Thursday, November 15, 2012

Polish Jews in the Rockies

It’s been few months since my last post. What a shame. I have checked statistics on my blog and there is more and more people visiting this blog and nothing new posted for two months.
Well, I didn't stop to write but from time to time i got stock for lack of steady editor.
My dear friend Menachem who does it for I while, free of charge, besides editing my essays, has a family, business, and hot line with shiurim on Harav’s Arush seifer “Garden of Emuna”. He is busy, ke ein ayin hara, and side effect of this is – no essays on my blog.
Hopefully we will work and B-H I will try to post more regularly. 

I love conducting tours in the most incredible places on this planet. The Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Yellowstone, Rockies… It’s the best occupation ever for someone who loves the Torah and the outdoors - the blueprint of the universe and part of its realization – planet Earth. However it is hard to make living just from this lovely occupation alone no matter how hard I try. I work as a sales rep for a company and my territory is interestingly the parts of the country that I love so much. To fill the rest of my budget I chose another job which still requires me to travel around the country and meet a lot of people. From time to time I will share with you stories from my journeys,

Early this week I started my day from the heart of the Rocky Mountains. From my motel I still had a one hour drive to the small town where I had my first appointment at the gift shop there. The town while in the Rockies, the Rockies here are too dull and uninteresting to attract many tourists. The miners who established the town are mostly gone by now and I wondered why this town didn’t become a ghost town like many others in this mountain region.

I entered the store at the appointed hour to meet the middle age lady who owned the gift shop and a small motel above the store. I brought in my merchandise and we sat at the table so she could choose items that fit the profile of her store. The owner of the store quickly picked up on my accent and asked me from where I come from. Soon some neighbors came in to say good morning, a common occurrence in a town where everyone knows everyone else. I was introduced to every person entering the store as the Polish Jew which for some reason made me more noteworthy.
A half hour or so later, Tim, a man in his forties entered the store carrying a bucket with painting tools, dressed in his painted up painting clothes. Once more I was introduced as the Polish Jew. When Tim heard that he said in a low voice – Oh, my mother is Jewish and is from Poland. With surprise I lifted my head wanting to exchange some words with Tim but he was already gone and my opportunity to talk with him passed. After an hour or so I wrote my invoice packed my stuff and was back on the road.

I drove through some of the most beautiful parts of the Rockies that claim switchbacks to almost 10,000 ft above sea level. An hour later I stopped in a thriving town which was established by the gold miners but was still thriving thanks to tourism and the beautiful location. The main street of the town was packed with gift boutiques, jewelry stores, antique shops and restaurants. I had an appointment with Kenny from one of the antique stores in a prestigious location of town. Antiques for Kenny was a secondary occupation as he was one of those mountain men who still pan for gold in the rivers of the deep valleys. The appearance of Kenny ‘the mountain man’  fit the stereotype to a T. Scraggly hair and bushy beard surrounded deep set sparkling eyes and jutting cheek bones.. Dressed in the worn blue jeans and a checkered shirt and six feet tall, he is the guy who can play a trapper or gold miner without putting on any make up. We cracked some jokes about whether I or he would be a better match for the role of Tevye in the “Fiddler on the Roof” Then Kenny told me that there is new store on the street where the owners would surely like to see me and my merchandise. I said that I only had time to meet with customers that had an appointment as I couldn't go to every store. Kenny insisted that they would want to see me and when I was writing the invoice he went and made the appointment for me. I finished my sale with Kenny and walked to the store across the street. I entered the store and almost immediately I was greeted in Ivrit the language spoken by Israelis, but this greeting and whatever was said further was marked with a strong American accent. I suggested he switch to English and I learned that indeed the owner of the store is an American Jew but his wife is an Israeli. As usual he inquired about my accent which I said is Polish and that Polish is my mother tongue. He started to explain to me that his wife is a daughter of holocaust survivors from Poland and her mother still speaks Polish fluently. Lo and behold, while he was telling me this information his wife entered the store from the back door while speaking with someone over the phone. He immediately understood that his wife was speaking with his “Shviger” – his mother in law. He interrupted and told his wife that there is a man in the store who would be able to speak with her mother in Polish and her native Yiddish. She handed the phone to me and I greeted her with a courteous ‘dzien dobry pani’.
We conversed for a while in polish and than she asked me ‘du redst Yidish’ which isn't a language that I use on daily basis but we spoke in the language of her childhood for a while making her happy as well as her daughter and son in law. We spoke for couple of minutes and than she hung up and I spoke at length with the owners of the store. We spoke about all what Jews in the golus can speak about, but the main thread of our conversation was – how to maintain our Jewishnes while being challenged in places remote like this one and  while on the road.

While I was still at Kenny’s store I began to feel strong stomach pain which was increasing by the minute, and after I left the store of my new Jewish friends, the pain became unbearable. I called my wife & my daughter for advice on how to deal with the pain. I took their advice and bought some medicine in a few gas stations and pharmacies along the way. The medicine reduced my pain enough for me to make one more appointment but I had to do my utmost not to show that I was in severe pain. This was my last appointment of the day. The next day’s appointment was in a town on the western side of the Rockies some three hours from the place where I finished my day.

I called my wife and she advised me that instead of driving all the way to the town of next appointment as I have done usually, I should instead drive some more today and the rest in the morning.  Without a doubt it was great idea. I googled for a town with a few motels approximately half way to my next destination, touched the phone icon and soon spoke with a receptionist in the first motel. After a few calls I found a motel of a decent brand with the amazing price of $68.00 a night, considering the mountain region pricing. I touched the direction icon and got an approximate time to get there. Meanwhile the last prescription strength pain killer that I took wore off. Attacks of pain came again to such an extent that I was basically crying from pain in my car. I was afraid to take another pain killer which would limit my ability to drive. I took it nevertheless and significantly slowed down the speed of my car.
After exiting the highway I noticed sign of a motel offering me the best value in town! The best value? Maybe the price was the same as the other motel but perhaps amenities were on higher level, who could resist?

I drove less than minute to the motel and soon was standing in quiet good looking lobby.
Behind the counter was sitting man in his fifties or slightly more than that. A rather skinny individual with a short trimmed beard welcomed me with a big smile. I believe that at this moment he didn't recognize me as a Jew.
I asked for the price for the room and he answered still smiling, that it would be $79 per one person. I asked him how he can declare that he has the best value in the town while the other motel was offering me a night for much less?
He answered that his rooms are of superior quality to the other motels in the town, which
I put him off with a rather sarcastic statement that other motels don’t have cockroaches in their rooms either, but he didn't gave up:
- How much did they offer it to you? - He asked.
- Sixty something. - I answered making a move like I was turning to leave, which I really was going to do.
- Sixty nine?  - He asked - I can give you it to you for this price.
I looked at him wondering, because this kind of bargaining is rather characteristic for a vegetable market or some other business dealings in my own Brooklyn-Monsey neighborhood. In motels you usually take the price they quote you or you go to the next motel! I slept in hundreds of motels but I don’t recall anything like this kind of bargaining. Subconsciously I began to look at his face to find any familiar, and I mean familiar from facial features indicating his nationality. I know that some may not believe that such a thing like recognition of someone’s Jewishnes from facial feature exists but as Roger Waters put it: “I have amazing power of observation” and most of the times even a average person can notice certain commonalities existing for Jews from different parts of the world. Nevertheless I began to see that receptionist from this motel may have some of the facial features which I was accustomed to for a big part of my life. But I couldn't believe it! He would be the third Jew (fourth in fact) which I would meet in these mountains in the single day!

I agreed to stay in his motel and while taking my driver license for registration, he asked me from where I am from. As usual I answered that I’m from Monsey - New York but added quickly expecting his question about my accent that my accent is Polish.  
- So you are a Jew from Poland - He asked.
- Yes - I answered without going into the details how it happened.
- My parents are Holocaust survivors from Poland - he said - but I don’t know much their Holocaust experiences or about being Jewish all together.

My legs felt weak and it was not from the stomach pain which I had completely forgotten at the moment. The probability of meeting on one day some many Jews in this region of the country was close to impossible. Here, in single day, I have met members of the nation which is slightly more than one of the percent of the population of the country and besides is concentrated mostly in just few areas of this country. In addition all those whom I met were descendants of Jews coming from country of my birth. This fact, and the fact that I met them in such a sparsely populated area of the country, convinced me one more time that selling my beautiful merchandise is not the only task for me to do in these mountains.

We spoke as long as my stomach pain allowed me and I shared with my new friend the idea that as the members of the same family it is good for all of us to keep together. It doesn't mean that we have to be the same but keeping together will enrich each of us and connect us to what was lost somewhere along the way. He listened and reminded himself about the Chabad House close to his town that he heard about. Without hesitation I advised him to visit the Chabad House from time to time to reestablish his association with the Jewish people, hoping that through this connection he would also reestablish his connection with the One above - The Father who is constantly looking out for His children in every remote corner of the planet and Who, couldn't deny to myself, sent me to plant the seed or perhaps only to water something which was growing already.

Matys Weiser

Friday, September 14, 2012

Did the Almighty G-d create the world?

Or to be more precise,

Did He do it within the short time of six days?

Another question that can be asked is, does He perform miracles, extraordinary or unnatural acts that encroach on the limits of reality as we know it?

I assume that once we establish the answer for the first question it will be easier to answer the secondary questions.

I felt that this is an appropriate time for this essay because according to the prevailing authorities among our sages, Bereishis – and the anniversary of the creation is on the 25th of Elul which is right around the corner. The other reason is, that I recently saw a Jewish on line debate on this topic where the argument was about some old artifacts that were dated to be 10,000 years old.

Most of the people on both sides of the discussion seemed to be missing the point. While one side was calling it simply Kfira – heresy as they believe that the world was created 5773 years ago according to the dates provided to us by our sages. The other side was using the only weapon that they had – ridicule. Few of the participants of the dialogue were trying to somehow combine the Theory of Evolution or Old Earth Creationism with the version of creation as described in Bereishis.

Only one of the participants of this on line conversation noticed that the whole methodology of dating old artifacts is highly inaccurate and is more ‘scientific’ dogma than factual observation. This is not the place for a long discussion about the radioactive method and other methods of dating and how it is perhaps the biggest distortion in the history of science. But you can easily do some research online where this subject is explained at length.

For a major part of my life I was a believer in the creation of the earth by the Creator but at the same time I also took for granted the theories of scientists.  I grew up in a society where scientists had achieved a position of trust; scientists said this and scientists discovered that, and - scientists know for sure, they are scientists after all!

We believed that the scientists were devoted to discovering the truth and only the truth and than they were preserving the truth for future generations. It was almost like a religious belief. My naivet√© slowly eroded as I began to discover that the ‘priests’ of science as well as real priests are also human beings like ourselves. They have ambitions, cravings, beliefs and ideologies like we all have, and these and other factors may influence not only directions of their research but also the research results. But most of all, some of their conclusions which are supposedly derived from objective research are in actuality mirroring their own world view. I discovered that modern science in particular is based more on ideology then science and it is this ideology that excludes almost all of the spiritual aspects of our existence. Sometimes this materialistic western ideology simply negates the fact that we are spiritual beings or at least that there is some transcendent aspect in our existence. When asked about this, the scientists hide behind their scientific agnosticism, declaring that even if today’s science doesn't have answers for this or that question or problem, soon, soon it will be discovered and that the answers will certainly fit in to their Greek based methodology of axioms and definitions.

In spite of my being influenced by my materialistic upbringing I was always trying to merge the theory of evolution with the gradual slow act of the creation and development of the world.

For years I attempted to explain most of the Nissim – miracles in a similar way, by finding natural and naturalistic explanations for all the unnatural or miraculous acts described in the Bible, A Bible which I considered to be an extraordinary book and communication channel between the Creator and humanity. But in truth, for some reason in my sub consciousness I saw G-d as shorthanded or almost unable to do those things. I saw nature as the dominant factor of our existence. I was almost unable to see Him in nature as the ultimate Doer and cause of everything. Certainly, I saw G-d in greater distance from His creation than I see it today.

Slowly I began to discover that not only the nature itself is unnatural, miraculous, and impossible but the only real existence which can be called Existence is His Existence and not ours. It is not us who believe or not in G-d but it is Creator who 'thought' us and this is when our ‘existence’ began. It is Creator who Is ‘telling, thinking, imagining’ His word of creation, and this word comes to realization of what we call existence and reality. What for Him is the word for us is the world.
Giver of our existence first created us as the spiritual identities and than He crafted the material world enclosed in three dimensions and time as the trial field where we have to exercise His gift of Bechira – free choice.

Once I ‘discovered’ this truth, I revisited the question about nature and who I really am. I will not go deeper to this topic in this essay but I would rather focus on the subject which follows the fundamental one. This subject is the issue of the creation of the world, its continuance and miracles – an extraordinary, unnatural or statistically impossible acts.

It appeared to me at certain moment that there is no difference between what we call natural and unnatural.

I asked myself - did the Creator need to stretch the creation for billions of years if He Himself is the Creator of time?
The answer is obvious - No. He doesn’t need any time to create the existence of and give a shape to this world.

For the purpose of the creation, which is sharing with human being Creator’s freedom of action, Creator doesn’t need for this world to be billions of years old. He could bring this so called reality to existence in no time and I mean no time. He chose the process of the creation to take six days only for didactic reasons and not because He somehow was limited by laws of nature which He created.

One of the reasons for the six days of creation is to put in to the fabric of the creation code - a pattern in the form of the number seven. In spite of our confusion as designed by the Creator, we – humans should be able to discover this Code-pattern and than consequently discover the fabric of the creation and then consequently discover the One who puts the code in to the fabric of the creation – Creator Himself.

All of this uncertainty and confusion are designed to make sure that our moral choices are real. The clarity of knowledge of the Creator would take from us our free choice. Free choice can exist only in a realm of uncertainty and confusion in our material world where the Creator is hiding behind ‘nature’ and at the same time He is revealing Himself in the codes and patterns of nature.  I hope that the above sentences are not too convoluted and are simple to understand.

The whole physical world is filled with such codes and patterns which for most people are unnoticed but for the searching and sensitive mind they are obvious marks of the Creation and the Creator.

The act of creation becomes for some individuals so obvious that it is beyond and doubt for them. We may ask - what happened with the free choice of these people? Their choices are possible only because of the fact that Hashem is hiding from them throughout their lives, He gives them the impression of being completely withdrawn from their affairs and they feel like they are on their own. This is the precise area where they can make mistakes but also choose the right decisions, and for them this is the essence of Bechira –freedom of choice.   

Time is reality, which even if with astronomical numbers of zeros after digits, can be limited in our mind. With today’s knowledge of space, space seams to be infinite, there are no numbers designing its end or beginning like it is case of time which began with Big Bang. The light of the farthest stars and galaxies travel to our center of the universe for an infinite number of light years.
The ‘space’ without the space ‘before’ Big Bang is impossible to grasp.
In the same way like in the case of ‘natural and unnatural’, time-space ‘infinity’ is the medium which the Creator is ‘hiding behind’ but at the same time He is giving us the glimpse of what infinity is about. In other words: ‘the Higher then Physical’ is revealed in our physical world by nature and infinite time-space.

In summary, the Almighty Creator did not need the millions and billions of years to form or remodel this world. If it took time for Him it was necessary not for Him but for us.
Recently I came across following line from one of the MO publications:
“It is not hard to imagine creation taking longer than ‘snap of the Hashem’s anthropomorphic fingers’.”  
But the question is why? What would we gain from it? Would it be part of the confusion necessary for exercising the gift of free will? I would be almost ready to accept this idea but HBH could snap the fingers and create the world with the all the signs of evolution as indeed many believe that it really happened this way.

I don’t. I don’t believe in millions of years of the slow development of the natural world and I don’t believe in creation with imprints of evolution in the form of fossils and certain laws of physics. Philosophically the idea of creation taking longer than six days is not acceptable for me. The only framework from which I look at the geology or history of our planet is through the framework of Bereshis as understood by our sages, and through the Mabul – the great flood of Noah.

I detailed my observations about Noah’s flood in my essay on this topic partially published on my website where I combine the modern Young Earth Creationism’s view on the topic of Flood together with some my own observations and various interesting statements of the Scriptures and Jewish sages.

The deeper understanding of Bereishis is strange to me as I’m not educated enough to understand it and anyhow, the story of the Creation is written in the language of Kabbala which I’m not familiar with. The story of the floods, one at the time of Chanoch the other in the time of Noach, and past great flood ice age, are sufficient for me to understand the geology of our planet in the terms of  the calendar provided to us by our sages.

Local floods here in the United States like Lake Missoula flood and the drainage of Bonneville Lake, Great Lakes of Southern Utah and Arizona and Great Lake which covered today’s Great Lakes but on much higher level, help to explain  some of the geological and other changes in recent history. When in the Middle East the history was already written the rest of the planet whether inhabited, was populated sparsely by groups which had not yet developed the means to observe and record history and  natural changes even if those changes were of global proportions.

I would not call a person who fulfils the will of the Creator as written in the Shulchan Aruch but also believes in some form of evolution or Old Earth creationism a Kofer.

Believing in this or that way about the forming of our reality is not something which defines us as Jews, fulfilling the will of the Creator as revealed in the Torah does.

If person is trying to combine evolution with the Creation it is usually the result of confusion and belief that every statement said by a scientist with a straight face with the religious i.e. dogmatic authority of science, is a fact. It is not necessary so. But temples of evolution are being built all over and the capability of propagandizing by the believers of this ideology is superior. But most of the time the final argument that they can present is ridiculing creationism. All this is for one purpose only, to distance the Creator from their and our lives. For a Creator who is not distant comes with various requirements and who wants to think about that …
Matys Weiser

P.S. To see more on topic, see this fascinating material: 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Flat tire "miracle"

It’s been couple of weeks since I last posted on the blog and I feel really bad about it as I consider this blog not just as a hobby or outlet for my energy but rather as a medium where I can share with my fellow friends and strangers my thoughts and ideas about various issues. However when inspiration fails me what can I do?

But HBH has His way to awake and “inspire’ and if a delicate touch doesn’t help than sometimes a kick does! In my case it looks as I needed a kick to get my attention and this time the kick that of awakened my inspiration was my car, particularly the tires.

I know some of you may be bored by a second essay involving tire problems while driving in a dusty desert! … But this story is worth telling especially its conclusion.

This time I was driving in a very sparsely populated area of Wyoming. There aren’t too many Indians here as they were suppressed by the US government after the Indian victory at Little Bighorn and their defeating General Custer and his army. The chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse escaped to Canada and the Indian lands were confiscated with only a little compensation in the form of a few reservations. Therefore not even Indians were around this time as in my previous essay.

I left town and took a side road which was almost a hundred miles long and a large portion of it was just a dirt road. Driving and enjoying the glorious views surrounding me, looking at the almost infinite space unspoiled by human activity I thought to myself how privileged I am that Hashem presented me with my present occupation allowing me to see all of this endless beauty of this country and His creation.
A cloud of dust was following my car for about a mile and no other cars were anywhere to be seen, not a single human being and no telephone service was to be had since a few miles after I left town. After more than thirty or forty miles on the dirt road I passed a ranch and the paved road began.

Soon after I got on the pavement I felt that my car was behaving in a strange way. Without looking on the dashboard gauge I knew it was a tire. After stopping my car I took a walk around it and found that my rear driver side tire was totally flat. I drove few yards to better position my car so that I would be able to take out my spare tire located underneath the car. This was the first time I needed to use my spare in the four years of driving my Suburban. I took the tools and inserted them in the small opening in the back bumper. After turning the device right and left for a good half hour I realized that I will be not able to lower the tire to take it out. I started to think about alternative solutions for my problem, namely to ask for help. The ranch which I passed not long ago was still pretty close but it didn’t look occupied and in retrospect I am sure that the people that were living there were regular Americans and nice people however when I was all alone in the desert I was not that sure about it. My phone did not have any service for the past thirty miles and Cheyenne, the next town was almost fifty miles away.

Of course I was asking my Creator for help with a sinking feeling in my heart considering my situation. Visions of spending the night in the desert were not as bad as my fear of encountering some hoodlums or crooks. I waited for a while but the road was empty and no car passed in either direction for more than an hour, I decided that I would try to drive as is with one flat tire. After driving a little more than a half mile I realized that it was impossible to continue this way. With tears in my eyes I took one more look at my phone mounted near my steering wheel. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! I saw one of the service bar indicators blink on and off. I walked little bit more up the hill to try to get a better signal but was unsuccessful. My phone was working only in the spot where my car finally stopped unable to go further and nowhere else!
I called AAA and spoke to the person on the other end of the ‘line’. Apparently the person heard me well however my reception was very bad. After transferring me from the New York office to Oregon, I finally got someone in Wyoming. It was hard to believe that a person living in Wyoming didn’t know that there is no closest cross street on the highway where I was stuck, but finally after checking back and forth the AAA person was able to locate me on the map and he said the he would send someone to help me. The AAA truck arrived one and a half hour later. It took us another hour and a half to release the spare tire, because the bolt securing the tire was rusty. Together with my new friend we worked underneath the car while trying different ideas to loosen the bolt. Finally the tire fell to the pavement, at that moment I praised HBH in all the languages that I speak. But it was not the end of the problems. While lifting the car, my tool broke into two pieces and the AAA man had to take almost all of his tools out of their boxes in order to loosen the tire. At last we were able to put the spare on properly and while the sun was already below the horizon I gave my blessings to the AAA man and said goodbye.

I began to drive toward Cheyenne. As soon as I began to drive I noticed that my phone was not working anymore. And that is how it stayed for the next thirty miles.
While I was scanning the dark road every few seconds I was also scanning my phone. A solid X over the service bar connectivity indicator didn’t leave any doubt. There was no phone service in the entire area. I started getting chills down my back and the hair on my neck stood up! I began to analyze the situation from the very beginning of this long drive. If I would have gotten the flat tire on the dirt road not only would there not have been any phone service but it would be almost impossible to use any tools in such conditions in addition to the uneven position of the vehicle. The flat tire happened as soon after I got on the paved road or just moments before. The fact that I was able to call AAA was a miracle, as I define a miracle as something ‘unnatural’ or statistically impossible. Here, in my particular situation the second part of my definition was the best possible description of what happened. Time, place, the surrounding mountains and many other factors guaranteed that it was impossible to use the phone. Nevertheless it did work!

My moods were changing from minute to minute. From near ecstasy of being aware of Him watching over me, to deep sadness that He has to use miracles to make me aware of Him being in charge of my affairs.

Let me be clear. When I’m talking to other people about Hashem’s fingerprints, I know what I’m talking about. Thanks to Him, I have the ability to recognize and to know His presence or at least the impressions of His fingers in all micro and macro aspects of His Creation. I can see His greatness in the structure of the atom or in the depth of the Grand Canyon. But most important of all is that He allowed me to find His message to Humanity – Torah and to join His people. And still after all of this, He ‘needs’ to use a miracle to remind me again about His presence in my life. 
I felt humiliated by this awareness, again close to tears, I was saddened by my lack of trust in Him.

The last few years of my life has been like a roller coaster when many times I wondered where life events are leading me and my family as we were going in directions unexpected and undesired. We all experience these kinds of events sometime during the duration of our earthly journey. We all ask questions sometimes like ‘why’ and ‘why me’. One of the goals of our earthly journey is to put our entire trust in Him, in His Guidance and in His Love.

I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t have a flat tire and would have arrived a few hours earlier to my destination for that day. Maybe some greater trouble was awaiting me worse than a flat tire in the desert! Perhaps, a physical problem or a spiritual problem would have confronted me which every day in my prayers, I ask the Hashem the Giver of life to protect me from.

But after what I experienced and what I have tried to describe in this essay I have no doubts at all! Sometimes we have to learn about His Love in the dust of the road, in sweat (Shvitz) and dry mouth, in the pain of cuts and scratches all over our body, in what we think is a total loss of time, in the humiliation of the recognition that He is in charge!

Matys Weiser

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Terror and "salvation" in Navajo land

My day ended in a motel where an Apache woman welcomed me at the check in counter while the stern faced great chief Geronimo gazed at me from the wall.
Yes, I was in Apache territory and B-H  I found quiet place to rest for the night. A few hours before, I was going through terror in the territories of the Apache’s close cousins, the Navajos. No, no horseman chased me, for today’s Native Americans use pickup trucks! No one at all chased me; in fact there was no one in the desert besides me and my Suburban, a Suburban showing a loss of tire pressure on the tire pressure indicator. Every few minutes I was losing one pound of pressure. The temperature outside was over 100’F but the beautiful but empty road ahead didn’t promise any help in case I eventually needed it. As my Google map was showing me that I was approaching one of the major Navajo towns, the question was if I will make it without breaking down on the side of the road. Boruch Hashem I arrived in town with five pounds of pressure left in the tire. It took me few minutes to find the tire shop which was still open and able to help me. At the third tire shop I visited a large Navajo lady was sitting behind the desk. It is quite usual for a Navajo woman to operate the business as they seem to lead their families. However her husband showed up while the workers were busy with my tire.
The radio station was blaring from the loud speakers and I noticed that the language was in their native Navajo. On the wall hung a poster announcing a play, a theater performance called ‘Passion’. The actors were dressed in clothing resembling that which was worn two thousand years ago in Palestine and left no doubt in my mind what the performance was about. It was about the death of the man from Natzret.
I asked the owner of the business, the lady seating behind the desk if she saw the performance. She admitted that she had.
“Did you like it?” I asked.
“Yes.” - answered the lady. “It was played in our in language.”
 “How did they portray Jews in this play, as good people or bad people?” - I asked.
At this moment I decided to reveal my identity as a Jew, partially at least, as I usually don’t go in to the details of my whole life story.
“I’m Jewish.” I said to her.
First she seemed not to understand what I was talking about as probably she never saw a Jew before in her life. I picked up my cowboy hat which I wear when I travel alone in the west and showed her my big velvet yarmulka. She was a little bit shocked I guess, as she stopped talking to me immersing herself in reading the newspaper.
A few minutes later her husband walked in. She told him something in Navajo and I understood that it was about me.
He asked me which church I pray in and I answered as I have answered this question in the past. (I describe this story in my book “Another Convert”) that I go to pray in a synagogue and not in a church. Being unaware about his level of knowledge of religious affairs I quickly started to explain.
- You see, the man about whom you believe was messiah was Jewish but we Jews don’t believe that he was messiah. We follow and do everything that Moses taught us.
He said “ I know who Moses was, we have a Bible translated to Navajo.”
I wasn’t surprised as it is known fact that the Bible has been translated to almost all languages spoken on our planet. Some alphabets and even vocabularies were created especially to bring the stories of the Patriarchs and the Jewish children, to the nations of the world. As I was curious I asked him, “How do you call Moses in the Navajo language?  And Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?”
He said “We have their names in English but all the rest is in our language.”
Then the man started to describe some miracles which he performed or witnessed in the name of Hanotzri which is nothing new to me as I come from an environment where a big part of the faith was supported by such stories.
The Navajo man was also a kind of preacher of the ‘Gospel” to his people, perhaps he wanted to ‘save’ my poor soul as well, not knowing that I still remember the “gospel’ almost by heart which probably makes my knowledge of it better than most of the Christian preachers.
I allowed him to talk as my immunization shield for this kind of “good” acts of “saving my soul” is as thick as the walls of Fort Knox.  But two thoughts crossed (no pun intended) my mind while the man continued to talk.
Chazal teaches us that the two offshoots of our religion are considered as preparatory stages in the history of mankind, preparing nations to accept the One Creator and his moral requirements, and his chosen people as the spiritual leaders of humanity. You can find such statements everywhere, from Yehuda Halevi and the Rambam to Maharal and Rav Hirsh. Maharal seem to go as far as giving the goim that believe in One Creator the chalachic status of Gerim Toshvim. Rav Hirsh in turn, calls Muslims – half Jewish. It is fact that from the time when our father Abraham recognized Hashem and his Torah the age of Torah began, as Mesechtas ‘Avoida Zarah’ describes it. From one man – Abraham, emerged the nation who accepted the Law of God, from this nation emerged the teaching about this One God and moral conduct. Today the majority of mankind believes in some form in a Creator of heaven and earth and to a certain extent lives their lives according to the laws of morality.
I know, there is still much to do, we – mankind, are still deep in the forest of confusion and paganism. There is still much to do for us Jews.
The other thought which came to me while I was listening to the Navajo preacher was more of a personal kind. I thought back to the various mp3s  I listened to as I was driving through the desert. I was listening to some of the deeper levels of our Torah getting high with some of the ideas derived sometimes from seemingly insignificant details of Torah Shebiksav – the written Torah. Some enzymes or other natural chemicals in my body are making me almost drunk when I learn and recognize the nature of the creation and the tasks of our existence on this Earth. I feel thrilled and extremely happy to have this opportunity to learn these issues as they are the essence of our being and a direct link of our connection to HBH. Every mitzva performed after recognition of its deeper meaning has new value and gives me new excitement.
I wouldn’t experience all of this if I would have stayed at the same level that the man talking to me was at. While for him it brought him to a higher level of humanity as he recognized G-d of Bible as the Creator and His basic moral requirements, for me that path was just not enough.
I never have enough of Him – the One and Only, and that’s how I wish it should be forever.

Matys Weiser

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who is a Jew?

From time to time we are informed by the media about DNA research which allegedly will reveal finally who is who?
Results of such research will not tell as about person’s merit or character, his accomplishments or spirituality, it may inform us however about which DNA pool he comes from. But will Jews use this data, to determine who is a Jew?

The Torah teaches us about the 70 descendants of Noah. These descendants were the protoplast of all nations of the world. Due to the adaptive character of DNA through the years peoples skin color and other natural characteristics changed. Different genes allowed for variety of populations to adapt to diverse environments. DNA allows these changes to happen. These changes are also called ‘micro evolution’ within the specie. The same DNA however doesn’t allow one specie to change into another specie because  DNA mutations are always harmful to the new organism that come to existence with the mutated/broken DNA. The changes that do occur within the specie only happen by using and combining different, healthy ‘ingredients’ of DNA, received from common ancestors. This rule applies to fauna and flora as well.  

Within the last 4000 years most of the nations of the world mixed and intermingled one with another. The tradition of the Jewish sages tell us, that after King Sancheriv resettled entire groups of people within his Assyrian empire, there remains no trace of those original nations. Even our “cousins” the Ishmaelim or Edomim have no distinct connection to their original ancestors. Their lineage is more a matter of agreement, tradition and certain cultural and religious aspects characteristically common to those two civilizations rather than real lineage as descendants of their ancestors.

Is Jewish lineage and its connection to their ancestors different then the other nations of the world? Much different. Due to the fact that a Jew was defined not only by his national membership in the Jewish nation but due to his faith that prohibited him to marry a non Jewish person there exists to a much greater extent the possibility to talk about something which we can call - Jewish DNA pool.

It is necessary however to remember that this ‘Jewish DNA pool” has overflowed or  drained into the bigger “World DNA pool” through our history by voluntary and compulsory conversions to other religions. Maybe it will be possible with future advances in science to actually discover how many non Jews are in fact descendants of the four emahos (Sarah, Rivka, Rochel and Leah) but will it change anything regarding their Jewishness, will it make them  Jewish?
According to Halacha – the Jewish code of law it will not. Jewish Codex of Law defines who is Jew and who isn’t from the time of Moishe Rabeinu i.e. the establishment of the Jewish nation until the beginning of XIX century. However since the time of Haskala – the so called Jewish enlightenment’ there is a lot of confusion regarding definition of who is a “Jew” or “Jewish” 

The theory of race is not a new invention. Already in ancient history there were people who maintained superiority over other parts of humanity. In the XIX century however modern racism was reinvented especially after the publication of Charles Darwin’s book. It became popular to believe that different people stepped down from different trees at different times, and their undergoing different evolutions made them naturally more talented and capable or less talented.

Racism does have however, great supporters among the adherents of the Bible including the Bible’s own people –the Jews. As was said above, there is such a thing like a ‘Jewish DNA pool’ but does it make the Jewish people into a Jewish race? Such a theory was promoted by some of the scientists of racism in that crucial XIX century, some of them Jewish some of them not. Among the people believing in racial theories were such luminaries of existential philosophy as Emanuel Kant and Friedrich Hegel (not Jews).
But it was their adherent Martin Heidegger who was a member of the German Nazi party who believed in the practical application of those theories. And we all know how harmful   these practical applications of race were for the Jews.

Now new theories of race are emerging based on DNA. The Jewish Newspaper claming to be orthodox asks in its title “Who is a Jew? DNA can hold a key.”

Just stunning! A so called orthodox newspaper!

Would DNA be a key to find about the Jewishness of Moishe Rabainu sons? Or Pinchas ben Eleazar who (Eleazar) married  Moishe Rabenu’s wife sister?  Pinchas who is is Eliahu HaNavi as our tradition tells us, is the grand son of Yisro the ger? How many of us could even imagine that, Eliahu Hanavi is a son of person who was not born with complite Jewish DNA!? What about the mitochondria of King’s David’s great grandmother Ruth?
Shemaya, Avtalion, Onkelos, Rabbi Meir bal HaNess, Rabbi Akiva, Abraham baal Ha Toisfos…

Again and again in these types of discussions I mention the names of a few of the greatest Jewish sages just to shock people into thinking and not just regurgitating ideas completely strange to their ancestors, ancestors who perhaps also have some of the DNA from out of the “pool”.
The  Bobover Rebbe, Reb Shloimie Halbershtam once said to Jewish  convert – “I also have blood of Gerim in my veins. I can trace my ancestry all the way to King David and his Great grand mother was a Moabite.”

We will continue this topic in a future essay.

Matys Weiser

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Last week the whole country was breathlessly awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the so called Obamacare. In this essay I will share with my readers my point of view on the topic of the universal health care law, I say “law” because I’m afraid that the present bill is not exactly what people of our country really need, it is certainly not something which can be called a universal healthcare system.

Before I even start, for the reason which you will understand soon, I have to make a statement. My paternal grandfather was killed by the Germans in WW2 in the Mathausen concentration camp and my maternal grandfather was injured by a German bullet on the front line of the same war. I have my personal reasons to feel a certain reserve toward the German people, although I’m able to put it aside when it comes to something that we Americans can learn from them. Besides, I’m a person who believes in the responsibility of individuals without blaming entire groups or nations. I do not put the blame for Nazism on the entire country of Germany or on another population. I know, a lot of people will disagree vehemently with me on this but this is not the only issue where my convictions put me in the minority.
Also, for those that accuse me of being a socialist, I will tell it straight at the beginning. Yes, I am a socialist or to be more precise – a social democrat. That’s where my political views orbit. No, I don’t believe in the Marxist or Leninist form of socialism. When the communist rulers wanted to impose it on us over thirty years ago I personally fought against them on top of the barricades erected in the city where I grew up (See my essay "Hanukkah' and pictures there). I risked my life fighting against communist dictatorship and thank G-d I was saved to raise my family and do lots of other things in my life.  Moreover, as a teenager I read some books on theory of socialism including “Capital” of Marx which didn’t appeal to me then and it still doesn’t appeal to me now. So before some of you will start to see my statements through the prism of ‘Chochmos’ acquired from ‘prophets’ like Limbaugh, Beck and Cavuto and other right wing mouth pieces of the corporate propaganda machine about socialism, please continue to read.

In 1883 the chancellor of united Germany, Otto von Bismarck, issued the first of his social bills. The “Health care bill” was passed by the Reichstag – the parliament in the same year. The next year the “Accident insurance bill” was passed. Five years later in 1889 “Old age and disability law” was proposed by Bismarck and approved by the German parliament, giving the foundation for social changes in many countries around the world, including ours. The social security system of our country is based on the idea of that German legislation.

From a certain point of view we may speculate that social legislation was a “lesser evil” chosen by the governing bodies of these countries instead of giving up the working masses under the influence of Marxists ideology which was calling for forceful changes in western societies. Marx, Engels and to certain extent LaSalle (all of them born Jewish) were already spreading this idea for decades, a dangerous idea that equality and social justice may be achieved only by the uprising of the  working class and more or less bloody revolution.

The social legislation and the following social changes were certainly “lesser” but was it “evil”?  Certainly it was evil from the position of the industrialists, who since the establishment of these new social regulations had to spend more money on the workers which meant that their profits decreased in order for them to be competitive. I have no doubt about it, all those who believe that the free market and capitalism are the true engines of progress and prosperity such regulations means unnecessary interference of government with the rules of the free market.
So… whose progress and prosperity are we talking about? Owners and industrialists – who are the in narrow margin of society or society itself? Is the free market really completely free and if it is not, where are the borders of this freedom? Isn’t it true that if instead of a worker being exploited to the limits of his capability we allow him to maintain a level of life where he can fulfill his family and social needs then he can work more effectively thus enriching his company and society?

Since Bismarck’s legislation, the German model of social protections regulated by a democratically elected government, proved to be successful; not only on the humanistic platform but also in industrial and technological progress. Germany, even with the huge setback of the WW1 and Nazi madness, was and still it is a leading economical and industrial power not limited only to Europe.

What then, is the great danger for our country that we are so scared by the moronic rhetoric from all kinds of “protectors” of the free market, capitalism and our style of life, against communism - socialist dictatorship? Who are we really protecting by supporting politicians and powers that clearly do not represent the broad society, including a big sector of the Jewish population who are not able to make ends meet?

Over the next hundred years after the German invention, different countries and societies adapted or created different social legislations protecting its citizens. Each one crafted to a specific situation or even to a specific culture who by democratic means chose to protect not only those who can protect themselves but also those who can not fight for their social rights - the poor, sick and old or disabled socially or economically in different ways. In many countries it was kind of a social revolution, especially those populations which were living out of the area of influence of Christian or Muslim ideals of the social justice or protection of the needy. In some of the countries it simply meant not sending old parents to the mountains to die or ending the killing of disabled or sick children. Although it must be said that this kind of cruel behavior is still acceptable in some cultures even today.

For me as a Jew, the major question is what is the measure of progress? Is it value of GDP or GDI? Is it, like the communists wanted, amount of steel produced per number of citizens? Is it the number of cars per family?  What is the progress that we are measuring?
When we look at the American Declaration Of Independence the first rights for all our citizens are that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  It seems to be, that the fathers of this country understood progress to mean the protections of individuals and their freedom, and industrialization is certainly not to require sacrificing human life, health or happiness. For the founding fathers of this country the true measure and value of society was what makes humans more Human and society more humanistic. They focused on the good and prosperity of man without giving up his dignity or falling under servitude of any kind.

Where did these ideas and ideals come from? Can we ‘blame’ the French revolution or the Humanism of Voltaire for these not so new values? Before Voltaire there was Montesquieu and before him there were others.  At which point of history do we see the beginning of the idea of protection of human life, health and dignity as a value for itself? When it was first thought that unprivileged and weaker individuals have not only the same rights like every one else but that specifically these persons need the extraordinary protection of society?  

Before I will try to answer those questions according to my understanding, I will tell you an interesting story.  In 1128 CE, in Cairo Egypt a new hospital was opened for the public, its name was Al Mansur (by some sources it was in the year 1284, when probably some kind of extension or renovation was done.) The Hospital was declared by the ruler of the country to be a facility “for, the sick, poor, and rich alike.”
According to the decree of sultan who initiated the establishment of the hospital “the hospital is to serve all people from the king to the lowest of his subjects”.

This was the best hospital built at that time as reported by contemporary travelers and historians of that time such as Ibn-Battuta and Al-Kalkashandi. It was divided into different sections according to the medical ailments or different diseases. Music therapy was used as a form of therapy treatment for psychiatric patients. It served 4,000 patients daily and the patient's stay in the hospital was free. Moreover, on his discharge, the patient was given food and money for compensation for being out of work during his hospital stay.  Other sources describe, that there were steady working physicians and other personnel of the hospital as well as those who worked there by the systems of turns. One of the managers of the hospital was the personal physician of sultan al Kamil (brother of Salladin). The name of chief doctor of Al Mansur Hospital was Ibrahim or Abraham ibn Maymon - author of “HaMaspik LaOvdey HaShem” - the son of the Rambam.

That’s some idea of the social ideals at work, but again the same question persists, at which point of history do we see the beginning of the idea of protection of human life, health and dignity as a value for itself, that the value of life, health and well being of every member of the society as equal and worthy of protection; regardless of the social or economic position of that person in this society?

It is our own Torah which in the new era which started already in the time of Abraham our father, after 2000 years of nothingness (Talmud Avoda Zarah). The Torah was the first to teach hospitality, openness, justice, mutual respect and friendship. It taught the children of Israel to help each other, especially those without protection of relatives or family, the orphans, widows and yes - strangers. Jewish social institutions always served as an example not only for Christian or Muslim societies. Certainly institutions like: Bikur Cholim, HaChnosas Orchim, Gemilas Chesed or even Jewish courts. The very existence of those institutions served as a model for social care and justice unknown previously to the pagan world.

Today we Americans are living in a society of over 300,000,000 citizens. If more than 10% of us can not be treated as any citizen of medieval Cairo would have been then it is no progress at all! It is a huge failure of a civilization claiming to be a light of Judeo-Christian values. It is a shame!

Is Today’s America ready for a universal health care system? BeEzras Hashem I will try to answer this question in the near future.

Matys Weiser

Sunday, June 24, 2012

FFB - Frum from birth

The Yiddish word Frum is usually translated as – devoted, pious.
Now isn’t this an oxymoron? Can anybody be devoted and pious from birth? After all, devotion requires a conscious decision to be faithful. A pious person can only be one who chooses to be so!

Ok, maybe I am quibbling over the words but in reality we all understand that we talking about a person who was raised from birth to be a devoted and pious Jew. Fine, I’m a man of compromise, let it be so: frum from birth means only, that a person was raised and prepared to be pious and devoted but it doesn’t mean that he is! Although I’m afraid that for some it may be an unsatisfactory compromise

When we say someone is frum, we all picture a person who fulfills the laws of the Shulchan Aruch – the code of Jewish Law, a person who is a religious individual and his religious conviction regulates all of his daily activities. But was it his choice?
I believe and I have for support for this belief in the words of chazal that it was not his entirely conscious decision; it was not his decision to turn his life toward the service of the Creator. Yes, he says Mode Ani; yes he puts on Tefilin every day and yes he keeps Shabbos and without any doubt his service to Hashem has a great value to our Father in Heaven.  After all, that person may choose not to do all that was inculcated in to him by his parents and educators. He may choose to live a non religious lifestyle and become rebel - a person who spit in the face of the people who devoted their lives to give him what they considered the best treasure of all – an  awareness of G-d and his Torah.

But the person whom I talking about here in this essay chose not to rebel and internally he can not imagine himself living any other life other than that which he is acquainted to from the beginning of his memory. Is this the level of service of the Creator which can be called -devotion and piousness?  Maybe I don’t understand the English definitions of these words but I don’t think so.

Yaakov Avinu grew up in a frum home. There can not be a more frumer home than that when you grandfather is Avraham avinu and your father is Yitzchok avinu.  He learned Torah with Meforshim as the Midrash puts it. He knew about G-d, perhaps even he knew G-d! But something was missing; something which caused G-d to come vis-√†-vis toward Yaacov when he escaped from his home deprived and naked, literary naked (See Midrash). Hashem showed our father Yaacov a great vision in his dream! A ladder resting on earth but reaching the heavens and heavenly Angels were going up and down the ladder.  Yaacov had understood previously that there is a separation between the earthly realm and the heavenly realm. What he apparently didn’t understand was that it does not limit the Creator of Heaven and Earth from being here, down, among the people of His choice, the people who chose Him (see comment of Rav Hirsch on Yaakov’s dream).  It was a great revelation to our frum from birth father, that: Yaysh Hashem Bamokom Hazeh - Hashem is here, VaAni Lo Yodati – and I didn’t know about it! This was the moment in the life of our father Yaacov where he came closer to G-d than ever before. This was the moment when he met Him. Our FFB father Yaacov needed such a moment in his life, a moment when he said: “Vayira – and I was scared”, he was afraid!
What he was afraid of? He had just met the Almighty G-d!?
He understood, that it is not just knowing about  G-d or knowing to a certain extent what the G-d of his fathers wants from him. Yaakov Avinu recognized the great responsibility, the tremendous burden of being a Jew of being a representative of the Creator for all of the creation, in the lower world and in the higher worlds. It is for him and it will be on his children to carry this most difficult task of all – stay on the path of Torah. This is precisely what he was afraid of. Yaakov was afraid that his children upon coming to such a moment, a recognition of their mission in the world might not have enough strength to continue and carry on, through the process of tikkun – restoration bringing back all that was lost in Gan Eden – the Garden of Eden and leading them to the final Geula – Recovery.

If I may, I call this moment in our fathers Yaacov’s life – the moment of Geirus. I assure you that this idea doesn’t come from the fact of who I am, however it allows me, Beezras Hashem, to sense some of the thoughts and ideas which can be hard to understand for someone FFB even if he is a Talmid Chacham; he simply doesn’t have this kind of geirus experience. To learn more about “moment of geirus” and how I understand this term please read my essay “Shavous yom tov of gerim”

Matys Weiser

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Baal Teshuva

Once I spoke with alte Yid - an old Jew, who remembered the world that once was and he told me”
“You know? In my time of youth, over there in the alte Heim – old country, there was no such thing like a Baal Tshuva, there were only more and more of Baaley Aveira – the apostates.”
This old Yid was marveling when seeing and heard about thousand upon thousands of Jewish returnees, people who were born to the families that are Jews by nationality and according to Jewish law, but not Jewish by their deeds and performance.
Many times these children of Yakov, were raised by parents who didn’t know much about Judaism, often no more than their gentile friends and neighbors.
They were Jews but they were not Jewish.
We are privileged to live in the period of time when those lost generations are coming back to the fold. What makes them do so?
It is not an entirely new phenomenon. It happened in the time of Yashiyahu and again under king Cheskiyahu. The mass teshuva that happened in the times of those righteous kings was partially administrated but the description of these events in the scriptures leave no doubts, the children of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov returned to their G-d with their hearts and deeds.
It happened again within the time of the Golus Bavel – Babylonian exile. It happened after the uprising of Matisyahu the Chashmonai when he and his sons defeated the Greek army when they were fighting to defend the ways of their holy predecessors.
History witnessed similar events many times in Eretz Yisroel – the Land of Yisroel and throughout the long exile.  The entire Jewish history is like a 3,500  year long spiritual sinusoid. Up and down, up and down, up and down …
Those periods of warm relation with the Creator and spiritually elevated life regulated by law revealed to the elders, began many times when Jewish prophets and sages had nothing but words of criticism for their beloved brothers. The true leaders of Klal Yisroel had warned and spoke harshly to their people because they loved them.
We are witnessing and sometimes we have shared in this incredible movement of people who leave their current lifestyle and now focus on the values and practices that are perhaps hard and difficult to live by. It is even much harder for a new comer than for those who were raised according to these standards of life as some call them FFB’s (Frum From Birth) where many act in a semiautomatic manner.  That’s one of the reasons, I guess, why the Talmud teaches that at the place of Baal Tshuva not even a perfectly righteous person may stand. For a baal teshuva nothing comes automatically, nothing is a matter of external training. His life lived according to Torah standards is the  result of self control from the beginning to the end. Nothing automatic about it!
But let us go back to the question asked above: Why do they do that? What is the motivating factor behind their “return”?  Is it only the commonality with the rest of their nation, those who are more devoted to the ancient path? Is it the antiquity of this religion itself, what attracts them?
We see people of other nations who are assimilating to the surrounding culture language or religion in at most two or three generations. Of course there are many Jews who do the same but did you here or see such a thing like an Irish, Greek or Italian, who after few generations of being acculturated in a new country or environment, all of a sudden begins to learn strange alphabets, language and customs of his great grand fathers? Did you ever witness a sacrifice comparable to that which those Jewish returnees are undertaking? It has no precedence it simply doesn’t happen.
With the grace of G-d I was privileged to observe with my own eyes this difficult process, especially in a country where a Jew was considered as a kind of subhuman than a member of a nation chosen by G-d.

I saw this almost natural… no, actually natural drive, of some of my most beloved friends who were driven closer and closer to something which at the beginning of their trial was completely strange and unknown to them.

Some of you may say that a gentile, for example someone like me can be also attracted to this spiritually elevated reality. Yes it is partially true, but we gerim – the converts are still missing this secret element which make them to come back to their heritage. We are attracted to Torah in a somewhat different way.

Matys Weiser

Friday, May 25, 2012

LeKuvod Yom Tov Shvios

I regret, didn’t have time and opportunity to prepare any special essay LeKuved Yom Tiv. But if someone really wants to read some interesting story, there is interview with Matys Weiser in this week Hamodia – Inyan magazine. You may learn some things about author of this blog and I hope have some Chizuk from it.
Not to leave reader without any thing, I realized that my essay titled “Shvuos – Yom Tov of gerim” was not so popular last year and I believe that the reason for it is that this blog was much less known last year than this year. I encourage my dear readers to go back to this material as with Hashem’s help I was able to present some less known ideas about geirus.
Please click:

Some of you may like also this:

Sunday, May 20, 2012


It might seem strange to my readers for me to conclude my series of essays on the topic of marriage and family with an article about divorce. 
My aim in posting this topic was that after absorbing Rav Hirsch’s elucidation on the value and meaning of “the family,” as well as my two essays on the same topic the reader would so profoundly appreciate the concept of “family” that he or she would never even consider divorce as a viable solution for marital problems. Just so you know, I strongly hope that those who visit this blog will someday realize what I have learned in life: divorce is catastrophe of cosmic proportions.
Nevertheless, divorce happens not only in society at large and among Jewish people, but also among Torah-true Jews who are devoted to Hashem’s service on an above-average level. Why it this so? Why do people despair of working out their differences? Why don’t people comprehend the utter destruction that results from divorce? Why don’t they seriously consider the welfare of their children and grandchildren who will not only suffer greatly but who will then accept divorce as a viable solution to marital discord instead of the calamity it truly is?

Unfortunately, statistically, children of divorce are much more inclined to divorce than children of intact marriages, who do not view divorce as a preferred “exit strategy.” Even after having suffered the many negative consequences of divorce, they reason that if their parents and/or grandparents chose that path it can’t be all that bad.  

An additional consideration when contemplating the issue of divorce is: If divorce is seen as one acceptable option among many to marital discord, what happen to the concept of zivug which I wrote about in my last essay? How does divorce enter the picture if we believe that marriage is a spiritual connection made by G-d Himself even before the two spouses united in marriage were born?

With the help of Heaven I will attempt to answer some of those questions according to what I have been learned, and I will also share with my readers some of my own thoughts.

Perfect people don’t need the Torah.
The Zohar Hakadosh teaches us that malachim, the angels, did not want Hashem to bequeath the holy Torah to the Moshe Rabbeinu and through him to mankind, who, obviously, are mortal. Hashem explained to them that it is precisely mortal and imperfect people who are in need of the precepts promulgated by the Torah so that they can improve themselves and elevate themselves spiritually.

The fact that human beings are not perfect gives them tremendous opportunities dedicate their lives to achieving excellence through Torah. One improves one’s nature by means of  bechirah –free choice. When person refuses to do evil and chooses instead to do good as defined by Torah, tikkun — progress toward perfection — is being achieved.

But people do not always choose to do what is good, both in general and specifically in the sphere of marriage and family. Most find it difficult to humble themselves enough to invest the work and self-restriction required to build a solid marital relationship.  Others are not aware exactly how to create a healthy marriage and family, and either refuse to learn or don’t even know that they should seek this knowledge.  Perhaps they fear that to achieve a good marriage they will have to relinquish some of their innate selfishness, or even forgo some of their usual indulgence in gashmius, material pleasures, all aspects of earthly life to which they have become accustomed without giving them much thought. They sense that establishing and maintaining a happy family will require them to act in ways that do not fit in with life as a single person living only for him or herself.

Those who never marry are, indeed, unfortunate because they will never have the opportunity to become fully developed human beings. The Torah expresses this teaching in its opening chapter when it states that the Creator created man as ish ve’ishah – male and female. Only in the unity of marriage can people achieve the full potential that he or she was created for.

What happens when people marry and then are too lazy, immature or even too filled with bad character traits to succeed at marriage? What if they refuse to work on acquiring positive middos, characteristics, as is expected of them?  What if they don’t view the inevitable difficulties and challenges of building a strong marriage and establishing a family as an opportunity to achieve spiritual heights, heights that can only be reached by overcoming their inborn weaknesses? What happens if even after family members and friends offer advice on how to improve themselves they prefer to remain in their “comfort zone” and refuse to change?  What if they have general problems with their emunah, their faith, yet prefer to lead their lives on a superficial level, never attempting to understand why they were placed on this Earth? What if they never achieved happiness with their lot in life, with what Hashem has programmed for them, but rather constantly imagine that their lives could and should be better and that this will only happen once they are free of their marriage? What if the person sees him- or herself as a victim not only of life but of his or her life’s partner and children?

People in any of these categories rarely invest the effort required to improve spiritually and practically; in fact, they rarely investigate methods of achieving a happy marriage and all too often ultimately divorce.

Reconciling reality with free choice
People are born with freedom of choice, especially with the choice of how to react to all of life’s challenges. However, as Chazal teach us, our mates are chosen for us by Hashem even before the two people involved are born, couples are predestined. How do we then understand what is happening when the couple decides to divorce?
It is rare that both partners in any marriage bear the same amount of guilt if and when divorce occurs. Although most often one of them is less invested in building a happy marriage and family, the “other half” of the couple is usually somewhat at fault as well, albeit to a lesser degree.  Unfortunately, even if one party is doing his or her utmost to save the marriage and family, his or her efforts will not succeed if the other party is bent on dissolving the union. If one spouse feels imprisoned and is convinced that freedom and bliss are guaranteed outside the marriage, little can be done.

This impasse can happen at any stage of a marriage. Young couples too immature to understand the value and beauty of the family life, especially the opportunity to be  constantly giving selflessly to one’s spouse and children, are especially vulnerable. However, all of us know couples who divorce in mid-life, while they are fully engaged in raising their children, or even later in life when the nest is empty. Some in this situation claim that they were never happy and their marriage only survived due to the extraordinary efforts of one of the spouses who understood the trauma divorce causes children and who, therefore, opted to stay in an unhappy marriage to minimize that trauma. While divorce is tragic at any stage in life, we applaud parents who sacrificed their own personal happiness so as not to unnecessarily harm the children.

Nonetheless, it is not difficult to image that mostly, when such a situation occurs, the home was filled with tension and perhaps even a poisoned atmosphere. How sad for children growing up in such a combative atmosphere whose only consolation is their determination never to expose their own children to either the overt or covert conflict that is their daily lot in life. Parents who maintain that they are staying married solely for the sake of the children, without working out their differences and growing spiritually and emotionally from teaching themselves to compromise are not only shortchanging themselves but also, in a certain sense, destroying the lives of their offspring.

In order to thrive, children need to be raised in families that are filled with authentic devotion and love between their parents. Even when couple experience major differences and difficult life challenges, when growing children observe their parents working together to deal with, endure or overcome those problems they will be ultimately happy and prepared to build strong homes of their own. But when what children experience is a family filled with suffering, even if that suffering is endured “for the sake of the children,” they cannot help but be devastated and poor candidates for their own future marriages.  

Who our spouses are is predestined. How we deal with the challenges they present to us is our choice, one of the most important choices we will ever make.

More mature parents, who understand the devastation caused by divorce, still harm their children if all those children hear are complaints and regrets.  When a husband can’t stop themselves from telling anyone willing to listen, whether it’s someone from their nuclear family, a friend or their child, that life is unbearable because he has to work so hard to support his wife and children, and when a wife constantly complains that she has no time for herself because her days are filled with cooking, washing and cleaning, the home is filled with sadness and both are setting terrible examples for their children.

Any time we give our spouse the feeling that we are greatly sacrificing to be married and/or stay married to him/or her, it introduces bitterness into the marriage and makes our spouse’s life miserable.

Just as harmful is when a husband considers his wife his unpaid maid or when a wife feels that her husband’s only value is as a constantly available ATM machine.
In such situations, one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the marriage is headed for disaster, regardless that only one side in the marriage is expressing profound unhappiness. And worst of all is when one of the spouses, instead of trying to work on the marriage and improve any flaws in the relationship opts to break the exclusivity of the marital bond and seek happiness with someone else while still married.

For a better marriage…
The concept of marital exclusivity is not limited only to Orthodox Jewish society. However, due to the ingenuity of our holy Sages we enjoy many protective means, in the form of the laws and customs of Torah marriage, that share one aim: to provide a level of trust for each of the spouses and to protect family values. It is a conventional imperative as well as a G-d-given commandment that each spouse in a marriage “belongs” exclusively to the other. Spiritually attuned people of all religious persuasions accept that they must restrain from contact with those of the opposite gender other than their spouse. To establish and maintain friendships with non-spouses, to meet, correspond, and/or to maintain any other form of contact with someone outside the marriage causes our spouse tremendous mental discomfort, it is betrayal of the marriage covenant and ultimately may results in the catastrophic sin of adultery. Since trust is the foundation of a healthy marriage, doing anything to harm that trust is disastrous not only to the marriage but to the family.

Of course, when for whatever reason spouses ruin the possibility of a harmonious marriage by inappropriate words and/or actions, the marriage is bound to end.  What happens, in such cases, to the concept of zivug, predestined mates? What happens to the spiritual forces that were involved in the couple meeting and deciding to marry in the first place?  What happens to the concept of “a match made by and in Heaven?”

Unfortunately, as much as I perused the rabbinic literature, so far I have not succeeded in  finding an answer to this question,  as it involves Kabbalistic areas of Jewish teachings  in which I am much less than a specialist. So what I am about to share must be acknowledged as the result of personal analysis and not a documented, authentic Torah view.

It is my understanding that a person has no choice not only in who he or she marries but also in whether he or she is born, or who his or her parents will be. Many other aspects of our lives are also not within our power to choose. Where we have choice, where we are obligated to think deeply before we exercise that power of choice, is mostly in the area of morality as defined by Torah. There are different views regarding the details on this topic among the sages, but those are a topic for a future essay.

For now let us accept that whether we chose to be born or not, we are living on Earth at this time. Life offers each of us the opportunity to grow spiritually and achieve connection with our Creator by making proper moral choices. In order to earn merit in the World to Come man must have total free moral choice in this world. If, for example, every time a Jew transgressed he or she would become paralyzed, no free choice would exist. Accepting this principle, according to Chazal (our holy sages), the ultimate sin is suicide. By choosing to end one’s life, a person has “slapped the Creator in the face.”

In Michtav Mei’Eliyahu, Harav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, zt”l, teaches that relinquishing one’s power of free choice, one’s bechirah,  by ending one’s opportunity for spiritual growth by killing one’s self , is the greatest of sins. Nevertheless, to ensure that man has total free choice, even this ultimate act of rebellion against Creator is one of the many moral choices available to mankind.

What happens when a person who commits suicide is married? What happens when a person’s spouse dies for reasons other than suicide, such as illness or any other tragic event? The remaining spouse not only has the freedom of choice but is halachicly obligated by our sages to remarry. The devastation caused by the death cannot be undone, but if Hashem still gives them life He gives them additional opportunities to repair what can be repaired, and to continue to build and contribute positively even when the past cannot be changed. One thing is almost sure, that just as the person whose spouse died from any cause (except murder) is not guilty of the death, so too is the spouse who did ALL in his or her power to save a marriage that ultimately dissolved is not guilty of its ultimate destruction.

As I said previously, most of the time the spouse who keeps valiantly attempting to save and improve the marriage is the one less guilty of its destruction, and in no way causes “tears to flow” from Hashem’s eyes.

In conclusion.
My dear friend, my fellow Jew, and my fellow non-Jewish brother. Before chas v’chalilah,  G-d forbid, your marriage is in jeopardy, regardless if you just got married, you are raising a family, or you are living with your spouse in a so called “empty nest.” Do yourself a favor, the greatest favor possible. If there are any difficulties in your marriage, realize that they were given to you to help develop you into a better person.

Seek out mentors, guides and teachers to help you identify the causes of the problem and its possible solutions and work as you’ve never worked before to resolve your marital challenges because this is why you were sent down to this world. Your mission is to elevate yourself above you lower desirers by building your marriage, your family, and ultimately  society by utilizing every ounce of your intellectual and emotional power.

Read literature about how to establish and maintain harmony in the home even before any problem arises. Forewarned is forearmed. Be prepared. By investing in your marriage in this way, proactively instead of reactively, you will be blessed with a happy, fulfilled family life as you, together with your spouse, serve your Creator by building your own miniature mikdash m’at, a temple in microcosm.

My dear fellow Jew. Know that there is no better environment for serving G-d than  observing the 613 G-d-given Commandments. And as a side reward, through living as a Torah Jew you will also find in its precepts many guidelines that lead to a blissful marriage, written in both Rabbinic literature and in the words handed down by Moshe Rabbeinu at Sinai. Please remember Jewish religion cannot merely be part of your life,  TORAH IS OUR LIFE. And living a Torah life is the only guaranteed way to experience the ultimate happiness of a loving marriage and family.

Matys Weiser