Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Pnei Hador have told the nation/They won't stand for segregation...

We may think that the three most influential leaders of the State of Israel, the “Pnei Hador” (shown below carrying the whole world on their shoulders) are not looking out for our best interests.






Pnei Hador (from left): Curly Bennet, Larry Lapid, Moe Netanyahu

Our musical spokesman, Asher V’Chaim, knows otherwise.

Who is Asher V’Chaim?

Well, nobody really knows. He has not gone public with his true identity. So he calls himself Asher V’Chaim.

Why?

Because in some earlier statement, Yair Lapid used the names “Asher V’Chaim” as a reference to the paradigm chareidi man in the street beis-midrash. (Like we say “John Doe” or “Tom, Dick, and Harry”). So this fellow calls himself "Asher V’Chaim" to be representative of the paradigm chareidi a la Yair Lapid.

He seems to be a young fellow but he is also well acquainted with 1960s antiwar songs. I am duly impressed because I am indeed a child of the 60s and a true red-white-and-blue American and I had never heard the original Tom Paxton anti-Vietnam song that he is parodying. Incidentally, Tom Paxton in his much later years put out a sequel to this song with regard to the second Iraq war.

The Paxton songs are definitely the perfect choice for a source song because they express the exact same sentiment as the new chareidi parody:
The government is enacting compulsory laws to satisfy its own agenda and is justifying it as saving the “victims” from… themselves.

The protesters didn’t buy it then and we don’t buy it now.

In any event, this song is going viral in Chareidi circles here in E”Y. You may not consider 3,800+ hits viral, but considering the fact that it had only 650 hits a mere 2 days ago and the limited market it addresses, it’s pretty active.

For convenience, the lyrics for this parody are readily available on the YouTube post. Unfortunately, they are in Hebrew and the English speaker may not readily grasp the full meaning. So, as one of my many public services, I am presenting a linear translation of the lyrics. The translation is meant to preserve the Hebrew flavor so it may not be conversational English.  I also apologize that I was unable to poeticize it with rhymes and a steady meter (though I tried). 

So, here is the song.

 

And here are the lyrics.

“In just a short time will arrive the order
that will clarify the situation
that “equality of burden” is already here.
No non-compliance will be forgiven
and to the prisons they will be driven
to be an avreich (kollel fellow) here will be hazardous.”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for you the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
we will conscript you, my brother
and there, we will give you a new education.”

“If your name will be left out
to what can you hope to amount?
One who hampers the development will adversely affect the product.
You have not acquired higher education
you do not comprehend economics
the most that you will ever be fit for is…to be Minister of Finance.”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for you the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
we will conscript you, my brother
and there, we will arrange for you a new education.”

“You are amazed and ask with urgency
if this “burden” is in truth necessary.
Why do we currently need obligatory enlistment?
Arise from your delusions, and awaken
they have built careers around this “equality” slogan
Why ruin an effective battle-cry?”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for you the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
your enlistment is imperative
so that we can give you a new education.”

“If you will shout throughout the kingdom
‘Where are the emperor’s clothes?’
Just look at how silly you are.
If the army would hire and train
only the amount of soldiers that it really needs,
how would this country manage to produce any shesh-besh (backgammon) champions?”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for you the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
we will conscript you, my brother
and we will hand you down a new education.”

“Many have already stood against you
[to challenge] your ‘goodly tents’ (of learning and praying)
to uproot Torah learning from the Jews.
They all failed in their endeavors
and did not accomplish their missions
yet we will [succeed to] actualize a first-of-its-kind law!”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for the third time the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
we will conscript you, my brother
and, we will transform you to a new chiloni (secularist).”

“and, we will transform you to a new chiloni (secularist).”

And so... 

The Pnei Hador have told the nation/they won’t stand for segregation…

…and they will fix our education.

פרעה לא גזר אלא על הזכרים – אבל לב"נ ביקש לעקור את הכל.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Three Years of Parnassah…Up Front!

Firstly, I do want to apologize for not following up on my Shidduch Crisis post that I launched last spring. I do hope to get to it eventually but for now, I need to digress. I hope to follow the crude advice of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to "never let a crisis go to waste".

The Yomim Noraim of 5774 have come and gone. What did we daven for?

Well, if you are like me, a heartfelt entreaty for parnassah was probably at the top of the list. After all, the world economy in general and Yechezkel Hirshman's economy in particular are what we call here al hapanim (the pits). I mean really bad shape. My own trade deficit (income vs. outgo) rivals that of Uncle Sam. My income cannot cover my basic day to day expenses and I have been forced to supplement my meager earnings with reserve money to the point of near total depletion. Cutbacks and mounting short term debt have taken their toll. I have IOU notes in my cookie jar. Not to mention at least 3 offspring on the Shadchan's sights (getting back to the Shidduch crisis…)

Of course, the Yad Hashem is always evident. About six months back I calculated that I have enough reserve to keep me afloat until June. When June came around, a long overdue and hard fought payoff came through and I revised my calculation that I now have enough to hold me until Rosh Hashannah. To me this was quite significant because every Rosh Hashannah is another chance to reset the tables. I saw that HKBH's plan for me for 5773 was fulfilled. But what's in store for 5774?

So when the Days of Mercy came around three weeks ago, like so many others, I poured out my heart for financial salvation.

But it struck me recently that perhaps, we who live here in Eretz Yisrael didn't have to. For us, there is no need to worry about parnassah this year. For 5774, parnassah is guaranteed. GUARANTEED!

And not just one year of parnassah. Three years. Three whole years of parnassah to be dealt out in 5774. GUARANTEED!

Where is it guaranteed?

Right here in my chumash. In Vayikra 25:20,21. Here it clearly states:
וכי תאמרו מה נאכל בשנה השביעית הן לא נזרע ולא נאסף את תבואתנו: וציויתי את ברכתי לכם בשנה הששית ועשת את התבואה לשלש השנים:

Free translation:
And should you ask "What shall we eat on the seventh year? Alas, we cannot sow and we cannot gather our produce?" And I will order My blessing on the sixth year and it will yield its produce for the amount of three years.

That's right, for those who intend to uphold the laws of shemitta, we have a guarantee that on the sixth year the GDP will do a threefold performance and we'll pull in enough to keep us afloat for three whole years. What a deal!!

Of course this probably won't apply to everybody. There are those Jews who rely on the Hetter Mechira and by so doing, treat the seventh year like every other year.

In a previous post (see my post about Ki LiHaAretz - Eminent Domain), I wrote at length that the validity of the Hetter Mechira needs to be reviewed because some of the key factors that were used to justify it in the first place are no longer applicable. But regardless of whether it is still Halachically valid it may not be a good idea to rely on it.

Why?

Because it probably voids the guarantee.

You see, this guarantee is earmarked for people who ask: "What shall we eat on the seventh year? Alas, we cannot sow and we cannot gather our produce?"

G-d is making this guarantee for those who intend to follow the basic laws and not to sow and not to gather the produce. For those who will use Halachic loopholes to circumvent the prohibitions, I am sure G-d can find some loopholes in His guarantee.

So now, 5774, the sixth year of the cycle, is the time for all of us Jews living in E"Y to decide how we intend to keep the upcoming Shmitta year. The genuine way that comes with a three year guarantee or the convoluted way that doesn't.

Remember: הטורח בערב שבת הוא יאכל בשבת.

Now, I personally identify with the follow-the-rules-as-written (WYSIWYG) clan so I do hope that the guarantee applies to me. Of course, one may argue that this guarantee is only applicable to those who actually work the land, not to those who get their sustenance from Technical Writing or the benefits of a US based family business.

This may indeed be so. But since 5774 is indeed the sixth year of the cycle, people like me can always fall back on preservation plan B…

…5774 is a Maaser Ohni year!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Anticipating the Geula

Wel-l-l-l, it's the third day of Nissan and, although the Pesach rush makes things hectic at home, it is actually quieting things down a bit here at the Har Chotzvim office. This gives me a long overdue opportunity to write.

Now, there have been occasions over the past year that I considered to finally come out of hibernation and post something, but it just didn't happen. One of the main urges came around the issue of the Great Internet Satan and the great Kennes that took place in CitiField last summer.

One reason I didn't take it up is that to some extent I have been worshipping the Great Internet Satan myself (of course I have filters) so perhaps my perspective would wax thin. Another reason is that I really did not have much to add to the outspoken pundits who were already on record.

My overall position has always been that the Internet is just another one of many Para Adumos that we must suffer along our treacherous journey to Destiny. This was totally reflected by the banner slogan that graced the event: We can't live with it; we can't live without it. Of course, I do think it is a great Kiddush Hashem that so many frum yidden took the time and congregated to face up to the hazards of this issue. Yet, I don't think it is especially prudent for anybody in today's generation to pompously declare who does or doesn't get a share in Olam Haba. This is not salesmanship and not the way to win friends or influence people.

Another crucial event was the expose' and trial of various sexual offenders. Primarily the one from Williamsburg. Though I have not been privy to all the details of the case, I am personally of the opinion that the fellow is guilty as sin.

Why?

Because there does not seem to be any dispute that he violated the Halachos of Yichud l'mehadrin min ha'mehadrin. And when basic ABC yichud is so blatantly and wantonly violated, not only is there no chezkas kashrus to the perpetrator, but there is actually a chezkas tumah as we know from the laws of Sotah.

Still, I try to stay away from discussing the sexual issues because, more than not, they are a discussion of human behavior inside of a religious framework rather than a discussion of hashkafa. My game is hashkafa. In other words, I may preach "Being of the chareidi hashkafa is the best because we have the morality laws and only we have the halachos of Yichud to safeguard ourselves and others." Invariably, the kvetchers will point out how much of our morality laws and laws of Yichud are brazenly violated by my fellow chareidim. To which I can only respond, "It's not a problem with the rulebook, it's a problem with the players!" (That's ye olde "Don't judge Judaism by the Jews" defense.)

Of course, the hottest issue of the day is the power struggle in Eretz Yisroel and the mishugoss of "Equalize the Burden" and the resulting coalition crisis.

Now, this should not be an issue in the eyes of any Orthodox Jew because, as I wrote clearly in Chapter 6 of my book, Orthodox Jews are expected to live within the precepts of Pirkei Avos. Pirkei Avos (3:5) tells us:

רבי נחוניא בן הקנה אומר: כל המקבל עליו על תורה מעבירין ממנו על מלכות ועל דרך ארץ; וכל הפורק ממנו על תורה נותנין עליו על מלכות ועל דרך ארץ.


 

Those who carry the burden of Torah are relieved of the burden of government. Those who throw off the burden of Torah are exacted the burden of government.


 

In short, we have our burden and the secular have theirs. They don't carry ours – we don't carry theirs. Seems pretty equal to me. We have nothing to apologize for. Especially to those who are not familiar with Pirkei Avos and do not even recite Krias Shma (or even Modeh Ani) at least once a day.


 

Notice the word כל which means Everyone. Not 400 students and not 1800 students. It means Everyone who accepts the yoke of Torah, whether it is 600, 6000, 60,000, 600,000, or 6,000,000 .


 

It is sad but not surprising that even some "Orthodox" Jews do not respect the words of Pirkei Avos (as well as do not recite Krias Shma twice a day). These may include such notables as Naftali Bennet.


 

In any case, my observations are that the sincere Torah oriented religious Zionists (RWs) are not currently at odds with the chareidim. Ever since the disengagement they learned that the post-Zionist establishment is not their ally. What comes out is that this army issue is really a religious/secular (believer vs. non-believer) issue rather than a chareidi/NCOJ (beliver/believer) issue. My work is to deal with the latter.


 

With this, to express my feelings about the army issue, I refer you to my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Moshe Averick, who has taken up the believer/non-believer cause and has written a poignant and well researched essay that speaks for all of us. (Click HERE for the essay – just don't forget to come back!)


 

So, if I didn't come out of retirement to discuss the Internet, sexual deviance, or Israeli politics, what did bring me out of the deep freeze?


 

It is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart and to those of many others --- the Shidduch crisis!


 

As I knew it would, it hasn't gotten any better. There is no reason for it to have.


 

Unfortunately, I have already used up almost all of my window of time for this winded introduction, aside from the fact that this post is already as long as a post should be. Thus, I will sign off from this post and bare my thoughts in the next post which I hope should come out before Rosh HaShanna, bli neder.


 

In the meantime, Chodesh Nissan is here. It's time for a real geula.


 


 


 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Autistic Speaks (or Writes)

Although I obviously don't have much time to devote to my blog, it is nevertheless still up and running. And people still find and read my posts. my site meter tells me this.


My posts also get numerous comments a day. Almost all of them are spam comments that are mass generated and ID as "Anonymous". 


Well, yesterday, for the first time in quite a while, I received a comment to an existing post - a three year old post, actually - that seemed to be genuine albeit a bit "heretical" and disturbing. The commenter identified himself (I assume it is a male) as Collin Merenoff and called himself "an autistic Jew who can speak and type on my own". He was commenting  to one of the posts I had written advocating the "writings" of the "chareidi" autistics using a technique known as Facilitated Communication (FC). 


You can see the post and the comments with my response HERE.


For those who did not check out the link, I will reprint both his comment and my response in this post.


Since this person identifies himself as an autistic, it seems he has some authority on the mind of an autistic and the authenticity of FC. So here is his comment:



Collin Merenoff said... 
That last poster is absolutely right about FC. I'm an autistic Jew who can speak and type on my own. Many of my family members have/had some aspects of autism. I have grown up with the wisdom of an agnostic grandmother from Vilnau, and a religious and Kabbalistic grandfather from Chorzhel, who got along perfectly despite their differences, because they were each autistic in their own way, and they shared the wisdom of autistic Judaism. And that wisdom would be total anathema to any cult, for my grandparents (y'hei shalama raba...), my parents, and I all agree that the Torah is deeply flawed, that Halacha is mostly irrelevant, and that the real word of G-d is in secular ethics and scientific truth.
JUNE 19, 2012 1:09 AM
This comment has taught me many things. The main thing is that even autistics have bechira and they can choose for themselves whether to be a maamin or not. This one prides himself on a long yichus of skeptics all of whom were blessed with a variant of autism. 


Another thing that I learned is that there is a brand of Judaism called "autistic Judaism" that has a special "wisdom". I also learned that this "autisitc Judaism" with its own brand of wisdom cannot be considered a "cult" because its hahkafos are "total anathema to any cult". Only those who believe in FC are branded (by an earlier commenter and confirmed by this one) as a "cult".


As for the authenticity of FC, this commenter is not specific in any way. He just seconds the opinions of the previuos poster. He probably did not see my subsequent post (available HERE) where I took on his challenge head on. One important point I made in the beginning of that post is that FC is used for autistics who cannot commnicate by themselves and thus we cannot gage FC based on autistics like Collin who can.


So now, I wish to present the response that I wrote to my friend Collin:


To Collin 

Thank you for your comment. 

>>I'm an autistic Jew who can speak and type on my own.  

It seems to me that most people in the blogosphere are autistic [Jews] who can speak and type on their own. 

>>my parents, and I all agree that the Torah is deeply flawed 

You are implying that if it was up to you, you could produce a "flawless" Torah. The Torah is a constitution, or a set of rules for a vibrant society. Society is made up of Human beings with many Human shortcomings (including autism). Humans are full of "differences" and "flaws" and any constitution that can effectively regulate a society of Humans is beyond flawless. It is remarkable and magnificent.
From all known constitutions and religious dogma, the Torah has the best track record for viability and vibrance, bar none. 

>>that Halacha is mostly irrelevant 

Perhaps. But recent polls in Eretz Yisrael have established that the members of society who adhere to Halacha (hareidim in particular but not exclusively) have considered themselves to be "happy with their lives" to a percentage greater than any other sub-community.  

>>and that the real word of G-d is in secular ethics and scientific truth 

Yes, indeed. Both "secular ethics" and "scientific truth (???)" have made themselves into religions of their own. And so, those who stray after them see them as the "real word of G-d". "Secular Ethics" has brought us Naziism, socialism and communism and pro-abortion and homosexual marriage. If this is the word of G-d then you and I are definitely worshiping 2 different "G-ds".

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Accepting Kids or Excepting Kids – Phishing for a Psak

I wrote in my book that there are basically two “grades” of chareidim: the Rabi Shimon ben Yochai grade and the Rabi Yishmael grade. 

In general, the two grades interact rather well but on some issues there may need a bit of arbitration. Here is how I wrote it in the book: 

The inevitable result is the emergence of two main categories of chareidim – the [Rabbi] Shimonists and the [Rabbi] Yishmaelists. These two strains co-exist within every chareidi community and often within chareidi households. In most aspects, there are no substantial adverse effects to this phenomenon. The Yishmaelists admire the Shimonists for maintaining a higher standard and the Shimonists appreciate that the Yishmaelists are ‘doing their job’. Essentially, they carry out a teamwork program (in the spirit of the Yissachar – Zevulun partnership) as, typically, both groups gain from the achievements of the other. 

Problems do arise when Rabbi Shimonist chareidim expect or demand other chareidim who may lean toward the Yishmaelist school of thought to maintain their stricter standards. These problems tend to flare up in relation to community issues which collectively affect all of the chareidim in a community and where a common policy must be adopted. Here, these two conflicting schools of thought make it difficult to determine a single policy to serve the entire spectrum. In some cases, a rift within the community is unavoidable. This occurs mostly within the education system as that is one crux of the initial debate – should young chareidim be educated exclusively toward the higher Shimonist standard or not? Does the presence of the Yishmaelists make those standards harder to achieve? On occasion this disparity comes to the fore in family relations, mostly between fathers and sons (though sometimes even between husbands and wives or in-laws), sometimes with tragic consequences. This issue demands further study which I hope to provide. 

To rephrase the question: Is it justified for a “high class” chareidi educational establishment to except potential students who do not fully fit their preferred profile, or are they beholden to accept them? 

Well, listen to the opinion of one of the finest arbitrators in the business, L’orach yamim v’shanim tovim.

In the ensuing video, two school officials from Beit Shemesh are consulting with the "Rosh Yeshiva" Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlit"a. It seems that a local Beit Shemesh man is on the verge of remarrying to a widow from Bnei Brak who has two sons. As they are looking to settle in Beit shemesh, they want to enroll the two boys in this particular Talmud Torah.

The officials of the TT somehow feel that this widow is too "open minded" for their tastes and are seeking the Rosh Yeshiva's approval to not except accept the two boys.

The Rosh Yeshiva will have none of it! And he says so in no uncertain terms.
Oh, and pardon the English.


(Note - For email recipients who do not get the embedded video, you may access it HERE)




Note - Although this video was just recently published on YouTube, I am told that this incident occurred over a year ago.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chanukah Sameach

I think I may start a trend of checking in to say hello every Yom Tov.

So, until Purim (perhaps) ...




For the nostalgiac readers I offer my Golden Oldies Chanukah posts:

Fumbling the Ball in the Red Zone

Yefes in the Tents of Shame

Chezkel

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shanna Tova

To all my loyal readers - and if you are reading this, then you a definitely a very loyal reader - I just want to say that despite my inattention to my blog, I am still around and am still devoted to One Above and Seven Below and to all the Jews in either category!

I just want to wish everybody a Kesiva V'Chasima tova - a year of health, parnassah, and peace and a geulah shleima.

One thought for Rosh HaShanna: Many people have the custom not to do any sins on Rosh HaShanna because the Hebrew word for "sin" - חטא - has the same gematria as the word חטא which means "sin"! (Amazing but true!) וסימנא מילתא היא.



שנה טובה ומתוקה

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Weighing Judgment Kilo for Kilo

I will divulge a secret as to part of the reason that I haven't written many blog posts over the past months.

Though I have stated that I am busier than I had been previously, I had never given out any specifics (except that work picked up). What is a bit more significant is that I have found myself entangled in a very messy Din Torah (nothing to do with my book and thank G-d it's not shalom bayis). And I 've been having the time of my life. Now, instead of writing blog posts in my "spare" time, I am writing letters to dayanim and beligerent lawyers.

Now, there's an old Dale Carnegie rule: when you get stuck with a lemon, make a lemonade. This means that even when you get a bum deal, there is usually some feature you can still cash in on.

In the FAQs section of my book (page 10), I tell the reader that I intend to write a second volume to deal with specific aspects of the Jewish/Chareidi world and one of the items on the agenda was a discussion of Beis Din and Agunah issues. Now we all know that I am far behind schedule in my second book but, to make a lemonade out of a lemon, my recent experiences have taught me more than I thought I would ever know. In fact, they have taught me more than I ever wanted to know. And they have certainly proven to me first hand something I wrote in a previous post: writing about Beis Din cannot be done in a single chapter. It requires a complete book. And what I have learned from my experiences give me more than enough material.

So perhaps there will be a complete book about the workings and failings of a rabbinic Beis Din - even before there is a book 2.

And what inspired me to write about this subject in the midst of the Pesach cleaning I should be doing? It is a story that was just now emailed to me from a dear friend. A story that involves a Din Torah and making a lemonade out of a lemon. And here is the story:

In a quiet shtettle in Poland the town milkman is suddenly approached by the gabbai of the local dayan. He is summoned to a Din Torah the upcoming Tuesday.

A Din Torah? The milkman knows that he has always been a very straightforward and honest person and has absolutely no desire to benefit from ill-gotten gains. Who could possibly want to call him for a Din Torah?

Well, the town baker was one of his customers and would purchase butter and cheese for his dairy paistries. He had an accurate scale in his facility and when he brought back his butter and cheese order, he would doublecheck the chunks that were supposed to weigh a kilo.

They never weighed a full kilo. Someimes 900 grams sometimes 950. He even had an occasion where the chunk only weighed 800 grams but never did it weigh a full kilo.

The baker was incensed. He approached the village dayan and told him that not only was the milkman cheating him but he was very likely cheating everybody in the town. We must put an end to this. This scoundrel must be brought to justice!

And so, the baker filed a claim in the Beis Din and the milkman  was summoned to appear. And appear he did. Albeit a bit nervous and confused.

"Do you have a reliable scale in your workshop?" he was asked by the dayan.

"No, I do not."

"Then how do you ascertain that the chunks of butter that you deliver to the baker weigh a full kilo?"

"Oh, that's simple. I don't have a scale but I do have a simple balance. When the baker comes, he brings me my bread order. So I take a full loaf of fresh bread which he tells me weighs a kilo - (and he has a reliable scale) - and I put it on one side of the balance and I weigh out the butter on the other side. I always make sure that my butter slightly outweighs the bread."

The dayan took one quick glance at the baker and immediately dismissed the case as the baker's face turned as white as the butter.

So remember:

כל הפוסל במומו פוסל

and what's more:

אל תדין את חברך עד שתגיע למקומו ...שאולי באמת כבר הגעת למקומו

Monday, March 7, 2011

Common Sense of a High Order- a book review


Nonsense of a High Order by Rabbi Moshe Averick



Emunah - Belief in G-d.

It is everything.

I wrote as much in one of the (9) most fundamental chapters in my book. The one that is entitled Getting to the Heart of the Matter. For it truly is the heart of the matter.

To briefly summarize, I expounded on the Maharsha's explanation on a fundamental chazal at the end of Gemara Makkos. This chazal is the primary Talmudic source that our Mosaic traditon is composed of 613 mitzvot. But the gemara does something strange.

After informing us that the proper quantity of mitzvot is 613, the gemara adds on that King David came along and reduced the number to eleven. Then came his great grandson Yishaya and reduced the number to six. Comes the prophet Michah and further reduces it to three. Back comes Yeshaya to reduce it to two, and finally comes the prophet Habakuk and he reduces it to just one - וצדיק באמונתו יחיה .

Just one.

EMUNAH!

The Maharsha explains that all the 613 mitzvot are divided into 2 categories: 248 positive ones and 365 negative ones. At the head of the 248 positive ones is the King commandment: Anochi Hashem Elokecha. At the head of the 365 negative ones is the Queen commandment: Lo yihiyeh lecha elohim acherim. All of the mitzvot are "servants" of the King and Queen so, in effect, there are only 2 mitzvos: Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiyeh Lecha.

But these two mitzvot themselves are really only conveying one two-sided idea: Anochi = believe in Me and Lo Yihiyeh Lecha = do not believe in any power but Me. Or, in other words - have complete unequivocal EMUNAH in HKBH.

And this is what the prophet Habakuk said: וצדיק באמונתו יחיה .

This is Kol HaTorah Kula (which I can type while standing on one foot)!

So our entire challenge in life is our Emunah. And it is no small sack of potatoes. In our exothermic world of void and chaos which is rapidly expanding into more void and chaos, our biggest challenges are our tests of Emunah. And it challenges all of us.

My forays on the Internet hashkafa sites and blogs have revealed a frighteningly exhorbitant picture of how extensive this issue is. How many people among us who are steadfast and solid on the outside are brittle and crumbling on the inside. It's scary, it's devastating and it's contagious. None of us are immune. For "these are times that try mens' souls".

The Rambam enumerated for us 13 principles of Emunah. And for most of us religious minded folk, the bigger challenges come in the later innings. Are we really sold on the words of the prophets? Do we truly believe in Hashgacha Pratis and Heavenly reward and punishment? Do we anticipate Moshiach and Techiyas Meisim?

Understandable. But there are those who falter right at the starting gate with principle numero uno - does G-d really exist?

Comes Rabbi Moshe Averick to the rescue by giving us a baseline for Emunah in HKBH without a word of mussar. Without an interminable barrage of Talmudic epithets and poetic passages from Kohelles, Mishlei and Iyov. No Maharsha in gemara Makkos. Not a hint of Moreh Nevuchim, Kuzari or Chovos HaLevavos. No deep esoteric essays from Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler or Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin or the Baal Hatanya. Not even the "wonders of creation" antics of Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak and Zamir Cohen.

Rabbi Averick uses one weapon and one weapon only. A weapon that is surely not in the arsenals of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Moammer Kaddafi, Barack Obama and, I daresay, the IDF.

Common sense.

Along with a sense of humor (no extra charge).

R' Moshe has written a monumental book that infiltrates the strongholds of skepticism and atheism and lays waste to its moorings using the very weapon they lack.

Cold unmitigated logic.

He calls it: Nonsense of a High Order

R' Moshe reviews the writings of such notable renowned godless thinkers such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Steven Weinberg, Will Provine, Sam Harris, Leslie Orgel, Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, Paul Davies, Robert Hazen, Christian DeDuve, Stuart Kaufman, Frank Sonleitner (and others that nobody has thought of yet) and exposes them for what they are - Nonsense of a High Order.

Rabbi Averick points out that this kind of convoluted delusional thinking could not possibly have come about among earlier life forms but rather has slowly developed over millions and billions of years until it reached the sophistication it now enjoys.

True to his Jewish heritage, R' Moshe does convey a bit of cynicism and sarcasm but not without wit. In that sense I feel he is a soulmate. (If not for a few years, he might have been a classmate. Let's just say we grew up drinking the same water.)

I am quite impressed by this book and a bit envious that I did not (and most likely could not) write it myself. His book is barely out a few weeks and I can see that it is an immediate success. It's already been attacked.

Don't be fooled that this book was written for the gentile masses. It was written for us. This book should sit on every Jewish bookshelf and nightstand - right next to mine but with none of the dust.

I recommend this book to Jew and non-Jew alike. But a word of caution. Since his book is mainly a comparison between nonsense and common sense, it is only beneficial to those who can tell the difference. And in our endothermic world of reality, this is a rapidly shrinking population.

Oh, and while you're in the bookstore you may want to check out another book about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the origin of species (or is it the origin of spouses?) - In Laws: It's All Relative by Leah Shifrin Averick (with Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski). That's his Mom.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.


Related posts:

Doubting Thomases...and Yosselas

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yeshiva University Seforim Sale

For all those Manhattanites who yearn to read One Above and Seven Below (and don't know how to use Amazon), I am happy to announce that the book is being featured in this year's YU Seforim Sale which is currently running from Feb 6-27 at 2495 Amsterdam Ave.

Of course the book is still available at Tiferes Stam on Coney Island Ave. in Brooklyn and also at Yeshiva Shaar HaTorah in Kew Gardens, Queens. I also have a distribution point in Lakewood (currently out of books but more on the way). Please email me at 1a7b.author@gmail.com if you would like to purchase the book in Lakewood.

משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It's About Time!

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't had much to say over the past two months. At least one person did (is that the grand total???). On January 14 he posted a comment to my last post (from Nov 18) as follows:


2 months dude?????

And my response was (for those who are too lazy to go and look themselves):

Well, not for another 4 days.

Still, it is gratifying that there is at least one anonymous person out there who misses my blog. You are so far the first and only person to speak up.

In any case, I currently have been unable to devote much attention to my blog for various reasons. One of which is that since there is no money in it, it takes a back seat to ventures that do. I do hope to revitalize it at some point.

But I did appreciate your comment.

Of course it would be nice if my blog posts were to be profitable (does anybody want my Paypal address??) but it is quite obviously not the main issue. More accurately, when people would hear me explain my 1A7B project, or more recently, if they would look at my posts, I would typically hear (whispered behind my back) the same response:

That fellow's got way too much time on his hands!!

Well, I am happy to report that this is no longer the case. My schedule has gotten much busier of late. So the real story is not that I haven't had what to say as much as that I haven't really had the time to say it. Which brings up another comment I have heard (said to my face):

Your posts are much too long.

And if you think it takes a while to read them, imagine what it takes to write them. A good post is like a good meal. It can take hours to cook up and only minutes to eat.

This being the case, if I have no time to cook, I am left with a few choices for my customers: (1) throw something into the microwave, (2) feed them leftovers, or (3) let them go hungry.

Options 1 and 2 did not seem too appetizing and I really did not want to turn my blog into a series of reruns so for the most part I defaulted to option (3). But since I don't want the blog to go totally defunct (just yet) and this is the week between Parshat Yisro and Mishpatim, I will go into rerun mode and refer my loyal readers (if only the anonymous fellow from Jan 18) to one of the most fundamental and insightful as well as fascinating Torah essays that I have written:

Ad K'dei Kach

It explains what G-d really wants from us in 10 easy lessons. Don't pass it up!

There is some fresh material (on stale topics) that I still hope to write but I need more time (and money!) Yet, there is some light at the end of the tunnel: if we don't see some action from our primary customer and soon, our company may fold.

Then I'll have plenty of time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reform's New Direction and Orthodoxy

Yep, there's a little bit of plagiarism here. I stole borrowed the title of this post from a very recent post at Emes Ve-Emunah. I read his post and "filed it away" as it doesn't really cross paths or lock horns with my subject matter. I do not share his optimism but there is nothing wrong with an upbeat post for a change. Hey, if the chareidim are a lost cause there may still be hope for the Reform (those who are really Jewish, at least)!

So, initially, I didn't see the post as relevant to my blog but...just this morning, a friend emailed me this anecdote. Aside that I got a real chuckle out of it, I thought the timing of it was apropos a day after I saw the E-V-E post.

Rabbi Harry's post began: First it was the Siddur. Now it is Kashrus.

What could possibly be next??? Well, here is the story of:

The President of the Reform Temple

The President of the Reform Temple, Saul Goldberg is greatly distraught and can not sleep nights. He decides to visit with the Rabbi of the temple, Rabbi Sally Johnson, and explain why he is so upset and to seek her advice.

"Rabbi," he explains, "as you know, I have been a loyal and devout member of the Reform Temple and movement all my life. Unfortunately, my daughters went against all my advice and married men that greatly upset me."

Rabbi Sally asks, "Really, Saul, how so ?"

"Well," Saul explains, "My first daughter became Modern Orthodox which as you know greatly upset me. But she married a medical doctor, and even though he was 100 percent Orthodox and they send their children to an Orthodox Yeshiva, at least, when its not Shabbat or a Jewish holiday he watches TV and he is a Mets fan like me. So I was upset , but at least I can somewhat handle it."

"My second daughter was tougher for me. She also became observant and married an Orthodox man. This guy had no college education at all but became a very wealthy diamond merchant. He also wears a long beard with payos with his tzitzit out with a big black hat and I am too embarrassed to introduce him to any of my liberal friends. But, I will say, he treats my daughter well and he does give her everything she wants, so I tolerate the situation."

Saul sighs, and Rabbi Sally asks, "Is the third daughter that tough to take?"

Saul replies, "Rabbi Sally, my third daughter went against all my Liberal thinking. She not only of course married an Orthodox Man and I have all Orthodox grandchildren, she married a Colonel in the Israeli Air Force who was known to assassinate, with great precision, the biggest leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah from the air. To make matters worse, Yisrael Beitenu may be drafting him as a candidate to run for Prime Minister after he finishes his Army career. All my liberal friends are upset at me and tell me he is killing an oppressed people."

Saul further explains, "The fact my daughter's family is very right wing and Orthodox makes it harder for me as my liberal friends remind me that it looks like Israel will all become Orthodox because of the birth rate!"

"Rabbi, How do I show my face at the Interfaith Council anymore ? Why are all my grandchildren Orthodox? Where did I go wrong?"

Rabbi Sally ponders in thought for a moment and asks:

"Did you check your Mezuzas?"


And a bit more plagiarism:

Who knows? Someday maybe – just maybe - there will be a massive return to Torah by vast numbers of Jews who will see the value of observance as more than just a means of self identification. Maybe they will embrace Judaism the way it should be embraced with complete observance to Torah and Mitzvos. - Rabbi Harry Maryles

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ohver L'Asiyasan

Somehow I got myself subscribed to a daily email post called "Daily Halacha"(I think somebody did it for me!) It seems to be a Spring Valley based service to be "mezakeh ess harabim". It is a pleasure to receive these emails and I recommend it to everyone who wants to assure themselves as "bnei olam habah" based on the well known midrash:

תנא דבי אליהו: כל השונה הלכות בכל יום מובטח שהוא בן עולם הבא.

You can subscribe to it at: dailyhalacha@aol.com

The current series of Halachos is on the subject of Chanuka and here is today's serving:

1610. The opinion of the Mishnah Brurah (really the Rema - YH) is that one should be careful to complete all the berachos before beginning to light the first ner because the beracha needs to be o'ver la'asiyoson (before the act of the mitzvah). However, other poskim disagree, and some have the minhag to say the second beracha while beginning to light. Shulchan Aruch with Mishnahh Brurah 676:1, Sefer Halichos Yosef 676:1

The issue that this halacha focuses upon is a component of Hilchos Berachos that we call "ohver l'asiyasan" which tells us that Berachos are to be made before one fulfills the deed that the beracha is consecrating. The best translation that I could get for the term "Ohver" l'asiyasan is "on the way to" doing the mitzvah.

We understand from this that we must recite a Beracha before a mitzvah is fulfilled. If the mitzvah is done, it is too late to recite the beracha.

But the question arises: at what point is it too late? Is it when the mitzvah is begun to be performed or is it okay to recite the beracha as long as the mitzvah is not totally completed?

Well, let's look at the Halacha quoted above. We note that it adds that there are those who only recite the second beracha after they begin to light (yours truly follows this opinion). Is this not a breech in ohver l'asiyasan?

And the easy answer is to say that there is a big difference between these two brachos. And this is that there are really two miutzvos involved with lighting Chanuka candles:

(1) Lighting the candles (הדלקה עושה מצוה ) and (2) Pirsumei nisa.

The first beracha applies to the lighting itself and so, to satisfy ohver l'asiyasan, it must be recited before we even begin to light. The second beracha is for the Pirsumei nisa. But, still, doesn't it also require "ohver l'asiyasan"? Don't you have to recite it before we even begin to perform the Pirsumei nisa?

According to the Rema, this does indeed seem to be the case. But the other poskim do not agree. Perhaps, their position is that the Pirsumei nisa is an ongoing mitzva and as long as it has not been completed, one may still recite the Beracha. The obvious ramification of this perspective is that in case one totally forgot to recite any Berachos and fully lit all the candles, he may still be allowed to recite the second Beracha as long as the Pirsumei nissa is in effect. Even 1/2 hour after he lit. Though, in this case, he most certainly will not be able to recite the first Beracha. It seems that even the Mishna berura agrees with this as he writes that if one forgot to recite the Berachos, he nonethelass can still recite the second Beracha.

We see a similar Halacha regarding the 4 minim on Sukkos. We all know the Halacha to initially hold the esrog in the wrong position and then to recite the Beracha on the 4 minim and then to rectify the esrog. This is because, technically, once one holds all 4 minim properly he has already fulfilled the mitzvah and if the Beracha has not yet been said, it would be a problem of ohver l'asiyasan.

Nevertheless, the Halacha states that if one neglected to recite the Beracha and took the minim in their proper position, he may still recite the Beracha as long as he has not yet completed the na'anuim. Here again we see that, b'diavad, one can recite a Beracha as long as the mitzvah has not been completed even though it has been fulfilled.

Now, it is not the main purpose of this blog to give Halacha shiurim. So why is this relevant?

It relates to a very interesting post which I posted over a year ago (October 2009 - click HERE) concerning what is widely known as the Nefesh B'Nefesh proposal. In the post, I embedded a video of a young Jewish man propsing to a young Jewish lady in public. For convenience, I will repost the video (note - the video may not be visible to email recipients):




After wishing the dear couple a hearty mazel tov, I went on to pose the question as to whether this proposal actually constitutes a valid Kiddushin d'oraysa. To date, I haven't been able to get a conclusive ruling. Some scholars think it meets the conditions of Even HaEzer 27:1,2 and she would be definitely mekudeshet. Others said that it meets the conditions of Even HaEzer 27:3 and she would be "safek mekudeshet". And there were some (clear minority) who wanted to maintain that she is not mekudeshet at all.

The obvious question at the time was: what difference does all this make?

And the most serious answer is: in the event that they do not go through with the marriage, would she require a get?

So now may be a good time to report that I did attempt to follow up a bit on this couple and from what I could discover, they are currently happily married (auf lange yahrin) and we can breathe easy.

But there were some other minor issues as I wrote then:

Now, assuming this radiant couple follows through to a typical marriage ceremony in the near future - and there is every indication from their enthusiasm that they will, IY"H, there are not many major ramifications to this question. The main issue is: should they conduct the erussin at the wedding with reciting the Birkat Erussin or not. If the erussin already took effect, it would be a bracha l'vatala. Another ramification is that according to many authorities (not all) the requirement for a married woman to cover her hair may already be in effect.


Now, the issue of covering hair can be put to rest because it is generally held that this obligation begins after the chuppa. But the issue of the Beracha is a little more tricky. Most people typically said that if it is only "safek mekudeshet" there are grounds to say that we could still make a Beracha but on the opinion that it is a fully valid kiddushin, it would be a Beracha l'vatala to make a second Beracha.

Indeed, Harav Ephraim Greenblatt from Memphis, Tenessee had recently made aliya and currently lives in Har Nof, and I asked him this question last year. He agreed that there would not be another Beracha and he brought down some source which, presently, I do not recall. And so, this is how I saw the Halacha...until about 3 weeks ago.

3 weeks ago was Parshat Chayei Sarah - shidduchim week - and I was attending the weekly Halacha shiur given by Rav Asher Zelig Weiss, Shlit"a. Harav Weiss based his shiur on the topic of performing a kiddushin by way of a proxy (shalich) and posed the question: if somebody makes a shaliach for kiddushin, who should make the Beracha (note - even though we don't practice it this way today, the obligation of the Beracha is on the one performing the mitzvah, i.e., the chosson).

There is no need to burden my readers with the intricities of the shiur, but he did bring down one opinion that was a tremendous chiddush. He said that this comes from the Teshuvos HaRivash.

Somewhere in his teshuva, the Rivash states that when one makes a kiddushin via a shalich, when the couple meet each other later on, he should redo the kiddushin with a Beracha!

The difficulty here is obvious. If the woman is already Halchically betrothed, how can one "do it again" and what can justify making another Beracha?

So Harav Weiss went on to suggest that the Rivash agreed with the Rif that the shaliach certainly can not recite the Beracha and since the chosson is not present, he cannot recite one either. As such, the kiddushin is effected without any Beracha at all. So why not make the Beracha after the kiddushin?

Well, we all know that we can't do that because a Beracha must be recited ohver l'assiyasan. Once the mitzvah is performed, it's too late.

But, here Harav Weiss wanted to suggest what we have said earlier. Even though l'chatchila the Beracha should be said before one begins the mitzvah, b'diavad, the Beracha can still be said as long as the mitzvah has not been completed. And so, he wanted to suggest that until the chuppa (nissuin) takes place, the kiddushin has not been completed. It may have the same status as taking a lulav but not yet doing the na'anuim or as the Beracha of SheAssah Nissim that we discussed here. Accordingly, as long the beracha has not been said at all, it can be said when the chosson does a "reenactment" before the chuppa.

Now, if this holds true, there is no reason not to apply it to our incident as well. And so, at least according to this opinion, it would appear that there is nothing wrong with making a belated Beracha at the "second" kiddushin even if the original kiddushin was 100% valid!

That said, I still want to leave my readers with the following Beracha:

May none of us ever need to make a kiddushin more than once.


ה' חפץ למען צדקו יגדיל תורה ויאדיר

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Divergence from the Womb

ושני לאמים ממעיך יפרדו

And two nations from your bowels (womb) will diverge...

Rashi explains: From your bowels (womb) they will be divergent; this one (Eisav) toward his wickedness and this one (Yaakov) toward his completeness.

Yaakov and Eisav were two very different characters and, as Rashi tells us, they were very different from the moment of conception.

But, what Rashi says to us seems to be going "against our grain". He indicates that Eisav was "born" to be wicked. As if it was pre-destined. And likewise, Yaakov was "born" to be righteous.

How do we reconcile this with our philosophy of "bechira"? Was Iyov right that every person's lot is dictated by his astronomical fortunes?

I don't think so. And I don't think this is what Rashi means either. Although Eisav could never be like Yaakov, I think he was very similar to Aharon HaCohen. And he could have been Aharon HaCohen. And he was meant to be Aharon HaCohen - the older brother who does the avoda while the younger brother (Moshe Rabenu/Yaakov) teaches the Torah.

He just passed up the chance.

To help us understand this, it may pay to do a little psychological analysis on the "divergence" between Yaakov and Eisav based on the principles of Carl Jung. And that's exactly what I did in a term paper about five years ago.

So, for all you Myers-Briggs buffs out there, I present:

Torah Perspective on MBTI Typology

Good Shabbos!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Remembering Choni HaMe'agel

חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין





May we merit a very peaceful - and rainy - winter!

Note to email recipients: If you cannot view the embedded video, it is available for viewing on my main blog site.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What It Means to Convert

I made a new pen pal today. I met him in the Talkback section of the Jerusalem Post. I have never met him personally and I don't know much about him but I know this much (assuming everything he writes is factual): He calls himself Eric and he lives in Israel. He is a born Jew and he has officiated at batei din for converts.

Thusfar, I shot the opening volley and he reacted to my comment. Currently, these both appear in the Talkback section of the relevant article. I responded to his reaction but, thusfar, it has not been posted online. The JP is painfully slow at posting comments (though not nearly as bad as Cross Currents). Perhaps he will continue the correspondence. We'll see. For now, let's rehash:

The Jerusalem Post article in question is titled: Converts Demand Hearing on Conversion Nullifications.

To summarize the article, 2 women are petitioning the High Court of Justice to force the Rabbinic court of Tel Aviv that reinstated their conversions to do more than that and to make a definitive ruling as to whether a Rabbinical court can annul a conversion in the first place.

Did I get that right?

Now, the opening paragraph of this article seems to indicate (note - much of the article is unclear) that at least one of the two women who are petitioning may be the very woman whose conversion was annulled by the dayan in Ashdod that triggered the whole ruckus in the first place.

Before we go on, it is very important to point out that, from what I remember reading 2-1/2 years ago when this controversy first erupted, that the nullification was based on the revelation that the "convert" in question was not observing any fundamental mitzvos of Judaism (i.e., Shabbos, Kashrut, Taharas HaMishpacha, etc.) and had not done so from day one of her "conversion". The annulment was not based on any of the real serious sins such as not keeping Rabenu Tam's zman, not insisting on Eidah Hachareidus Kashrut, 60+ denier stockings, or not being makpid on the Chavos Daas onah beinonis, (R"L). It was premised on the subject's neglect to observe anything at all. Zilch.

Keep this in mind. In fact, it was on this premise that I entered my comment in the Talkback section and here it is:



2. Silly Game

• Author: Chezkel • Country: Israel • 10/04/2010 11:55

This whole thing is just a silly game. For a conversion to be valid by Orthodox standards, the "convert" must observe the mitzvot by Orthodox standards. A convert who never begins to observe the mitzvot properly will never be accepted by the Orthodox community. Thus, if these "converts" wish to put the matter to rest, they must first commit to proper Torah observance. Then, it may be advisable to undergo a second conversion which should be a mere formality. Until then, forget it.


When I checked to see if the comment was posted (it took a few hours), there was also one or two responses. The more coherent one was from Eric and here is what he wrote:


4. To Chezkel

• Author: Eric • Country: Israel • 10/04/2010 16:34

Your words show you are likely a born Jew and don't understand what it means to convert. I too am a born Jew. However, I have also officiated at batei din for converts. I have seen first hand the emotional turmoil that is involved in the process. I have also seen first hand the intolerant bigots in the Orthodox world who hold converts to higher standards, saying for example that if they keep rabbanut kosher and not bedatz, they are not really Jewish. That's the problem -- whose standards should be applied? Yours? The rabbinate? The Neturei Karta? The state has laws and they need to be applied.

As I wrote earlier, I responded to this comment online. If the comment appears in the JP before I print this post, I will try to include it here.

There is an innate problem with JP Talkbacks in that there is a limit of 600 characters (okay, okay, it's more of a solution than a problem) and this does hamper one's ability to express themselves fully. As such, and as I have done numerous times in the past, I have ventured to move the dialog from the comments field into my own forum for home field advantage. Hence, I wish to offer a more elaborate response to Dayan Eric's comment.

>>Your words show you are likely a born Jew

True, indeed. Where did I give myself away?

>>and don't understand what it means to convert.

Now I need to get serious. The words that I bolded have an ambiguous connotation. (1) The way I initially understood the words: I don't understand the meaning of conversion. (2) What I think Eric really meant: I don't understand what the process of conversion means - or, more accurately, entails - for the one who is doing the converting.

From Eric's ensuing words: I have seen first hand the emotional turmoil that is involved in the process. It is fairly clear that his intention was connotation #2.

>>I have also seen first hand the intolerant bigots in the Orthodox world who hold converts to higher standards, saying for example that if they keep rabbanut kosher and not bedatz, they are not really Jewish.

Here, I am a bit confused. Is Eric referring to Dayanei Giur who are intolerant bigots or to just a bunch of laymen who are intolerant bigots but are not in the business of converting anybody (kind of like an armchair quaterback)?? I will deal with this issue of bigotry in due time, but for now, let's move on.

Hereupon, Eric asks the $64,000 question:

>>That's the problem -- whose standards should be applied? Yours? The rabbinate? The Neturei Karta?

And here is the $64,000,000,000,000,000 answer:

G-d's standards!!

And what might those be?

To answer this question, let us go back to Eric's ambiguous statement and take it both ways.

>>don't understand what it means to convert...

We'll start with connotation #1. What does it mean to convert? To convert means to change over from one state of being to another. When it comes to converting to Judaism, it means to change over from being non-Jewish to being Jewish.

So, basically "what it means to convert" in connotation 1 is really: what it means to be Jewish!

And what does it mean to be Jewish?

It means forging a covenant - a briss. But not a physical briss. The physical briss is a physical gesture to symbolize that one has made a spiritual commitment. And if one has not made the corresponding spiritual commitment, the physical briss is as Jewish as Mohammed's.

And what is the spiritual briss, the covenant? It is the acceptance and commitment to one 2-sided concept:

Anochi Hashem Elokecha and Lo Yihiye Lecha elohim acherim.

That is, Judaism is the commitment to observe Anochi Hashem Elokecha and the commitment to shun any form of elohim acherim.

That's the whole deal. Netto!

Now, all of the positive mitzvos that we do are physical manifestations of Anochi Hashem Elokecha just like the physical briss that every male Jew and true convert must undertake. Both the briss and the mitzvos are merely symbolic of a spiritual commitment of the soul. Likewise, all of the negative commandments (transgressions) are physical enactments of Lo Yihiye Lecha.

And if you do not accept upon yourself any positive mitzva, you have not accepted upon yourself Anochi Hashem Elokecha. And if you have not committed yourself to abstain from any negative mitzva (transgression) you have not abstained from "elohim acheirim".

And you have not accepted Judaism.

The Maharsha says all of this at the end of Masechet Makkos.

What is the most central and meaningful incantation of a Jew?

It is the pasuk: Shema Yisroel - Hear all of Israel, all Jews - Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad!

Do you know what Hashem Elokeinu means?

It means Anochi Hashem Elokecha!

Do you know what Hashem Echad means?

It means Lo Yihiye Lecha elohim acherim al panai!

The Mishna Berura (Chofetz Chaim) in Orach Chaim 61 s"k 2 says this based on the Talmud Yerushalmi in Berachos.

So what do we know?

Anochi Hashem = Hashem Elokeinu; Lo Yihiye Lecha = Hashem Echad.

Now, G-d tells us in Vayikra 26 that Im Bechukosai telechu v'es mitzvosai tishmoru - if you go in my ways and do my mitzvos - things will be pretty rosy.

What is "doing my mitzvos"? It's Anochi Hashem (remember the Maharsha?)

G-d also tells us - V'im bechusai timasu...l'bilti assos - if you detest my ways and refrain from doing... l'hafrichem - to transgress... things will get a bit chaotic.

What is "l'hafrichem - to transgress"? That's right, it's Lo Yihiye lecha (Maharsha again!)

L'Hafrichem is the ticket to gehinnom in this world and the next.

This is G-d talking. Not Ashdod's municipal rabbi and not Rabbi Avraham Sherman.

So what do we see now?

Judaism = Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiye

Anochi Hashem = Hashem Elokeinu = Im B'Chukosai telechu = One Above = ticket to paradise (in both worlds)

Lo Yihiye lecha = Hashem Echad = V'Im Bechukosai Timasu = Seven Below = ticket to purgatory

Thus Judaism = the magic chemical compound Xd20Lv26D6 (Exodus 20: Anochi and Lo Yihiye; Leviticus 26: Im Bechukosai Telechu/Timasu; Deuteronomy 6: Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad).

Yechezkel Hirshman says this all over his book (but mainly in Chapter 6).

This is the formula for being Jewish. This is the meaning of the covenant - the briss - that one must undertake in order to be Jewish. And if one who was not fortunate enough to be born Jewish does not accept and adhere to this covenant (the same way the "born" Jews did at Mount Sinai), he or she has not become Jewish.

Now, let us address connotation #2: what it means to convert - meaning, what the potential convert must endure.

Eric tells me that: "I have seen first hand the emotional turmoil that is involved in the process."

Why is there such emotional turmoil? The answer is that many if not most of the potential geirim are not taught this essential truth of the primacy of Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiye Lecha (and they don't read my book). Sometimes the fault lies with the teacher and sometimes with the student. But the potential convert is assaulted by a plethora of unequivocal dissertations of what Judaism is "all about' which tend to reflect everybody's opinion except G-d's.

Listen to G-d. He says "Anochi Hashem" and He says "Lo Yihiye Lecha". And take respite from your turmoil.

And it is now time to address Eric's statement about "the intolerant bigots in the Orthodox world who hold converts to higher standards".

Now, I wrote about this at length more than 2 years ago in a post (well worth reading) titled: Just Because We Are Xenophobic Doesn't Mean that We Hate Geirim! And it seems like some of the main points bear repeating.

You see, as I wrote above, Judaism is the observance of Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiye Lecha. But it boils down to Im Bechukosai telechu - life will be great and we will merit eternal paradise. This much is cool. But it also comes with V'Im bechukosai timasu - we will live a life of happenstance and keri and earn the hot seat in the next world. This part is anything but "cool".

Here is some of what I wrote then:

What all this is saying is that Judaism is no benign game. Depending on how it's played it is either Bracha or Kelala; Chaim or Maves; Anochi Hashem or Lo Yihiyeh Lecha; One Above (Im Bechukosai Telechu) or Seven Below (V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu).

Get it?

Every Jew's purpose in life is to fulfill Anochi Hashem and Im Bechukosai Telechu and hang around the One Above camp. If he is transgressing on Lo Yihiyeh Lecha and is stuck at V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu and is populating the Seven Below camp, he is doing a harmful disservice to himself and to all of Klal Yisrael.

This certainly applies to a full born Jew; but, when I say "Every Jew", I mean every Jew.

For someone who was not born Jewish, this applies at least as much - so why should he want to become Jewish if it is just to spend his life in the Seven Below camp and live a life of keri? And why should the Jewish people want to accept a non-Jew who is only knocking on the door of the Seven Below camp?

One who stations himself in the Seven Below camp brings chance misfortune on the Jewish people, chance misfortune upon the world and chance misfortune upon himself. It brings klalah and maves.

Many of us are under the impression that a convert who sacrificed for Judaism will merit exemplary reward for his keeping of Torah and mitzvot - more than that of a regular Jew who received it as "an inheritance". I also assume that this is the case.

But be aware that Judaism is a two-way street!!

If it is true that a convert will receive a more splendid reward for observing Torah because no one forced him to be "Im Bechukosai Telechu" and he is doing it on his own initiative, then it is imperative that if he violates the Torah, he will receive a much harsher retribution because no one asked him to be "V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu" and he is doing it on his own initiative.

What all this is saying is that geirus is a very very dangerous game. One who truly becomes Jewish and then goes on to live a life of Lo Yihiye and V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu (keri) has basically done himself in. It is not an act of kindness to accept non-observers into Judaism to their eternal detriment. One who does not join Judaism at the Anochi Hashem level, at the Im Bechukosai Teleichu level, at the One Above level is much better off not being Jewish.

Rabbi Chaim Druckman doesn't understand this. and my pen pal Dayan Eric doesn't understand it. But those "intolerant bigots" understand it. They care more for the ger than any of these clowns and they tell them in no uncertain terms: If you are not going to play the game properly, don't destroy yourself. Better not to play the game at all. You can merit Olam Habah with just following the Noachide laws. Why become Jewish to inherit gehinnom?

These "intolerant bigots" know what's best for you.

And don't take it from me. Take it from Rabbi Tovia Singer, a fine upstanding caring intolerant bigot who expresses this very sentiment on the Singer and Gimpel Show Broadcast Live from the Temple Mount on Arutz Sheva (Sept 3, 2009).

Finally Eric states: The state has laws and they need to be applied.

Ah, yes. Since we cannot agree on the proper Halachic standards, we need to apply the secular standards of the State!!

Call me an intolerant bigot, but as long as the State's standards are his yardstick, I cannot acknowledge Dayan Eric's geirim as Jewish.

Write again soon, Eric.

Your pal,

Chezkel

Post Script:
The Jerusalem Post never did post my responding comment to Eric and, thus, our correspondence came to an abrupt halt. I am a bit puzzled about this since my comment was very relevant to the subject and not extreme in any way. Perhaps the JPost Web editor was lazing on the job.
I did not save a copy of the comment but it basically said, as I mentioned in this post, that the issue is not which level of Orthodox standards to insist upon (Yours? The rabbinate? The Neturei Karta?...) since the cases at hand involve "converts" who are not practicing Orthodox standards at any level at all.