Thursday, January 31, 2013

Harav Aviner Declares War on Beit Hillel?

This morning, Harav Aviner published an article called "A guide to populist Rabbis" (Hebrew). The article is a semi-comical semi-serious  list of traits that "populaist -trendy" rabbis display. It is fairly clear that the target of the attack are the liberal rabbis of  "Beit Hillel" (who just published their semi-controversial halachic brochure in English). Here are some of the highlights (updated with translation) charecterizing the populist rabbi:

1. Enlists support and admiration amongst a broad spectrum of the public, especially the secular and the liberal religious.
2. Gains this support by emphasizing frustration, adapting prejudices against certain Jewish laws, and promising overnight miracle solutions.
3. Emphasizes and focuses upon topics that are dear to the hearts of those populations, such as: democracy, academics and the status of women, and shows lenience regarding conversion, sexual modesty, and other matters
4. Wages a stubborn battle against Charedi Rabbis who possess political power due to their spiritual greatness or their genius in Jewish law, and seeks constantly to undermine them by sabotaging that power.
5. At the same time, makes selective use of isolated, lenient Charedi rulings, fleshing out those rulings, extending them and establishing them as representative examples.
6. Systematically blames Torah scholars, and the whole Charedi public, for numerous troubles in society and presents themselves as the bearers of light for the generation.
7. Repeatedly presents Torah scholars as extremists, far removed and cut off from the public, who distance the public from the Torah, while they themselves have a monopoly on the mainstream approach, and are connected to, friendly with and in touch with the people. By such means they claim glory for themselves at the cost of shaming others.
8. Renders moral messages shallow, glossing over them with their personal charisma. These Rabbis are not like Moshe, who testified about his own speech impediments. See Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook’s letter in this regard to his son, Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah in his youth.

the article continues to explore some of the "strategems" the populist rabbis employ, which can be summed up as arguing that populist rabbis are trying to fit halachah into the norms of the Hiloni public, rather than the other way around. Their strategems include marginalizing halachot that are inconvenient or, arguing that they are no longer relevant since the world has changed.  (See a previous post of mine on "Modernizing Halacha")

The attack comes at a fairly weird time. Just a few weeks ago, Beit Hillel posted a rather cheery summary of their meeting with Harav Aviner, The backdrop to that meeting was Rav Aviner's publication of rather harsh Tzniut guidelines, that were largely attacked in the popular press.  Clearly, the meeting did not go as well as Beit Hillel believes it did. This article by Harav Aviner is somewhat similar to a declaration of war between the two large communities of Religious Zionism - the more extreme Hardal (or Torani) group and the more liberal Religious Zionists.

On the lighter side - was amused to see that right above Rav Aviner's piece there was a large ad for Michlelet Herzog - the teacher's college in the liberal Gush:

HT: @ravtzair, and Eitan for the screenshot. 

Update: changed the translation from my own to the vastly superior one found at . H/T Michael Sedley.

Should Jews Bail Out of Britain?

Caroline Glick thinks so:

I honestly don't know whether there are policy implications that arise from my experience in London last week. I have for a long time been of the opinion that Israel shouldn't bother to try to win over Europe because the Europeans have multiple reasons for always being anti-Israel and none of them have anything to do with anything that Israel does. As I discuss in my book, these reasons include anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, addiction to Arab oil, and growing Muslim populations in Europe. ...
One positive note, I had a breakfast discussion last Wednesday morning with activists from the Zionist Federation of Britain. The people I met are committed, warm, hardworking Zionists. I wish them all the best, and mainly that means, that I hope that these wonderful people and their families make aliyah. 
While their work is worthwhile, there is no future for Jews in England. 

Douglas Murry answers:

But Glick’s question returns. What sort of future is there in Britain for Jews? I would submit that there is a future. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that the price of that future is that Jews will increasingly be expected to distance themselves from Israel. There is a fair amount of evidence from the Jewish community suggesting that this process is already underway. Once it is complete then those ‘good’ anti-Israel Jews will be able to proclaim victory. But the same force that they encouraged to come for their co-religionists will then just as surely come for them. And then where will they hide? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Female Soldiers Doing Talmudic Rituals On The Temple Mount

According to the Al-Quassam Website:

100 Israeli female soldiers broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque
100 Israeli female soldiers broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque
30-01-2013,09:02Al Qassam website - Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage warned of the escalation of the Israeli practices against Al-Aqsa Mosque, and called on the Islamic nation to take the initiative and defend the sanctity of Al-Aqsa.One of the worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque told Al Aqsa Foundation that about 100 female soldiers broke into Al-Aqsa Mosque on Monday in their military uniforms.Eyewitnesses reported that, during the tour, the groups of soldiers organized what looks like a military procession.Meanwhile, nearly 30 settlers, accompanied by a rabbi, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque yesterday and performed some Talmudic rituals there.Al-Aqsa Foundation said in a statement issued on Tuesday that monitoring the raids carried out by the occupation soldiers and the settlers clearly shows the escalation in the size and form of these raids.It called on the Jerusalemites and the Palestinians from the occupied territories to flock to Al-Aqsa Mosque, and demanded the Islamic nation to take urgent action to support and defend the Mosque against all threats.
Its not completely clear if the female soldiers were also involved in these horrifying "Talmudic Rituals", but if they are this is clearly crossing the lines. Is it possible this was a secret unit of the Women of the Wall?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Random Reflections On The Elections Results

  • So would Maimonides also not have been elected? (H/t @ravtzair)

  • The Israeli center has basically said that they don't want to be poor Social Democrats, they prefer to be well off middle class.

  • Labor only got two more mandates than in the last election. Considering that their current leader is immeasurably superior to Ehud Barak, Labor clearly did not receive many votes from the social protest movements. 

  • Slightly more people (26,744 at time of writing) voted for religious crackpot "Harav" Amnon Yitzchak, then for secular crackpot Elad Yaniv (26,331). On the other hand over 700 people voted for the "Brit Olam" party headed by someone claiming to be the Messiah.

  • The Jewish Home has just about doubled their size. This is a huge achievement, and they shouldn't be crying because they didn't get even more. 

  • Kadima's mandates more or less all went to Yesh Atid, Hatenuah and...Kadima.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Prayer Before Voting

There is no point in translating this, but I was mildly amused:

:תפילה קצרה לאומרה לפני ההצבעה
ריבונו של עולם!
תן לי "כוח להשפיע" על "עם שלם", 
לקום ב"נץ" או להתפלל ב"עבודה",
ללמוד ב"מרץ" את ה"שס" וללכת "קדימה" 
למען חיזוק "יהדות התורה" בארץ, ואז תהיה "עוצמה לישראל",
שיהיה בעמנו "איחוד לאומי" ו"ליכוד" של כל חלקי העם,
וש"ביתנו" יהיה "בית יהודי" אחד גדול.
"יש עתיד"!!!
ויכניס מיד פתק טב ויפה לקלפי!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Blowing Up The Dome of the Rock" v. "Wiping Israel Off The Map"

Yesterday a small storm in a teacup erupted in the Israeli media, when Israel Channel 2 news aired a video showing Jeremy Gimpel - 14th place candidate in the Jewish Home party - badly expressing his views on the Temple Mount:

When I watched the video, my initial reaction was that it was crystal clear that  Gimpel was making a joke, and in no way whatsoever was he actually calling for the Dome of the Rock to be blown up. It was so clear, I couldn't initially understand how anyone could think otherwise. I had this twitter exchange with Jeffery Goldberg:

The conversation continued for a few tweets. However, the question Goldberg asked, namely what is the difference between Gimpel's comment and the Iranian threats is a hard one. 

Trying to think of an answer, exposed to me some of my underlying assumptions. I feel more than qualified to dismiss Gimpel's comment as a joke. This dismissal is based on my familiarity with religious, anglo-Israeli, RZ  speech, in a way that allows me to have no doubt that I understand the true meaning of Gimpel's words. However, I have no similar familiarity with Iranian culture. Is it possible I have been misunderstanding their political jokes? have we been giving too much weight to statements that are not intended to be taken seriously? in other words, is it possible that Iranians hearing Gimpel's speech will come to the conclusion that he is speaking seriously? 

Harav Ovadia Slams Habayit Hayehudi

From Jpost:

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on Saturday night condemned the Bayit Yehudi party, saying whoever votes for them "denies the Torah," Army Radio reported.

Speaking at his weekly Saturday night Torah session, Yosef said the party intends to "uproot the Torah, to allow civil marriages, and to have public transportation on Shabbat," Army Radio quoted him as saying.

The Rabbi added that it is forbidden to vote for them.

Allow civil marriages, and public transportation on Shabbat? I wish Habayit Hayehudi were so liberal. Sadly,  Habayit Hayehudi is far less friendly.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Halachic Lawfare?

This ad published this week in Be'Sheva is a call for Arieh Deri, the leader of Shas (Israeli Haredi political party) to be tried in a rabbinic court (Beit Din - not to be confused with the state's own Rabbinic Courts) for his part in approving the Oslo Agreements. The author claims that due to the Oslo Agreements, thousand of terrorists were allowed to enter Israel (presumably he means the territories) and then cites the number of Israelis killed by terrorists since Oslo. Notably the author's own husband and kids are included in that category. 
Previously there was a similar attempt to call MK Gafni from Yahdut Hatorah to a rabbinic court over his involvement with the Gaza Disengagement plan. Interestingly, the rabbinic court agreed to hear the case, rather than rejecting it out of hand. If anyone knows what happened with the case, I would be interested to know. 

Both cases are examples of the special vulnerability of Hardi MKs. In a rabbinic court it would seem MKs do not enjoy immunity for their actions. This means that Haredi MKs need always worry that they will personally be attacked using Halachic Lawfare. I would guess that their best defense will be to make sure that the cases are heard in a sympathetic tribunal. Normally the respondant can choose the Beit-Din where a case will be heard, and in this case all MKs would be wise to navigate to a Zionist Beit Din where there is a good chance that they would accept wider considerations of immunity for MKs, or even  accept the state's immunity as Dina Demalchuta.

Hat Tip: Rav Tzair

Saturday, January 12, 2013

On the Expression "Remove A Plank From Your Own Eye"

Reading the Economist this week, In an editorial about America's handeling of the fiscal cliff, I was struck by the highlighted sentence:

FOR the past three years America’s leaders have looked on Europe’s management of the euro crisis with barely disguised contempt. In the White House and on Capitol Hill there has been incredulity that Europe’s politicians could be so incompetent at handling an economic problem; so addicted to last-minute, short-term fixes; and so incapable of agreeing on a long-term strategy for the single currency.
Those criticisms were all valid, but now those who made them should take the planks from their own eyes. 

Those familiar with the Talmud, are probably familiar with the Talmudic version of "take the planks from their own eyes" -

"תמהני אם יש בדור הזה שמקבל תוכחה, אם אמר לו: טול קיסם מבין שִניך, אמור לו: טול קורה מבין עיניך" (ערכין טז). 
(There is a similar version of this saying in Baba Batra, 16B.)

Literally - 'I wonder whether there be any in this age that will receive reproof: but if one saith to another, Cast out the mote out of thine eye, he will be ready to answer, Cast out the beam out of thine own eye.'"

Admitting my own ignorance, I had never heard the expression in English. However, a very quick Google search found the following passage from Mathew in the New Testament:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Mathew 7:5 
Clearly this was a common enough expression in ancient Israel, which found its way both into the New Testament and the Talmud.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Pictures from Jerusalem snowday:

Some of my own pics:

created with my 4 year old daughter!

And one picture to annoy everyone, supposedly taken today on the Temple Mount:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Tubing" Down The Ayalon River

Sorry, you can't really be an Israeli blogger, and not post something about the downpour during the last few days.

I really liked this video, showing three people going down the Ayalon on big inflatable rubber tubes:

Via: @benjilovitt