Sunday, May 29, 2011

Civil Wars

Jewish civil wars.
What is it? Why does it exist, and why does it it have such destructive power?
Historically there were often wars between different fractions of the Jewish nation that left blood running through the streets and valleys:
        Wars between the northern and southern kingdoms.
        Wars of Hashmonuim against corrupted by Greek ideology Misyavnim - Hellenisers, and after a while...
        Wars of decedents of Hashmonuim with Perushim, who were then defenders of everything sacred for the Jew.
        Wars between zealots of all different fractions, fighting between themselves as the enemy watched with satisfaction from the hills surrounding Yerushalaim.
We couldn’t learn to love or even respect each other with humility in our own land, and now we have to learn this lesson in long school of Golus (exile). The wars continue between different segments of our nation, but there is no more bloodshed, and no orphans and widows are made by those wars.
When some of my friends in the middle of the Satmar or Bobov civil wars were so ashamed to talk to me about it, they didn’t understand from where I coming. I am coming from a world where bloody war is still a reality. Not only between the countries, but also wars between boys and young teenagers from different neighborhoods; fights between fans of one sport team against a different group of supporters.
I am coming from the world where students described with satisfaction to impressed listeners how thick the layer of glass was from the brawl the previous weekend in the dance hall. How many bones and noses were broken, how much blood was spilled. Anyone who saw the fans of the sports teams fighting and destroying everything in their way knows that Israel is the holy nation.
In some of the Jewish quarrels, emotions are sometimes raised to the level of ‘red hot.’ Each side is convinced that the other party is devoted to the destruction of everything what “we” consider holy. But at worst, it ends with in the hands of the police, and most of the time it is altogether necessary.
There is still a long way to go before we learn to listen to our adversaries. There is still a long way to go before we answer our emotions with mussar--not for others, but for ourselves. There is still a lot of Amulek in our hearts which tells us that scuffling, shouting and screaming, humiliating, and mentally destroying our “enemy” is assuring our victory. There are still some leaders who, instead of going out with tears to protest the misbehavior of some of their followers, will tell you that this is normal; there was always machloikes in Klal Isruel.
Yes, I agree, and some of them were bloody machloikes (quarrels). Does it justify the erosion of Jewish values? Look rather for a different leader, don’t listen to someone who for his hidden ambitions causes a holy nation to sin by remaining silent when there is a need for crying and tears. Yadaim, yadaim Esav – kol, kol Yakov. The hands are for Esaw and his decedents, but Yakov and his children should solve their disagreements with their voice. Our sages teach us that this is our goal, this is what we should learn: to be different from Esav even when we quarrel. As one wise person put it, it should be by the power of argument, and not by the argument of power.
Talmidey Chachumim marabim Shulom BeOylom. Sages spread peace in the world. If someone does the opposite, he is neither a Talmid Chacham nor a follower of Talmidey Chachumim. The Jewishness of his acts or lack of action is questionable to the utmost extent.
( All of the above was writen a year ago and did not describe any particular individuals or groups. All below i wrote last week.)
This week, a person pretending to represent the holy people of Yisrael gave a powerful speech, a speech filled up with word ‘peace.’ But its essence was about ambition, domination, and war. That’s probably was how Nimrod himself convinced others that they must engage in war: to protect the peace. For those who are walking the path of war, war is always pictured as the first necessary step to peace. For these who genuinely want peace, the first step to achieve it is… peace, even if it costs a lot of camels, donkeys, and sheep.
In another area of Jewish affairs, a tragedy happened. A Yid raised his hand against another Yid in attempt to kill him and his family. To all the Haredi bashers (including those who are Haredi themselves), it was accident. It is exceptional, and anyone who sees it differently, please read this essay again from the beginning.
As long we have any trace of admiration for the followers of Amulek--including these who emerge from among us--thoughtless people will find justification for themselves to act in an Amulek-like manner..
The author of these words looks like Chasidic Jew. But more importantly, he feels himself to be a follower of the Chasidic path--albeit with ambivalent thoughts about contemporary so-called “Chasidus.” I have not gone to anyone with a kvitel. However, I asked a person whom I consider an authority on this issue to whom should I go should I decide one day that there is some spiritual gain for me in going mit a kvitel. My Rabbi told me two names. One of them was the head of the community where this tragedy happened.
As long as I don’t hear words of strong mussar or even see him visiting his adversary, I have only one name left.
Matys Weiser

Oy golus, golus

Got busy last week. Got busy so much that I pushed this post whole week later even it was only matter of scanning and editing the words of my beloved Rav Hirsch.
But please, read his explanation of our Golus and you may appreciate your life and Jewishness in different light. Without any exaggeration.

Parshas Bechikoisay 26 V. 42. Vzucharti es brisi Yaacov : it does not say brisi im or es Yaacov etc., but brisi  Yaacov, brisi Yitzchok and brisi Avraham So that clearly it is not the covenant with Jacob etc., but Jacob, Isaac and Abraham are in apposition to brisi. There is an Abraham Covenant of God, an Isaac Covenant of God, and a Jacob Covenant of God.
God has established a bris which is called Abraham, a min which is called Isaac, and one which is called Jacob. All three, Abraham Isaac and Jacob were near to God, the lives and fate of all three were directed by God, and had significance for the foundation of their nation, and yet each one of them had a different position in the world. Corresponding to the tradition that Abraham originated the Morning Prayer, Isaac Mincha, and Jacob the night prayer, the different position in the world of each of them was in accordance with these times of the day.
Abraham's lot fell in increasing brightness. Happy, and richly blessed in all and by all, he stood, although alone, against the whole world and called them to the altar of a One Unique God. Nevertheless none were jealous of him, none were his enemies; yea, highly honored, he lived as Naasi Elokim in their midst.
Isaac's position was already clouded. Isolated by treading his path with God, he found only jealousy on account of the blessings He gave him amongst his contemporaries, and was thrown back on himself and his own home.
Finally, on Jacob, the shades of night fell; his whole life was a chain of trials and tribulation, and only seldom and for a short time, did the external joy of life smile on him. And yet all three were the Fathers of our People, all three bearers of the Covenant of God, and Jacob's hard position in the world no less a revelation of the nearness of God in Man's fate in life than the bright picture of Abraham's life. That is why here all three are separately mentioned as Bris, and thereby God's Promise is proclaimed to the nation, whose ancestors and roots they form, that its fate, too, would be a varied one, as those of its fathers were, without thereby ceasing to he the mark of God's special proximity and of God's special guidance and attention. And that, like Abraham Isaac and Jacob, in the midst of the nations of the world, whether their fate be like that of an Abraham, bright, rich and honored, or of an Isaac, rich but envied and disliked and rebuffed, or of a Jacob, full of trials and troubles, in all cases they have to bear themselves and behave as true and faithful' sons of the covenant.
In connection with what was said before, the three promises of the covenant are significantly placed in inverted order, the covenant "Jacob" first, and moreover by being written in full mule, as well as by the accent and the construction of the sentence, it is brought into prominence. It is given as the principle promise to be considered quite specially to which the covenant "Isaac" and the covenant "Abraham" are only attached by af as extension and continuation.
With the beginning of the Galut the children of the Abrahamite covenant entered into the "Jacob" fate. But if — as is assumed in the second half of V,21, when introducing the other possibility of the future of the Galut — they take the Galut with its bitterness in its true right meaning as rutzi oinom, as an atoning nullification of the debt of their past, and in true faithfulness to duty, pay it off in such a way that they work themselves upwards towards the absolute opposite of their previous mistakes, the vzucharti es brisi Yaacov, then will I fulfill My covenant-promise "Jacob". I will be with them through all the long, long, Galut-night, and will form even their darkest Galut-night to an illuminating revelation of Divine Guidance, as they, the faithful, like bright stars of cheerful sacrificing devotion show up the spiritual and moral calling of human beings in living and dying. And then, when they have endured enough, and in world-historic martyrdom have entered their faithfulness to duty with their blood in the pages of history of misfortune, then vaf es brisi Yitschok, then they will not have lived and bled in the midst of the nations for nothing, by the example of their lives, the spirit of the nations becomes enlightened and their manners milder, with the dawning morn of the world, the darkest midnight of their Galut also passes, they begin to breathe freely again and to prosper in the lands where hitherto they had been so sadly persecuted. And just as in the Jacob period they had to endure the hate, now like Isaac it is the jealousy and rebuff of the nations that they are made to suffer.
Now they have to go through the second school of the Galut for their whole attitude to life, truly no easy one. They learn, in growing prosperity under the regime of nations swaying between humaneness and envy, not to assimilate, hut, Isaac-like to keep their own Jewish characters; to use the richer and freer forces they now possess only for increased faithfulness to the Torah, and, undisturbed by being isolated by the envy of the nations, to develop i a more perfect, more versatile development of their particular task n Galut.
Then, when they have successfully passed the second Galut-test, remaining faithful to the Torah in prosperity, then vaf brisi Avraham ezchor, then the Abraham sun will shine for them in Galut, then Abraham-like, they will build their alters to God and His Torah in the midst of the nations; Abraham-like, they will make the nations so realize the abundance of all that is true and good that the Teachings of God have entrusted to them for the salvation of mankind, that they will not be tolerated, not be honored, although they are Jews, the People of the Abraham covenant, but because they are Jews, because they are the People of the Abraham-covenant, because, in spirit and deed they know and practice God's Law for the salvation of mankind.
And just as Jacob's fight through the night with the Genius of Esau did not come to an end until Jacob had wrested from him his acknowledgement and succeeded in receiving his blessing, so the children of Jacob and Isaac, hated for so long, then tolerated and begrudged will finally, as the people of Abraham in the midst of the nations, receive the reverential, acknowledging greeting nussi Elokim atu besoichaynee! Then, ultimately, when in Galut they have learnt to overcome all the dangerous rocks of the enmity of the nations, of the favor of the nations, of the example of the nations, and of arrogance in good fortune, on which originally in their own land their faithfulness to the Torah foundered, then, only then vehaaretz ezchor when they have become "Abraham", will I, too, bring them to the land promised to Abraham, and give them back the land for a final permanent carrying out of their mission to be the People of God on the Land of His Torah. So that bris Yaacov and bris Yitzchok and bris Avraham, form the three progressive stages of the tasks the performance of which in Galut achieves the atonement of their guilt and at the same time matures them for the future permanent return to the land of their independence.
V. 43. vehaaretz.... For the land, of which it has just been said, that when the people will have become mature for their final purpose, it, too, will regain its purpose to be the land for God's people to keep the whole of God's Torah, the land, until then will await its people in desolation. it will serve no other people as a suitable soil for their development. By lying idle it will make reparation for the Sabbaths that were not kept, and it will remain desolate for as long as the people, by their life in exile, have to make reparation for the guilt of their past.

I hope you enjoyed as much as me.

Matys Weiser

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Hillary Affair

It’s been a week since this controversy started, and I had resigned from writing about it, as I figured by Sunday people will have turned their attention to new issues.
To my surprise, the affair is still being discussed on the blogs and even on the radio. I can not follow all of it, and it is impossible for me to relate all the sides of the conflict. Most sides had aired their views even before Di Tzeitung published an altered photo of the White House Situation Room.
I do not know the halachic sources that prohibits publishing pictures of women. But considering the fact that this is written by a convert who did not have years in yeshiva to study those issues, this may not be a surprise.
I know plenty of Orthodox--i.e. written and published by Shomrei Torah uMitzvois publications--which publish such photos, of course taking under consideration some (sometimes only basic) standards of Tznius (modesty).
On the other hand, there are many newspapers and magazines which restrain themselves from printing such pictures. There are simply no pictures of women; pictures with women are altered, as these magazines’ standards of tznius do not allow them to place such pictures in their publications at all.
The fact that the picture of the Situation Room was altered by erasing from it Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and another top government female anti-terrorism specialist was wrong for only one reason: the White House did not allow altering their picture.
An apology was issued, and as I understand the White House didn’t have any objections about it--which may be sign that the apology was accepted. Why then, is this issue still in the Jewish media? Why does it still heat the air and computer keyboards?
Some argue that not publishing pictures of women proves that we believe in woman’s inferiority to man. It is so ridiculous that I will not dwell on the topic even for a minute. These people simply have no idea about the position of women in Hareidi and Orthodox society.
One thing I may say only, that such practice shows only inferiority of us – man… nebech.
Some of the disputants argue against altering the photos on the grounds of journalistic ethics. As I understand the ethics of journalism, it mandates that altered photographic material should not alter reality--as if it were not journalism, but rather propaganda. If so, there is no such thing as Jewish journalism; as every single Jewish source of information has and propagate an agenda. That’s how it is. Be it Hareidi or Modern Orthodox, there is almost no informative journalism anywhere within this spectrum. I think it is almost impossible for someone who guides his life by certain moral and religious standards not to have an agenda.
Even when facts are described as they happened, only selected facts are described in different outlets, be it Jewish or even general media. Omitting certain information, even while describing other facts in an honest and truthful manner, may distort reality in an extreme way.
I remember A few years ago there was huge demonstration in front of the Israeli consulate in Manhattan. Something like thirty thousand people were protesting against the killing by Israeli Police forces of Rabbi Daniel Biton. Thirty, ten or even three thousand people protesting anything in Manhattan would be covered in the media, right?
Three thousand visibly orthodox Jews protesting in the front of an Israeli consulate is newsworthy enough to fill up of at least few minutes of the nightly news, or a column of if not the front page, at least the third, of the local newspaper. Isn’t it? No, it wasn’t. Not a single media outlet in the country, proud of their democracy and freedom of press, mentioned this event. Nothing.
Maybe the media was busy with something bigger that night? A few nightly news broadcasts showed tenants picketing a broken sewer pipe in a Bronx apartment house on that very night. I saw some of it myself, and the rest I found through research. It was a shock for me to wake up one day in an America which I had never dreamed about.
But back to the main topic. It is not a rare practice for Hareidi newspapers and magazines to alter the photos of events where our wives and daughters are visible, just as they do with pictures of general events that depict ladies.
Is it Jewish law (Shulchan Aruch) which tells them to do so? Again, I don’t know. But even if it is not so, what is wrong if those outlets have such a practice, trying to meet the standards of tznius of perhaps only few of us? Do I miss anything because of this?
There is a Halacha not to listen to the voice of woman singing. (We will not discuss whether it applies to recordings as well as to live singing.) When I first learned this Halacha I was shocked by the explanation; I was told that a woman’s singing may arouse undesirable thoughts, thoughts a pious man should avoid, as they may lead to sinful acts.
Never in my life had I had such thoughts while listening to, for example, Janis Joplin or even Jean Baez. Nothing. However my rabbi explained to me that there are some people who may have such thoughts, and Halacha generally doesn't discriminate.
If a Hareidi newspaper does something in this spirit, then what is the problem for all the Hareidi bashers (who sometimes appear as if it is their goal in life to find everything to besmear Hareidim). More likely, they are looking for anything which may justify their more-than-lenient positions on key issues and established Halacha by ridiculing their more traditional brothers. Those self-proclaimed “defenders of true Judaism”--who frequently accuse Haredim of creating Hilul Hashem (desecration of Heavenly Name)--so many times bring to the general public issues which should be discussed only within the family, or at least with avoidance of publicity.
Who is really desecrator of the Name?

By Matys Weiser

Below another installment of Rav Hirsch's elucidation of meaning of sfira.

But the Torah remained the eternal and lasting possession, which compensated them for the absence of freedom and land during the centuries of night. Because of Torah and for Torah, freedom and land were once again in store for them one day on the great morrow of rejuvenation. When they counted the days and weeks before God, well might they express the wish that it still "may be His holy Will to build His Sanctuary once more, in our days, and to cause us to find our full share in His Torah!"

Yes, for good reason was it the practice of the Fathers to attach to this counting the hope that "God might one day again turn His favor toward us, give us His blessing, and cause His Countenance to shine among us." Have we not forfeited this favor and lost this blessing only because we had forgotten this very counting, the counting from freedom and land to the festival of the Torah? Did God not for precisely this reason turn away His shining Countenance from us?

Every page of the history of our national downfall testifies to the fact that we forfeited freedom and land only because we conceived of freedom and land as the final and highest purpose. We counted our days and weeks not from freedom and land to the Law, but rather from the Law to freedom and land.

We did not value freedom and land according to Jewish Truth, under which they should be valued only to the extent that they afford us the means to an ever more complete fulfillment of the Godly Law. Instead, in accordance with the popular delusions, we saw the Godly Law as being meaningful to us only in that it afforded, secured, and protected freedom and land for us. However, where we thought we could better and more independently secure and increase freedom and land through other means, acceptable everywhere else, we thoughtlessly exchanged the Godly Law as an impediment which had become useless, antiquated and stale. But this exchange was always a deception; and in the meantime we lost the single condition which permits us to hope for freedom and land.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


It is a month since an article describing this supposedly new phenomenon was published in Ami Magazine. Some bloggers had taken the topic on their horns before Pesach. Others did it during Pesach and others soon after.
(I don’t know how they do it... how they can manage time for writing between learning, work, home, kids, Pesach and other responsibilities? I couldn’t, and on Pesach I don’t write, either, so now is the time to express my stranger’s view on “orthoprax.”)
I met them for the first time a quarter century ago in Judenrein Poland. No, not the ones described in the article in Ami magazine, but you will judge yourself after reading this post if my comparison is accurate.
I met them in my city’s shul. To get to this shul you would need to know the topography of the backyards of my city. It was located next to ruins of one of the most beautiful orthodox synagogues of pre-war Germany, but at that time it was falling apart as an result of Polish barbarism directed toward everything Jewish.
The shul was located where it wouldn’t be too easy to find, and was known only to those who attended. The people were hiding too: All were old, all were Holocaust survivors, some were orthoprax, none were Shoimer Shabos (observant).
How was this possible, to be orthoprax and not shomrei Shabos at the same time? They came to daven only on Shabos and Yomim Toivim (holidays). But there were also many Jews in the city who didn’t come at all. But again, why do I refer to people who were not observing other regulations of the Jewish Code of Law, as people “practicing” Judaism (the ‘prax’ part of the word orthoprax imply practicing)? Well, they were practicing, and with mesiras nefesh superior to that demanded by the Chumros observed in any of America’s Orthodox communities.
At that time I was still a Pole, and I knew the sentiment of my landsmen towards the Zyd. They were literally risking their lives just by admitting their Jewishness. But why did they come if they were not Shomrey Shabos? We cannot judge them or answer this question. Most of them declared their belief in Hashem and his servant Moishe.
Among them were a few whom I would describe as orthoprax: they came to Saturday prayers, sometimes even leading them and at the same time uttering statements which were in direct conflict with more than one 13 articles of Maymonides. But they were coming and reading the words of prayer to the G-d whom they did not believe in.
I never believed them—not they, nor any of the other self-declared Jewish Atheists—who fought G-d as if He was their personal enemy. I spent hundreds of hours with them. We were talking about faith and lack of faith, G-d and man, we were challenging each other. They challenged my faith and I challenged their declarations of disbelieve. I listened to an amount of apikorsis which even the Internet doesn’t dream of.
At this time, I came to understand that there is no such thing as an atheist. There are only rebels against the Creator. There are two kinds of rebels. One is rare and only because of the Holocaust which happened in my country I met so many of them. Those are the orthoprax of my shul in Wroclaw. I cried for them then as I cry for everyone I hear about here in the frum world.
Although I didn’t meet any of them personally here in America, I can imagine that one can go through experiences that shake his faith, and therefore his practice of Derech ha Torah will be affected. I can not Judge them and I don’t want to.
We have the example of one ultimate orthoprax in the Talmud. Elisha ben Abuya, aka the Acher. Before you will tell me that I don’t know the story, please wait. When he stopped Rabbi Meir from riding a horse on Shabes, it showed him practicing at least one Mitzva: preventing his fellow Jew from performing a sin. This is not a small Mitzva. He still believed in sin. Chazal’s attempt to explain Acher’s situation after his death shows only how tragic was his rebellion and how difficult it was to understand and to judge a person like him—even for Heaven. Can we judge any of the orthoprax? Can you?
But there are the other rebels who, as Chazal describes them, are those who first succumb to their somatic desires and only afterwards ask questions of faith. This is the more common species. From them apikorsim are recruited—the real ones. There are plenty of Chazal statements about them, and we may came back to this topic in future I-H. (I addressed one of them already in my ‘Pastures’ post.)
At this moment, I will say only that besides those cynics driven by their testosterone to ridicule everything that yesterday was holy for them, there is also second group with whom I can’t breath the same air: the convertibles.
Unlike the first ones, who can not stay with their frum brothers, the convertibles come to Bays Hamedrysh with their shtreimels and beketches. But their look tells us all. If they want, in the blink of an eye they may look like Six Pack Joe from a different neighborhood. These are the two kinds of creatures which are really, really ugly and dangerous for you and your kids. These are the ones you should look to expel from your community. These are the people poisoning your mind and your spirit with the superstition that it is possible and it is gantz git to enjoy both worlds, despite the ensuing moral destruction. These are the ones weakening the moral core of the holy nation. Orthoprax? Really, they are the major problem of our community? I don’t think so.
The article in Ami magazine in my understanding, was describing the long black, curled teeth of Internet bogeymen. The main goal of the author was to scare the hell out of you.
Other things were already said by bloggers within last month since Ami’s publication.
Matys Weiser

And another installment of Rav Hirsch's explanation of the Sfira.

"And they now looked around and drew comparisons. How greatly the value of the Torah increased when compared to everything else around which the life of the nations revolved. Century after century the Jewish People wandered like their first fathers once wandered "from nation to nation, from kingdom to kingdom." The peoples around our Fathers possessed freedom and land but were without the freedom and grounding of the Godly Law.

Alone in the midst of these peoples who were proud of their political freedom and powerful in their possession of land, the scattered flock of Israel had a Divine Law but no freedom or land. Yet what flourishing of the humane, which ennobles and blesses man, did they see among these free nations, strong in the possession of their land, when compared with the flowering that this Divine Law produced in them?

This humaneness flourished in the Jewish People even in times when their right to a spot of earth whereon to set the cradles of their children and prepare the graves of their parents was disputed, and they were permitted only as much justice and freedom as benefited the interests of the local government in the particular foreign country where they found themselves dispersed.—Were they not right when they clung with a doubly fiery ardor to their unique Divine Treasure, which protected them from barbarism and degeneracy which they saw proliferating everywhere? Were they not proved correct in their devotion when Torah produced in them a fresh spiritual life, a clear-sightedness, a moral purity, a mellow nature, a blissful family life, an upright brotherhood, of which the scoffing world of the nations had no inkling?

They saw how easily nations suffered the loss of their political freedom, and with it their land. Then, along with both, they immediately lost their existence as a people altogether, and disappeared like bubbles of soap, carrying with them all their power and dreams of glory. And Israel—with only the Torah in its arms pressed even farther toward its eternal dawn of rejuvenation, through night and mist, over the ash-filled urns and ruined tombs of the nations. Should then Israel have discontinued the counting of days and weeks from the festival of its freedom to the festival of the Torah? Their freedom had withered away very painfully since the time en Jews had swung the sickle over their own land which lived on only in their memory."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Capture of Osama

The day when Osama Bin Laden was killed: the day when justice was ignored (again).
I can only imagine what some of you are thinking at this moment: “I knew this ger must be cuckoo... it was only matter of time until it came out.” I will say something different from ‘everyone’ else not the first time in my life. But please be patient and read this essay to its end before passing judgment on my sanity.
As was stated in my post about my convictions, I believe in the revealed word of the Creator, as deposited with His chosen nation, Yisroel.
Likewise, I believe that as the Jewish sages transferred it through the generations, it was the Creator’s will that nations, tribes, societies, and groups of people should establish courts of justice for themselves and between themselves. The Jewish people must be the highest example of such organized life, among whom lynching, anarchy, and rule of mob has no place.
This is the ideal which the nations of the world must emulate as they come to recognize G-d. According to our Neviim (prophets), the nations will come to recognize the wrongness of their ways and, together with Yisrael, all will serve the Giver of Live in unison.
Before it can happen, many generations must be educated. Generations of Jews must be educated in order to understand their special role in the Tikkun (restoration) of the world, and generations of Goyim (other nations) must be educated to learn justice according to the example and teachings of Jewish prophets and Sages.
It is impossible to evaluate where in that process we are situated today, but it can be said that this process of dual (Jewish and Gentile) education doesn’t ascend linearly. It rather resembles climbing up a sinusoid: up and down, up and down, but ever progressing.
Whoever is familiar with the writings and commentaries of Rav Hirsch may have been saddened by his nineteenth century optimism—predicting an imminent moral advancement of humanity—knowing what would happen little more than half of century later.
Rav Hirsh believed that the moral enlightenment of nations would permit the chosen nation to shine in her full glory. This in turn would inspire the rest of humanity to follow the example of the people of G-d, and that Geula (salvation)—the coming of Mashiach and the return of Jews to their land—would be the next stage of human history. This is how Rav Hirsch and other sages understood Prophetic predictions of the Bible describing the future of mankind.
Sixty years later, the ‘enlightened’ nation whose language Rav Hirsch so masterfully employed to teach Torah, attempted to erase Jews from history. It didn’t happen. Another nation inspired by the teachings of Jewish prophets was blessed and won this horrible war, a war which killed over fifty million human beings, including six million descendants of Yaakov.
It was Russians who entered Berlin and paid the greatest tribute of blood to win this war, but it was Americans who lead the allies in moral matters. America is a nation whose Constitution was written while its author was “keeping the Bible on his lap.” Indeed, Thomas Jefferson attended Unitarian services on regular basis, at a time when Unitarians were the most progressive religious movement in the civilized gentile world. America was built on justice, where an independent court system guaranteed even the greatest criminals, judgment, defense, and honorable death when it was the sentence of the court.
In 1946, a year after the allies defeated Nazi Germany, many captured officials of the most notorious regime in history were put to trial. People directly and indirectly involved in the death of over fifty million people were called to justice in order to make them and the rest of the humanity understand that there is justice and no one can escape the fate of the dictators and their accomplices. If they escape by dying before they are brought to trial, still the court of historians and thinkers will judge them as they deserved.
Nazi officers were brought to trial in court, and many of them were sentenced to death or life in prison. Among them Borman, Hess, Frank, and Goring, yimach shemom, were sentenced. One year later, Hoss and Goth, Y-SH, people directly involved in killing prisoners of the concentration camps they ran, were tried and sentenced to death by hanging by the Polish court.
I don’t want to go into the details of these trials, as some criticized them as a ‘fraud’ and ‘lynching party’ of the winners. Even if it was human (i.e. very limited) justice and even if justice was abused (e.g., Ribbentrop was accused of signing a pact with Molotov —which de facto was the last step before invading Poland and starting WW2—while Molotov was still member of Russian government, one of the victors), we may find countless examples of such abuses of justice. Nevertheless, it had at least the appearance of justice.
And even the appearance of justice—and I believe that the Nuremberg Trials were more than that—is better than Darwinian anarchy and the rule of unrestrained power. That’s what civilized government is supposed to protect and that’s what the nation pretending to be the leading democracy is supposed to represent. That is what the fathers of this country intended when they created a system of independent courts where a citizen can defend himself, and even a foreigner can seek the justice. I will not go here the ‘lawyer way,’ and I will not distinguish between the citizen and the foreigner as American law does in certain cases.
We guaranteed the right to a trial to much bigger murderers than Osama Bin Laden, and by these actions proved that the American nation stands above all the mass murderers, political criminals, and bloody dictators. In doing so, America, Humanity itself, climbed higher in the direction of real justice and away from dark ages of Darwinian anarchy where it was enough to have stronger muscles and a bigger club or gun.
The day when Osama Bin Laden was killed, justice was ignored, but as our prophets promised, the day when the G-dly justice will prevail is our goal and will happen. But much work must be done.
Matys Weiser

Below another expert from Rav Hirsch's "Collected Writings" on topic of Sfira.
I will post I-H small fragment of his works on this topic, every week until Hag HaShvios.
"Even when we still swung the sickle over our own plowed fields on our own national soil, we had to count the days and weeks from the festival of our freedom until the festival of our Torah, from Zman Harisayni to Zman Matan Torusaini. And we started counting at the first swing of the sickle, We had to take to heart the fact that our perfect salvation is to be found not in freedom and land, but rather in the Law—the Law of God. We had to remember too, that freedom and soil for us are rooted only in the Divine Law and have worth and meaning for us only through the Divine Law.

This was true when Judea was still a nation among the nations, and Jewish existence was sustained by possession of its own land. How much more poignant has this treasure become,—this Sefirah-counting which serves to elevate the Torah, the Divine Law, above all else—now that Israel had lost its land and soil! Since then, in ways which are visible even to the casual onlooker, this Divine Law has remained the only bond that ties the sons of Israel together in the greatest dispersion. It has remained the only ground, the only property upon which the sons of Israel stand. And it has proven itself as that benefit which has miraculously compensated its possessors for the loss of all other benefits. Indeed, every year that passed added new splendor to the aura of this Law, and caused those who embraced it to impress it ever more deeply upon their hearts as the unique treasure of life. Torah has ready a soothing balm for every new distress, a trans-figuration for every new joy. As time passed, and experiences accrued to the Jewish People on their long journey, new meanings for ancient text became illuminated. Israel would feel even more clearly with every step the difference in value between Torah on the one hand and land and freedom on the other. The land was lost and its freedom had wasted away, but Torah, the Divine Law, had remained. And Torah had become for the people the soil upon which the blossoms of an ever fresh youthfulness unfolded. Torah had become sword and lance, helmet and suit of armor, which to gain and preserve the proudest freedom amid all outer humiliation."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sfira by Rav Hirsch

I was not able to write it. What is 'it'? My srangerz view on the topic of orthopraxy.
Hopefully next week I-H. I’m aware that it will be month after original article was printed in Ami Magazine but you know... Pesach preparation, than Pesach, than aftermath of Pesach.
Instead read, please read this expert from Rav Hirsch's 'Collected Writings'.
It is on topic of Sfira but with much broader implications, as usually when my Master touched the paper with the ink.
Matys Weiser

"There was a need to impress upon the mind of the Israelite who possessed freedom and land the value of the Torah. There was a need proclaim to the State as a whole and to each individual in it: "The land which you own, the fields which bloom for you and the fruits which ripen for you these are not your gods and your goods, these do not constitute you a nation nor are they the objects of your strivings as peoples and individuals. All these have been given to you for the sake of the Torah; for the sake of the Torah you possess them, and without the Torah you would lose them. All this land with its abundance of milk and honey, and all the rich and free national life which flourishes on it, are only a means and have only one object, namely, with this freedom and abundance to develop a communal, collective and individual life such as your God and Master has prescribed for you in the Torah." To impress on our minds and hearts this unconditional value of the Torah and the conditional value of all other possessions this was the purpose of the sfira, of the days and weeks which both, the heads of the community and every individual in Israel, had to count from the first setting of the sickle to the corn up to the festival of the giving of the Law.

I In course of time Israel forgot this counting. It ceased to count up to its Torah and to see in the Torah the principal element in its national existence .It began to look for freedom and independence to its land and soil, to which it had the same right of possession as any other people to its own land. It imagined that it was entitled to count by its land, that it could dispense with the Torah and retain bread and soil, freedom and independence without the Torah, and "Judah's gods became as numerous as his cities."' Then it lost land and soil, freedom and independence, saving nothing but the Torah up to which it count-ed no more in the land itself, and it wandered in strange lands for two thousand years.

The seasons go round, the sun shines and the dew falls, but for the Jew no seeds sprout, no fields bloom, he no more puts the sickle to his own corn. And why? Because he wanted his activities to end with this sickle, and he was not willing to begin from this sickle to count to his Torah. From the time that he deified the sickle he lost the sickle!

And yet we still count! On the injunction of our far-sighted Sages we still count, though without land and fields, not from the day on which we put the sickle to our corn, but from the day on which our ancestors on their own soil once swung the sickle over the newly ripened corn. We count days and weeks to the day of the Torah. Is this counting a mockery, is it just disconsolate mourning? Without land, without fields, deprived for two thousand years of all right to a soil of their own, do we still require the warning not to overrate this right to a soil, this ownership of a land? Do we, too, still require the admonition to value land and soil only as a means for the full performance of the Torah and to regard them as worthless if their possession does not lead to the Torah?

Have we not seen the sons of Israel so dazzled by the mere hope of the "sickle brilliance" as to imagine that the bands of the Torah would fall off along with those of the Galuth? Have we not seen the supposed trumpet-call of freedom shatter the pillars of the Jewish sanctuary? Israel was prepared in the hope of a "shirt" to throw off its "robe." God put us to the test, and we have stood it badly.

Anyone who looked deeper must have told himself even then that the great and unique drama of the Jewish Galuth could not end so pitifully. Judah was sent into the Galuth because it prized land and soil as the bulwark of its freedom and belittled the Torah. The Galuth cannot, therefore, end with the same delusion. We can really be delivered only when the centuries of the Galuth shall have taught us their lesson, which is that when we have assured our freedom and independence and recovered possession of the land which has been waiting for us for thousands of years we must use them purely in the service of God on the altar of the Torah; that with the "sickle" placed again in our hands we must not cease to be Jews, but “when first the sickle is laid to the corn on our own land” we must then really begin to be Jews, to perform our Jewish task in still fuller measure, and with all our powers to strive forward with heightened zeal to the goal of the Torah.
This test, the second act of our Galuth trials, still awaits us.

The first, the trial of suffering, Israel has already brilliantly surmounted. It is just these Sfira days in which Israel during centuries furnished the clearest proofs that it knew how to preserve the Sfira spirit in suffering. It showed in these days how it was able to count as nothing all earthly goods and joys, the whole of earthly life however sweet and dear, if it should for their sake be compelled to let go of its God and His holy word. It showed how at every moment it was prepared to cast away the earth and hasten into the arms of its God. Almost two thousands springs passed in bloody procession over Israel's head in this Sfira season, and when Israel began to count from the old deliverance and the lost sickle to the eternal Torah, there rang trough the dark clouds which enveloped them with ever new terror the repeated and awe-inspiring question of the Almighty to Israel, “Art thou still Mine, Israel?" "Thine in life and death," answered Israel, as it died." 

Rabbi Shimshon Refuel Hirsch or Samson Raphael Hirsch if the first spelling is find objectionable by anyone.