Monday, May 21, 2012

Tilting at Windmills? My attempt to make sense of the Asifa.

It was like sausage being made. Having seen all the rumors and alleged plans going on over the past few weeks, being the curious sort, and frankly wondering if there was indeed anything for me to learn, a friend and I decided to see that sausage. Would the message be that we can't live with the internet, we can't live without it? What would the mood of the crowd be? Did they really sell it out? Also, I knew that whatever would happen it would literally be historic. Would I have missed a chance to witness the Michalowitz conference in 1866? Not on your life. Finally, I honestly wanted to know how I would feel there, in a gathering that in an earlier phase of my life I may have felt fairly at home in.

So we made our way to Citi Field, and witnessed something that was far more subdued than the Beatles in Shea in 1965, true, but possibly far more interesting - in a meta sense. In fact, I think many people would say that it was rather quite boring concerning the nitty gritty details. But it wasn't about the details, really. So without further ado, I will now proceed to recount the details!






















Throngs of people were calmly waiting their turn for security screening. Once inside, you were handed a branded Ichud Hakehillos goodie bag, consisting of a bottle of water, a plastic cup, a Stern's chocolate danish, a little bag of Bloom's pretzels, ineffective binoculars, and two printed pamphlets; one containing an interlinear translation of the second part of kaddish, beginning with amen, yehei shemei rabbah, Yiddish and English. The other was a copy of the tefillas ha-Sheloh. The bag was a nice gesture. A lot of people seemed to have a kuntres called Ha-internet be-halacha, but I couldn't tell if my bag was just defective, or if they were being distributed or sold (yeah, right) elsewhere. Eventually I saw someone put one down near a drinking fountain. I asked him if it was his, and he said I could have it. It consists of eight simanim. 1.  Is there a halachic obligation to filter one's computer? 2. Is there a prohibition of yichud on Skype or a Webcam? 3. Can a kinyan be enacted over the internet, such as for a sale of chametz? 4. If someone sends someone else a virus, is he liable to pay for the damage it causes? 5. Is using another's wifi without permission stealing? 6. Is it permissible to download and collect music? 7. Can one allow his internet business, such as ebay, accrue sales over shabbos? 8. On web sites in Israel which update on shabbos, can one read it after shabbos? In 300 years I guarantee that this will be a quality collectible sefer.

First of all - it was a full house. This was no Million Man March with 110,000 people. It was full. Score one - a big one - for the Ichud Hakehillos Letohar Hamachane (which actually sounds as odd in the original as it does in English, something unusual for rabbinic idiomatic language, which generally sounds perfectly fine in  rabbinic Hebrew). One of the things I really wanted to get a sense of was, what was the mood of the crowd? It was hard to say. It was certainly not mournful, but neither was it especially jubilant. No one looked very annoyed to be there, that I could tell, but no one seemed excited.  I did hear a fair share of quasi-cynical comments all night, but really only very mild ones. Also, half the place was texting and emailing all night. By half I of course mean something like 5-10%. There was an awful lot of texting going on. At one point one of the speakers was speaking and the camera picked up a guy on his iphone and everyone could see this on the big screen - lots and lots and lots of iphones all around. No one was hiding them, and I think that is the main point. They are facts of life.

Mincha began 45 minutes late, but of course that's to be expected. It seemed like quite a few people davened early, presumably because they did not expect to be there at 6:30. They could have waited. In any case, at some point some unspecified person grabbed the mike and told us that al pi hora'as ha-gedolim this revolution will not be broadcast online. Then we recited 5 kapitlach tehillim; #s 51, 41, 102, 130 and 133. Look them up. I almost hesitate to mention this, because in a way it's shallow, and it's also besides the point. But I think it bears mentioning. The leader in the recitation had, well, a kind of terrible voice. Now I realize that substance over style is more important, but I think this is kind of a comment on the lack of aesthetic appreciation which seems to be current in Chareidi society. There is a concept of hiddur, and one of the qualifications for a shaliach tzibbur is to have a nice voice. It's not finicky artists who say this. This is in the codes. It may not be the main thing, but it is not nothing.

The evening's emcee, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, began in Yiddish. He was talking about the tough challenges. A simultaneous translation was being typed on the big screen as he spoke. Unfortunately the person they employed was not fully up to the task, see my note about aesthetics above, for just as Rabbi Wachsman mentioned the "shver nisyonos," "the harsh challenges," the caption read "that have bee set us." I was not the only one to notice, as I distinctly heard some snickers. What a pity. Substance over style, yes. But wouldn't it have been fairly simple to get someone who would have written "beset us?" And there was more of this all night. At this point, Rabbi Wachsman apologized because he was going to switch over and speak in the "sefas medina," the State Tongue, "Ainglish." And that is just what Rabbi Wachsman, who is a masterful orator and a darshan did. He began mentioning the "dangers of the internet," which was what I was waiting to hear. It seems like the euphemism "technology" was used in a lot of the buzz prior to the event.   Would the word actually be mentioned? Yes indeed.

At this point, according to my notes, I noticed that the Cholula Hot Sauce ads surrounding the big screen had large white canvases hanging on them blocking a part of the bottle. I was curious what was on the bottle. Here it is:























Rabbi Wachsman began quoted a Rambam about the very negative repercussions of departing from the congregation, and said that people who are otherwise okay must know that they "cannot repudiate 40,000 Yidden." The crowd has spoken. The Rambam says that if you disagree with this then you have no share in the World To Come. אם בקשת ליחנק היתלה באילן גדול?

Then Rabbi Wachsman delivered the first of several conciliatory messages. It is clear that unlike some other speakers, he has a real sense of people and things happening outside his immediate environs. He said that a message must be delivered, we must also "speak to our brethren." At this point he began speaking in more English. He mentioned Mount Sinai, the Oral Tradition. (Watching the faces of the Chassidishe rebbes was interesting.) Then he said that people ought to realize that the media will be covering this event. Frankly, we don't need media coverage, but they are covering it. We don't consider media attention an accomplishment: "even a bank robber" gets media attention! Then he said we are a holy people, a chosen people, even though we, admittedly, sometimes fail. Then he delivered a paean to the holy tefilos of Jewish mothers as they light candles on Friday night, and recalled that our tradition is to cover our 3 year old boys as we take them to cheder for the first time. Then, he said that we "cherish this great country which has been good for us, and done a tremendous force for good all around the world" - my paraphrase, but very close - but he urged that the United States should please "come to your senses, come to your senses" - regarding gay marriage (although I don't remember precisely what he said, and he obviously didn't say "gay marriage").

Next a certain rebbe from Montreal spoke. Let's say he was not the 1st rate darshan that Rabbi Wachsman was, and I will not mention the rumor a$ to why he was given such a prime spot. He spoke in mamme loshn, rather than sefas hamedinah. My correspondent at Arthur Ashe Stadium later told me that there was no translation for the Yiddish speeches there, which led to a great deal of restlessness. The rebbe began by mentioning the talmidim of the Chasam Sofer who took the initiative to oppose and separate from the bad things, like haskalah. He then referred to "Tzionisten," which the translator promptly gave as "the ism which sought to substitute the Land of Israel for the Land of Torah." His motif was "Mi Lashem Elai," Moshe's clarion call, "Whoever is for the Lord, join me!" He then said that in all the earlier challenging periods, we knew who the enemy was. Today they are disguised and are not discernible. He then said that baalebatim sometimes say that the rabbis don't really know the internet ('terNET is how he pronounced it) and therefore don't understand the challenge. This may be true, he said, that we don't know the internet. But we know about the crying fathers who present us with the bad results of the internet. Then he said that the only heter for using the internet is for parnassah, and only with a filter. ("Can't live with it, can't live without it?") He said that some people had ridiculed the event, they say that there just is nothing that can be done about the challenge of the internet. But those who don't mock, Hashem will ensure that they have good children. He then began to quote Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman's restatement of the argument for design (spilled ink on paper), and the inept translator promptly wrote "Rebbe Wasserman the great great dot dot." Hm. He was speaking for a long time, for it was at this point that I began counting people in blue shirts (which I decided to define as non-white). I wasn't the only one who was distracted, as someone began passing notes up to him telling him his time is up, and it apparently reached the point where his chevra surrounded him to make sure that he was not removed from the podium.

Rabbi Wachsman then returned and, basing himself on a Tana De-vei Eliyahu, quoted the Opatow Rebbe, saying that when a group of 20,000 gather they have the strength of Avraham Avinu. Thus, when 40,000 gather they have the strength of two Avraham Avinus. In case it was not clear, the speakers seemed to again and again promote the idea that the medium is the message. We are united. Although we've got no weapons in our arsenal, because of this gathering we are strong. It's all about this, the gathering. He referred to the isms, Communism, Haskalah, Tziyonus (audible groans, at least near me). He then said "we will determine what Yiddishkeit will look like a few years from now." The internet "is no longer a tool or a device. It is a culture. It is a psychology. A way of life." He reminded us that "heimishe yungerleit and frauein" are ensnared in "social media" which is "the technological equivalent of the dor hamabul." Speaking of these lost souls, he expounded on the gemara that everyone can do teshuva, besides Acher (Elisha ben Avuya). He asserted that you can see the ruin "in the eyes of yungerleit." Can't we see that "people are changing?" We "gave the world a Yirmiyah, a Rambam, a Chasam Sofer." Who are we becoming? "Yentayachna.com." End quote. 

He continued that the internet is about the superficial, the lack of focus, the instant, and that even secular sources are bemoaning this, decrying that children are becoming "click-vegetables." He then delivered what was a truly conciliatory message: even these "brazen" people, the people the internet ruined, are still acheinu benei yisrael, our brothers, and Hashem loves "you." Yes, he said this. If no one else reports it, he still said it. He then spoke about how this is simply the biggest challenge the Jews have ever faced, and we are weaker than all our predecessors. Yet, he said, even one step forward can make a difference. Even though "the webbed mind has to struggle to understand Torah," what if a person is determined to have "an internet massechta," instead of wasting X amount of time online, he takes that time and completes a Talmudic tractate? He said that someone told him that he was passing some kind of obscene billboard on the way to work every day, and he determined that every time he chose not to look, he would give himself $1. In no time at all - (if you do the math it would have had to have been a considerable amount of time) - he accumulate $2000, and bought himself an awesome silver menorah. Transforming tumah to taharah. He referred to the internet as a "kli mashchis," a "destructive vessel." He bemoaned the "billions of hours and dollars" which went into producing and maintaining the internet. Then he made a most interesting comment: Even if, he said, we have lost the 25 - 35 year olds! - and maybe we haven't - that doesn't mean we have to lose the 0 - 20s. He feels that the Chareidim have been retreating (!) and there can be no more retreating. It is time to arise like a lioness. This garnered, for the first time, applause.

Then he said (claimed? hoped?) that "there are thousands here tonight who have no shaychas to internet. Don't think that only a black hatter in Lakewood, or a man in a shtreimel in Williamsburg can do without. Even a Yid in a blue shirt can!" (This prompted me to count blue shirts once more, and also collected kippot of various sorts as well). Then he began to say something which I was starting to get excited about, but I didn't realize what he was going to mean. He said there are other forms of entertainment. Was he about to acknowledge that people need leisure and entertainment? Was he going to suggest walks with children? But then he continued - and we eschew these entertainments. Which Yid hunts? Do you have or want a moose head in your living room? No, you hang pictures of gedolim! In other words, don't think you need Netflix - you already don't partake in many alternative things which you have no desire for. You can do it with the internet too. You can scale back. 

The fact is, Rabbi Wachsman provided the most realistic approach. I no longer recall if he also reiterated that the internet is only permitted for business and with a filter, but even if he did, it was pretty clear that he was under no illusion about what people do, and was really trying to promote a lessening of use and dependence on the internet. At point he had also mentioned that people who give their 11 or 12 year old kids internet access, or an ipod, are crazy. He wisely and realistically pointed out that if someone had given him an ipod when he was 11 years old he would immediately have hacked that thing.

Next came the Skulener Rebbe, who had been alleged to have been one of the rabbis who called for the event to take place. The rebbe is quite aged and apparently somewhat weak, and he could barely talk. But he was clearly very, very passionate about the event and the message and summoned up much strength. Since he could barely speak in an audible voice, he had a meturgeman with him, who repeated everything he said. Again, in reality substance is supposed to trump style, but what can I say? The man who repeated his speech for twenty minutes had the voice of a cartoon character. Again, this is not the message, but these are things which could be avoided, even if the man is his gabbai or whomever. R. Elya Ber Wachtfogel was sitting next to him and looked embarrassed, or maybe pained. You could see the Skulener's passion and that he was genuinely moved, and he spoke a lot about the milachama with the klipos. He referrred to the internet as chochmas behemos (which the intrepid translator rendered as "subhuman"). He noted that an animal looks down to the ground, whereas humans can raise their head to look at things on high.

At 9:15 the Asifa received a telephone call from Rav Wosner, a true living legend. His face appeared on screen next to the caption: hagaon ha-adir posek ha-dor ba'al shevet ha-levi shlita, "the mighty gaon, halachic decisor of this generation, author of  the responsa Shevet Halevi, may he live long," and his purpose was apparently to lay down the law. He spoke in Yiddish, and no translation appeared for 5 or 6 minutes. While people began to get really, really restless and get up to walk around or go home, the Shevet Halevi restated that the internet is just assur for anything besides business, with a filter, and he added that if a child has the "mashchis internet" access at home then he should be expelled from yeshivos. I honestly and truly felt that it was a terrible choice in timing because, you know, people were walking up and going home while Rav Wosner was speaking! But at this point my chavrusa decided he had enough, and we also made the strategic decision to go home.

I know there were other speakers, I know that some guy streamed the whole thing live, but I will just read what others say they said. The bottom line? There was a major, major disconnect from reality. In Rabbi Wachsman's case maybe it was major, rather than major, major. As I said, people were using their smartphones all night. Openly. Does anyone think they were conducting business? "Buy 1000 shares of Faceschmutz!" Everyone uses it. No one is going to stop. In five years, more, not less people will be online.  I was thinking about that, and I realized that the insular life depends upon free choice as much as coercion. Thirty or forty years ago, people were still largely choosing the insular life. But they had large families, and not all of the children would or will choose it. People who wanted to be part of something, and were willing to not own a television and not read newspapers had children and grandchildren who never asked for that. They can't even ban it in China - the only people who can be kept away from the internet are those who will freely choose to eschew it.

Perhaps some will take the healthy message to heart that they should while away less time online. There were flashes of inspiration. It was a nice crowd. I felt fine there. I'm sure plenty of people would have thought that they were watching a Fascist rally, but I didn't, which was interesting to note about myself and how I would feel. I guess I just felt like it didn't affect me? After all, my kids are not going to be subjected to Rav Wosner's ruling. Was it ironic, and perhaps apt, that it took place the very week that the proverbial you-know-what began to hit the fan, as the six years of not facing up to our own abuse scandal finally really began to get serious coverage, fueled of course by the tumeneh mashchis, and that it is not going to be wished away or disappear? Yes. 

My email companion on the outside asked me at one point to scale it, 1 to 10, in terms of weirdness. I had no answer. I replied, I will have to tell you later.

95 comments:

  1. I suspect that the real agenda of the Asifa was to demonstrate the political power of Charedim and to warn District Attorneys to allow Rabbis to be the dispensers ( and withholders) of justice unbothered by the evil, evil secular authorities. It would make sense that prominence was given to individuals who are defenders of chILd abuse and arson. (I assume that most of the speakers were entirely honorable, to be sure.) Do others thing this interpretation makes sense?

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  2. I might agree with that, except my sense is that it really wasn't a top-down event, as much as it was perhaps turned into one. My sense is that organizers like Rabbi Nechemia Gottlieb wanted to make a name for themselves, got a few strategic people to agree with their idea, which was a necessary condition for the event to occur, and then they found that you cannot manage all the rabbonim. Also, don't underestimate the sincerity of many of those who agreed and participated in it. There may have been many unintended political components, as well as intended ones, but my guess is that most of the intended politics had to do with honor and power within the Chareidi communities.

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    1. this gottlieb that fight for tohar hamachane in one hand, hosting encouraging and helping in the other hand, his friend from israel that is own children complain against him in the police for things regarding tohar hamachane...

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  3. Registrant:
    Aaron Grossman
    14 Melnick Drive
    Monsey, New York 10977
    United States

    Registered through: GoDaddy.com, LLC (http://www.godaddy.com)
    Domain Name: YENTAYACHNA.COM
    Created on: 21-May-12
    Expires on: 21-May-13
    Last Updated on: 21-May-12

    Administrative Contact:
    Grossman, Aaron arong79@gmail.com
    14 Melnick Drive
    Monsey, New York 10977
    United States
    8456596306

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    Replies
    1. +1. I mamesh thought to myself, if someone didn't register yentayachna.com within 20 seconds, I would lose all may faith in humanity. You have restored my faith.

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  4. S.:

    This was really a great recap, and I appreciate your efforts in typing it all up and posting it. Pity you left early, as I would have liked to hear your take on the rest.

    I think I heard him say 20-35, not 25-35. I assume that is a typo.

    You can read my thoughts here.

    As for anon above, the timing is off, as this Asifa was called for months ago.

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  5. "Deciding to see that sausage" is an ironic choice of words for a gathering of 60,000 Jewish Makes in 2 stadiums.

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    1. Phil, believe me, the metaphor is apt.

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  6. I thought I heard 25 - 35, but what you heard makes more sense given that I did hear him say 0 - 20 right afterward.

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  7. you may have noticed that outside of the "asifah" were some friends of mine holding signs that said " the internet isnt the problem- child molestors are" how many of the people on the podium last nite have told a parent of a child in a school in lakewood not to report someone that was accused of molesting .... do they understand that molesting is a disease that cannot be cured? that these people will continue to molest ad infinitum? since many of the people up there on the podium have swept this issue under the rug, they are breaking the law, breaking our trust and not worth of the title... so dont worry folks... you dont have to listen to them anyways

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  8. I wonder if someone can get a copy of the kuntres and sent it to HebrewBooks.org so the whole world can read it.

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  9. By writing this you have forfeited your olam habah and your kids should be expelled from yeshiva. You are part of the problem l'fi the Wosner's of the world. I'll choose to ignore him and not you.

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  10. Anon, I actually didn't notice it, because unfortunately you were situated in a spot which only some people would have passed. I came by Subway, so I didn't even see where the area of protest was. I understand it did not go unnoticed though, by any means.

    I can scan it and send it. Frankly, the kuntres was already more liberal than the message delivered on the podium, since it at least assumes that internet - whether filtered or not - is being used for things besides the proverbial "business." If I forget to scan it, remind me via email.

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  11. Since my notes were all muddled, out of order, I forgot to mention this. Rabbi Wachsman (I believe, I'll recheck my notes) at one point said something like Hashem will not refuse helping us, his only child. In other words, Israel, the Jewish people, is the Lord's only child. But this goes against explicit pesukim which say that Israel is God's firstborn, not - Heaven forfend - his only child. See Shemos 4:22 for starters. Someone pointed out to me, of course, only maskilim and women know Tanakh, and there were no women there.

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  12. But seriously, what were the rumors about why the Dziboer Dayan was there?

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  13. One of his folks gave a lot of money.

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  14. A very interesting article about Pidyon Shevuyim from the author of the kuntres: www.hakirah.org/Vol%2011%20Lichtenstein.pdf

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    1. Is that David Lichtentein from The Lightstone Group?

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  15. >>One of the things I really wanted to get a sense of was, what was the mood of the crowd? It was hard to say. It was certainly not mournful, but neither was it especially jubilant.

    What do you want - considering the venue? Now had the event been held in Yankee Stadium that would have been a different. But of course, only Mets fans are true believers (or vice versa).

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  16. i am going to guess Anonymous3:55 is Reb dovid lichtstein and yes he did write for hakirah as it is put out by members of his fathers shul

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    1. I'm that Anonymous, and no, I'm not Lichtenstein. Just an admirer :).

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  17. I have no problem with people promoting themselves, as long as it is non-commercial and not obvious.

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  18. Fotheringay-Phipps5:21 PM, May 21, 2012

    S.: " But this goes against explicit pesukim which say that Israel is God's firstborn, not - Heaven forfend - his only child. See Shemos 4:22 for starters. Someone pointed out to me, of course, only maskilim and women know Tanakh, and there were no women there."

    Maybe these maskilim should learn Rashi.

    Rashi on that pasuk says that "bechor" in that pasuk does not mean "firstborn" but is rather is a term meaning greatness.

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  19. Wow, that's like a story. We'll put it in a book some day.

    Yes, it's not literal. Nor is it literal that we are children of God. Look at other meforshim too, such as Chizkuni, "כל האומות בני הם." The point is, he has no source that we are God's only child.

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  20. Was is your friend or chavrusah that you went with? I find it interesting that you have a chavrusah.

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  21. Fotheringay-Phipps6:00 PM, May 21, 2012

    S.: "Look at other meforshim too, such as Chizkuni, "כל האומות בני הם." The point is, he has no source that we are God's only child."

    No, that was not the point I was responding to. Your point was that his assumption that we are God's only child contradicted explicit pesukim and was the result of ignorance of Tanakh. It did not and was not, and your point was the result of ignorance of Rashi.

    You want to say you disagree with him on this point and there are sources which support you, that's fine. (BTW, RSRH makes the same proof from that pasuk.) But that's not the same thing as saying it's explicit pasuk and to assume otherwise is ignorant of Tanakh.

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    1. You don't see from this pasuk, according to Rashi, that bnai yisrael are God's only children. So what is his source?

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    2. הוא היה אומר, חביב אדם שנברא בצלם מד.
      חבה יתרה נודעת לו שנברא בצלם, שנאמר (בראשית ט), כי בצלם אלהים עשה את האדם.
      חביבין ישראל שנקראו בנים למקום.
      חבה יתרה נודעת להם שנקראו בנים למקום, שנאמר (דברים יד), בנים אתם לה' אלהיכם.
      חביבין ישראל, שנתן להם כלי חמדה.
      חבה יתרה נודעת להם שנתן להם כלי חמדה מה שבו נברא העולם, שנאמר (משלי ד), כי לקח טוב נתתי לכם, תורתי אל תעזבו.

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  22. Anon 5:51, why would you find it interesting S has a Chavrusa? I wish I could find a Chavrusa as knowledgeable as S!
    Also, off topic, Dan Klein told me this comes up occasionally:
    http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/20/opinion/garcia-columbus-jewish/index.html?hpt=hp_c2
    Have you posted on it in the past?

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  23. Lakewood Falling Down:

    Don't get so insulted on Fred's behalf. I'm sure anon was simply surprised that Fred could find someone on his level to learn with. Or that he has the time for a chavrusa considering much of his free time is probably occupied by these amazing posts. Or anon is simply a mechutzaf.

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  24. I recorded some of R Wachsman's speech. He said 20-35.

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  25. curious george7:45 PM, May 21, 2012

    Excellent and entertaining review

    I believe your notes were incorrect about the source that Rabbi Wachsman quoted about losing one's chelek in OH"B. I think it was Rabbeinu Yona somewhere in Shaarei Teshuva, not the Rambam.

    A question for the crowd reading this: What do you think Rabbi Wachsman's opnion is about the YU crowd who will get guidance from their own rebbeim and will often have internet at home? Are they all losing their chelek in OH"B???

    (Although I found it VERY interesting to hear Rabbi Twersky's November mussar shmuess on this. It could have been said at the asifa!)
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/766046/Rabbi_Mayer_E._Twersky/Internet_Issues

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  26. Hmm, you guys are both wrong. I find it interesting that a person that takes an academic approach to learning would find it meaningful to learn together with a chavrusah, because having one implies a totally different type of learning. How many professors do you know have chavrusahs? They consult with each other, but I don't think they learn together. If he nonetheless has one it says something about his relationship with his social surroundings. His attendance at the asifa also puts things a bit into perspective. But again my conception of S. might be totally off mark.

    Abba, Fred isn't S.'s real name, and he doesn't go by it in the blogsphere either.

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  27. the author of the kuntres is david lichtenstein, owner of the lightstone group. he is not really charedi, so i highly doubt the ichud vechulu were the ones who gave out his kuntres. he probabnly came by and umped down a bunch of them.

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  28. you didn't mention that mincha had no chazaras hashatz. they just skipped it and went straight to kaddish. why was that?

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  29. They did heicha kadisha.

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    1. Presumably they were afraid of the chillul hashem of what it would sound like having 20,000 people talking during chazaras hashatz.

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    2. More likely they were just following minhag Lakewood.

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  30. The most descriptive account that I've seen so far. Thank you!

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  31. ANON:

    "How many professors do you know have chavrusahs?"

    you mean professors that have "chavrusahs" in their particular field of academic expertise or professors that also happen to have traditional torah chavrusahs on the side?

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  32. S:

    this was a great post. informative, entertaining and not too biased (all relative of course). i had a lot to comment as i read it, but i got busy at work, and now it's too late. just one thing: i was going to remark on your security screening comment that perhaps they were concerned about gang violence between litvaks and chasidim or different chasidic groups. it was in jest, but then i read further below about the "chevra" that moved in so their rebbe wouldn't be hurried. imagine the headline if people starting rushing the field.

    could comment more at work and can't comment now because too late, give us some more social commentary once in a while.
    as i read

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  33. Excellent review. A real pleasure to read; should come with baggies of goodies. Was wondering if you can post more about the "Hainternet BaHalacha". What's the deal; is skype yichud? Can a kinyen be enacted on the internet? And who paskens these things if according to some authorities skype is not yichud but trief?

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  34. FV:

    "And who paskens these things if according to some authorities skype is not yichud but trief"

    perhaps the same type of question as what bracha do you say on chazir?

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  35. Great recap. I had not noticed the surrounding by his chevra... did they show that on the screen as well? Or did you have to be there to see it?

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  36. Abba, I mean specifically professors of Talmud and Judaic studies that have a different apprehension of these things. But it is generally true that professors in their own fields don't learn b'chavrusah their own subject of study. Chavrusohs are only practical at the elementary level or when rigorous reasoning is involved such as pilpul dialectic.

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  37. and the reason for a heicha kedusha?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  38. S.; YOU SHAIGETZ!!!
    YOU POSTED THAT CHOULA PRITZUS!!

    NOW I UNDERSTAND WHY THE INTERNET IS ASSUR
    ACHHHHHH, WHY DID I VISIT THIS STUPID BLOG
    MY VISION IS FOREVER RUINED
    AND I LOST MY CHELEK IN OLAM HABA

    YOU TANAKH-LEARNING, CHOULA-SAUCE-DRIZZLING MASKIL!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A dif. anonymous11:08 PM, May 22, 2012

      This comment literally made me laugh as I read it to myself with my sub-conscious saying it with the right facial expressions and that sarcastic look in my eyes. But as it sank in, I realized something... Who knows, maybe this guy is takkeh serious? Sure it's warped to say the least, but hey, today - anything goes. Scary, huh?

      Delete
  39. My understanding is the subtitles were done by a court reporter dictated to by a translator. so at some point the speeches may have gotten too far ahead of them, necessitating the dot dot.

    Also as a court reporter, I can explain the the bee set. The reporter writes in steno /BAOE /SET. If the computer has never encountered that before as the word beset, it must be defined and told that. If not, it will simply define it as what it sees in its dictionary, which is two separate words, bee and set. This could have been somewhat avoided if the reporter had had a copy of the speeches ahead of time, to program in definitions such as this.

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  40. "a$" brilliant use of subtlety :)

    Joking aside, great review, so far the only exhaustive one I was able to come across.

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  41. Can you please post a copy of the kuntres: Ha-internet be-halacha?

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  42. The rabbi from Montreal is not a Rebbe but a Rav of a small Moderate Chareidi shul. He defiinitely does not have a chevra or an entourage. he has to fend for himself.

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  43. Cholula or Chulileh

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  44. Nice recap, although it oozes cynicsm a bit too much.

    As to your conclusion, well, we'll just have to wait and see, won't we. I believe that aside from business purposes, internet use will go the way of TV.

    True, we may be cutting ourselves off from those who won't give it up, but that was factored in to the equation to begin with. I elaborate at my place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It will become increasingly harder to pay bills without an internet connection. Or to see the terms of your insurance plan. Or to send in verification to your flex spending account that an expense really was medical. Etc... "Aside from business purposes" will not be the final criterion, IMHO.

      I also feel sad for the people who will never have the joy of finding just the right sefer on hebrewbooks.org, of downloading thousands of audio shiurim for their commute (without cutting into the money set aside for tuition), or catching a daf yomi shiur when on the road. Or who spend hours looking for a mar'eh maqom -- if they're lucky enough to find it at all -- that a little Google could have gotten them in a few minutes. I'm approaching a siyum on my second seder of Yerushalmi, about 95% of which I learned commuting (the rest being yom tov, vacations, and shabbasos that I fell behind), and entirely learned with sefarim (other than the Y-mi itself) and recordings I found on yerushalmionline.org. Not an option from work.

      I would be happier seeing people teach how to be stronger in standing up to temptation, relying less on avoidance, and thereby gaining everything from the internet that I have.

      Delete
    2. I have started listening to audio shiruim dld from the "interNET", as my eyes are no longer what they used to be. Actually on the subway it's good: I can close my eyes and concentrate with in-ear headphones from my blackberry.

      Delete
  45. hareidiandproud, here's how I see it. 200 years ago, the Amish were not unsual in using horse and buggies. Then 100 years later technology moved and they were at a crossroads, and they had to decide what to do, since one of their ideals is to lead simple lives. They made a choice, and they indeed can live the simple life they want to - but it comes with a powerful type of cutting off from modern life that frum Jews never even came close to. We are at a similar crossroads. Sure, today it is still almost possible to live without the internet. After all there are many aged people who never went online, and they also need to pay their bills and pay taxes, etc. But forward 10, 20, 30 years and you will see that by eschewing it - and you already don't, as you blog and comment on other blogs - you, as a society, will wind up like the Amish. Which is fine, so long as this is what the society wants to do. Just bear in mind that its a powerful departure from what any Jewish society ever did. It's not like TV at all.

    As for other comments, I cannot reply to them all.

    Thanks to all who pointed out that Rabbi Wachsman cited Rabbenu Yonah. When I read that, I remembered that is indeed what he said. I was trying to listen, watch and take notes all at the same time (many times I had to remind myself - look up! look around). I didn't write down Rabbenu Yonah.

    As for what it means to learn with a chavrusah, I will let everyone use their imagination. :-)

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    Replies
    1. S

      I will agree that the Internet is an unprecedented challenge. However, considering that it is permitted for business use, what other "pressing needs" must we use it for? Bill pay? Can be done offline and when that stops, it will go under the rubric of "needed".

      What HAS been eliminated is the internet as a tool of leisure/information, which, let's be honest is what the people who want to keep it are fighting for.

      They could care less about bill pay and taxes. They want the internet culture and cannot even IMAGINE it being taken away from them.

      Delete
  46. abba's rantings2:30 PM, May 22, 2012

    "As for what it means to learn with a chavrusah, I will let everyone use their imagination. :-)"

    i imagine it means you and are friend are learning together how to read cuneiform tablets :)

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  47. curious george2:46 PM, May 22, 2012

    For those interested, here is where that Rabbeinu Yona can be found

    Sharei Teshuva 3:168

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  48. I haven't read the post yet, but I'm disappointed there are no rare photos of, say, R Ephraim Wachsman as a clean shaven yungerman. I don't expect you to find that he wrote a PhD, but seriously a 2012 twelve photo of citifield is all you could come up with?!

    And is that you in the black hat?

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  49. FWIW, I share my "to go or not to go" struggle as the great day was approaching.

    Not to go:

    1. Everything that needs to be said has been said. I understand that the internet is an extremely useful yet dangerous place. Those that choose to ignore the danger are fools.

    2. According to the rumors (turned out to be true), my rosh yeshiva is unhappy about the whole thing.

    3. I resent being told "come to this place at this time but we will not tell you why you should come, who will be speaking or what the agenda is". My yiddishkeit is not and never was about checking in my brain at the door.


    To go:

    1. It seems that virtually all adult males in my community will be there. Simply walking around outside between the hours of 2:00 - 12:00 (actually ended up beingo be more like 2:30am) will be making a statement that I don't consider myself a part of the tzibbur.

    2. I would probably rather regret going than regret not going.

    3. I can't control what my children will be told. Some over the top teacher will decide on Monday morning to preach about the massive kiddush hashem that happened last night when ALL the men of klal yisroel got together to etc. I am probably better off wasting half a day than explaining that their teacher is a moron or worse, leave them wondering if daddy is secretly not part of klal yisroel.

    My last minute decision to go landed me a ticket in the tennis center. Since most of my reasons to go did not involve actually coming away with much from it, I was pleasantly surprised by REW's mostly great speeches. Everything else fell flat in my opinion.

    As an aside, I firmly believe that his gratuitous shot at tziyonim was a part of the agreement that brought (half of) satmar to the event. Effy Wachsman comes from the Lakewood/ Yeshivish world. In that world tziyonim are not part of the list of the major battles fought by the gedolim throughout the ages. I believe that he was instructed to include that.

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  50. Fotheringay-Phipps5:33 PM, May 22, 2012

    S: "You don't see from this pasuk, according to Rashi, that bnai yisrael are God's only children. So what is his source?"

    I see that WFB has provided a source. But again, that's not the point I was addressing. As far as my point goes, you could even be right that he has no source. My point was limited to your assertion that he was ignorant in that he contradicted explicit pesukim, and your specific example. The example was an error by you, and it's become apparent that you have no other explicit pesukim. You should be more forthright about this.

    Try to imagine that it's Artscroll weaseling around like this, and do what you would have them do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WFB did not provide a source. The mishna he cites says Jews are beloved for they are called God-s children. The question was for a source saying they are God's ONLY children.

      Delete
  51. Fotheringay-Phipps5:37 PM, May 22, 2012

    LkwdGuy: "It seems that virtually all adult males in my community will be there. Simply walking around outside between the hours of 2:00 - 12:00 (actually ended up beingo be more like 2:30am) will be making a statement that I don't consider myself a part of the tzibbur."

    As someone who didn't go, I think your prediction was way of base. ISTM that there were quite a few other people in Lakewood who also skipped it. (I was initially nervous about our maariv minyan, but we were barely affected - although I should note that we have a lot of teenage bochurim.)

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  52. Who was the Follower from Zibo that gave money? was it Hershey Friedman? who else in Montreal could it be...

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  53. > Since he could barely speak in an audible voice, he had a meturgeman with him, who repeated everything he said. Again, in reality substance is supposed to trump style, but what can I say? The man who repeated his speech for twenty minutes had the voice of a cartoon character. Again, this is not the message, but these are things which could be avoided, even if the man is his gabbai or whomever.

    FYI, that man is his son.

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  54. HadEnoughOfGolus8:56 PM, May 22, 2012

    Where was the “ichud” of the kehillos?If I separate the choshuva presence that graced us on the dais, I really am pained to admit (really, because this speaks to my dream of true achdus in klal yisroel) this was a total disaster. The yetzer horah won. He allowed politics and egos to dictate the agenda. It was a complete chasidisher event. Complete false advertising. For those of us who don’t speak yiddish, we gained nothing. Frankly, I wonder for those that do speak yiddish, whether they also gained. Of course there should have been yiddish speakers, but they should not have dominated, it should have been at least 50/50. I”m really sad. Really. I gave my nation more credit and I am disappointed. I feel terrible saying this. Rabbi Wachsman was truly amazing, he inspired. I appreciate the presence of gedolim, but we are mostly common plain simple people, that need to be spoken to on our level. Of course the gedolim should speak, but because they are on such a high level, kept it to a minimum, with divrei brocha, and then allowed those that can connect with the public to speak, such as rabbi wachsman. There should have been more practical presentations. We all know the internet has problems, we’re sitting there, we’re past that discussion, now please help us. Don’t repeat what we already know. Clearly, R’ Matisyahu was trying to save it at the end, by speaking in english to all the “mevakshei Hashem”. He understood….But then I tell myself, that maybe this internet, with the easy ability to speak one’s mind, has turned me into a critic, when I should simply accept what happened with the belief that greater people than I will ever begin to be, were there, some knew the program, agreed to it, and I have to shut up. I am a follower, and have no right to question. I”m really torn about this. Not only did this asifa not inspire me, it actually bought me down. I know of the countless children that will now hear of the criticism, which will undermine our gedolim, and further water down klal yisoroel. I”m sad.
    I'm not saying that I am accepting this, I'm simply expressing my internal strife on how to feel about it. It's my upbringing that espoused to accept our gedolim's directives. My seichel tells me one thing, my Jewish guilt tells me another. Yes, there were many that did not endorse, but for the most part, they did not do so for the same issues I bring up. I hate "chareidi' politics, its corrupts the true torah messages that they should be promoting. It seems that besides wanting us to put filters on our computers, they also want to put filters on the torah, conveniently blocking authentic care-for-all-Jews daas torah from shining through, by watering it down with politics and egos.They had 40,000 people in one ‘room’, they squandered the opportunity.I really wanted to be proud of our nation. This was going to be our “Olympics”. I guess I’ll have to wait for that feeling at the siyum hashas. It can’t come soon enough…

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  55. HadEnoughOfGolus8:57 PM, May 22, 2012

    (Please see my previous post, first) From the fact that Yeshivaworld, Vos Iz Neis, and Matzav are not prominently posting the event in BIG at the top of their respective websites tells me that they agree that this event was a flop. This could have been so big, that it should have dominated the top of their websites for days, in MASSIVE lettering. Now it’s just a simple article, like all the other nohrishe pieces of news. Isn’t that amazing …. we have a rare historical gathering of 40,000 chareidim with all the gedolim and its not making massive headlines on the frum news websites??? But they are right in doing so. So thank you to them. Save it for the siyum hashas...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A dif. anonymous11:42 PM, May 22, 2012

      as to why the event was a flop, and why the dais members (I refrain from using the label "Gedolim" bec. due to it's frivolous misuse anyone who has one of the following is accredited the title by his respective followers and from thereon shoved into the spotlight: a frock, a shul, a kollel, a yeshiva, gives shiurim to a number of people on a regular basis) title didn't accommodate the mass, and why so many other things - I frankly don't think it's worth my time (perhaps somebody else would care to enlighten you, sorry) to talk about these problems.

      There was just one point that I found interesting which you pointed out. Such a massive historical event for Orthodox Jewry, which has not been seen for some time, is not even in the headlines two days after?! Etmahh! For crying out loud....after such a precious chance to speak to the people - we came out with what? Tachlis, nu?

      I think "sad" is an understatement to describe what was accomplished. How do those organizers of "The Big Event" sleep at night?

      Delete
    2. I must agree with you... see you at the siyum hashas?

      Delete
  56. Impressive summary.

    One correction regarding "Acher:" R' Ephraim Wachsman was citing a vort that used this term in another sense, i.e. not referring to Elisha ben Avuyah.

    Shuvu banim shovavim chutz m'Acher was interpreted to mean that everyone can do teshuvah except for someone who has turned into a different person, for whom it is very difficult to do teshuvah.

    ReplyDelete
  57. IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:
    Interesting article, but what grabbed my attention is the Cholula hot sauce. I live in Israel. Is it kosher and is it available here; if so does anyone know where?

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  58. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  59. R' Zalmen Leib of Satmar made several conditions for him to participate. One was that the Zhibauer Dayan of Montreal speak. Another condition was that anti zionism be mentioned in accordance with the tradition of Satmar Rebbe Divrei Yoel.

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  60. Rav Waxman said a dvar torah from the Satmar Rebbe. And he mentioned the nisayon of zionnism. This is not a coincidence.

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  61. I find it bizzare that ehrliche yiden were forced to sit in a stadium and stare at at a baseball field. Very odd.

    ReplyDelete
  62. I found it interesting that the "Grab Some Buds" signage was deemed appropriate for the evening.
    KT
    Joel Rich

    ReplyDelete
  63. On the Main,
    Do you recall who was the author of the internet b'halacha kuntres?

    ReplyDelete
  64. Fotheringay-Phipps1:22 PM, May 23, 2012

    Those who made a big deal about the reaction of the Charedi websites are missing an important point (not that there's much in that issue in any event).

    These Charedi websites are on shaky ground, because if internet opponents achieve their goals, every one of these websites will be shut down, since they amount to recreational use of the web. So they are undoubtedly of two minds about it.

    BTW, Vos Iz Nais is not a Charedi website - this is apparent from the editorial content that gets published their. I think it may have been so at one time, but not any more, by a long shot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No True Scotchman canard. Look it up.

      Delete
  65. It's a subversive site, but of course it's Charedi.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Fotheringay-Phipps5:45 PM, May 23, 2012

    I disagree. They cover a lot of Charedi news, but their viewpoint is consistently in line with RWMO (e.g. R' Yair Hoffman).

    ReplyDelete
  67. I think VIN is a charedi site that has decided to defy the charedim. They use Hoffman because they cannot get anyone to his right to sign on. They would be happy to get (public)rabbinical supporters further to the right.

    ReplyDelete
  68. When REW mentioned the "Acher" vort from the Satmarer did anyone recall the Rav's insight in Chamesh Drashos as to why a bas kol was sounded if Acher's situatation was hopeless anyway? Also why does the Bavli say "chutz m'Acher" whereas the Yerushalmi reads "chutz m'Elisha Ben Avua"?

    The Rav answered that the Bas Kol was meant to commumicate an important message. If he heard "Acher" then indeed he became someone else entirely and could not do teshuvah, but if he heard his name "Elisha", then deep down he was still his original self and could return to his roots.

    Anyone know the marei makom for the Satmar vort?

    ReplyDelete
  69. Fotheringay-Phipps5:16 PM, May 24, 2012

    YL: "I think VIN is a charedi site that has decided to defy the charedim."

    Then it's by definition not Charedi. At least by my definition. And I'm not sure by what definition a site which consistently advocates a non-charedi viewpoint can be classified as charedi.

    In any event, the context here was someone's claim that since the charedi websites were not making a huge deal about the asifa, it can be shown to be a failure. This would not apply - even if you agree that it applies otherwise - to websites which do not espouse charedi viewpoints. And in point, VIN has been consistently anti-asifa throughout, both before and after the event.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Was it ironic, and perhaps apt, that it took place the very week that the proverbial you-know-what began to hit the fan, as the six years of not facing up to our own abuse scandal finally really began to get serious coverage, fueled of course by the tumeneh mashchis, and that it is not going to be wished away or disappear?"

    Can someone please elaborate on this point about stuff hitting the fan? What happened last week that I missed? Please provide links or summarize what is new with regard to the abuse scandal?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Student, I was referring to the series of stories in the New York Times, such as this one, as well as the continuing coverage on Charles Hynes and the Agudah (also search Google News for new york times orthodox abuse). This attention is only the beginning, and the story will not magically disappear.

      Delete
  71. "This attention is only the beginning, and the story will not magically disappear."

    Could be wrong, but I actually think it will. [disappear.] For a story to have traction, the party being reported upon has to play a part. He has to start apologizing, issuing statements, and basically react to the media coverage. But if he pretty much ignores it, it will just go away on its own. That's what happening here. It's not that Satmar is HAPPY with negative reporting, naturally. But for the most part they couldnt care less. The readership of the NYT are not their constituents, after all.

    Agav, the back story to the Times articles is quite interesting. From what I'm hearing through media contacts, the Times is worried that the orthodox vote is shaping up as the biggest voting bloc and power broker in the coming elections. The Times knows the religious tend to vote republican. Thus, they are seeking to discredit the religious, in the hopes that GOP candidates will be afraid to deal with or otherwise seek their support. Look for more tenuous "reporting" about the orthodox from the Times in the months ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  72. S.: I am a big fan of yours, but on the issue as to whether the nations are God's children, I agree with FP. One may reasonably argue that verse "banim atem" as well as its use in Avot imply the nations are not God's children. As to the opposite implication of beni bechori, in the recently published Maamarei Pahad Yitzhak on Pesach, which I have been reading these last few weeks, maamarim 27 and 82, Rav Hutner notes that this apparent contradiction was raised by Rav Elhanan Wasserman, HYD. Rav Hutner answers that, indeed, only the Jews are God's children. As to beni bechori, he deals with it in an interesting, but, in my view, unconvincing manner. Also see Maamar 24:8-9 on Haviv ha-Adam she-nivra be-Tzelem.

    ReplyDelete
  73. "Rashi on that pasuk says that "bechor" in that pasuk does not mean "firstborn" but is rather is a term meaning greatness."

    This is the kind of reading of Rashi that drove (and drives) the maskilim to distraction. Surely one doesn't need to be a maskil or to have gone to schools that teach children to ask "mah kasheh lerashi" in order to understand this $ashi properly. What is the difficulty of translating bechor as first-born that leads Rashi to say the plain meaning signfies greatness? The difficulty is that Jews are not literal and historical first-borns. This is why Rashi follows his explanation of the pshat, which he gives not as literal bechor, but as a signifier of greatness, with a midrashic explanation that with these words the rbs"o accepts the selling of the bechora to yaakov, which would make yisrael (the person, yaakov avinu) literally bechor, first born. This Rashi can hardly be used as proof that Jews are only children as it is proof to the contrary. If Jews were only children, there would be no difficulty translating bechor literally as first-born.

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