Monday, September 29, 2014

Moral Clarity: a Prerequisite to Teshuvah

The great mishnaic sage Hillel said, " ignoramous cannot be pious" (Avot 2:5). Unfortunately, in our age of widespread higher education and advanced degrees, ignorance abounds, that is to say ignorance of what the Torah requires of us. WIth this gaping lack of knowledge, the direct and unavoidable product of not learning, comes a lack of moral clarity. True and everlasting morality comes from the Torah. Anything that contradicts God's Will is intrinsically immoral.

It is astonishing how dull one's moral clarity can become. Take the Metropolitan Opera and its production "The Death of Klinghoffer" . The people who decided to produce this show are deeply lacking in moral clarity. All the attempts to disuade them from doing so failed. All those involved in this production, Jews, gentiles and apostate Jews, will bear everlasting shame, if not in This World then certainly in the World to Come.

Without moral clarity, Teshuvah is impossible. One of the purposes of this blog is to present moral clarity, especially in areas where it has been lost by the uninformed majority and is not thought of being as "politically correct".

One of the issues that I have spoken up about is intermarriage. It is wrong, just plain wrong. I will say it again and again. On this matter I am happy to be the compass that keeps pointing North while others have unfortunately lost all sense of direction.

Almost four years ago I wrote a post about MK Einat Wilf. The gist of the post was that a Jew who "married" a gentile is a "bad example" and as such cannot lead or educate the Jewish People. I stand by that post and am pleased to note that Ms. Wilf is no longer a member of the Knesset.

Not too long ago someone stumbled upon the post and wrote me the following email:

I came upon your blog because I was intrigued by Einat Wilf – after what I read what you said about her I have decided to become an atheist as well. No more wondering why we have an Eruv to make you feel better in walking your kids on Shabbat and more important why my building loses a lift because you cannot push a button on Shabbat. Opening a water tap is OK even though it triggers a pump. Cannot tear toilet paper but can say that we can get rid of all non-Jews in Israel. When I learnt bible it said that everyone had to fight in the army – that we forget because I would suspect you make up the rules as you go along. There is now a growing number of amazing youngsters leaving the Haradi fold to follow their dreams. I was in the army with a few and was told how incense and rape go unreported because that is what the rabbi says. You vote what the rabbi tells you and it is very sad. You sponge of the government of Israel and donations from everywhere. You do not create anything except live a life of cheating and lies. I am ashamed at what my home city Manchester looks like. You are fortunate you live in a country where most people get an education enabling them to create things and help humanity thereby being able to fund your life style. Einat Wilf is a very smart cookie and the truth is you are not. Have a good New Year and may you be inscribed in the book of life – you are lucky I don’t give advice on who gets in the book.
Much can be written about this email. The author ignores the issue of intermarriage entirely and instead blames the post for his own lack of faith. This reminds of what a rabbi once told a wayward student usng a play on words, "teirutzim (answers) for questions I am willing to give . I am not willing to give terutzim (answers) for teirutzim(excuses). He continues to rant about different issues in Jewish Law that he does not understand, and apparently does not want to understand. His questions, real and imagined, are simple and can answered by any Orthodox rabbi.

The reader continues, making assumptions about me that are simply not true ("You vote what the rabbi tells you and it is very sad. You sponge of the government of Israel and donations from everywhere. You do not create anything except live a life of cheating and lies. "). This is indeed unfortunate. Perhaps such prejudice is a result of repeated exposure to stereotypes often pushed by the mass media.

All in all I have hope for this guy. The fact that the post brought about a reaction, even a negative one, is a sign that the "pintele yid" is still there. May he merit to make Teshuvah and be written and sealed for a good life.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dvar Torah for Netzavim-Vayelech: Choose Life

This in my humble opinion is the climax and summary of the Five Books of Moses:
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances; then thou shalt live and multiply, and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest in to possess it. But if thy heart turn away, and thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I declare unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish; ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over the Jordan to go in to possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love the LORD thy God, to hearken to His voice, and to cleave unto Him; for that is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
The Torah is making things very clear for anyone who is willing to listen, as Rashi explains:
[God says: “Even though you have free choice, nevertheless,] I instruct you to choose the portion of life.” It is like a man who says to his son, “Choose for yourself a fine portion of my estate,” and then directs him to the best portion, saying to him, “This [is the portion which] you should choose for yourself!” And regarding this, the verse says,“The Lord is my allotted portion and my cup; You guide my destiny” (Ps. 16:5). [The last clause, אַתָּה תּוֹמִי‏ךְ גּוֹרָלִי, literally means “You laid upon my lot.” That is to say:] “You laid my hand upon the good lot, saying, ‘Take this for yourself!’”
These passages are worth meditating upon, especially with the New Year and the Ten Days of Teshuvah before us.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Dvar Torah for Ki Teitzei

"A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whosoever doeth these things is an abomination unto the LORD thy God" (Deuteronomy 22:5)
The prohibition seems somewhat unusual, not related to what is written before it or what follows. The Lubavitcher Rebbe gives us a novel insight into this verse, as he explains the folly of the Women's Liberation Movement, and how a Torah true house should function:

Jonathan Miller: Journalist?

Well, it sure seems that Jonathan Miller cannot be trusted to report the news objectively:

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