THE MAGAZINE OF THE ORTHODOX UNION
Raising Kids Alone Rabbi Natan Slifkin on Jewish Hawking Basketball Star Finds God
VOLUME 74, NO. 1 â€˘ $5.50
F A L L 5 7 74 / 2 0 1 3
65 The Jewish Jordan’s Triple Threat:
FEATURES 12 A Clarification
By Aharon Lichtenstein 14 PROFILE
The Rabbi in the Public Square: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks By David P. Goldman 20 On My Own
The challenges of raising kids alone By Barbara Barry 24 The Guru of Kashrut: Rabbi
Alexander S. Rosenberg and the Transformation of Kosher Certification in America By Timothy Lytton 30 REVIEW ESSAY
Rebels in the Holy Land By Sam Finkel Reviewed by Toby Klein Greenwald
Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Lessons from The Court By Tamir Goodman and Judy Horowitz Goodman Reviewed by Dov Kramer
The Pioneering Rabbi What was it like to be an Orthodox rabbi in America a century ago? By Aaron I. Reichel 54 The Other Jewish Hawking
By BJ Rosenfeld Reviewed by Jack Abramowitz
By Martin Nachimson
88 Listening to God: Inspirational
8 CHAIRMAN’S MESSAGE
Stories for My Grandchildren By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Reviewed by David Olivestone
Gerald M. Schreck 10 FROM THE DESK OF
RABBI STEVEN WEIL, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
90 Reviews in Brief
By Gil Student
On and Off the Beaten Track in . . . Hamat Tiberias By Peter Abelow 72 JUST BETWEEN US
INSIDE THE OU 74 OU Raises Funds for Tornado Victims By Michael Orbach 76 OU Calendar Diehards
48 Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein:
6 PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE
44 The Decline of the Rabbinic Sermon
By Zev Eleff
Get Lunch in the Bag By Shira Isenberg 86 The Chameleon in the Closet
37 Two Rabbis—A Father and Son
—Discuss the Changing Landscape of the American Rabbinate By Steve Lipman
84 WELLNESS REPORT
A Loss Worthy of Grief By Yamin Levy
By Bayla Sheva Brenner
80 THE CHEF’S TABLE
Starved for Time? Easy, Healthy Meals for Working Moms By Norene Gilletz
COVER STORY 34 The Changing American Rabbinate
VO L . 74 , N O . 1
—and Proud of It By Bayla Sheva Brenner 77 Jewish Action Wins
Rockower Award 78 New Books from OU Press page 30
What’s the Truth About . . . The Legend of the Two Brothers and the Temple Mount? By Ari Z. Zivotofsky 96 LASTING IMPRESSIONS
Story Time By Ann Koffsky About the Cover: The first American-born Ivy League-educated Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein was the rabbi of Institutional Synagogue in the early part of the twentieth century. Rabbi Goldstein, who also served as president of the Orthodox Union from 1924 to 1933, was a pioneer and taught generations of rabbis how to serve as an American shul rav. Pictured, from left: Philanthropist Harry Fischel, father-in-law of Rabbi Goldstein; Rabbi Goldstein; his son-in-law and synagogue successor, Rabbi Dr. O. Asher Reichel, shown here at his wedding. Photo courtesy of Aaron I. Reichel
Did the rabbis of old engage in hunting? By Natan Slifkin SPECIAL SECTION 60 Scoring for God: The Spiritual
Journey of Former Basketball Star Doron Sheffer By Hillel Kuttler Jewish Action seeks to provide a forum for a diversity of legitimate opinions within the spectrum of Orthodox Judaism. Therefore, opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the policy or opinion of the Orthodox Union. Jewish Action is published by the Orthodox Union • 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004 212.563.4000. Printed Quarterly Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, plus Special Passover issue. ISSN No. 0447-7049. Subscription: $16.00 per year; Canadian, $20.00; Overseas, $60.00. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Jewish Action, 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004. 2
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More on Kosher Comedy g
“Kosher Comedy: The Rise of the Orthodox Comic” by Steve Lipman (summer 2011) was an interesting article, but it left out the frum female comediennes out there, most of whom perform exclusively for female audiences. There are several in Israel and the greater New York area. MIRIAM DRUYAN Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel
Steve Lipman Responds g
Although there are some Orthodox women doing stand-up comedy, my article concentrated on those doing it as a profession, in the United States or in Israel, before primarily Englishspeaking audiences. Many women, and men, do comedy as a sidelight to their careers in other fields, but I was showing the trend of those doing it full-time. One who came to my attention after I wrote the story is Danielle Jacobs, a trained actress, who, while not a full-time comic, appears frequently online in the guise of Rebbetzin RLZ (Rivka Leah Zelig), delivering humorous insights into Jewish life. Two other Orthodox performers who came belatedly to my attention are Avi Liberman and David Finkelstein, who do their acts at various comedy clubs. The fact that these comics turned up after I wrote my story—I trust that there are others—is another sign of the growth of Orthodox men and women working in the comedy industry.
Kudos for Tackling a Sensitive Subject g
The article by Dr. Yocheved Debow (“Why Do We Need to Talk to our Children About Sexuality?,” summer 2013) provides further evidence that our religious community has begun to recognize that we have too long denied the importance of dealing openly
with sexual issues. Credit must also be given to Ktav and OU Press, who jointly published Talking About Intimacy and Sexuality: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Parents, and to Jewish Action, for giving parents the opportunity to gain the expertise and courage needed to tackle this sensitive subject. We live in erotically charged times in which no one is protected from the myriad sexual messages confronting us daily. Our children are at risk because most parents do not equip their children with the necessary coping tools to deal with sexual inputs, particularly prior to the emotional storms and confusion of puberty. Making the situation worse is the assumption some have that adequate sex education happens in the schools. Moreover, parents all too often feel gratefully exempt from talking with their children about sexual issues, since someone else is going to do it before they get married. It is for this very problem that Dr. Debow’s book provides a most sensible solution. At the risk of undermining my livelihood, I can safely say that a significant proportion of the cases that come to me for therapy would be eliminated if children were raised differently. Many sexual dysfunctions, physical and emotional, may well be avoided if the next generation could develop in a sex-positive atmosphere, where adequate information is readily available, where questions could be asked with minimal embarrassment and where tzeniut is balanced with openness and an affirmative outlook. DAVID S. RIBNER, DSW Chairman, Sex Therapy Training Program Bar-Ilan University Ramat Gan, Israel
Reporting a Molester g
Respectfully, Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer’s summary of Rav Elyashiv’s ruling on reporting a child
Editor Nechama Carmel firstname.lastname@example.org
Literary Editor Matis Greenblatt Assistant Editor Rashel Zywica Contributing Editors Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein • Dr. Judith Bleich Rabbi Emanuel Feldman • Rabbi Hillel Goldberg Rabbi Joseph Grunblatt • Rabbi Sol Roth Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter • Rabbi Berel Wein Editorial Committee David Bashevkin • Binyamin Ehrenkranz Mayer Fertig • David Olivestone • Gerald M. Schreck Rabbi Gil Student • Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb Advertising Director Carrie R. Beylus • 212.613.8226 email@example.com
Advertising Coordinator Eli Lebowicz Subscriptions 212.613.8146 Design KZ Creative ORTHODOX UNION Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil Executive Vice President, Emeritus Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb Senior Director of Institutional Advancement Paul S. Glasser Chief Financial Officer Shlomo Schwartz Chief Human Resources Officer Lenny Bessler Chief Technology Officer Samuel Davidovics Chief Communications Officer Mayer Fertig President Martin Nachimson Chairman of the Board Stephen J. Savitsky Chairman, Board of Governors Mark Bane Communications Commission Gerald M. Schreck, Chairman Joel M. Schreiber, Chairman Emeritus Barbara Lehmann Siegel; Dr. Herbert Schlager; Rabbi Gil Student; Michael C. Wimpfheimer © Copyright 2013 by the Orthodox Union. Eleven Broadway, New York, NY, 10004. Telephone 212.563.4000 • www.ou.org Periodicals Postage Paid, New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices.
Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 3
abuser to secular authorities seems to confuse salient points (“Discovering Rav Elyashiv,” summer 2013). In his letter to Rav Elyashiv, Rabbi Feivel Cohen carefully crafted several scenarios—the underlying premise of all being the reporting of a child abuser to the secular authorities without a prior rabbinic ruling—and accordingly, Rav Elyashiv’s response must be read in this context. With this foundation, Rabbi Cohen presented three hypothetical situations: 1. An instance where one has absolute knowledge of the abuse. 2. An instance where one has a credible allegation of abuse (“raglayim ladavar”). 3. An allegation lacking even raglayim ladavar but instead is based upon some suspicion or rumor. Rav Elyashiv responded that in instances where the matter is clear, one should report the child abuser to the secular authorities. However, allegations lacking even raglayim ladavar but based only upon eizeh dimyon, some imagined thing, may not be reported to the authorities. One knows when one has clarity over a matter. This leaves us with the task of defining “raglayim ladavar.” The term raglayim ladavar is introduced to this exchange by Rabbi Feivel Cohen and accordingly deference is given to his intended meaning of the term. Rabbi Cohen and Rav Elyashiv knew each other well and corresponded regularly; they understood each other. Rabbi Cohen was recently asked to define the term raglayim ladavar as used in Rav Elyashiv’s pesak. He explained that the pesak directed one to “use his God-given common sense” to determine whether an allegation met the threshold of raglayim ladavar and should thus be reported to the secular authorities. Indeed, Rav Elyashiv’s pesak is glaring in its absence of any directive to ask for a rabbinic ruling before reporting to secular authorities. Instead, working within the underlying premise of the she’eilah as posed, he provides guidelines for instances when one should report and when one may not. Respectfully, Rabbi Bechhofer’s appendage of clear witnesses, beit din and evidence to this dialogue may confuse the implementation of a clear pesak. Rav Elyashiv’s written ruling is an expression of his intent that cannot be challenged in good faith. In short: all credible allegations of child abuse should be reported directly to the secular authorities without first seeking a rabbinic ruling. Only the secular authorities have the expertise to properly investigate allegations of child abuse and determine whether an arrest and prosecution are warranted, and the resources and policing power to protect children from this exigent danger. BEN HIRSCH Brooklyn, New York
Ben Hirsch is a co-founder of Survivors for Justice (www.sfjny.org), an organization that advocates and educates on issues of child safety. Ed.: Please note that as of press time, we have been unable to reach Rabbi Feivel Cohen to corroborate the views expressed in Mr. Hirsch's letter.
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By Martin Nachimson
NCSY Summer Programs: A Life-Changing Experience A
s you read this, nearly 1,000 North American teenagers are about to return to their high school classrooms or begin their college careers with a deeper appreciation of their Jewish heritage and a stronger connection to the Jewish homeland. They have just spent an incredibly inspiring summer at an NCSY program, and even as the summer recedes into memory, they will carry their lifechanging experiences with them. It is no secret that summer camp is one of the best ways to deepen a young person’s connection to Judaism. Away from the pressures of school and home, in an environment created to emphasize Judaism, camps have often succeeded where other approaches have been found wanting. NCSY offers this kind of atmosphere all year round, but its summer programs can go beyond school-year programming in many ways, because it’s the only time in the year when many of these teens are totally immersed in Yiddishkeit. Whether teens come from yeshivah or public high school, whether they put on tefillin every day or have never worn them at all, whether they have lit Shabbat candles in the past or not, they invariably come away from an NCSY summer program with a more intense feeling for Judaism than they had before. This past summer, 980 teens were enrolled in our twelve unique summer programs in Israel, Europe and the US. This is an all-time record for NCSY, but I have no doubt we will break the record again next summer. To what can we attribute the success of our summer programs? I believe our success lies in our recognition that each and every teen is unique, and that what speaks to one teen may not necessarily speak to the next. As a result, we offer a diverse array of programs: some focus on leadership training, others on volunteerism and chesed, still others on Jewish learning. Because of the broad range of experiences we offer, we truly believe that there is an NCSY summer program for virtually every Jewish teen. 6
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Take TJJ, for example, a coed program geared to public school kids. This program allows kids to experience the thrill of touring Israel and deepening their understanding of our shared history. When I was youth chairman of NCSY, I rode on one of the TJJ buses along with the teens, all of whom were in Israel for the first time. I could see the impact the visits to Kever Rachel and Chevron had on these kids. Even though many of them had never experienced a Shabbat prior to that summer, they could feel the kedushah of these holy sites. A few of them even got choked up when putting on tefillin for the first time. Kollel NCSY, an all-boys program, offers an entirely different experience. Geared to yeshivah kids as well as to those with limited backgrounds who are interested in learning, the program provides a unique combination of sports with intense Torah study with some of today’s foremost Torah scholars, including Rabbi Hershel Schachter, OU posek and rosh yeshivah at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. I am always impressed not only by Rav Schachter’s vast Torah knowledge but also by the personal warmth he shows each and every student. Recently, NCSY Kollel participants visited an army base to witness OU Israel’s Mashiv HaRuach program firsthand. Mashiv HaRuach is an outreach program that gives Israeli soldiers a deeper appreciation for Judaism and the Jewish land. Rav Schachter accompanied the NCSY Kollel participants and, on the bus ride to the base, reviewed the halachot that pertain to army life. “The boys were amazed by the impact the OU is having on these soldiers,” said Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, director of NCSY Kollel. Our GIVE program (Girls Israel Volunteer Experience) is an all-girls Israel-based summer program that focuses heavily on volunteering and chesed opportunities. Participants assist developmentally disabled youth, work in soup kitchens and run a carnival for disadvantaged youth. And while I
won’t list each and every one of our summer programs, I do want to mention NCSY’s Jewish Overseas Leadership Training (JOLT) program, which takes promising teens on a life-altering trip to Poland, Denmark and Israel. I want to stress that while all of our programs offer phenomenal trips and touring, their primary goal is to help teens—on all religious levels—grow Jewishly. No wonder our programs have been known to change lives. Sixteenyear-old Netanya Stein is a case in point. Three years ago, she met Rael Blumenthal, New Jersey NCSY’s city director of Teaneck. “I had never heard of NCSY before, but he got me hooked,” said Netanya, whose story is posted on NCSY’s web site. “I signed up for TJJ and it was the best summer of my life.” The program served as Netanya’s first positive introduction to Orthodox Judaism. Netanya, who will be a senior at a public high school in New Jersey this coming year, became very close to her advisors and they made her want to learn more about Judaism. “I wanted to become more observant,” she said. After spending a summer on TJJ, she attended GIVE and JOLT. After she graduates from high school, Netanya hopes to attend seminary in Israel. Netanya’s story is not unique. And none of our programs would be successful without our first-rate staff. We can inspire teens because we understand teens. We know what they are interested in and what motivates them. As Rabbi Benovitz explains, “If something is happening in the teen world, we are aware of it.” Our directors are highly trained and extremely capable individuals. I am constantly impressed by David Cutler, director of NCSY summer programs and finances, and his exceptional staff who coordinated the sending off of hundreds of teens this past summer. David is a consummate professional who is continually bringing our summer programs to greater heights. As OU president, I must, of course, look at NCSY summer programs from a broad point of view. It is important that our teens do not lose their enthusiasm when they return home from their summer experiences, so NCSY’s school-year programs and the NextGen programs for college students and alumni are very much on my horizon. I want to expand our summer programs so we can accommodate even more teenagers. I want to make sure that any teen who wants to enjoy the experience can do so. The school year is here, the yamim tovim are approaching, and planning for next year’s programs are underway. Now is the time to start thinking about presenting your favorite teen(s) with the gift of an NCSY summer for 2014. Allow me to conclude with an invitation to parents and educators out there: please come and visit our summer programs. Visit us at any one of our US or Israel programs, and see for yourself why nearly 1,000 teens chose to spend their summer with NCSY. For more information on any one of our summer programs, visit http://summer.ncsy.org. g
Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 7
e pride ourselves on producing a magazine that is not predictable and that brings you—our readers—articles you simply won’t find elsewhere. With our broad grasp of the Orthodox world, we try to present articles on the lifestyles, trends and views that reflect the full gamut of the Orthodox community. Why do we strive to be unpredictable? Because Jewish life—our past, as well as our present—is unpredictable. In this issue, we focus heavily on the American Jewish experience. We look at the American Orthodox rabbinate and ask: How has it changed and evolved? How are rabbis different today than they were fifty, sixty or even one hundred years ago? How has technology affected the rabbinate? How does the unpredictability of modern Jewish life continue to affect the role of the rabbi? In her extensively researched article, writer Bayla Sheva Brenner discovers some surprising answers to these questions. Nothing proves the unpredictable nature of Jewish life more than our article on Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, a Gerald M. Schreck is chairman of the OU's Communications Commission.
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By Gerald M. Schreck
giant of a man who served as president of the OU from 1924 to 1933. A true visionary, Rabbi Goldstein, in the words of famed writer Herman Wouk, “combined total loyalty to tradition with a sophisticated modern mind.” Today there are many Orthodox Jews who manage to successfully merge tradition with modernity. But Rabbi Goldstein lived in a time when American Orthodoxy was in its infancy, and predictions that Orthodox Judaism would not survive in America were common. Indeed, the predictions did not seem unreasonable. As Rabbi Goldstein noted in a speech he delivered at an OU convention in 1927 (parts of which are reprinted in this issue), the “chief problem” that confronted American Jewry was chillul Shabbos. Could Rabbi Goldstein have predicted the beautiful Torah communities that today dot the American landscape? Could he have foreseen the Shabbos-observant enclaves of Teaneck, Phoenix, Brooklyn, Dallas and Los Angeles? Similarly, no one could have foreseen the remarkable explosion of the kosher food industry. Today the US kosher market generates more than $12 billion in annual retail sales. In his article on Rabbi Alexander S. Rosenberg, rabbinic administrator of the OU Kosher Division from 1950 to 1972, Timothy Lytton, author of Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food, describes how kosher certification was riddled with corruption in the early part of the twentieth century. In fact, in the 1920s, the New York City Department of Markets estimated that 40 percent of the meat sold as kosher in the city was, in fact, nonkosher. The situation seemed bleak; but then the OU embarked upon an extraordinary endeavor—it established the first non-
profit kosher certification agency. As the OU grew, thousands of products became OU certified. Yet even Rabbi Rosenberg, known as the “kashrut guru” because of his passionate commitment to making kosher food available in every supermarket in the country, could not have predicted that one day the OU would certify more than 500,000 products in more than eighty-three countries. There is much to glean from this jam-packed issue which reminds us that Jewish life is ever so fascinating because it is inexplicable, incomprehensible and, above all, unpredictable. Before I wish you a kesivah vachasimah tovah, I want to invite you to check out our online edition at www.ou.org/jewish_action. Thanks to the OU’s wonderful communications staff including our new chief communications officer, Mayer Fertig, and Gary Magder, our director of digital media, we are constantly upgrading our digital offerings to ensure that you get the most meaningful and relevant content, in print and online. Jewish Action recently teamed up with Savitsky Talks, the OU radio program featuring talented host Steve Savitsky. Now, after reading Jewish Action articles online, you can listen to fascinating interviews with some of the authors. In this issue, for example, Steve interviews Rabbi Yamin Levy on coping with the loss of a baby, Rabbi Natan Slifkin on the relationship between Torah and the natural sciences and BJ Rosenfeld, a Conservative Jewish mom who discusses dealing with her sons’ decision to become Orthodox. Visit us online to take advantage of our digital-only features, and feel free to send us your suggestions for future interviews. In the meantime, I wish all of you a shanah tovah. g
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From the Desk of RABBI STEVEN WEIL, Executive Vice President
t is a sad but wellknown statistic that the largest and fastestgrowing bloc of American Jewry is the unaffiliated. Depending on where in the United States you live, anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of the Jews in your city ages forty and under have no affiliation whatsoever to Judaism— they don’t belong to a synagogue or a JCC, they don’t contribute to Federation campaigns and they don’t even know an “Aleph” from a “Bet.” Sixty to eighty percent is a staggering number that we cannot afford to ignore. One of the ways we at the OU are addressing this issue is through our Legacy Group, an outstanding cadre of thinkers and scholars in leadership positions who come together periodically to discuss and devise solutions to some of the most challenging concerns facing our communities across North America. Significant and recurring questions we ask at Legacy conferences are: How can we create real portals of entry into our Torah institutions for fellow Jews who are otherwise excluded? How can we be more inviting, more relevant and more inclusive of our brothers and sisters who may not yet think or observe the way we do but who are very much part of our family? The first step in building a “big tent” is recognizing that our shuls are not simply places to daven, learn and socialize with friends whom we haven’t seen all week; our kehillot need to offer much more than that. We can offer a sense of community, a concept that is sorely lacking in a generation where people have hundreds of Facebook friends and Twitter followers but not much real human interaction. Being there for others during a simchah, an illness or a shivah by opening our homes or bringing food is second nature to us, but it is an alien notion to those who are not part of a closeknit community.
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Our shuls should offer opportunities for social justice, aka tikkun olam. We should be involved in countless projects that contribute to the greater good of society—food and clothing drives, aid to storm victims, volunteering in soup kitchens and shelters— opportunities that appeal to everyone regardless of their level of knowledge or observance. Our shuls should offer opportunities for Israel activism—such as participation in AIPAC or NORPAC— and synagogue members should host elected officials to advocate for Israel. One doesn’t have to have an Orthodox upbringing to love Israel and work for her security and well-being. Step two: Recognize that sometimes you have to leave the tent to find the people you would like to bring in. Appropriate synagogue-related programming can and should take place in neutral, nonthreatening venues outside of the building. A barbecue in the park, continuing education in the workplace, a “Lunch and Learn” at a restaurant, a group outing to an art festival, the theater or a concert are all enjoyable programs that might be attractive to someone who isn’t comfortable going to a synagogue but would make a connection in a more familiar and relaxed setting. Step three: Create an environment that is warm and welcoming. Note the Disney model: all Disney employees, from the parking lot attendants to the maintenance crew to the ticket and ice cream vendors, are trained to be friendly and inviting. Their mission is to make each person feel like an important guest. Before a visitor to Disneyland reaches the first ride, he or she is made to feel welcome. Our shuls must do this too. An unaffiliated Jew often feels uncomfortable and intimidated upon entering an Orthodox shul. But if he is greeted warmly by the security staff as soon as he approaches, and if he is ushered to a seat by someone who gives him a warm smile
and a siddur with an English translation, all of the anxieties and fears of the unknown start to melt away. No one wants to be in a place where where he doesn’t feel comfortable. Let’s make sure to create a shul environment where everyone can feel like they belong. Step four: The big-tent mentality has to permeate the entire congregation. No matter how talented and committed the shul rabbi and president are, they cannot singlehandedly be responsible for making a positive impression on every person who finds his way in. A newcomer will likely interact more with the individual person he is seated next to than the rabbi; that means those crucial first impressions are yours and mine to make. Will we go out of our way to talk to someone new and be helpful to him or her? Will we make a point of inviting him or her to our homes? The Boca Raton Synagogue is at the forefront of the big-tent model. It has an outreach professional on staff and sponsors a “Share One Shabbos” (SOS) Friday evening, where virtually the entire congregation hosts someone who has never experienced the beauty of a Shabbat dinner. The shul even produced instructional videos to help people prepare for the SOS Shabbat dinner. Kehilath Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper East Side hosts a wildly successful beginner’s minyan led by George Rohr. These are just a few examples of ways that shuls can create a welcoming culture that espouses our fellow Jews and exposes them to the meaning and beauty of a Torah life. I have had the privilege of spending Shabbat in numerous communities across the country. I am proud to say that many of us are finding ways to make our shuls true “kehillot,” warm and open to all who wish to enter. Sadly, some of us still have work to do. Treating our batei knesset as a poor man’s country club tragically misses the opportunity to reach out and bring others in. Our brothers and sisters are slipping away. Let us bring them into our tent before it is too late. g
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When Israelis are sick and injured, nothing gets them to the hospital faster than a Magen David Adom ambulance. But MDA paramedics on motorbikes can negotiate traffic and often begin lifesaving interventions ahead of the ambulance’s arrival. Because when lives are at stake, every second counts — and so does every dollar. Please donate now.
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A Clarification by Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we published “Seeking Answers with Humility,” an article exploring the Jewish response to pain and suffering. The article, which was adapted from an address by Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein but was not reviewed by him, included a reference to Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner’s approach to suffering. Below, Rabbi Lichtenstein offers a clarification.
s I sit down to give vent to my thoughts and feelings, prepared to oscillate during the next several hours between preparing shiurim and contemplating how best to cope with rectifying an unfortunate recent lapse, it occurs to me that the calendar may interpose a cognitive dissonance between Jewish Action readers and myself. I write just after Shavuot, the holiday of revelation, in its multi-faceted power and glory, the reverberation of the shofar and the blend of fiery blaze and impending darkness of Ma’amad Har Sinai shaping my mindset and experience. Specifically, the spiritual tension that is central to the process of teshuvah may seem to stand in marked contrast to the aura of Shavuot, and, presumably, better befitting the character of another central date, that of Yom Kippur. For others, however, the impact of Shavuot, and its reenactment, may have begun to erode into the recesses of memory. In a sense, the contrast between the two polestars of mo’adim u’zemanim cannot be denied. Mori VeRabi, the Rav, has dwelt upon the differences in his remarkable introductory passage to Mah Dodekh miDod. Yet, the differences are, in part, illusory. There is much which they share in common regarding both their respective historical origins and their normative status at the level of commandment. The similarities are significant. Each constituted a critical occasion on its own, and yet is also defined, lesha’ah and ledorot, as the conclusion of a process. Each, originally, was marked by epiphanous revelation, and yet, at the same time, the conclusion of each chag is associated with a similar re-
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sult—namely, the transmission of the Divine Torah to the realm of human experience: Shavuot, familiar as zeman matan Torateinu, the giving of the Torah Shebichtav, and Yom Kippur, although not designated in tefillah as zeman matan Torateinu, is the occasion of the transmission of Torah Shebe’al Peh as a corpus to Moshe Rabbeinu. Each required a measure of abstinence, which is reflected in both the physical and spiritual realms, and each is dominated by fire, which protects Torah from impurity. Both yamim tovim confer upon the individual Jew, and Knesset Yisrael, an element of majesty and a sense of frailty. It is this last factor which includes contrite submission and the quest for molding our spiritual destiny within the context of repentant teshuvah. Hence, we regard each of these days, despite their differences, in a context not of dissonance, but of complementarity. These ruminations, while focused upon general and permanent aspects of our religious experience as shomrei and zochrei moadim, were greatly sharpened and accentuated by the felt need to cope with a situation which had arisen. It was recently brought to my attention that some of the readers of an exposition of a talk that I gave to students at our yeshivah a few months ago, published in the spring issue of Jewish Action, were critical of the tone of the article in general, and particularly of the passage that mentioned Mori VeRabi Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, zt”l. My feelings of awe, respect and gratitude toward him are well-known by all who know me and have appeared in the pages of Jewish Action as well (“The Source of Faith is Faith It-
self,” [fall 1992]). Therefore, an apology and a clarification are called for to dispel any misunderstandings and to set the record straight regarding both the tone and substance of an article that appeared in my name. Aside from the basic obligation to take the utmost care not to offend any person, whatsoever, there is an additional need to be doubly scrupulous when relating to one’s rebbi. Therefore, I would like to apologize for any unintended misrepresentation of the Rosh Yeshivah’s, zt”l, position. Moreover, if the impression was created that there were any disrespectful comments, I sincerely and wholeheartedly apologize for the misunderstanding. The article in question was never written by me, nor was it shown to me prior to publication. It is a summary of an oral talk that was given at our yeshivah and transferred into writing by a loyal and devoted talmid. Although I do not recall the exact phrases that I used, it would seem that some of the material cited was a wellintentioned paraphrase rather than a direct citation. The talk was a general discussion of the Jewish response to tragedy and was not intended to be an in depth analysis of the Rosh Yeshivah’s position on this topic. For a full exposition of Rav Hutner’s, zt”l, position, there is no need to rely on this talk. The interested reader is referred to the Jewish Observer (vol. XII, no. 8 [Oct. 1977]), where an authorized and lengthy version of his views was published. g Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein is rosh yeshivah of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut, Israel.
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By David P. Goldman
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks retires as Britainâ€™s chief rabbi in September after serving in the position for twenty-two years. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Chief Rabbi
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SQUARE Columbia University’s Hillel House auditorium is packed with frum students on a late October evening in 2011. The hall seats over 300, but scores of young people are standing as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks comes to the podium. “We all know why Jewish students go to university,” he begins. “To find a shidduch [marriage partner]!” The audience bursts into “Od Yishama” as a newly betrothed couple comes to the front. It is easy to forget that the jovial pulpit rabbi leading the song sits in Britain’s House of Lords. Orthodoxy’s Unofficial Ambassador Rabbi Sacks, who retires as Britain’s chief rabbi in September after serving in the position for twenty-two years, is Orthodoxy’s unofficial ambassador to the world: philosopher, political theorist, diplomat and advocate for Jewish communities and the State of Israel. The author of twenty-four books, he has made a great impact on American Orthodoxy through his weekly parashah commentaries as well as his Koren editions of the siddur and machzor. As a pulpit rabbi and teacher, though, Rabbi Sacks also has earned the affection of the observant world. Rabbi Sacks was born in London in 1948 and has been married to his wife, Elaine, since 1970. They have three children. Prior to taking his cur-
In a recent interview, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was asked: “Do you believe in a God or do you know there is a God?” To which he replied, “I know there’s a God. The great news is that He believes in us, which is much more important than our believing in Him.” Interview with British journalist and media personality Sir David Frost on May 21, 2013, in London’s The Barbican.
David P. Goldman writes the “Spengler” column for Asia Times Online and PJ Media. He also writes regularly for the Jewish webzine Tablet and has published in Hakirah, Commentary and other Jewish publications. He is a former senior editor for the religious monthly First Things. He davens at Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City.
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“I find it quite difficult to see some of the churches criticizing Israel. Do they understand that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where it is safe to be a Christian?” Interview with British journalist and media personality Sir David Frost on May 21, 2013, in London’s The Barbican. rent post, Rabbi Sacks served as principal of Jews’ College as well as rabbi of the Golders Green and Marble Arch synagogues. Rabbi Sacks’ impact is likely to grow as a broader audience comes to know his Torah scholarship. But his greatest contribution may be to have defined a new kind of role for an Orthodox rabbi—that of public intellectual who applies Torah insights to policy matters in the public square. In an increasingly secular United Kingdom, Rabbi Sacks, who was educated at Cambridge, has become Britain’s most prominent voice on behalf of religion, debating “New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins before live and television audiences, and defending faith against the challenges of science. In the process, Rabbi Sacks has become something of a hero for British Christians. Francis Phillips, a book reviewer for the UK Catholic Herald, wrote in September 2012, “it is a great pity that the Chief Rabbi can’t, for obvious reasons, apply for the job of being the next Archbishop of Canterbury: he is an intellectual—but with a gift for clear exposition; he believes in God, marriage, the family; he is conciliatory rather than divisive; and from his own religious and historical perspective he sees the marginalization of faith for what it is.” Rabbi Sacks’ influence on the public life of the United Kingdom is vastly disproportionate to the size of the British Jewish community, consisting of only 277,000 members according to a recent UK census. This is due not only to his extraordinary personal qualities, but to the unique circumstances of British public life. Britain is a monarchy with an established church headed by the sovereign. The integration of church and state does not suppress other religions. On the contrary, by making the leader of British Jewry a member of the Establishment, the British system elevates the role of the chief rabbi. Remarkably, the chief rabbi has become
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England’s most visible advocate of traditional religious faith as the Church of England has become more liberal. Rabbi Sacks’ predecessor, Baron Immanuel Jakobovits, who served as chief rabbi from 1967 to 1991, brought the rabbinate into the public square during the Margaret Thatcher administration. When the Church of England attacked the Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaking at the OU. policies of the Conservative prime minister, Rabbi Jakobovits joke; I read it as a profoundly anti-Sedefended her, arguing that the state mitic passage,” adding that Dawkins does the most good by opening up ophad used these stereotypes because he portunities for individual advancement was a “Christian atheist” rather than a rather than distributing welfare. Mar“Jewish atheist.” garet Thatcher, in turn, remained a lifelong supporter of Israel and a strong The Universal Value of the advocate for Soviet Jews. Biblical Covenant Rabbi Sacks is less identified with No review of Rabbi Sacks’ writing the government of the day than his would do justice to its breadth, but one predecessor, but his influence is far recent book illustrates Rabbi Sacks’ broader in British society. In more than presence in the British public square. twenty books and hundreds of articles His The Home We Build Together, published in 2007, begins with a withering critique of multiculturalism as a poor “A world without values quickly foundation for liberal democracy, and becomes a world without value.” concludes with a defense of the con“Has Europe Lost Its Soul?” Lecture cept of covenant as the foundation for delivered at The Pontifical Gregorian successful modern society. University, Rome, December 12, 2011. “Liberal democracy is in danger,” Rabbi Sacks warned. “The real clash is between liberalism and multiculturaland commentaries, he has become the ism. Liberalism is about the rights of most effective advocate for faith in individuals, multiculturalism is about Britain’s public square, as well as the the rights of groups, and they are inmost widely read living teacher in the compatible. Common to both is that English-speaking Orthodox world. they see the relationship between In a highly publicized September citizens and the state as purely 2012 debate with Richard Dawkins, for contractual . . . Society becomes a example, Rabbi Sacks denounced his hotel. You pay the price; you get a opponent’s characterization of God as room . . . The trouble is that a hotel is anti-Semitic. Dawkins described “the a place where no one is at home.” God of the Old Testament” as a “vindicToday’s society, Rabbi Sacks contive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser” as tended, cannot flourish if immigrant well as a “misogynist,” “homophobic,” minorities are merely tolerated as “racist,” “pestilential” and “infanticiguests. Nor can it survive as a collection dal.” Rabbi Sacks told Dawkins on BBC of self-isolating communities under the Television, “I did not read [this] as a so-called multicultural model. How is
it possible to achieve what he calls integration without assimilation, where each community contributes to the common good in its own unique way? He finds the answer in a Torah-based concept of society. When the people of Israel stand before Mount Sinai, Rabbi Sacks writes: Moses brings them God’s proposal, and asks them, in effect, to decide whether to accept it or not. The fact of choice is fundamental, for the Bible portrays God not as an overwhelming force but as a constitutional monarch. The supreme power makes space for human freedom. There is no justified government without the consent of the governed, even if the governor is the creator of heaven and earth . . . God makes space for human freedom and invites an entire people to become, in the rabbinic phrase, “His partners in the work of creation.” The Bible, Rabbi Sacks claims, has universal significance for human society: The story of the Bible is the tangled tale of the consequences of God’s fateful gift of human freedom. Faith, or more precisely, faithfulness, is born where the freedom of human beings meets the freedom of God in an unconstrained act of mutual commitment. That is why historically, wherever the Hebrew Bible has made an impact on political life—usually in some form of Calvinism—it has done so in the name of “a new birth of freedom.” This citation In crisis, the wrong question to from the Gettysask is, “What have I done to deburg address resserve this?” The right one is, onates with “What am I now being summoned American politito do?” Each of us has a task. cal thought, to be Every life has a purpose. We can sure, but it is still bear the pain of the past when we remarkable for discover the future we are called the world to be on to make. instructed on the universal value of “Answering God's Call,” Huffington Post, the Biblical May 18, 2013. covenant by a rabbi who sits in Britain’s House of Lords. In a chapter entitled “A religious defense of liberal democracy,” Rabbi Sacks concludes, “Earthly authority is subject to overarching ethical imperatives. No earthly power is ultimate. That is the great religious contribution to liberty.” And Rabbi Sacks adds this remarkable assertion: “The concept of the moral limits of power is more important to freedom than is democracy. For democracy contains within it a fatal danger. Tocqueville gave it a name: the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ A majority can oppress a minority. The only defense against this is to establish the moral limits of power . . . Biblical politics is limited politics—the political of liberal democracies, not of the Greek city state.” Here we see a clear distinction between Torah insights and run-of-the-mill secular political science, which emphasizes the mechanics of the democratic process rather than the overarching principles that govern it. As the American Orthodox Jewish philosopher Michael Wyschogrod argues, “To discuss theological criteria for the constitution of a secu-
lar republic runs against the grain of modern political thought, even though constitutional restrictions on popular sovereignty imply reliance on an authority that is greater than human.” Rabbi Sacks makes the startling claim that the covenant between God and Israel at Mount Sinai has universal applicability to human affairs, and that the Jewish experience is normative rather than idiosyncratic. It is a deeply rooted understanding of politics that offers a religious alternative to the impoverished thinking of modern secular society. The unique circumstances of his office gave Rabbi Sacks a bully pulpit, but he has brought to that pulpit an encyclopedic command of Western thought, profound Torah scholarship and a boldness of expres“Judaism is the refusal to give sion. The role of way to despair.” rabbi as public intel“The Case for God,” BBC1, first aired lectual, pioneered by September 6, 2010. Rabbis Jakobovits and Sacks, might be transplanted to America. At Yeshiva University, for example, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik leads the new Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought. (Rabbi Soloveichik, who gave the benediction at the 2012 Republican National Convention, writes on rabbinic thought and American democracy.)
TO SAVE THE FUTURE, R E M E M B E R T H E PA S T !
THE HOLOCAUST A HISTORY FROM A JEWISH PERSPECTIVE BY CHARLES SARWAY
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Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 17
“Faith is not a certainty. Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty.” “The Case for God,” BBC1, first aired September 6, 2010.
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks joining Prime Minister Cameron for the lighting of the Chanukah lights in Downing Street. Photo: Nicola Hammer The Significance of Kol Nidre Rabbi Sacks’ role as public intellectual is so effective because it is rooted in the Torah scholarship that Englishspeaking Jews have come to appreciate through his weekly Covenant and Conversation parashah comments. He shows no signs of flagging; on the contrary, Rabbi Sacks, now in his early sixties, has recently produced some of his most original work. His scholarly influence is likely to grow as Orthodox readers become familiar with it. It is presumptuous to single out individ“It [religion] remains the most powerful community builder the world has known.” “The Moral Animal,” the New York Times, December 23, 2012.
ual insights from Rabbi Sacks’ wide range of contributions, but one or two recent examples stand out. His introduction to the new Koren Yom Kippur Machzor explains why repentance and forgiveness are Jewish concepts previously unknown to the ancient world. His account centers on the relationship between Joseph and Judah—the first person to forgive, and the first person to be forgiven, respectively, in all of history. Rabbi Sacks expressed excitement over a discovery about the significance of Kol Nidre at his annual Elul shiur last September. Available in full on the chief rabbi’s web site, Rabbi Sacks’ lec-
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ture resolves a longstanding question. As he observed, “Kol Nidre is the strangest prayer ever to enter the prayer book. It is not a prayer but a legal formula for the annulment of vows. The first time we hear of Kol Nidre is in the eighth century when it is being opposed. The great sages, the Gaonim and the Rishonim, were against it. Rabbeinu Tam thought it was scandalous and quite wrong. Almost every halachic authority of any weight said it doesn’t belong. Yet it has outlived its critics.” Many objections were raised against Kol Nidre, including that the annulment of vows should be done by individuals before a beth din on Rosh Hashanah rather than by an announcement to a congregation. And it brought Jews into disrepute among gentiles who claimed that Jews did not take their vows seriously. The popular explanations for the purpose of Kol Nidre—for example, that it allowed Jews to repudiate forced conversions— are manifestly ahistorical. First, Rabbi Sacks observed that Kol Nidre signals that for the twenty-five hours of Yom Kippur, the shul will become a court of law. Second, the annulment of vows is central to the Jewish concept of repentance. One can annul a vow that one never would have made in light of changed circumstances. The repentant Jew has become a different person, one who would not have committed the sin for which he has repented. Sins we committed
deliberately become inadvertent sins through teshuvah. Repentance thus changes the past retroactively by making us different people who would have acted differently under different circumstances. “Remorse nullifies not the act, but the intent,” and transforms an unpardonable, deliberate sin into an inadvertent sin that can be requited by sacrifice. The first lines spoken after Kol Nidre, Rabbi Sacks added, state that pardon shall be granted to the whole congregation of Israel “ki l’chol ha’am bishgaga”—because the people have sinned inadvertently. Yom Kippur takes place on the tenth of Tishrei, Rabbi Sacks observed, when God forgave the people of Israel for the Sin of the Golden Calf. A midrash states that God told Moses that He had already vowed to destroy anyone who worshipped idols, and Moses responded, “God, did You not teach me how to do hatarat nedarim?” No one can annul his own vow, but a rav can annul the vows of another person. “Moshe wraps himself in a tallit,” Rabbi Sacks continued, “and sat in front of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and God asks Moshe for permission to annul His vow.” Thus, God annulled a vow He regretted to destroy the people of Israel. God could forgive Israel only because of hatarat nedarim. That is why we have Yom Kippur, and why Kol Nidre encapsulates the courtroom drama of the day, where one man stood before Heaven pleading for the forgiveness of the Jewish people. It is a remarkable chiddush, expounded with Rabbi Sacks’ characteristic lucidity and humor. In the twenty-two years of his rabbinate, Rabbi Sacks has set an example of self-confident intervention into public life informed by original scholarship and striking eloquence. With the burdens of office behind him, he will have more freedom to speak and write, and the Jewish world eagerly anticipates his teachings. g
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OWN: IS IT POS SIBLE TO RAISE HEALTHY, WELL-BALANCED TORAH-OB SERVANT CHILDREN AS A SINGLE PARENT ?
BY B A R B A R A B A R RY
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hen I was seven, my life suddenly turned upside down. My dad, whom I loved and was very close to, died suddenly of a massive heart attack in the early hours of a Shabbat morning. How do you feel when the anchor of your life is ripped away without warning? The shock, the loss, was unbelievable; I was bereft. Having been a sensitive child before, I felt extremely vulnerable. I buried myself in music, as I had no words for the heartbreak. I became very organized, focused and a high achiever in spite of the adversity. By my mid-twenties I had earned a master’s degree in music and was teaching at two of London’s most prestigious music colleges, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and University of London Goldsmiths’ College, while at the same time working on my PhD. It was during this time that I also started to have the first intimation of what an authentic Jewish life should be. Not long after, I became religious and met Uriel Garritano, the man I would marry. Fast forward eleven years. My husband and I were living in Brighton, a neighborhood in Boston. We had two children: Netanya, nine, a smart, feisty, beautiful girl and Avi, seven, my easygoing boy. Boston is a walkable city and we lived five minutes away from the T, Boston’s characterful and slightly antediluvian subway system, and fifteen minutes away from three shuls (two of which my husband, a staunch follower of Chabad, never dreamt of going to, but I liked a change of pace and meeting other people in the Jewish community). We both had good jobs, a community and friends who for us
Barbara Barry is a musicologist, teacher, writer and pianist. She has five degrees in music including a PhD from University of London Goldsmiths’ College. She is a professor of musicology in the Conservatory of Music at Lynn University in Florida.
Extended family and good friends are most important for single parents, says author Barbara Barry.
were like extended family. While obtaining a music position in Boston is comparable to finding a four-leaf clover—or so I was told—I managed to get a position teaching graduate theory at the New England Conservatory of Music and at the Radcliffe Seminars at Harvard, one of the most elite seminar programs in graduate education in the humanities. I was also head of music history at the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge. Then one day, we received the news that no one wants to hear: my husband’s lab tests were positive. In the world of biopsies, positive is bad news; he had cancer, and it was spreading rapidly. While my husband was in surgery to remove cancerous tissue, the attending physician quietly said to me, “It is a very aggressive cancer.” I nodded, and at that moment I knew. Six weeks after the diagnosis, my husband passed away—a very aggressive cancer indeed. I sent the kids to day camp during those hot summer weeks prior to his death while I spent time in the hospital. Following the surgery, my husband never really recovered; he was very weak and drifted in and out of consciousness. After a few days, with his condition deteriorating, his oncologist said very gently, “There’s no point in distressing him further by
taking him for chemo. It won’t help him anymore.” On Friday afternoon after camp, I took the kids home to make Shabbat so that we could be together as a family. My husband died in the early hours of Shabbat morning. Ironically, my children were the same ages my sister and I were when our father died—nine and seven. The first thing I did after my husband passed away was have a conversation with my children and reassure them that we were still a family and always would be, that this was our home and I was not going anywhere. When my father died, my mother never talked about what had happened. I was terrified by the silence and thought that she might disappear too. Reassurance was fundamental to re-establishing confidence in my children; they had to understand that despite the loss of their father, they were still part of a loving family. I also told them that I could do most of the work in the house, but I would need them to help out. They were old enough to take some responsibility; this was going to be a team effort. The hardest part was seeing my seven-year-old son walk by himself to shul. My daughter came to shul with me, but my son insisted on going early to be there at the beginning of davening. Fortunately, there were men in the community who became father figures and families who reached out to us. Moshe Rahmani and his wonderful wife, Shayna, warmly welcomed Avi to their home, which became a second home for him, and Leib Schaeffer, a young married man, was like a big brother to Avi. Extended family and good friends are two of the most important things for single parents raising observant kids, because they serve as additional role models and provide a safe place for kids to go aside from their own home. We also “adopted” a grandfather.
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PERHAPS I WOULD NOT HAVE MADE CERTAIN DECISIONS HAD I KNOWN WHAT WAS TO COME. BUT, OF COURSE, I DIDN’T, AND I MADE THE BEST DECISIONS I COULD AT THE TIME. When my beloved friend Fran Steinberg passed away after more than forty years of marriage, I asked her husband, Joe, if he would be a grandfather to my children. He agreed. He came to visit on Sundays as the kids grew up, and was at both of their high school graduations with tears of pride in his eyes. Grandpa Joe is part of all of our lives. Raising a child costs money, what with clothes, food and providing a Jewish education. When I was still single and living in London, my mom said to me, “Get a skill; you never know what life will throw at you, and you may need to support yourself.” It was the best piece of advice and I took it seriously, ending up with five degrees! I strongly encourage young women to become as qualified as they can. I also recommend that women become informed—know where the bills are kept and how they are paid. The biggest challenge facing a single parent—apart from the financial stress—is making all the decisions alone. I had to choose which schools to send my children to, and I tried to base the decision on what would be the best fit for each child. When you are a single parent constantly making important decisions alone, it’s important to carve out some time for yourself; time when you are not parenting. Music was never more important to me than during those tough years. I made a commitment to send my children to Jewish day schools. Jewish education was both a major priority and a huge financial drain. The forms for applying for financial aid were not
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Barry’s two children, Netanya and Avi, seen here at Netanya’s wedding. Photos courtesy of Barbara Barry
only detailed but intrusive. No doubt there were—and are—people who ask for financial assistance who do not really need it, but on one income, I did. Being a single parent is excellent training in biting the bullet. I felt that a very important part of being Jewish is respecting other people’s ways of serving Hashem. We were Chabad, which is one way of serving Hashem, but other people could—and do—do things differently. On Purim, my kids grumbled that I went first to give mishloach manot to two secular friends who lived in Cambridge, across the river from Boston. “We will probably get a lot of mishloach manot,” I told them; “they will not. These will probably be the only ones they will get, so they are the most important of all.” Every yom tov was based upon building our family traditions; for Pe-
sach the kids made their own Haggadahs, including extensive commentaries, and Avi performed a splendid “Ten Makkot” song at the Seders. Paradoxically, one of the worst culprits in turning Jewish kids off from religious observance is the Jewish day school/yeshivah. In many schools, any child who is not the norm, rather than being helped and supported, is often marginalized. Avi did not have as much Gemara background as the rabbis’ sons in his class. One of his teachers in particular made him feel stupid when he simply needed help. At parent-teacher conferences, this rabbi only spoke to fathers, but in my case, he didn’t have a choice. Not even having the courtesy to look up while he was talking to me about my son, he said, “He’s not doing very well.” I responded, “Well, maybe you could take some time to help him. I mean, you are his teacher.” Avi struggled with Gemara throughout mesivta. While I found a rabbi in the community who tutored him, it was only when he went to yeshivah in Israel after high school that he underwent a transformation. The boys there were enthusiastic about learning and Avi was caught up in the yeshivah’s warmth that had been lacking all those years in school. He made such progress in his studies and in his personal development that his rosh yeshivah called him a “ben Torah” and “a model for other boys.” If you want to raise an observant child, find a school that nurtures your individual child and addresses his or her abilities and challenges.
Over the years, I tried to be a good parent without having anyone to confide in and share the burden with, as so many other single parents do. At the same time that I wanted to give my children love, I wanted to set boundaries. From the time Netanya, a very strong-minded child, was about four, I used to give her choices: “Do you want to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt today?” At four, two shirts were enough choices to feel empowered and not overwhelmed. When she was in her early teens, I would drive her to the mall and sit outside with a book (preferably a long one) while she shopped, until finally she would call me in and try on the various skirts and tops she selected. She knew there was a budget, and she was very good about staying within it. If there was an outfit that I felt was not tzeniut, I used to say, “I don’t think that looks right on you. What do you think?” I tried to allow her to make the decision. Make your child a partner from the beginning and give him or her responsibility for choosing well. There may be mistakes, but you hold the purse strings. If he or she persistently and deliberately buys the wrong kinds of clothing or racks up a huge bill, take the credit card away. My children are now grown and I am blessed that they are wonderful, responsible people who are accomplished in the Jewish and the secular world and have excellent values. Netanya went to Israel for a year after high school and attended Hebrew University. She married a fine Israeli and they live in a yishuv near Jerusalem. Avi studied in yeshivah
in Israel for two years and then attended Yeshiva University. He married a lovely girl and they have a baby, Uri Sholem, named after my late husband. On the same day Avi left for yeshivah in Israel, I locked up the house in Boston (and subsequently sold it) and relocated to Boca Raton, Florida. Another stage in my life was over, and a new one about to begin. So is it possible to raise fine, well-balanced Torah-observant children as a single parent? The answer is a resounding “yes,” but you need a network of father (or mother) figures and friends behind you, and a clear set of values. As I reflect back, perhaps I would not have made certain decisions had I known what was to come. But, of course, I didn’t, and I made the best decisions that I could at the time. Far from being a depressing story, my story is about hope and resilience; the ability to hold on through tough times and to find courage in dark places. Hashem gave me resources to support my family financially, to develop a career as a teacher and writer (I have just finished my fifth book) and the ability to deal with the emotional challenges of my life. Hashem enabled me to help my two children adjust to life without their father and face the challenges of reconfiguring our family. Avi’s friends from high school still call our house “Hotel Garritano,” the place where they used to feel at home. While we do not have control over the challenges of life—emotional, health or financial—how we face those challenges is within our control. g
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Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 23
Rabbi Alexander Rosenberg, rabbinic administrator of the OU Kosher Division from 1950 to 1972, was a seminal figure in shaping the modern kashrut system.
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Guru Kashrut: The of
RABBI ALEXANDER S. ROSENBERG AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF KOSHER CERTIFICATION IN AMERICA B Y T I M O T H Y D. LY T T O N
The world-famous OU logo, the symbol of the Orthodox Union's kosher certification service.
Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 25
Timothy D. Lytton is the Albert and Angela Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School. Readers can find more about the turbulent history of kashrut in American and the OU’s leading role in its transformation in his new book, Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food, published by Harvard University Press.
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If you had asked someone a hundred years ago to name the defining characteristic of kashrut in America, they would probably have answered “corruption.” In 1925, the New York City Department of Markets estimated that 40 percent of the meat sold in the city as kosher was actually treif. Industry associations and consumer groups thought the true figure was between 50 and 65 percent. Fraud was not the worst problem. Organized crime dominated kashrut. In perhaps the most notorious example, the Live Poultry Commission Merchants’ Protective Association operated a price-fixing scheme and distribution racket that dominated New York City’s kosher chicken trade from 1906 to 1911. Local butchers who refused to knuckle under would find stores set up next door to undersell them and drive them out of business. In some cases, nonconforming butchers suffered physical violence. Finally, a store owner named Bernard Baff testified against the association in a trial that put an end to the association’s illegal activities and landed its leaders in prison. Following the trial, Baff’s horse and chickens were poisoned, his summer cottage and one of his stores were bombed and he was gunned down in broad daylight in Manhattan’s Washington Market by unknown assailants, who fled in a getaway car. Suspicions, of course, focused on the defunct Live Poultry Commission Merchants’ Protective Association. However, it turned out that the murder was arranged not by the imprisoned gangsters, but by a group of one hundred ordinary poultry retailers who resented Baff’s successful efforts after the trial to take over New York City’s poultry distribution. The problems of fraud and corruption in kashrut proved too big for even the government to handle. Six full-time kosher inspectors in the New York City Department of Markets and ten in the New York State Kosher Enforcement Bureau were insufficient to oversee the 18,000 kosher food establishments in New York City by the late 1930s. Reform finally came to kashrut with the rise of a new institution: the independent private kosher certification agency. And no one did more to shape the modern kashrut system than Rabbi Alexander S. Rosenberg, rabbinic administrator of the OU Kosher Division from 1950 to 1972. Rabbi Rosenberg believed passionately in the importance of making kosher food widely and easily available. At the end of World War II, he had been attached to the US Army in Germany, where he successfully advocated and established kosher meat slaughter for Jewish survivors in displaced persons’ camps. Rabbi Rosenberg’s ambition was rooted in his religious faith. In the words of Rabbi Berel Wein, his deputy at the OU, Rabbi Rosenberg “was always working for God . . . he was working for the Jewish people.” The OU Kosher Division had been founded in the mid-1920s. When Rabbi Rosenberg took charge of it, the division employed about forty mashgichim to certify 184 products for thirty-seven companies. By the end of Rabbi Rosenberg’s
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tenure, the OU employed more than 750 mashgichim to certify more than 2,500 products for 475 companies. This extraordinary expansion was due to Jewish demand for kosher certification for the rapidly growing number of industrially produced and prepared packaged foods—from canned soup to cake mixes—that emerged in the twentieth century and that helped free homemakers from the time-consuming labors of making everything from scratch. By providing kosher certification to America’s leading food companies, the OU, under Rabbi Rosenberg, helped satisfy this demand. Rabbi Rosenberg was a handsome man with an aristocratic bearing and a charming manner. His passionate commitment to making kosher-certified food available in every supermarket in America earned him a reputa-
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Timothy D. Lytton’s new book, Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food, discusses the turbulent history of kashrut in America and the OU’s leading role in its transformation.
tion among food-industry executives as the “guru” of kosher marketing. He cultivated personal relationships with key executives, coaching them on marketing strategy and even, on occasion,
providing counseling on personal matters. And they believed in him—“like a Chassid believes in his rebbe,” according to Rabbi Wein. Rabbi Rosenberg explained to food company executives that kosher consumers were a small but highly influential demographic because they were concentrated disproportionately in major metropolitan markets, such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. By increasing a company’s share in those major markets, the company’s products would achieve better positioning on store shelves, where all consumers, not just kosher consumers, would be more likely to see and buy them. According to Rabbi Wein, a marketing manager at Duncan Hines recalls that Rabbi Rosenberg taught him that
“the whole grocery business depends on shelf space.” As a result of OU certification, sales of the company’s cake mix to kosher consumers in key urban markets increased, leading to more prominent placement on grocery shelves, so that sales among ordinary consumers rose dramatically—more than 40 percent in two months. Even more important than his efforts to make kosher food more widely available, Rabbi Rosenberg helped make widespread fraud and corruption in kashrut a thing of the past. Some of the reduction in fraud and corruption resulted from the increased focus on dairy and pareve packaged foods which, unlike meat, require much less supervision and therefore little, if any, mark-up in price. Since kosher-certified cake mix costs no more than uncertified cake mix, there is less incentive to intentionally defraud con-
“Modern” kosher meat market at 520 Grand Street, New York, circa 1933. Photo: American Jewish Historical Society
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Listen to Timothy Lytton discuss the birth of the modern kosher food industry at ou.org/modernkosher.
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sumers. The complexity and high volume of industrial food production, however, increased the risk of mistakes. Rabbi Rosenberg instituted reforms that reduced the risk of mistakes and counteracted any remaining incentives to intentionally defraud consumers. Having demonstrated to food executives the value of kosher certification, the kashrut guru convinced them that not all hechsherim were of equal quality. In kosher certification, as in most businesses, you get what you pay for. Rabbi Rosenberg developed the OU’s good name among industry executives and consumers into America’s leading brand of kosher certification. He asserted that the OU provided the nation’s most reliable assurance of kashrut, and he supported this claim with concrete reforms designed to reduce the potential for mistakes and wrongdoing within the organization. He hired a full-time professional staff that set high uniform standards for kashrut supervision throughout the country and made sure that local rabbis working for the OU conformed to them. To reduce the conflict of interest that resulted when mashgichim were paid by the companies whose products they certified, Rabbi Rosenberg insisted that company clients pay the OU, which would then pay mashgichim. In addition, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, Rabbi Rosenberg forbade mashgichim from accepting any gifts from clients. He believed that the OU’s real interest lay not in pleasing any particular company by reducing its demands on them, but rather in building a reputation for reliability that would increase the value of the OU brand. In sum, Rabbi Rosenberg transformed the OU and established the foundation of the modern industrial kashrut system by professionalizing supervision and instituting new management controls. The full realization of these reforms would have to wait for the appointment of Rabbi Menachem Genack, the OU’s current rabbinic administrator, in 1980. Under more than three decades of Rabbi Genack’s leadership, the OU has trained a new generation of kashrut professionals, with expertise in halachah and industrial food production, and instituted a highly developed system of management controls, including extensive oversight and sophisticated information technology. The roots of these accomplishments, however, lie in the vision and efforts of Rabbi Alexander S. Rosenberg. Thanks to him, kashrut in America is no longer synonymous with corruption but instead with trust and reliability. g
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Reviewed by Toby Klein Greenwald 2 0 1 2 • 4 6 0 PA G E S
am Finkel, inspired by what he learned when visiting the Eran Shamir Village Museum of Mazkeret Batya during a tour guides course, spent five years researching and writing a work of nonfiction that reads like a historical novel—the stuff that epic films are made of, with personalities larger than life, where religion, power, conflict and struggle against the elements all figure into the plot. It is an encyclopedic work. One is tempted to just read the main text, so as not to stop the flow of adventure, but some of the most succulent details are in the sidebars in the margins, the 521 footnotes, the 435 photographs and illustrations and ten appendices with captivating behind-the-scenes stories. Most people are accustomed to thinking that Israel’s earliest pioneers were secular socialists, but that was not the case. This extraordinary book describes in vivid detail the saga of Mazkeret Batya’s pious founders and their religious struggles. In 1882, thirteen years before Herzl wrote about the concept of Zionism, and fifteen years before the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, a group of ten successful farmers (and one melamed) left their families in the White Russian village of Pavlovka and traveled 1,520 miles to create a new agricultural community in the Holy Land. Pogroms had swept Russia in 1881, but anti-Semitism was not new, and as early as 1871, Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever, the
Toby Klein Greenwald is an educator, a journalist and an award-winning director of Raise Your Spirits Theatre. 30
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chief rabbi of Radom, Poland, wrote, “Don’t you see the hand of God in all that has occurred to us?. . . A voice calls out and proclaims, ‘Children, return to your homeland!’” Rabbi Mohilever put his words into action. In 1882 he organized the first local chapter of the Chovevei Zion movement in Warsaw. While traveling in Europe to raise support for the movement, he met Yechiel Brill, editor of the Hebrew-language newspaper Ha-Levanon, who shared his vision. Brill introduced Rabbi Mohilever to Rabbi Zadok Kahn, chief rabbi of France and the spiritual advisor to Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The two of them, joined by Michel Erlanger, a leader of the Alliance Israelite Universelle who had attempted previous colonization activities in Palestine, walked for three hours on Sukkot to the Baron’s palace on the outskirts of Paris; it was the only time he would meet with them. Rabbi Mohilever’s impassioned pleas caused the Baron to shift his thinking regarding Palestine, but he wanted to know that the Russian farmers would eventually be able to support their families without his help. He decided to start with a small group known as the Mikveh Israel colony; it would be the test case for future colonies. These are the bare bones of the beginning of the settlement in Mazkeret Batya (originally called Ekron), but it was wrought with uncertainty and risks. Two previous attempts, in Petach Tikva and Gei Oni (Rosh Pina), were floundering. Eleven men, representing families of 101 people, were interviewed and chosen for the mission. Deeply religious, they saw this as an opportunity to perform the mitzvot associated with the Land of Israel. But the relationship between the settlers of Ekron and the Baron was not an easy one. There were postponements, misunderstandings and an unfriendly host, as the Turks were not interested in an influx of Russian Jewish immigrants. It appears that many of the misunderstandings between the colonists and the Baron were the result of a lack of timely communication. A clause in the contract between the settlers and the Alliance stated that on the homestead, “Alliance officials in Mikveh Israel may intervene in our personal affairs only when it comes to matters between man and his fellow man. But in matters between man and God, they have no right to intervene . . . We will abide only by the directive of those who are halachic authorities . . .” But who would those “halachic authorities” be? That question would arise in the future. The difficulties of the journey, the harsh conditions at Mikveh Israel, the near-death of one of their members, the wait for farmable land and finally, the Baron’s instructions to help the men find land, as promised, so as to prevent their return to Russia (which would have deterred others from coming), were all part of the drama.
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After many disappointments, the farmers found fields near the Arab village of Aqir, hence the name Ekron. There were more hurdles due to the Turkish ban on European Jewish immigration and land purchase. It was finally purchased through a Paris-based charity, approved by the Ottoman authorities and later transferred to Rothschild. A joyful telegram dated November 6, 1883, announced that the Russian farmers finally began plowing the land. Only in 1885 did the rest of their families relocate from Russia to Ekron. Since it was difficult to obtain licenses for human housing, the early settler families lived in barns. The settlers of Ekron were passionate about everything they did—their farming, their religion, their dedication to becoming and remaining independent and self-sustaining. Everyone, including the women and children, worked hard in the fields; home furnishings and food were simple and sparse. There was malaria and trachoma; people died. Others went blind. Kalonymus Ze’ev Wissotzky, an Orthodox Jew who was a tea merchant active in the Chovevei Zion movement, visited them in 1884 and wrote, “A beauty and trembling grandeur hover over wheat stalks robed in majesty—for they realize that they are the product of sons [the settlers] whose souls yearned to eat of the table of their Father in Heaven . . .” They prayed. They had two Mishnah study groups. When they had a siyum, “their joyous sounds could be heard for miles.” They were proud to perform the Blessing of the Kohanim every day, as is the halachah in the Land of Israel. But the religious Russian farmers and the semi-assimilated administrators of the Baron did not always see eye to eye. The administrators would complain, for example, that the farmers were taking too much time for prayers. The Baron would reply, “Serve the Lord, our God, with all your hearts’ desire, and take as much time with your prayers as you wish . . .” These and other conflicts between the settlers and the Baron’s administrators among the colonies grew with time. There was a rebellion in Rishon L’Tzion, which was resolved when the Baron paid a visit to Palestine. Then the Baron came to Ekron, whose settlers turned out in holiday clothing and received him like a head of state. He kissed the Torah scroll they
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Simcha and Mina Kurchevsky, heads of the hachnasat orchim society in Mazkeret Batya. Photo courtesy of Eran Shamir Village Mu-
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and the lack of definitiveness in Rabbi held, went to the synagogue and said Spektor’s, only caused more confusion Kaddish for his mother there. He examined the fields, which gave him among the farmers. In addition, the great joy. Ultimately, he renamed Baron now appeared to have reversed Ekron “Mazkeret Batya,” in memory of his earlier agreement pertaining to the his mother. laws of shemittah. Members of the Old Serious trouble began in 1887 when Yishuv rumored that he had been misled by his anti-religious administrathe Baron appointed Alphonse Bloch to tors. Later, a letter from one of the be his chief colony administrator for the district of Yehudah, which inBaron’s associates led people to think cluded Mazkeret Batya. Dr. Yisrael that a rabbinic carte blanche had been Klausner, in his book From Kattowitz to given to continue working the fields, Basel, describes Bloch as, “a tough, whereas Rabbi Spektor had specified that they should be worked by nonbrazen man—a man of limited educaJews. The issue caused friction among tion, contentious and a liar.” Finkel dethe farmers, who hotly debated scribes the degrading agreement Bloch among themselves. tried to impose on the farmers of his Finkel writes, Unlike most of the pidistrict, in which they would have to oneers of the First Aliyah, the farmers sign all their possessions over to the from Pavlovka were hybrids. On the one Baron, giving them the status of hired hand, they were involved in agriculture laborers and making them subservient to the authority of his administrators. and development of the Land of Israel. Moshe Shmuel Raab, a religious guard in The farmers refused to sign, believing On the other hand, they did not share Petach Tikvah. it would absolve all the previous comthe nationalistic agenda of the Chovevei Photo courtesy of Oded Yarkoni Archives of the mitments to them. Zion movement and were not attracted to History of Petach Tikva What ensued was a battle of wills Haskalah thought . . . They weren’t interbetween Bloch and the farmers. ested in creating a new Jewish society; they were content to recreate the Lithuanian shtetl they had left behind, albeit in the Mazkeret Batya and Shemittah Holy Land, with all its religious requirements. There was bitter dissent over the shemittah issue that Ironically, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, secular editor of the Haevolved beyond a halachic question into a struggle between Zvi newspaper, had supported keeping shemittah in 1882, worldviews; Finkel describes the pioneers as “trapped in the hoping that would help him gain support among the Orthocrosshairs of history.” At first, the Baron seemed to support dox for his nationalistic ideas. But in 1889, he urged his readtheir desire to keep shemittah. The previous shemittah, there were religious settlers in Petach Tikvah who planned on keeping it, but due to malaria most of them had to abandon their land. The Mazkeret Batya shemittah was the first real test case. In May of 1888, the Baron visited Rabbi Shmuel Salant, the head Ashkenazic rabbi of Jerusalem, who ruled that shemittah should be properly observed. By October, the Baron, apparently fearful that all of their hard agricultural work would be for naught, tried to convince Rav Salant to change his mind. He didn’t, and the Baron enlisted the help of Rav Zadok Kahn, who turned to Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor of Kovno, Lithuania. The Baron’s administrators, who clashed with the religious Rabbi Mohilever also met with great rabbinic authorities in farmers of Mazkeret Batya over shemittah and schooling. Warsaw, Rav Yehoshua Trunk and Rav Shmuel Zanvil KlapPhoto courtesy of Historical Archives, City of Zikhron Yaakov fish, who disagreed on the extent to which selling the land to gentiles released the land and its produce from shemittah laws. They reached a compromise: land sold to gentiles ers to support the heter mechirah and called Rav Salant the could be worked on by Jews, but only agricultural labors “enemy of the New Yishuv,” sinister foreshadowing to the that were rabbinically forbidden during shemittah (as opmix of politics and religion that exists in Israel today. posed to those prohibited by the Torah) could be performed. The shemittah controversy “galvanized many Orthodox A few days later, Rabbi Spektor issued a historic, more reEuropean Jews against the aliyah movement,” writes Finkel, strictive decision, stating that only non-Jewish laborers thus morphing a halachic issue into an ideological flashcould perform rabbinically prohibited labors. This became point. The Jerusalem rabbis promised the Mazkeret Batya known as heter mechirah. The ambiguity in the first ruling, settlers a year’s supply of bread if they did not rely on the
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Listen to Sam Finkel on Israel’s early religious pioneers at ou.org/rebels.
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heter and issued a call to Jews throughout the world to help the settlers financially. Many of the Jews of Palestine were already barely existing on the monies brought in through the halukah. Would requests for more funding sabotage the goal of creating a self-sustaining society in the Holy Land on the cusp of the twentieth century? Finkel writes, “The Baron made it clear he had no intention of coercing the Ekronians into working the fields during shemittah against their religious beliefs. Yet Bloch kept telling them—in the Baron’s name—that they had to go back to work.” Ultimately, the farmers prevailed over Bloch. “But they had paid a heavy price—in poverty, illness and the loss of the good will of the Benefactor [the Baron].” “The complicated legacy of Mazkeret Batya’s stand would fuel controversy over the shemittah issue for generations to come,” writes Finkel. Finkel cites all sides of the shemittah controversy—and all the conflicts—through a copious record of the rabbinic opinions. This evenhandedness results in a book that is not demagogic, but a valuable historical resource. Later, there were major conflicts over schooling. The Baron believed in a spiritual renaissance in the Land of Israel, but his administrators transformed the cheder into a modern school. There was a vast gulf between the philosophies of the parents and those of the dedicated, modern teachers, hired by the administrators, who contributed to the secularization of the children. The question regarding whether or not the Pavlovka farmers and their families would have left White Russia for the Holy Land had they known what awaited them—including some of their children leaving the religious fold—is rendered moot by history. On November 2, 1942, the Jews of Pavlovka were all murdered by the Nazis. “Many of them shared family names with the pioneers of Mazkeret Batya,” writes Finkel. Look up “Mazkeret Batya” on YouTube. You will find a documentary clip of pioneers in 1913, and a 63rd Israel Independence Day clip of young gymnasts who live in Mazkeret Batya today. It is unlikely that they are descendants of the founding families, and the original pioneers would have undoubtedly been disappointed by their immodest gymnast outfits. But these young people are alive and well and living in the Holy Land. Someday, they will discover their own reasons to rebel.
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CHANGING AMERICAN RABBINATE EA TO B S D NEE R, BBI A R AISE R S ’ R Y D A N AL CTO , FU TOD ION IRE S CFO D S M OFE GRA H PR E T PRO L ON HEA NTO TAL I N D E M LE AND ROL
BY B AY L A S H E VA B R E N N E R
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strong cup of coffee in hand, he programming. That he can give great derashot—only rarely stares at the computer screen, will a shul say that’s all they are looking for.” putting the final touches on Snappier programming and a growing membership rehis Shabbat derashah. He quire more capital. Many shuls find they can no longer dethen reviews the latest pend solely on membership dues and annual dinners to building campaign spread- satisfy swelling budgets. sheet, adds the name of Add CFO to today’s rabbi’s skill set. an addiction specialist Aware of the rabbi’s expanded role, many rabbinic hopeto his psychologist refuls earn an MBA along with their semichah. “You could ferral list, calls a colleague to secure his scholar-in-resihave a shul that serves myriad areas of the community with dence for next month and starts to prepare for the next a multi-million dollar budget,” says Rabbi Posy, who came day’s daf yomi shiur. He’s got five minutes to catch up on the to the rabbinate with a graduate degree in nonprofit manbacklog of e-mail she’eilot before his nine o’clock marriageagement. “The advice I got was not to get an extended psycounseling appointment. chology degree,” he says. Welcome to the 2013 American rabbinate! Rabbi Shaul Robinson, forty-six, rabbi of Lincoln Square “I had this great passion for working with the klal,” says Rabbi Adir Posy, thirty-two, assistant director of the Orthodox Union’s West Coast Region and associate rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, California. “So I asked every pulpit rabbi I knew what they hated about the job. I figured if I could deal with all those aspects, then this might be the job for me.” He quickly discovered that he would have to master the art of juggling. “You’re wrapping up a four-million-dollar building campaign Friday morning and pouring kiddush for the kids in shul Friday night. I was sold.” It wasn’t always this way. “I’ve watched the rabbinate gather tasks over the years,” says Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, rabbi of the Riverdale Jewish Center for close to three decades. “The [current] level of administrative and entrepreneurial work, counseling, personal service and availability didn’t exist before. My grandfather, who was Yeshiva University’s rabbinic training program enlists professional a very active rabbi, spoke on Shabbat morning at actors to simulate real-life situations that a future rabbi may face only one minyan; he gave a class Shabbat afternoon over the course of his career. and maybe once during the week. I’m basically on Photo courtesy of Yeshiva University [duty] twenty-four/seven.” According to Marc Rohatiner, fifty-nine, past president of Beth Jacob Congregation and member of three Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, sought an of the shul’s rabbinic search committees, the multitasking MBA in order to further his rabbinic career, assuming “it rabbi/CEO is what communities have come to expect. would make him more effective.” He was right. “Twenty-five years ago the most important things to ask Eight years ago, the 700-member shul hired him while were what kind of educator would the rabbi be, what kind contemplating the need to move out of its increasingly of speaker and community builder,” he says. “The concept cramped quarters. The completed project cost more than of having someone with administrative skills has become fifty million dollars. It took a lot more time and money than much more front and center. We look for a rabbi who can anyone expected, says Rabbi Robinson, who is originally catch the attention of the community by creating innovative from Scotland and served as a rabbi in the UK. In fact, the new shul’s construction came to an abrupt standstill three years ago. “We were on the verge of bankruptcy,” says Rabbi Bayla Sheva Brenner is senior writer in the OU Communications Robinson. “We worked hard to pull it back from the brink.” and Marketing Department.
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TWO RABBIS —A FATHER AND SON—
CHANGING LANDSCAPE of the AMERICAN
RABBINATE By Steve Lipman
fter Shacharit services at his Queens synagogue one recent Friday morning, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, as on most weekday mornings, drives right back to his home. To check his e-mail. Several e-mail messages have arrived overnight from members of his congregation, Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, and from members of the wider Jewish community: personal questions, halachic she’eilot, details about upcoming shul events, et cetera. “It’s a typical morning’s variety of e-mail messages,” says Rabbi Schonfeld, who two years ago succeeded his father, Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, as spiritual leader of the synagogue that has grown over the last six decades into one of the neighborhood’s most prominent Orthodox congregations. The OU synagogue was founded by the senior Rabbi Schonfeld, who has been involved with the OU for more than fifty years, serving on the Joint Kashrut Commission, national convention committees and political action committees, among others. The younger Rabbi Schonfeld worked for OU Kosher for twenty-seven years before taking over his father’s position at the shul. E-mail, says Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, has increasingly become a lifeline to his congregants—it makes it easier to stay in touch. “I spend a good part of my day answering e-mails. You’re tethered to your computer.” Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, who doesn’t have an e-mail account, says he is not a fan of the online form of communication. “E-mails are impersonal,” he says. They hinder rabbi-congregant communication.
Steve Lipman is a staff writer for the Jewish Week in New York.
Two years ago, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld (right) succeeded his father, Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, as spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills.
“We talk about e-mail a lot,” Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld says. “It makes me a better rabbi because I can respond to people’s questions instantly. My father feels that’s losing the personal touch.” “It’s destroying the whole relationship,” Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld asserts. The Schonfeld rabbis are sitting this Friday afternoon in the senior Rabbi Schonfeld’s living room, a block from the Young Israel. Over plates of steaming potato kugel, an ongoing discussion continues. Father and son disagree, respectfully, over the value of such high-tech communication, but agree that e-mail is the “major” change between their rabbinical generations. Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, now his synagogue’s emeritus rabbi, turns ninety this year. He says that his views on the changing rabbinate are typical of his generation, as his son’s views are of his. Another major generational difference: Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld saw his role as a “social worker,” on call daily to deal with congregants’ personal and theological questions. His son’s rabbinate, he says, has to a large degree become similar to a shul’s executive director. He’s called upon to coordinate his congregation’s burgeoning number of programs, including seminars, guest speakers and scholars-in-residence. “I’m involved in every aspect [of running the shul],” mainly through e-mail, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld says. “A lot of these things should be left to [the synagogue] committee.” “My son,” says Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, “has more events going on than I did.” In Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld’s years in the rabbinate and as a communal leader, he established a reputation as a master sermon deliverer and a raconteur. At Yeshiva University, he says, he studied homiletics, which prepared him for a career as a public speaker. At Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, where Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld received his semichah, there was no instruction on how to give a sermon. “I studied from the master,” he says, by watching his father in shul each week.
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Fluent in Yiddish, Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld says he could soothe worried contemporaries with some words in the mamaloshen. Few of his son’s congregants, he says, know more than a few phrases in Yiddish—which is a loss. “It’s a different attitude,” a lost bond. As time for Minchah draws nearer, father and son mention other changes they’ve seen in the Orthodox rabbinate; for one, congregants’ advanced Jewish learning. While Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld’s congregation at one time numbered three dozen men with Yeshiva University ordination, most members were relatively unfamiliar with classic Jewish texts. Today, there are fewer musmachim in the congregation, but most members have an extensive Jewish education. Another change is congregants’ decreased respect for the pulpit rabbi. In Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld’s day, members would routinely turn to their congregation’s rabbi to answer halachic questions or to serve as mesader kiddushin at weddings. Today, a growing number of men, including those who have grown up in the congregation, give these honors to the roshei yeshivah of the institutions where they have studied, sometimes for only a short time. “It’s hurtful,” Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld says. Thirdly, congregants’ lack of interest in a rabbi’s secular knowledge. Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, who comes from a Ger-
Even during that hectic period, Rabbi Robinson viewed his “numberone duty” as being “the rabbi” to his congregants. “When I first interviewed for the position, I made it clear that I was prepared to raise money, but I wouldn’t become a rabbi just to those who could give money,” says Rabbi Robinson. “No matter how much he is expected to excel at fulfilling the fundraiser role, a rabbi cannot fail at being there for each congregant’s spiritual and pastoral needs. People and the leadership of the shul want the rabbi to wear all sorts of hats, but at the end of the day, they want him to be the rabbi.” Training the Super Rabbi Rabbinical training programs across the Orthodox spectrum prepare young men heading for the pulpit. I recently visited Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), which brings in seasoned mental health, public speaking and business professionals to impart their expertise. “We’re trying to be as cutting-edge as we can,” says Rabbi Marc Penner, forty-three, acting dean of RIETS and rabbi for seventeen years at Young Is-
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rer Chassidic family but studied at the University of London, says his father encouraged him to pursue both a Jewish and general education. “He wanted me to be a ‘Doktor Rabbiner,’ a rabbi with a PhD. My father’s generation expected their rabbis to be secularly educated.” Many Orthodox Jews today have little respect for a rabbi’s secular credentials, he says. Like other Orthodox rabbis of his generation, Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld was heavily involved in the wider Jewish community, working on behalf of Soviet Jewry and Zionist causes. Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld calls himself more “parochial,” concentrating on his congregation and local community. None of Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld’s sons, all of whom have yeshivah educations, have entered the rabbinate. “I don’t think you’ll find three generations of rabbis [in one family],” he says. Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld loves his job, but a career in business or in the other professions offer young Orthodox men means to make a living and fulfill their Jewish commitments without the demands of the pulpit rabbinate. “There are other ways to contribute to the Jewish community.” Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld agrees. The conversation about the changing rabbinate ends. With a few hours remaining until Shabbat, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld wishes his father a “good Shabbos” and drives home. “I have to check my e-mails,” he says. Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld smiles.
rael of Holliswood in Queens, New York. “I see a tremendous difference from the time they [rabbinical students] first come in to when they get semichah, in terms of their emotional intelligence and ability to speak and relate to an audience with sophistication. They are getting what a rabbi ten years in the rabbinate would have had to figure out for himself. I wish I had had that level of experience when I got semichah in 1995.” According to Rabbi Penner, along with the rabbi’s Torah and business acumen, congregants are also counting on his psychological insight. “There are a huge number of issues they will be facing; it could be shocking at times for them,” he says. “Whether it’s dealing with homosexuality, Internet addiction, marital infidelity, domestic abuse or mental illness, we want to make sure that their first encounter with issues plaguing the community happens in the classroom and not in their offices.” To that end, RIETS enlisted Professional Actors Training and Helping, an agency that provides professional actors to simulate real-life encounters— in this case, situations a future rabbi
may face. Noted psychologists Dr. David Pelcovitz and Dr. Norman Blumenthal prep the actors with possible scenarios that rabbis may struggle with in the course of their careers. “At first, [the potential situations] feel very scary for the students,” says Dr. Pelcovitz. “By the end of the role-playing classes, however, they feel less intimidated.” RIETS also calls upon experts to speak to the class about domestic violence, infertility, congregants with disabilities and what Dr. Pelcovitz calls “uneven religious change,” that is, cases where a son or daughter leaves Yiddishkeit, or one spouse becomes a ba’al teshuvah and the other doesn’t. Dr. Pelcovitz notes that the rise in the divorce rate and number of broken engagements in the Orthodox community has necessitated that rabbinical students receive basic training in premarital counseling and in working alongside a marital therapist. “These issues are now much more important for rabbis to understand, and to know how to intervene in an effective way,” says Dr. Pelcovitz. “These skills have become part of the rabbi’s job description.”
People and the leadership of the shul want the rabbi to wear all sorts of hats, but at the end of the day, they want him to be the rabbi.
Rabbi in a Tech-Savvy World The technological revolution is a definite life changer for congregants and a significant game changer for today’s rabbis. “Any new technology comes with blessings and challenges,” says Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, university professor of Jewish history and Jewish thought at YU and senior scholar, YU’s Center for the Jewish Future. A leading Modern Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Schacter previously served as rabbi of the Jewish Center in New York City for nineteen years. He also served as dean of the Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute in Boston, and rabbi of the Maimonides Minyan in Brookline, Massachusetts. “Because it brings the broader culture into the Orthodox home, we are exposed to trends, ideas, images and perspectives of which we never had any awareness before. It also allows rabbis to be in touch with congregants, communicating with them on Twitter, and it has
created a tremendous opportunity to disseminate Torah. If you go onto the web sites of major Modern Orthodox shuls, you’ll see that the rabbi’s [Shabbat] sermon has already been posted by Sunday morning.” Yet rabbis lament that members of the community find it unnecessary to actually come and sit through their shiurim when they could just download them and listen in the car. “If you don’t attend a shiur in person, you can’t ask questions,” says Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, rabbi of Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey, for close to two decades. “You can’t pick up the nuances or fully comprehend what the rabbi is saying when you don’t see his facial expressions; you can’t tell what he is emphasizing, and the context in which it is being said.” The onslaught of hi-tech stimuli has prompted rabbis to crank up their oratory skills. “They’ve got to be excellent and relevant presenters,” says Rabbi Penner. “[At YU] we do public speaking as an art form.” The YU pro-
gram includes courses on delivering shiurim and derashot, taught by experienced rabbis in the field. We explain that if you give a boring devar Torah, the audience may not think it’s you, but the Torah. You don’t have the right to give a poor speech; you’re literally a salesman for Torah.” Rabbi Moshe Hauer, rabbi of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland, for the past nineteen years, often addresses the dangers of new technology from the pulpit. “It has had a significant impact on Jewish families,” he says. “In every section of the community there are increased incidents of different forms of infidelity— virtual and actual. My goal is to motivate people to carefully consider the [technological] changes that are occurring, not to simply go with the flow. The rabbi has to inspire and create a connection to Torah and Jewish thought in a way that gives them life in a real way, in terms of understanding themselves and the challenges in their lives.”
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Substance Meets Charisma Apparently, an exuberant, eloquent rabbi with a knack for numbers, knowledge of the latest technology and training in psychoanalysis isn’t enough. Above all, he’s got to know Torah. “If a rabbi comes to any shul across the United States—whether it’s to the left, right or center—and is not equipped in terms of Jewish scholarship, he won’t get to first base,” says Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president, emeritus, of the OU, who led Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore, Maryland, for thirteen years. “Every Orthodox shul out there that has come to me in the past five years for help in its search for a rav asks that the candidate have advanced Torah knowledge, over and above the top members of the shul.” Rabbi Schacter concurs. “The level of learning among the members of the shul is much higher than it was forty or fifty years ago,” he says. “Today, members of shuls expect their rav to have a greater sophistication than they used to have in terms of Gemara, Rashi, Tosafot and the ability to deliver shiurim and give piskei halachah. Rabbis today deal with congregants who can challenge them in [these areas].” Yet he can’t invest too much of his time mining the depths of Talmud and Tanach without addressing the issues of the day. “Ba’alei batim want the rabbi to be aware of the world they live in, to read the newspapers they read and be up to date on world events, Israel, trends in the US—the membership’s Shabbat table talk,” says Rabbi Schacter. “And he has to have someThe interior of the new Lincoln Square Synagogue, a fifty-million dollar project. Photo: Cetra/CRI Architecture PLLC
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thing thoughtful and Torah-based to say that will help deepen their understanding of these events.” Rabbi Posy experienced a case in point this past Shavuot. After preparing an erudite shiur for the shul’s allnight programming, he consulted with the senior rabbi. “I realized that maybe it was a phenomenal shiur, but it wasn’t going to be what the community was interested in,” he says. He chose to speak about the implications of the recent kashrut scandal in Los Angeles instead.
Communities have come to rely on their rabbis to represent them in all places at all times, functioning as their liaisons with the local federations, AIPAC and in the full gamut of communal and civic affairs. In addition, rabbis partner with the lay leadership in creating opportunities for outreach and inreach. “I brought some of the shul’s teens to AIPAC when lobbying at the State House,” says Rabbi Weil. “The senators and congressmen were actually happier to talk to the kids, to hear their take on current issues.”
The Omnipresent Rabbi Burgeoning shuls often spawn multiple minyanim catering to diverse age groups, observance levels and attention spans. Rabbi Rosenblatt calls it “the great boutique.” And the rabbi is the rabbi of all of them. “He’s running to name a baby in one minyan and greeting a chattan in another,” he says. “He needs roller skates.” The rabbi’s attention to his congregants doesn’t end with the singing of Adon Olam; he’s also expected to make appearances in their lives outside the synagogue walls. “A good rabbi is going to invest a certain number of hours in the day school every week,” says Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president of the OU who served as the rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, California, for nine years. “As a shul rav, I walked the halls of the day schools and high schools, visiting the kids and supporting the schools. I ate in the cafeteria with them and—with the parents’ permission—I took them out for lunch.”
The Rebbetzin’s Role The role of the rebbetzin is often a hotly debated topic. “Once upon a time, the rebbetzin was seen as an extension of the rabbi,” says Rabbi Uri Goldstein, rabbi of Congregation Ahavat Achim in Fairlawn, New Jersey, and former assistant rabbi at the Park East Synagogue in New York City. “She was actively involved in the community, coordinated Shabbat meals, bikur cholim—it was more of a maternal role. Today, the wives of rabbis have their own aspirations and careers, their own paths in life. My wife is getting a PhD in Jewish history from NYU; others are doctors, lawyers, psychologists and CEOs. There’s that balance of your life and career and the second career that you’ve married into and don’t get paid for,” says Rabbi Goldstein, who, together with his wife, formerly served as a Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) couple at UCLA in Los Angeles. (JLIC is the OU’s program that places Orthodox rabbinic couples to serve as Torah educators on college campuses.)
The Proba BY B AY L A S H E VA B R E N N E R
View from the Candidate
long with semichah, rabbinic hopefuls need stamina. The road to the rabbinate entails interviews—lots of them. If he passes those, he’s on his way to “the proba” (Shabbat tryout), where the finalists among the candidates vying to become a shul’s new rabbi take their turns acting as rabbi of the community over Shabbat. As one rabbi recalls: During my first in-person interview with the search committee, a group of twelve people sat around a table asking questions. They weren’t trying to determine my ability to learn; they were trying to gauge my hashkafah, my approach to various practical situations that might arise in the rabbinate. They were seeking a role model. If the rabbi is out of line with the congregants’ worldviews and philosophical outlooks, that could be hard on the community. Nowadays, congregants are not necessarily looking for a rabbi a little more to the right from where they stand; they are looking for a rabbi who subscribes to their ideals. I found this to be the case in a number of the shuls I was dealing with. People are looking for rabbis who share their hashkafah. They asked: What does Modern Orthodoxy mean to you? Where do you see it going in the next twenty years? What are the greatest challenges facing our community today? Other questions were: How would you deal with the problem of talking during tefillah? What was your greatest challenge in your previous rabbinic position, and how did you deal with it? What are your views regarding interaction with non-Orthodox Jews? Who is your posek? They wanted to know my thoughts on women’s roles in the synagogue; if a woman could be a board president. These are very big questions in a lot of shuls.
If I passed the interview, I would be invited back for a proba. I passed. During the proba Shabbat, the schedule was packed. My family and I were invited to eat Shabbat meals in various congregants’ homes. Friday night after the meal, the entire congregation went back to the shul and I gave a shiur, which was followed by schmoozing. The next morning I delivered the Shabbat derashah. There were multiple minyanim, so I delivered the derashah several times. I also gave an afternoon shiur and then held a “Q. and A.” session with the members of the community. After a huge kiddush, we all sat down for a communal day seudah. On Shabbat afternoon, I spoke for twenty minutes and delivered another derashah at seudah shelishit. On Motzaei Shabbat I had another “Q. and A.” with the community in the social hall. There were about 250 congregants in the audience. Then came the questions: What kind of programming would you run for Yom Ha’atzmaut? What do you think is an appropriate way to celebrate a bat mitzvah? What kind of involvement do you intend to have in the local yeshivah day school? What kind of programming would you run for our youth, our teens and our seniors? The proba was one of the most intense experiences of my life. When it was over, my wife and I sat in the car staring ahead, our energy depleted. We each said, “You drive.” It was a few weeks before I heard back from the shul. I got the job.
View from the Search Committee When you are looking for a rabbi, it’s a sensitive time for a community; emotions run high. We conducted our search with sensitivity. We wanted to make sure the transition would go smoothly and that the outgoing rabbi’s departure would be handled with dignity.
We wanted a rabbi who would be available for the members on a daily basis as well as in times of crisis. He should have strong oratory skills and be able to motivate people to learn. We looked for someone who could engage the congregants on a personal level and appeal to all age groups. We expected the new rabbi to not only lead us spiritually, but to also take an interest in the vibrancy of the shul. As our CEO, he would have to understand the finances of the shul, attend board meetings and help articulate our vision for the next five years. We saw him developing a strong kesher to the local yeshivah and the vaad hakashrut and arranging for the right guest lecturers to come to our community. He should also be prepared to represent us in the broader Jewish community, i.e., attend AIPAC conferences. We received dozens upon dozens of resumes over a period of two months. The search committee, composed of men and women of various ages, representing the diversity of our community, reviewed the resumes and decided which candidates would be granted phone interviews. We held a dozen phone interviews and invited eight of the candidates to meet us in person. Of those, we chose three to come for probas. Our constitution mandates that the majority of the community has to vote the rabbi in. No real decision could be made until the proba, when you get to sit down to a meal with the candidates and see how they engage your children, how they speak to and connect with the community. We are a very diverse community, ranging from those with a strong yeshivah background to those with not much of a religious education. Our goal is that, with the new rabbi’s help, we will connect more with one another and bring our shul to greater heights. Our hope was to vote in the right rabbi to build our community; a rabbi who will get the congregation involved and guide them in times of need. We’re confident that we did.
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Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, former rabbi at West Side Institutional Synagogue. He is currently dean and rav of Yeshivat Yavneh in Los Angeles. Photo: Erica Berger
Nonetheless, shuls continue to have certain expectations of the rebbetzin. “Although there are still communities where the rabbi’s wife prefers to be a Jewish educator, there are others where she is a professional and functions primarily as ‘the rabbi’s wife,’” says Rabbi Rosenblatt. He stresses that “out-of-town” communities place greater demands on their rebbetzins and interview them as rigorously as they do the rabbis. “My wife, who is an attorney and very respected by our congregation, states her position: ‘You hired my husband, not me.’ Make no mistake, she does a tremendous amount of chesed for others and is personally in touch with many in the community, but she would have done that if her husband was a shoemaker.” And what about the rabbi’s role at home? That rabbinic families suffer is not unheard of; marital discord among rabbis is common, says Rabbi Weinreb, who personally counsels rabbis. He recalls one rebbetzin crying in his office because of the many Sunday mornings the family had packed up the car to go on a day trip—then having to cancel due to a congregational crisis. “It’s not easy,” Rabbi Weinreb admits. “As my wife puts it, ‘When you get old, the shul is not going to take care of you. You are going to be long gone as far as
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they’re concerned.’ It’s your family that matters.” Why It’s All Worth It One would think that having to play so many roles to so many people would dissuade young men from pursuing the vocation of rabbi. Evidently, the love of Torah and the Jewish people and the call of spiritual leadership make a convincing argument for many idealistic— and determined—rabbinical students. “My mother thought I would be a lawyer, like my father; I had another perspective,” says Jason Finkelstein, twenty-five, a RIETS student. “You may not make as much money and it’s a difficult lifestyle, but if you believe that the Ribbono Shel Olam gave you the ability to reach others, to learn and spread Torah, then the light at the end of the tunnel is that He gave it to you for a reason and He will help you overcome the obstacles.” Many longtime rabbis do not regret their career choice. “I am part of every family in the shul,” says Rabbi Pruzansky. “When a family is hit by tragedy, the rabbi feels it every time. It’s especially trying to have to say farewell to a cherished member and friend.” He frequently passes his hard-won wisdom along at rabbinic seminars. “One of the things I speak about is a piece of paper I constantly carry with
me,” he says. “Before a funeral a while back, I took out a piece of paper to record the eulogizers. [Later that day] I was to officiate at a wedding and jotted down who would be getting [to recite the] sheva berachot. When I reached in my pocket for the sheva berachot list, I instead took out the paper with the list of eulogizers. I reached into my pocket again, but there was nothing there. I turned the paper over in my hand and there was the sheva berachot list—it was two sides of the same paper. We’re there for our congregants with joy at their semachot and tears at their moments of grief. The rav has to be 100 percent wherever he is.” Despite the myriad talents a rabbi needs, what ultimately determines his success is his spiritual leadership. “The average baalabus today is trying to figure out a way to live with one-and-a-half feet in the broader culture while maintaining an authentic connection to Torah,” says Rabbi Schacter. “It’s the rabbi’s job to mount an argument and make a presentation that will inspire these Jews to deepen their allegiance to and engagement with Torah, mitzvot and HaKadosh Baruch Hu. That takes passion, skills to effectively communicate that passion and the knowledge that what the rabbi has to sell is the greatest product in the world.” g
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DECLINE OF THE RABBINIC SERMON
any rabbis and lay people took offense at the front page of a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal that explored the culture of “kiddush clubs” in the American Orthodox synagogue. Most likely, their indignation stemmed from the realization that much of what was written is true. My teacher, historian Jonathan Sarna, often called upon to articulate the fashions and trends among America’s Jews, put it like this: “Once upon a time, some people went to synagogue to talk to God. Nowadays, more and more people come to see their friends.” The prayers and sermons, he concluded, “are a distraction. Conviviality goes better with a drink.”1 There are many elements at fault for the hedonism that festers in many American synagogues, a culture that moves congregants to absent themselves from the rabbi’s sermon for a drink. One responsible party is no doubt the rabbi himself. Of late, a scholar of Jewish sermons remarked matter-of-factly that “homiletics is not an art that is especially valued today.” 2 He did not have the Orthodox sermon in mind exclusively, but his evaluation is still very applicable. Both in style and substance, the contemporary Rabbi Zev Eleff is a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University. He also teaches Judaic studies at Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts.
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Orthodox sermon has lost meaningfulness. How much meaning is open to debate, but its overall decline is apparent. It remains as a Shabbat morning institution not because it is a halachic necessity but because it has grown into an expectation. History provides both criticism and solutions. Seen in its proper context, we might understand that this problem says much about the rabbinate and much more about American Orthodoxy in its present state. The Orthodox sermon slumped to a nadir many decades ago. On Yom Kippur 1956, Rabbi Solomon Roodman testified that he had “perused the sermons and lectures of yesterday’s preachers” to help him enlighten the worshippers at Congregation Anshei Sfard of Louisville, Kentucky. Most of what he had found in sermon manuals was unhelpful. “I discovered a pessimistic outlook concerning the survival of Orthodoxy in the United States,” he explained.3 Rabbi Roodman surveyed a literature composed by mostly immigrant rabbis. They were very often learned men whose Old World-style Yiddish was embellished with traditional lore and wisdom. Yet, by the interwar years of the twentieth century, their sermons also conveyed unflattering cynicism. At the outset of that century, congregations hired Yiddish preachers for the same reason that they employed cantors: for entertainment.4 Presentation and showmanship mattered most for many synagogue attendees, espe-
cially for those whose religious observance was considerably lacking. Cantors offered the men and women in the pews their parents’ Old World sounds. Rabbis served as entertainers too. Their sermons were full of reproof and rebuke.5 Congregants rarely listened to the sermon’s message, however. Like the liturgy and the music that accompanied the service, the rabbi’s speech became ritualized; it was part of the synagogue performance. An additional part of that theater was an entertainment component. Orthodox rabbis spoke in a “medley of proverbs and tales, and occasional jokes,” said one preacher, who compared his role to a “clown dancing on a rope.” Another rabbi agreed, characterizing his role as “not simply an entertainer but a comedian.”6 No longer viewed as leaders meant to inspire and instruct, traditional rabbis in America lost their purpose. So did their sermons. Much credit, then, goes to a generation of English-speaking rabbis who invigorated lethargic American Orthodox Jews around midcentury. Their sermons, along with a growing coterie
of better-educated young people, rejuvenated a dying community. Those young rabbis of the fifties and sixties learned their craft from the few exemplary Orthodox preachers of the past generation, first and foremost, Rabbi Joseph Lookstein. Starting in the 1930s, he trained hundreds of Orthodox rabbis at Yeshiva University in the art of homiletics. Rabbi Lookstein implored his students to refine their English skills. More like his non-Orthodox counterparts, Rabbi Lookstein embraced contemporary literature and scholarship that helped support his ideas. What separated Rabbi Lookstein from more liberal clergy was that the spirit and substance of his sermons were drawn from the classic sources of Judaism. Also, unlike many of his Orthodox peers, Rabbi Lookstein held a Columbia University doctorate. He used that scholarly training, frequently borrowing from the vocabularies of social scientists when he delivered sermons at his synagogue on New York’s Upper East Side. For a variation of that sort of scholarship-filled sermon, an Orthodox Jew might have traveled across
Central Park to listen to Rabbi Leo Jung on Manhattan’s West Side make good use of his own doctoral training. For novelist Herman Wouk, Rabbi Jung’s “religious ideas articulated in the light of secular wisdom” elevated the religious commitment of his “Hassidic grandfather” from the realm of “naïve” to “wise.” 7 In any case, Rabbis Lookstein and Jung were two exceptions of the pre-World War II generation that had not yet embraced the English-language sermon. But they were pioneering models for the subsequent generation. One of Rabbi Lookstein’s students, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, recalled his most “gifted teacher” as “the greatest orator of his generation of rabbis, certainly of the Orthodox rabbinate.”8 If Rabbi Lookstein was the master teacher, then Rabbi Lamm was the master student; he set the standard for his generation of Orthodox preachers. Rabbi Lamm’s recently published sermons, Derashot Ledorot: A Commentary for the Ages, copublished by Yeshiva University and OU Press, reveal his mastery of rabbinic sources, his fondness for the wisdom of Chassidic masters
West Side Institutional Synagogue in New York City. Photo: Erica Berger
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and his wide-ranging knowledge of academic scholarship and popular literature of the time. Rabbis Lookstein and Jung used labels like “Traditional” or “TorahTrue” to identify their brand of American Judaism. Their discourses constantly broached the topics of Americanization and tradition. Yet they stopped short of an attempt to shape the identity of American Orthodoxy by name. Disagreeing with this approach, Rabbi Lamm wrote that the “great problem of modern American Orthodoxy is that it has failed to interpret itself to itself.”9 Whether his peers agreed with him or not, Rabbi Lamm dared to define the American Orthodox cause. Within short order, observers dubbed Rabbi Lamm one of the “most eloquent spokesmen for modern Orthodoxy.”10 Sermons boasting definitions of Orthodox Judaism became less urgent once Orthodox Judaism found its footing in the midcentury. And, perhaps somewhat exhausted with refining the movement, Orthodox preaching redirected its focus. The politics and social movements that enveloped American culture in the 1960s eventually overwhelmed the rabbinic sermons. Crises in Israel and the protest movement on behalf of Soviet Jewry pushed politics to the forefront of the rabbinic agenda. Many Orthodox Jews appreciated this rhetoric.11 Still, not everyone approved of the political sermon. One layperson derided the new form of sermons as a “weekly exercise in logical acrobatics which attempt to flimsily tie together the rich tapestries of the Torah with the shallow goings-on in the world of politics.”12 By the 1980s, both Soviet Jews and Israel were better politically situated and rabbis began to look for new content to fill their sermons. Some had no idea where to look, however. Already in the final years of the 1970s, one prominent Brooklyn preacher bemoaned the fading rabbinic regard for sermons. “On the eve of Sabbaths and holidays,” he freely admitted, “a number of our colleagues become frantic in search of an idea or a story.” 13 Rabbinic apathy for sermons was an open secret. In 1986, Rabbi Lamm voiced his concern over a new crop of 46
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rabbis whose excellence in Torah produced a type of elitism that could not regard the Sabbath sermon “as a serious enterprise worthy of [their] attention.”14 But these young men would come around; they would have to in order to survive in the pulpit, he surmised. Rabbi Lamm predicted that future rabbis would be compelled to transition the Orthodox sermon to a model that could be simultaneously inspiring and satisfy “a new type of congregant” who was “more committed to Torah and especially to Halakhah, and who will take the whole religious enterprise with a great deal of seriousness.”15 Rabbi Lamm’s prophecy has been partially realized. No doubt, the current American Orthodox laity is a more knowledgeable and religiously observant one than the ones of the past. These women and men seek out opportunities beyond the sermon to receive the rigorous Torah education that Rabbi Lamm hoped they would find at the Sabbath pulpit. Many of today’s rabbis, as a result, offer up sermons that too often feature more Eastern European folklore than Torah. That our pulpit rabbis champion socalled “Jewish values” or Shabbat observance is admirable, but hardly inspirational. The combination of knowledgeable congregants and counter-intellectual rabbis is particularly unfortunate given the sophisticated questions—specifically, questions pertaining to technology and gender—that now challenge the contours of American Orthodoxy. True, the humor and rebuke in the rabbis’ sermons are conducted in English rather than in Yiddish. Nonetheless, it is difficult to deny the parallels between the American Orthodox sermons delivered today and a century ago. Long ago, those men begrudgingly accepted their roles as entertainers and comedians. Our generation desires something more. We require leaders. g Notes 1. Lucette Lagnado, “After These Jewish Prayer Services, Things Come ‘To Life’ at Open Bar,” Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2013. 2. Marc Saperstein, “Is the Sermon on its Deathbed?,” European Judaism 42 (2009): 160.
3. Solomon Roodman, The Vaccine of Faith (New York, 1957), 104. 4. Jeffrey Shandler, “Sanctification of the Brand Name: The Marketing of Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt,” in Chosen Capital: The Jewish Encounter with American Capitalism, ed. Rebecca Kobrin (New Jersey, 2012), 255-71. 5. Kimmy Caplan, Orthodoxy in the New World: Immigrant Rabbis and Preaching in America (1881-1924) (Jerusalem, 2002), 164-79. 6. Quotations derived from and translated by Menahem Blondheim, “Divine Comedy: The Jewish Orthodox Sermon in America 1881-1939,” in Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages of American Literature, ed. Werner Sollors (New York, 1998), 200. 7. Herman Wouk, “A Word of Thanks,” in The Leo Jung Jubilee Volume: Essays in His Honor on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, eds. Menahem M. Kasher, Norman Lamm and Leonard Rosenfeld (New York, 1962), 41. 8. Norman Lamm, “Eulogy for Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein,” in Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Memorial Volume, ed. Leo Landman (New York, 1980), 8. 9. Norman Lamm, “Modern Orthodoxy’s Identity Crisis,” Jewish Life (May-June 1969): 5. 10. See James Yaffe, The American Jews (New York, 1968), 133 and Charles S. Liebman, Pressure Without Sanctions: The Influence of World Jewry on Israeli Policy (New Jersey, 1977), 261. 11. Adam S. Ferziger, “‘Outside the Shul’: The American Soviet Jewry Movement and the Rise of Solidarity Orthodoxy, 1964-1986,” Religion and American Culture 22 (winter 2012): 83130. 12. Jonathan Kellerman, “Striving for Relevance: A Student View,” Jewish Life (March-April 1970): 34. 13. Bernard L. Berzon, Sermons the Year ‘Round: Ninety Sermons Covering all Sidrot, Holidays, and Special Occasions (New York, 1978), 1. 14. Norman Lamm, “Notes of An Unrepentant Darshan,” Sermon Anthology of the Rabbinical Council of America 44 (1986): 2. 15. Ibid., 10-11.
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Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein Photo: Yeshiva University Archives
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Fall 5774/2013 5772/2012
S. GOLDSTEIN: T PIONEERING RABBI What was it like to be an Orthodox rabbi in America a century ago?
BY AARON I. REICHEL
uch of what we take for granted about today’s Orthodox rabbinate was considered revolutionary 100 years ago. Preaching a sermon in unaccented English was virtually unheard of in those days. And there were few, if any, Orthodox rabbis in America who were born and educated in the United States. All of which made Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein—the first American-born, Ivy League-educated Orthodox rabbi— unique in the American Orthodox Jewish landscape and a driving force in transforming Orthodoxy in the early part of the twentieth century. An aspiring lawyer, Rabbi Goldstein decided to become a rabbi when a British rabbi in the prestigious Upper East Side neighborhood of New York passed away suddenly. Rabbi Goldstein saw the need to fill a void. He asked himself: “How can I contribute more to the Jewish people?” Thankfully, this charismatic and colorful figure decided to enter the rabbinate. Nowadays, there is a glut of Orthodox rabbis seeking prominent positions. This was not always the case. Rabbi Goldstein dared to take giant strides on a road not traveled, receiving semichah more than once in order to earn acceptance from the broad spectrum of the Jewish community. Rabbi Goldstein’s wife, Rebecca, was born in America, and despite the fact that she lacked role models of success-
Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq., is a grandson of Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein and the author of The Maverick Rabbi (Norfolk, 1984), a biography of his grandfather.
Rabbi Goldstein speaking to a group of Hebrew School students. Photo courtesy of Aaron Reichel, taken by Roman Vishniac
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ful American-born rebbetzins, she, even as a teenager, already dreamed of marrying a rabbi, opening her home to congregants and devoting her life to spiritually strengthening the Jewish people. She fulfilled these dreams with Rabbi Goldstein. What was it like being an Orthodox rabbi in America a century ago? There was no such position; it simply didn’t exist. To be sure, Rabbi Goldstein did many of the same things rabbis do today: he delivered sermons, taught classes, visited the sick, officiated at life-cycle events and spoke at fundraising dinners. But he also did more, simply because his congregants had less. There were no day schools or yeshivot north of New York’s Lower East Side, no five-day workweek and few kosher food symbols on products in the supermarkets. Rabbi Goldstein organized Friday evening forums in his synagogue not just to give young people an opportunity to learn Torah together, but also to keep them away from pool halls and gambling casinos—many were that far from their roots already, even if their parents were brought up Orthodox. The rabbi’s challenge bordered on the impossible: to go against the mainstream culture and attract a generation of young people who were sliding into the melting pot. Rabbi Goldstein was called a maverick for good reason. He tried every approach to draw people into his synagogue. He managed to convince generations of Jews who were eager to “Americanize” that since Americans espouse Judeo-Christian values, to be a good American you had to be a good Jew too.
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To lure young people into the synagogue, he came up with an innovative idea: he turned the shul into a multipurpose institution serving the physical, recreational and social needs of the local Jewish population. What he essentially created was the forerunner of the modern Jewish community center. He first implemented this idea in the Central Jewish Institute, and then in the original Institutional Synagogue (today the West Side Institutional Synagogue in Manhattan) he founded in Harlem, when Harlem was a flourishing Jewish neighborhood. Many young people came to the synagogue, at first, exclusively for the gym and the pool, but eventually they were inspired to attend services. Rabbi Goldstein was proud of the fact that his Jewish community center was the only one with the word “synagogue” in its name. A famous non-Orthodox philanthropist offered him a huge sum of money on the condition that the name of the institution be changed, but Rabbi Goldstein refused. His approach was so successful that at its heyday, the Institutional Synagogue served more than 3,000 people a day from all walks of life. The synagogue had many literary, social and athletic clubs—sixty-seven at one point! Every club was required to open meetings by reading a portion of the Torah. They held Jewish holiday parties and explained through slides and “moving pictures” the significance of various yamim tovim. They organized Friday night home meetings for discussing Jewish topics, singing Hebrew melodies and listening to interesting sermons. So what did the rabbi have to do with all of this? Instead of delegating everything to a youth director, he led by example. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Goldstein hosted meetings of club leaders in their own home—not just at the synagogue. One time, Rabbi Goldstein even led a club himself. One club member recalled that the rabbi “visited every club periodically—every club [emphasis in the original] in the building from top to bottom. He always had a coterie of people around him. . . He took a personal interest in all of us.” The rabbi made it a point to spend some time almost every night in the game room, where he sometimes played checkers with two or three people at a time. Playing a game of basketball with the rabbi in the gym was not uncommon either. You can be sure that, win or lose, quality time with the charismatic rabbi made a lasting impact. Rabbi Goldstein wrote an English commentary to the Torah, possibly one of the only ones by an American Orthodox rabbi at that time. He also honored the hundreds of military servicemen from his synagogue over the years, in his synagogue publications and on plaques on the synagogue walls. Around the time of World War I, Rabbi Goldstein visited military training camps for the Jewish Welfare Board where he inspired Jewish soldiers. He personally distributed hundreds of pairs of tefillin long before any others were doing it. Was every rabbinical position a century ago similar to Rabbi Goldstein’s? Hardly. But one thing is for sure: this tireless, passionate leader taught generations of rabbis how to serve their American synagogues and communities with, as famed writer Herman Wouk once said of him, a combination of “total loyalty to tradition with a sophisticated modern mind.” g
BERT S. GOLDSTEIN: R E H I B B A R
A POWERFUL VOICE OF TRADITION Since its establishment in 1898, the OU has had one overriding goal: to strengthen and fortify traditional Jewry. Over the years, the OU has addressed the broad range of challenges facing American Orthodox life, combating intermarriage and assimilation, making kosher certification more reliable, advocating for Israel, unifying and supporting synagogues, reaching teens and college youth, promoting Orthodox Jewish values in the public square and assisting the Jewish disabled. Back in the early part of the twentieth century, the Union’s concerns—advancing Shabbat observance, building Talmud Torahs and struggling to effectively transmit the Jewish heritage to a generation of Americanized youth—reflected the then-fragile condition of American Orthodoxy. The state of kosher certification, which was riddled with corruption, posed another great threat to traditional life. However, in 1924, the Union undertook a monumental, unprecedented endeavor: the establishment of the first nonprofit kosher certification agency. This would ultimately help revolutionize the kosher food industry. During these tumultuous times in American Jewish history, Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, who was president of the Orthodox Union from 1924 to 1933, served as a powerful voice of tradition and spiritual resilience. Rabbi Goldstein’s devoted wife, Rebecca, was a cofounder of the OU’s Women’s Branch and its national president for thirteen years. The daughter of philanthropist Harry Fischel, Rebecca was instrumental in helping her husband establish the OU’s kashrut program, among many other initiatives. In November 1927, Rabbi Goldstein delivered an impassioned speech at the OU National Convention in New York City. After addressing topics such as the dire need to establish a youth group for teens and to provide rabbis on college campuses, Rabbi Goldstein stressed the critical role Talmud Torahs played as the primary vehicle of Jewish education in the days preceding the day school movement. Rabbi Goldstein spoke about the OU organizing Talmud Torahs in small towns and rural communities “where none exist” and even subsidizing the teachers’ salaries. He then turned to two of the most pressing challenges confronting American Jews in the early part of the twentieth century: Shabbat and kashrut. Working with unions to establish a five-day workweek to help promote
The OU’s “power couple” in the 1920s: Rabbi Goldstein and his wife, Rebecca. With her impressive organizational skills and passion for Jewish life, Rebecca, it was noted, was able to accomplish more than ten men working together even after health conditions forced her into a wheelchair in her later years. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Aaron Reichel
the observance of Shabbat was a top priority for the Union in the 1920s: One of the chief problems which confront American Jewry today is that of the Sabbath. I have been in touch with the labor leaders of the fur industry and we have been assured every cooperation. I am happy to report that in the above-mentioned industry, no furrier must work on the Sabbath. A forty-hour or five-day workweek has been instituted. We have cooperated with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union in their fight for an eight-hour [day] and five-day workweek . . . The five-day workweek, fellow delegates, is the solution to the Jewish religious problem in America. We cannot do anything greater than to consecrate ourselves toward this
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bootleg kosher meat. [I] spoke on behalf of the enactment of the Kosher Law for Wisconsin before the Senate Committee of the legislature in Madison, Wisconsin. We have since heard that our regional branch there brought to successful fruition the passage of the bill. We are now aiding Ohio in a similar direction. Through the tireless energies of Mr. Abraham Goldstein of our Executive Committee, a large number of firms are applying to us for our supervision and endorsement for kashruth . . . In addition to the kosher crackers of the Loose-Wiles Sunshine Biscuit Company, we have persuaded Heinz (of 57 Varieties fame) to place on the labels of such of their products, twenty-six in number, as do not contain animal fat and which are periodically inspected by us, the letter U in the letter O, indicating Orthodox Union. We have under our supervision Sheffield’s Kosher butter, Suffolk Street in New York’s Lower East Side, 1933. Duggan’s whole-wheat bread and Photo: American Jewish Historical Society cakes, in the states of New Jersey and New York, The Land O’Lakes end. The five-day workweek will mean Butter and Taburg Bros. Inc. vegetable the spiritual reawakening of America. It fat, preserves and an entire line of will mean to the Christian as well as to kosher products for bakers’ and restauthe Jew the restoration of a spiritual rants’ use . . . Sabbath. Golf, and all the secular sports Eighty-six years later, Rabbi’s Goldand pursuits, will be indulged in on one stein’s words about holding steadfast to day, and the synagogue and church will be the common uplift ground on the other day. Woe to a nation that will fail to encourage its citizens to become in fact, and in practice, a Sabbath-observing people. America is fast becoming Sabbath-less, a pagan people. Rabbi Goldstein goes on to speak about kashrut: Through our successful efforts, not only was the Kosher Law introduced and passed in the State of New York and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, but we are also instrumental in aiding other states to enact similar legislation giving us police power to protect the Jewish communities from
Grand Street in the Lower East Side, 1933. Photo: American Jewish Historical Society
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religious life and withstanding the various temptations of modernity remain as relevant as ever: The future of American Jewry in this country will rise or fall in proportion to its loyalty to Judaism. The Jewish people have never been dependent upon outward material conditions. We need never fear any outer enemy, so long as we remain faithful to God and His holy Torah. No human agency can interfere with the indestructibility of Israel so long as Israel is true to the source of its own indestructibility— the Torah. As president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, I summon the Jews of this country back to the ancient Jewish faith. Our faith is ancient and, at the same time, modern, just as Truth is ever old yet ever new. Every generation has called itself modern. The fifteenth century was the modernity of its time and the twentieth century is the modernity of our time. Yet the Torah in its completeness has lived through all these modernities because it is Truth. American institutions have been founded upon the Divine plan as handed down to Israel. The pristine spirit of the Puritans, which marked the foundation of America, was nurtured in the Jewish soul. Our American ancestors founded this country upon the pattern of Judaism. We, in turn, must now make America safe for the Torah. g
Rabbi Natan Slifkin researching “hawking” in Jewish sources.
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By Natan Slifkin
Did the Rabbis of Old Engage in Hunting?
hen my ancestors came to Britain at the turn of the twentieth century, they settled in South Wales. They would travel around the hills and dales, hawking their wares with the sole phrase in English that they knew: “Everything a penny!” Todd Endelman, in The Jews of Georgian England, records that in the literature of the period “. . . there are frequent references to Jews hawking slippers, sweet cakes, barley sugar, cane straps, glassware, sealing wax, belt buckles, buttons and the like . . .” I left England nearly twenty years ago, but on a recent lecture tour there I decided to experience the other kind of Jewish hawking. Rabbi Natan Slifkin is the author of several works on the interface between Torah and the natural sciences. He is soon publishing The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom, and he is currently developing The Jewish Museum of Natural History in Bet Shemesh.
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In the Book of Genesis, we find the account of how Yaakov heard that his brother Eisav, who hated him for taking his blessing, was on his way to meet him with four hundred men. Yaakov prepared for this encounter by attempting to curry favor with Eisav: “And he lodged there on that night; and he took from that which came into his hand as a gift to his brother Eisav” (32:14). Now, simply speaking, the phrase “that which came into his hand” is a reference to the list that immediately follows: camels, goats and sheep. This is what is later described as the gift that he gave. It is described as that which “came into his hand” in that he had earned it through honest means. The thirteenth-century Spanish commentator Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher, however, suggests some additional interpretations. One is that it refers to precious stones, which can literally be “held in the hand.” But he also cites another view, the source of which he does not name, that this enigmatic
phrase refers to that which “comes in the hand” in a very literal sense: a falcon. A trained falcon is carried in one’s hand, and it would be an appropriate gift for Eisav, says Rabbeinu Bachya, because he was a “man of the field” and a keen hunter. Rabbeinu Bachya further states that accordingly, the “hand” being described is Eisav’s hand, not Yaakov’s hand—the verse is stating that Yaakov sent a gift to Eisav which Eisav would carry on his hand. Who is the anonymous source cited by Rabbeinu Bachya? In the Torah commentary of Rabbeinu Ephraim HaGadol, this view is cited by name—it is that of the twelfth-century Rabbeinu Tam, greatest of the Tosafists and grandson of Rashi. Interestingly, there are a few differences in Rabbeinu Ephraim’s presentation of Rabbeinu Tam’s view (which should be rated as more accurate, due to Rabbeinu Ephraim being Rabbeinu Tam’s student). First, he describes the bird as being a hawk rather than a falcon. Second, in this version, there is no men-
tion of the hand being Eisav’s hand; instead, the hawk is simply that which is carried in one’s hand. He describes hunting with a hawk as being a prestigious sport that is favored by royalty and noblemen. But why did Rabbeinu Tam come up with such an unusual explanation of the verse? And is there any significance to the fact that he wrote about a hawk rather than a falcon, and that he did not see fit to specify that the “hand” of the verse was Eisav’s hand? On my recent trip to England, on a freezing winter day, I visited the English School of Falconry. Somewhat confusingly, the sport of hunting with birds of prey is called “falconry,” no matter which type of bird is involved, whereas the verb describing the act of hunting with birds of prey is called “hawking,” again regardless of the bird of prey being used. Thus, one can do falconry with hawks and one can go hawking with falcons! At the English School of Falconry, there were falcons, hawks, owls and even some magnifi-
A hawk perching on a fence.
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The Talmud relates that King David engaged in shaker bazay –a Persian phrase which refers to hunting with birds of prey. cent eagles. I practiced handling them, having them fly to my hand, and I learned how to place them in the “safety position”—whereby the jesses (the leather straps tied to the hawk’s legs) are twisted around the fingers in a special way, much like tefillin straps, to prevent the bird from flying off into trouble. I then went out on a hunting expedition with hawks. It wasn’t exactly like the hawking expeditions of medieval times and antiquity; we rode out to the hunting grounds in a Land Rover rather than on horseback. But aside from that, there were few differences from the traditional sport. In fact, whereas many hawks today are fitted with radio transmitters in case they fail to return, ours were fitted with the traditional bells. We wore traditional leather falconry gloves, to protect our hands from the hawks’ powerful talons. Such a glove is identified by Rambam as fraklin, which is listed in the mishnah (Kelim 24:15) as an item of clothing used in falconry which can also be used as a vessel and is thus subject to certain laws of ritual contamination. Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann Heller notes that it cannot be a fingered glove, since the Mishnah explicitly states that fingered gloves are not rated as vessels, and thus concludes that it must be a mitten. However, in falconry, it is always fingered gloves that are used. As mentioned earlier, the bird’s jesses are twined around the fingers. For this reason, as well as based on indications in the writings of the Geonim along with etymological studies, it seems that the fraklin of the mishnah are in fact high boots rather than gloves. And indeed, I could have done with wearing boots on that day, for reasons that will become clear. Training a hawk is a skilled art. Readying it for a hunt is also compli-
cated; if a hawk has had too much to eat, then it is “fed up” (that’s the origin of the phrase) and won’t perform. Falconers must regularly weigh their birds to assess which of them has digested its last meal and is ready to hunt; a fraction of an ounce can make all the difference. Of the dozens of hawks at the school, we selected two that were ready to go. My guide for the hunt was a wonderful and extremely traditional Englishman whom I shall call Rupert. (His name was actually Luke, but he was so very English that I think Rupert is a much more fitting name.) The object of the hunt was to see the birds display their skills, and the quarry that is usually sought is rabbits and pheasants. We took the hawks out of the car and walked toward an area of trees and bushes. Then we released the hawks from the safety position and “cast them off” into the trees where they perched, waiting for us to do our part. Picking up some stout branches, we waded into the undergrowth (this is where fraklin boots would have been useful), whacking the bushes with our sticks, in order to flush out any hiding pheasants or rabbits. But our beating around the bushes did not produce any results. And so we retrieved the hawks by taking a scrap of meat from the bags that were slung over our shoulders, placing it on our gloves and whistling for the birds. They swooped down for the treat; we placed them in the safety position and moved on to the next area. Well, the pheasants and the rabbits got the better of us that morning. We did see one rabbit bolting into the distance, but the hawks couldn’t catch it in time. The only animal that they caught was a mouse, which we let them keep. But had they caught a pheasant, we would have traded them a scrap of meat in order to get them to
part with it. Otherwise, getting them to part with their prey is well-nigh impossible. Indeed, after one failed strike that left the hawk with its talons tightly grasping a ball of leaves and twigs, it took a very long time to persuade the hawk to release its grasp. According to the sages of the Talmud, when predatory birds grasp their prey with their claws or talons in this way, the prey animal is automatically considered mortally wounded. They believed that venom is injected from the predator’s claws into the prey animal, rendering it a treifah and prohibited for human consumption even if slaughtered according to Jewish law. The belief may have stemmed from the fact that animals mauled by predators will often die, even if the wound itself is not lethal, due to infections caused by bacteria from the claws. Which brings us back to Rabbeinu Tam. A colleague of mine at Bar-Ilan University, Leor Jacobi, has been extensively researching the history of falconry in Jewish sources and showed me much of the material that I present here.1 Among his discoveries is a fascinating report that Rabbeinu Tam found a way to circumvent this problem. In the medieval work Shitah Mekubetzet, we find the following: “Rabbeinu Asher, of blessed memory, wrote in his Tosafot that he received a tradition that Rabbeinu Tam would put fingernails of silver on his hawk, like shoes, when he wanted to eat what it trapped.” As my colleague has discovered, covering the claws in this way is indeed a feasible method of preventing a hawk from killing its prey. Zoologists today, when capturing birds for research, will sometimes use hawks that have their claws encased in beads. This would only work with hawks, which kill their prey with their talons, and not
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An anti-Semitic cartoon found in a 1233 tax document from the Exchequer depicts Rabbi Isaac, a prominent financier who engaged in falconry, as a three-faced demonic figure. Photos courtesy of Rabbi Slifkin
with falcons, which break their preys’ spines with their beaks. Since Rabbeinu Tam was actively involved in falconry, we can already understand why it would occur to him to explain “that which came into his hand” as referring to hawks. And this is why the more reliable testimony of Rabbeinu Ephraim states that he spoke of a hawk rather than a falcon. It was hawks that Rabbeinu Tam was accustomed to using, since only a hawk would catch prey in such a way that it would be possible to slaughter it according to Jewish law. But perhaps there is more to it than that. We might wonder exactly why Rabbeinu Tam was practicing falconry. We are told that he shod his hawk with silver claws when he wanted to eat what it trapped. This raises two questions: Why was he using a hawk to find food, when there are much easier ways of obtaining it? And if he used silver claws when he wanted to eat what it trapped, this implies that there were times when he was not using it in order to catch food—in which case, why was he using it? The question is especially pertinent in light of the fact that overall, Judaism has always been decidedly against hunting. The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 18b) condemns those who participate in hunts, and there are numerous responsa from halachic authorities in the early modern period (such as Rabbi Shaul Mortira, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kaidanover, Rabbi Shimshon Morpurgo and Rabbi Yechezkel Landau) who prohibited hunting for sport, or at least strongly frowned upon it. In order to answer this, let us look at the continuation of Shitah Mekubetzet, where he records that Rabbeinu Tam was not the only one to engage in this
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practice: “Similarly, Rabbeinu Peretz, of blessed memory, wrote in his Tosafot that ‘Rabbi Isaac of Norwich from the Land of the Island [i.e., England] would act thus: His hawk, which is called esparviere, would have its feet covered with silver on its fingernails while hunting fowl, lest it inject venom. This is the proper ruling.’” So Rabbi Isaac of Norwich also engaged in falconry (and it appears that the account regarding Rabbeinu Tam may have been transposed from Rabbi Isaac). But who was Rabbi Isaac of Norwich? Otherwise known as Isaac ben Eliav, he was an extremely prominent financier, with important connections to the Crown. Many people were in debt to him, which caused much resentment. An anti-Semitic cartoon from that period, found in a 1233 tax document from the Exchequer, depicts Rabbi Isaac as a three-faced demonic figure, above his Jewish colleagues and various devils. Rabbeinu Tam, too, was a prominent businessman. And like Rabbi Isaac, he also had important connections to the nobility—he was frequently in the king’s court and was responsible for royal policy toward the Jews. Such people were the Rothschilds of the medieval period: important banking or business figures who served a vital role for the Jewish community in diplomacy with the gentile rulers. And for wealthy, powerful people, and especially for royalty, falconry was an important pastime. Falconry is the sport of the nobility. There are other, easier ways of catching food. And training a bird of prey is extremely complicated. But there are few sights more magnificent than watching a falcon or hawk displaying its aerial skills. God draws upon this sight when
He addresses Job, who has questioned God’s ways. God puts Job in his place by demonstrating his lack of ability to grasp the workings of the universe, humbling Job with the wonders of the animal kingdom: “Does the hawk fly by your wisdom?” (Job 39:26). Practicing falconry was a status symbol, and it was something about which to converse with others in those circles. And if one ever wished to curry favor with the king, there was no better gift to give him than a fine bird of prey. Indeed, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 95a) relates that King David engaged in shaker bazay—a Persian phrase which refers to hunting with birds of prey. With this knowledge, we are now in a better position to understand why Rabbeinu Tam proposed that the gift which came in Yaakov’s hand was a hawk. It was not just that Rabbeinu Tam himself practiced hawking and thus had such matters on his mind, it was that he would have been very much cognizant of the role that falconry plays in relating to—and appeasing—powerful opponents. From Rabbeinu Tam’s perspective, if Yaakov was giving something that is brought in the hand to appease Eisav, it would naturally have been a hawk. g Note 1. See Leor Jacobi, “Jewish Hawking in Medieval France: Falconry, RabbenuTam, and the Tosafists,” Oqimta 1 (5773/2013), pp. 1-85, available online at http://www.oqimta.org.il/oqimta/5773/ jacobi1.pdf.
Listen to Rabbi Natan Slifkin on the interface between Torah and the natural sciences at www.ou.org/hawking.
The International Jewish Resource Center for Inclusion & Special Education The New Jersey Association of Jewish Day Schools Divisions of Yachad/NJCD Proudly present:
Two Conferences in One! National Special Education Professional Development Conference and New Jersey Statewide Professional Development Conference
“Blended Learning: Toward New Frontiers” Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 at Yeshivat Noam 70 West Century Road, Paramus, New Jersey
8:00 am – 3:15 pm Keynote Speaker: Dr. Jason Ohler Early Childhood Keynote Speaker: Dr. Clarrissa Willis Special Education Keynote Speaker: Richard Ellenson Featured Presenters: Dr. Karen Gazith • Dr. Bill Atwood Highlighted Speakers SPECIAL EDUCATION: Dr. Joel Dickstein Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman Mindy Lidsky
LIMUDEI KODESH & SECULAR STUDIES: Rabbi Yaakov Aichenbaum Rabbi Naftali Hoff Dr. Kristine Scharaldi
Workshop Concentrations in Special Education, Early Childhood, Elementary, and Junior High School levels, Mental Health, and Administration. For pricing, further information, and to register, contact Batya Jacob at (212) 613-8127 / (551) 404-4447 or email@example.com
Please note: Special travel subsidy available on a limited basis for educators outside the NY/NJ area. For a complete conference schedule, to register online, and for a list of participating vendors, visit www.njcd.org/schoolservices. Yachad is An Agency of the Orthodox Union
BASKETBALL STAR DORON SHEFFER, WHO RETIRED FROM BASKETBALL IN 2008, SPORTS A TRIM BEARD AND KIPPA TODAY. PHOTO: LIRON MOLDOVAN
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SCORING FOR GOD: SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF FORMER BASKETBALL STAR DORON SHEFFER
BY HILLEL KUTTLER
rasping a basketball in his enormous hands, Doron Sheffer looks slim and nimble enough to hit the court again as he greets a visitor to his home on Moshav Amirim. The glorious March afternoon in this hilly community with breathtaking views of the Galilee’s mountains seems light years from the snow and chill of New England, where Sheffer played for three seasons for the University of Connecticut Huskies in the mid-1990s. As a UConn guard, Sheffer fed the ball to such star teammates as Ray Allen (now with the NBA’s Miami Heat) and played for legendary coach Jim Calhoun. Sheffer averaged five assists and thirteen points per game, hit 40 percent of his three-point attempts and led the Huskies to a sparkling 89-13 record and NCAA tournament appearances in each of his
HILLEL KU T T L E R is a freelance journalist who writes regularly about sports for the New York Times and about Jewish affairs for many publications.
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AS A UCONN GUARD, SHEFFER AVERAGED FIVE ASSISTS AND THIRTEEN POINTS PER GAME, HIT 40 PERCENT OF HIS THREEPOINT ATTEMPTS AND LED THE HUSKIES TO A SPARKLING 89-13 RECORD. PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT
three seasons. Sheffer was the first Israeli ever drafted by the NBA—the Los Angeles Clippers selected him in the second round in 1996—but he instead signed a lucrative contract with Israel’s dynastic professional basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, leading it to four consecutive national championships. Raised in a secular home near Tel Aviv, Sheffer, forty-one, retired from basketball in 2008. Today, he sports a trim beard and a black-knit kippa rests on his head. A set of Talmud Bavli stands with other traditional texts lining his living room shelves. All attest to a changed man, someone who has evolved most strikingly in the past decade but whose shift in orientation began at UConn when his mother, Yael, mailed him a book about spirituality. Sheffer’s journey has featured dramatic mileposts: a sojourn to India, a successful battle with testicular cancer and several basketball comebacks. One such comeback, playing for Hapoel Jerusalem for two seasons beginning in 2003, proved pivotal because that is when Sheffer began wearing tefillin more regularly and reading Tehillim. By the time he returned to Jerusalem in 2006, he had married his second wife, Talia, and together they decided to observe Shabbat, kashrut and family-purity laws and to start going to shul. He also began wearing a kippa and tzitzit and studying Talmud at the Ashrei Ha’Ish Yeshiva.
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“It wasn’t a decision made in one day or one minute,” Sheffer explains. “At a certain point, though, I realized, ‘I’m going for it.’ There were rises and falls. I wore tefillin and stopped, learned Torah and stopped, observed Shabbat and stopped.” Sheffer is sitting at a kitchen table in a guest apartment in the couple’s modern sun-drenched home where they run a business catering to people who come for healing of the body and mind. Sheffer points to an Israeli woman and her daughter relaxing on a bench, a small fountain bubbling nearby amid a
lovely garden of purple tulips and clusters of other flowers interspersed with rock paths. The mother has cancer, went through multiple operations and, losing hope, came to their retreat to rest and to contemplate, Sheffer says. Sheffer’s livelihood also comes from running youth basketball clinics that impart values and addressing various audiences in Israel and abroad about his life story. He’s synthesized those experiences and life lessons in an autobiography published in Hebrew. It’s titled Aneni, from David’s famous proclamation in Psalm (118:5) “Out of my distress I
PLAYED FOR THE RIGHT REASONS, SHEFFER SAYS, BASKETBALL IS “A TEACHER OF LIFE,” IMPARTING JOY AND INCULCATING IN ITS PRACTITIONERS THE VALUES OF WORK, PLAY AND CONSISTENCY.
called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me [aneni] with liberation.” Personally, Sheffer says, “I had distress, and God answered.” One answer was Sheffer’s surviving cancer; another, Sheffer’s path toward observance and back to the region, far changed from the adolescent who headed north to play for the Hapoel Galil Elyon team in 1990 and concluded his career with the same club nearly two decades later. Amirim consists primarily of nonobservant residents, with approximately twenty observant families. It was founded in 1958 as a retreat for vegetarians, and that ethic remains. Amirim’s entrance features a billboard speckled with more than 100 signs promoting the moshav’s businesses: aromatherapists, massage therapists, herb gardens, spas, a health food shop, an organic olive oil shop, art galleries, restaurants and plentiful bed and breakfasts. “It’s a vegetarian community, which spoke to us,” Sheffer explains. “I eat healthily—organic fruits and vegetables, except for some occasional meat. Health of body and of soul—it’s all here. It does me good to eat healthy, to breathe clear air.” A healthy soul includes Jewish learning, and classes are held most nights in residents’ homes. Many of Amirim’s observant families come from less observant backgrounds.
“To be a ba’al teshuvah is a way of life, a never-ending story: not too much, not too little; not to climb too high up the tree, but not to flee from it, always seeking balance,” he says. The Sheffers have four children together: daughters Gavriel, eight, and Michal, seven, who were given the names of angels; a son, Yedidya, four; and another daughter, Yaara, three. Sheffer’s eldest child, Ori, eleven, resides primarily with her mother in Tel Aviv, but often comes to Amirim. Ori’s situation is unique, Sheffer says, because she lives with both observant and nonobservant parents.
“We don’t push. We give her freedom,” he says. “On Shabbat, if she wants to call her mom, we let her. We try not to push something before its time. Thankfully, she feels a part of our home and blends into our lifestyle, baruch Hashem.” Not pushing children—when it comes to religion or to sports—is central to his philosophy. Screaming parents and coaches making demands on players, says Sheffer, constitute pressure points that sidetrack young athletes from the joys of competition. But, played for the right reasons, he says, basketball is “a teacher of life,” im-
RAY ALLEN, SHEFFER AND COACH JIM CALHOUN PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT
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SHEFFER QUOTES FREELY FROM NBA LEGENDS PAT RILEY AND MICHAEL JORDAN, ALONG WITH CHAZAL, CHASIDISM, RABBI NACHMAN OF BRESLOV AND PIRKEI AVOT.
THE CHILDREN CONSTITUTE THE SHEFFERS’ “STARTING FIVE.”
parting joy and inculcating in its practitioners the values of work, play and consistency. That is the approach Sheffer takes in promoting basketball to kids— what he dubs “basketball therapy.” In comparison, “the Torah is the teacher of life,” he says. “The Torah includes everything. It gives me endless advice, tools and inspiration for how to live in a more healthy, happy and balanced way—in my married life, raising my kids, employment and faith. All in all, it helps me be a better human being.” 64
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Sheffer rises. He has to head to Jerusalem, a three-hour drive, to address Hebrew University students, mostly nonobservant, who gather weekly for discussions on Jewish thought. In a university meeting room thirtyfive students and a rabbi await. Sheffer strides to the front and softly relates his background, basketball career and battle with cancer. Finally, he tells of his search for meaning and his discovering it in living a religious life.
During the hour-long appearance, Sheffer quotes freely from NBA legends Pat Riley and Michael Jordan, along with Chazal, Chasidism, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and Pirkei Avot. He acknowledges that religious observance stimulates ever-more questioning of a path fraught with continual challenges. He takes students’ questions: Are you happy? How did cancer shape your life? What about the stereotypes of newly observant Jews? Afterward, a third-year engineering student, Luda Loginova, speaks of having gained from the presentation. “It gives us inspiration that it’s possible to deal with any difficulty, make any change and try to be a better person,” she says. “He helped me think about things I don’t think about daily.” g
THE JEWISH JORDAN’S TRIPLE THREAT: PHY SI C A L , MEN TAL , AN D SPIR I TU AL L ES SON S F ROM T HE CO U RT BY TAMIR GOODMAN AND JUDY HOROWITZ GOODMAN DIVERSION BOOKS • NEW YORK, 2013 84 PAGES (ALSO AVAILABLE AS AN E-BOOK) REVIEWED BY DOV KRAMER
ONE of my favorite movies from my teenage years was Airplane! One of the notable scenes (and surely there were many, but please don’t call me Shirley) was when the stewardess distributed reading material to the passengers. To comply with a request for some “light reading,” she suggested a leaflet titled “Famous Jewish Sports Legends,” and, illustrating the dearth of Jewish athletes, handed the passenger what looks like an 8½-by-11 inch sheet of paper folded in thirds. I was reminded of this scene when I opened the big yellow manila envelope the book under review was sent to me in, only to find what seemed like a Rabbi Dov Kramer is an executive producer at WFAN, the nation’s first all-sports radio station, and a cofounder of The Clifton Cheder.
pamphlet, as small as a pocket book (5-by-8 inch) and not much thicker than this magazine. I have always been uncomfortable with the notion of an athlete being associated with his or her religion; once he gets onto the court or playing field, we should marvel at his performance, not his lineage. Does anyone really want to be thought of, professionally speaking, in terms of anything other than the quality of his work? Tamir Goodman was (and is) an exception. He was very cognizant of his being associated with his heritage, embraced it and made representing his people a primary goal. And although it can be troubling that star athletes are considered heroes, looking up to someone who refused to play any games on Shabbat—no matter what—and always wore his kippa, both on and off the court, can have a very positive impact.
For those unaware of the excitement Tamir created in some segments of the Orthodox community, he was considered one of the twenty-five best high school basketball players in the country (coast to coast) while still a junior at Baltimore Talmudical Academy. His exploits on the court were chronicled not just in the Jewish media, but in the mainstream secular media as well, where he was nicknamed “the Jewish Jordan” (after one of the premier players—if not the premier player—in NBA history, Michael Jordan). Tamir’s story is retold in spurts throughout the book, in autobiographical style. Although the book was co-written with his wife (she is not identified as such, but is pictured with captions of “my wife, Judy” and as the co-author), his perspective on having to leave his frum high school before his senior year, not being able to attend the college he thought he would because of his
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HIS EXPLOITS ON THE COURT WERE CHRONICLED NOT JUST IN THE JEWISH MEDIA, BUT IN THE MAINSTREAM SECULAR MEDIA AS WELL, WHERE HE WAS NICKNAMED â€œTHE JEWISH JORDAN.â€? Shabbat observance, being asked to become a play-maker rather than the scorer he always was, how he dealt with fan reactions (both friendly and hostile) and the injuries that ended his playing career, are all given in the first person. It is an interesting story, and those who remember Tamirâ€™s trials and tribulations and want to know what he was thinking during these episodes will appreciate the insights he shares. As interesting and inspiring as his story might be, it is likely better served as a feature article than as a book. However, as its title and subtitle promises, there are really three â€œbooksâ€? rolled into one. Each chapter has three parts to it: Tamirâ€™s story, basketball advice and tips on how to prepare for gamesâ€”and by extension, lifeâ€”mentally.
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(The term â€œspiritualityâ€? is used several times, referring to being motivated by a purpose greater than the game itself.) The basketball advice is distributed almost like a â€œBasketball Training for Dummiesâ€? manual, with specific tips and drills for becoming a better player. The drills are intended for serious (young) players only, but some of the tips are basic enough to help any beginner start to develop properly. (Some of them I remember from when my dad, who was a high school hoops star himself at Baltimore Talmudical Academy, coached my team in high school.) The third part reads the way I envision any generic selfhelp book would, dispensing what seems like relatively obvious suggestions that might otherwise be overlooked by some when actually faced with a situation where such advice should be followed. The three parts are often intermingled, and without a real appreciation for and understanding of the game of basketball and its nuances, the subtleties, wherein lie the true value of the synthesis of these parts, will be lost. Uneven at times, each of the three parts has something to contribute, although maybe not to every reader. A few generations ago, it was fairly common for Orthodox Jews to be faced with the choice of either keeping Shabbat or keeping their job. (My grandfather, aâ€?h, was one of those who had to find a new job every week.) A couple of generations ago, the norm was not to wear a yarmulka to work. In every generation, it is a challenge to imbue seemingly mundane activities and professions with a higher purpose. Tamir Goodman had the resolve to keep Shabbat, even if it endangered his basketball dreams, setting a positive example for others who might be faced with a similar dilemma. He was the only one on the court who had a yarmulka as part of his uniform, showing the world that he was proud to be a Jew on Shabbat and during the rest of the week as well. He has dedicated his life to a higher purpose, using his basketball skills on and off the court (by coaching and running basketball camps) to help others be as proud to be Jewish as he is. Writing this book and sharing his story is another way that Tamir, and his wife, Judy, are working toward accomplishing this goal. g Listen to Tamir Goodman discuss his new book at ou.org/jewishjordan.
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By Peter Abelow
On and Off the Beaten Track in. . .
The seventeen springs of Hamat Tiberias have been known for their curative properties since antiquity. Photos: Jack Hazut www.israelimage.net
Thermal wonders from the ancient world
ccording to our tradition, there are four holy cities in Eretz Yisrael. Jerusalem, of course, is one of them. The others are Chevron (Hebron), Tzefat (Safed) and Teveria (Tiberias). Chevron is the site of Ma’arat Hamachpelah, the first piece of land purchased by a Jew in the Land of Israel, and for seven years, the city was the country’s first capital before King David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and consolidated his rule over all of Israel and Judea (see the beginning of II Samuel 5:4-5). Tzefat is viewed as the
Peter Abelow is a licensed tour guide and the associate director of Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel. Keshet specializes in creating and running inspiring family and group tours that make Israel come alive “Jewishly.” He can be reached at 011.972.2.671.3518 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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center of kabbalah, Jewish mystical thought, and it is where Rabbi Yosef Karo compiled the Shulchan Aruch in the sixteenth century. Why is Tiberias included in the list of four holy cities? The first indication of the city’s holiness is in the Gemara, when it describes the exile of the Sanhedrin from the Temple and Jerusalem at the time of the Churban in 70 CE: Correspondingly, the Sanhedrin wandered to ten places of banishment, as we know from tradition, namely, from the Chamber of Hewn Stone to Hanuth, and from Hanuth to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to Yavneh, and from Yavneh to Usha, and from Usha [back] to Yavneh, and from Yavneh [back] to Usha, and from Usha to Shefar’am, and from Shefar’am to Beit She’arim, and from Beit She’arim to Tzipori and from Tzipori to Tiberias (Rosh Hashanah 31a, b).
According to this text, the tenth and final stop of the Sanhedrin was the city of Tiberias. But this brief mention of Tiberias does not capture the full significance of the city. It was in Tiberias, along the shores of Lake Kinneret, where the scholars of Eretz Yisrael continued the process of the development of Torah Shebe’al Peh (Oral Law) in the second through fifth centuries that eventually resulted in the compilation of the Talmud known as the Talmud Yerushalmi (the Jerusalem Talmud). It is clearly not coincidental that the compilers of the Talmud in Tiberias called their work the Yerushalmi and not the “Teveriani”; they saw themselves as living in the shadows of the long-since destroyed Jerusalem and Beit Hamikdash. The completion of the Jerusalem Talmud, which represents the scholar-
ship of the rabbis of the Land of Israel, predates the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) by about 200 years. Like its more popular “twin,” the Yerushalmi is based on the Mishnah which had been finalized in Tzipori by Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi around 200 CE. Archaeologists are today uncovering extensive sections of Tiberias from the period of the Sanhedrin and the Amoraim (scholars of the Talmud). One day in the nottoo-distant future these excavations will undoubtedly be open to the public for exploration. Excavators are also hoping to uncover evidence that predates the period of the Talmud by over 1,000 years. As we learn in Masechet Megillah, Rakat (a walled city conquered by Joshua [19:35]) is identified as Tiberias. The verse also mentions a nearby town called Hamat (from the Hebrew word for heat), which archaeologists identify as a small settlement a short distance further south along Lake Kinneret, built directly on top of natural thermal hot springs. One excavation site from the Talmudic period that is open to the general public is Hamat Tiberias National Park. The main focus of the park is a synagogue that was built between 286 and 337 CE, when the Sanhedrin was headquartered in Tiberias. The synagogue actually first came to light almost a century ago. In 1921, engineers working on a road along Lake Kinneret came upon an ancient mosaic floor which eventually was identified as the floor of a synagogue. The floor—the earliest synagogue mosaic in the country—bears a strong resemblance to mosaics found at nearby Beit Alpha and Tzipori. Remarkably, each mosaic is divided into three distinct panels, with depictions that teach us much about Jewish life at that time. The top-third panel depicts an aron kodesh flanked on both sides by a seven-branch menorah surrounded by the arbah minim (lulav, etrog, hadasim and aravot), a shofar and—an image most people have difficulty identifying—a machteh, or incense pan. These same images, all symbols of the Beit Hamikdash, appear frequently as the chiseled decorations on stones from Talmudic-period synagogues that have been discovered in the Golan Heights. To my mind, the choice of this general motif is a clear indication that the people living in the Galil in those days wanted to emphasize their connection to Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. Our ancestors were incredibly resourceful in preserving and transmitting to succeeding generations the unbreakable link between Am Yisrael and Yerushalayim. The bottom-third section of the ornate floor differs from those found in Beit Alpha and Tzipori which depict the Akeidah, the Binding of Isaac. The panel in the Hamat Tiberias Synagogue depicts two lions (the symbol of the Tribe of Judah) facing a grid of twelve dedication inscriptions written in Greek. The central panel is perhaps the most fascinating section. It depicts the twelve signs of the zodiac with a Hebrew inscription for each. In the center is the Greek sun god, Helios. A woman’s face is portrayed in each of the
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The central panel of the ancient mosaic floor of the synagogue in Hamat Tiberias National Park depicts the twelve signs of the zodiac with a Hebrew inscription for each. In the center is the Greek sun god, Helios. A woman’s face is portrayed in each of the four corners along with a Hebrew inscription indicating the season in the solar calendar (Tishrei, Tevet, Nisan and Tammuz corresponding to fall, winter, spring and summer).
Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 69
The top-third panel of the mosaic floor depicts an aron kodesh flanked on both sides by a seven-branch menorah surrounded by the arbah minim (lulav, etrog, hadasim and aravot), a shofar and—an image most people have difficulty identifying—a machteh, or incense pan. The choice of this general motif is a clear indication that the people living in the Galil in those days wanted to emphasize their connection to Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.
four corners along with a Hebrew inscription indicating the season in the solar calendar (Tishrei, Tevet, Nisan and Tammuz corresponding to fall, winter, spring and summer). This reflects the Jewish calendar, which regularly synchronizes our lunar months with the solar seasons, ensuring that Pesach always falls in the spring. Much has been written about this unusual panel, which seems to be a strange departure from Jewish tradition. Depicting human forms? Highlighting mythological gods and astrology? Was this merely accidental or was it a deliberate and conscious choice? The fact that this same zodiac/Helios motif also dominates the center of the Beit Alpha and Tzipori synagogues indicates that the choice of motif in the Hamat Tiberias synagogue was deliberate. The signs of the zodiac
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are known as“mazalot” and the expression “mazal tov” is extended by Jews all over the world at semachot. Is the inclusion of these signs merely the artistic expression of a non-Jewish artisan? Or could there be a significant religious connection which cries out to be understood? The perplexing mystery of the zodiac mosaic has been the subject of many scholarly articles. I believe that the inclusion of lunar as well as solar themes as the prominent central portion of the mosaic floor is not a coincidence, but rather reflects a deep appreciation of the wonders of the Heavens which was part of the religious philosophy of the time. In addition, the twelve signs of the zodiac could possibly be highlighting a connection with another significant twelve in Jewish thought: the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
The side corridor of the synagogue also contains inscriptions in the floor in both Hebrew and Aramaic in honor of various donors to the “building fund” (some things just haven’t changed!). What makes this park truly unique is that just a few yards away from the archaeological discoveries is a small stone-enclosed pool where a continuous flow of hot water emerges from the natural hot springs just beneath. The seventeen springs of Hamat Tiberias have been known since antiquity for their curative properties. In fact, pharmacies in Israel keep supplies of mineral salts from these springs. These springs, whose waters are infused with approximately 100 minerals, were also the subject of many halachic questions dealt with by the rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud. The rabbis asked questions such as: Is one permitted to cook in Hamat Tiberias on Shabbat? Can one bathe on Shabbat in the hot waters of Hamat Tiberias? At Hamat Tiberias, rabbinic text comes alive in a dramatic fashion. For the Jews of Tiberias in the third and fourth centuries, the status of this “natural” hot water spring on Shabbat was evidently a practical question. The park is located on the western shores of Lake Kinneret, right on the main road (Road #60), about one mile south of the modern city of Tiberias, and just beneath the prominent Tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes. A visit to Hamat Tiberias takes us back to the time after the Churban when, although Jerusalem and the Beit Hamikdash lay in ruins, Jewish life and the spirit of Jerusalem were very much alive and thriving in the Galil. g
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Travel the land of Israel on this co-ed program. The expedition begins in Tel Aviv and continues through Safed, Jerusalem, Eilat and more.
TJJ Ambassadors combines the best of ction, touring and fun with social action, political advocacy and Torah study in Israel for public school teens.
TJJ Plus is a leadership program ram for ady went on public school teens that already TJJ. The program begins in Poland and culminates with a unique Israel el experience.
NCSY is the international youth uth movement of the Orthodox Union.
Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 71
By Yamin Levy
A Loss Worthy of Grief t’s been fifteen years since Confronting the Loss of a Baby was published, and a lifetime of births, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and the usual ups and downs of family life. Too many people continue to need the book, the calls and letters flowing at a steady pace. Ari Goldman, professor of journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, noted that writing a book is like putting a letter in a bottle and sending it out to sea. Over the years I have heard so many stories of lives shattered by the most unnatural of losses. The stories find me in the most unusual ways. Two years ago I was having coffee with a therapist who works at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. We were discussing a paper she was writing on infant loss, and as I was leaving, a young woman who overheard parts of our conversation stopped me and asked if
Rabbi Yamin Levy is the rabbi of Beth Hadassah Synagogue in Great Neck /Kings Point, New York, and head of the Long Island Hebrew Academy. Rabbi Levy is the founder and director of the Maimonides Heritage Center in Tiberias, Israel.
I JEWISH ACTION
she could share her story. While all stories are, of course, different, all are similar in the most fundamental ways: the pain of coming home with arms aching to hold a newborn, the despair of a promise unfulfilled, the utter shock of one of life’s most aberrant circumstances and, of course, a marriage facing the unexpected while one’s world is sent into abandoned turmoil. I listen and listen. It’s been twenty-one years since Nechama died, and when I’m not wearing my author hat, I—like the rest of us members of this not-so-exclusive club—wonder what this experience has been all about. It took my mother over thirty years—and my loss—to talk about her own experience of losing a newborn. She never knew her baby’s sex, height, weight, complexion or feel. Then it was believed that the mother would be best served if all the evidence of a birth were discarded. My experience was very different. My wife and I held our baby, and kept evidence of her birth and life. And yet my narrative is not so dissimilar to my mother’s. I still ask myself what happened. Our pregnancy had gone as expected. Labor kicked in, and things seemed to be
moving in the right direction. It is those moments after the birth that remain a blur. That my wife and I brought a life into this world and she died is mind-altering. That my wife suffered a great deal remains a source of personal responsibility. A baby’s death upsets the natural order of life. How do we channel our grief? Where is everyone? How could it be that my experience, like that of so many, was one of isolation and foggy loneliness? What—if anything—has changed since I wrote Confronting the Loss of a Baby? I wrote the book for a number of reasons, one of which was because I felt that within Judaism there was no spiritual and ritual response to our loss. What we sought was not found in the context of our tradition. I felt isolated from Judaism, halachah and the Jewish people. There was no funeral service. At the cemetery only the caretaker, my father-in-law and I buried my baby. I remember with a degree of resentment how I stood by the tiny grave while my father-in-law placed the little casket in the ground. There were no shivah calls, no Kaddish—it was as if the loss never occurred in the context of a community, a tradition, a faith. That our community continues to keep this kind of loss and the grief associated with it secret is tragic. That our religious professionals still do not fully recognize the magnitude of the loss is a source of great frustration. As recently as last month I heard from a couple whose loss is shrouded in silence. I think of the young Chassidic couple who came to me in secrecy. Their parents, rebbe and community could not know that they sought out the support of an outsider. They were told to forget their loss and move on. They were fed the usual narrative of a perfect soul whose work in this world was completed and how they were blessed to be the vessel of this elevated spirit. They must be happy, they were told, and feel hallowed, having been chosen by the Almighty to carry such a soul. “More children will come and the sadness will go away.” It is no wonder
that they were miserable; it is no wonder they were questioning the foundation of their faith. How could they possibly feel whole when the message they are receiving from those closest to them is that their pain and grief are not real? Jewish laws of mourning are recognized as an anchor and a source of comfort and healing for the bereaved. Halachah, however, dictates that one does not mourn the loss of a baby less than thirty days old. I had always hoped that the recommendations I made in the book would afford mourners a spiritual outlet for their grief. Despite the numerous reprints of the book, it seems as if our community and religious leaders don’t fully understand the nature of the grief and have not yet learned how to respond appropriately. It saddens me that young couples continue to feel the need to suppress their grief because we have not provided a safe space as a conduit for mourners and the community. Without such a space the mourner’s loss is not validated even by those closest to them. I understand the difficulty of associating death with the smallest and most vulnerable. Babies represent life and are not supposed to die. The absurdity of it all repels sympathizers and, in so doing, the isolation of the bereaved grows denser. While there has been some progress in the Jewish community, it is mostly in the nonobservant sectors. Two years ago my wife and I were the keynote speakers at a conference sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York for clergy called “A Loss Worthy of Grief: Jewish Approaches to Bringing Comfort after Miscarriage, Stillbirth
and Neonatal Death.” The Orthodox community was poorly represented. All journeys begin with small steps. Ten years ago I was invited to give a session to graduating rabbis at Yeshiva University. I spoke about the impact the loss of a baby has, not only on the parents but also on the siblings, grandparents and community. As the session was coming to an end, a young man spoke up. “Permit me to add,” he said, “about the impact this loss has on one’s students.” As it turns out, I was this young man’s seventh grade rebbe at the Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison, New Jersey, when Nechama died. He recalled how the students observed that I was absent from davening on that overcast January morning. The entire seventh grade class planned a celebration for the next day. Some would bring chips, others soda, some would decorate the room while others prepared divrei Torah. Instead of “mazal tovs,” however, there was a great deal of silence. There was a time that I acted like a zealot when it came to speaking about my loss. People would ask me how many children I had and I would include Nechama in the list. It was as if I was carrying a bullhorn—who cared if it made some uncomfortable? Today I am much more restrained. Was I avoiding my own grief by expecting the world to listen? Could I find no other way to nurse a wound that doesn’t heal? I’m still learning and seeking answers. Maybe I have to find meaning in the silence. g Listen to Rabbi Yamin Levy discuss infant loss at ou.org/lossofbaby.
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Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 73
By Michael Orbach
OU Raises Funds for Tornado Victims Shortly after the tornado, thirty-eight SouthWest NCSYers drove to Moore, Oklahoma, to help clean up debris and give support to local families whose homes were damaged by the devastating tornado. From left: Ari Geller, Ethan Pearson, Ori Guttman, Noah Weiss, Jordan Cope and Sammy Weiser. Photo: Valerie Lopez
wo weeks after a severe tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, the Orthodox Union raised a substantial amount of money to aid those affected by the natural disaster. After news reports filtered in about the scope of the devastation that killed more than twenty people, Mayer Fertig, the OU’s new chief communications officer, reached out to Rabbi Ovadia Goldman of the Chabad Center of Oklahoma. “I knew that Chabad was likely to be the first Jewish organization to know what was needed,” Fertig explained. Rabbi Goldman said that while he was deluged with phone calls, the call from the OU was different. “Instead of telling us what the OU had to offer, they asked what we needed,” Rabbi Goldman said. Rabbi Goldman explained that the victims of the natural disaster had seen their homes and their possessions de-
Inside the OU
Michael Orbach is a writer living in New York.
I JEWISH ACTION
stroyed. More than anything else, they needed money to begin rebuilding their lives. After an online fundraising campaign, the OU wired funds to Rabbi Goldman, who purchased Walmart and Target gift cards which were then distributed to residents in need. “The devastation is almost indescribable,” Rabbi Goldman remarked. “It feels like a war zone, and that isn’t hyperbole.” While there is a minimal Jewish presence in Moore, Rabbi Goldman felt compelled to help the residents of the town. “Oklahoma is very respectful to the Jewish people and extremely supportive of Israel,” he said. “The idea of it being a kiddush Hashem was on my mind. I felt that this was something we needed to respond to.” Rabbi Goldman had his rabbinic interns clear debris and set up the Chabad House as a drop-in center and temporary housing shelter. He and other volunteers gave out food and supplies.
“As Jews, we have a sense of responsibility to all of humanity,” said Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president of the OU. “It goes back to our Patriarch Abraham. We’re profoundly grateful to be living in America. One of the manifestations of that gratitude is to be responsible and look after our fellow Americans.” The OU also raised funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.
Chabad volunteers cleaning up the destruction left in the tornado’s wake. Photo courtesy of jewishokcrelief.com
NCSY, the international youth movement of the OU, sent a delegation of teens from Dallas to help the residents of Oklahoma. “This experience made me really appreciate what I have—clothes, food, family, friends and a roof over my head,” said Valerie Lopez, a member of SouthWest NCSY. “It made me realize that I should not take things for granted and that we should appreciate the life Hashem gives us every day.” One couple who lost their home during the tornado wrote about the effects of the OU-sponsored gift cards. “This blessing brought both my wife and me to tears,” wrote the man, who is not Jewish and has asked to remain anonymous, in a letter sent to Rabbi Goldman. “We had been struggling to figure out how we would be able to afford some prescriptions that were lost in the tornado. This immediately answered our prayers. We used the leftover funds to buy [my wife] some shoes for work . . . and other basic[s] . . . as we worked on our relocation.” The letter concluded: “To whomever receives this, please pass this along to any of the donors or leadership of the Orthodox Union. I have had very little interaction with the Jewish community over my life, but this gesture will forever impact my view. I have shared this story with many friends and families and cannot express my gratitude for the assistance when I was at my lowest.” g
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Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 75
By Bayla Sheva Brenner
In the age of the iPhone, some people prefer to keep track of their appointments the old-fashioned way
DIEHARDS AND PROUD OF IT
Inside the OU
ith the world wedded to every newfangled handheld device, one would think users of the OU Pocket Diary are rapidly becoming extinct. But just ask these hardcopy holdouts and you’ll get a very different story. “The first step to recovery is admitting you’re addicted,” says Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, director of the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) talking about his longtime “love affair” with the OU Diary. “I find it’s a lot easier to open up the Diary and look at the day before me than to maneuver the new technological offerings. I am an iPhonecarrying person, but I feel lonely without my Diary. It goes with me everywhere.” He’s not the only one smitten with the handy companion. “It’s my life,” says Rabbi Dr. Mitchell Orlian of Brooklyn, professor of Hebrew and Bible at Yeshiva University who has been a diehard fan of the Diary for over a decade. “My appointments, doctors, meetings, university schedule, the parashah, haftarah—they’re all in my little book. I can’t function without it. One day I accidentally didn’t take it with me; I felt bereft. I didn’t know what to do. I was totally discombobulated.” Thousands of calendar diaries are mailed out to OU members each year around Rosh Chodesh Elul. The Diary is one of the perks of OU membership. Published for decades, the Diary includes a complete calendar of the national and Jewish holidays, a listing of
Bayla Sheva Brenner is senior writer in the OU Communications and Marketing Department.
I JEWISH ACTION
that day’s daf yomi, each week’s Torah reading and Shabbat candle lighting times in major cities, the Minchah and Maariv prayers and Birkat Hamazon. “Many people use it to daven,” says Mayer Fertig, chief communications officer at the OU. Diary devotees are shameless about their addiction. Joel Mandel of Hewlett, New York, a partner in an electrical supply house, will only buy T-shirts with pockets to “support” his habit. “The holidays are listed for this year and the next—so important for planning trips and vacations,” he said. “I travel all over the world with it. I just grab it every morning and put it in my pocket.” “I see permanence with this book; it’s much more a part of you,” says Rabbi Orlian. “And I can even use it on Shabbat. Each Thursday night I write in the time for my daf yomi on Shabbat afternoon.” Fertig reports a flurry of desperate pleas as Elul approaches. “People e-mail us asking, ‘Is it out yet?! Is it out yet?!’ But it’s printed in China,” he says, “and so there’s always going to be a little uncertainty about getting it out on time.” Illustrating the dependence on the Diary, Fertig says, “I think if we announced that we were discontinuing the OU Diary, there would be demonstrators downstairs at 11 Broadway [the OU national headquarters in New York].” Aficionados, take heart. It doesn’t look like the Diary will become obsolete any time soon. Fertig reassures, “As long as there’s a demand, we’ll keep producing it.” g
Jewish Action Wins
Rockower Award for Cover Story on
Inside the OU
Jewish Action took home a Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Feature Writing in the Magazine Division at the recent 2013 Annual Conference of the American Jewish Press Association in Seattle. The awards ceremony, which brought together leading Jewish editors and journalists throughout the country, was held on June 26 in the Chinese Room in the Smith Tower. The winning entry, “Striking A Balance: Work and Family,” the cover story of our winter 2012 issue, featured firstperson accounts from a number of women—some high-powered, some not—who shared their secrets for balancing career and motherhood, as told to Barbara Bensoussan, Azriela Jaffe and Tova Ross. The Rockower Awards decisions were made by a panel consisting of judges with expertise in journalism, writing/reporting, editing, graphic design and cartooning in both the Jewish and non-Jewish media. “As Commission Chairman, I am very proud of our exceptional team,” said Gerald M. Schreck, chairman of the OU Communications Commission that oversees Jewish Action. “Our popular magazine is the glue that keeps Modern Orthodoxy together.” g
Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 77
NEW BOOKS FROM Letters to President Clinton: Biblical Lessons on Faith and Leadership Edited by Rabbi Menachem Genack OU Press/Sterling Publishing etters to President Clinton celebrates a unique chapter in the annals of American political and religious history: a written dialogue between Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, and former President Bill Clinton, which spanned more than fifteen years. The two men first met in 1992 when then-Governor Clinton was just beginning his journey to the White House. Rabbi Genack was asked to introduce Governor Clinton as a presidential candidate at a fundraising event. In his presentation, Rabbi Genack emphasized that a leader must have vision and quoted a verse from the Book of Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Governor Clinton enjoyed the remarks, and told Rabbi Genack that he would refer to the verse in his speech accepting the nomination—which he did. So began a friendship which evolved into Rabbi Genack sending President Clinton brief essays containing insights from the Torah that Rabbi Genack thought would help the president navigate the national issues he was facing. During his second term, the president asked Rabbi Genack to write these pieces more regularly and formally, and Rabbi Genack invited many of his distinguished acquaintances—Bible scholars, political leaders, scientists, clergy members and laypeople—to contribute and share, in their own unique ways, the contemporary messages found in the wisdom of Tanach.
I JEWISH ACTION
Letters to President Clinton is a selection of these essays, and copies of many of the former president’s handwritten notes on the essays are included in the book. Organized according to a variety of themes—leadership, creation, community, sin and repentance, faith, holidays, dreams and vision—the essays plumb the depths of Tanach for messages that are relevant to the leader of the most powerful country in the world. With a foreword by President Clinton, Letters to President Clinton is both a testament to the vitality of spirituality in our country and an engaging collection of thoughtful perspectives on Torah and Jewish thought. Chumash Mesoras HaRav —Sefer Bereishis Compiled and edited by Dr. Arnold Lustiger OU Press/Ohr Publishing abbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the “Rav,” was the towering rabbinic thinker of the twentieth century. In addition to his wellspring of Torah knowledge, the Rav taught, wrote and lectured extensively on Chumash. The Rav, however, never wrote a systematic commentary on Chumash, and, until now, the only way to study the Rav’s interpretation and analysis of Chumash was to search for pertinent material by wading through the Rav’s published writings and hardto-find audio tapes of his lectures and shiurim. Now, for the first time, the Rav’s teachings on Chumash have been collected into a published commentary on sefer Bereishis. Edited with great skill by Dr. Arnold Lustiger, this groundbreaking Chumash, the first volume of a contemplated set of the entire Torah, reflects the Rav’s intellectual breadth
and depth, his exegetical creativity and the timelessness of his insights. Complete with an English translation of the Torah text, Rashi’s commentary and an eloquent and original Torah commentary, the Chumash Mesoras HaRav is perfect for synagogue, home and school use. Hebrew-language publications:
Shiurei HaRav: he popular Shiurei HaRav series
Tpresents sophisticated insights into the Torah and the world of Talmudic scholarship based on shiurim given by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Renowned scholars Rabbi Hershel Schachter, rosh yeshivah at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, and Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO, OU Kosher, are co-editors of the series. Recent additions to the series include: Tefillah: Compiled by Rabbi Genack, this volume contains essays on tefillah, Keriat Shema, berachot, tefillat Sha”tz, Keriat HaTorah, kedushat beit haknesset and other topics. Sanhedrin: Compiled by Rabbi Yaacov Sasson, this volume contains commentary on the first three perakim of Masechet Sanhedrin and covers topics such as eidut, lifnei iveir, mitzvah haba’ah b’aveirah and derishah v’chakirah. Gittin, Volume 2: Compiled by Rabbi Noam Gordon, this volume contains commentary on the last six perakim of Masechet Gittin and covers topics such as shelichut, shetarot and kinyanim. Birkas Yitzchak—Chiddushim U-ve’urim al HaTorah: Covering all Five Books of the Torah, Birkas Yitzchak contains Rabbi Menachem Genack’s illuminating and creative insights on parashat hashavuah. g
New FROM OU PRESS THE MESORAS HARAV CHUMASH SEFER BEREISHIS With Commentary Based on the Teachings of
RABBI JOSEPH B. SOLOVEITCHIK
A LAND LANDMARK MARK A PU PUBLISHING BLIS SHING EVEN EVENT! NT! For the first time, the Rav v’s profound insights into Chumash C have been assembled and presented in the forrm of a commentary. Com mpiled and skillfully edited d by Dr. Arnold Lustiger, the commentary is drawn from m the Rav’s essays and other writings, from audio tape es of the Rav’s lectures and a shiurim, and from reliable renderings of the Rav’s th hought. You can now study y the Rav’s commentary on n the same page as the text wh hich it so brilliantly y interpre ets.
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Books of o Jewish thought and pra ayer that educate, inspire, enrich and enlighten.
By Norene Gilletz
STARVED FOR TIME?
EASY, HEALTHY MEALS FOR WORKING MOMS Putting a healthy, wholesome meal on the dinner table every night can be quite challenging, especially if you’re a working mom. However, healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. The following recipes require minimal effort and provide maximum results, using ingredients that are readily available. They’re also perfect for the upcoming High Holidays or Shabbat.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
• Make one-pot dishes such as casseroles, stews, shepherd’s pie or chicken with roasted potatoes.
• Keep a supply of chicken, roasts, ground beef, veal and poultry in the freezer. Allow 6 hours per pound for them to thaw in the refrigerator.
• Ground meat can be used to make meatballs or spaghetti sauce and chili, which take just a few minutes to prepare. These dishes require little attention while cooking. Other quick meal ideas that use ground beef are tacos and sloppy Joes.
• Stir-fries are ideal for quick meals. Use frozen stir-fry mixed vegetables to save on prep time. • Slow cookers are a great aid for the working mom. Prepare ingredients the night before, assemble them in the slow cooker insert, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, place the insert in the slow cooker, set the timer and come home to a hot meal. • Cook once and eat twice! Double your recipes or make large batches. • Recycle leftovers. Use leftover roast chicken in salads or stir-fries. Combine leftover cooked chicken with rice, noodles or other grains to make tasty casseroles. • Fish is fast. Breaded fish fillets take minutes to assemble and cook. Leftovers? Use them to make fish tacos.
Norene Gilletz is the author of nine cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, culinary consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer and editor. Norene lives in Toronto, Canada.
I JEWISH ACTION
• Pasta is very versatile. Add leftover cooked chicken and steamed vegetables to pasta along with tomato sauce or Asian-style sauce to make dinner-in-a-dish. • Frittatas (baked omelets), pancakes or sandwiches are quick and easy meal solutions when you’re pressed for time. • It’s easy to make big batches of soup. They require little attention, are filling and freeze well. Just add a hearty sandwich for a quick, nourishing meal. • Easy side dishes: Steamed veggies, potatoes, couscous or quinoa can be made at the last minute. • Use your microwave to make baked potatoes—just don’t forget to pierce the skin first in several places with a sharp knife. • Combine rice with double the amount of water in a saucepan in the morning and let it soak all day. When you cook it at dinnertime, it will be done in half the time.
NO-FRY FRIED RICE
Yields 12 servings
Yields 8 servings
This scrumptious slaw has been a family favorite around the globe for years. The hot marinade keeps the coleslaw mixture crisp. It also keeps about a month in the refrigerator, making it a terrific timesaver for busy moms! For a colorful slaw, use a mixture of red and green cabbage. Using coleslaw mix and shredded carrots saves on time but, if you prefer, you can grate the cabbage and carrots in your food processor.
This dish is great for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike and can be prepared quickly.
3 packages coleslaw mix (about 12 cups shredded cabbage) 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped 1 cup shredded carrots 1 teaspoon minced garlic 3 green onions, chopped 1 cup white vinegar 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper Place cabbage in a large bowl. Add chopped peppers, grated carrots, garlic and green onions. Combine vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a saucepan or microwavable bowl. Heat until almost boiling (two to three minutes on high in the microwave), stirring occasionally. Pour hot marinade over coleslaw mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate. Note: You can substitute sweetener for the sugar but the coleslaw wonâ€™t keep as long. Also, some sweeteners become bitter when heated. Splenda is heat-stable and can be used with excellent results.
2 cups uncooked rice (white or brown) 1 to 2 tablespoons oil 1 package dry onion soup mix (see Variation) 3 tablespoons soy sauce 1 green or red pepper, chopped 2 cups sliced mushrooms 1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts 1 can (8 ounces) sliced bamboo shoots 4 cups liquid (reserved juices from canned vegetables plus cold water) Salt and pepper to taste Combine rice, oil, soup mix, soy sauce, peppers and mushrooms in a large sprayed casserole. Mix well. Drain water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, reserving their liquid. Add drained vegetables to rice mixture. Combine juices from canned vegetables with water to measure 4 cups. Add liquid to rice and stir to combine. Cover and bake in a preheated 350ÂşF oven for about 1 hour, or until all liquid is absorbed. Adjust seasonings to taste. Note: This keeps 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheats and freezes well. Variations: Replace onion soup mix with 2 chopped onions. Add 1/2 cup each of chopped carrots and celery. For a vegetarian main dish, add 1 cup firm tofu, cut in 1/2-inch pieces.
Honey Basil Chicken
Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 81
GLAZED SALMON WITH HONEY BASIL CHICKEN MUSHROOMS AND PEPPERS Yields 8 to 10 servings Yields 8 servings This salmon is simple enough for a busy weeknight dinner but is festive enough to serve to guests for the High Holidays or for Shabbat. For variety, I often substitute peach or mango jam or orange marmalade in the glaze. 8 salmon fillets or 1 large salmon fillet (about 3 pounds total) 3 cups sliced mushrooms 1 red bell pepper, sliced 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil Glaze 1/2 cup apricot preserves 1/4 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup honey 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon dried basil Salt, pepper and paprika Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place salmon fillets in a single layer at one end of the prepared baking sheet. Spread out mushrooms and peppers at the other end and drizzle lightly with oil. Glaze: In a small bowl, combine preserves with soy sauce, honey, mustard and basil; mix well. Brush salmon and vegetables with glaze; sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes. Bake uncovered for 12 to 15 minutes or until salmon is glazed and cooked through. This is delicious hot or cold. Keeps 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator and reheats well. Luscious Leftovers • Salad Daze: Break leftover salmon into chunks and place on a bed of chilled salad greens or baby spinach. Drizzle with your favorite Asian-style salad dressing and garnish with toasted slivered almonds. • Use your Noodle: Add leftover cooked salmon to cooked pasta along with sautéed onions, mushrooms and bell peppers. Stir in some tomato sauce (homemade or store-bought). • Wrap-ture: Leftover cooked salmon makes a hearthealthy filling for wraps. Spread whole-wheat tortillas with honey mustard and fill with salmon chunks, chopped avocado and tomatoes. • Eggs-ellent! Leftover flaked salmon is also delicious in frittatas or omelets.
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This sweet, delicious dish is quick to assemble and makes an excellent main dish for family and friends. It’s a wonderful dish for the High Holidays, especially if you add baby carrots. Chunks of potatoes or sweet potatoes can be roasted together with the chicken for dinner-in-a dish. 2 chickens, cut up 2 medium onions, sliced Salt, pepper and paprika to taste 3 or 4 cloves garlic (1 tablespoon minced) 1/4 cup lemon juice 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup honey 1 teaspoon dried basil Rinse chicken pieces well and pat dry with paper towels. Trim off excess fat. Scatter onion slices in a large sprayed roasting pan. Arrange chicken in a single layer over onions and season with salt, pepper and paprika. In a small bowl, combine garlic, lemon juice, oil, honey and basil; mix well. Drizzle mixture on top of chicken and onions to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle with additional paprika. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour or as long as 2 days. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast the chicken, uncovered, basting occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours or until skin is golden. Note: This will keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheats and freezes well.
Freeze with Ease: Combine all the ingredients in 1 or 2 large resealable plastic bags. Seal well. Press on the bag(s) to spread out the in a uncooked chicken pieces so they are ths. When single layer. Freeze for up to 4 mon igerator; it will refr the in ken needed, thaw the chic and marinade ken chic r nsfe Tra take about 24 hours. as directed above. to a sprayed roasting pan and cook
MMM-GOOD MEATBALLS Yields about 100 meatballs, about 10 to 12 servings as a main dish These marvelous meatballs can be cooked in a slow cooker or on top of the stove. They can also be baked in the oven. This recipe makes a large batch, so your freezer will be well-stocked for future meals. These meatballs are scrumptious over rice, pasta or quinoa. Best of all, kids love them! Sauce 1 jar (9 ounces) grape jelly 2 cans (28-ounces each) tomatoes 1 can (19 ounces) tomato juice 1/2 cup honey or brown sugar 2 tablespoons lemon juice Salt to taste Meatballs 2 cloves garlic (about 1 teaspoon minced) 4 slices bread, torn into chunks 4 pounds lean ground beef or veal 2 eggs 2/3 cup water 1 to 2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper Sauce: Spray the insert of a slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add ingredients for sauce to slow cooker insert and stir well to combine. Cover and cook sauce on high for thirty minutes, until simmering. Meanwhile, prepare meatball mixture.
Meatballs: In a food processor or mini prep fitted with a steel blade, process garlic until minced. Add bread and process to make fine crumbs. You should have about 2 cups. Empty crumb mixture into a large bowl. Add ground meat, eggs, water, salt and pepper. Mix gently to combine. Wet your hands and form mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Drop meatballs into simmering sauce. Cook, covered, on low for 8 hours. (If you’re late getting home and the meatballs cook longer, they’ll still taste delicious!) Note: These keep 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheats and/or freezes well. Variations: No Slow Cooker? Combine sauce ingredients in a large heavy pot. Heat slowly on low heat until simmering; stir often to prevent sauce from scorching. Make meatballs and add them to simmering sauce. Cook, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Alternately, bake meatballs and sauce in a large ovenproof casserole dish at 325ºF for 2 hours. Frozen Assets: After shaping meatballs, instead of cooking them, arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer frozen meatballs to heavy-duty resealable bags, seal tightly and freeze. When needed, take out of the freezer and add frozen meatballs to simmering sauce. Cook 8 to 10 hours in the slow cooker or 2 1/2 hours on the stovetop or in the oven. g
Glazed Salmon with Mushrooms and Peppers Photos: Doug Gilletz
Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 83
By Shira Isenberg
Get Lunch in the Bag
s back-to-school season is upon us, parents are once again dreading the grating task of packing lunch for their kids. In recent years, many day schools and yeshivot have wisely begun to focus on nutrition to combat the pediatric obesity epidemic and improve our children’s health, but the new rules limit parents’ choices. It used to be that you only needed to avoid peanut butter because of food allergies; now you may be asked to navigate a host of regulations when preparing your kids’ lunches and snacks. Whatever the rules at your kids’ schools, most of us can use some pointers on quick, healthy meals to ease the morning rush. Even if you don’t have children or you’re well past your school-lunch years, there are a number of advantages to packing your own lunch on a regular basis: Shira Isenberg is a registered dietitian and writer in Nashville, Tennessee. She has a master’s degree in public health nutrition from Hunter College in New York.
• SAVES CALORIES: Restaurant and takeout foods are notoriously high in fat, sodium and sugar—even seemingly healthy foods like salads (think cheeses, croutons, Craisins, dressing, mayo, sweetened nuts, et cetera). When you make food at home and bring it to work, you control the ingredients and, consequently, the nutritional value. • SAVES MONEY: When you dine out or buy lunch, you pay not just for the food but for the restaurant’s overhead costs too—rent, utilities, taxes, employee wages, hashgachah, et cetera—not to mention tips. You avoid these extra costs when you brown-bag it. • SAVES TIME: No need to spend time running out to pick something up or deciding what to order in. If your meeting runs late or you need to be out on the road, your lunch is right there waiting for you.
When you pack lunch at home, it’s easy to fall into the convenience trap—especially for kids—selecting foods that are ready-made or easy-to-prepare versus choosing foods based on nutrient content. But preparing wholesome lunches do not need to be time consuming. Here are some typical not-so-nutritious lunches and their healthier alternatives. Before: Salami and mayo on white bread with a bag of chips
Before: Pizza bagels and chocolate pudding
After:Turkey-avocado sandwich on wholewheat bread with grape tomatoes and a pear
After: Homemade whole-grain mini bagels with marinara sauce and partskim mozzarella—top with broccoli or other veggie of choice; plain low-fat yogurt with a couple of sliced strawberries
What a Difference! Choosing turkey cuts down on the fat and saturated fat content. Avocado offers healthy monounsaturated fat. (If you can’t give up the mayo, at least try a lower-fat version.) And you’ve rounded out the meal with a vegetable and fruit for more fiber, vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants. 84
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What a Difference! You’ve got the whole grains, the lower-fat cheese and the addition of veggies, plus a lowersugar calcium source and boost of antioxidants from the fruit.
Before: Fish sticks and French fries After: Leftover salmon from dinner the night before in a whole-grain wrap with bagged salad and a nosugar-added fruit cup What a Difference! Although there are better-for-you fish sticks, you’ll get more omega-3s from a salmon fillet. The wrap adds more fiber than the fries, and is much tastier to eat cold. Add the salad to the wrap to make it more filling.
A SALAD FOR EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK If you’re the type who loves the variety, convenience and healthfulness of picking up a salad for lunch, it’s not that hard to create your own at home. Here are five different, healthy salad ideas for your five-day school or work week. Pair any with a serving of whole-grain crackers or a small roll and a fruit for a balanced meal. Keep dressings in small well-sealed containers until you’re ready to eat.
Five Super-Fast Lunches Lunches ready in minutes for those mornings you sleep through the alarm: • Two slices of whole-wheat bread topped with cheese (toast if there’s time), a box of raisins and grape tomatoes
MONDAY: SPINACH SALAD Fresh baby spinach, sliced strawberries or pears and almonds (preferably toasted), dressed with red wine vinegar, olive oil and a dash of sugar or sugar substitute
• Whole-grain crackers, single-serving cream cheese pack, strawberries and a cucumber
TUESDAY: SPICY BEAN AND MANGO SALAD Black beans mixed with cubed mango, red pepper and a chopped red onion, seasoned with salt and cilantro ( frozen cubes will work, although fresh is better) and dressed in olive oil WEDNESDAY: GREEK SALAD Lettuce, black olives, feta cheese and tomato slices, seasoned with oregano and garlic and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice
• Whole-grain pretzels, single-serving hummus, baby carrots and grapes • Yogurt, banana and granola bar
• Tuna pouch, whole-wheat pita, pickles and an apple Kosher Food on the Go With proper planning, you can enjoy hot or cold food while traveling. Invest in a nice insulated bag with two small ice packs—you want to be able to keep the second one in the freezer for the next day while you’re using the first. Also look for a dedicated thermos to keep hot foods hot. You may even want to get two for meat and dairy. School Lunch Tips • For picky eaters, tailor lunch to their tastes, but be sure to include the basics: a serving of both fruit and vegetables, a whole grain and a protein source.
THURSDAY: CHICKEN CLUB SALAD Lettuce, cubed grilled chicken breast, avocado, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, dressed with low-fat mayo, olive oil, garlic and parsley
• Make healthy lunches fun—cut foods with cookie cutters, arrange in interesting shapes (flowers, faces, et cetera) and add a note to remind your child you love him.
FRIDAY: CHICKPEA AND EDAMAME SALAD Lettuce with chickpeas, edamame, dried cranberries and peppers, dressed with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper
Before:Tri-color pasta salad with mayo-based dressing After: Whole-wheat pasta with a sprinkle of roasted nuts and cut up vegetables dressed with olive oil and vinegar What a Difference! Research shows that adding vegetables to a smaller portion of pasta so you end up with the same volume leaves you feeling just as satisfied for fewer calories. The whole-grain pasta adds more fiber, but if you can’t stomach it alone, mix it with regular pasta. Nuts add protein and fat for satiety, while a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing is less processed than a mayo dressing and full of healthy fat. If no nuts are allowed, opt for beans, low-fat cheese or seeds.
• Don’t forget the drink! Minimize juice and chocolate milk and send water more often. g
Before: Egg or tuna salad with pita chips
Before: Leftover spaghetti and meatballs
After: Egg or tuna salad made with low-fat mayo or nonfat yogurt, with added chopped celery, carrots and green onion, along with whole-grain crackers and an orange
After: Brown rice and beans with salsa and avocado
What a Difference! The calorie and fat savings are a no-brainer, as is the added fiber and nutrients from the additional vegetables. Swapping crackers for fried chips cuts down fat and calories too.
What a Difference! Using drained canned beans, jarred salsa and a quickcooking brown rice saves a lot of time without compromising much in the way of nutrition.
Listen to Shira Isenberg discuss healthy school lunches at ou.org/healthierlifestyle.
Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 85
Books The Chameleon in the Closet By BJ Rosenfeld 2010 226 pages Reviewed by Jack Abramowitz rarely read memoirs. So I what are my credentials for reviewing The Chameleon in the Closet? As a teen, I became more religious than my family, and over the years, I was privileged to observe many such religious transformations through my decades of work with NCSY. In The Chameleon in the Closet, author BJ Rosenfeld shares a different perspective on the ba’al teshuvah: that of the nonobservant parent. At times accommodating, other times exasperated, Rosenfeld ultimately does succeed in “shepping Yiddishe nachas” from her two sons who have chosen an Orthodox lifestyle, her daughters-in-law and her many “frumfrom-birth” grandchildren. The Chameleon in the Closet should be required reading for any teen or young adult undergoing religious transformation. This will not discourage them in any way, because the book in no way undermines such pursuits. What it does is facilitate empathy for what the parents of such young people might be going through. Not unexpectedly, Rosenfeld does encounter bumps on her sons’ road to Orthodoxy ranging from molehills (extending her hand upon meeting a rabbi and being rebuffed) to veritable mountains (coping with a child in Israel during the Intifada). Of course, kashering the house and preparing Pesach for children who have become frum can be daunting and occasionally bewildering for even the most cooperative of parents. Rabbi Jack Abramowitz is the editor of OU Torah (www.outorah.org). He is the author of five books, including The Tzniyus Book (2009) and The Taryag Companion (2012).
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Rosenfeld’s emotions run the gamut throughout the book. She also experiences flashbacks to her childhood and her Orthodox grandparents. (As she learns more about Jewish law through her sons, it dawns on her that perhaps her grandfather was not quite as observant as she had thought. And if cholent is the cornerstone of Shabbat lunch, as her son says, why had her grandmother never made it?) Rosenfeld also learns that the Orthodox are not as sheltered as she had previously assumed, and she does not hesitate to correct many of her friends’ misconceptions. She comes to such conclusions as, “Every so often Peter [her husband] reminds me how lucky we are to have Jewish grandchildren when so many of our Jewish friends do not because their children married non-Jews. So what if Yehuda and Chaim [her sons] don’t want me cooking on Shabbat?” Her perspective is admirable and, sadly, her realization about assimilation all too common. Neither son owns a television. “Would it be possible to find appropriate programs for our grandchildren to watch?” Rosenfeld asks. “Absolutely. But I’d never do that unless I had the parents’ permission.” How refreshing to hear that! If only more grandparents—even those who share their children’s lifestyles—honored the parents’ wishes like that! It’s noteworthy that Rosenfeld’s two sons took paths that diverge somewhat from each other. Yehuda, who is “ultraOrthodox,” “believes in adhering to all the rules to the nth degree,” Rosenfeld writes, while Chaim, who is Modern Orthodox, “believes that some are open to interpretation.” The result is that “Chaim’s brand of Orthodoxy is much easier . . . to deal with.” While Rosen-
feld tries to accommodate both sons’ religious needs, Chaim occasionally calls his older brother to task for what he views as unnecessary stringencies, be it concerning the kashrut of hydroponic lettuce or their parents’ usage of the Internet. The author is somewhat preoccupied with her wardrobe (note the title of the book). What does she wear when visiting her son in Israel? When meeting prospective in-laws? To a vort (engagement party)? What was the mother of the bride wearing? What was the rebbetzin wearing? While I found it a little hard to relate to her fashion concerns, her apprehensions about her clothing do shed light on the anxieties one might experience when placed in a strange environment with unfamiliar expectations. One must remember that this is first and foremost a book of Rosenfeld’s experiences and perspectives; thus, the occasional error about Jewish law and practice must be taken in that context. The Talmud, for example, does not include the text of the Torah, as posited on page twenty-eight. A statement on page five about seafood not being kosher is clarified only later, limiting it to shellfish. Such glitches are few and far between, far outweighed by the breadth of knowledge and understanding Rosenfeld has acquired for a lifestyle she has not personally chosen to adopt. “Though we never set out to raise a Talmudic scholar, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with Yehuda turning out that way,” Rosenfeld writes. Or, as she puts it elsewhere, “I had come to realize that there are far worse things than having Orthodox sons.” These statements may seem like less than stellar praise, but there are so many young people who crave such validation. The Chameleon in the Closet shares both the parents’ challenges and their pride. Ultimately, the latter makes the former worth enduring. g Listen to author BJ Rosenfeld discuss her book at ou.org/closet.
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Books Listening to God: Inspirational Stories for My Grandchildren By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Maggid Books Jerusalem, 2010 445 pages Reviewed by David Olivestone I moved to the Upper West Side WofhenManhattan in the early 1970s, during the heyday of Lincoln Square Synagogue and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s tenure there, I was quite unprepared for the impact he would have on me. He had already been featured in Time magazine for his extraordinary success in reaching and touching Jews of all affiliations—and of none—but I somehow doubted that the shul was for me, an FFB firmly entrenched in the observances and traditions of my family. I thought I would daven there once or twice to see what the excitement was all about, but would no doubt find myself a more mainstream shul to attend regularly. And then Rabbi Riskin spoke. And the more I listened, the more I felt that he was speaking to me personally. (Of course, I soon came to understand that each one of the other four or five hundred people in the room felt exactly the same way.) He made me think, he made me wonder, he inspired me and he made me want to make this rabbi my rabbi. The word charismatic may be overused, but Rabbi Riskin can certainly lay claim to it. His dynamic and creative mind, personal warmth and unbounded energy, coupled with his originality of thought and extraordinary clarity of expression, make him a riveting speaker. I don’t think I have ever heard Rabbi Riskin—unlike so many other popular speakers—begin a sentence for which he did not have the ending firmly framed in his mind. When you add his infectious emunah and uncompromising commitment to halachah to these talents and qualities, you have a teacher whom people instinctively want to learn from, and a leader whom they want to emulate. And then there is his charm as a storyteller. No derashah, shiur or lecture at LSS was complete without him recounting some incident that had happened to him that week, or without some personal reminiscence of his rebbeim and teachers at Yeshiva University—first and foremost Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Above all, however, we looked forward to hearing him tell about his maternal grandmother who first taught him about Yiddishkeit and whom everyone in the shul felt he or she knew intimately. Listening to God, the highly engaging and inspiring collection of Rabbi Riskin’s stories, goes a long way toward giving those who do not know him personally an understanding of his unusual appeal. Beginning with the weekly Shabbat meals he shared with his grandmother as a young boy, the stories take us David Olivestone, the former senior communications officer of the Orthodox Union, lives in Jerusalem.
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through each stage of the rabbi’s life, essentially comprising an autobiography. Like every autobiographer, he faces a dilemma; namely how to convey the extent of his achievements without appearing overly prideful or boastful. Understandably, Rabbi Riskin often errs on the side of modesty, certainly with regard to his tenure at LSS, expecting the reader to infer the extent of his popularity from the stories which only subtly reflect his growing influence. But perhaps if he had told us what it felt like to be at the center of that huge circle of people crowded into every seat, aisle and step of LSS at his famous Wednesday night lectures, it might have helped those who were not there taste the magic of those evenings and understand why they attracted so many. He is more forthcoming when it comes to relating the extent of his achievements in Israel, starting with the building of Efrat, the then brandnew city to which he and his wife, Vicky, moved when they made aliyah in 1983. Through the stories, we hear of his run-ups against the rabbinic establishment and how he led the efforts
that changed the landscape for women’s learning and representation in Israel’s rabbinic courts. As a storyteller, Rabbi Riskin loves to show the human side of revered personalities such as the Rav, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, each of whom recognized his abilities and gave him enormous encouragement in whatever he set out to do. But it is even more touching when he highlights the extraordinary wisdom and courage that he finds in the simple people he meets or who come to him for advice. Several of the stories involve conflicts—often of a very sensitive nature— in the shul or between two individuals. There is the “Tale of the Two Sandaks,” two grandfathers of a new baby boy who each had very specific, but opposing, ideas as to who should serve as sandak at the baby’s brit. Another involved who should have the honor of leading the congregation in the Nei’lah service at the close of Yom Kippur. And we read that Rabbi Riskin’s talents as negotiator were even sought out on some of his airplane journeys, including the sad, yet hilarious, story of the man who be-
came too terrified of flying to allow the plane to take off with him on board, and how Rabbi Riskin tried (unsuccessfully) to calm him down. What makes all these stories so fascinating is that Rabbi Riskin reveals to us his thought processes in how he tried to resolve each case, and tells us what he learned from each one. It’s not very often that you find an autobiography in which the author starts out by telling you that it doesn’t matter if what he writes is true or not. But you soon come to realize that what Rabbi Riskin is really interested in are the messages that these stories convey. The title, Listening to God, and the subtitle, Inspirational Stories for My Grandchildren, make it very clear what Rabbi Riskin wants the reader to take away from this book. It’s also very clear what he has put into it. At every stage of his life, through every astonishing, funny, inspirational or moving tale that he tells, you come to recognize how he himself lives his life listening to God, moving forward with ever-greater confidence to play a unique leadership role in the Jewish world. g s"xc
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Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 89
By Gil Student
Jewish Identity: Who is a Jew? Compiled by Baruch Litvin Ktav Publishing House, Inc. Jersey City, 2012 372 pages n 1958, an embattled Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, on orders from a Knesset committee, sent inquiries to fifty Jewish scholars around the world concerning the “Who is a Jew” issue (i.e., how should Israel register the religion of questionable cases, such as the child of a Jewish father and gentile mother who was being raised Jewish?). Respondents included a veritable “who’s who” of Jewish scholarly leadership of the time. Included among them are many Torah giants, such as Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Rabbi Aharon Kotler and Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg. The industrious Baruch Litvin later arranged the translation and publication of the answers sent to Ben-Gurion. The original book appeared in 1965; this reprint, with three new essays, reminds us that the debates of last century continue to haunt us. The most important piece of information in this issue was obvious: resolving the question of “who is a Jew?” was merely for the purpose of government registration; it was not a halachic issue. Yet the scholars responded nearly unanimously, from all segments, that we must adhere to the traditional definition of Jewish identity. Whether for the sake of unity, prevention of assimilation or otherwise, each warned in his unique way about the hazards of redefining a Jew. Decades later, when conversions are questioned and patrilineal descendants of Jews abound, we witness the tragic results of disputed definitions of Jewishness.
Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and runs TorahMusings.com. He is a member of the Jewish Action editorial board.
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The Sages, Vol. 3: The Galilean Period By Rabbi Binyamin Lau Maggid Books Jerusalem, 2013 420 pages abbis are just like other people in that each has his own personality, strengths and interests. Rabbi Binyamin Lau’s popular Pirkei Avot classes in Jerusalem, published in multiple volumes in Hebrew and now in English translation, explore the unique character of individual sages of the Mishnah. Many books have combed through rabbinic literature, piecing through the many, often contradictory, texts to build biographies of these great rabbis. Rabbi Lau, armed with a doctorate in Talmud and a familiarity with academic historical literature, takes a very different approach. He searches for the key themes that each sage taught, the expression of his unique personality. In prior volumes, Rabbi Lau’s interpretations appeared very political. As Professor Daniel Schwartz wrote in the foreword to the first volume, Rabbi Lau does not engage in pure history but rather mixes it with preaching. He teaches what I call “homiletical history,” in which Mishnaic debates conveniently echo contemporary Israeli themes, often supporting Rabbi Lau’s positions on various social and religious issues. In this third volume, however, the author takes a more literary approach, analyzing the texts for key themes without mentioning politics. For example, in the chapter about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), Rabbi Lau did not use Rashbi’s reported long confinement in a cave and devotion to a Torah-only life as a platform to discuss the kollel lifestyle. While the chapter on Beruriah perhaps overstates her scholarly achievements, it does not even subtly advocate for
women’s advanced Torah studies. Rabbi Lau’s long discussion of Beruriah’s suspicious suicide is sober and unbiased rather than defensive. The homiletics in the prior volumes were clever but unsatisfying, ultimately an imposition of contemporary concerns on ancient scholars. This latest volume demonstrates the full force of Rabbi Lau’s innovative literary approach to rabbinic historical biography. Movers & Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape By Elliot Resnick Brenn Books, 2013 344 pages eadlines are often misleading. They tell you what is newsworthy, what is unusual. They don’t tell you about the important people who make the world run smoothly. Elliot Resnick’s Movers & Shakers introduces readers to people who may be famous but not necessarily for the right reasons. Resnick interviews them and asks not only about what is newsworthy, but also what is ordinary, thereby offering a window into the fascinating world of different personalities. His interviewees run the gamut from rabbis to politicians to professors to comedians, and much more. (Full disclosure: I am interviewed as a blogger.) Each person talks about why he or she is being interviewed, often the publication of a book and his or her background and worldview. The interviews were originally published in the Jewish Press, updated for this book with new material. Most interviewees are Orthodox Jews, but even those who are not focus on issues relevant to the Orthodox community. This book contains many surprises because Resnick is not afraid to ask
tough questions. Almost every interview includes a question designed to make the interviewee squirm (mine was about Chabad messianism). The result is an interesting, surprising, broadening read that introduces readers to a wide spectrum of our community and many external people of interest. In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi By Rabbi Yisroel Miller Mosaica Press Brooklyn, 2012 400 pages abbi Yisroel Miller’s In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi is a refreshing
example of principled pluralism. He is a Litvak, a Lakewood-trained yeshivah devotee, unafraid to state his views but also uninterested in fighting. He will stick to his confidently held opinions but will do it pleasantly, so we can all live together in harmony. In this book, Rabbi Miller discusses philosophical issues of communal importance, some of the touch points of controversy. He neither shies away from them nor uses them as opportunities to denounce others. Instead, he eloquently explains how an intelligent person can accept da’at Torah, reject banned books, embrace Torah over science and treat Biblical figures as saints (among many other topics). Rabbi Miller adopts the views of the mussar yeshivah, unsurprising
given his background. He sees Torah as the center of life, both as a subject of study and a focus of life. He advocates secular education, but only when it strengthens faith or leads to a career. While songfilled, joyous prayer inspires many, Rabbi Miller attributes a higher value to sober, serious prayer. Refreshingly, Rabbi Miller espouses a theory of chumrah (stringency) that acknowledges its inherent danger and therefore requires careful guidance from a wise mentor. I don’t agree with much of what Rabbi Miller writes, but I greatly respect his gentle steadfastness. The best books are those with which you disagree, that challenge you and force you to respond. g
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Fall 5774/2013 JEWISH ACTION 91
By Ari Z. Zivotofsky
WHAT’S THE TRUTH ABOUT . . .
the Legend of Two Brothers and the Temple Mount? Misconception: God’s choice of Mount Moriah as the site for the Beit Hamikdash is based on a midrash involving two brothers who expressed their mutual devotion to each other by each surreptitiously giving of his grain to the other.
destruction, Jews all over the world face in the direction of Har Habayit when offering their prayers, and ascent to the Mount is permitted only when one is in a state of ritual purity. This location is said to be the place where God’s presence resides, never to depart.
Fact: This beautiful and widespread
The Legend The story relates that long before the Beit Hamikdash was built, two brothers lived and farmed on that site. One was married and had a large family, while the other was single. They lived in close proximity to each other, and each worked his land growing wheat. When harvest time arrived, each was blessed with a bountiful crop and piled up his grain for long-term storage. The unmarried brother, observing his good fortune, thought to himself that God had blessed him with more than he needed, whereas his brother, who was blessed with a large family, could surely use more. He arose in the middle of the night and secretly took from his
fable has no basis in traditional Jewish literature. Background: The holiest site in Judaism
is Mount Moriah, Har Habayit, the Temple Mount. It is the site where both batei mikdash stood for a combined period of almost 1,000 years. The first was built by King Solomon in the tenth century BCE and the second by those who returned from the Babylonian Exile in the fifth-sixth century BCE and was later rebuilt by Herod (first century BCE). To this day, more than 1,900 years since the Second Temple’s Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky is on the faculty of the Brain Science Program at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. 92
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grain and put it in his brother’s pile. Similarly, the married brother thought to himself that he was fortunate to have children who will care for him in his old age, while his brother will depend on what he saved. He, too, arose in the middle of the night and quietly transferred grain from his pile to his brother’s. In the morning, each pondered why there was no noticeable decrease in his own pile, and so they repeated the transfer the next night. These nocturnal activities went on for several nights, until one night the brothers bumped into each other. In that instant, in the dark of night, the glow of brotherly love lit up the mountain sky; they each understood what the other had been doing and fell into each other’s arms in a loving embrace. According to the legend, when God saw that display of brotherly love, He selected the site for His Temple. In other versions, it was the Jews who, based on the story, chose the site for building a House for God.
This fable is well known and circulates, for the most part, orally. More often than not, no source for the story is offered. When a source is offered, it is usually a vague reference to “a Talmudic legend” or “a midrash.” There s never a specific reference, and that is for a good reason—the story is not found in any of the classic rabbinic sources. Origin of the Legend The story, however, does appear in collections of Jewish legends from the last few centuries, including some that are important and reliable.1 Zev Vilnay, in his classic Legends of Jerusalem ([Philadelphia, 1973], 77-78) includes this story. But the author is aware of its tenuous origin and introduces it with the following: “Israel Kosta, a printer and bookseller in the middle of the nineteenth century, relates . . . ” as if to say that the earliest source he could find was from the nineteenth century and that he knew it was not an ancient Jewish legend. In his sources (n. 75, p. 320) he reveals: “The legend appeared first in the description of travels by A. de Lamartine, Voyage en Orient I” (, 329). In this note, he identifies Israel Kosta mentioned in the text as a rabbi from Livorno, Italy, who authored an anthology of educational lessons, Mikveh Yisrael, which appeared in 1851, where he mentions this legend (p. 3031, story 59).2 Another source that mentions the legend is Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg (1909).3 In a footnote, the author mentions Kosta’s Mikveh Yisrael but he does not provide an ancient classic source. Based on the exhaustive scholarly research of Professor Sándor (Alexander) Scheiber (1913-1985) of Budapest,4 it appears that the first written reference to the legend is found in a nonJewish French book by Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) published in Paris in 1835.5 De Lamartine claims to have heard the legend from an Arab peasant while visiting Palestine in 1832, and that the Arabs claim that this story explains how King Solomon chose the location to build the House of God. It seems that Jews read this book, identified with the message of the story, adapted it and rapidly disseminated it.
Further research by Haim Schwarzbaum6 revealed a fascinating twist to the history of the story. He wrote that “Scheiber has, however, overlooked the primary source of all the versions of this lovely legend.” He found a strikingly similar, but “less ideal” tale in the eighth-century prologue of an Arabic translation of the Indian collection of legends Kalilah wa-Dimnah. In this variant, two partners replace the loving brothers and in the dark of night each tries to cheat from the other rather than add to the other’s pile.7 This story would not have been unknown to Jews; there was a thirteenth-century Hebrew version of Kalilah wa-Dimnah that was reprinted as Deux versions hebraiques du livre de Kalilah et Dimnah in 1881 that contains the story.8 It thus seems the story originated in India, made its way to the Arabs in the eighth century where it was given a positive spin, and then in the early nineteenth century migrated to Europe where the Jews adopted it and applied it to the Temple. In order to posit an original Jewish origin, one would need to explain how it got from the Jews to India and then how all trace of it was lost from Jewish texts. How the Temple Site Was Selected If the site of Har Habayit was not chosen because of the fable involving the two brothers, how was it selected? In the Torah the location is never specified, but rather is described as “the place God will choose to rest His name” (e.g., Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 14; 17:8).9 The location was revealed to King David, and was originally the threshing floor of Aravnah the Jebusite. A devastating plague had killed 70,000 Israelites as punishment for King David’s sin and as the Destroying Angel approached Jerusalem, God stopped him at Aravnah’s threshing floor. King David saw the angel and immediately confessed his sin to God, at which point God, via the Prophet Gad, commanded him to build an altar on the site. Despite Aravnah’s generous offer, King David purchased the location for full price,10 erected an altar and offered sacrifices (II Samuel 24:16-25). When this
incident is retold in Chronicles (I Chronicles 21:14-27), it continues with King David proclaiming that the site should be the House of God, and he commenced preparing for building the Temple (I Chronicles 21:28-22:19). And indeed, when Shlomo Hamelech begins the construction of God’s house, it is at the site where God appeared to his father, King David, at the threshing floor of Arnan (the name by which Aravnah is known in Chronicles [II Chronicles 3:1]). The Sifrei (Devarim, Parashat Re’eh, pasuk 62) understood that King David correctly searched for a location on his own and then had the selection confirmed by the navi, Gad. That is as much as is explicit in Tanach. Many other historically significant events are said to have taken place at the site. The location where Shlomo Hamelech built the Temple is called “Mount Moriah” (II Chronicles 3:1) and the place where the Akeidah took place was the “land of Moriah” (Bereishit 22:2). The name Moriah appears nowhere else in Tanach; thus, it is clear that the site where the Temple
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was built (Aravnah’s threshing floor) is the site where the Akeidah occurred.11 Hermeneutics based on the name Moriah led Chazal to conclude that multiple other events of significance took place at that site. Chazal state that it was from the Even Shesiya, the Foundation Stone, located on Har Habayit, that the world expanded into its present form, and it was from Mount Moriah that God gathered dust to create the first man, Adam (Targum Yonatan to Genesis 2:7; found also in Yerushalmi Nazir 7:2; Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer ch. 11, 12, 20; and Bereishit Rabbah 14:9). It is also a site historically used for altars. According to Chazal, after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam built an altar on the Temple Mount, as did Noach after the flood. It was this altar that Avraham and Yitzchak saw on the way to the Akeidah and that indicated to them that they were at the correct location.12 In addition, according to some opinions, Yaakov’s dream of the ladder took place on the Temple Mount (Pesachim 88a; Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 35). The legend of the two brothers is so popular and its message resonates so deeply with Jewish values that some have suggested that Arabs living in the Land of Israel may have been unknowingly preserving what had been an oral Jewish midrash. Others contend that whether or not it is originally of Jewish origin, it is a worthwhile story and should be admitted to the Jewish corpus. The main message of this “midrash” is one of brotherly love and ahavat chinam. The pasuk in Tehillim (Psalm 133:1) states: “Hinei matov u’mah naim, shevet achim gam yachad,13 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” How appropriate that so many assume that the site of the Temple, which was destroyed because of sinat chinam, among other reasons,14 should have been chosen because of brotherly love. Despite this tale having no basis in Jewish sources, the notion that the Temple will be rebuilt only after we all get along and show respect and compassion for each other is deeply rooted in Jewish tradi-
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tion. Indeed, the Rambam (Guide of the Perplexed III: 45) suggests that the reason the location was not originally revealed in the Torah was to avoid fighting between the tribes. According to the Talmud (Zevachim 116b), King David collected money from all Twelve Tribes in order to purchase the threshing floor. The Maharal explained that “Israel unites through the Temple, where there is one priest and one altar” (Netzach Yisrael 5). May we speedily in our day have the unity that will lead to the Temple being rebuilt on Mount Moriah. g Notes 1. For example, Micha Josef Berdyczewski, also known as Mikhah Yosef Bin-Gorion (1865-1921), in his classic work on Jewish legends and folktales, Mimekor Yisrael, mentions it (see Indiana University Press edition, pages 491492 or the abridged edition, pages 272-273 along with the bibliographical notes for this legend on page 272). 2. Vilnay also references A. Kopish, Gesammelte Werke I (London, 1856), p. 23; Gedichte von Aug. Kopish, p. 149; Shlomo Bakhor Hutzin’s Maasei Nissim (Baghdad, 1890), p. 53; and Alexander Scheiber, “La Legende de l’emplacement du Temple de Jerusalem,” REJ IX (1948-49), 108-109. 3. In the JPS edition, it is in 4:154, and it is discussed in 6:293-294. 4. “La Légende de l’emplacement du Temple de Jérusalem,” in Essays on Jewish Folklore and Comparative Literature (Budapest, 1955) and Alexander Scheiber, “The Legend about the Temple Location in Jerusalem” in Essays on Jewish Folklore and Comparative Literature (Budapest, 1985), 291-299. 5. Souvenirs, impressions, pensées et paysages pendant un voyage en Orient, 169. In 1848, an English translation was published in New York by D. Appleton and Company entitled A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The entire book can be read online at http://archive.org/stream/apilgrimagetoho00lamagoog#page/n288/mode/2u p. The story is found on page 289 of the online version.
6. Studies in Jewish and World Folklore (Berlin, 1968), 462-463. 7. Attributed to Abdallah ibn alMuqaffa, died circa 760. 8. The positive version of the story is also found in Eastern thought but with no connection to selecting a sacred site. It is also found in Caravan of Dreams (New York, 1988), p. 133, a collection of Sufi stories by Idries Shah. In that version, the stealth shifting of grain continues for years without the brothers knowing why their piles don’t decrease. 9. Interestingly, all of the verses (including the above) in which the selection is stated in the future tense in the Torah are modified in the Samaritan version to be in the past, indicating that God had already selected and revealed the location. In their version, this revelation immediately follows the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13) where they have additional verses that say that Har Gerizim will be the location of the permanent altar. 10. The midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 79:6) points out that the Temple Mount, together with Me’arat Hamachpelah and Shechem, are the three places whose Jewish ownership no one can question because, according to the Bible, they were purchased at full price by King David, Avraham and Yaakov, respectively. 11. This tradition is mentioned in the Book of Jubilees (18:13) and Josephus (e.g., Antiquities I:13:224, 226). Rashi makes this connection as well. When Avraham names the site of the Akeidah “Hashem Yir’eh,” Rashi states, “The Lord will see: Its simple meaning is . . . God will choose and see for Himself this place, to cause His Divine Presence to rest therein and for offering sacrifices here” (Bereishit 22:14). 12. See Bereishit Rabbah 55:9; Yerushalmi Berachot 4:5, Yoma 54b; Rambam’s Hilchot Beit Habechirah 2:12, among many other similar midrashim. 13. The Zohar (Acharei Mot) sees the two brothers in this verse as representing the two keruvim above the aron. 14. See my previous article “What’s the Truth about . . . the Cause of the Destruction of the Beit Hamikdash?” Jewish Action (summer 2004), 52-54.
THE KOREN MESORAT HARAV SIDDUR The Berman Family Edition y y y y y y
Complete Tefillot with Commentary from the Teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Introductions by Rabbis Aharon Lichtenstein, Jonathan Sacks and Menachem Genack Compendium of the Practices of Rabbi Soloveitchik Summaries of Rabbi Soloveitchikâ€™s Shiurim on Tefillah Translation by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Renowned Koren Layout
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By Ann D. Koffsky
m i e T y r o t S Illustration: Ann D. Koffsky
e all know the midrash: Once upon a time, many, many Rosh Hashanahs ago, Hashem looked into the Torah and used it as a blueprint to make the world—to make us. So what is in the Torah that He used for material? What are we made of? The simplest and most profound answer is: stories. Our DNA, our very essence, is primed to respond to stories. The Torah, among many other things, is Hashem’s storybook. It starts with the tale of the birth of the world and continues with stories of brothers, families, children and eventually the birth of Am Yisrael. Hashem has spun tales that bind us as a nation and define our culture. This Rosh Hashanah we will retell some of Hashem’s stories and pass them on—beautiful tales of the sacrifice of a father and the prayers of a mother longing for children. But we are supposed to emulate Hashem, which means we must not just repeat His stories; we must each create and tell our own stories. In Bruce Feiler’s recent book, The Secret of Happy Families (New York, Ann D. Koffsky is the author/illustrator of more than twenty-five books for Jewish children. Her most recent is Thank You for Me! with musician Rick Recht.
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2013), he describes how foundational it is to tell family stories to our children. He cites a recent study in which psychologists asked children questions about their history, ranging from “Do you know where your grandparents grew up?” to “Do you know the story of your birth?” to “Do you know how your parents met?” The study’s conclusion was mindboggling: “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The ‘Do You Know?’ scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.” Interestingly, he finds that these stories should include tales from both the immediate past as well as from history. When we tell our children the traditional stories that have been handed down to us from generation to generation, we are not just transmitting a code of behavior; we are connecting our children to the essence of who they are. I thought I knew my own family’s stories. My dad had some great ones, such as how his father came to America, his love for his yeshivah rebbe and about his first pulpit in Wyoming. (That last one came with some great details, believe me.)
But then I interviewed my father through the Storycorps program. (Storycorps, storycorps.org, is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind. It records histories and stories and preserves them at the Library of Congress.) I had never heard where my father was when he first found out about the Holocaust, how he knew my mom was the one he wanted to marry, what he thought when he first held me. I finally asked him these questions and was so moved to hear the answers—to hear those untold stories—that my view of the Holocaust, marriage and parenting immediately changed; I could suddenly view each from a new and meaningful angle. As an author/illustrator, I attend many Jewish book programs where publishers speak about the kind of stories they look for. Their main message is: No more shtetl stories! There are so many Jewish kids’ books today that feature a matchmaker, a rebbe and a butcher. But our kids don’t just need shtetl stories; they need our stories— the ones where bubbie colors her hair, runs two miles a day and is into yoga. These modern stories help them place Judaism into their own context and reality. So for my own kids, I’ll start the ball rolling and respond to some of those “Do You Know?” questions with a small sampling of the stories that answer them. This year, I hope my stories will help my kids connect to the chain of tales that go back to the very birthday of the world. This year, I hope they will get to write their own chapters. And this year, I hope that our stories will help them—and all of us—be inscribed in Hashem’s book of happily ever after. Ketivah vachatimah tovah. g
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