THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICELET'S LEARN!
Volume I, Number 1
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I. BEYOND THE TORAH
Neither history, nor Divine Revelation, stopped when the Torah was complete; as God's Chosen Folk slowly wend their way back to Eden, via Israel & Exile, God constantly sends them inspired prophets and teachers, to illuminate their path. The Tanach, the O.T. (Only Testament), the Written Torah, continued to accrue, interwoven with the history of the Jews, after the giving of the Torah, until it was closed, with 24 books included, and the Apocrapha (S'forim Chitonim) excluded *. Tho there were no more "Writings", canonized scriptures, whose very texts were sacred, sacred inspired ideas continue to be spoken and written to this day, new links in the chain from Sinai.
* see Avot 5, end, and Ned. 4:3, where the Tanach, which may be taught for money, is called mikra, Readings, as distinguished from the Oral Law, which may not be taught for money.
We've completed our extensive study of the Torah, Exploring God's Torah-- A First Glance. Future revisions will primarily appear on Internet. We'll now go on to the rest of the Tanach, and hope to soon begin the first book of Prophets, The Book of Yehoshua (Joshua). But first we'll take an overview of the Torah, Prophets and Writings. This traditional division of the Tanach is mentioned in Shabbat 88a, San. 90b, 101a, Kid. 49a, Taanit 31a, M.K.21a, Meg. 31a, Makkot 10b, and Tosefta R.H. 4:6. We welcome feedback on these new studies.
As there are 24 watches of the priests, so there are 24 Books of the Bible (Numbers Raba 15:18). A bride is adorned with 24 ornaments (Isaiah 3)-- so a torah scholar has to KNOW WELL THE 24 BOOKS OF THE BIBLE! (Rashi on Ex. 31:18, 24:18 in the masoretic division); so one should choose yeshivot which emphasize high level Bible study too, not just Talmud, e.g. Yeshivot Hesder. Rav A. Kook urged all yeshivot to teach Tanach. Rav Nachman recommended its annual review in Elul. But Chasam Sofer (Introduction to Beshalach) urges one NOT to teach Tanach or math to young students, lest it kill their taste for Talmud! Can such views work today? Did they drive most Jews away? Before you continue, try to simply write down the names of the 24 books, w/o looking; then read and think about why these particular books were chosen, why the process of canonization of sacred writings stopped, and what are the criteria for the order of the books of The Prophets and Writings which you picked.
PLEASE COME TO ORDER-- IS THAT AN ORDER?
The talmudic order of the 24 Books is: The 5 Books of The Pentateuch (Torah)-- 1) Genesis, 2) Exodus, 3) Leviticus, 4) Numbers, 5) Deuteronomy; The 8 Books of The Prophets (N'viim): The First Prophets-- 6) Joshua, 7) Judges, 8) Samuel (I & II), 9) Kings (I & II); The Later Prophets-- 10) Jeremiah, 11) Ezekiel, 12) Isaiah, 13) The 12 Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Ovadia, Jonah, Micha, Nachum, Habakuk, Tz'fania, Chagai, Zecharia, Malachi); The 11 Books of Writings (K'tuvim)-- 14) Ruth, 15) Psalms, 16) Job, 17) Proverbs, 18) Ecclesiasties, 19) Song of Songs, 20) Lamentations, 21) Daniel, 22) Esther, 23) Ezra (including Nehemia), 24) Chronicles (I & II)-- B.B. 14, which basically follows chronological order, as posited or transmitted by the rabbis; it is unclear re Job, the main subject of discussion there. The P'shitta, an ancient Syriac translation of the Tanach, indeed starts The Prophets with Job, rather than Joshua, based on the talmudic view that Moshe wrote Job; it thus puts Job right after Moshe's Torah. Hosea, first of the prophets, would have been a separate book opening The Prophets, but, being so small, copies might have gotten lost (ibid)!
But The Prophets and Writings in our Tanachs today have a different order, already known to Ben Sira (48:22, 49:6,8): THE PROPHETS-- Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 prophets; THE WRITINGS: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, The Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles. We indeed find several different orders in ancient manuscripts of the Tanach.
Rav Avigdor Nebenzthal claims that the talmudic order refers only to writing them all together in a scroll, but whatever reason exists for the order should equally apply to a printed Tanach, just as our printed Chumash is in the same order as a Sefer Torah. Rav Nebenzthal believes that non-Jewish printers determined the order in our tanachs, just as they set up the chapter and verse divisions; but Rav Zalman Kahana believes that they did so only in consultation with their Jewish clientele, who drew on Jewish traditions, now lost, other than the Masoretic text. Malbim claims that later inspired Jewish scholars, especially Sephardic, decided to place the Prophets and Writings in an inspirational thematic order, rather than the talmudic chronological order.
While all observant Jews study the weekly Torah reading, many, especially the poorly educated, and the over-educated in Talmud, barely know the rest of the Tanach, other than the compulsary readings of the haftarot and megillot; in some ancient texts, the 5 megillot follow the Torah, as they too are read in public in their entirety.
The distinction between The Torah, the dictated Word of God, and the Divinely inspired Prophets and Writings is indeed clear; but that between the Prophets, usually defined as material written by or about the prophets, and Writings, usually described as moral and historic material, is not; the first prophetic books have similar historical subject matter to that of Chronicles, and the Talmud implies that prophets may have written parts of The Writings, e.g. Ruth by Samuel (B.B. 14b f). We'll deal with this problem, the Good Lord willing, amidst an overview of each catagory, in our next issue, before we begin the study of Joshua.
See Prof. Nachum Sarna's comprehensive article in E.J. for much more data. He suggests that the talmudic order of the Tanach was to guide librarians of sacred libraries as to how to arrange their scrolls, a precursor of Dewey!
II. A TASTE OF TALMUD-- FATHERS KNOW BEST
The main holy study of most adult male Jews throughout the ages (but not of the great majority of non-Orthodox rabbis) has been the Talmud; unlike the Bible, which is often better known, tho less deeply understood, by Christians than Jews, the Talmud embodies the unique Jewish Oral Law, the halacha, first taught by Moshe during Israel's 40 year desert trek; its basic laws, originally never to be put into a fixed text, were codified by Rebbe Yehuda in the Mishna about 1800 years ago, lest they be lost amidst persecution and exile; the rest of the Talmud was similarly committed to a fixed written shorthand text several hundred years later. The talmud also contains the historic discussions and rulings of great holy scholars thru the ages. It is probably the essence of the Jewish teaching for non-Jews in the Messianic era, already under way, the beginning of the gradual growth of our redemption, per Rav A. Y. Kook; non-Jews will indeed come to Israel to learn God's ways from the Jews (see Isaiah 2).
The talmud also has non-legal (aggadic) material, often interspersed with legal issues; while its legal decisions and its traditions attributed to Moshe from Sinai have been accepted by the entire Jewish people, since its completion about 1500 years ago, its logical opinions and scriptural interpretations, other than basic dogmas, may be contested by scholars of every age (see, for example, Ohr Hachayim on Deut. 32:1 and Ibn Ezra on the age of Yitzchak at the Akada); its opinions on secular matters must be challenged in the light of more recent superior secular knowledge-- see The Introduction to The Agada of Rambam's son, Avraham, printed in front of The Ein Yaakov, a collection of agadic statements in the Talmud, with commentaries; it reflects Rambam's own position. The best overview of Talmud that I know of is the introduction to the frequently reprinted paperback, The Living Talmud, by Prof. Judah Goldin of Yale, a study in Avot. I've used it in preparing this article.
He who wishes to be truly pious should study Avot (Rav)
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Other than the Bible, the prayer book, and the Hagada, the most popular Jewish text is Avot, "Fathers", a small tractate of the Mishna; it is also appended to the prayer book, after the afternoon prayers of Shabbat; it is usually studied then, especially between Pesach and Shavuot. Today it is found in the 4th order of the Mishna, Nezekin; according to Rambam, it was attahed to that order, which deals with conflict resolution and the judicial system, as the ethical conduct described in Avot must first and formost be exemplified by the sages and judges themselves-- and if they do not, who else will? But in the 1343 Munich ms. of the Talmud-- our only ms. of the entire talmud, Avot comes at the end of all 6 orders, perhaps a peroraton of the "proceedings" of the oral law as a whole. Unlike other books of the Mishna, it does not deal with details of Jewish law, the trees, but with pithy commentaries on life and values, which reveal the forest behind all the trees of the other Mishnayot.
But we'd also like to discover the "forest of forests", the common theme behind the items chosen for this 5 Chapter collection, and their structure (the sixth chapter, Kinyan Torah, is a baraita, a non-mishnaic collection of statements in praise of the Torah; it was added to Avot, so that a chapter could be studied each Shabbat between Pesach and Shavuot, when the giving of the Torah is celebrated). Out of thousands of meaningful statements about life and Torah orally preserved in the Talmud, later written down, only a small number were selected by the editors of the Mishna for inclusion in the 5 chapters of Avot (cf. the Prophets)-- why? Is there any message in their order? If there a theme to each chapter?
Some claim that the purpose of the tractate is to list the rabbis in the chain of tradition from Sinai to the time of the Mishna, quoting a few major spiritual motifs of each scholar; but Hereford, like Taylor a great and greatly attached non-Jewish scholar of Avot, rejects this thesis, for over 90% of Ch. 5 is anonymous. Perhaps Ch. 5 has a different function and/or authorship. When we look at Avot D'Rav Natan, a commentary on Avot, we see that a number of our mishnayot are missing (Steve Wald).
Chapter One indeed gives the names and major sayings of the sages of the ages, from Moshe to Hillel's descendants, possibly the first quasi-hereditary Torah leaders, tho Torah leadership, unlike the priesthood and monarchy, is not hereditary. Chapter Two continues with Hillel's descendants, Rebbe and his son Gamliel, and then reverts to more of Hillel's sayings, followed by sayings of his pupil, Rav Yochanan ben Zakai, who received the tradition, from both Hillel and Shammai, and of Rav Yochanan's own 5 disciples (Hillel's descendants, even Rebbe, redactor of the mishna, are not described as "receiving the tradition" from their father-predecessor). Rav Yochanan ben Zakai is the last sage who is described as "receiving the tradition"; but, in Jewish Law, one must at least receive permission from his/her major teacher in order to teach the tradition him/herself; Rav J. Soloveichik urged me to teach Torah, while Rav Henoch Leibowitz, my earlier teacher, urged me to engage in business. I followed both, in order. A Rabbinical degree is only institutional certification of one's competence in Jewish Law, of no halachic significance. In Chapters 3-5, there's no particular sequence in the rabbis cited, and no claim that any have specifically received the Torah tradition from their predecessors. "The Sages are now quoted, neither according to chronological order, nor according to their excellence, and not even according to some sequence of subject matter" (Simon ben Tzemach Duran, 1361-1444).
Avot does not convey the flavor of talmudic shakla ve-tarya, the typical halachic give-and-take of the Talmud; unlike the other 62 Talmudic treatises, it is devoted entirely to Agada; here there is no dialectic and debate, no fixing of laws; the content here is in the fixing of maxims and epigrams-- a kind of Talmudic Book of Proverbs-- which the Tannaite Sages either coined or were fond of quoting. In other words, Avot will not reveal the sages as the Creators of the Halacha. On the other hand, it makes articulate and vivid what their values were, what ideals they strove to inculcate in their disciples and in the folk at large, and what gave them the right to claim that their teachings were the explicit and legitimate expression of the Biblical intention... the chain of tradition, begun at Sinai, extends link by link down thru the generations, authorizing the teachers of the law to expound the Torah and to establish the right course: According to the law which they shall teach you... you shall do... (Deut. 17:11).
It is easier to fight for principles than to live up to them (Alfred Adler, 1870-1937).
III. SHOULD AULD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT?--
This page is devoted to reviving the lives and events of Jewish History. History repeats itself-- therefore, concludes Noachide Rav or Rev. Vendyl Jones, history is also prophecy! But here too we open with an introduction-
REMEMBER WITH INSIGHT (from our Haazinu study)
"Remember the days of the world (or "days of eternity"), have insight into the years of a generation and a (following, ensuing) generation-- ask your father and he'll tell you, your elders, and they'll speak to you. When God gave nations inheritence, when he separated the sons of man-- he fixed the bounaries of peoples, according to the number of the children of Israel" (32:7-8). These verses suggest that relating to God includes studying Him in history, and that all political happenings somehow relate to the world's ultimate destiny, linked to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. While Rav Hirsch gives this seemingly obvious interpretation, medieval commentaries do not, possibly because the scientific study of history is a modern phenomenon, not developed in their times of limited manuscripts and resources.
Rav A. Y. Kook indeed included Jewish History in the curriculum for his new Central Yeshiva; it should draw on both classical and modern sources, but avoid the errors committed by "scholars who have not mastered the traditional sources" (see below). The Rav considered the current "materialism" as transient. The diminished attraction of the medieval classics, somewhat obsolete, based on philosophical foundations no longer relevant, called for a wider insight into Judaism's abundant treasures of Philosophy, Kabbala and Ethics, augumented by the "seminal lessons of historical research" (Igrot Ha'Ra'ayah 1, pp. 192-3). The Rav acclaimed the merits of Isaac HaLevy's Dorot Rishonim and Yavetz's Toledot Yisrael, without ignoring their shortcomings or the positive contributions of others, not so religious (ibid 2, p.8-- from Ch. 9 of Zvi Yaron's The Philosophy of Rav Kook). Nigel Wallis continually bemoans ignorance of history among Yeshiva students, and its absence from their studies, even in relatively broad Hesder yeshivot; I was privileged to study it with stimulating Prof. Irving Agus at Yeshiva College.
EDWARD ZIPPERSTEIN, who blends Torah and worldly learning, describes Jewish Historians and Their View of Jewish History, in Essays in Jewish Thought. Given the long diaspora exile, one must also know the history and culture of the host nations to know Jewish history. Thus world history is a PART of Jewish history. Zipperstein examines the life, writings and views of 7 famous Jewish historians. Their analysis, interpretation and evaluation of events depends upon their background, religious conviction, philosophy, attitudes and the era in which they live. Josephus is the only ancient post-Biblical Jewish comprehensive historian of renown, but is suspect by many Jews, due to his surrender to Rome and his writing for them-- tho he was a devout apologist for Judaism and the Jewish people. He saw the moral message in history, especially in God's treatment of Israel.
Azariah de'Rossi, the next major Jewish historian, appears only in the 16th century, an alleged descendant of Titus' captives, in Rome. He mastered both Jewish and non-Jewish studies, believed in the rotundity of the earth, and was a physician and poet, composing some liturgical poems. Rav Yosef Karo was inclined to ban and burn his major philosophical and historic work, Meor Enayim, but died prior to doing so (Divine intervention?). A Rabbinic decree forbade those under 25 from reading it! De'Rossi questioned Philo's orthodoxy and considered the 1571 earthquake in Ferrara the work of God. His is the first attempt at critical history, using scientific methods of inquiry, rather than just relying on tales and legends (cf. 17th century Shalshelet HaKabala; de'Rossi was a forerunner of 19th century scholars. Tho a traditional pious Jew, he reconciled Judaism with science and philosophy, as did Rambam; he stressed Israel's eternal universal mission, its central role in humanity, and that its fate was determined by its faithfulness to God and Torah. He held that only the Hebrew language is created by God.
Yet De' Rossi considered the study of history a waste of time, of no practical benefit, for Jews, who have Torah to guide them, tho it's a good guide for non-Jews to learn how to live in truth. He didn't value contemporary history, but thought ancient history might materialize understanding of the ancient sources of tradition. He admired Josephus, a fellow defender of Jewish tradition in a non-Jewish world.
Unfortunately, most of the 18th and 19th century Jewish historians who followed in De' Rossi's footsteps were either ignorant of, or antagonistic to, traditional Judaism. Zipperstein does not discuss HaLevy and Yavetz--
Isaac Marcus Jost, a pioneer in the field of scientific Jewish history and the father of modern historiography, was the first person to undertake the writing of Jewish history on a large scale. His setting, early 19th Century Germany, was a climate of revolt, reformation and restoration. He also established public educational and charitable institutions. His style was objective and unemotional, but his liberal Reform beliefs permeate his work. As a pioneer, his works contain many errors and omissions. He lacked imagination and analytical penetration of the subject matter, to coordinate facts into a unity. He had no appreciation for Jewish nationalism or Jewish religious feeling; tho a theist, he was only concerned with universal "rational" ethical ideals. Also an apologist for Judaism, he stressed the Jewish contribution to humanity.
Leopold (Yom Tov Lipman) Zunz was Jost's friend and fellow student, the assimilationist founder of the modern alleged "science" of Judaism, who considered conversion. He received a broad Jewish and general education and, as Rav Yisroel Salanter, advocated the introduction of Jewish studies in German universities. With Heinrich Heine and others, he tried to bring Jews into the general culture. He was non-Orthodox and opposed traditional Jewish learning; but he was equally suspicious of the new Reform establishment and ignorant Christian teachers of Judaism. The antiquarian, collector of notes, is essential to, and precedes, the historian, in Zunz's view. The Jewish external history of suffering led to their extensive creation of ideas and literary works, per Zunz; his Hegalian notion was that Judaism was a sublime religion overtaken by history, whose remaining task was only to depart from the world with honor!
Moritz Steinschneider, the 3rd malevolent Muskateer in 19th Century Jewish historiography, was reared in a period of the German Jewish rationalists, followers of Mendelssohn, who deemed Jewish history a trivial pursuit. He rejected them and became both a great scholar, especially in historic bibliography, and a dropout from traditional Judaism.
Heinrich Graetz became the all-encompassing Jewish Historian of the late 19th century; he started out Orthodox, a learned and enthusiastic pupil of S. R. Hirsch, but left Hirsch to join the German conservative JTS. Due to bias, he ignored Eastern Europe, hassidism and kabbala; Simon Dubnow become their historian, as well as and an ardent advocate of Jewish nationalism. Salo Barron and others consolidated 18th-19th century Jewish historiography in his 20th century works.
The Orthodox camp was primarily concerned with preserving God's Torah and traditional Jewish life in a harsh and antagonistic modern world; but it has, especially after WWII, increasingly integrated these goals with all permissible realms of modernity, including science (e.g. Profs. Branover and Domb), the arts, Hebrew language and Jewish literature (e.g. Herman Wouk); Orthodox Jewish historians proliferate, e.g. the late academic Nat Kaganoff of the American Jewish Historical Society and Rabbi Berel Wein, whose popular tapes, lectures and books attract thousands of modern Orthodox Jews and Yeshiva students to the study of Jewish history. He gives the Divine perspective and messianic overview so lacking in secular scholars. May this healthy merger of the Torah of Israel and the History of Israel, so vital for understanding both, continue; may we all experience God not only as the Lord of Israel and Nature, but also as the Lord of History-- the dream of Rav Kook.
In our next issue, God willing, we'll explore the life and views of Rabbi Yaakov Emden.
IV. TODAY'S TORAH
We're not to just live in the past, no matter how noble, nor just in the future, no matter how grand. God has put us in a certain place at a certain moment in history, to know, and interact with, the world about us today, and to try to shape it in accordance with God's original plan for Eden, which shall eventually be realized. This page is dedicated to responses to today's situations, and depictions of folks and facts from the last hundred years or so.
THE JERUSALEM POST-- A RELIGIOUS ZIONIST PERSPECTIVE
In memory of those who fell in Tzahal's tragic helicopter crash; may God comfort their families and friends.
PERVERSIONS or ALTERNATIVE LIFE STYLES: Esther Hecht's PC article (JP Magazine 1/31/97) on the legal status of sad and sick (hardly "gay") homosexual couples implies that eventual public acceptance and approval of their lifestyle is somehow desirable for Israel. But it is not-- such distortion and contamination of nature, especially human nature, marks the beginning of the end of a nation. Even modern hetrosexual youth repress natural child bearing at a young age; they then have to pretend to themselves and others to be "natural", making a fetish of health foods and physical fitness, while unnaturally preventing sexual relations from achieving their major biological function-- awesome human reproduction; homosexuality completely disconnects human sexuality and love from reproduction, thwarting biology itself.
The acceptance of homosexuality is also a rejection of God's Torah, the basis of the State of Israel, which declares it "perverse". True, as David Luchins notes in his TOP tape on Judaism & Homosexuality, we must have the greatest sympathy for those unfortunates caught in this trap; we must regard them as fellow human beings, and respect them as such, honoring their valid achievements and Divine Image, despite their tragic flaw (Rav Irving Greenberg at Pardes); we must also remember that the Torah only prohibits homosexual intercourse, not the desire for it, just as it prohibits many hetrosexual acts, e.g incest, adultery and nidda. But Israel must follow Jewish values, and not ape the decadent West, where sick perversions are merely "alternative life styles". Will bestiality rights, "mutually fulfilling relationships" between consenting adult humans and animals, be the next politically correct liberal cause? Prof. George Gilder of Harvard describes the eventual and inevitable decline and corruption of Western Civilization in the wake of homosexuality and militant feminism, should we not turn the tide soon ("Sexual Suicide", published by NY Times Quadrangle Books, 1971). Is this what we want for our children?
RABBI GENERAL AVRAHAM TODAY: Right after this article, thank God, is Arieh O'Sullivan's broad and deep portrayal of Israel's most unique and inspiring Torah society-- that of the yeshivot hesder and military preparatory yeshivot (A Gun and a Prayer). May hardei yeshivot soon follow their beautiful example, do tshuva (repent) and establish their own "hesder haredi" yeshivot; Sophisticated Shasian Minister Arye Deri candidly declared that most of Israeli society will only despise its haredi sub-culture, even its Torah, as long as its young men avoid Tzahal, without even doing national service; the only ones holding back their communal tshuva are their roshei yeshivot and alleged "g'dolim" (torah giants), who must give the OK. Tzahal will cooperate. Bored haredi boys, not cut out for learning all day, will take pride in fighting our enemies, rather than their fellow Jews-- e.g. Satmar vs. Chabad, Vishnitz vs. Vishnitz, Bar Ilan demos, etc.
But Simplistic Shasian MK Yitzchak Cohen twists the Torah, to defend the indefensible. Military service is certainly not "unhealthy" for observant men, as he claims-- trim alert hesder boys certainly appear far healthier than many of their haredi counterparts, overweight from junk food, with cigarettes littering the floors of their yeshivot; some haredim even give cigarettes to children, a "treat" at Meah Shearim weddings! As we recently read in the Torah (B'Shalach), God doesn't want the Jews to have Israel, until they're ready to fight for it (Rav Shlomo Goren, z"l-- that's part of their being a model "holy nation"; also God helps those who help themselves-- "God, your Lord (of nature), will bless you in all THAT YOU DO" (Deut. 15:18).
Cohen maliciously slanders non-observant soldiers, who risk their lives to defend his-- his sweeping statement that they "go off to Bangkok and get all drugged up" is an open violation of Torah law; so is his arrogant claim that yeshiva students, many hoping to be supported for life with a good shiduch, "are the ones who are truly guarding the Jewish State"-- many of them, and their insular rabbis, lacking gratitude, won't even pray for our soldiers and state on Shabbat, tho their ancestors did so for every drunken Tzar and sultan. Cohen's claim that there is no way for a yeshiva boy to remain religious in the army is self-serving nonsense-- hesder boys not only grow religiously in the army, but also inspire others to do so too-- without promising them state subsidized kollel salaries and kindergartens.
BACK TO THE GLATT FLESHPOTS: Two recent ads in The Post (2/21/97) urged its readers to leave the holy land for the fleshpots of galut this Pesach; a huge ad proclaimed: "It's about time you treated yourself to a `once in a lifetime' Passover vacation at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Hawaii". "You will be mingling with the world's elite of Jewish society (yordim too? the spies?)-- enjoy fantastic entertainment". The second ad features "Pesach on the Mountain, Taking PESACH to new heights" (not Mt. Sinai or The Temple Mount, but the "Height of Luxury", the Chateau Whistler Resort in British Columbia, with a top 20 world rating from Conde Nast Travelers). It too features entertainment and mountain sports.
We noted above how affulent young yuppies, who do not have babies for many years, if at all, may cover up their unnatural life style by flaunting and overstressing their "naturalness" in diet and physical fitness, valid realms per se. So the folks who can afford these luxury Pesach vacations must, at some level of their being, feel guilty about leaving, or not coming to, Israel at Pesach, one of the 3 Biblical pilgrimage festivals; they too must cover up and give themselves and others the impression of great commitment to, and involvement with, the Torah. So the same ads stress the superior "Yiddishkeit" which they'll find in Hawaii and British Columbia-- e.g. glatt kosher food, Cholov Yisroel (both of which are unnecessary; neither Rav J. Soloveichik, nor Rav Moshe Feinstein ate glatt, a Sephardic halachic ruling), and an entirely non-Gebrokts cuisine. Both feature The Height of Scholarship, even a Bet Midrash, and top-flight Torah scholars (cf. the spies); Rabbis Shlomo Riskin and Marvin Hier will spend most of Pesach with the good frum folks in Hawaii, while unnamed "world renowned scholars" will be interspersed with the horseback riding and cooking classes in B.C.
Overall, while it sounds like a really great vacation, which I too would enjoy, could I afford it, it also seems like a perversion of all Jewish values-- how can one leave Jerusalem to sing "Next Year in Jerusalem" in Hawaii or B.C.? Aren't local hotels luxurious enough? Is a sparkling white sandy beach, even enhanced by nearby sport facilities, e.g. 13 tennis courts, a better Pesach environment than the Wall? Even tho there may be no formal halachic requirement today to be in Israel on the festivals, as opposed to any other time, and even tho a happy pleasure-filled holiday is a halachic desideratum, every believing Jew should yearn to be here and experience the greatest pleasure of all, so manifest on the holidays-- reshet t'zemichat g'ulatanu, the beginning of the gradual growth of our final messianic redemption. Perhaps we shouldn't fault the rabbis who participate, because they may thus raise lots of money for their wonderful institutions, which produce a much higher level of truly traditional young Jews, especially here, bringing the world closer to its Messianic destiny; also, like Aharon at the Golden Calf Disco, they do what they can to keep those Jews connected to the Torah; I'm sure that Rav Riskin will get in some strong and subtle aliya messages.
Perhaps we should also consider whether we can put together just as nice vacation packages here in Israel, e.g. on the white sandy, hopefully sexually separated, beaches of Herzelia and Caeseria. Great Israeli talmudic rabbis would interrupt their holy learning to sit in the sun during the cold winter, or in the shade in the hot summer-- no one should feel uncomfortable, lacking something, in the holy land. It should have the best of everything at fair prices, w/o punitive taxes, so that all Jews be encouraged to live, or at least vacation, here; so Rav Moshe Tendler said that we have to logically prove all that we can of Torah, leaving as little to blind faith as possible. True, it's good that observant Jews develop sophisticated and refined taste, preferring truly beautiful vacation sites to NYC, L.A. or Miami; also many "beautiful people" wouldn't want to give up their "good life" to be religious, especially if it involved joining a society of insular Yiddishy clods (cf. Meah Shearim restaurants and weddings). Indeed, whenever religious Jews do things with efficiency, integrity, beauty and pizzazz, God's Good Name is sanctified-- but must it be at the price of: "they (the spies) despised a desirable land (Israel)" (Ps. 106:24)? I look forward to our readers' reactions to this issue and our new study sheet. Yaakov Fogelman, 2/97, Adar 1, 5757 (cf. Heinz).
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