Sunday, December 31, 2006

Yated's Article on Lakewood Recall

Have any of you read this week’s Yated Ne’eman?

If yes, did you get a chance to read the Lakewood section?

Well, whether you did or didn’t, on page 84 there is a lengthy article by Yitzchok Singer regarding the Recall effort of Committee member Charles Cunliffe.

As I was reading it, I was amazed to see how strikingly similar it was to my post on this issue. Literally, argument after argument seemed to be taken straight out of my post. I have received many emails confirming this observation.

For your information, my post was forwarded, with my permission, to The Lakewood Shopper, and was printed there two weeks ago.

I contacted the one who forwarded it to The Lakewood Shopper, and lo and behold, he forwarded to me an email proving he sent my post to the Yated Ne’eman on the same day that he forwarded it to The Lakewood Shopper.

No, it was apparently not printed in the Yated Ne’eman in its original form, but "mysteriously" surfaced in a lengthier form under someone else’s name.

I guess the bright side is that my opinion is getting out and being heard.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

5,000 Hits, Thank You!

We have reached a milestone.

Late last week my site meter has registered 5,000 hits.

As it has only been six weeks since I have started this blog, I think this is quite a considerable amount, if I may say so myself.

Considering all the effort and time that goes into writing my posts, there would be very little satisfaction without knowing that people are actually reading them.

I would like to express my gratitude to all of you who come to visit, regardless of whether you take the time and effort to actively participate in the discussions, or whether you just read the posts and comments.

All of you encourage me to continue writing.

Thank you!

It would be interesting for me to hear some feedback of what you think of this blog and what brought you to it, what you like, what you don’t, what you think could or should be changed, etc.

I’m looking forward to your replies.

All previous posts are still open for discussion.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


What is it with Tznius?

This is something that has bothered me for quite a while.

So much emphasis is placed on Tznius. Dress codes, rules, speeches, write-ups, etc. From the youngest ages Tznius is taught and encouraged. Yet it is quite painfully clear that the message is not getting through the way it should.

Allow me to be candid and frank. It is quite common to see very Frum ladies wearing clothing that are too tight or too flashy, too clingy or too short. Not to mention the even greater, and considerably more severe, breaches of Tznius which unfortunately are increasing.

And I wonder, why?

How can it be that with so much Tznius education taking place, so many women feel the need to break or bend the rules a bit.

Now, the truth is that there is another relatively widespread problem, albeit a lot less known. Many women have trouble acclimating and adjusting to married life, and all that goes along with it. Many women just can’t bring themselves to take part in perfectly legitimate and Halachikly allowed (or sometimes even encouraged) behavior between themselves and their husbands. Without going into detail, I’ll suffice with saying that this is the cause of much frustration in the private lives of many people.

And again I wonder, why?

After much thought I think I have the answer.

Generally speaking, women have a natural desire to look attractive and pretty, something I will classify as their femininity. Tznius education seems to be directed precisely at this femininity. Girls are taught to crush their femininity in the name of Tznius. In place of learning how to properly channel their femininity, they are being taught to subdue it.

The result of such education is that many girls, once out of school and given the opportunity to express their femininity, will go too far. All along they were fighting a natural part of their personality, so when it comes to making their own decisions or using their own judgment, that repressed part of their personality roars forth.

The other obvious effect of this is that many girls successfully absorb the idea that expressing their femininity is bad, and therefore have considerable trouble in marriage which can lead to much tension and frustration.

I’d like to be very clear in stating that I am not an expert on teaching Tznius. I also have the greatest respect for those who do take upon themselves the important and delicate work of trying to impart the significance and beauty of Tznius to the next generation.

However, with that being said, it appears to me that Tznius education is improperly focused on fighting girls’ natural femininity in place of guiding them on how to properly channel it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Lakewood Recall Effort, Part 2

My most recent post was regarding the recall effort in Lakewood, NJ. This post was submitted, with my permission, to The Lakewood Shopper, and was subsequently printed followed by a response from Ben Weber, a member of the Committee to recall Charles Cunliffe. Ben Weber’s response was also posted in the comments section to my post.

Here is my reply to Ben Weber’s letter.

B.W. takes my issue with my characterization of the recall effort as “mysterious” by pointing out that the recall petition was signed by himself, along with two others, on December 8th, and that this is all public information.

The fact is that the original letter filed at the clerk’s office, was on November 13th, and was signed by three non-Jewish women: Audrey Faust, Janet Heulitt, and Clara Ward.

While commendable that those behind the recall effort have come out into the open on December 8th, it remains to be explained why for almost four weeks they chose to use these three women as a front and hide their true identities.

B.W. takes issue with my writing that the prevailing belief is that these women are being set up by real estate investors and developers by claiming that this is Mr. Cunliffe’s belief only.

I can only write what I hear and see. And yes, that is the prevailing belief amongst the regular people in Lakewood. Is it a fact? I don’t know. But it certainly is the popular assumption. The fact that one of the three signatories to the recall petition is the head of the Lakewood Landlords Association, plays right into this suspicion. The Lakewood Landlords Association was created only recently with their key objective to fight attempts by the Township to crack down on Quality of Life violations. While the overwhelming majority of Lakewood is firmly behind the Township’s efforts to crack down on QOL violations, the LLA is fighting tooth and nail to stymie their efforts.

B.W. points out my mistake in writing that the Master Plan was to establish zoning for the remaining areas of Lakewood, while in actuality it was to decide on changing existing zoning for Lakewood.

However, this is totally irrelevant to our discussion. Whether the Master Plan is establishing zoning or changing existing zoning, either way it calls for the radical urbanization of Lakewood, something the overwhelming majority of residents strongly oppose. The Master Plan was pushed through by the efforts of developers, builders, and engineers, without any regard whatsoever for the average person’s position on the issue. If Mr. Cunliffe is being recalled due to his rejection of the Master Plan’s recommendations, then it is an effort driven by power-brokers and not in the interest of the average Lakewood resident.

B.W. writes that it is amusing how Mr. Cunliffe, who appointed most of the Master Plan Committee, is now openly criticizing it.

I have to agree that this is a strange backpedal on his part, but his final conclusion is consistent with the majority of Lakewood’s residents who oppose the recommendations of the Master Plan.

B.W. counters my allegations of antagonizing elements in the non-Jewish community by writing that a Hispanic individual signed on the official recall petition, and that many seniors support it too.

All I can say is that if this is really the case the Recall Committee is in dire need of some serious public-relations assistance. Everyone, from other Township Committee members, to the media, to the members of the Frum community, all seem to think this a mostly an effort by a faction in the Frum community. If I am wrong, so be it. But more must be done to counter this widespread impression.

B.W. concurs with my astonishment that the Lakewood Va’ad endorsed this particular Committee member even though a Frum member of the community was running against him. He even goes further by writing “Are you aware that he actually beat Mr. Cunliffe in the rest of Lakewood? It was only due to a last minute push in Yeshivah, which put Cunliffe over the top. The rest of town was shocked that these 'power-brokers' endorsed him.”

From this statement it seems quite clear that B.W. understands and opposes the threat to the Frum community from self-serving power-brokers, a position seemingly at odds with his alignment with the LLA.
Also, if Mr. Cunliffe is the only one willing to stand up to them, why should he be recalled?

B.W. then lists three “misdeeds” of Mr. Cunliffe.
1 – He delayed the mailing of the tax reassessment, which caused most of Lakewood’s taxes to increase significantly, until after he was re-elected.
2 – He appointed the members of the Master Plan Advisory Committee and then rejected their recommendations.
3 – There is immense overspending of Township funds.

I must say that, in my opinion, all of the above do not qualify as legitimate and sufficient grounds for a recall. And I will reply in order.

1 - The tax assessment was carried out with the full knowledge and support of the Lakewood Va’ad. Even if Mr. Cunliffe delayed the mailing until after the election, that is merely a detail in a much larger picture. The people ultimately responsible for the tax assessment are the ones who allowed it to take place, and even supported it. That includes the other Township Committee members, the Lakewood Va’ad, and all of the other self-serving power-brokers. Regarding this specific issue Mr. Cunliffe may be guilty, but no guiltier than all of the others involved. If this is the motivation of the Recall Committee, they should be focusing on restructuring or abolishing the Lakewood Va’ad. Let us not forget that the Va’ad knew what the tax assessment was all about and still supported Mr. Cunliffe in the face of a challenge from a Frum member of the community! Quite an unconscionable act!

2 - The fact that Mr. Cunliffe appointed the members of the Master Plan Advisory Committee and then rejected their recommendations, I responded before that although this seems somewhat strange, at least in the end he took the position of the majority of Lakewood residents.

3 – The massive overspending of Township funds is indicative of a culture of corruption that permeates the Lakewood Township. Even if, arguably, Mr. Cunliffe is more corrupt than the others, all the others are also guilty. As I wrote in my original post, one member of the Township Committee can not hijack its resources. If massive amounts of money are missing, all members are guilty.

B.W. reminds us that America is a country "by the people and for the people", therefore we have the right to recall someone who doesn’t represent our interests.

As I touched on in my original post, that may be law of the land. But Chazal are replete with warnings not to be Misgareh B’Umos. Since even according to B.W. Mr. Cunliffe represents no danger to the Frum community, I fail to see the pressing need for one to be actively involved in antagonizing the non-Jewish residents. Especially in light of the above, as we have established that Mr. Cunliffe may possibly be no worse than any other Committee Member.

B.W. writes that if we wait for the next election, “we risk the ‘power-brokers’ once again being behind him and the Hamon Am not realizing who or what they are voting for.”

I take issue with this point too. If the power-brokers will support him in the next election, they will probably endorse “one of their own” to take Mr. Cunliffe’s place in the event that he is successfully recalled. I fail to see how the Recall Committee is getting to root of the problem, namely removing the influence of these power-brokers from the political sphere entirely.

I would like to conclude by stating that I have no connection whatsoever, in any way, to Mr. Cunliffe. I never even saw the man. For all I know he may be a terrible person. However, as an objective observer I fail to grasp the motivation of those trying to recall him.

Perhaps there exists a complete misunderstanding between myself and B.W.
I am contemplating calling him in person to discuss the issue, especially if the readership of this blog thinks it would be worthwhile to pursue.


B.W. begins his letter by questioning my decision to remain anonymous.

Anyone familiar with the unfortunate reality of the world we live in understands the answer to that question. It needs no further elaboration.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lakewood Recall Effort

A lot of talk has been expended over the mysterious effort in Lakewood, NJ to recall one of the non-Jewish Committee members on the Lakewood Township Committee.

For those who may be unfamiliar; here is a synopsis of the story.

In Lakewood there are five Township Committee members, two of whom are Frum, who decide all issues of the town.

A recall petition has been filed by three non-Jewish women, who have admitted to being used as a front for people in the Frum community, to recall one of the non-Jewish Committee members. As of yet, no one has stepped forward to admit to being behind the recall effort, and why it was launched.

Now here is my “independent Frum thinking” opinion on the matter.

The prevailing belief is that these women are being set-up by real estate investors and developers who are upset with this Committee member’s recent crackdown on quality of life violations, and for not automatically supporting the “Master Plan” for Lakewood.

To those unfamiliar with the dynamics of Lakewood, there are a plethora of homes rented out by Frum people to all kinds of drug addicts, lawbreakers, and violent people. This has reached crisis proportions, with people being assaulted, robbed, and hissed at in broad daylight with total impunity. A public outcry ensued, resulting in the Township Committee finally cracking down on Quality Of Life violations. Many landlords are bearing the brunt of this crackdown, since their slum-like homes are being targeted by QOL enforcement agents.

The Master Plan was an initiative to decide on the zoning for the remaining areas of Lakewood not yet officially zoned. The committee chosen to study the issue proposed allowing all thirty five remaining areas to be zoned for high-density building. Not a surprising conclusion from a committee comprised mostly of developers, builders, and engineers. There has been much public outcry against the radical urbanization called for in the Master Plan, and some of the proposals have been rejected.

Understandably, some developers and power-brokers are incensed with the two aforementioned happenings, especially in a town that was always known to be “in the pocket” of developers and builders.

If these are the reasons behind the recall effort, I strongly oppose it.

The average person in Lakewood, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, strongly supports the aggressive targeting of QOL violators, and also strongly oppose the total and complete urbanization of their community.

Also, if these are the reasons, why should they take out all their angst on this particular Committee member? After all, he is only one of five decision makers. No decision can be taken alone, so in any particular issue he must have had support from other Committee member’s to pass his initiative.

From a Frum perspective too I strongly oppose this move. The age-old mode of behavior for Jews in Galus was to keep as low a profile as possible, and certainly not to overtly antagonize the Goyim. Although this approach is sadly becoming less and less adhered to, (perhaps the subject of a future post), nevertheless it still remains the traditional Frum way of life as practiced for two thousand years. To organize a recall of a politician, not on grounds of public safety or the like, is stepping way over the line. Why can’t they just wait until the next election and endorse another candidate? What is the pressing need to antagonize elements of the non-Jewish community to such a degree?

Ironically, in the last election, a Frum member of the community was running against this particular Committee member, on a popular platform calling for bringing wasteful spending under control. Although many assumed that the Lakewood Va’ad (a group of business leaders who set policy for the Frum community) would endorse the Frum candidate, they strangely endorsed this particular Committee member instead. This is quite a bizarre twist, considering that the Lakewood Va’ad is basically comprised of developers and builders.

And finally, why are the ones behind the recall effort remaining in the shadows? If they have legitimate concerns with this particular Committee member, let them come out in the open and explain themselves. Such cowardly behavior does not lend one to believe that there are justifiable issues at stake.

Feel free to comment away, whether you live in Lakewood or not.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Misguided Kindness?

As was widely reported in the press, the residents of a well-known Chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) city in Israel donated thousands of dollars in medical equipment to its neighboring Arab village.

When I first read the report, I was shocked and surprised.

Anyone familiar with the recent economic situation in Israel is painfully aware that there are thousands upon thousands of Jewish families living in utter poverty. The community with the highest percentage of poor families is the Chareidi community itself. One simple call to Chasdei Ne’omi, the Israeli equivalent of Tomchei Shabbos, can confirm this unfortunate fact.

It is also common knowledge that during this summer’s war with Hezbollah, thousands of Israelis lost their homes and all of their possessions, leaving them penniless.

Understandably so, I could not believe that an all Chareidi town, known for its own widespread poverty, would actually raise funds, not to feed its own poor, not to support Chareidi causes, and not for Jewish or Israeli causes in general, but rather to help the neighboring Arab village.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not a racist, nor am I oblivious to the obvious need for Kiddush Hashem. But in light of the above, shouldn’t that money have been better donated towards a Jewish charity? Shouldn’t donating desperately needed medical equipment for Zaka or Magen Dovid Adom, take priority over donating them to an Arab village?

Even amongst ourselves, there is a clear-cut Halachah of Aniyei Ircha Kodmim; the poor of one’s town take precendence over the poor of another town. Certainly the poor amongst us Yidden take precedence over the poor amongst others.

The only plausible justification for this bizarre story is that the residents of the Jewish city are afraid of terrorism and crime emanating from the neighboring Arab village, and therefore felt it was a worth-while investment to donate medical equipment, thereby fostering goodwill and better relations, which will hopefully help them in the long run.

However, barring the above rationale, it would seem like the self-destructive attitude of the radical left-wing is seeping into our community, even at the expense of Jewish lives & Halachah.

A troubling phenomenon indeed.

An interesting postscript to this story is that when Hamas leaders learned of the Arab mayor accepting Jewish donations, they immediately had him deposed and replaced by a Hamas loyalist.

One wonders if after the next targeted assassination by Israel, will we see wounded Hamas terrorists being whisked away in an ambulance donated by Jews. How ironic.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Popular Frum Blog Destroyed

As some of you may have noticed, I removed my link to a blog called “Vos Iz Neias” for a few days and only today added it back on.

The reason for my doing so, was that a few days ago whenever I clicked on that particular link, I was re-routed to something else entirely. The new webpage would start installing a virus on my computer, which luckily I was always able to fight off.

This seemed very strange to me, considering that this was a very popular blog of news briefs relevant to the Frum community, with no controversial commentary or opinion.

Yesterday I came across this letter from the operator of that blog:

We got hacked, and our work from the last few years is history, but we will be back and even better. We will not be intimidated by terror.
I'm out of town on a family vacation, so it might take some time until we will be back to the same level, also all our group email lists have also been hacked, just the ones we have a back up in the new system could get this.
Our new site will be if u have any news any time send it to this new email address.

So there you have it. His blog was hacked, and apparently with malicious intent.

I have heard various rumors as to who may have been behind the virtual attack and what their motives may have been. However, since I was unable to verify any one of them with certainty, I will not relate them.

Please be aware that although my link still says “Vos Iz Neias”, in reality by clicking it you will be redirected to their new site, which appears safe for now.

Please pass on this information to any blog linking to the “Vos Iz Neias” old webpage, to save visitors from downloading harmful viruses to their computers.

Anyone willing to share additional information regarding this is welcome to do so.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Naming Streets For Women

Recently a letter was printed in a publication named “The Lakewood Voice”, complaining about the new fad that Frum builders name streets with women’s names.

In the blog world I have seen much mockery made of this letter, so I’d like to share my Independent Frum Thinking opinion on the matter.

In essence I don’t see anything wrong with naming a street Devorah Drive or Rivkah Road. Although I fail to see the pressing need for these builders not to assign normal, American sounding names, nevertheless it seems harmless to me.

However, there is one exception to the rule, and that is naming streets for LIVE KNOWN FRUM WOMEN.

Yes, one builder named a street after his wife and another after his daughter.

THIS, in my opinion is inappropriate and in bad taste.

Perhaps to one who doesn’t know these women it might seem odd to complain about it. But wouldn’t you agree that having the whole neighborhood talking about Leah Lane being named after your seminary-aged daughter is inappropriate? Would you honestly want everyone to know that Dina Ct. was named for your wife who walks the streets of that neighborhood?

Has old-fashioned Kol Kvuda Bas Melech Pnima completely disappeared?

I don’t know what that letter-writer’s intention was, but this is my take on the matter.

Please note that all old posts are still open for discussion.

Friday, December 1, 2006

The Latest Meat Saga

I received some inquiries regarding the most recent meat scandal, but I resisted posting anything until the facts emerged.

Someone bought a piece of Meal-Mart meat, which apparently had Cheilev (forbidden fats) on it. He showed the meat to a number of Rabbonim, who initially believed it may have been Cheilev. The ramifications of such a Psak were enormous. It would mean that countless people ate Treife r"l, and would necessitate Kashering of kitchens and utensils on a massive scale. Hence, the tremendous consternation and outcry.

However, after further research it was clarified that the questionable fat found was not Cheilev, rather fat which the accepted custom (Minhag) is to remove.

There are three levels to forbidden fats.
1 - Forbidden by the Torah.
2 - Forbidden by Rabbinic law.
3 - Accepted custom to remove, so as not to come close or confuse with the above two levels, which are inherently forbidden.

The fat in question was initially thought to be from level 1 or 2, but in reality was from level 3. Although it wasn't inherently forbidden, and therefore no Kashering is necessary, it still showed a laxity in the Nikkur (removal of forbidden fats) process, by not removing something which the custom is to refrain from eating.

Apparently, a Menaker was fired, and the issue is considered closed.

I do have one interesting observation. R’ Teitelbaum writes in his letter that the Nikkur process being used is the one specified by the Eidah HaChareidis in Yerushalaim.

People should be aware that there are different customs as to how much fat must be cut away so as not to confuse with levels 1 and 2.

For many decades, the custom in Chutz La’aretz was generally more stringent than the custom in Eretz Yisroel.

Accordingly, one should ideally ask his Rov if the standards of the Eidah HaChareidis’s Nikkur meet the accepted age-old Chutz La’aretz standards.

Agudah Convention & Blogs

A few posts back, I wondered why the Agudah was making such a fuss over weblogs. After all, are they really that powerful? And does the Agudah really feel that they are undermining Da'as Torah?

After some research, it has become clear to me, so naturally I'm sharing it with you.

The entire anti-blog offensive was more or less against one specific blog.

It seems that there exists a certain blog dedicated exclusively to defaming, humiliating, and disparaging Rabbonim. This blog has generated over one million visits in the course of two years or so!

It wields tremendous power due to the fact that it always seems to have the confidential "inside scoop". In essence, it is an "insider" exposing his contemporaries, and that is always more problematic than an outsider's ramblings.

Although some of what is written there is patently false, it does expose some true issues and problems too, making it extremely hard to dismiss out-of-hand.

The blog writer's rationale for his ranting, aside from his obvious hatred of Rabbonim, is that in the Frum community most problems are just swept under the carpet. If one listens to R' Solomon's Agudah Convention speach, it is clear he was answering to this in particular when he insisted that the Torah way of dealing with problems is to do so quietly with maximum respect for human dignity, and one shouldn't think issues are being swept under carpet, rather they are being dealt with quietly in a behind-the-scenes fashion.

This was also the point of R' Solomon surprisingly insisting it is okay to question, and even disagree, with positions taken by Rabbonim, as long as it is done respectfully and not in a disparaging way.

Since I strongly disagree with much of what is written on that blog, not to mention the obvious concern for Lashon Harah, Motzie Shem Rah, and Rechilus, I am deliberately not mentioning the name of this blog. However, I wanted to share my findings with the readership of my blog.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Galus Reminders

Recently there have been two separate instances of Frum people victimized and yet turned into the attackers.

A number of weeks ago, in a predominantly Frum neighborhood of Brooklyn, a Frum young man was shoved and called dirty Jew by a Pakistani gas station attendant. When his friends came out of the car to protect him, they were accosted by a gang of young Muslim men. A fight ensued. After one of the Frum fellows called the police, the Muslim gang ran off. The police arrested the Frum fellows, accepting the Muslim’s claim that they attacked him for no reason, and yelled racial slurs. This despite the fact that it was one of the Frum fellows who had called the police asking for help.

Last week in Lakewood, a Frum man was attacked by a gang of Hispanic youth. After successfully getting away & shaking them off his trail, he met up with them again a few blocks away, and was once again attacked. He immediately called Police, yet was arrested for assault when the officer arrived. The Spanish officer was even overheard telling one of the attackers to insist he had just picked up the stones that he was holding, so that he could claim he picked them up in self-defense and not as premeditated assault. All this in a town with a Frum mayor, Frum township officials, and Frum people wielding enormous influence and power. (Not to mention the ongoing case of the Rebbe who held down an apparent thief, and is the target of massive propaganda by the NAACP).

Both of these stories are shocking and sad. We would have thought that in such Jewish areas such stories could never happen. Yet, they do, and apparently increasingly so.

In my opinion Hashem is sending us reminders that we are still in Galus. No matter how organized and politically powerful we may be, we are still guests, sometimes unwanted guests, in this land.

Specifically in Lakewood, I found it to be very ironic that this occurred just two weeks after an election in which the Frum community exhibited tremendous influence, and re-elected Frum people to the highest levels of Township governance.

We must never forget that we are in Galus, and let us all continue to pray for the ultimate redemption.

What are your thoughts on this?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Why the Silence?

According to the site meter, I've been averaging over 100 visits per day. So please, my fellow bloggers and readers, post your comments, viewpoints, opinions, etc. (on old posts too.)

I really enjoy and appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Good night.....or should I say morning?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Celebrating Thanksgiving

I've seen debates on a number of other blogs regarding what the proper Frum perspective is on celebrating Thanksgiving, so I'd like to clarify it.

The following is a quote from Igros Moshe, authored by Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l the foremost Posek of the recent past.

שו"ת אגרות משה חלק או"ח ה סימן כ ד"ה ובדבר
ובדבר טענקס - גיווינג, כבר כתבתי לאחד בתשובה באג"מ ח"ב דאה"ע סימן י"ג, שאין לאסור מדינא לקבוע על יום זה איזה שמחה, כסעודת בר מצוה ונישואין, אלא שבעלי נפש יש להם להחמיר. אבל לעשות שמחה וסעודה לכבוד טענקס - גיווינג, יש וודאי לאסור מדינא

Rav Moshe was entertaining the possibility that it would even be forbidden to make a LEGITIMATE Simcha, like a Bar-Mitzvah or Chasunah celebration on Thanksgiving, since it would APPEAR that one is celebrating Thanksgiving!

To THAT Rav Moshe writes that it isn't forbidden according to the letter of the law, but still a Ba'al Nefesh shouldn't do so!

Then Rav Moshe continues and writes that celebrating or making a Seudah SPECIFICALLY for Thanksgiving is CERTAINLY FORBIDDEN. (ודאי יש לאסור מידנא)

To summarize:

One is forbidden to celebrate Thanksgiving or make a special Seudah in its honor!

However, to schedule a legitimate Simcha, like a Bar-Mitzvah or Chasunah, on Thanksgiving, is Halachikly permitted but a Ba'al Nefesh shouldn't do even that, and should rather reschedule his legitimate Simcha for some other day!

Accordingly, it would be forbidden to eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Because if it is being eaten as a full meal; it is clearly forbidden, since it falls under the category of making a Seudah.

And if it is just as a snack; since it is being eaten specifically in honor of Thanksgiving, it falls under the category of celebrating the holiday, something also forbidden. (When R’ Moshe writes it is forbidden to “make a Simcha”, he wasn’t referring to dancing a jig. Any way of expressing Simcha, like eating turkey expressly for Thanksgiving, is forbidden).

I have discussed this issue with many Poskim, and all agree that this was R’ Moshe’s intention.

Now for those who say that we have to be thankful to this wonderful country, the obvious answer is that we certainly should, but only by using our own methods, not Darkei Akum.

Please be aware that this is the opinion of R' Moshe Feinstein. There may have been others who took a different position, though I am unaware of it.

Please write in how and if you celebrate Thanksgiving. I'd also love to hear other opinions on this from reliable sources.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Da'as Torah Clarification

In the comments to my post about the Skvere Rebbe's visit to Lakewood, a heated discussion ensued, with someone claiming that this was an example of anti-Da'as Torah talk.

In my opinion such a statement demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the essence of Da'as Torah.

After the Sanhedrin was disbanded we no longer have a central authority with the ultimate and final say in all matters, whether Halacha or Hashkafa.

As the Galus went on, Jewish communities were constantly shifting from place to place, resulting in many communities all over the world, each with distinctive Minhagim. All we are left with are our Gedolim who teach us and guide us. Every community has its leader whom they look to for guidance. Someone whom one group considers their leader, may not be the person some other group would turn to, which is perfectly acceptable.

In other words, if a Litvishe person expresses strong support for his way of life, that is not to be construed in any way, shape, or form, as being anti-Da'as Torah. On the contrary, he is merely standing up for what he was taught was right. The opposite would obviously be true too. If a Chassidishe person would express strong support for his upbringing, that too can not be construed as anti-Da'as Torah.

Anti-Da'as Torah would only be if someone took a position against something that a consensus of Gedolim agree to, or if someone bucked the Gadol of his respective group, like a Satmar person taking an anti-Satmar position.

I hope this clarifies the issue.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

To Say or Not To Say?

Now that the issue of the Gay Pride Parade in Yerushalaim has died down, I'd like to write an interesting observation.

We all would love to shelter our children from indecent and decadent trends in the outside world. But what is the proper role of a Frum Jewish newspaper? Should it write about the news, obviously in a sensitive way, even though children may read it, or should such issues be completely ignored?

On one hand nobody wants their innocent child asking about the Parade, but on the other hand in today's world they would probably find out regardless, so it would be better for them to be informed from a Frum perspective and not an outside one.

To my knowledge, the Hamodia chose to ignore the issue, while the Yated wrote about it delicately.

I'm honestly at a loss as to what the proper thing to do is.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Truth Behind the Skvere Rebbe's Visit to Lakewood

Many people have been talking about the purpose of the Skvere Rebbe's visit to Lakewood. After my independent research, these are the facts as I see them. I admit that it may sound somewhat anti-Chassidish, however that is not at all my intention. My intention is solely to report the facts as they seem to be.

Chassidim maintain control over most Frum communities. Kashrus, Eiruv, Mikvaos, etc. The fact is that Chassidim are generally a tight-knit group, and as such wield tremendous group power. Let's be honest, only Chassidim could create a Kiryas Yoel, a Squaretown, or a Kaiser Village.

A major exception to this was Lakewood. Originally, Lakewood was a sleepy little town with a small Modern Orthodox community. After Rav Aaron Kotler z”l established his Yeshiva there, the community grew due to the fact that many Talmidim of the Yeshiva chose to establish their residence in Lakewood after getting married. At that point the community was almost exclusively comprised of Litvishe families. As time went on, the community evolved into more than just a post-Yeshiva community, and many people with no connection at all to the Yeshiva started moving in. Also, more and more Chassidishe Bachurim chose to learn in Beis Medrash Govoha, resulting in more and more Chassidishe Yungeleit joining the community. A town that once had no Chassidishe Shul, now sports countless little Shtieblach spread throughout many neighborhoods.

No longer content to playing second fiddle to the Yeshiva community, various power brokers in the Chassidishe community have been itching for an opportunity to show their independence. It came in the form of the Chanukas Habayis of the new Skvere Kloiz in Lakewood. The Skvere Rebbe was invited to come, but not just him, busses upon busses of Chassidim arrived, with estimates as high as 1,500. For a simple Chanukas Habayis this was way overdone, causing much wonder to many Lakewooders. But to show the world the foothold Chassidim have in Lakewood, it was just the beginning. The Rebbe requested to have all the schools in town, thousands of children, come out to greet him. Many schools declined, but the audacity of the request made its point. Although many more suitable halls were available, Beis Medrash Govoha was asked to give up its dining room for the Rebbe’s Tish, something clearly designed to show “who’s in charge”. After BMG declined, the Tish was held at a local girl’s school, but entire blocks were closed off to maximize publicity. The Rebbe even requested to speak in the BMG Beis Medrash, but had to make do with speaking in various other Mesivtos instead.

Any objective observer, including any self-respecting Chossid, can see why so many people were seething at this audacious attempt to “take over”. Let's not kid ourselves, if all the above was carried out by a Litvishe group in Squaretown, we all know there would be riots in the streets, to say the least.

Are Weblogs Really Undermining Da'as Torah?

In the official Agudas Yisroel advertisement for the upcoming Agudah convention, much ado was made about weblogs undermining Da'as Torah.

It amazes me that Agudas Yisroel feels threatened by weblogs.

Are weblogs really so powerful? Do they really have such a great effect?

Besides, I would assume that many weblogs, such as this one, though they may have an independent twist, are not advocating anti-Da'as Torah views. I know many are, but are those really so powerful?

Just an interesting observation.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Building Like Frum Jews Should

B"H the Frum community is experiencing tremendous growth. People are having many children, life expectancy is rising, and there is an influx of Ba'alei Tshuvah.

This in turn has generated an explosive rate of construction specifically designed for the Frum community, in Brooklyn, Monsey, Lakewood, & elsewhere.

However I discovered a very odd and troubling phenomenon. Almost all new construction I have seen is being built with porches on different sides of the building to allow for people to build Sukkos without being directly under the upstairs neighbor's porch. This is especially accentuated in the new complex Vizhnitz is building in Monsey on Rt. 306, where the porches are being built like sideways steps, with each one moved over from the one below it.

There is one glaring exception. Lakewood, NJ.

Queen's Garden, Washington Square, the new high-rise apartments on Madison & 9th, you name it. All the porches are being built one on top of another!

What will be Sukkos time? A family from the fifth floor will have to keep shlepping up and down five flights of stairs? What about ground floor space? Many of these new apartment buildings simply don't have enough room for all the Sukkos on the property around the building! And even if there was enough space, just imagine the terrible breach in Ma Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov resulting in tens of Sukkos side by side? Is this the way Frum Jews should build?

Hopefully enough indignation can be generated to get these builders and developers to take notice, and start building like self-respecting Frum Jews should (and do in other places)!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Driving in Frum Communities

This is an issue that has been on my mind for quite some time.

Why is it that so many of us blatantly disregard traffic laws without a second thought.

Why is it that so many Bachurim, and married folk too, seem to think it's nerdy to keep to the speed limit?

Why is that almost nobody actually comes to a complete stop at a stop sign, and only afterwards inches up to see?

Why is it that so few people realize that the pedestrian always has the right of way?

Countless times I have heard Goyim curse or get upset watching us drive. I have even witnessed Goyim, jogging or walking to do exercise, and they carefully calculate when to reach the curb, so that they will not have to stop their movement for a second, when suddenly some Frum guy drives two feet past the stop sign, forcing the person to stop in his tracks and losing the continuous exercise he was trying to do.

So why do we do it?

The only answer I can think of, is that since we are so cloistered in our little world, which is essentially a beautiful thing, we are losing touch with how to interact properly and politely with the outside world.

Nevertheless, from many stories I have read about R' Moshe Feinsten, R' Ya'akov Kamenetzky, etc., it is clear that they were very conscious of constantly making a Kiddush Hashem.

One wonders if anyone of us would politely smile and greet Catholic nuns as they pass by us on the street, as R' Ya'akov always did (see Artscroll biography).

Welcome Everyone!

Hello everyone and welcome to this blog.

I'm curious to know how you all came across it. Could you all be so kind as to write how you found it?

Also, how does one go about generating viewer traffic to a blog?

I hope to hear from you, especially the experienced ones.

Have a wonderful evening!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Registration Fees, or Clever Robbery?

Copy of a letter I sent to a popular Frum forum:

A while back the issue of playgroups taking a registration fee of $50-$75 was debated. The consensus was that the teachers have the right to ask for this money to be able to buy the necessary supplies for the year.
I would like to raise a much more troublesome and Halachikly questionable practice. I am not familiar with the procedures in other communities, however here in Lakewood, NJ elementary schools request a registration fee of anywhere from $100 to $300.
In my opinion, and everyone I have broached the subject with, this is Chamsanus – extortion. Plain and simple. Almost everyone in Lakewood has to register their child in at least two schools, otherwise they leave open the possibility that their child will be left without a school in the event that the child isn’t accepted by their first choice. Each school expects this registration fee. I know of many people who have to spend close to $1000 on these fees. Most schools receive many more registrations than children, due to the many families having to register their child in more than one school, leaving the schools with a tremendous surplus of registration money.
There is simply no excuse for this. School supplies are purchased based on the amount of children actually attending the school, not on the amount of the applicants. And if it is to compensate for the twenty to thirty minutes of time the registration process expends, no more than $30 would suffice, calculating the office time as $60 for the hour.
I hope this letter gets printed, and helps correct this apparent injustice, which causes unnecessary financial strain to many families already stretched to their budgetary limits.

Children's Torah Learning Is the Ultimate Torah Learning

Gemorahs and Medroshim are replete with quotes extolling the importance of the Torah learning of our children. One Gemorah goes so far as to say that when Mashiach comes we will not interrupt the Torah learning of Tinokos Shel Bais Rabban (children) even for the building of the Bais Hamikdash.

It has been brought to my attention that members of the Skvere Rebbe's entourage, who are coming to Lakewood NJ, requested that Chadorim allow their Rebbeim to bring the children to greet the Skvere Rebbe, DURING REGULAR CLASS TIME.

In my opinion this absolutely wrong. We are not allowed to interrupt the Children's Torah learning even for the building of the Bais Hamikdash! Where has our respect for Torah gone?
Hopefully, the Chadorim will stand for Torah-true principles, and not allow any interruption of the Torah learning.

If parents want to bring their children after school, that is totally understandable. But no school should officially sanction Bitul Torah of its students.

Skvere Rebbe in Lakewood

I have been told that the Skvere Rebbe, accompanied by hundreds of Chassidim, is coming to spend time in Lakewood, NJ. Banners have been sent to every single residence in the town celebrating his arrival and inviting people to attend Davening and Tishen.

Without involving myself in the age-old Machlokes between Chassidim and Misnagdim, one wonders what is the purpose of this visit? Lakewood is overwhelmingly populated by Litvishe people, and doesn't seem to need such public fanfare. Would a Litvishe Gadol visiting Squaretown publicize his arrival in this way? Absolutely not. So why the need for the Skvere Rebbe to do so?
Once again, I'm not injecting myself into the old Machlokes, but I see no need for this ostentatious arrival.