emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geula

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Red Alert!

On Motzoi Shabbos Parshas Eikev, Rabbi Lazer Brody posted the following news update on his LazerBeams blog:

My beloved city of Ashdod has been under siege this morning.

The first Red Alert siren was at 5:45 AM - we could here two muffled explosions from about a mile outside of town in an open area.

The second Red Alert was at 7:45 AM; I was praying Shacharit with the Melitzer Rebbe's minyan. Again, we heard another muffled explosion from about a mile outside of town, once more in an open area.

The third Red Alert was at 8:14 AM; this time we heard two strong explosions and a third which made the floor shudder. The second explosion was a GRAD missile that landed about 800 meters from my home in the courtyard of the "Lev Simcha" Gerrer Yeshiva. At this time, we know of two very seriously injured and 8 more with light shrapnel wounds. The third was a miracle - a GRAD rocket that went through the roof of a Gerrer Synagogue and crashed through the floor in the middle of morning prayers, but didn't explode! The magnitude of this miracle is mind-boggling - one shudders to think what would have happened if it had exploded."
For those living in the environs of Israel’s southern coastal plain, a Red Alert is not to be trifled with. When the sirens go off everyone goes to a shelter without being told.

An obvious no-brainer, is it not?

The truth is that the odds of the rocket hurting anyone in general are statistically low, while the odds of any specific person suffering an injury or worse are beyond extremely low.  Nevertheless, anyone with an ounce of sense seeks a place of safety.

So if it’s all a matter of common sense then how come so few of us run for shelter when the shofar sounds the Red Alert of Elul? 

And we’re not talking statistical probabilities here.  The Red Alert of Elul is all about the 100% life and death certainty of the Yom HaDin.  And yet, the stampede heading for cover toward Hashem’s gift of Teshuva is somewhat less than life threatening.

From this we learn that common sense is not all that common nor is it always sensible.

The give and take of our daily existence has been something of rocky road as of late.  Tragic murders committed by our own, terrorist murders committed by the usual suspects, the placement of what was once the world’s richest and greatest country on a road leading to a Third World existence, and a seemingly unending spectacle of the Ribbono Shel Olam’s koach as manifested in “Nature” all over the world, including a local appearance in the form of an earthquake, with the serious possibility of a devastating hurricane following in its wake only 72 hours down the road, have all taken a toll on our equilibrium.

In EmunahSpeak: Now We Know,  we said in response to the murder of little Leiby Kletzky, a"h:

Everyone seems to be in agreement with the suggestion that we should all take on something, be it increased tzeddakah, a commitment to work on a given middah, Shimiras HaLoshon or anything else that will strengthen our Yiddishkeit." 

To that we added the following:

“Maybe we should be taking on two somethings rather than one.  The first, which is reactive to the potch, conveys our understanding that Hashem is very upset with us, our present confusion as to the details notwithstanding.

That second something is proactive and carries a simple message:

Please, Hashem, let there be no next time.”

In light of all the tragedies that have both subsequently befallen us and are presently hovering over us (Hashem should protect us) coupled with the very unraveling of the secure world we have known these past sixty plus years, “taking on something”  doesn’t quite hack it anymore.

Events have moved so rapidly that even the suggestion to take on “two somethings,” a suggestion which I thought was a big deal at the time (merely a month ago) doesn’t come close to addressing our predicament as it presently exists at street level.

The days where we could throw Hashem a bone so to speak and go about our business are over.

On Tisha B’Av I was zoche to hear Rabbi Paysach Krohn say something that can be applied to the situation at hand.  He said, "that there are no "one size fits all" solutions to what we lack as a community.  Rather, everyone has a unique knowledge of oneself and knows exactly what he or she needs to work on."

Sometimes the simplest things are in reality the most profound.

The Red Alert of Elul speaks to our heart not our ears, and given the tenor of the times in which we live, it requires each of us to put more than a little “something” on the table.  Taking our cue from Rabbi Krohn we all have to look within ourselves with laser like penetration at everything, not just something, and then take on as much as we can handle, each and everyone according to his strength of character.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sanctified Banality

Reflections on the DIVINE Dialogue

We began EmunahSpeak: The King and I with:

We are exhorted that our davening should not be an attempt to trigger a voice activated ATM machine.  On the other hand, we are told with equal authority that we should ask Hashem for everything, even a paperclip or a tissue.”

And ended with:

“All you have to do is ask, and you shouldn’t be bashful about it either.”

While we spoke there about what to daven for and why we should be davening, we didn’t dig too deeply into the why of the what, or simply put, why should we be asking for this stuff to begin with?

Which stuff?

Not the big stuff, to be sure.  We don’t have to ask why we should be asking for big things because we understand our taivas all too well for such a question.

Query:  What do bleach, baby wipes, napkins, salt, toothpaste, bottled water, toilet paper, pampers, soap, and plastic cups have in common?

For our purposes they are shopping list chevra, and boring ones at that.  So much so, that one would be hard pressed to conjure up a more banal representation of American consumerism, and yet these very humdrum everyday household items leave the realm of the physical and morph into the metaphysical when they are removed from the Costco shopping list and inserted into the tefillah because even the mundane things we ask for in the bakoshas are infused with kedusha.

This is the kind of stuff that gets Hashem’s attention, and the reason we are called upon to ask for it is because it is Hashem’s Will that we should be 100% dependent upon Him, which means that everything we think we need we have to ask for in tefillah if we want to get it through the proper channels.  The flip side of His Will that we should be 100% dependent on Him is that nothing works unless we daven for it.

It’s like a ruchniyess version of easy come easy go.

If you didn’t daven for something that came your way, what you see is what you get.  Think of it as Heavenly sent grey market goods that will end up somewhat south of the expected shelf life however one wants to define that.

The things that come to us by way of davening, however, have staying power because they come through the proper channels.  They were sanctified from the get go just for the asking.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"We’re Out of Stock"

Despite the plethora of columns and reader responses in heimishe publications seeking to identify the cause of the shidduchim crises, we are “cause wise” still collectively empty handed.  And what’s worse is that we have made Hashem part of the problem.

When a column carries a title something like: Too Many Girls and Not Enough Boys, we would suspect the writer of not having the proper Torah hashkafa if we didn’t already know that he was an erliche yid and a Ben Torah.

When we state that there are too many girls are we not in fact saying that Hashem messed up even if we don’t mean it as such?  Is there even one amongst us who would claim that Hashem made even one girl too many or one boy less than the perfect number? 

The whole demographic argument falls of its own weight because it simply isn’t Jewish.  Even if the numbers are correct, they are meaningless because this is not about a census in the Midbar.  We are talking shidduchim here which means nissim, not teva, and there is therefore no causal link between those dry numbers and the fact that there are many girls without a proper shidduch.

Okay, so Hashem can count, but we are also told that there is a problem because boys tend to marry girls that are several years younger than themselves.  The Gemara states openly that girls marry earlier than boys but omits any discussion of a shidduchim crisis.

And what are we to make of the maimorei Chazal that say that Hashem busies Himself making shidduchim and that making shidduchim is as hard as Krias Yam Suf?  Nice vertlach to say over at a sheva brochos?  Chazal use the language of nissim because shidduchim are a function of nissim.  In the same way that one should not count one’s money if not necessary so as to allow an opportunity for Hashem’s brocha to rest on it, we should not get too involved with the “numbers” vis á vis shidduchim so as to allow Hashem wiggle room to make it work out despite the numbers.  If we insist on running the numbers then Hashem will leave us to our own resources, and as the demographers tell us ad nauseum, the numbers don’t compute.

Moreover, if we buy the demography argument we can’t have it both ways.  If we are locked into the numbers in relation to all of the twenty-three year old boys marrying girls several years younger, what words of encouragement will we be able to give to the hundreds of girls above the age of twenty-five who are seeking a shidduch?  Sing them the siren song of Siata D’shmaya?  According to the numbers their marriage prospects are toast, plain and simple.

No, it’s not about numbers, and it’s not about money either.

The money argument is an effect of whatever is causing the supply/demand imbalance, not a cause.  If there were “too many boys” chasing fewer girls, the boys in question wouldn’t have the leverage to make the demands that are being made in some circles.  It’s only because there are fewer good boys (shvaker bochurim are not presumed to be in a position to make demands) due to a yet to be determined reason, that such demands are able to be made.

The smoothing out of the present imbalance will take some time, possibly a generation, hopefully less, assuming that we focus on the real problem, and not the sideshows like demographics and money issues.  Small comfort indeed to those girls who are looking for a shidduch today.

While attempts are being made to deal with the problem in the short term, most of these are simply stop gap measures that remove the problem from one girl and place it on another.  Whether we are talking about giving financial incentives to shadchonim or encouraging boys to marry older girls, if the boy in question would have gotten married in any case then we have only exchanged one girl for another with no net gain.  If a twenty-three year old boy marries a twenty-four year old girl instead of twenty-one year old girl that he otherwise might have been expected to marry, then that twenty-one year old girl may well be one day a twenty-four year old girl in need of a shidduch.  But with that said, even if in numerical terms these measures are a wash, they may be beneficial nonetheless because they target the girls that are most at risk of never finding a proper shidduch.

So how do we achieve a net gain?

With men at a premium, every man who never marries is a double tragedy, both for himself and for the unnamed girl that will never marry.  There are frum men, many of them Bnei Torah who make decent livings and, if given the chance would make fine husbands, and yet most of those who aren’t married by forty will never marry.

Why is no one talking about these people?

In our collective angst about the shidduchim crisis as it affects girls we have forgotten that there are hundreds of men similarly situated who would like to get married but can’t find a shidduch. 

Forget about those who have serious life issues.  We are talking here about normal men who simply gave up over time and became old, and most women would rather not marry at all than share married life with someone that doesn’t meet a minimal threshold of physical attractiveness however that may be defined in each case.

I personally know several such men in their forties and fifties who I also knew back in their twenties, and there was nothing wrong with them.  The worst that could be said about them then was that they may have been on the shy side.

What a waste.

The only thing keeping many of these men away from the chuppah is that they don’t feel like men and don’t carry themselves like men.  What they need is not yet another fruitless singles weekend or the name of a shaddchan who will want nothing to do with them.

They need a heimishe form of boot camp.

For some it’s already too late, but not for most.  Anyone who is otherwise normal, who will gird himself and commit to a serious regimen of physical training appropriate to his circumstances for three to six months, can be married within a year.  They will lose that “old” look and become younger again. They will feel better both physically and emotionally and regain long lost self esteem.  And the girls will react accordingly.  Although some physical fitness programs have already been set up, those with the greatest need, shidduchim wise, lack the necessary motivation to participate.

And as far as the below thirty group of unmarried girls is concerned, the amelioration of their situation will have to come from elsewhere.  I know a very bright girl out of town whose dream was to marry a Talmud Chochim who would learn in kollel many years.  When she wasn’t married by age thirty or so she married a working guy who was not much of a learner.  She basically gave up on her entire dream except for one thing.  Her husband’s hashkafa was rock solid and he agreed to give her a free hand with the children.   Moreover, he wanted each of his yet to be born sons to be the serious Ben Torah that he himself never was.  This girl gave up on the dream of marrying a Talmud Chochim for the opportunity to raise numerous Talmedei Chochimim.

The tragedy here is not that a very bright and serious Bas Torah had to marry beneath her station in life.  The tragedy, as such, is that there are not enough girls who think this way and boys like this to go around.

So if it’s not about numbers and not about money then why are hundreds of above average girls who were raised to marry Bnei Torah davening their hearts out into tear stained siddurim and tehillims without a shidduch in sight?  And to bang one more nail into the demographic coffin, most, if not all of these girls have gone on shidduchim, some of them numerous times, and more times than not they were the ones to say no, their desperation for a shidduch not withstanding. 

Reb Aharon Kotler z"l has been quoted as saying that if not for Rebbitzen Kaplan and her Bais Yaakov there could never have been a Lakewood Kollel.  From the vantage point of fifty years of hindsight viewed within the context of the current shidduch crisis, Reb Aharon’s statement is somewhat of an understatement.

Bais Yaakov in the United States and Canada has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations in inculcating into our daughters the desire to live within the framework of a Torah lifestyle.  For many girls a Torah lifestyle has come to mean marrying a serious Ben Torah who wants to learn in kollel for a number of years. 

In her thirteen years or so in Bais Yaakov, even an average girl can be transformed into a Bas Torah who can think of nothing better than building a life with a Ben Torah.  No one tells her that it has to be this way.  It’s simply a natural manifestation of a mindset that has matured at an even pace from nursery until twelfth grade with seminary being simply the makeh b’patish.

A Bais Yaakov girl whose dream is to marry a Ben Torah has paid in advance by dedicating her youth to becoming a Bas Torah worthy of her dream, and in many cases that decision is made by Bas Mitzvah, if not before.  So what happens to so many of these girls?

It goes something like this:

“Hi, I’m here to claim my chosson.”
“What chosson?”

“You know.  The one I lived my whole life for.”

“Sorry, we’re out of stock.“

“We’re out of stock” is the leitmotif of the shidduchim crisis for all too many of our very best girls. 

The reason that there are so many of the finest girls of all ages not married is that Bais Yaakov as a whole has done a significantly better job than the Yeshivas.  Simply put, the Yeshivas haven’t produced enough serious Bnei Torah with good heads to marry all of the girls who are worthy to marry such boys, and therein lies a good piece of the shidduchim crisis as it impacts on many of our girls. Or as a prominent Rosh HaYeshiva told me, “It’s not that Bais Yaakov has done a better job than the Yeshivas, but rather that it’s much easier to produce a frum Bais Yaakov girl with a 99 average than a Talmud Chochim.  Either way the result is the same.

“We’re out of stock.”

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Satan Double Dips

The Satan comes to Boro Park (part 2)
or why we are still here in Golus (part 1)
The Satan came to Boro Park a few weeks back, wreaked his havoc, and then moved off to the side to calculate his profit amidst all of the tumult that enveloped Boro Park and beyond.  First there was the massive manhunt for Leiby Kletzky, a”h and then the multiplicity of activities attendant to the levaya and shiva in which thousands took part.

And as the Satan was making his cheshbon, he took proper note of the outpouring of chesed from all sides and shrugged.

“Cost of doing business,” he mused to himself.

The Satan in the guise of the Yetzer Hora is a not non-profit operation.  He’s a businessman of the old school, and as such he doesn’t take kindly to losses. So he picks his fights, with chesed, especially communal chesed, being very close to off his screen.

Why so?

Did you ever notice that while we have a real problem making serious headway in inyonim such as tznius, shmiras haloshon, and achdus, to mention but a few of the war zones in which the Yetzer Hora battles us day and night without respite, when it comes to chesed we are pretty much free to do what we want with only minimal push back from him?

Be it Tomchei Shabbos, Hatzalah, Zaka, Misaskim, Satmar Bikur Cholim, all of the other bikur cholims, all of the hundreds of other chesed organizations, or the innumerable acts of chesed that we perform one to another on a daily and personal basis, the Yetzer usually does no more than put in a perfunctory appearance.  While it is certainly true that a tremendous amount of mesiras nefesh is required and the money doesn’t always come easy, at the end of the day the job almost always gets done, and more often than not great things are accomplished.

A good businessman knows his customers, and given his status as the ultimate businessman, the Yetzer knows his customers best of all.

In Michtav Me’Eliyahu, Rav Dessler states our free will is only operative at the point where the forces pulling us in opposite directions (Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Hora) are evenly matched.  That’s our bechira point.  And that point is not fixed.  As we improve ourselves it moves up, and if we, chas v’shalom deteriorate, it moves down.  Above that point, the Yetzer Hora is too strong for us and below it it’s too weak.  At either extreme there is no challenge.  

In the realm of chesed the Yetzer knows full well that we are hard wired with this quality and it is encoded on our DNA, so much so that even the Arabs, who have inherited a measure of this trait, cannot shake it off in spite of their other natural tendencies.  It’s almost as if we begin life with the middah of chesed genetically placed well below our bechira point, and that’s why the Yetzer “looks the other way,” so to speak because on a communal level it simply doesn’t pas for Yidden not to do chesed.  And good businessman that he is, he knows a losing proposition when he sees one.

So the Satan shrugged off all the chesed, but as he was packing up to leave he heard someone say achdus, and then another, and then another.

He froze in place.

In the world of the Satan achdus means trouble.  It’s the trip wire that will set off the inevitable arrival of Moshiach speedily in our days, which will in turn render the Satan an unpleasant memory.  Achdus is the Satan’s ultimate nightmare, and as such, he opposes it with everything he has.  And he gets some help along the way because unlike chesed, achdus doesn’t come pre-installed.  It is hate that comes easy says Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, whereas peace is unnatural.  Between the Satan and our natural tendencies, is it any wonder that achdus is one huge speed bump?

So now with his euphoria of the past few days considerably subdued, the Satan decided to hang around to see what all of this achdus talk was about.

He needn’t have worried.

Upon investigation the Satan realized that all the buzz about achdus was actually nothing more than an innocent mislabeling of what in reality was the multitude of chesed, Ahavas Yisroel, mesiras nefesh, and kiddush Hashem that had manifested itself during his stay in Boro Park.

After all, how could it be otherwise?  With the Satan laying low at this point, there wasn't enough bechira to go around to meet the test required of real achdus.

The Satan’s sigh of relief was palpable as he slowly and audibly exhaled.

“If they’re calling this achdus, he reasoned, they won’t bother to look further.”

And then he smiled a smile that would do the Cheshire Cat proud, slammed his suitcase shut and strode out of town with a spring in his step.

The Satan’s Achdus

 or why we are still here in Golus a (part 2)

When our Rabbis admonish us as regards our lack of achdus they are not referring to the touchy feely variety that was on display in Boro Park at the time of the Leiby Kletzky, a"h tragedy.  They are talking about an achdus that can only be achieved by first withstanding a firestorm of vitriol emanating from the Yetzer Hora.  The existence of such an achdus draws a bull’s-eye around the Satan and then proceeds to hit it.  This is the "Satan's achdus."

Given the sensitive nature of the misfortune that overtook Boro Park it is imperative that there should be no misunderstandings.  To that end it should be unequivocally stated that there was nothing in the reaction of both the community and those that came in from elsewhere that was anything less than Kiddush Shaim Shomayim, period.  There was most certainly no lack of achdus.

The reason that the achdus that obtained in Boro Park was not of the variety that keeps the Satan up at night has nothing at all to do with what the people did or did not do.  It was simply impossible for the “Satan’s achdus” to exist in such an environment.

The “Satan’s achdus” is about getting out of our comfort zone.  If you would like your longing for Moshiach to be morphed into tachlis speedily in your days there needs to be achdus, and to achieve achdus you have to be uncomfortable at least once in your life.  And if you can’t handle the discomfort that is the handmaiden of the “Satan’s achdus” then how are you going to dance through the raindrops of the tribulations of Geula?

The seeds of what could grow into the “Satan’s achdus” are not scattered to the four winds.  They are selectively sown.  In any situation in which you wouldn’t reflexively demonstrate a feeling of achdus the Yetzer Hora is all over you relentlessly justifying your hesitation.  Any attempt at real achdus has to have the staying power to weather the long march through our worst instincts.

And that’s why the “achdus” in Boro Park was achdus lite.  There was no push back; no whispering in the ears of the thousands who were doing what needed to be done that maybe they shouldn’t be doing it. 

And why should there be? 

Before us was the image of an innocent child, an exemplary family, and a horrific crime which was no less a blow against all of us.  We were all on the same page and in the same comfort zone.  In that environment, as far as the “Satan’s achdus” was concerned, Rav Dessler’s bechira point, which we spoke of in Part 1, was nowhere to be seen.

In that sense, the levaya for the Fogel family, a”h was no different.  For the overwhelming majority of the 30,000 Jews who attended there was also no push back from the Yetzer.  And why should there be?  Once again we are talking about innocent souls, an exemplary family and a hideous crime that was no less a blow against all of us.  As to those 30,000 it was also achdus lite.

The “Satan’s achdus,” on the other hand, is all about the mindset of those who were conspicuous in their absence.  Unfortunately, this seems to be an equal opportunity failing that plagues every sector of Torah Jewry.  The Fogel tragedy is singled out only because the emotional pain that we all felt is still tangible to many.  Had the family been representative of a different “camp,” the majority of the 30,000 who showed up this time more likely than not would have been missing in action.

Any situation in which the Yetzer Hora is trying to dissuade us from making common cause with a fellow Jew is usually grist for the Satan's achdus mill.  And if we can’t pass that test by getting past our differences in life then we have no choice but to do so in death.

But alas, as it turns out, we do have a choice and we consistently choose poorly.  When confronted with a tragedy that lies outside our comfort zone, which is the real test of the "Satan's achdus," we invariably fail.

As we said in EmunahSpeak: Nu?:

“In the way we deal with others Hashem deals with us.  When we ask Hashem to send us Moshiach when we don’t deserve it are we not asking for the ultimate chesed that He could do for us?  And isn’t the ultimate chesed on our part a chesed shel emes?

And yet, when a family of Torah Jews is slaughtered in their beds or eight Yeshiva bochurim are gunned down in their Yeshiva we seem to be incapable of stepping outside of our label saturated existence long enough to attend the funeral."

Give a look at the photos of the levayas of the various disasters which have befallen us in the last few years.  In every one, the pictures of the broken family members and friends are a study in grief and pain.  It seems that we have the routine down pat when dealing with our own.

The path to Moshiach, which is in no small measure the path of achdus, will only be trod by transforming the grief, emoted in the comfort zone of our chevra, from a proprietary emotion to one that encompasses the entire Klal without dulling that emotional edge.

The greatest gedolim of all generations were capable of this because of their great Ahavas Yisroel.  Their greatness, of course, was in the fact that they were on this level with Jews who were alive.  All we have to do is to learn how to properly mourn those that are dead.

When a jarring loss comes upon Klal Yisroel the Shechina suffers.  That suffering is in no way circumscribed by our indifference.  The ultimate test of achdus in such a situation is to make the Shechina’s pain our pain.

But we don’t.

Instead, we sit passively in our comfort zone while the Yetzer Hora validates our worst prejudices. 

There is one question that runs like a common thread throughout all of the levayas in which there was an inherent potential to successfully withstand the test of the “Satan’s achdus,” and that is…

Where were we?

If we only knew how the “pictures” of the Fogel levaya are being endlessly scrutinized in Shomayim for some hint of achdus we would give away all of our possessions to have ourselves digitally inserted.

It all comes down to this:

If you had been in the vicinity of Har Menuchas on the day that the murdered Fogel family members were being laid to rest, or in the close proximity of any other levaya, concerning which the Yetzer was squeezing you something fierce, and you BLINKED and then muttered something, almost inaudibly, under your breath like “yene chevra,” and then went about your business, then MAZEL TOV!  You are privileged to know why Moshiach has yet to put in an appearance. 

The rest of us can only guess.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Great Tikkun

reflections on korban Aza/Tisha B’Av 5765

In the aftermath of the effacing of everything Jewish from Gaza, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral, and in the run up to what , chas v’shalom, could be déjà vu in the Shomron and Yehuda, those who can be broadly described as being aligned with Religious Zionism are, emotionally speaking, hurting something fierce.  Their collective catharsis has brought many to question their leadership, others their dreams, and even a few, their Yiddishkeit, r”l.

The implosion of Zionism is a de facto reality of several years standing that has been acknowledged both from within and without.  And this coupled with the acute sense of ideological despair that has torn the Gazan refugees and their fellow travelers away from their philosophical moorings creates a pessach for something that hitherto would have been unthinkable.

These Jews, and many of them are truly holy Jews, as the Chofetz Chaim would have understood that term, have an opportunity to mesakin (fix) the aveira that was inherent in the 106 or so year run of official Zionism.

No, we’re not talking about the State as such.  The right or wrong of a state was settled, at least from the aveira point of view when the nations of the world, as represented by the United Nations, voted for partition thereby giving the Jewish People, as misrepresented by the Jewish Agency, the green light.

From Mattan Torah until the First Zionist Congress in 1897 the Rabbonim, with few exceptions, spoke for the Jewish People, and even those exceptions for the most part called themselves rabbis.  But by 1912, when Agudath Yisroel first met in Kattowice to respond to the challenge of Zionism, the masses in the Russian Empire and the Yishuv already belonged to Jabotinsky.

It took the Zionist Movement less than fifteen years to interpose itself between much of Eastern European Jewry and the Daas Torah of the Gedolai HaTorah.  Once that breach was made, every ism worthy of a place in Gehennom burst forth to further attenuate the bond between the Gedolai HaTorah and Klal Yisroel.

This is the original sin of Zionism.

Just prior to the forcible eviction of the Jews from Gush Katif and its sister communities, in those last few hours allotted to the Tekufa of Zionism, it was reported that some of the Gush leadership met with Rav Elyashiv to ask him for a brocho that they would be matzliach in their endeavors to remain in Gaza.

At least they had the right address.

Had they asked the right question they could have set off a revolution instead of almost igniting a civil war.

What they said in effect was this: We have assessed the situation, and there is no possibility that the correct plan of action should be anything other than the course we have set upon.  We would like your blessing that all of our plans should come to fruition just as we have worked them out…

…instead of this:  The government has given us until August 15th to vacate our communities.  What does the Rav advise that we should do?

Given the predilection of the post-Zionist government of Israel to view Eretz HaKedosha as if it were Uganda, those who purport to speak in the name of what was once known as Religious Zionism may well get a second chance to get it right if round two, chas v’shalom, ever puts in an appearance.

If they ask:  What does the Rav advise that we should do, and then mekabel the psak, and follow through on it, the very foundations of what is left of the State of Israel will shake as we begin the long march back to the status quo ante that obtained prior to 1897.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Drumming One’s Way To Brisk

Limud HaTorah has, Boruch Hashem, come a long way in America.  So much so that the Kol Torah emanating from the American yeshivas brings back memories to those who merited to learn in pre-war Europe.

But what about the sound effects?

What, exactly, is the origin of much of the noise that intrudes into the cacophony of voices that blend into a Kol Torah?  Read the word noise as a catch phrase for the various types of drumming that sometimes assaults the sensibilities and disturbs the learning of those in the beis medrash who are somewhat rhythmically inclined.

This is not the drumming on shtenders that was heard in the European yeshivas.  We’re talking hands here, not fingers, and this phenomenon is strictly American, by way of Africa and Latin America.  And not just plain hands either.  These are fast hands that move to the beat of a different drummer, literally that is, not metaphorically, and their owners run the gamut from the weaker bochurim to some of the very best, because who but a serious bocher with Brisk on his screen is going to be banging away in the beis medrash at 3:00 A.M.?

But no one seems to see the incongruity of all of this.  Here we have good boys with rock solid hashkafas, boys who would never give so much as a thought to take a look at a secular newspaper much less actually read one, listen to a treife music CD, or even grab the news from the radio.  And yet, these same boys don’t think twice about bringing the Street in to the beis medrash in the guise of their hands.  The truth is that they don’t even think once, because if they did, we would be hearing  the Kol Torah without the accompaniment. 

And what exactly is the Street that they are shlepping, unawares into the beis medrash?  It’s the syncopation that still survives from the earliest forms of jazz.  It’s the Cuban Son and Salsa, and it’s the Acid, Punk, Hard, Heavy Metal, and more current varieties of rock that have taken up residence in their hands.

But why the hands?

One of the strengths of this generation is that good bochurim, such as these, are assiduous in their pursuit of perfection.  Be it shiurim, vaadim, or shmuzim on any of the sifrei mussar, they are constantly being exhorted to watch their eyes, their mouths, and their ears.  And to their credit, most do.

Left without much wiggle room, the Yetzer Hora found an opening by way of their hands when everyone was looking the other way.  In a stealthy ride under the radar, the Yetzer strutted into the beis medrash undetected, and there he remains in the syncopated rhythms that punctuate the Kol Torah in counterpoint.