Friday, February 18, 2011
Other aliya'versary blogs: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Aaron and I were both members of WUJS's February 2003 group. Last week, he told me that he was making yerida with his family due to various issues. Israel isn't for everyone (at least not now), and it's a difficult challenge at times to make it work here. It's tough to lose good people like Aaron & his family, but one can only wish them luck and hope that they return (and if not the parents, then the children!). I hope their new adventure in the US only brings them happiness and fulfillment.
In the last two months, the Tunisian & Egyptian governments have been overthrown by massive internal unrest. In Lebanon, Hezbollah succeeded in a silent coup to rid the country of the democratically elected Said Hariri, the man who's father they murdered. These events have lit a fire in the Arab world - riots, protests, fatalities and hundreds of injuries have followed in Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, Libya, Algeria & Iran. What does this mean for them? I really don't know. I am not very optimistic considering what we've seen happen in Gaza & Lebanon, or what has happened in Iran since the overthrow of the Shah in '79. I hope moderate, respectful leaders somehow get into power and usher in a new era for their people. I really do ... I'd rather not think about what happens if they don't ...
I watched a documentary about Yossi Gispan yesterday. The man is responsible for writing most of the Mizrachi hits that have propelled this genre to the forefront of the Israeli music scene. It was really interesting until the end where a music analyst and various artists decided to take shots at Yossi's genre (No points for guessing what they all had in common):
"This music is destroying the Hebrew language"
"I see a direct correlation between the success of the Mizrachi genre and that the most watched shows in Israel are reality TV shows that don't require thought or 'deep thinking'" (Ivri Leader)
"There's no Israeli culture, they've ruined it" (Mati Caspi)
"Israeli Music is at a low point that's it's never seen before. There's no way back from this vulgarity. We won't be able to return the rock, the pop, or 'Israeli country music' (שירי ארץ ישראל) to their old, good place. The Mizrachi singers also sing our repertoire, the white people." (Chava Alberstein)
Wait a second ... Elitism? Racism? Naaaah, not in Israel.
Should have probably blogged about this last month ... The King came back.
Talya & I are expecting #2 b'h in early April ... The roller coaster ride continues! :)
Sunday, February 13, 2011
This is taken from פניני הבן איש חי
Friday, February 11, 2011
* R' Ovadia's family made aliyah to the Mandate from Iraq. All his brothers were members of the Etzel.
* From a young age, R' Ovadia always wanted to be Gadol Ha'Dor.
* He has 11 children.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
This really bothered me most of Shabbat. It reminded me of my Bar Mitzvah experience - I was confident, and I thought I had read my parasha perfectly. When I asked my late Nonnou how I had done, he said something along the lines of "You did very well, but you made 7 mistakes." Despite this, Nonnou left the corrections to the ba'al koreh next to me and allowed me to read without any interruptions. While I'm rather certain my errors were minor (most likely 'small' pronunciation - where Nonnou was very strict - errors), I never found out where I erred ... so who knows!
While some may say Nonnou's handling of the situation put me in a worse position than the boy at synagogue yesterday, I feel exactly the opposite. I came off the bimah that day confident, happy with my performance, and eager to do it again. The boy yesterday was dejected and didn't enjoy the privilege he was given that much. Which youngster was given the necessary 'confidence booster'?
Friday, February 04, 2011
In the national crisis that followed the discrimination against Sephardi students in an Emmanuel (‘the Bnei Brak of the Shomron’) school in June, two opinions came out of Shas, the Sephardi Haredi (Haredi = Ultra Orthodox) party. The majority stance was that of R’ Ovadia Yosef, who opposed the discrimination but criticized the intervention of the Supreme Court. The minority voice came from one MK (Member of Parliament), R’ Chaim Amsalem, who declared, “We need to get out of our inferiority complex and be proud of being Sephardim.” Since the Emmanuel crisis, R’ Amsalem has continued in his vocal attempts to rehabilitate Shas’s warped Sephardi worldview and pull the party, its Haredi followers and Ashkenazi brothers away from the Israeli-Ashkenazi Haredi ‘way of life.’
In order to understand why R’ Amsalem’s stance is so critical to
In the early 1950s, David Ben Gurion exempted 400 yeshiva students from the army, so they could devote their time to Torah study, with the hope they’d replace the many sages we lost during the Holocaust. In 1977, Menachem Begin removed the 400-student cap and since then, Haredi students entering the yeshiva world have been able to get exemptions from the army if they so choose. While Shas has no issues with the IDF, they do not promote it for their Haredi followers (many of Shas’s voters are traditional or secular Sephardim – a dominant majority of this constituency serves in the IDF).
Unlike far too many in Shas, R’ Amsalem believes it’s the duty of every Jew to serve in the army – unless the person in question is a Torah prodigy (a student who is extremely advanced and learned relative to his age). These prodigies, a small minority, must continue to study Torah and Gemara all day, but the others must serve and protect the country. This would eliminate one of the most contentious issues in our country – why is one sector of our society exempt from this service?
Before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, few Jews who lived in the Arab world had the ability to study all day, mainly due to the need to pay taxes and take care of their families. Only the Torah prodigies were given that privilege. Unfortunately, far too many Haredim have decided they too are deserving of this privilege. Sadly, this trend has led to higher levels of poverty and greater reliance on tzedaka (charity). R’ Amsalem highlights this problem by quoting Rambam, who wrote that one who studies Torah, doesn’t work and lives from charity has desecrated Hashem and humiliated the Torah. Rambam was opposed to this lifestyle, and even went further by saying that studying Torah without pursuing a parnassa (livelihood) leads to idleness, crime and eventually theft. The continuing Haredi support for full-time yeshiva students needs to change – if not because of Rambam’s warnings, then because it is sentencing its followers to a life of poverty.
With all the recent headlines about conversions in
Core Studies in School
Within the Israeli Haredi curriculum, core studies like English, mathematics and science are very often not taught. R’ Amsalem believes teaching these subjects is essential to allow Haredim to integrate into all walks of life. By refusing to do so, Haredi youngsters cannot enter the job market (bar avodot kodesh - like a shochet, a scribe, a Rabbi etc) and are left dependent on their leaders for allowances and donations (no wonder they vote for parties like Shas and UTJ come election time!). As R’ Amsalem says, “Studies in English and math, what’s bad about it? What is this idiocy? How does it take away from Torah?”
In 1980, 21% of Haredi men didn’t work. Today, the number has risen to a staggering 65%. Some of the reasons for this increase have already been discussed above. R’ Amsalem believes that the Haredi community must use Yaakov Avinu or Rambam as examples of Torah sages who integrated Torah study with work (another great example from the many Rabbis who worked and studied is Chafetz Chaim, who kept his modest shop open until he had earned enough for his daily needs; he then closed his shop, and studied the rest of the day). R’ Amsalem is stating the sad but obvious truth: Poverty levels will continue to rise within the Haredi world if this move towards mass voluntary unemployment doesn’t change, and that will only lead to more unnecessary confrontations with the Jews who shoulder the burden of this poverty within Israel and abroad.
R’ Chaim Amsalem has taken a brave step within the Haredi world. The backlash has been fierce - his Shas career is essentially over (especially since he referred to it as a ‘Lithuanian-Sephardic party’), and he’s been labeled a ‘Hebrew Amalekite.’ Despite the expected hostility from parts of the Haredi world, R’ Amsalem has received an outpouring of support from all over
Why the urgency? R’ Amsalem strongly believes that if the Haredi, be it Sephardi or Ashkenazi, community does its bit in the army and workforce, the face of the country will change dramatically for the better, the sinat chinam (baseless hatred) will drop and thousands will be drawn to the Torah of Israel.
May this man succeed in his mission, Amen._