As Pesach nears, discovering our tradition anew

March 15, 2015

By Alan Jay Gerber Lipman

With the onset of Pesach, I find the study of the historical and philosophical side of our religious tradition to be of great inspiration in getting myself into the “holiday mood.” Thus, this week’s essay will focus on two works by Rabbi Dov Lipman that should help assist many in getting into this holiday mood.

The spiritual quest that Rabbi Lipman focuses on in his works, “Discover” (Feldheim, 2006) and “Seder Savvy” (Targum Press, 2010) describe in eloquent and intelligent terms the basic elements that make up the beliefs of our sacred tradition.

“Discover” goes to the very heart of our tradition by dealing, in great detail, with such topics as Torah MiSinai, Torah She’baal Peh, the purpose of Creation, and the role of prayer and study. Some profound and heartfelt teachings are found in his essays on Women in Judaism, Suffering and Tragedies, Death, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the coming of Moshiach.

In his personal approbation to this work, Rabbi Aharon Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael, wrote the following: Read the rest of this entry »


Working Charedim

March 1, 2015

The denial came very quickly. Former Eida HaCharedis (unofficial) spokesman Shmuel Chaim Pappenheim is featured in a Yesh Atid aTo Unify a Nationd promoting the idea of Charedim learning secular subjects (English and math) and getting jobs. He laments the fact that a typical 45 year old Charedi doesn’t even know the English alphabet!

Mr. (Rabbi?) Pappenheim denied that he has anything to do with the Yesh Atid ad and claims this was an unauthorized use of a video he was involved in for an entirely different project. I don’t really blame him for his quick disavowal of anything to do with them. I’m sure that he doesn’t want his head handed to him. Rafi Goldmeier made note of this ad on his blog, Life in Israel and adds that if what Mr. Pappenhiem said is true, he should sue. Perhaps.

But one cannot get away from the fact that the message he sent in the video was exactly the message that Yesh Atid sends. And yet when Yesh Atid sends that message they are called Amalek. Now it’s also true that Yesh Atid was able to legislate their views into law. In effect that forces a core secular studies curriculum upon them if they want continued government funding. But the idea behind the law is identical to what Mr. Pappenheim advocates: educating Charedim out of ignorance about anything besides Torah – so that they can get better jobs.

How ironic it is that the hated (by Charedim) Yesh Atid is on the same page about working Charedim with someone like Shmuel Papenheim, a man of Meah Shearim who was weaned on the Hashkafos of the Eida HaCharedis for whom he once was spokesman. There is no greater animosity between  2 Jewish groups than there is between the Eida and Yesh Atid. Read the rest of this entry »


Tu B’Shvat’s Hope for an Early Spring

February 1, 2015

By Alan Jay Gerber To Unify a Nation

This coming Wednesday, Feb. 4, we celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the beginning of spring on the Jewish calendar. The very thought of spring, especially given recent climatic events, is a bit of a stretch. Yet, spring is here, albeit a spiritual spring.

This week I will present several literary pieces drawn from varied sources that will hopefully give you a better appreciation of this unique holiday, and hopefully add extra warmth to our frigid lives.

First, we have an interview with Knesset member Rabbi Dov Lipman. Rabbi Lipman made some interesting observations that I will share without comment:

“Trees are often a metaphor for humans. Many of us have heard the injunction that during war one may lay siege to a town, but one may not cut down the trees. The entire verse, Devarim 20:19, reads, ‘When you lay siege to a city for many days to capture it by making war against it, you shall not destroy its tree, wielding an axe against it; for you shall eat of it but not cut it down; for a man is a tree of the field.’

“I should hasten to point out that halachically-speaking, one is only prohibited from cutting down trees that bear fruit. Others consider the fruit of one’s tree as the mitzvot that we do. And, indeed, trees are often a metaphor for Torah. The most famous expression of this is in Mishlei 3:18, ‘It is a tree of life for those who hold fast to it’.” Read the rest of this entry »