Category Archives: Archives 5764

Archives

Tammuz 5764 – “Cuz I Think It’s Cool”

15 Tammuz 5764

“Cuz I Think it’s Cool”
Responding to Anti-Frum Relatives


Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,

I have just now completed a whole year of study in Eretz Yisrael where I have acquired a great love for yiddishkeit and learning Torah. Despite this, I still find myself at a loss for words when confronted my vehemently anti-Frum and anti-Charedi Chiloni relatives.

Do you have any advice for me on how do deal respectfully, but straightforwardly with them?

Thank you!

Name Withheld
Darchei Bina

**************************

Dear Name Withheld,

People who are rabid and anti, don’t deserve a response. I usually smile serenely or respond with a non-committal “Oh?” when attacked.

If pushed, I reply with a plea for tolerance. A young man once returned from Eretz Yisroel wearing a hat. His aunt confronted him hostilely and said “Why are you wearing that stupid hat?” I told him to respond, “It looks cool! I like the way it looks”. Keep responses personal. “I like”, or “I enjoy” or “I find meaningful” is more effective than arguing philosophy.

The aunt countered with “I think it looks stupid”, to which I suggested the young man respond “Look, to tell you the truth, I’m not that crazy about everything you wear. But I recognize your right to dress in your own style. Why must you be so intolerant of people you disagree with?” This often is effective. If not, nod politely and say “oh’.

Don’t be fooled by unreasonable people pretending to be reasonable. Your chances of influencing these people are slight. Be polite and slightly distant – it will save you hours of aggravation.

Good luck and may all the Jewish people merit seeing the Truth of Hashem and His Torah.

Sincerely,
Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

Archives

Nissan 5764 – Judging Frumkeit by Appearance

1 Nissan 5764
Judging Frumkeit by Appearances

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,
Why is it that frumkeit with women have been based on covering hair or not and if a women wears pants. Does this have Rabbinic source and origin, or are we as the Jewish communities being judgmental? Why are these two Isurim from the Torah chosen? Yes, they are isurim from the Torah but what about Lashon Hara or any other things that are forbidden or required by the Torah? Lashon Hara may be widespread unfortunately, but why should that make a difference? It is still forbidden from the Torah. What about other Mitzvos Bein Adom L’chavairo? Doesn’t the penimius of a person matter as well? Is it not just as important to be a Mensch?

Name & Seminary withheld

******************************

Dear Friend,

Let’s start at the beginning. There are basically two types of people; those that categorize people and those that don’t. If you don’t categorize people then you have no problem, all people are people. (Animal rights activists might be unhappy even with that distinction however).

Yet we know that the Torah breaks up that grouping into Jews and Non-Jews. Not all Jews are happy with that distinction, they consider it racist. They think intermarriage is a wonderful thing. We however believe that the Torah’s classification is a good thing. “Hamavdil bain Yisroel Liamim” is a beracha we make in appreciation of that distinction.

In halacha the distinctions continue. There is a talmid chacham, am haaratz, a kofer, a mumar, an apikores. This is not name calling; they are levels of halachic distinctions that preclude a simplistic “why can’t we all just be Jews”. We can, but some of us can’t eat the shechita of others of us.

Beyond those distinctions, we come to the Torah observant community, and there are even more distinctions. Some represent customs, others philosophy; but to pretend they don’t exist is foolish. Sefardim and Askkenazim have separate traditions and they must be observed. The ashkesfard attitude is not halachic and frankly pretty pathetic.

A young lady was dating a chassidishe boy and was in tears over the idea of not being able to eat gebrochts. Personally, the shaving the head thing would have bothered me more, but then again I grew up in the sixties. Should these things bother us? That’s irrelevant, they will make a difference to people and to ignore differences is a mistake that may come back to haunt you.

Now let’s finally get to your question. Today there are two groups that for better or for worse are known as Modern Orthodox and Yeshivish. Some prefer the terms Centrist Orthodox and Charedi, but the names are irrelevant, we know that they exist. The differences are not merely cosmetic; a black velvet yalmulka or a knitted or leather one, for example. Those aren’t the differences; but they are the means of identification that each group uses.

Does a boy who wears a black hat automatically have more yiras shamayim than one who doesn’t? Of course not, but he is making a statement; “this is the group I wish to associate with”.

Now is it possible that a girl who covers her hair speaks more lashon hora then a girl who doesn’t? Yes, but then she might speak more lashen hara than a Reform Jew or a Christian or anyone else. That is an area that she is failing in. But that’s not the same thing as wearing a t-shirt that reads “I SPEAK LASHON HORA – HOW ABOUT YOU?” or putting a bumper sticker on her car with the message “HONK IF YOU LOVE SPEAKING LASHON HORA”. Then she is making a statement – I belong to the category of baalei Lashon Hora.

When a woman goes out in a button down shirt and pleated skirt, it is as if she is wearing a t-shirt that reads “BAIS YAAKOV AND LOVING IT”. If she wears a miniskirt and a tank top she is saying, “BOYS – I’M AVAILABLE”. “If she goes in pants and doesn’t cover her hair she is saying “MODERN ORTHODOX JEWS UNITE”.

Is it possible someone doesn’t understand the distinctions? They just grabbed the first thing in their closet and it happened to be a pair of Jeans? Anything is possible, but just as I feel it is legitimate to categorize a person as a charedi by their dress (though there is always the possibility that he is one of the Blues Brothers) I think it is fair to categorize people by how they choose to present themselves to the outside world.

Now if you think that someone who has chosen to flaunt the halacha of covering one’s hair is just as frum as someone who doesn’t, then I understand your problem. But I believe that though we don’t always control what comes out of our mouth, or how we react in our interpersonal relationships, we can always control how we choose to present ourselves to the outside world. And that is an easy distinction.

A friend of mine was a Rav of a congregation that defined itself as Modern Orthodox. When certain issues came up, going to a hotel with only mixed swimming was one, they said, “it’s okay Rabbi, we’re Modern Orthodox”. He would look perplexed and say “I have never found that term in shulchan aruch. Let’s look up the halacha, either it is permitted or forbidden. But simply saying ‘I’m Modern Orthodox’ is not an acceptable halachic position”.

I hope this provides you with some clarity and may we one day all, as the tefilla say, form an aguda achas (small a) and serve Hashem as one.

Sincerely,
Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

Archives

Adar 5764 – Explaining the Concept of Kedushah

1 Adar 5764
Explaining the Concept of Kedushah

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,

I teach eighth grade girls in a an out of town Bais Yaakov. One of my more worldly, bright students asked me the following mystical question: What is kedusha? What does it mean that someone is kadosh? She felt that the right person can truly express exactly what it is. I was wondering if you could help me find the right way to answer.

Thank you.
Linda
Seminary Withheld

*****

Dear Linda,

Rashi at the beginning of sefer kedoshim calls kedusha prishus, separation. Anything that has been set aside is kadosh. Hekdesh is designated for the bais hamikdash, kiddushin designates a woman as being exclusively set aside for her husband and even the term kedasha means a woman who has been set aside for immoral purposes.

The Mesillas Yesharim describes the highest level we can reach as kedusha. This is a level, wherein he says a person can walk “in the land of the living (presumably olam haba) here in this world”. The Ramchal says that everything in this world wants to serve the adom hashalem “who has been sanctified with the holiness of the Creator”.

The way I have always understood this is based on an incident that happened years ago in shul at Shabbos mincha. The gartel of the sefer Torah broke and the gollel seemed at a loss what to do. One of the mispallelim stood up and with a flourish whisked off his neck tie and offered it to bind the sefer Torah. After Shabbos he returned to retrieve his tie. The Rabbi told him that it wasn’t that simple. His tie was no longer a tie – it was now the gartel of the sefer Torah. A mundane object had been elevated to a status of kedusha because it was designated to serve a holy object.

So too, a person who through the process of elevating himself through the love and awe of Hashem reaches beyond the confines of this physical world, can become an object of kedusha. Once that occurs, whatever he eats is like a korban, whatever he drinks is like nesachim, whatever he uses becomes elevated to be an object of kedusha.

We have the ability, through our thoughts and actions to elevate the things around us and turn them from mere physicality to objects of spirituality. Then the experience we experience from things in this world is no longer physical, but rather a spiritual experience.

I hope this clarifies things a bit.

Sincerely,
Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

Archives

Teves 5764 – Why The World Was Created, and Other Questions

Teves 5764

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,

Hi. i have a few questions that have been bothering me for a while now…

First of all, I don’t understand why the world was created. I know that it says so that we can benefit from Hashem and His kindness, but that doesn’t answer the question. Hashem wants to give goodness to man – ok. But there was no man to begin with! Why did Hashem have to create man to begin with? Hashem is perfect, why did He need to create something called man to give to?

Also, what did Adam and Chava do in Gan Eden? What did they have to do already? All they did was eat all day? It seems as if all they just had to live in this wonderful garden with fruit trees and rule over the animals. I don’t understand, and they were going to live forever, right? But doing what? Eating? And why weren’t they given the Torah? Why didn’t Hashem originally give Adam and Chava the Torah? Why did Hashem have to wait for the eventual Bnei Yisrael to leave Egypt to get the Torah?

Also, when mashiach comes IYH today, after all the wars and everything and after the Bait Hamikdash is built, we are all going to live in Eretz Yisrale and serve Hashem. THEN WHAT? The world will be forever? There’s no more point. Like lihvadil, you beat Bowser in Mario and you got all the points. Now what? There’s no more point… but there has to be because we’re all waiting for mashiach to come. So what is it?

Another question I have has to do with a tefila that we say in shema. It says “bishaim Hashem Elokei yisrael, mimini michael mismoli gavriel milfanai uriel umeachorai rifael val roshi Shechinat Keil.” What about on the bottom of us? Why is there no “umitachtai?”

Thank you soo much!
Penina
[Seminary withheld]

__________________________________________

Dear Penina,

Whew! Nothing else? As they used say, that was a mouthful! Obviously there is much to say on any of these topics, but I will try in the limited JEMSEM forum to give some understanding to these very deep questions.

Hashem created the world for us to receive the greatest pleasure. Why did He do this? Because He’s really nice. The fancy way of saying this is that He is altruistic. I was once speaking to a group of Israelis and I said Hashem is an altruist. They were unfamiliar with the term so I explained that it meant someone who did something nice for nothing in return. “Ah” they responded “a freier”. “That’s right”, I said, “Hashem is the ultimate freier.”

When you ask the question “Why did Hashem have to create the world or why did He need to create the world, the answer is, He didn’t. Hashem is infinite and He doesn’t need or want anything. All we can say is that Hashem chose to create the world.

The question then is obviously, why did He choose to create the World, and to that I answer unabashedly “I have no idea”. To answer that question I would need to analyze the mind of the Infinite and even I am not up to such a task. To analyze Hashem? I would need to get a veeeery large couch, and ask Him about His mother and all kinds of analytical techniques that frankly are beyond me.

Well, then, how can I enjoy this world if I don’t know why Hashem created it? In the 1950’s there was a television program called the Millionaire. Each week the show opened with a millionaire who we never see giving a tax-free check for a million dollars to his lawyer with instructions to present it to a particular recipient. Towards the end of the show there would come the inevitable knock on the door and the lawyer would present the check. “But who is it from and why is he giving it to me?” the recipient would ask, and each week the lawyer would respond “I am not at liberty to reveal that information”. And never, NEVER, did anyone give it back! They took the money and spent it and it changed their lives for the better.

We know why Hashem put us here – for us. He gets nothing from it, or He wouldn’t be Infinite. Why He chose to do it from His point of view, we won’t know until we are infinite.

Now what is the nature of this pleasure that we were created for? As the Mesillas Yesharim says “lihisanag al Hashem ninehenin meziv hashechina, to get the infinite pleasure of being close to Hashem. However, in order to enjoy that pleasure, we need to earn it, either because we can’t enjoy it unless we earn it (bread of shame) or because we need to build a relationship with Hashem in order to enjoy it. Therefore we have to do something first.

All Adom and Chava had to do was not eat from the tree. That was a negative commandment. There wouldn’t have been any positive commandments, because positive mitzvos are a tikkun, they fix things up. Everything was perfect, so there was nothing to fix. After they would have fulfilled the mitzva of not eating from the tree, we would have entered into the world to come, which according to the Ramchal is in this world. Not, obviously, the world we know. This world is thick with physicality. Their world was a pure physicality where the spirituality shined through. They were in Gan Eden soaking up Hashem’s rays in preparation for Olam Habah where they would have soaked it up on a much deeper level.

They messed up, ate from the tree and brought death and destruction to the world. Because of that, the world now has to be fixed and brought back to a Gan Eden state in order for us to have the jumping off point for Olam Haba. Hashem needed to give the Torah to a people who would live it and bring the healing and fulfillment to the world. That’s where the Jewish people come in. Avraham chose to begin the process of preparation to perform this mission which culminated with the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai. Until then, Hashem couldn’t give the Torah, because there was no one to receive it!

When we finish our job and the world reaches Mashiach, then we will enter into the preparatory stage for olam haba. There will be no yetzer hora; we will simply rack up points, like when your ball falls into the well in a pinball machine. At the end of that process the world will be transformed into olam haba and mankind will fulfill its’ ultimate purpose – enjoying being close to Hashem.

As far as krias Shema there is no one beneath you. You are the bottom and you need to reach the top.

And to all my dear JEMSEM readers who send me e-mails and wonder why it takes me so long to respond…

Sincerely,

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky

Archives

Cheshvan 5764 – Rabbi Orlofsky, Dr Laura, and the Torah’s Honor

3 Cheshvan, 5764

Rabbi Orlofsky, Dr Laura and the Torah’s honor

JemSem presents a letter attacking Dr Laura followed by Rabbi Orlofskys response:

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a U.S. radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a U.S. resident, which was posted on the Internet:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton / polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)?

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

RABBI ORLOFSKY RESPONDS:

Dr. Laura, would seem to be a poor choice to speak on behalf of the Bible from a Jewish point of view, since she has announced over a month ago that she is no longer practicing Judaism.

So I will try to respond instead.

The writers argument is essentially based on the premise that since some things in the Bible don’t make sense, (to the e-mail writer), everything in the Bible is now irrelevant.

His argument could apply as easily to “Honor your Parents”, “Love your Neighbor”, “Have Mercy on the Widow and Orphan”, as easily as homosexuality. One can argue that those laws are moral, but only because the Bible introduced them to the world. The morality of ancient Greece and Rome made for a dramatically different society than the one we have today. When we say “Western Morality” we mean the values and morals that have come to us from the Bible. Now it is fashionable to question the Bible based on homosexuality. Soon it will be incest or rape or any other sexual laws that people claim are their only means of finding fulfillment. that will be used as a source to dismiss the Bible.

The writer has taken a number of verses based on a particular interpretation to prove his point. Judaism doesn’t say to read the Bible as it is written. There is an Oral tradition that is essential to understanding the Bible.

1. Your neighbors have a valid claim. Sacrifices can only be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem to be offered. As there has not been a Temple there for close to 2000 years, your neighbors have a right to say wait until the Messiah comes and rebuilds the Temple. Until then, you will have to make due with reading and studying the laws of the sacrifices to try to understand their deep significance.

2. The person who is so destitute that he has to “sell” his daughter is a truly pathetic character. She goes free at the age of twelve if the owner doesn’t fulfill his obligation of marrying her off to his son, which is his primary responsibility. Even then the term translated as slavery would be better translated as foster care. The Talmud says anyone who buys a slave buys a master for himself. If you have one pillow the slave gets it. The slave may not be given any demeaning work to do. There are many similar laws. Considering the way children in poverty are treated in many industrial countries, not to mention third world countries, this was probably paradise by comparison.

3. Any woman who you should be having contact with, according to Jewish law has the responsibility to inform you, since the laws of nidda are very serious. The Talmud refers to it as a whisper of death. We take life and death very seriously. When there was a Temple the laws of purity were observed by all women, now it’s only your sex partner, which for us means your wife. If she isn’t interested in Judaism, then by all means, find someone who is.

4. Personally, I would not advise either Canadians or Mexicans, since neither country is adapted to the concept of slavery.

When the Bible says from the surrounding nations, it means as opposed to the Canaanites themselves, who were so debauched and decedent as to be seen as irredeemable.

Slaves were other nations may be purchased providing they agree (not forced) to undergo circumcision and take upon themselves mitzva observance. If not, don’t buy them. But those people who sensed that it was a better life to be a slave to a Jew than to a non-Jew might choose to undergo the above procedures, which is akin to what a non-Jew goes through in order to convert to Judaism.

Since this person didn’t choose that route, G-d gave him the opportunity to come to the Jewish people through a backdoor, one which as I mentioned he must choose. The slavery he experiences is the slavery the Jewish people had to go through in Egypt in order to reach the levels necessary to become the chosen people. The difference is, he has a Jewish overseer, not an Egyptian (see #2).

5. No, and if you do that is murder. Only an authorized high court of 23 sages can put to death – and only if there are two witnesses and he was warned within three seconds of the action and he understands the laws and many other requirements so that the Talmud says if the death penalty was given out once in 70 years they called it a “bloody court”. So kids, don’t try this at home!

6. Your friend is right. You can tell by the punishment. Homosexuality is punished by death, whereas shellfish is punished by lashes. Though neither was likely to be meted out (see #5) it does serve to inform us of the severity of the crimes in the eyes of G-d.

7. You’re in luck! Those disqualifications are talking about actual eye disfigurations, so you’ll be fine. As soon as the Messiah comes, show up at the Temple in Jerusalem and present your qualifications as a bona fide descendant of Aaron the Priest and your reading glasses shouldn’t disqualify you.

8. Probably of old age, unless they are purposely doing it to show contempt for G-d in which case I would leave it to the True Judge since the Torah doesn’t say they receive the death penalty. Or unless they’re not Jewish, of course in which case they can cut their hair however they like.

9. I think you mean the flesh. The skin shouldn’t be a problem. Additionally, there is no prohibition of becoming unclean unless you’re entering the temple mount. In that case you’re already unclean from contact with dead humans (cemeteries and the like).

10. Cotton and polyester isn’t a problem, the law only applies to wool and linen. So they’re fine. There is no death penalty for planting different crops, but they should be discouraged. Cursing and blaspheming per se is not liable to death, only if you’re cursing G-d. Then again, you would need witnesses and warning and a high court and all the other requirements. I don’t imagine it is likely to happen.

I went to the trouble of answering all the individual points not because the writer is interested, but simply because ridicule is an old technique used to confuse people about the legitimacy of their opponents viewpoint. You don’t need to accept all the explanations, but don’t be silly and pretend that the Bible was written by a bunch of superstitious Neanderthals. You want to sleep with your in-laws or your mother or your sister or another man, that’s your choice. The Bible which we believe was written by G-d will condemn it. The death penalty written in the verse is there to teach us that some things are so important that you can forfeit your existence if you do them.

You can say I don’t believe in G-d, I don’t believe He gave the Torah , I don’t believe in the morality it espouses and that is your choice. Adolph Hitler once said “we are barbarians. Morality is a Jewish invention.” I agree. If you want to reject that, that’s your choice. But before you make fun of peoples belief, take the time to understand it.

I don’t know if Dr. Laura appreciated your questions, but she may appreciate these answers.