Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Final Obstacle to (Jewish) World Domination

Hat tip to FailedMessiah.

If you're Modern Orthodox, you recently discovered that your Rabbonim were second rate and had no independent power when the Rabbinical Council of America knuckled under to the Chief Rabbinate over the issue of conversions.
If you're Dati Leumi, you recently discovered that your Rabbonim were second rate and had no independent power when the Supreme Beis Din of Yerushalayim voided all conversions performed by the Israelis Conversion Authority.
If you believe in Torah Im Derech Eretz, you recently discovered that your guiding philosophy was, in fact, only meant for the time that its creater, Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, zt"l, was alive and is no longer a valid form of Torah Judaism today.
And if you're Sephardi, you have now discovered that your leading Rabbonim are also just second rate flunkies who must defer to leading Ashkenazic Chareidi authorities, the "Gedolim" in all matters. In an article from The Jerusalem Post:
On questions that deal with the future of the entire Jewish people, the great halachic sages of the generation must be consulted," Rabbi Avraham Sherman said. "I call on religious Zionist rabbis to meet with the great rabbis of our day to reach an agreement on the issue of conversions."
Sherman said the major Torah sages of this generation were Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv of Jerusalem and Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Vosner of Bnei Brak, and that religious Zionist rabbis were obliged to abide by their opinions.
Sherman said that even highly respected Sephardi rabbis such as former chief rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Mordechai Eliahu should defer to Elyashiv's halachic decisions regarding conversions.

I guess this is my final article on the subject of how the Chareidi community is slowly removing all authority from any competing Torah-observant philosophies. After all, with this move there's no one else left!

Every Sperm is Sacred

The issue of articifical insemination has always been a tricky one in halacha. Like other areas of bioethics, passions run high when the subject is discussed. Although there are opinions both forbidding sperm donation outright and those that are relatively lenient, the mainstrem opinion, as authored by the Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, permits artificial donation by the husband (AIH) to his wife in certain cases, but not much else.
What struck me as odd in this article from Ynet, "Tzohar rabbis say ‘no’ to sperm donations to single women" is that the question came up at all. After all, if AIH is the only form of donation permitted, and these women have no husbands, why are they asking in the first place?
As the article makes clear, there are now women, some of them presumably frum, who have not managed to secure a suitable life mate but wish, nevertheless, to become mothers. There are, of course, three ways to go about this. The least problematic, from a halachic point of view, would be adoption. Most problematic would be frequenting a chiloni singles bar in the hopes of getting lucky enough times to become pregnant. Somewhere just to the right of that is the hope that through artificial insemination, the same result can be had without having to listen to all the bad Israeli pickup lines. ("Hey baby, you want to go disco?")
Yet as the Rabbonim in this article point out, it is incredibly twisted to think that single motherhood is an ideal option l'hatchilah. Now before anyone jumps down my throat, I'm not condemning single mothers. I know many and they are mostly a hard working, quietly suffering group of women dedicated to giving their children a decent start in this world. But I don't know any intelligent single mother who, given the choice of raising her children alone and doing it with a loving, male partner, would not choose the latter option. The idea that there are women out there who do not understand the stress that parenting involves, even when two adults share in the responsibility, must see children as mere accessories, things to show off to the neighbours and buy toys for instead of little human beings entrusted to them to raise and care for. How else to explain a desire to plunge headfirst and alone into the most stressful job in the world?
In this case, I hope the opinion of these Rabbonim is heard loud and clear so that children raised without all the benefits they might otherwise have had are avoided.

It's All My Fault

It's understandable that att this time of year the Torah world is buzzing with sermons and drashos about Tisha B'Av. One of the most common topics in recent years has been sinas chinam, baseless hatred. Chazal tell us that it was because of sinas chinam that the Second Temple was destroyed (may it be speedily rebuilt) and that only the Jewish people's correcting of that egregious behaviour will result in its restoration.
The problem is that sinas chinam is not that easy a sin to peg down. On one hand, we are quite obviously still guilty of it. The fact that this Sunday we will once again sit on the floor and wail over the destruction of our Temple is proof of this. If we had overcome our tendency to sinas chinam, then we would be celebrating in Yerushalayim instead.
But sinas chinam isn't like other sins. It's quite easy to find Jews who do not keep kosher or observe Shabbos properly. Unfortunately, there are many amongst us who do not observe the laws of family purity, modesty or charity to others. And sometimes you'll even get people to admit that they're guilty of such failings. If Chazal has said that eating freshly barbequed pig on Shabbos at the local brothel was the reason for the destruction of the Temple, it would be easy to figure out how to correct it. After all, anyone doing such things knows they're committing a sin. These behaviours are not something one can rationalize away as being all right. But sinas chinam? I don't think there's a Torah-observant Jew alive today who will admit that he is guilty of that. Which is odd, considering that, according to Chazal, it's one of the lynch pins to our ongoing exile.
All one has to do is follow the mainstream and religious Jewish press and blogsphere to see that sinas chinam is indeed alive and well. My father always says that the Arabs could have destroyed Israel years ago (Rachamanah litzlan) by simply making peace with it and then waiting for us to tear each other apart. The glee with which any given group within the Jewish community will gloat over the shortcomings of their ideological opponents is breathtaking to behold. The constant snide putdowns, the assumption of each sect that it, and it along, holds the true approach to God in its worldview, all these are put on display daily. But if you approach any of the sources of this schmutz, point a finger at them and say: "That's sinas chinam!" they'll emphatically deny it. Sinas chinam is not baseless hatred. They have plenty of reasons to hate their opponents. Good reasons, in fact, so it's certainly not chinam.
How can one overcome this? All I can suggest is the following:
Chazal tell us that a person should view the world as being equally balanced between righteousness and wickedness. That person should see himself as the deciding vote, as it were, between the two sides. Choose poorly, and the world is plunged into darkness. Choose well and we move that much closer to our final Redemption. But our Sages go further. They also tell us that each person should see his deeds as being perfectly balanced between those which are right and those which are wrong. Each time a person comes to perform an action and is presented with a choice between what is right in the Torah's view and what it wrong, he should remember that should he choose the wrong action, he will, through the principle of batel v'rov, condemn himself as completely wicked but if he chooses correctly he will earn complete righteousness.
So all I can say is this: I'm that person. If I choose correctly, if I choose to avoid loshon horo and bitul Torah, if I accept that despite my realizing it I am guilty of sinas chinam and that all the negative feelings in my heart I have towards others are really not justified, if I choose to embrace ahavas chesed and ahavas Shamayim, then I can change myself. And by changing myself, I can change the world. I can bring the Redemption that much closer. Me! I have that power!
And how will I know if I have accomplished this? If, this coming motzei Shabbos I get to make havdalah and hop on the next flight to Israel to witness the rebuilding of our Temple, if Tisha B'Av is suddenly changed into a day of festivity and happiness at the return of the Shechinah to Yerushalayim, then I know I will have succeeded.
But if, after Ma'ariv I sit down on the floor of the shul and open my megillas Eichah and read of how our people were made to suffer for our sins just like I did last year and every year before, if nothing in the world has changed, our enemies still sit triumphantly on our Har HaBayis and I still have to read in the news how our State continues to stumble down the wrong path, then I know that I have failed. I have not overcome my base nature. I have not changed. I am still guilty of sinas chinam and because I couldn't tilt the world towards good, we all still sit in golus and cry over another year of lost potential for the Redemption.
And maybe if everyone says that to themselves, something might change.