Sunday, February 26, 2012

Non kosher Jesus and Der man Fun Natzret

This essay suppose to be posted last week but since we are dealing with Hanotzri for the last two thousand years we have already well developed paths how to do it, I posted my last week essay about Mrs. Feldman’s affair.
“Feldmans” are also not a new phenomenon but after seeing that there is silence on our side for longer than we can afford in this inflated with information world, I decided to write and post some answer for her book.
But now please let me spread my wings over the space which I really know, the space which I was flying over for big part of my life – the history of Christianity. I can understand that it may look strange for some to see guy who looks like me to talk about it but well… in our days, there is not to many of us in our camp who have sufficient education and experience with this topic, to take a stand.

Non kosher Jesus and Der man Fun Natzret.

That’s right! Rabbi Boteach is not the first one who is trying to kosherise the Christian messiah for the Jewish people. Rabbi Boteach declared however in his article published on Huffington Post that he is addressing his new book to the Christians but the title of the book however suggests to me something else. Some may say that I got the wrong impression about the book from the title but doesn’t the title represent the book? That’s what the title has to do isn’t it?
The title of this book definitely is not addressing Christiandom, for kashrus is not a part of the Christan religion. If someone is labeling anything as ‘kosher’, to my simple understanding he is looking to sell his product to the Jewish public. It could be an object which really needs this kind of labeling like food or some other religious items. It could sometimes be an item which by stretching the meaning of word ‘kosher’ is labeled this way to assure Jewish buyers that this item meets the requirements of a specific Jewish group regarding certain restrictions like ‘kosher’ phone or ‘kosher’ wig. In all of these instances there is no doubt that it is the Jewish consumer that the seller expects to buy his product.

Now let us deal with ‘kosher’ Jesus.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, Rabbi Boteach is not the first one who is attempting to bring the gospel to the Jews. Sholem Ash, one of the leading ‘yidishisten’, wrote a book “Der Man Fun Natzret”, almost a hundred years ago. In beautiful prose he describes the life of Hanotzri, reading the gospel as only a Jew can. Colorful descriptions of first century Palestine, together with knowledge of the Jewish environment at the time is the background of the story of the gospel’s main hero. All described in a way unlike anyone before. B-H the book of Shalom Ash is almost forgotten by now and doesn’t influence the healthy minds of the Yiddish speaking public. But now we have Rabbi Boteach who once more is trying to do what thousands of Christian missionaries and persecutors have failed to do since the offshoot of the Jewish religion was invented.

Dear Rabbi Boteach,
I don’t believe that you will ever read this essay posted on an obscure blog authored by a convert, a convert who calls himself just ‘Another Convert’. But if you do see this essay, please do yourself a favor and read my book “Another Convert”. You will see that on the so fashionable for you ‘scholastic level’ there is already someone who wrote about Hanotzri but with the exactly opposite goal then one which you appear to have.

I feel strange, that I an ex Christian clergyman, teacher, missionary and preacher, have to come to you with words of Mussar. And believe me there is nothing in my heart causing me to write this critical essay about your book other than the good of Klal Yisroel which I have joined and I love. Rabbi Boteach you are on the wrong path!
There is no question that Hanotzri was a Jew and his teachings are derived from his environment but it is not he who should be credited for these highly moral teachings. It is   this environment, an environment filled with Torah and her followers. Devoted Jews who like him lehavdil learned from Moses, the Prophets and the Scriptures. He preached what he learned from his family members or from his rebbe in the local cheider or from both. Like every Jewish child he breathed the holy air of Torah from his young age. Like every Jewish man he was raised to take upon himself the sweet burden of the Torah and carry it with him throughout his life. Everything good that he preached, all that is so admired by the nations for a large part of human history, is Jewish! But is it Kosher?

Do we the Jews, need to learn from him? Do we need him and his distorted version of Torah, to enrich our service to Hashem? Is Hanotzri so important to us that we should stray from our mesorah/tradition of not learning or teaching about him and his views? The tradition which many of your ancestors gave their life for?

We, Jews are doing just fine without him and for all these years we have no need for him and his views! His philosophy brings nothing new to our values of the highest morality and love for our fellow Jew, the gentile as well as all of the bria – creation as taught to us by our sages. We aren’t deficient in any way and nothing from his teachings can increase our love to HBH our beloved Creator and Father. That’s how it was and that’s how it should be.
Our Jewish mission recognizes the good in everyone and everything that is good according to our Torah shaped definition of goodness. No Mitzva – good deed performed by Jew or gentile will be left unrewarded by our Creator. These are the teaching of our holy sages. But our task, the task of the Jewish nation requires clarity of mind and clarity of our tradition. We learned as soon as we left Egypt that it is not enough to be a so called ‘kosher Jew’ to fulfill our mission. We learned from the example of those who engaged in the sin of Chait H’Aigel but mostly from the sin of Korach and his comrades as well as from the transgressions of the meraglim, the spies.

I dare to remind you Rabbi Boteach, that Korach was a righteous man, a man who saw the holiness of his Jewish brothers and sisters. He kept Shabbos and ate only kosher. He put on tefilin and wanted to dip the all of his tzitzis in the blue dye of tacheles to do even more than what was asked from him by the Torah, and that’s precisely where his problems began. He ended up being swallowed by the earth together with many other ‘kosher Jews’. The Meraglim seemed to have legitimate concerns about the lives of their people. What can be more admirable than their concern about their fellow Jew, basically just saying ‘don’t go there because you will be killed by giants’. And than one day after the wrongdoing of the meraglim some of the Jewish people did not heed Moishe’s warning and decided to go and conquer the Promised Land - Eretz Yisroel after Hashem said not to. Their bones, like the bones of shavet Ephraim whiten the surface of the desert.  Now these ‘good’ Jews were severely punished by Hashem. Their lives were taken for much less serious Aveiros than the one who you seek to ‘kosherize’ in your book!

Yes, Hanotzri was a Jew and so were his first students and the entire Christian congregation of the first century beginning from his birth. But our Teachers who were smarter than me and you, they saw the events as they were happening and not from the perspective of history, two thousand year history covered with the ‘patina of paganism’as you call it. Those teachers decided that it is good for us not to be busy with him and others like him. They taught us that he and his teachings are not kosher!

Rabbi Boteach, being a Jewish patriot doesn’t make anybody Jewish al pi Torah, at least not for most of our history. It was and it is the Torah which makes one a Jew – Jewish - kosher adherence to the Torah and nothing, nothing else.
Again I will encourage you to read the chapters of my book dedicated to the topic of the Notzrim which I used to be one of. However, I wrote those chapters for reasons different than yours, to explain to thousands of my Jewish brothers and sisters who in their confusion due to their detachment from the true source of Jewishness believe that Hanotzri was a Kosher Jew. He was not, and like others like him, religious or patriotic Jews like Hanania, Shabsay Tzvi, Frank, Hertzel and countless of others, distanced himself from his people causing confusion and sometimes even great bloodshed.

I also take issue with another one of your ideas, dear Rabbi Boteach. On the Hufington post and elsewhere, you write about ‘interfaith dialog’. Well I don’t know where you took this idea but the way you are applying it seems to be strange. Strange not only to our Mesora but it is also not in sync with the ideas of those who are considered to be the fathers of ‘dialog philosophy’.
Let’s start with my great Rabbi  Rav Hirsch, how he understood the cause for the division of the nations in to seventy distinct identities. He wrote that the reason for this pluralism was for us humans to learn and collaborate in mutual understanding despite differences dividing us. In other words, the goal is to ultimately unite all humanity in serving the One Creator; it should be achieved however not by giving up all distinctive aspects of their cultures, but rather opposite, i.e. by engaging by these nations their own cultural elements in this service . Rav Hirsch applies a similar idea to the fact that our Creator divided His chosen nation into twelve separate tribes with different tasks and talents which were given to them to serve common task of Yisroel as a nation and humanity in general. This is the basic idea of Rav Hirsch.

Now let’s dwell a little bit on what Martin Buber wrote about ‘dialog philosophy’. In his various works and perhaps most prominently in his “I and Thou” he is quite clear. Dialog doesn’t require resignation from the principals of any of the participants of the dialog. Just the opposite, a Jew should stay a Jew, a Christian should stay a Christian and a Muslim should stay who he is! The different sides of the dialog shouldn’t require or expect the other side of the dialog to compromise their beliefs or even compromise on differing elements of their culture but rather to concentrate on the recognition of the human character of the adversary or of the friend. So why does your version of the dialog see it as necessary to make the messiah of the other religion, kosher? (I realize what I am saying may sound strange being written by a convert who became Jewish after being born to a Christian family but that’s a separate topic impossible to explain in this short essay but you may understand to a certain extent after reading my book and my other essays.)

If however from the very beginning you knew what I have written above and the title of your book was designed as a marketing trick to attract the public and sell your book then I would advise you to use something much more common in contemporary advertisement techniques. I think that if you would put in the title of the book… lets see … ‘sex’!  Much more people would buy your book. Oh! … You did that already?!

Matys Weiser

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Some thoughts on "Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” by Deborah Feldman

There are no coincidences.  The fact that Mrs. Feldman comes out with her book at the same time that I began our long overdue ad campaign for my book “Another Convert” is not a coincidence. The fact that her book comes out on parshas (weekly portion of Torah Reading) Mishpatim and right after parshas Yisro is also not without meaning. Two parshios which are  known as the foundation for all the future laws of justice for all of mankind.

Many will ask, what now Mr. Convert! What you will say now about the religion and society which you chose to join? Now that Mrs. Feldman has “exposed” the dark side of Judaism in general and Hasidism in particular will you now possibly regret the choice that you made?

With the help of Almighty I will try to repudiate and answer some of the statements that Mrs. Feldman is capitalizing on these days.

Many of readers will expect me to be insufficiently informed about the community that I belong to, due to the fact that I joined the community as an adult. In fact, I am a member of the Hasidic community for the last 17 years compared to the Mrs. Feldman who is 25 years old and has been in the community since birth but left it at age 23. Mathematically it seems that there is a disadvantage on my side but considering the fact that I joined the community as a mature person quickly turns the math to my side. If you add the fact that my three children grew in this community while attending Hasidic schools this gives me much more experience and insight than any outsider can only dream about. Some may say that I certainly lack knowledge of the particular Satmar community that Mrs. Feldman grew up in. Again I want to assure my readers, that my ties with the Satmar community are very close. I never became an official member of this community as I didn’t want to commit to only one particular community however Satmar is where I’m at home and that is where I feel the most heimish. I can also mention that my Rav is the Satmar Rosh Yeshiva and my Rav in Monsey where I live, is a Pupa Hasid which while different than Satmar is still more alike then different. Also my youngest son learned in Satmar cheder and Yeshiva for most of his life and we always have plenty of boys from Satmar schools at our house.
What else can I add?  
When the argument, between the Hasidim of Reb Aharon and the Hasidim of Reb Zalman Laib of Satmar began in Williamsburg several years ago, I was literally in the midst of the argument as I was managing the expansion of the Satmar Mikva into the largest Mikva in The U.S.A. Yes, is was a difficult time as arguments and machlokes are never good, but for me those years when I worked in Williamsburg, with Satmar and other Hasidim gave me glimpse of the community which even some of the people who grew there can only dream about. As the Gemara teaches in Mesachtas Avoida Zarah - the person looking in through the window sees more than someone inside the room. I came away enriched and reassured about my choice as I saw how the highest emotions and sometimes even great ambitions can be controlled when there is adherence to the Torah and Jewish values. It is these values that allow its adherents even when arguing to be on a much different level than others in similar situations. But even more important, all the years in Williamsburg allowed me to learn about the people, make friends and see what we call Kedushas Yisroel on the streets of a big city. As many of non Williamsburg Hasidim can attest to, there are certain attitude and nuances that can be detected when you deal with “Williamsburgers”. We sometimes poke fun about this attitude and other things which we find humorous with our brothers from Williamsburg but after all is said and done we see them as our brothers and that’s how it should be. Enough said about my credentials!

There are many differences amongst us Hasidim, some stem from the different backgrounds of the countries where we came from, some diversity is result of differing philosophic ideas as taught by our great Hasidic teachers and other differences are a result of family upbringing. The last factor can in some cases be seen as an ‘oppressive upbringing’ as Mrs. Feldman chronicles it. As in other religions and cultures, we have dysfunctional families amongst us as well. There may be some meshugene rebbies/teacheres in cheder and there are nebech even cases of abuse. We are people and people we are. Nothing more or less. We have the same desires as the rest of humanity. Faults of character or even moral weakness are not strange to us. 
The fact that the Jewish people suffered through the holocaust and still are a model of high moral values and devotion to family, is all the more astounding! 
Yes, we have help now and throughout history. The Torah that is what sustains us. It is a treasure that has a power to uplift our people – the Jewish people, from the 49 level of moral contamination to the greatest heights of what humanity has to offer.

Unfortunately Mrs. Feldman has chosen a different path. She made a choice as every other member of this community has. Yes, this community has rules as any other community has its rules and regulations but no one has to stay in a particular community where they do not feel comfortable! There is a G-d given right to leave this community if somebody chooses to. It is G-d Himself who allows us to rebel against Him (Lo aleinu). Mrs. Feldman is certainly not the first one in this position and perhaps not the last one. In fact, every few years we hear stories that are widely publicized. In recent times the titles of these stories for some reason begin with the prefix ‘un’ which expresses opposition.  This is what seems to attract all the moral scavengers that are constantly looking for some scandal to feed their decay encrusted soul!  Most of the renegades from our community however, are not intellectually capable to write or even to read, and this is not due to their limited English education. I know many of these people personally and they can’t or are to lazy to read in any language. But a few of these Hasidic rebels with help of others are able to bring their stories to the broad public describing what most Americans would consider obscure or even unknown,  Hasidic society.
There is a tremendous problem with these stories though, they are written by renegades, rebels who left their groups with dismay, anger and hate. Their lack of objectivity leaves no question about the value of such accounts. They left with full knowledge and understanding that like many other societies, those rebelling will be completely rejected even by the members of their own families once they leave the service of the Creator as it is understood by us. This would happen in any religious society that takes its rules seriously. There is no need to explain to nonbelievers or the semi religious why this is so. That’s how it is and most of us know the rules. You can’t be a sportsman while intoxicated and you can’t be in the Marine corps when you weigh 400 pounds. You can’t play basketball on a golf course and sing confederate songs in Harlem. You can’t call yourself  a vegetarian when you declare your love for steak! It doesn’t work this way and no one call you a vegan after seeing you in McDonalds eating a hamburger. You can’t belong to a society which for over 150 generations gave their lives for certain values and conduct while you refuse to obey these rules. One of the rules is rejection of rebels like Mrs. Feldman. If there would be a middle ground on this issue, our nation would have been finished three generations after Moses and there wouldn’t be a Torah, there wouldn’t be prophets with their moral guidance and there wouldn’t be sages that bring us to the intellectual, spiritual and moral heights, us and the nations of the world as well. Because of our separation and withdrawal from general society, we were able to carry this message of morality through the ages, and because we living within this society at the same time, it allows this message to penetrate the hearts and minds of nations through the millennia.

Through these millennia we have had a number of groups and individuals who, on mostly a personal but sometimes a philosophical basis, denied the validity of this path and rejected and fought this path from without and within.
Through the millennia we have among us lots of over ambitious people or perhaps immoral individuals seeking to blemish our community as a justification for their moral and personal failures.
When I meet these, mostly young, people who decided to leave our community I know already before they even begin that they will start reciting a litany of filthy stories about contemporary rabbis and leaders. They memorize some salacious stories going back sometimes hundred of years in time. But let me tell you something sensational! We are not perfect. From the times of the Patriarchs we learn stories about mistakes, imperfections and sins done by some, and thoroughly criticized by the Torah itself as well as by the later sages. No one whitewashed and described storied of our fathers, our leaders, our judges and our kings in the same way as the heroes of other nations are described - always unblemished always perfect. Bad things happen and these things are described in Jewish writings but with only one goal, to teach us not to repeat those mistakes! I can go on and on through the ages with a long list of sins committed not only by righteous people but also by renegades and common criminals coming from a Jewish background. Some of them were not religious; some of them were religious hypocrites, some others who failed despite their good intentions. We are people and just the people, but after all the litany of sins, there is something greater something exceptional about this nation which constitutes the Jewish phenomenon in history.

Mrs. Feldman, you may get your five minutes of attention which every artist is willing to die for! You may feel the sweet taste of vengeance for all the true or imaginary evil that happened to you. You may bring true, half true and completely false stories about your people, but after all is said and done it will be you who and those like you  who fail and are relegated to the trash heap of history!
Let me quote a few examples from your writings which will present you in a way that you will probably not be able to see for yourself. This is however how other people see you after they read what you have written.

You write in one of your posts on your blog:
"I am absolutely not all about criticizing Hasidism. I am up for opening a discussion about Hasidic culture and encouraging reform and progress both within and without of the community, but pointless criticism never accomplished anything."

Wow, what an admirable attempt. You just want reform and civilize us to the standards of the society which you just joined. Let’s see from where your conclusions and desire to change us are coming from, let’s see what your perception of us is.

"Those men are scary; they’re not trained in civility. They’re terrified of what would happen if the genders weren’t segregated. They think of lust as this uncontrollable, wild impulse."

Who are you talking about? Hasidim? Really? Well, let me list some names. They don’t sound Hassidic to me! Kennedy, Clinton, Berlusconi, Craig, Spitzer, Schwarzenegger, Wiener etc. the list is long and juicy.

Because we are aware of the power of sexuality within a man’s veins and we choose to create certain prevention mechanisms to preserve our families and ourselves from moral tragedies this makes us ‘not trained in civility’? Who other then us is trained in self control and civility? The leaders of your new society? A society where many have ruined their whole lives, careers and family to appease this insignificant (in your opinion) desire? No we do not think that “lust is a  uncontrollable  wild impulse”, we know its power!. That’s precisely why our Rabbis have guided us in putting up “walls” so that it doesn’t become a “uncontrollable  wild impulse"! That’s why we use the power of human desires only within a certain framework as designed for us by our Creator and enhanced by our sages as Hashem Himself wished us to do.

You say you are against pointless criticism. I guess your story quoted below illustrates how pointless your criticism is! Mrs. Feldman.  Or perhaps there is a point to your activities, but it leads to places where you don’t want to admit it does.

“There was this old man on my street who, every day on my way to school, would be sitting on this bench, and would call out to me and offer me candy. I told my grandfather, and he said, “Well, he’s older than you, so you have to talk to him out of respect.” The guy was, like, a pedophile. And we were taught to respect him.”

He was ‘like’ a pedophile? A candy man? An old Hasid sitting on the bench and giving candies to the kids? What makes him ‘like a pedophile’ Mrs. Feldman? I really fail to understand why you bring up this story and what the point of it? This story like many others coming from under your pen and from your mouth, is a product of a hateful mind willing  to use any memory, any scene and any person to besmear the people which you have rejected. Here is another example,

The paragraph is about eating out in restaurants. “because I was never allowed to do it. Women aren’t allowed to eat out”

Where are you coming from? There are plenty of restaurants and pizza shops in Williamsburg filled up with many Hasidic women at all times of the day. What is you point in this statement?

You were not allowed to go there? Well, someone was feeling responsible for you.
There are Satmar families who go to restaurants and those who don’t. There are over 100, 000 people in the Satmar community for G-s sake! Tens of thousands of families, each one with their distinctive approach to Judaism and to the rules of the community.  While there are minor variations to these rules most live within the framework of these rules. Is there any pressure placed on those who are lenient about the rules? Sure, but as it was said before, that’s how every society functions.

With one thing I agree with you and I’m sure that you were right when you say “I definitely think there are plenty of community members that are as unhappy, if not more, than I was”. While there aren’t plenty there are definitely some. That’s precisely why there are some failure cases among us.

“I know that Hasidic Jews are indoctrinated from a very young age to believe that there is some sort of global conspiracy against Jews”… “I was taught to believe that outsiders hated me. That if I talked to someone [non-Hasidic], I risked getting kidnapped and chopped into pieces. Never, ever talk to an outsider. Not even a policeman. Which is why what happened to Leiby Kletzky…
I don’t know from which planet are you coming Mrs. Feldman but the one on which I have been living on for last 45 years. The fact is that country after country, leaders after leaders, people after people, nations after nations, whole civilizations! have murdered and butchered  the Jewish people. How should we feel about it? Should we trust all Non Jews and outsiders while remembering our neighbors putting our children, woman and elders into barns and synagogues to burn them alive? Should we integrate within such a society?

Our true leaders and sages developed guidelines for us as to how we should integrate within the society we live in. But as is perfectly normal we look for help always first among our own. There are wonderful people, some of them true friends of the Jewish nation who go the extra mile to help and to do all the good they possibly can for us. What is wrong with asking our own first? How does Laiby Kletzky’s unfortunate case prove your hateful conclusion?

It is just despicable and ugly how you exploit the death of this innocent Neshuma – soul…

How can you look in the mirror without throwing up? When you insist over and over again in blaming the Hasidic upbringing of this child for his death!

No pointless criticism” you say! Yes! just straight shameful anti-Semitism. What else are you willing to do for your five minutes of fame? You are selling you family, you are selling yourself, you are selling your people now you using the most unthinkable person to achieve your goal, Laiby Kletzky!

But you didn’t end with using Laiby Kletzky for your despicable goals of blackmailing an entire community whose member spent days and nights selflessly looking to find this child and than after finding him, crying for weeks trying to understand what happened. For the sake of besmirching the community which you were unable to stand their moral standards you go even further with your ugly accusations. You created the story describing the death of a thirteen year old boy by the hands of his father in the most horrible way imaginable. You either made up this story yourself or are eagerly repeating it after the same type of people like yourself who made up the story, than you accuse the whole community of a cover up!
There was a tragic death in the town of Kirias Joel at that time but you know it was a completely different story. It was a story of mental illness and ultimate suicide. And to produce your slander you use this kind of tragic story, a story so painful to the family. This villainous slander puts you in the lowest category of all, you are a human scavenger feeding yourself and other blood thirsty beasts like you with human tragedy without even a trace of human feelings for the family who were already devastated by the death of their child.

My first thought after reading Mrs. Feldman writings and watching video clips, was anger, irritation and pain coming from the awareness how someone can use half truths and complete lies to build her career using old, worn, threadbare and hateful propaganda, while knowing that this type of propaganda has in the past brought suffering blood and death to the Jewish people. How it is possible that a person can be so hateful toward her own people, her own family while deceiving the innocent reader? Nay! Posing as someone who has only good of her people on her mind?

The answer is self explanatory and proves more how wrong Mrs. Feldman is in her statements and actions and how right those who choose to continue in their well trodden path are. The answer is - Family.

I’m sure that her grandparents gave her the best what they could despite the fact that this family experienced a generation gap which I mentioned before; they were holocaust survivors. I guess, Mrs. Feldman was probably the only one of her age group who grew up without a mother. I will not play Freud here, but I’m sure it caused tremendous stress for this young person growing up among peers with complete two parent families as is case in the vast majority of the Hasidic community.

But when we look a little deeper in Mrs. Feldmans life we learn that not only Mrs. Feldman’s mother but also here grandmother divorced their husbands and left their families in ruins.  Just yesterday I learned about another young lady from Brooklyn whom I remember from when she was still a little girl, years ago. With sadness I learned that with the exception of writing a book, she went down the same path Mrs. Feldman has and also left her family and community waging a public war against them. The pattern is almost the same as in the case of Mrs. Feldman - one divorce in the family after another. I will obviously not go into the details but the lesson is there to be learned! Ones this happens in the family, once the family safety and family values are damaged, once the foundation of the family is shattered, this is only the beginning! It is a  catastrophe which will continue (in most cases) for generations (Lo Aleinu).
This is precisely the reason why we are so protective about our families, about our behavior and even our language when comes to the issues of man-woman relationships.
We are simply doing everything in our power using what we learned from our sages and the past generations, to avoid the same devastation that happened in Mrs. Feldman life.

My book will never receive the publicity that Mrs. Feldmans book has received. I will never be invited for an interview with Barbara Walters and not even by some PBS interviewer. Who cares about a book describing adventures in finding the true G-d. This is not entertaining or educating!  At least not the type of education that the masses are looking for.
A lack of entertainment is not a fault of Mrs.’s Feldman’s book. Juicy stories about criminally inclined, treacherous, self righteous, strange looking Jews will always sell and any author that includes these topics is sure to be a best seller.

At the end of the Barbara Walters interview on the “View” television show Mrs. Walters says that her editor is speaking in her ear through the ear piece and asking her to ask a very important question. What is this burning question that needs to be asked? What is the question that wouldn’t be asked of person other then like Mrs. Feldman? What is this question that everyone in the studio audience and the millions of people at home watching their television must know?  What is the sexual life of Hasidim like?

If this is a sign of the current society, a society 'trained in civility', then I will pass.

Matys Weiser

To learn more about lies and distortions of Deborah Feldman see:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Deborah Feldman - scandalous

I-H i will post my answer to some of Mrs. Deborah Feldman accusations and misrepresentations on coming Sunday... afternoon.
Matys Weiser

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why did i become a Jew?

The reason lays below. 
From comment of rav S.R. Hirsch on first of Atzeres Hadibros - the Ten Commandmants. 

The so called "belief in the existence of God", as ancient and modern theological philosophers like to express the idea of "the first commandment", is miles away from what this fundamental verse of Jewish thought and Jewish existence demands from Jewish thought and Jewish life. Not the fact that there is a God, also not that there is only one God, but that this One, unique, true God, is to be my God, that He created and formed me, placed me where I am, and goes on creating and forming me, keeps me, watches over me, leads and guides me; not that my connection with Him should be through ten thousand intermediaries as a chance product of a universe which He brought into being eons ago, but that every present breath that I draw and every coming moment of my existence is to be a direct gift of His Almight and Love, and that I have to live every present and future second of my life solely in His service — in a word, not the knowledge of the existence of God, but the acknowledgment of God, as my God, as the exclusive One in Whose hands is the disposal of all my fate, and as the exclusive One guide of all my acts, it is only with this, only with the acceptance of this Truth, that I can lay the foundation of a Jewish Life. To the demand Anoichi HaShem Elokeichu there is but one corresponding reply Atu Elokai!

My blog anniversary!

It’s been a year since I posted my first essay on this blog and March will mark a year since my book “Another Convert” was published.
I started a little later with blogging compared to other Jewish blogers and perhaps my readership is not as large as the others.  I post weekly (on average) and have from 50 to over 500 readers a week depending of the topic and time of posting. Most of the visitors are from the US but guess where else my readers are from? Poland, my native country you would think? Not at all!  The second largest reader base is Russia or Germany, then the Netherlands and the  Ukraine for the third/fourth position followed by Canada, Norway, Latvia, Romania and other European countries and South America as well. I also have visitors from India and China, Australia and New Zealand. Readers from African countries and from the Indochina peninsula are browsing from time to time. Aha, somewhere there half way down this list was also Poland.

I always wonder who are the people who visit my blog? Many of them on a regular basis some once in a while, while some come only once. Who are they? Are they Gerim like me? Are they people preparing for Geirus? How many Jews born in Jewish families are reading my posts? Are they all observant or are there a number of non observant Jews? Who are the people from Norway, Latvia and Romania and the more “exotic” countries listed above?

As you can see there are almost no comments on my essays or at least the comments are disproportionately less than the readers. Why is this so? Another question I am pondering. Are my thoughts so brilliant and my points so cogent that no comments are necessary?! Or perhaps my readers think that I am made out of eggshells and any disagreement or criticism will harm or destroy me?! To those who might think this way, let me explain something. I have stood up against greater obstacles in my life than words of healthy criticism or even a nasty comment or two. Don’t be afraid! Matys Weiser is not only made out of flesh and bones but his skin is callused with the various ups and downs of life.

Some have contacted me through email at and we had a very interesting  and fruitful exchange of ideas.
Thank you for motivating me to continue blogging. Thank you all for reading my blog and I hope that I will be able to inspire you in the future as well.

My blogs this year touched upon all kinds of topics and areas of life. This was the year of the Egyptian revolution and we are currently witnessing the emergence of new revolutions by people seeking a less repressive forms of government. This was the year which will be remembered as the year when Laybe Kletzki returned his precious neshuma back to his Creator. During this tragic event I was able to write some of my best essays. As Rashi comments on the death of Miriam, the passing away of the Tzadik – brings teshuva among the people. Without any doubt, as for many others, Laybies story caused me to reconnect and strengthen my connection with Hashem to a higher level.
This was also the year when my only daughter got married. A special time for every father and this inspired some interesting posts as well.

I posted about 50 posts and I have another 20 in various stages of completion. Meanwhile life is always presenting me with new topics and almost every week there is something interesting to write about.

As you can see from some of my unedited posts, editing is the major issue for my writings and postings. My English is not the best to put it mildly, I make grammatical errors as well as spelling mistakes due to the fact that English is the newest addition to the languages that I am conversant with. The fact that I have a minor case of dyslexia does not help matters. But I still have a desire to write and there are still people who are interested in reading my blogs. This year I had a few editors who helped me with my essays and now my chavruso and friend is doing the editing for me. However he is a businessman and has other things on his head then editing my essays.

Now if I may I will switch the subject and talk a little bit about my book. Whoever read my book prior to it being published were ecstatic with praises about how great it is and how important it would be to have it published.. They didn’t simply express polite acceptance or even moderate admiration for the book, some of them were actually flaming with the belief that this book is so important, full of information of interest to various groups of people. I was very pleased to hear this feedback about the book as any author would be. But I am perplexed. If they are right why have so little copies been sold? Is it only a matter of marketing where without the proper advertising no product can be sold these days? Were the topics of the book too controversial or technical in some way? I’m sure that this book cracked some of the shell which some people like to live in. Without a doubt some parts of my book can shatter such shields of ignorance or self-indulgence where people create an environment and a god which serves them, and not other way around.

My goal was to help foster an atmosphere where a man can find out who he is! Where a man can find his Creator! Where a man can create an environment where he can unite with the Giver of Life through the gift of his life. An environment where we create an attachment to Hashem by fulfilling the commandments of the Torah for the Jewish people and for adherence to the Noahide laws for non Jews.

BeEzras HaShem, last week with the help of a few contributors we started an advertising campaign which due to financial difficulties was never done properly before. I pray and hope that this time around more people will find out about this book and that they will find this book not only interesting but motivating and inspiring as well.

Matys Weiser

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Ad

BeEzras Hashem we were able to launch new ad campaign advertising my book.
Coming week i hope to post something on first anniversary of my blog but meanwhile I want to express my appreciation to few people whom without this new campaign wouldn’t be possible.

First of them is Mr. Abraham Bumi Friedman.
Bumi, more than all, I will always appreciate my conversations with you. Especially the one which we have had last Chol Hamoed in your succa. As I told you last time when we met, more than anything I treasure advice of the wise man.
Thank you.

Yerachmiel Robert Kaplan. Surly you experienced already in your life what is the practical meaning of hashgucha prutis – the Divine providence, now we can experience it together.
Thank you for the ideas and work of the greater value than what we were able to give back.
Thank you.

The same thanks to my new friends: Yehoshua Parker, Jared Hurwitz and Matt Needleman. I hope that you extra effort in this project will result in special blessings in your work and your private life.
And last but not least Michoel Nagel. You don’t realize probably but you also have some share in the whole endeavor.
Thanks to you all.

To all my readers, now you can see who is writing for you for the whole past year.
Hatzlucha and Brucha.
Matys Weiser

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ger - Convert

According to the Webster’s dictionary, word ‘convert’ can be understood as follows:  edify, sanctify, keep holy, beatify, regenerate, inspire, consecrate, enshrine.
As a verb, the definition of the word “convert” would make it seem an absolutely positive thing to being one. What could have a more admirable value than to regenerate, sanctify or bring these kinds of inspirations to people?
Keep holy, enshrine – says the Webster’s Dictionary? There is nothing more desirable than that.  There is no difference in what anyone holds as a holy or worthy thing to protect,  regardless of how one defines ‘sacred’ or what one is trying to inspire.
The fact alone, of being able to act with those higher principles in ones actions, appears to be something that can never be despised.
However, word ‘convert’ in its noun form, can also be understood as a direct opposite of the synonyms listed above.
The very same Webster’s dictionary contains an extremely different list of how this word can be used: turn coat, turn tippet; rat, apostate, renegade, proselyte, deserter; backslider; blackleg, crawfish, scab, mugwump, recidivist.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
I can’t even imagine a worse person than the one described with the words above.
But Webster’s dictionary mirror only how most people see converts, no matter what they are converting to. The conversion itself is a despicable act according to this definition.
It could be from one religion to another, from one political party to another group, even a simple changing of one’s point of view on a certain topic, no matter what it’s about it usually is viewed as a lack of moral spine, an act of treachery.
It can make a Muslim happy to see a person converting to Islam or a Catholic person when someone joins his Catholic confession.
By other religions, the fellow people will attend a specially celebrated initiation, then participate in the fĂȘted meal and tell the friends and coworkers a story about how the convert just found the “truth”.
It makes the person happy, more confident and assured about the thing he believes in. In his eyes, the value of not only his congregation but mostly of himself increases.
He feels good about being a member of a group that has the power to attract others from abroad, but that’s where his approval ends.
Somewhere deep, deeper than the skin, in the depth of his heart he feels something else about a convert and a convert’s conversion. The questions are raised. First of all what does the convert gain from it? Did he really act without an inferior motive? What about all those celebrations? Was there perhaps $ involved? What about that special treatment from the fellow believers toward the convert? Of course, the person who now is full of suspicions doesn’t realize that his fellow believers have the same thoughts and doubts as he does and the “special treatment” is only of superficial character.
Most of his own people see something strange in the fact that a convert is ready to sacrifice his previous lifestyle, friends and sometimes even family, for their new beliefs. They don’t understand that he relinquishes everything his parents and teachers implanted and invested in him for years.
That’s how it is in most societies, especially where they don’t build their way of life by intensive preaching in order to “save” the others, where conversion becomes the positive value in its own right.
So … the convert is an individual of rather weak character or a person who at certain a moment of his life lost his convictions and certainty (and – or) support of his old community.
This most definitely caused him to look for other solutions, a new beginning, and a new chapter of life, despite his past.
He deserted, betrayed and perverted his original ways. It will never make him trustworthy in his new society. He will be always viewed as an uncertain and week individual. Not necessarily because of his recent change and possible ties to his old society. He will be distrusted precisely because he was not firm and faithful to his own former religion or beliefs.

Judaism is a system of law and beliefs that is not looking to increase the number of its adherents by converting other people. It is prohibited by Jewish law to convince a gentile to become Jewish. It is the convert himself who actualize his internal desire by becoming a Jew. This process is also directed by the Law of Torah.
Who is a Convert – a Ger according to the Jewish teachings? Is there anything common between the Jewish and non-Jewish definition of the word? Hebrew - Ger, and its English translation Convert or as it is more often used title, stranger? 
The word “Stranger” carries even more negative emotional weight than word “Convert”.  How can one understand the word Ger according to its articulation in the Holy Language?
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, was the leader of the German Jewish community in the nineteenth century and I believe him to be one of the greatest teachers and interpreters of the Torah in all of Jewish History.
He translates and explains the word Ger as: alien, stranger, uprooted, land-less, without support for his feet, without the roots, someone without the rights. This Shoiresh - the root of the word is used as: cast away, without the ties, separated uncovered, without protection of skin, naked. It is also a root of, young animal, a small lion taken away from its mother and unable to stand independent.
In general, someone who is an individual with a disadvantage by being within a group of people possessing something he does not.
How is such person to be treated by a Jew? Above all, is there any difference between the two categories of gerim?
One category being a Ger Toshew, a person who submits himself to the seven mitzvos (commandments) of Bnai Noah, and become known as the children of Noah. And second category is a Ger Tzedek, a Convert to the Jewish way of life – a person who submits himself to the fulfillment of the entire Tariag Mitzvos – 613 commandments of G-d, given by Him to His chosen nation. 
In our daily Morning Prayer, we say: “Hashem Shomray es Gerim – Hashem protects Gerim”. This statement doesn’t differentiate between the two categories of Gerim; G-d loves them both and obligates his nation to protect them.
Rav Hirsch explains in his comment on the Mitzva of Shabbos; he elucidates that there is a substantial difference between the words GerGer Tzedek and Garechu - Ger Toishev. Both of those categories implicate that they must be protected and helped on different levels, each according to their relationship to chosen nation.
The Law of Chalacha teaches us how this protection must be shown and expressed.
What is the striking difference between the Jewish and the non Jewish understanding of the term and phenomenon of Ger – Covert? It is the feeling portrayed through the person, the inclination, and the approach toward something or someone different.
Martin Buber explains that any strange or alien fact or in this case, a person, naturally causes a reaction of loathing for a single reason – he is unknown, unfamiliar.
In light of Buber’s observation, the Webster’s definition of the word is described as it is something that comes naturally.
The normal reaction for a strange person is animosity, a baseless hate or at least some measure of dislike. However the Torah teaches us the extreme opposite. Therefore it should cause an entirely different feeling in the heart of a Jew, it should, but unfortunately that is not always the reality.
It should be a reaction of understanding, friendship, love and readiness to help a needy person, especially as a Ger is listed among the other needy of Yisroel – which are namely orphans and widows.
A convert must not serve for some kind of self approval; he must not be someone looking for a sweet self consent for his doings because of who we are.
There is more in the writings of Chazal (the Sages of blessed memory) about the special status of a Ger Tzedek among the people of Yisroel, but this is sadly not the place to discuss this. 
I will allow myself just one more quote from Rav Hirsch’s commentary on Chumash for it would seem dull without it:
“In the Jewish law it is not the nationality that gives man his rights but the right of man that give nationality” Shmos 1:14.

This Essay was previously posted on my website before it was redesigned. 

Matys Weiser