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.