rabbi and Marcia Tanzer have dedicated their lives to the building of the Yeshiva College campus. •Yeshiva Campus has produced some of South Africa’s greatest leaders and Rabbonim. •Next year we celebrate 50 years of the Tanzers in South Africa.




I HAVE a wall in my home filled with photos depicting the usual kaleidoscope of life – from professional wedding photos to amateur baby pictures in full colour, sepia and black and white. The one that stands out most for me is neither professional nor old. To an outside viewer it shows four old people sitting in a row, smiling, behind a table of empty tea cups and cake plates. A tiny baby, swaddled and sleeping, sits on the lap of a woman with shortcropped, ginger hair and luminescent skin. An outside viewer wouldn’t know that the photo was taken at my eldest son’s Pidyon Haben, the Jewish ceremony of redeeming the first born. And without these distinguished people – my grandfather, Abba Nagi, my husband David’s Grandpa Sydney, my grandmother, Nana Aziza and David’s Granny Hazel – the world as I know it would not exist. To me this photo holds generations and lost worlds in one perfectly captured moment.


Of course their world was different, especially for Grandpa Sydney and Granny Hazel. Sydney, originally Selim, grew up under the beating Middle-Eastern sun by the Tigris River in Baghdad. He was from a home filled with plush Persian carpets and iced, homemade lemonade. There was a servant for every whim, from rocking cradles to fanning him and his lounging brothers. His mother, Masouda Shemtov, got married at sixteen (which was considered old in Baghdad in those days) to Ezra Sassoon, a textiles magnate. They had nine children. The Sassoons had lived in Baghdad for many generations but Ezra wanted his children to have an English education, which turned out to be a wise decision. In 1920, Masouda and Ezra moved to India. Sydney was ten years old. After a couple of years there they moved again, this time to Manchester – England’s textile hub. Sydney’s early days at the boarding school, Cheltenham College, in the kosher Jewish house couldn’t have been easy for a boy used to date honey and all

the creature-comforts money could buy. But he adapted and, after school, went on to Trinity College at Cambridge to study engineering. When World War II erupted, he volunteered for the British army. He entered as a Lieutenant and later became a Captain, That’s also when he met Hazel. Hazel Benjamin’s roots were as Ashkenazi as you can imagine. Her grandfather, Morris Wartski, hailed from Poland. (Wartski is the name of a Polish river.) He escaped the terrors of Polish conscription and pogroms by leaving for Germany and then England at the tender age of fourteen, arriving in the latter country with half a crown in his pocket. He set himself up as a watch peddler, and went on to build his business into a fine, family-run firm of art and antique dealers called Wartski’s in Bangor (1865) and then Llandudno (1907) in Wales, where Hazel was born. Today Wartski’s is run by Hazel’s cousin in London. It has the royal warrant and is where Kate Middleton’s Welsh-gold wedding band was purchased.


Both Sydney and Hazel’s families valued commitment to, and respect for, their ‘Jewishness’ above all else. Hazel’s grandfather went from making Shabbat in the fields with nothing more than candles and a turnip when he was a peddler to founding the synagogue in Llandudno. In fact that synagogue was the very reason Sydney and Hazel met. It’s an old adage that Jews stick together. And that’s the only reason Hazel and Sydney met and married. Marrying a sephardi was almost unheard of in those days. As Hazel says: “I didn’t know anyone who had married a sephardi. But it didn’t matter. “I found it amusing and fun. It was determination on Sydney’s part. He came for the weekend from Manchester with his brothers. They were at my grandfather’s synagogue because their father wanted to go.” Once he had met Hazel, Sydney used all of his ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ charm, and in the end the two families came together at their simple war-time wedding. Hazel remembers: “When they

gave Sydney Haftorah before we married, my grandfather said to me, ‘You’re a very lucky girl. He’s speaking the right Hebrew from Temple times.’” It was a union of Turkish coffee and white lumps of sugar, Welsh stew red hot chilli and Cadbury milk chocolate. And it worked. Hazel not only adapted to but embraced the noisy culture of Baghdad. It wasn’t the ordered, reserved, stiff-upper-lip environment that she was used to. Instead it was filled with exotic spice and adventure. She learnt to cook with the best of them, traditional MiddleEastern dishes like mahashah (stuffed vegetables), bamya (okra) and aromatic chicken and rice. Their next big adventure would see them board a boat to South Africa, with their two young children, Anne and Roland, in 1947. Our grandparents’ generation did not leave a legacy of Hollywood romance. Instead, they taught us commitment to each other, our families and our Jewish heritage. They had a rock-solid faith in God and a pride in being Jewish that

they carried with them from country to country. They knew what mattered. They taught me that, as Jews, our roots go deeper than where we are born or who our parents are. Who we are is about who we become and what we choose to sweat our blood and tears over. Forging family trees across oceans is no easy task. I remember the day my own story was sealed as though it was yesterday, at the Ritz Carlton in Double Bay, Sydney. My parents and grandparents, and David’s parents and family, were drinking a L’Chaim to our engagement. Someone whipped out a cell phone and we phoned Hazel and Sydney in Johannesburg. My grandfather spoke to Sydney in Judeo Arabic, and while they greeted and congratulated each other they also discussed Baghdad, their lost world. And amazingly, they found it wasn’t so lost. They quickly discovered that they had gone to the same school in Baghdad. And they animatedly spoke about their principal, a strict man, like young boys again. All was not forgotten. Theirs was common ground, a common heritage. It was ours, too. □




PICTURE A distraught mother placing her child in the bulrushes in the pale dawn, shushing her baby to sleep lest an Egyptian hear him. A faithful sister hovers nearby, flitting in and out of sight, keeping watch on the future saviour of Israel. Miraculously, the Pharaoh’s daughter Bitya (Vayikra Rabbah 1:3) discovers him, and she hands him back to his own mother to suckle. “And the woman took the child and suckled him and he grew and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son and she called him Moshe – she said, ‘I drew him from the water.’” (Sh’mot 2:9-10) If we imagine Yocheved giving her child away for the second time – the only chance she has of saving him – we can almost hear the


GRATITUDE TO THE DUST soulful strains that Ya’akov Shwekey sings so powerfully: “He raised his hand to wave goodbye, saw the pain in mother’s eyes, who left her little precious boy of four. In a citadel of ashen stone, that preached a faith unlike his own, perhaps he may just yet survive this war. In the shadows stood a man in black, ‘My child,’ he said, ‘you must not look back.’ Yet one image lingered, the tears on her face, and mother’s words from their last embrace.” It was the fate of many children during the holocaust to be placed in the care of others as Moshe was. But after the holocaust, most of these children had disappeared

silently into European Christendom. Were it not for the brave work of people like Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Herzog and Rabbi Moshe Weiss, even fewer of these hidden children would have returned. Moshe, too, became a hidden Jewish child in an Egyptian palace. The Midrash tells us that when Bitya received Moshe, she “kissed and hugged and loved him as if he was her son.” (Sh’mot Rabbah 1:26) But if this is true, how did Moshe know he was an Ivri? Who told him he was Jewish? On reflection, this is one of the critical questions of the whole story of the Exodus because the redemption begins with Moshe defining himself as a Jew. “Moshe grew up and he went out to his brothers and he saw their suffering and he witnessed an Egyptian man beating one of his brothers, an Ivri.” (Sh’mot 2:11)

But how did he know they were his brothers? Raised in a citadel which preached a faith unlike his own, surely the memory of his Jewish heritage must have faded as the years went by. How did he feel such deep fraternity for a group of despised slaves? The Ramban hints tantalisingly that “they told him he was a Jew.” (Sh’mot 2:11) But who were they?

COMING OF AGE Our sages were deeply energised by this question and reframed the whole of Moshe’s development in attempts to provide satisfying answers. There are three main possibilities to consider. 1. DIFFERENT AGES Fundamentally, the problem Continued on pg 22


GRATITUDE TO THE DUST stems from the fact that Moshe was brought to the palace at a young age, as soon as he was weaned. So the question is how much time elapsed between his arrival and the day he left the palace and went out to his brothers? The first solution offered is that Moshe matured much faster than normal children – physically, spiritually and emotionally. Rabbi Y’hudah (Yalkut Shimoni Sh’mot 2:166) says Moshe was only five years old when he ventured out to see his fellow Jews, but that he had grown to the stature of an eleven year old. This would mean that Moshe left only two years or so after being brought to the palace and, in these two intervening years, he had not forgotten who he was. 2. PROFOUND INSPIRATION Alternatively, the Shach explains that while Moshe was still in Yocheved’s home an angel came and taught him Torah, and granted him grace in the eyes of all who saw him, and that this is what the Torah meant when it stated “he grew up”. It meant that he had grown in wisdom. The Shach states that this angel accompanied Moshe throughout the time he spent in Pharaoh’s house. It taught him and supplied him with kosher food, making it clear how he retained his Jewish identity. It was reinforced on a daily basis. 3. A REAL MOTHER The final possibility is also the simplest: Pharaoh’s daughter told him . This is the explanation that speaks


GRATITUDE TO THE DUST most profoundly to me. The Torah crafts the most unearthly picture of the tension that this heroine, Bitya, created for herself. On the one hand, “he became her son.” (Sh’mot 2:9-10) She loved and cuddled and adored him and never let him leave the palace. But on the other hand, “She called him Moshe – she said, ‘I drew him from the water.’” (Sh’mot 2:9-10) What courage it must have taken to raise a child with love and care, to protect him from certain death, to watch him grow and mature and yet allow him to carry a name proclaiming to all that he is not your son: “I drew you from the water” – he is not mine. How many people, in her situation, would rather have kept the whole thing quiet and retained a simple, loving relationship with a son? Instead, Bitya loved him, and still encouraged him to reclaim a Jewish heritage that would ultimately lead them on very different paths. Her heroic gift is surely what prompted our sages to teach us that, although Moshe was given many names by his biological parents and others, Hashem chose to call him by the name his adopted mother gave him. (Vayikra Rabbah 1:3) We owe this woman a debt of gratitude for the life of Moshe and for the profound lesson of true, selfless love she embodied.

THE NILE AND THE DUST DON’T NEED GRATITUDE In the beginning of Sh’mot our sages place great emphasis on the fact that Moshe bore huge gratitude to those inanimate objects that played a part in saving his life as a child. They point out that Aaron, not Moshe, was the one to strike the water of the Nile and the dust of Egypt (Rashi Sh’mot 7:19, 8:12) in the first and third plagues because Moshe could not harm the water that had saved him as a baby and the dust that hid the Egyptian he slew. These Midrashim bring to mind the popular idea that children learn in nursery school, that we cover the bread on the Friday night table while making Kiddush over the wine because we don’t

want the bread to feel embarrassed that we have chosen to bless the wine before it. As many have explained, we do not actually believe that we are being super-sensitive to bread. Instead the Torah is employing a subtle method of character development – if our sages saw fit to highlight imaginary sensitivity towards inert ‘bread’ it was only in order to educate Jews as to the level of care and thoughtfulness we should exhibit towards people. In this light, the real question being raised in the Midrashim regarding Moshe and the Nile and dust is not whether he was being compassionate enough to these objects, but rather, how could Moshe, who was given his life and upbringing by Egyptian society, be the direct agent of its destruction? Was his adopted mother, Bitya, also struck by the plagues ? What about his adopted brothers and sisters in the royal household? Is this gratitude? The depth and challenge of this is staggering. On the one hand, the Torah is uncompromising in its demand that Egyptian society be denounced and destroyed for trampling on the most fundamental of human duties – to respect the image of G-d in every person. But at the same time, the Torah calls upon us not to forget, in our zeal for justice, that even such a place had goodness, even such a place hid humble, Gdly people to whom we must be grateful and gracious. Of course Moshe couldn’t strike the Nile which had hid him, but more than that, despite his passion for justice and freedom, he bore gratitude to Bitya and to the people who had raised him. And maybe this is one of the reasons he was so reluctant initially to take the job of coming back to Egypt to mete out Hashem’s justice there.

ernment policies in the State of Israel. Former Chief Rabbi Lau, a holocaust survivor, has remarked on this phenomenon: ‘The picture of the beautiful and innocent Orthodox child at a demonstration, raising his hands in surrender, wearing on his garment a yellow star, chased the sleep from my eyes that night… “For me, to stand a child up with his hands raised in surrender in imitation of that famous photograph from the Warsaw Ghetto distorts history and shows incomparable ingratitude to the Master of the Universe, who gave us the Jewish State that did not exist when that original photo was taken... The significance of the act is simply to ignore the kindness of the Creator Who tells you, you aren’t standing today before Nazis who are coming to destroy you. Today you have a country, you have a home, and the police are coming to defend every Jew, even if he demonstrates in the streets of Jerusalem.” As I noted earlier, it’s easy to point fingers at others, but as the Torah teaches us, responsibility begins at home. Perhaps, as we move through Sefer Sh’mot, we can all reflect more deeply on Bitya, her sacrifice, her love and the gratitude we bore her and bear her for naming and raising the person who gave us all our freedom. Perhaps we can find the time to express the gratitude we bear to those people who have shown us kindness and caring. Perhaps we can be more grateful for the magnificent, organic Jewish community in South Africa, of which we are privileged to be a part.


Perhaps we can do more to demonstrate our gratitude for the gift of the State of Israel and our gratitude to all those who have sacrificed so much in her defence.

Over the past months, we have been witness to some shocking images coming out of Israel - pictures of young Jewish boys wearing concentration camp uniforms and yellow stars in protest of Gov-

And if these are our feelings towards flesh and blood, perhaps we should also reflect on the gratitude we owe Hashem for what we have in our personal, communal and thank G-d, national lives as well. □




EXPLORING THE CASUAL USE OF HOLOCAUST IMAGERY AND VOCABULARY TO DESCRIBE ALL FORMS OF PERSECUTION BY DAVE LAWRENCE THE TRIVIALISATION of the Holocaust has become increasingly common in contemporary discourse. World leaders from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Binyamin Netanyahu have been depicted as Nazis. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have often resorted to controversial campaigns comparing animal suffer-


ing to that encountered by Jews in the Holocaust.

member recently compared French Interior Minster Claude Gueant to a Nazi, for example.

One could make a distinction between two different motives. Sometimes the words and images associated with this dark period are used casually in a heated moment of condemnation, prompted by basic ignorance. An opposition party

Sometimes the comparison is made deliberately in describing persecution and cruelty to advance a particular agenda. For example, fundamentalist Muslim media have often depicted soldiers serving in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) as Nazis in terms of their treatment of Palestinians.




In South Africa, a customer urged a prominent retail establishment to stop stocking Israeli products because: “Israel’s human rights violations replicate Hitler’s Nazism.” This incident received coverage in the local media.

CLOSE TO HOME It becomes more worrying, though, when Jews employ these tactics against themselves. During the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, certain segments of the religious-Zionist camp listed the destroyed communities in Gush Katif and the Shomron among those in Europe. More recently, factions of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community staged a protest against what they call Israeli media incitement against them in Jerusalem, wearing striped pyjamas and yellow stars.

“[These protests represent] sinning against the collective memory of the Holocaust and meaning of the State of Israel.” – Tzipi Livni A poster emerged on a haredi website depicting the Jerusalem District Police Commander, Niso Shaham, as Hitler. The Holocaust has played a major role in shaping the narrative of the state of Israel. Consequently, many Israeli leaders and politicians have been unequivocal in their condemnation of the ultra-orthodox protests. Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni described the recent protests as: “sinning against the collective memory of the Holocaust and meaning of the State of Israel.” Devorah Lipstadt, famous Holocaust historian, and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel have added their voices to the condemnation of the protests. Proposed legislation that will prohibit the use of the term ‘Nazi’ as an epithet, as well as the wearing of concentration camp clothing, has received widespread support in the Knesset. On the other


hand, human rights groups have opposed this legislation for infringing on freedom of expression.

“…they tend to ignore the unique history and circumstances of each case.” This flippant use of Holocaust symbols in public discourse has even attracted the interest of scholars. Students from the University of Cape Town have recently begun research into the use of Holocaust symbols in the media. Perhaps the findings will provide greater context and analysis of these developments.

UNDERMINING AN ATROCITY One of the major problems with these types of comparisons is that they tend to ignore the unique history and circumstances of each case. In so doing it can minimise, rather than enhance and explain, the unique pain and oppression encountered.

“When all sufferings, evils and cruelties are grouped together one cannot understand the particular in the context of the general.” When all sufferings, evils and cruelties are grouped together under one banner, one cannot fully understand the particular in the context of the general. Doing so shows a lack of sensitivity, towards not only the people or groups that are currently suffering but towards those whose suffering is used to describe suffering everywhere. Simplistic comparisons are easy to make. A catchy phrase and an image have the ability to summon raw emotion and such raw emotion makes it difficult to arrive at an objective point of view. This is unlikely to result in any constructive conversation, and so a sustainable solution is unlikely. One can object to injustice and persecution without making such comparisons. □




HACHNASAT SEFER TORAH AT BNEI AKIVA THE GIVING OF A SEFER TORAH THIS PAST CAMP WAS AN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME BY ROBYN SHAPIRO THE 613TH mitzvah of the Sefer Torah is the obligation for every Jew to write a Torah scroll. In the words of the verse (Devarim 31:19): “And now, write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for Me as a witness for the Children of Israel.” While this mitzvah may seem elusive to those who are not adept in Hebrew calligraphy or don’t have the means to afford a personal Sefer Torah, the chanichim of Bnei Akiva this past camp were able to partake of it, and many able to fulfil it, thanks to the generosity of


the Krengel family and particularly, Zev Krengel. “I decided to donate a Sefer Torah in my family’s name to Bnei Akiva for two main reasons,” explains Zev Krengel, whose family has been integral to Bnei Akiva for many years. “Firstly, Bnei Akiva has been the seed for most of our communal leaders so we found it fitting that an organisation whose foundation is Torah receive their own Sefer Torah. Secondly we wanted the children, who may never otherwise have had the opportunity, to have the chinuch and experience of seeing a Sefer Torah being completed”.

The actual process of obtaining the Torah took more than a year and was carried out by Rabbi Hylton Herring. “The sofer, Rabbi Derenfeld from Bnei Brak, worked tirelessly for more than 12 hours a day to write the Torah by traditional feather and ink. A medium-sized Torah with a k’tav mehudar was selected so it would be manageable and light-weight for children to use. Returning with the Torah was an unforgettable experience. The El Al staff, understanding its holiness, treated it with such dignity and respect, even giving it its own seat and the pilot announcing its arrival and coming over to kiss it prior to taking off.

“The holiness that surrounded the event was close to palpable.” Brent Davidoff, Rosh Machaneh Bnei Akiva 2011 The actual Hachnasat Sefer Torah ceremony took place on 16 December 2011 and was an emotionally uplifting day that those who were able to experience it will never forget. “Having a Hachnasat Sefer Torah on camp was a really remarkable experience,” says Brent Davidoff, Rosh Machaneh. “The holiness that surrounded the event was close to palpable. It is a true blessing to have chaverim bogrim like the Krengels who have given to Bnei Akiva in every single way imaginable. It was not only the Torah that made the day so special but also the guests that came from all around the world to celebrate. With all the past Bnei leadership alumni that attended, the




camp had a well of institutional knowledge and wisdom to feast on.” The chanichim built the chupah under which the Torah was carried and waited with great anticipation while sofer Rael Drutman completed the last 80 letters of the Torah. Chanichim and honoured guests were given the merit of finishing a letter of the Torah. “The Torah was given in memory of my grandparents and the last few letters were given in memory of a selection of Bnei Akiva alumni who passed away at a very young age, namely Greg Rosenburg, Greg Grunenbaum and Loren Markowitz,” explains Krengel. “These three people represent the pillars of Bnei Akiva, Am Yisrael b’Eretz Yisrael al pi Torat Yisrael – The Jewish Nation of Israel living in the Land of Israel according to the Torah of Israel. Greg Rosenburg was integral to the founding of Sandton Bnei Akiva and now the Glenhazel learning programme is dedicated in his memory. Greg Grunenbaum was a member of the Israeli Defence Forces and Loren Markowitz had made aliyah and was involved in education in Israel”. Family members attended the moving ceremony honouring and remembering their loved ones and their contribution to Bnei Akiva.


ELECTRIC ATMOSPHERE “The moment that will stay in my memory forever was when the entire campsite, all 650 of us, were dancing around the Torah with the ruach band playing in the background,” says Davidoff. “We wanted this machaneh to communicate the message that every single human being is able to connect to the Torah and that every one of us is a puzzle piece that completes the big picture. When I saw all the chanichim, from youngest to oldest, and the madrichim dancing together around the Torah it said it all.” “The ruach was electrifying,” says Rabbi Herring. “It was the experience of a lifetime that transformed a channie’s fun, camp experience into a memory that will last forever and allow children to understand that they are part of a rich heritage and birthright.” Gabi Chipkin, chanicha at Bnei Akiva, says, “It meant so much to receive a Torah at the campsite. Just as Am Yisrael received the Torah at Mount Sinai, we were able to connect to our ancient past and continue this great legacy through receiving our own Torah, ensuring the continuity of both the Torah and Bnei Akiva.”

“The atmosphere was incredible as everyone embraced the experience and danced in the sand at camp just like Am Yisrael in the desert at Matan Torah,” says Krengel. “We then got to use the Torah for the first time in the largest minyan in the Southern Hemisphere that Shabbat.” The Sefer Torah now resides in the Bnei Akiva shul in Glenhazel. “Hashem blessed Bnei Akiva with a community that gives it overwhelming support and love,” says Davidoff. “May this only continue to grow. Massive thanks must go out to the very special Krengel family that made Hachnasat Sefer Torah a reality”. □

DID YOU KNOW? • The Krengel family donated a Torah to Bnei Akiva this past camp. • Children who may never otherwise have had the opportunity got to experience the mitzvah of Hachnasat Sefer Torah. • The uplifting experience connects us to Am Yisrael and ensures our nation’s continuity.



AT PESACH, WE FOCUS ON OUR CHILDREN SO THAT THEY MAY CONTINUE OUR NATIONHOOD BY DANIEL KAPLAN MY WARMEST and most vivid memories of growing up are my Pesach Sedarim. I remember practicing “Ma Nishtana” for at least two months before Pesach – I was determined to know it perfectly for the big night! I recall all of us as children playing with cut-up paper frogs and small plastic toy animals, and blindfolding each other to act out the different plagues, as we went through the Hagaddah. I can clearly picture my father’s face, and the way he directed all his attention at us throughout those special nights. The children at the table were the clear focus. I can still feel the excitement of staying up the whole night and waiting with baited breath for my well-deserved present, my reward for skilfully finding the afikoman. The Talmud (Pesachim 109a) recounts how the great sage, Rabbi Akiva – renowned for his unrelenting commitment to Torah study – would uncharacteristically close his Beit Midrash (study hall)

early on Erev Pesach. Rashi explains that he would go home early to make sure that the children slept during the day so that they could stay awake throughout the Seder. And what would this great Sage do during the Seder? We would expect him to share only his Torah insights with the children, but instead he shared corn and nuts with them to pique their interest and keep them awake.


The Torah itself formulates the commandment of retelling the story of the Exodus with the child as the focal point. “Vehigadeta Levincha” – “And you shall tell your son.” But why is Pesach, of all the chagim, chosen as the chag where our children become the focus? Why on this night, that Continued on pg 32



holds so much potential for reaching the loftiest intellectual and spiritual heights, do we focus on entertaining our children? To answer this question, we need to understand the symbolism behind Pesach. The Exodus from Egypt was the birth of our freedom. Hashem took us out on a physical and spiritual journey to receive the Torah and to become His nation. The Torah is our path for life – a life dedicated to the service of Hashem, paved with the morals and ethics that have been, and still are, the backbone of our existence as the Jewish people. To grasp what it means to be a part of a nation, one can draw a comparison with what it means to be a citizen of a country. When one thinks of one’s country, one is proud to identify with what it stands for and to see oneself reflected in its values and culture. One finds

strength in identifying with it. One supports it with all one’s might. Think back to the soccer world cup and remember how united and patriotic the people of South Africa were. Every individual was proud to identify with the greatness that South Africa achieved during that glorious moment in the country’s history. In the same way, we are privileged members of the Jewish nation. For our nation to thrive, we must be proud of our heritage and set our sights on creating a united and strong nation based on Torah values. We must ensure the continuity of our precious ideals and values. To do what we must ensure that the chain of our tradition is safely passed on to the next generation. The world we live in poses many challenges when it comes to raising our children. The responsibility rests on us, as parents, to be their primary educators and continue to be partners with Hashem in creating the

future of the Jewish people. The place where these values are taught, and will continue to keep our nation alive, is in our homes. There is no more suitable time to start this process of education than on Pesach. On Pesach, as focus on and celebrate the birth of our nationhood, we realize that we were born with a purpose. Our purpose is to live according to the ideals of the Torah and bring them into the world around us. By focussing all our energy on our children at the Seder table, we are not only remembering our history. We are creating our future. John F Kennedy wisely said: “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” Our children are our future. Let us invest in them and secure the future existence of the Jewish people and all that we stand for through them. Chag samaech □





A MAN OF THE PEOPLE, THE LAND AND THE TORAH BY RONIT CHAYA JANET PEOPLE FROM all walks of life mourned the loss of Chanan Porat, a man taken too early and with so much more to give. Knesset speaker Rubi Rivlin gave the eulogy, crying: “You knew how to be the public’s agent with a mouth full of song, to be a sharp parliamentarian with a dreaming soul. Within your soul there was a great love, a conquering love, for the nation of Israel, for the ground of this good land, for Israel’s Torah.” Chanan Porat was born on 12 December 1943 in Kfar Pines, when Palestine was under British Mandate. In 1944 his family moved to Kfar Etzion


and remained there until the beginning of the War of Independence in 1948. When Kfar Etzion was under siege, all the young children were evacuated to Jerusalem. Then following the hideous Kfar Etzion massacre, the Porat family resettled in Kfar Pines. There Porat attended the Bnei Akiva high school and later went to Yeshivat Keren Be Yavneh and Mercaz Harav, where he received smicha (rabbinic ordination). Porat served as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defence Force and was one of the privileged few who participated in the recapturing of the Har Habayit – the Temple mount – in 1967. With the passionate fervour that he drew from his childhood experiences in Kfar Etzion, he played an integral role in re-establishing

CHANAN PORAT the Etzion Bloc after the Six Day War. In fact, he convinced Levi Eshkol to grant permission to settle in Gush Etzion. Later, he became a founding member of Gush Emunim – the settlement movement that focused on renewing Jewish settlement in Biblical areas of the land of Israel. All of this was inspired by his childhood dream to return to the famous Gush oak tree and fulfil Jeremiah’s prophecy: “The sons will return to their borders,” Ve shavu Banim legvulam.

“Within your soul there was a great love, a conquering love, for the nation of Israel, for the ground of this good land, for Israel’s Torah.” – Knesset Speaker Rubi Rivlin In the Yom Kippur war, he was seriously wounded on the banks of the Suez Canal. Despite his injury, he continued to serve the Jewish people as an educator and a politician. He taught at Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yeshiva Hadatit and Yeshi-

vat Beit Orot. He was well-loved by all his pupils.

and grandchildren and many friends and students on whose lives he made a powerful impression.

Porat entered politics in 1981 and remained active for many years, until 1999, when he finally resigned. He was a representative of both the Techiya party and Mafdal – the National religious party.

“I... was immediately impressed by his Zionist fervour and his deep commitment to restoring the Jewish People to its Land.” – Benyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel

As a politician, he focused his efforts primarily on the settlement issue. His dedication to this cause was perhaps best illustrated when he convinced Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin not to hand over Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to the Palestinian authorities in 1995. He had hoped to repeat this achievement in 2008 with the disengagement of Gush Katif and he actively encouraged young protesters to disrupt the evacuation of Neve Dakalim. Porat was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. He fought his disease bravely for eighteen months but lost this fight in October 2011 when he succumbed. He is mourned by his wife Rachel, children

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his deep sorrow at Porat’s passing when he said: “I first met Chanan almost 40 years ago and was immediately impressed by his Zionist fervour and his deep commitment to restoring the Jewish People to its Land. This fervour did not lessen and accompanied him until his last day. His contributions to institutions, individuals and to educating the younger generation will yet be told. I would like to express my condolences to his wife Rachel, to his children and grandchildren and to his friends and students, who will continue his Zionist path.” □


GRAVEN IMAGES AND THE SCULPTURE OF HERMAN WALD BY NATALIE KNIGHT WE LEARN that the second of the Ten Commandments is: “Thou shall not make a graven image and bow down to it.” How then, is it permissible to create sculptures purely for aesthetic reasons? This debate was sparked by the exhibition The Wings of the Shechina

– The Sculptural Art of Herman Wald, which opened at the Jewish Museum in Cape Town in February 2012. When approached with this dilemma, Rabbi Amittai explained that we should view the commandment as two separate parts.

RELIGIOUS LENIENCIES Jewish law not only allows but also encourages the skilled artist or craftsman to make beautiful objects for use because Hashem commanded Bezalel (Shemot 35:30-33) to make two, winged kruvim (cherubs) with human features for the temple. For thousands of years skilled Jewish artists worked in this vein, decorating and illustrating books and making objects for use such as candlesticks, menorahs and esrog boxes. “Hashem commanded man in general not to make graven images, and he commanded Bezalel to make the kruvim for a particular purpose,” says Rabbi Amittai. “They are two different commandments, each coming from Hashem.” Jewish artists are not prohibited from creating two-dimensional works of art (although there are some limitations here) but three dimensional art works are definitely problematic. “The prohibition has come to mean that a sculptor cannot create a human figure, detailed and life-size but that an abstract sculpture or part of the human



form would be acceptable,� says Rabbi Amittai.

ADAPTING TO THIS DILEMMA Sculptor Herman Wald, the artist who created the Memorial to the Six Million Jews at the West Park Cemetery, the bronze wings for the Berea shul and other major public sculptures in Johannesburg, was faced with this dilemma.

Born in 1906, in the city of Cluj near Budapest, he was one of eight children of Rabbi Jacob Meir Wald (1866-1928). Rabbi Wald was descended from seven generations of Rabbis and served as Dayan in the rabbinical court in Cluj and then as Rosh Beth Din . His mother, Pearl, was the daughter of Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Glasner (1856-1924) who was the orthodox Rabbi of Cluj from 1877 to 1923 and established the Mizrachi movement there. When I interviewed

Herman Wald in his studio in 1970, three weeks before his sudden death at the age of 64, I found an artist who was concerned about religion but frustrated by the second Commandment. While still a student, Wald recalled that his father refused to allow him to make three-dimensional art forms. However, he was a rebel and secretly made a realistic portrait bust of Theodore Hertzl, which he finally showed to his father. Continued on pg 38


ARTS “While inspecting it I noticed a veil gradually lifting from his eyes – a screen that separated the religious prejudice from the instinctive understanding of the fine arts. He only shook his head in a noncommittal way, not knowing whether to be for or against my career,” said Wald. Later his father relented and sent his talented son to study art at the Budapest Academy of Arts. He also studied in the UK and Europe before he escaped to South Africa in 1937. “Rabbi Jacob Meir Wald was a very wise man,” says Rabbi Amittai. “He saw that his son was talented and he chose to guide his creativity where he could. He did not want to forbid his son from making art as the son may have defied his father. Instead he taught him the halachot and showed him how to work within the law.” Herman Wald knew that he could make art, which was abstract, and he did this whenever he was involved in a Jewish public commission. His commercial works, however, often included realistic figures such as the Unknown Miner (which has recently been installed on the West Campus at Wits) and the famous eighteen impala commissioned by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer to leap over the Oppenheimer Fountain in the centre of the city of Johannesburg.


Passionate depictions of biblical personalities abound in his work including Cain, Jacob, Moses, Job and many others. When a religious admirer complimented him on his work but expressed his regret that he could not buy a “graven image” at an exhibition Wald responded: “Do you keep the other nine commandments so rigorously as well?”

Music, art and literature did not prevent them from committing the evils of the Holocaust. Hindus still create statues of sacred cows and bow down to figures of Buddha. Christians decorated their religious buildings with beautifully crafted life-size human sculptures while the Crusaders killed thousands, including Jews.


“Hashem instructed us to stay away from graven images to protect us from ever reverting back to those wild dark elements within man,” says Rabbi Amittai.

Rabbi Amittai says that we live in a time where people are asking questions and want to understand. They are not prepared to accept the halacha and want to know the deeper reasons for every command. Over the centuries, the idols that were considered gods (Avoda Zorah) have lead to bloodshed and war. Rabbi Amittai refers, for example, to the Egyptians and the idol Baal Peor, where there were no limits to the degradation worshippers performed to serve this ‘god’. However, in the 20th and 21st centuries artists began making art simply for its appreciation, not for idolatry purposes, as shown by Jewish sculptors Jacob Epstein, Wald, Jacques Lipschitz and Moses Kottler. Rabbi Amittai argues that this still did not lead to an improvement in humankind. The most recent example was the Germans, who were considered cultured and refined.

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks states that: “Given the intense connection – until around the eighteenth century – between art and religion, image-making was seen as potentially idolatrous. “This concern continued long after the biblical era. But today art is balm to the soul. When art lets us see the wonder of creation as G-d’s work and the human person as G-d’s image, it becomes a powerful part of the religious life, with one proviso. “The Greeks believed in the holiness of beauty. Jews believe in hadrat kodesh, the beauty of holiness; not art for art’s sake but art as a disclosure of the ultimate artistry of the Creator. That is how omanut enhances emunah, how art adds wonder to faith.” □





THE CAPTIVATING fragility in the eyes of Aibileen, the humble heroine of The Help, during the film’s opening sequence sets the tone for a powerful journey that has deeply moved viewers around the world. The film is profoundly touching, challenging us all to reflect on many facets of our own lives. More than that, it questions how serious we are about acting on our principles. The Help, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett, explores the lives of a group of African American maids, referred to as “the help” in the town of Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960’s. Many pertinent themes are woven into the film’s rich tapestry, but it was the series of questions that Skeeter, the deter-


mined and somewhat rebellious aspiring journalist, asked Aibileen at the start of the film that struck me, as a South African, as so relevant to our own reality: “Did you know as a girl growing up that, one day, you would be a maid?” “Do you ever dream of being something else?” “What does it feel like to raise a white child while your child is at home being brought up by someone else?” Aibileen tries, with difficulty, to hold herself together as she focuses on a photograph of her son while her own voiceover pronounces: “Looking after white babies is what I do.” There is no need for her to answer further. Aibileen says her mother was a maid and her

grandmother, a house slave. Later on in the film, we see her facetious best friend Minnie, after losing her job by speaking her mind, sending her teenage daughter off to work as a maid after pulling her out of school.

“Do you ever dream of being something else?” – Skeeter, The Help Like many other people growing up in middle class, Jewish families much of my life has been shaped by unique and devoted ‘Aibileens’ who have cared for my family and me as if we were their own. While the extreme cruelties in The Help remind us of the terrible times that we should never forget, the film also inspires us to examine our present re-

MOVIE REVIEW lationships with our ‘help’. They are so central to our lives, and are faced with challenges and obstacles each day because of the existence that they have had to endure. Some of us have not been so privileged as to have had an ‘Aibileen’ in our lives but most can recall the impact of a Minnie or Constantine, Skeeter’s beloved “second mother.” In the face of so much adversity, Aibileen and Minnie invite us to join them and their friends as they search, aimlessly at times, for the courage to find meaning in their lives and live a dream that they never imagined possible in their lifetime. The privilege is ours as we watch their individual stories unfold. Once Abileen finds her courage, which she explains is not just about being brave, we are mesmerised by her newfound belief in being the change. She says: “Change begins with a whisper,” and she believes this with every fibre of her being.

Quite captivatingly, the characters in The Help personify struggles with which we can all identify. The pressure to conform to what our peers and society do and say, whether we believe in the principles or morality for our own lives or not, was as real in the 1960’s as it is in the 2010’s. In the film, it takes Skeeter, an eccentric outsider named Celia and the help-the supposed freaks and underdogs of society-to show us that to be our true selves, we sometimes need to have the courage to be proud of who we are and to share this honestly with ourselves and the world. More than this, The Help shouts out that appreciating the people and elements in our lives that make us the best that we can be is more valuable than anything else. The film celebrates how any person can make a significant difference to someone else’s life, good or bad. Every character in the film illustrates this point, some by assisting the most downtrodden to become emancipated,

not necessarily physically but morally and emotionally. An emotional Aibileen recalls: “No-one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I’d told the truth about that, I felt free.” There will always be negative critics and The Help has had its fair share of negative commentary. But despite this, both the book and the film have taken the world by storm, inspiring and compelling many viewers to make a change in their own lives. “All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.” These words, expressed by Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., are so pertinent to The Help. While it is, on the surface, a 1960’s civil rights story, deep down it is a story of friendship, underdogs triumphing, bonds between people in the face of adversity, courage, and defining and fulfilling one’s own destiny; something for everyone to relate to and cherish. □



WHY YAD BENYAMIN? AN EXPLORATION OF THE MOSHAV YAD BENYAMIN: A DESTINATION FOR ALIYA? BY RONIT CHAYA JANET NESTLED BETWEEN Tel Aviv and Jerusalem sits the beautiful moshav Yad Benyamin. For the first thirty years of its existence its population was made up of only forty families. But since its disengagement from Gush Katiff, the Israeli government has opened several acres of previously government-owned farm land for redevelopment in the area. The aim is to resettle families that were displaced. The area has also attracted many new olim (immigrants) so that Yad Benyamin has grown from 40 to 800 families in just a few years. One of its newest olim, Rav Doron Podlashuk, reflects on how green the moshav is for such a young Yeshuv. With four primary schools – the l argest of which hosts over 700 pupils – and a wide variety of facilities including a swimming pool, several shops, a Mikvah (ritual bath), a pizza parlour and numerous parks, Yad Benyamin is a truly attractive area for families making aliya. “A beautiful place to raise your children,” says Rav Podlashuk.


He emphasises the spiritual dimension and Jewish lifestyle that add to Yad Benyamin’s appeal. It has four Batei Knesset, 30 Rabbanim, four Dayanim and a Yeshiva run by Rav Tal and his bachurim.

“[There is] an incredible sense of Kibbutz Galuyuot.” – Rav Podlashuk, new resident of Yad Beyamin Rav Podlashuk reflects on the extra ordinary levels of tolerance he has seen in this community. He explains that “different shades of datiyut (religiousness) extend from Breslav and Carlebach sects to a Litvishe group.” He does point out that no secular Jews have settled in Yad Benyamin. The gate to the city is closed on Shabbat and no cars are seen on the roads at this time. Living in the heart of Eretz Yisrael, Rav Podlashuk admires the rainbow nation that has evolved in the community there. He has neighbours from Brazil, South Africa, Australia, England and the United States. He calls it “an incredible sense of

Kibbutz Galuyuot”. As much as he appreciates the almost cosmopolitan nature of this area, he says that his family’s aliya experience was greatly enhanced by 20 or so South African families who offered them incredible support. This, coupled with the amazing opportunities provided by the municipality of Yad Benyamin, ensured their aliya transition ran smoothly. The municipality offers assistance above and beyond the expectations of many olim. Children receive additional academic support to help them catch up to the education levels of the moshav’s schools. The Podlashuks were even treated to a two-day holiday in the summer to help them settle in. Rav Podlashuk emphasises an incredible sense of freedom when he talks about his new address. He believes the feeling cannot be matched anywhere else in the world. Children can walk to school, ride their bikes around the neighbourhood and go to the makolet (corner cafe) by themselves. It is this freedom that makes the journey home so very worthwhile. □


A TIME OF PREPARATION AND PARTICIPATION USE SOME OF THESE FUN IDEAS TO CREATE WARM PESACH MEMORIES BY SHARNI GLICK PESACH IS a wondrous time when parents and grandparents are blessed with the opportunity to create warm, loving Jewish memories for their children and grandchildren. On Pesach we have a mitzvah to retell the story of our forefathers leaving Mitzrayim. This mitzvah is an active mitzvah, – it is our responsibility not only to retell, but to relive the story of Mitzrayim, the Exodus and our Freedom as if we were feeling the hardships and miracles of our journey from slavery to freedom. This is mentioned in the Hagaddah when we say “In every generation we have an obligation to see ourselves as if we went out of Egypt.” Only once we have felt the slavery and hardship, and then the freedom, can we continue the Hagaddah and sing Hallel. Story-telling is a difficult art, but one that can be learnt. It’s easy to fall into the trap of remembering but on Pesach we have to tell the story. To do this, the Hagaddah has included many different opportunities for us to engage with everyone around the table.

FOR EACH THEIR PART TO PLAY Participation and preparation go hand in hand. It is important to focus less on the meal and more on creating an inclusive learning experience. The starting point is to understand the Seder yourself. Go through the Hagaddah and become familiar with the flow of the evening. There are many resources and websites available to help in this area. The Seder evening lends itself to including all members of the family. Try to allocate tasks or activities to everyone a few days before Pesach. The time to prepare will help everyone to relax and become comfortable with their parts, and allows everyone to own the evening. Take ownership of your Seder and start creating your own Pesach experience. A good story has many components. You can try these ideas to enhance your evening. GAMES AND QUIZZES A bit of competition can be a lot of fun. Divide the family into groups and allow the grandparents to get into the spirit of the evening. Try using some well-known quiz show concepts, like Who wants to be a Millionaire, and keep the game going throughout the Seder. You could put a new spin on an old favourite like 30 Seconds, giving each family member a group of words that they have to explain to their team in 30 seconds without actually saying the words. A bingo board can also be very effective. Use it to highlight various themes in the Hagaddah, such as the plagues, characters in the story, the order of the Seder or Hebrew words. Be creative and hand out treats and small prizes along the way. Afikoman treasure hunts, in which all the children hunt for the matzah, can also be very exciting and loads of fun.


PROPS AND DECORATIONS Turn your home into an Egyptian palace. Decorate it with pictures on the wall, plagues on the table and yam suf on the floor. Allow your children to ACTING help you decorate. It sets a wonderful tone and Ask various members of the family to act out certain scenarios for your Seder. One family member gets everyone in the mood. Start collecting Pesach props and keep them from year to year. When could dress up as Moshe at the burning bush, searching for Purim costumes look for Pesach taking off his shoes and talking to Hashem. Othideas as well, such as black Cleopatra wigs or fake ers could dress up as one of the four sons before reading the appropriate paragraph. Find a part of gold Egyptian torques. This is a long-term project the Seder that talks to you and that you think your that can be built and developed from year to year. family could bring to life. Children love to see their parents let their hair down and have fun. In celebrating this year’s Seder, use some of these ideas to help you and your family make many warm memories while reliving this miraculous event in Jewish History. Chag Sameach. □

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“Don’t stop dreaming. Never should your children have to ask you: abba, did you once know how to dream?” – Rav Amital to the first graduating class. Rav Yehudah Amital, A”H, was the founder and co-Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, also known as Gush. On the first day the Yeshiva opened, the few students who arrived found that Rav Amital was not there. However, he had sent Yedaya Hacohen from Kfar Etzion with the source sheets for them to prepare. When later asked how he could have been absent on the opening day of the Yeshiva he was starting he said that he didn’t want the Yeshiva to be based on him or his personality. To endure, it had to be self-sustaining, not built around one individual. The uniqueness of Rav Amital’s leadership was evident to everyone that encountered him. On the political side he was instrumental in the formation of the Hesder program that allowed students to combine Yeshiva and army service. In later years he also formed a political party. However it was the nuances of his personality and leadership that changed anyone who encountered him. For example, he taught his students independence and responsibility by often refusing to answer their questions if he thought they should be able to answer them for themselves. This book is a detailed account of Rav Amital’s life, his philosophy and the impression he made on the people he encountered. If you want to understand what true Modern Orthodoxy/Religious Zionism is, what it means to engage with the world because you are completely committed to Halacha and what it means to have an honest and balanced approach to Halacha, this book explains it. While the translation can be a bit clumsy at times it is highly readable and doesn’t simply retell the chronology of Rav Amital’s life. A sample of the first 10% of the book is available for download on


It would be very difficult to try and sum up chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau’s book Out of the Depths, without a fear of doing it an injustice. To glimpse into his remarkable life is a privilege. His memoirs chronicle his life’s journey. It begins with his childhood experiences of the horrors of Buchenwald and the tragedy of his early years. Despite these enormous challenges, he develops into a Talmudic scholar and orator following in the rabbinic footsteps of 38 generations before him. Each of the stories related in this book weaves a magnificent tapestry of interactions and experiences that affect the reader on a deep and spiritual level. I laughed and cried with this remarkable man as I began to recognise that, while this may be the story of one man, it is also the tale of a nation rising from the ashes of the Holocaust and building a home in the State of Israel, still striving daily to continue to exist and achieve greatness. In the foreword, Shimon Peres writes how, as one reads the book: “ is hard to make out words for our eyes have misted over, being as we are exposed to the spine chilling depictions to words that hide a painful soul-wrenching narrative.” I would add to this powerful description by saying that Chief Rabbi Lau’s ultimate message is that each day we remember, we win another battle against the Nazis; that we must remember and never forget. Out of the Depths invites the reader to witness how a boy from Buchenwald became an inspiration for a nation. It presents powerful contrasts between an eight-year-old in a photograph, the Chief Rabbi interacting with powerful figures like Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, King Hussein of Jordan and the Grand Mufti of Egypt, and the man providing comfort to an eight-year-old victim of terror. This man is a living inspiration and his life story is a dramatic and powerful read. To glimpse into his remarkable life through this book is a privilege. Out of the Depths is available online and at Kollel Bookshop.




•2 chunks chopped into large • 2 onions, roughly • 2 lemons oregano • 12-16 sprigs fresh c, halved • 8 cloves fresh garli • Fine sea salt ack pepper • Freshly ground bl • ½ cup olive oil chop 1 ½ cups and • 1 cup white wine s – pit and coarsely ive ol a at lam Ka ps • 2 cu for garnishing keep ½ cup whole 0 °C

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CHOPS • 1 ½ cups shelled hazel nuts • 1 clove garlic • 1 shallot, sliced • 4 tbsp honey • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chi ves (with extra chives for garnish) • 6 1½-inch thick veal cho ps • Sea salt • Ground white pepper

Pre heat the oven to bro




1. Finely mince the nuts, garlic and shallot in a foo d processor. 2. Add the honey and pu lse to make a paste. Stir in the chopped chives and set asi de. 3. Season the veal chops on both sides with salt an d white pepper. 4. Place the chops on a ba king tray 6 inches from the heat and broil for 5 minutes on each side. 5. Spread a layer of hone y paste on one side of eac and return the chops to h chop the baking tray, crust sid e up. 6. Return the tray, uncov ered, to the oven on the rack farthest from the heat. Broil for anoth er 10 minutes, checking to make sure the honey crust is not burni ng. 7. Remove from the over and garnish with chives.

• Non stick spray • 6 tbsp sugar, divided opped semi-sweet chocolate, ch • 12 ounces good quality or margarine • 1 cup unsalted butter t • 4 tsp vanilla extrac • ¼ tsp fine sea salt . • 6 large eggs, separated Preheat the oven to 180


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LETTER FOR PESACH 2012 BY STAN THE GOOD SHABBOS MAN WOW, THE months have flown since the Rosh Hashanah edition…In 2010, the ‘Sokka’ World Cup in Souff Effrikka and the ‘Rugger’ World Cup in New Zealand last year kept the Website very busy, and brought many new viewers to www.stantgsm. com …2012 will be a busy year, BUT…not on the same scale… Pesach is always a busy period in the Yiddisher calendar. Each year brings back wonderful memories of GR8 Sseders Amolikke Yoren with my family in Lichtenburg. Modern seders are very different from the ones I remember from my childhood. When I was young seders were traditional. We spent many hours doing up Leder’s chair (my zaida), the kinderlach spent the night playing nuts and the elders went through the Sedorim. The four Kashes were a very important event and the Afikomen was the highlight of the evening.

These days, the Sedorim seem to be more organized, and synchronized, and the leaders of the seders are very wise young Yiddisher students, who know the Drill from a ‘frum’ point of view… Even with the changes, a seder is an experience that should not be missed. I’m reminded of the story that Yankel told his Dad: Yankel came home from Hebrew school one afternoon and his father asked, “What did you learn today?” He answered, “The Rabbi told us how Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.” “How?” Yankel’s father asked. The boy replied: “Moses was a big strong man and he beat Pharaoh up. Then while he was down, he got all the people together and ran towards the sea. When he got there, he had the Corps of Engineers build a huge pontoon bridge. Once they got on the other side,

they blew up the bridge while the Egyptians were trying to cross.” The father was shocked. “Is that what the Rabbi taught you?” he asked. Yankel replied, “No. But you’d never believe the story he DID tell us!” The Exodus of Yidden from South Africa has been a different kind of exodus. Judging from the thousands of e-mails I get yearly, expats long for their Beloved Country and want to know everything there is to know about ‘Der Heim’. It seems that many would love to return, but can’t afford to. The Stan the Good Shabbos Man letter is in its 12th year and the stories and bobbameises continue. Most people read the sections that interest them. The website has passed 25,000 visits a month, with up to 4 million ‘hits’ and 8,000 letters a week going out. This year will be a year of South African politics, with the big Indaba of the men from the ministry taking place in Manguang in December 2012 to set the pace for the next elections… On a Seriaaaaaaaaas note, methinks that ‘Young Julius with us for a while despite his suspension from the ANC. May Pesach bring with it peace and prosperity for all the Yidden in the Diaspora and of course in the Land of Milk and Honey. I wish our readers a Chag Sameach and to all Yidden have a freylakhn- kosher Pesach. □




Jewish Observer - Pesach 2012  

Pesach 2012

Jewish Observer - Pesach 2012  

Pesach 2012