Vol. I, No. 6

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Let's Learn! is an exploration of Judaism, Zionism, the Jewish People, and God's world, guided by Yaakov Fogelman, who lectures on Torah and Religious Zionism; sets and disks of these studies, which include all the Torah readings and holidays, as well as his audio and video tapes, are available at TOP. See In the Service of God, by Shalom Freedman (Jason Aronson, $30 from TOP), for his views, together with those of 20 other teachers of Torah, on Judaism, Zionism and the Jewish People today.


This study is sponsored by Rabbi Harvey and Judy Goldscheider of Temple Beth El of North Bellmore, N.Y. in celebration of the first birthday of their grandson, Shalom Mordechai Goldscheider, 27 Shvat (Feb. 4), born and raised in Jerusalem by Rabbi Aharon and Karen Goldscheider.

God's basis for human development, free will, posits man's unrestrained ability to do evil (cf. Hitler)-- "in the path a man wishes to pursue, he is aided (from Above; Makkot 10b-- cf. San. 105a)"; yet God also commands him what to do and what he may not do; He commands the court to punish sinners and often does so Himself. From Adam and Eve onward, God's Word has been ignored, even flaunted, by Man. His response to such faulted folks, reported in His Torah, and that of our sages, thru the ages, reported in The Oral Tradition, is sometimes patient and tolerant, sometimes harsh and punative; both are models for observant Jews today. They must confront, and interact with, a vastly greater group, Jews and non-Jews, which, to varying degrees, does not accept God's Will, as we understand it. In some cases, non-Orthodox rejection is indeed willful, despite full knowledge of His Torah; but, in an overwhelming majority, such is not the case-- most such heretical and/or non-conforming life styles and philosophies of life are founded upon gross ignorance of truly traditional Judaism, the impact upon these "captives" of an overwhelmingly secular environment and tzeitgeist, and the impact of "rabbis" who are themselves such captives.

Today's Orthodox world takes 3 approaches to outsiders: 1) an ardent pursuit of truth, including a declaration of war upon not only secularism and paganism, but also upon the heretical Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, which, on the whole, deny the divine origin and unity of the written and oral Torah; even modern civilized haredim will similarly attack Centerist and Zionist Orthodoxy, which rejects haredi idolization and alleged perpetuation of the tortured, traumatized and distorted Jewish world of Eastern Europe, "Yiddishkeit", as opposed to "Judaism". 2) an equally ardent pursuit of the equally valid Jewish values of peace and democracy, including good relations of mutual love, kindness and respect with the non-Orthodox de facto leaders of the vast majority of Jews. 3) A third way, that of non-political haredi Orthodoxy, is to simply ignore the non-haredi religious scene, to focus only upon having lots of kids and educating them in haredi Judaism, and to await the inevitable demographic results. Secular and non-Orthodox Jews may be a rapidly disappearing species, threatened by both a plethora of assimilation and a paucity of reproduction.

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Bills to ban non-Orthodox conversions, refusal by Israel's chief rabbis to even talk to non-Orthodox rabbis, and the banning and burning of their books are examples of the first approach. An annual study retreat for rabbis of all denominations, and programs to guide secular teachers and principals in teaching Judaism (both sponsored by the somewhat orthodox Shalom Hartman Institute), the work of the Neeman commission, and the friendly cooperation of super-effective Rabbi Reuben Bulka of Ottawa with his non-Orthodox collegues, to everyone's benefit, are examples of the second approach. The fast growing Satmar, Belz and Bobov communities practice the 3rd Way.

From Genesis on, we experience God's mixed and varying response to sin, reflecting the development, history and background of each of the sinners, individuals and groups. Tho He responds with a mixture of forgiveness, patience and punishment to the sins of Adam, Eve, Cain and the Tower generation, He wipes out the entire Flood Generation, saving only Noach & Co., and has Moshe execute the gatherer of sticks on Shabbat and the blasphemer.

After establishing Israel's mission-- to establish a model holy State of Israel to re-create God's fallen Creation (Ex. 19:6)-- God delivered its only possible Constitution, the Decalogue, in Yisro. Then, in Mishpatim, He gives detailed laws flowing from it, governing every realm of public and private Jewish life; the tabernacle, constantly in Israel's midst as they journey toward the Promised Land, gives a detailed sensuous symbolic model of God's original perfectly balanced universe, in Truma, Tzaveh, Ki Sisa, Vayakhel and Pkudei. Together, Torah and Tabernacle provide noumena and phenomena, food for thought and food for feeling, to develop each Jew's unique potential in forging the chain from Avraham to Messiah. But riotous, rather than righteous, reality intrudes upon this great vision-- God's emerging Kingdom of priests suddenly backslides toward Egypt, turning into a rowdy carnival crowd at the Golden Calf Disco; Moshe must leave God's Presence and Sinai Kollel to deal with them. The response of God and Moshe may also be our model in dealing with evil to this day-- a mixture of toughness and tolerance. His avenging Levite servants destroy only the leaders of the Golden Calf sect (compare Israel's rejection of non-Orthodox rabbis, not non-Orthodox Jews); Moshe successfully prays to suspend their followers' punishment.

But such a rebellion, as that of Adam and Eve, is quite different from today's situation, where we do not experience visible and miraculous Divine Providence (Even after '48 and `67? Talmudic rabbis still preformed miracles-- Hillel Rosenburg). Thus the halachic catagory of heretics lacks any contemporary practical relevance. "It is incumbant upon us to draw them (the non-believers) to us with bonds of love, so that the light of truth will illuminate their ways to whatever degree possible" (Rav Yeshaya Karelitz, hero of Chaim Grade's magnum opus, The Yeshiva, in Chazon Ish, Yoreh Deah, 13:16, cited in Prof. Lawrence Kaplan's profound article, The Hazon Ish: Haredi critic of Traditional Orthodoxy, in The Uses of Tradition-- Jewish Continuity in the Modern Era, $45 from TOP).

Idolatry is treating any thing, feeling or concept, other than God Himself, as absolute; he is the Author of all; everything conceivable and its opposite have their place in His Hosts-- Ben Azzai used to say: "Do not disparage any person, nor push aside anything (or concept as unimportant), for there is not a man who has not his hour (of importance) and there is no thing which does not have its place" (Avot 4:3, cf. Kohelet 3:1-- "To all there is a time...").

So both options-- the war for truth and the pursuit of peace, intolerance of evil, deviation from the norms of Torah and nature, and understanding and tolerance of others' views, beliefs and practices-- have their time and place. Shimon ben Shetach and his tough pupils slaugthered the 80 idolatrous witches of Ashkalon; he finally ousted the heretical Sadducees from the Sanhedrin; but the prophet Jeremiah warns of the futility of fighting Assyria, while Rav Yochanan ben Zakai rejects the Zealots and makes his peace with wicked Rome (a peace later lost by Rebbe Akiva and Bar Kochba). Saadya Gaon waged war upon the heretical Karites (tho they, at least, believed in the Divinity of the Written Torah, unlike most contemporary non-Orthodox rabbis), while the Rambam later implored Jews to treat them with understanding, compassion and kindness, given their centuries of ancestral Karite brainwashing (M. T. Mamrim 3:3 infra, ignored in "When Moshiach Comes", a dangerous and distorted Targum-Feldheim book which calls for hatred toward even innocent non-believers).

Western liberals often make a fetish of tolerance, allowing the worst evils to thrive and grow (e.g. Saddam, Hitler and Arafat, perverse life styles); intolerant religious and nationalist fanatics condemn and try to destroy anything or anyone differing even slightly from their own beliefs, thereby alienating them even more-- The Jewish Observer of Agudath Israel, continually belittles Zionist and Centrist Orthodox Jews, grouping them with the Conservative and Reform, outside the boundaries of Torah truth--

In their summer 1997 issue, Chaim Dovid Zweibel notes that Aguda's sages deemed Religious Zionist ideology a threat to certain religious foundation principles that could never be compromised; he laments the glorification of secualar culture, or perhaps even its sanctification, thru certain expressions of the philosophy of Torah Umadda, and complains of laxities in certain areas of halachic practice and observance that were all but elevated into ideology under the banner of Modern (or Centrist) Orthodoxy (cf. haredi deification of the prohibited earning of one's living from torah teaching, and of giving cigarettes to young boys at Mea Shearim weddings). In the same issue, Yonason Rosenblum (known as Jonathan Rosenblum to JP readers), while preaching haredi non-violence, shows his true haredi non-colors-- he tries to excuse the angry crowd of haredim who surrounded Conservative Jews at the Wall on Shavuot and tried to drown out their prayers-- "the singing of nearby minyanim is something with which every minyan at the kosel has to contend Shavuos morning!!!" By definition, neither extreme, i.e. "idolatrous", approach-- extreme tolerance or extreme intolerance-- to those who deviate from Judaism is truly Jewish.


The Jews are warned time and time again by God and Moshe not to tolerate idolatry and idolators in the holy land, e.g. Hinduism and Buddhism (cf. the Israel Museum); when they ignore this, they too descend to idolatry and are sent into exile by God. Saul is ordered to destroy Amalek (I Samuel 15); but he spares King Agag in a gesture of professional courtesy; he thus loses his kingdom and Agag, tho slain too late by the holy prophet Samuel, begins a dynasty which culminates in Haman. "He who is merciful when he should be cruel will in the end be cruel when he should be merciful (Midrash Shmuel)"-- Saul later balances his undue kindness by undue cruelty; he kills 85 innocent priests of Nov, who gave David hospitality (I Samuel 21-2).

The Labor party risked soldiers' lives in hand-to-hand fighting, rather than bombing "holy" and historic enemy positions in Jerusalem's historic Old City. After Israel's miraculous victory in the 6 Day War, Moshe Dayan allowed Arabs full autonomy over the Temple Mount; he did not evict those living nearby, despite their unrelenting hatred of Israel, their attempts to destroy it and their profanation of the Wall and other Jewish holy sites from 1948-67-- they eradicated every reminder of Israel's former glory on the Temple Mount. The result was the injury and death of many innocent Israelis and tourists at the hands of Palestinean Arab terrorists, culminating in their Oct. 8, 1990 stoning of worshippers and visitors at The Wall.


of "the differing other" may begin with Babal, where all "were of one language" (cf. USSR); such forced conformity is de facto rebellion against God-- His Uniqueness is a model, Imitatio Dei, for human individuality. Midrashim recall Avraham's lonely battle against an overwhelmingly idolatrous society-- a forecast for his descendants. Shimon and Levi, "holy avengers", annihilate alien Shchem; then brother Yosef's "leftish" dreams of Jewish destiny infuriate them and they try to kill "the rebel" (finally Levi's tribe has to punish and slay Shimon's own immoral descendants). Ohr Somaach's Ohrnet (Mishpatim '98, Ask The Rabbi) ignores Yaakov's condemnation of Shimon and Levi's act, citing it as an example of holy vengeance, to be copied! Tolerant Yosef forgives them; so his son M'nasha graciously accepts his demotion to No. 2 son. So tolerant Moshe is quick to help the daughters of Tzlafchad and those unclean on Passover to achieve equal rights; but he's in no rush to punish the blasphemer and Shabbat violator-- only if and when God orders him to do so. So we too might not follow God's examples of punative zeal where he does not specifically tell us to do so-- perhaps our analogies to Biblical situations are not correct.

Last week was the yahrtzeit of Emil Gruenzweig, murdered by a right wing fanatic; his memory was honored at Van Leer's confab on the effects of Israel's religious battles upon our relations with Diaspora Jews. Chief Rav Yisroel Lau came and delivered a stirring address, a big step forward in bringing the Jews of Israel together-- he claimed that marriage, divorce and conversion must remain in Orthodox hands to prevent an irreperable split in the Jewish people; otherwise, non-Orthodox Jews and rabbis may live, learn and worship as they wish. Unfortunately, he did not take ?? and left before the non-orthodox rabbis spoke, tho he mentioned that he had taught Judaism in Uri Regev's T.A. school! Conservative Rabbi Bendel noted that their movement, unlike the reform, had agreed to all of the chief rabbinate's demands, but still received no reply to their request to meet with them. Yossi Beilen tried to stir up the non-Orthodox rabbis to reject the Neeman plan, while Moshe Arens was concerned with diaspora defections from the Jewish people, who support Israel, rather than religious principles.

Reform Rabbi Richard Hirsch tried to explain his reluctance to accept the chief rabbinate's conditions for dialogue and cooperation, e.g. no patrilineal descent and no interfaith or homosexual marriage-- tho Israeli Reform Jews have accepted these principles, as appropriate for Israel's unique situation and mores, the movement allows every reform rabbi to do as they see fit; Hirsch does not want to appear to be criticizing U.S. Reform Rabbis (or the head of H.U.C.'s Bet Midrash?) or others who decide to perform homosexual and/or interfaith marriages or to recognize patrilineal descent!! While I join the criticism of those Habad elements who claim that the Rebbe is Moshiach, the Reform movement seems to be even more outrageous-- their rabbis take the place of God Himself, deciding what is permissible or forbidden, solely by their own mood or sentiment!

Yaakov Neeman feels that by agreeing to separate conversion courts, the chief rabbinate has taken a huge step forward in solving Israel's problems in this regard; if patience prevails, all will be well that ends well, despite the chief rabbinic rhetoric, likely meant to placate haredi zealots and their rabbis. Both Chanan Porat and Yisroel Rosen stressed that religious zionists are already running grassroots ulpanim for conversion which meet everyone's needs-- almost all of their disciples are accepted for conversion in a genial tolerant atmosphere. If we just proceed accordingly, we will eventually earn the rabbinate's "amen". Leading Orthox Rabbis Shapiro, Amital, Lichtenstein and Porat all met and spoke with Conservative Rabbis at the recent RSA Convention in Jerusalem, subject of an upcoming Lets Learn study.

No Van Leer speakers suggested another resolution of the problem-- Non-Jews can also have a share in God's Torah and Israel's dream and destiny, without converting to Judaism-- the Torah includes a religion for universal mankind, the 7 Laws for the Sons of Noach (see our books, videos, tapes, kippot and bumper stickers on Noachism). Non-Jewish spouses of Jews, who do not wish to practice Judaism, nor to lie and pretend that they do, can adopt Noachism and be loyal supporters of God's Torah and people without becoming Jewish! Such Noachides may marry each other. Israel, indeed, should add bona fide Noachides to those enjoying the rights of The Law of Return and establish proper procedures to validate them and help them to integrate into our nation; true, this would not solve the problem of their marriage to Jews, but civil, common or foreign marriage might be far preferable to sham conversions by those who want to be Jewish in name only.


Tolerance may often also be a pragmatic issue, which religious politicians may decide better than rabbis. One without power or support must usually get along with his opponents to further his cause. If Shas protested Shamir's lack of religious observance too strongly, they would not have gotten their huge share of public money, minimizing the scope and impact of their educational system. So when the Patriarchs began their mission, surrounded by hostile pagan culture, tolerance was their only possible path, besides its innate value:


Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (The Netziv), father of Rav Meir Bar Ilan (Univ.), was the beloved Rosh Yeshiva of Volohzin (and Bialek); he didn't oppose secular studies OUTSIDE his Yeshiva. Berlin advocated religious Zionism and Orthodox Jewish involvement in the general community (Meshiv Davar 1:42, vs. Hirsch); he defended early secular Bilu Zionists, after originally attacking them. The Netziv saw nastiness and intolerance, in the name of Torah, as destroying the Jewish people. He writes (forward to Haemek Davar): "Genesis is called Sefer Hayasher, The Book of the Straight and Upright, refering to the Patriarchs (Josh. 10:13, 2 Sam. 1:18, per A.Z. 25a). The people of the 2nd Temple generation were `righteous', `pious', and intensely involved in Torah study. However they were not upright vis-a-vis others, in their interaction as beings in this world... one would FALSELY accuse the other of heresy, simply because his way of... showing reverence to God and his religious expression was different. He was thus labelled a non-believer and considered cut off from authentic Judaism, even tho he fulfilled the commandments (he's not speaking of secularists or the non-halachic, but Rav Shach vs. the Rebbe et al, Satmar vs. Chabad, Aguda vs. Mizrachi, etc.). This... eventually led to murder and to all the evils... Finally, God had to destroy their Temple...

The patriarchs accustomed themselves to deal positively with others... to perpetuate creation. Even idolaters... were treated with love and concern by them. ...There is truly much to be learned from the positive peaceful manner in which the Patriarchs approached life and accepted others-- so vitally necessary to sustain a world. This is the principal idea of this Book of Creation. The source of the world's genesis and its continuity are the Upright Patriarchs... an example to all humanity... they desire all creation to exist."-- from a free translation in Judaism's Bible by Rav S. Grafstein, who is seeking a wife and a position; Teddy Kollek loves this passage!


was also Ohr Hachayim's way. We read that Avraham TOOK and circumcized all the men of his house (Gen. 17:23). TOOK means PERSUADED. Avram did not FORCE any adult to be circumcized; he wanted all of them to accept the King's command of their own free will-- "AS THE LORD SPOKE WITH HIM" (ibid). "Whenever the people will not obey the judges, who cannot compel them, there is no obligation to appoint judges" (Psikta). Unenforceable judgements are worthless. Should rabbinic courts be imposed on a secular population which mocks them?

Orthodoxy In a Non-Orthodox World

Rav J. B. Soloveichik asked why so many non-Orthodox Israelis despise Orthodox Jews, whereas non-Orthodox Americans like them, and want to learn from them; his conclusion-- thank God, in America we can't force anyone to do anything! We can only teach and be an example. Forced imposition of religion today is counterproductive, delaying Jews' eventual return to Judaism (cf. the anti-pork law and Sabbath cinema protests; indeed, Jews can't sew, write, drive, etc. while in the cinema!).

Religious councils should present proper public Sabbath entertainment (e.g. Benjy Levin, Uri Zohar, Shlomo Carlebach, and Sitra Kama). Concerned observant Jews should only give out wine and cake, teach Torah and sing Shabbat songs near Jerusalem's Shabbat cinemas, pubs and discos. From the chief rabbis down, they should invite the non-observant to share Shabat meals. So Mea Shearim girls should bake and sew at home for Tzahal; all decent Israelis should openly pray for the welfare of the state and army that defends them.

Some prominent rabbis, e.g. Jerusalem's fire-and-brimstone Ashkenazi chief rabbi, boycotted the 5748 hakhel ceremony, led by Rav Getz, as it included Jewish secular leaders. Others focused on the half full glass-- when the President of Israel acknowledges the honor and relevance of Torah IN THE EYES OF ALL ISRAEL (via TV), we've taken a big step forward on the long road back to Eden. It's fine for learned rabbis to disagree with colleagues-- but they should acknowledge the other's great deeds and good intentions, and wish them health and life, rather than just denouncing them (cf. attacks in the vicious Shachian Yted Neeman journal). Otherwise rabbis' squabbles turn not-yet-observant onlookers away from Torah-based society. But liberal leaders too must realize that--


As Jews fought to survive the long night of harsh exile, they also faced dangers of conflict and disintegration within. Military-like discipline was needed to preserve Israel's unique covenant with God and each other-- the Oral Law. One's public departure from tradition on a seemingly minor issue might be the seductive beginning of a total rejection of the faith. So rabbis often strongly condemned such conduct, even deeming it worthy of death (cf. soldiers punished for refusal to make their beds or shine their shoes). Yet such condemnation would be highly counterproductive in ages and cultures where secularism and/or democracy prevail. So in the middle ages, unlike Chazon Ish supra, ...

SEFER HACHINUCH (238, per Rambam) discusses YOU SHALL NOT HATE YOUR BROTHER IN YOUR HEART (Lev. 19:17; see Arachin 16b): ...there is no prohibition to hate wicked people but a DUTY to hate them AFTER we reprove them many times about their sins and they don't wish to repent (see Pes. 113b, M.T. Rotzaach 13:14), as David writes:

"Do not I hate them, O Lord, who hate You? Do not I strive with those who rise up against You? I hate them with intense hatred; I count them my enemies (Ps. 139:21-2)".

The Ways of the Righteous teaches: "And arrogance against the wicked is quite praiseworthy, to rebuke them and to shame them, and one must never humble himself to them and must command them concerning the good and warn them, as much as lies in his power, against evil... (P. 44). There is a hatred that is a mitzva, e.g. a wicked man who won't accept correction... (P. 137).

Maimonides ("hero of today's liberal Jews, mostly ignorant of his true views") rules: He who does not acknowledge the Oral Torah... is considered a heretic and anyone may kill him (w/o judicial procedure). After one is publicly known as denying the Oral Torah, he is to be cast into a well and the ladder taken away-- behold he is as all heretics, those who deny the Divinity of the Torah (even one verse or exposition-- San. 99a) or hand over Jewish money or lives to plunderers and apostates; all of them are no longer part of Israel and (thus) do not require witnesses, warning or judges; whoever kills one did a great deed and removed an obstacle (to human progress; M.T., Mamrim 3:1-2, Yesodei Hatorah 6:8; cf. A.Z. 26b, Shabbat 116a, M.T. A.Z. 10:1, Sh. Aruch Ch. M. 425:8, Y.D. 158:2). Per Rav Moshe Halevi Spero, this may refer to preachers of rebellion rather than quiet doubters.


A WOMAN"S GENTLE TOUCH: So Rav Meir prayed for the death of local hooligans who tormented him; but his wife Bruriah urged him to pray instead for their return to God; he did and they indeed repented (Ber. 10a).

THE WAYS OF THE RIGHTEOUS indeed limits his teaching supra: "But there are times when it is not worthwhile to oppose the wicked, since if he opposes them in his attempt to perform one precept, he may lose the opportunity of persuading them to perform 100 precepts (cf. Badatz "Profanation of Shabbat" demonstrations)".

So RAMBAM immediately qualifies his harsh Talmudic conclusions: "When does this apply?-- only to one who denied the Oral Torah from his own reason... and emotional stirrings.. e.g. Tzadok and Bytos and their immediate followers. But their descendants whose parents drove them astray... they're like a child captured and raised by heathen who isn't stirred toward the commandments-- for indeed he's as one forced, even tho he later heard that he's Jewish and saw Jews and Judaism... therefore it's proper to bring them back and appeal to them with words of peace until they return to the authority of Torah" (M.T. Mamrim 3:3).

He who learns while a child is like ink written on fresh paper; he who learns when old is like ink written over erased paper (infamous heretic Elisha b. Avuha, Avot 4:25-- do those raised non-observant always retain some doubt?).


Modern Torah giants (as Netziv above) explain why the above tough Talmudic and Medieval strictures don't apply to 20th Century Jews. Some of their reasons, however, would have applied then too and thus may imply disagreement with, not just qualification of, earlier sources; perhaps they accept Bruriah's position.

RAV J. B. SOLOVEICHIK, as Rav Karelitz supra, ruled that non-observant Jews today are blamefree captives of the prevailing secular atmosphere and its brainwashing (even if from religious homes). Furthermore, one is only "hateable" after receiving and ignoring high-level reproof, which no one is capable of giving today (see Arachin 16b)-- Reform rabbis too. RAV MEIR SIMCHA of Dvinsk notes: "The right to hate a sinful Jew expired with the sin of the Golden Calf when all Israel descended spiritually" (on Deut. 22:4). RAV YAAKOV EMDEN applies Bruriah's dictum to all passages justifying hate-- hate the sin, not the sinner (Lechem Shamayim on Avot 1:12).

Jewish History, Law and Thought are explored in depth re today's attitude to lapsed Jews in a profound symposium of The Orthodox Forum-- Jewish Tradition and the Non-traditional Jew, edited by erudite Rav J.J. Schacter: "We decided to dispense with a separate analysis of this issue in pre-medieval times because the ancient talmudic catagories of mumar, apikoros, min, anus, tinok she-nishba, and others are relevant today only to the extent that they have been defined and applied by medieval and modern poskim.

See too Rabbi Shubert Spero's lucid overview of this issue in MORALITY, HALAKHA AND THE JEWISH TRADITION: "We may conclude that in Jewish morality in its fully developed form, we can find no justification for hating a personal or religious enemy (of any faith)".

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