31 posts categorized "Hashkafa - Jewish outlook"

Holy Zealot or Evil Criminal? The Chief Rabbis Weigh In

Our post from last Friday, The Poison in Our Midst, created quite a ruckus. Our good friend Yehoshua sent me a letter that the Head Rabbis of Israel released this past Tuesday. The translation appears below the image of the original letter:

Letter of Head Rabbis

The Head Rabbinate of Israel

The Torah of Israel is the Torah of Life, it's ways are the ways of pleasantry and all its paths are peaceful.

Anyone who lifts a hand against his neighbor is called a wicked person, all the more so one who damages his neighbor with words or harms him bodily, and Heaven forbid worse that that.

In the name of all the rabbis and religious-court judges of Israel, we condemn any act of violence against any human, created in (G-d's) image, Jews and non-Jews, soldiers and civilians, for violence is not the way of Torah and it is utterly forbidden.

With a prayer for national unity,

David Lau, Head Rabbi of Israel

Yitzchak Yosef, Rishon L'Tzion Head Rabbi of Israel


Like a Seed: Tisha B'Av, 5775

My main lamentation on Tisha B'av 5775 is that our nation as a whole hasn't yet learned emuna and still trusts in flesh-and-blood. Israel therefore remains in the clutches of darkness, rather than meriting the leadership of the generation's true tzaddikim, the ones who lead us without any thought of personal gain and amenities. If we all really knew what we were lacking, our eyelashes would fall out from so many tears. The fact that our spiritual awareness is so dull is all the more reason for crying, for this is the result of the Holy Temple's destruction, exile, diaspora, and assimilation. Soon, G-d willing, Moshiach will end all this. The more we prepare by strengthening our spiritual lives, the easier the transition to a more spiritual world will be for each of us.

Tisha B'Av is actually a beam of light from within a dark cloud. Our lamentations are designed to connect us to Hashem in a greater bond. Just as a seed buried in the ground must rot and degenerate before it sprouts into a beautiful, fruit-bearing tree, so are we, the Jewish people; for years, our martyrs have been buried in sanctification of Hashem's name. Now, we see that any path we take other than emuna leads to national decay. Everything around us - politics, media, big business, and morality - is rotten; but G-d willing, we shall soon sprout into the People of Hashem and the generation of the the renewed Beit HaMikdash, speedily and in our time, amen.

Have an easy fast and G-d bless. I send a special hug to all my beloved brothers who wear knitted kippas and who don't wear kippas at all. May we all truly be one people with one heart, amen!

It All Adds Up

Gemara in IDF

Above - IDF infantry soldier learning Gemara in his off-duty time - image courtesy of Emuna Outreach

Up in Shamayim (the Heavens), the seemingly unglorious mundane day-to day mitzvoth that a person does with uncompromising perseverence 365 days a year is much more respected than the bombastic once-in-a-lifetime headline-grabbing mitzvoth.

Take for example a page of Gemara; some people ask, "what's the big deal" or "so what?" The snobs turn their nose up at a person who's not in Kollel or is not some big Rosh Yeshiva. Let me enlighten them: you have no idea how much Hashem loves the guys who make an honest living, then come home to learn Daf Yomi, a daily page of Gemara. Today, Hashem is especially rejoicing in these guys. Do you know why? 

The working guys prove that anyone can learn Gemara today; there are online lessons in English, English-Hebrew Gemaras, and Daf Yomi lessons in every neighborhood. You can finish Daf Yomi during your lunch break, learning while you munch. Many people do this too.

Daf Yomi is a great replacement for the morning newspaper with your morning coffee. Hashem doesn't get any gratification when you read the NY Times or the Wall Street Journal, and not from the Jerusalem Post either. He gets untold gratification when you learn Daf Yomi.

Even if you fly through the Daily Page in 30 minutes, it all adds up. After 7 years, look what you've accomplished. I know a retired taxi driver who has been learning Daf Yomi for over 60 years straight! He's in his late 80's, and his head is as clear as a bell. After his 120 years on earth, he'll be higher up in Gan Eden than most rabbis.

It all adds up.

Equal Rights or a Call of Defiance?

Dried up Morals

If morality was fresh water, then political correctness and modern society would look like the climate in the above photo.

Let's clarify a few important points according to Torah:

First, the Torah condemns sin, not sinners. We are commanded to love all of humanity, but we are also commanded to despise those actions that violate the law of Torah.

Second, the Torah makes no mention of people with same-sex affinity. The Torah does condemn sexual acts that have nothing to do with the two commandments of procreation (pria urevia) and marital gratification (ona). This condemnation includes same-sex relations.

Third, there have been sinners since the beginning of time. The Torah doesn't condemn them, but gives them the mitzvah of teshuva and encourages them to return to Hashem.

Fourth, the Torah forbids bigotry in any shape or form. Hating a person with same-sex affinity is no different from hating a person who eats in non-kosher restaurants. Both are forbidden. We have a duty to reach out to everyone.

The Gemara tells a person who can't control his sexual urges to at least dress up in clothes that hide your identity and go to a strange town to satisfy your lust. In other words, if a person violates Torah, let him at least have enough shame to perform his violations behind closed doors. In fact, the Gemara differentiates between a person who violates the Sabbath behind closed doors and the one who does it in public, or farhesia.

This leads the Gemara to differentiate between two types of sinners: he who is ashamed of what he does and he who is not ashamed. As to the former individual, the Gemara states that his shame atones for part of his transgression. As to the latter, he won't benefit from any lenience when his day of reckoning arrives. 

Our sages didn't fathom that a day would come when people would not only lack shame about transgressing the Torah, but would celebrate it in public with flag-waving and parades, declaring "National Transgression-Pride Week." No wonder that Ula says in the Gemara, yete velo achimenu - "let Moshiach come, but I don't want to be in the generation that sees him."

Since the dawn of history, there has been only one society that codified defiance against Divine Law into their law - this was Sodom and Gemorra. Is there any other way to categorize the US Supreme Court decision on gay marriage? It's not at all about equal rights but a call of defiance - shaking a fist at Hashem, Heaven forbid. It's bad enough that this is happening in the USA, but even worse when certain sectors here in Israel import such immorality Heaven forbid.

Does anyone remember what happened to Sodom and Gemorra? May Hashem illuminate the darkness in this world and open our eyes, the sooner the better.

Sunday: The Three Weeks Begin Today

Holy Temple Jerusalem
Since yesterday was Shabbat the 17th of Tammuz, we fast today the 18th of Tammuz, which marks the beginning of the “Three Weeks” (Bein HaMetzarim), a period of mourning marking the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second Temple in Jerusalem. During the “Three Weeks”, it is customary to spend extra time studying Torah and in personal prayer, to give extra charity and not to hold joyous celebrations, such as weddings, or wear new clothes. We also don't listen to or play musical instruments during this period.

The first Holy Temple was destroyed because of idolatry and the 70 shemitta (Sabbatical year) cycles that were not observed, both heinous transgressions in Judaism. The punishment - 70 years of exile.

The second Holy Temple was destroyed because of baseless intramural hate, seemingly a much lesser transgression than idolatry and desecration of Sabbatical years. Yet, 2000 years have gone by and we're still in exile. When will we ever learn? Hashem despises arrogance because it leads to hate; when one person or group thinks that they're better than anyone else, that's sufficient arrogance to perpetuate the exile. The result? Another Three Weeks of lamentations.

Hashem doesn't need the lamentations of those who allow themselves the luxury of condemning, hating, snobbing and/or boycotting other Jews. Thank G-d my beloved rabbi and teacher Rav Shalom Arush is a beacon of unconditional love and demands the same of his students.

Loving another Jew doesn't mean that you necessarily agree with his practices or philosophy in life. Loving the other person is a simple commandment of Torah that Hashem unconditionally requires of all of us, to respect all others and to treat them in the same manner that we would like to be treated.

Just remember - our sages in Tikkun Chatzot (Midnight Lamentations) say that every generation who fails to rebuild the Holy Temple is as if it were the generation that destroyed it. Categorically, intramural hatred is not only perpetuating the exile, but is causing Hashem to use drastic measures to wake us up and to prod us to act like brothers toward each other. Let's start being stringent about our unconditional love for each other, so that the notorious Three Weeks will turn into Three Weeks of joy and redemption, amen!

Government-sanctioned Debauchery

Don't Rock the Boat
Political correctness and/or financial interests are preventing many of our elected representatives and spiritual leaders from opening their mouths. With ISIS on our borders and a renewal of missile fire in the South and mounting tensions in the north, and with the notorious Three Weeks right around the corner, someone must protest the Israeli-government sanctioned public debauchery in our holy homeland.

The Tel Aviv Municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism have been playing with fire in recent years, flaunting Tel Aviv as one of the world's best gay tourist spots. This past Friday, thousands took the streets in a public display of debauchery, fully sanctioned by the Municipality and the Government. In fact, two ministers from the "Likud" ruling coalition party, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and Communications Minister Ofer Akunis, proudly participated. I can't link to the articles in the media that write about it, because the photos are disgusting.

No, we here at the Beams are not Hashem's cops - let people exercise their free choice and do what they want behind closed doors. But, there's a big difference between one's free choice of a lifestyle (which he or she will have to account for not only in the next world but already in this world too) and public sanctioning of heinous Torah transgressions. The Zohar, the Gemara and the Midrash will all tell you that Hashem loathes debauchery.

I don't believe that the religious members of the coalition will say a word, for they won't want to rock the boat now that they're back in power in a coalition with a one-man majority. Yet, either the Israeli Government should strongly reprimand Regev and Akunis and wash its hands of any support of public debauchery, or Aguda and Shas should bolt the government. Such a government doesn't deserve another day in power.

More of us must make our voices heard. I fear what is likely to happen if no one protests the continued public debauchery. Let us be on record, once more, that this is a much greater danger than Iranian nukes. In fact, such public debauchery, on a spiritual level, fuels the engines of our enemies, for as our sages say in the "Ethics of the Fathers", every transgression creates an accusing angel. Mass public transgressions, sanctioned by the government, create doomsday spiritual forces. We must be courageous enough to stand up and protest.