Sunday, December 29, 2013

125th Yahrzeit of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch זצ״ל

Knessioh (Gathering)

Commemorating the 125th Yahrzeit of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch and celebrating the completion of the communal learning of Rav Hirsch's commentary Chumash and Tehillim.

Sunday Dec. 29, 2013, 6:30 PM
93 Bennett Ave.
Manhattan, off 186th St.
Accessible by A Train, 181th St. Station
Free parking at PS 48, 4360 Broadway, off 186th St.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Linked Post from Treasures of Ashkenaz: Obsolete Relic, or Vital, Living Legacy?

Linked Post from Treasures of Ashkenaz: Obsolete Relic, or Vital, Living Legacy? 

"Obsolete Relic, or Vital, Living Legacy? —————- דרך הלימוד של הרב ברייער ז”ל בימינו (Rav Breuer’s 

Derech Halimud In Our Time – continuation)

It was gratifying to see the interest in Rav Breuer’s derech halimud, which was described as “The Way of Old Ashkenaz”,  in the wake of the previous post. ב”ה.

Brisker Derech vs. Old Ashkenaz Way

In the discussion of Rav Breuer’s derech that we referenced, the words Brisk, and Brisker derech, did not appear. However, there was nevertheless a significant response in an online forum to it that came to my attention, which, if I understand it correctly, believes that Rav Breuer’s old Ashkenaz derech has been overtaken and superceded by the way of Rav Chaim of Brisk.

Is that true? If so, to what degree? Is such a development desirable? Are the two ways necessarily always at odds?"

read more

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rav Nachman Bullman and TIDE

linked post from by Toby Katz, his daughter

"I have not written here in a long time, for various reasons. But tonight, in my father’s honor, my heart urges me to talk about some of the beliefs that my father held most dear. My father believed passionately in Torah Im Derech Eretz (TIDE), the very ancient Torah understanding that was given more modern and eloquent expression in the 19th century writings of Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch. TIDE refers to Torah together with civilization or Torah together with secular pursuits or Torah together with courtesy and humanity. It is hard to define exactly in a short essay but let me talk about one aspect of TIDE.

We who believe in TIDE believe that one of the reasons that Hashem scattered us among the nations, in addition to the obvious fact that this is a punishment for our sins (foretold in the Torah), is that we are meant to be an ohr lagoyim, a Light to the Nations. We are also a blessing to the nations, also foretold in multiple places in the Torah. It was we Jews who introduced monotheism and morality to the world and we have indeed blessed the nations among whom we live in ways too numerous even to begin to detail.

Now, there is another school of thought within Orthodoxy which rejects TIDE and which holds that we have no responsibility towards the nations, other than to be basically law-abiding citizens, and that we should have as little to do with them as possible.

In Poland and Russia over the last few centuries, the goyim were mostly drunken, ignorant peasants who regularly slaughtered and robbed Jews. The Jews in those countries were so far above the goyim in every respect that it is no wonder they developed a contempt for the peasants around them. In addition, there was a fundamental lawlessness, with laws purposely designed to destroy Jewish lives and livelihoods and with authorities turning a blind eye to pogroms and depredations conducted by the gentiles against Jews. In such societies, it was inevitable that Jews would learn to live by their wits and would find every possible way around, under, and despite the laws (which were an anti-Semitic farce), simply to survive.

Unfortunately, when the Russian and Polish (and Ukrainian and Romanian, etc) Jews came to America, many transplanted here an attitude of contempt and disdain towards the non-Jews around them, along with an attitude that one has to work the system in any way possible in order to survive.

By contrast, 19th century Germany, where Hirsch lived and wrote, was a highly civilized country in which Jews had gone a long way towards legal and political emancipation and in which most of the surrounding goyim were educated and refined people. Of course we know how that played out, and thus we internalized another lesson: as long as we live as a small minority in foreign lands, we always have to watch our backs.

Nevertheless, there are many righteous gentiles and we owe them our friendship and gratitude. And when we live in such a malchus shel chessed as America is—such a benevolent country—we owe the gentiles around us a great deal. It behooves us to bring blessing to them and not curses, chas vesholom, to the best of our ability. This is the more true because this is a country in which we have the legal right to vote, to speak and to write, to make our voices heard."

Read more:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cemetery Map

The graves of Rabbis Breuer and Schwab and their wives can be found in the West Ridgelawn Cemetery in Clifton, NJ off Dwasline Road. Heading South on Dwasline, turn right at the cemetery entrance.

(Photos from Google in accordance with use policy)

Graves are in Horeb section near corner of Akiba and Temple. See circle on right of diagram.

Austritt in the 21st Century

George Frankel writes that some look at TIDE as an emergency measure and Austritt as permanent, while in reality the reverse is true. He wrote as follows:
        Horoas sho’oh means that the Torah has an ideal that is temporarily put aside because conditions are less than ideal.  Now Torah im Derech Eretz is based on an ideal, namely that Japhet should dwell in the tents of Shem.  HaShem wants there to be traffic between the world of Torah and the world of art, literature, music and science.  Indeed the Torah sees the two worlds ultimately conjoined, as the pinnacle of perfection.  Those who say that Torah im Derech Eretz is not applicable today because culture is debased, society is debased, etc., etc., are really only giving excuses why the Torah im Derech Eretz ideal should be deferred.
Austritt however is not based on an ideal.  There certainly is no ideal that there should be division and strife among Jews.  It is only because some Jews have supposedly fallen away from the ideal that we can even begin to countenance a state of Austritt between groups of Jews.
If Jewish man were in an ideal state, there would be no occasion for Austritt.  If universal man were in an ideal state, there would be no excuse to put off the pursuit of Torah im Derech Eretz any longer.
Therefore Torah im Derech Eretz is the ideal, Austritt the expedient.

This may be correct for the philosopher as he sits in his arm chair. However, we are not in a philosopher's study. We are in the deepest darkest of exiles, where the philosophical must reconcile with the practical.

Rav Breuer argued that TIDE and Austritt go together, two sides of the same coin. I explain R' Breuer as follows: Once you open yourself to the outside world, you become vulnerable to its negative influence. Problematic groups even within Orthodoxy presumably all ready have allowed that negative influence to shape its core. Therefore, you need to avoid the problematic groups even with Orthodoxy because they have led the way in institutionalizing the bad of the outside world. They have given it a Jewish look and make it harder to weed out. Accordingly, even though R' Hirsch's Austritt was focused on a radical and antagonistic reform, Austritt in our times may apply with regard to Orthodox groups with problematic aspects. We can talk to them, work with them in certain circumstances, certainly daven for them and love them but may have to distance ourselves in many respects. Certainly, we should respectfully criticize the parts we object to so that our view is known. R' Breuer's approach makes sense to me.

Take for example the Modern Orthodox world and feminism. It has infiltrated to the core over there and it pushes up against halahka at every turn. It's hard enough to fight feminism as it occurs in the world at large. But when one watches talmidei chachamim embrace it, then who is strong enough to continue to push it away?

TIDE and Austritt are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other. If you are going to engage the secular world in these impossible times, then you have to maintain some kind of distance from the groups that have allowed it to damage the mesorah. Haredim can sooner mix with the problematic sects within Modern Orthodoxy than TIDE people can because Haredim in general divorce themselves from secular society. The TIDE person has to be even more stringent with them.

However, you can say the same with regard to the Haredi world. They have their own problems such as, in my view, a continuing exaggeration in some groups of the supremacy of Limud Torah and a de-emphasis on the importance of mitzvos and a failure to teach young men a trade. The whole Haredi world isn't like that but much of it is. So we have just knocked out a lot of people. This is why the Austritt has to be largely symbolic or just mental because a hard-core Austritt is a little difficult when you don't even have an IRG of 100 families and Hirsch or R' Breuer at the helm in a self-contained community.

Again, this blog has two main purposes. 1) To gather up a chevrah of TIDE people. 2) To share tricks for applying TIDE today. This is not an academic forum for pronouncing Hirsch's name or the word Gemeinde correctly. It's not the place where utmost in our minds is an analysis of his influence on contemporary Jewry. You are free to pose your analysis but mostly we leave that to the academics. Here we try to live TIDE in our times (and most Jewish Studies professors are not TIDE. They are Modern Orthodox Torah u'Maddah.) How do we practice Austritt in these end of days when most of the Orthodox world contradicts core parts of our philosophy? And yet we need all the groups. The truth is so splintered today that one needs to pick up pieces of it from each group.

One thing I do is order my books appropriately in my house. Hirsch is on top along with the classic sefarim. The photos of the German Orthodox are more prominent on my walls. I speak often about TIDE principles and even cite Eastern European scholars or Rishonim that echo them (the Nitziv on Or L'ogyim, Rabbeinu Yona on having compassion for all people, the Rambam on looking into the bria to gain ahavas Hashem). This is a kind of mini-Austritt. I always wear a blue jacket sometimes with a handkerchief in the pocket so that I'm a little different than MO and a little different than the Haredim. And with that base, I can interact with all the other groups. What are your tricks?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TIDE in the Hirsch Chumash: Benefiting from Proper Culture

"Culture starts the work of educating the generations of mankind and the Torah completes it; for the Torah is the most finished education of Man. The fig-leaf and apron, those first gifts which Man possessed on his way to education, were the first appurtenances of culture, and culture in the service of morality is the first stage of Man’s return to God. For us Jews, derech eretz and Torah are one. The most perfect gentleman the most perfect Jew, to the Jewish teaching, are identical. But in the general education of mankind culture comes earlier….Therefore Jews, too, are to attach themselves to, and love all good and true culture and by the ways and manner of their behavior and demeanour appear as educated people and show that being Jew is only a higher state of being a man."

Rav Hirsch, Genesis 3:24, Judaica Press

Monday, December 16, 2013

More Delight in Washington Heights

Several weeks ago I wrote about my first visit to Washington Heights. I was nervous to go. I had been reading Hirsch intensely for about a year. What would happen if I had a bad experience in Washington Heights. What if the people were rude to me? Even though I would love to be able to live as a pure philosopher, fact is that I need a community, need chaverim, need some faces to look at. And if a Torah Im Eretz community didn't have derech eretz, what would that do to my faith in the philosophy?

As I said in my post, they were the furthest thing from rude. Never had I received such a nice reception in a synagogue before. The first man greeted me on my way up the stairs. This continued throughout my visit and even as I left. I won't go through the details again. They are in my post.

I went another time for a class and a man approached me to see if I needed assistance after I just stepped into the aisle in search of a tissue. He helped me find one. People otherwise nodded hello, said hello. It was very dignified. I felt like I mattered, like I was not invisible, which is not always how I feel in assorted gatherings in these times.

Then I went to this year's Chanukah celebration at the day school. Again, people were just wonderful. The lady at the admissions was very polite and helpful. I have been to many events where the lady at the admissions desk was snarly. Not at Breuer's. There is such a humility to the people over there. One lady helped me find a place to put my books. Another woman offered some help with one of the children's projects. It's all done so nicely. They really have derech eretz over there.

So this Saturday night, I went to a malave malke at 90 Bennet Ave. Let me say first of all that I really like how the Breuer's community keeps the beis kenneses a beis kenneses and doesn't have events in there, particularly where there's food. So the event was held across the street.

I walked in the room and was immediately met by the woman who organized it. She gave me a big hello and helped me to find a seat with her son, who was a terrific guy and real follower of Hirsch. He was my host for the whole evening. He introduced me to people and by the way all sorts of people came over to him. They were all very dignified and friendly. Nobody just talked to him because they knew him and ignored me - that sort of thing.

Maybe I seem a bit oversensitive with a desperate need for attention. It really isn't like that. I normally don't need a 1,000 people coming over to me. But when a person is checking out a community, it's another matter. You have to make visitors feel welcome and they did.

Somehow word got out that a follower of Hirsch had come into town just to be part of a Breuer's event and a few more people came over, including the synagogue president. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to be in a room of people who love the Torah of R' Hirsch as much as I do. It's like that first time a KAJ when I saw that wall full of Hirsch siddurim. Usually I go to shul with my very worn Hirsch siddur in hand while everyone else uses something else, mostly some version of Artscroll. It gets tiring holding up an ideology by oneself. You know that feeling, when you get back from a trip to Toledo, Ohio or some such place and feel like you can let down your guard as you step into your frum town again. Or when you come back from a trip overseas and hear the customs guy speaking English. It's such a relief.

Another thing about KAJ events is that the tables are done really nicely. There's a serving fork and napkin and it's all laid out elegantly. The food comes from waiters in stages. Very dignified. I had the same experience at KAJ Monsey last week, where again I was treated very well.

So the food was really good and then came the music. The KAJ choir! In the flesh for the first time. I have heard all about them and seen their videos. I sang choir in college so I have a special interest in this. And they were wonderful. Great harmonies. It all had a classical feeling to it even though the songs were Jewish. Some Jewish singing groups bring in too much secular pop material for my tastes. This wasn't like that.

And for me this kind of music is religious. It inspires me.

My host took me over to meet Mrs. Bechhofer. I have to tell you that I was actually starstruck, which isn't something that would happen to me if I met a movie star or anybody like that. I couldn't believe it, Rav Breuer's daughter and Rav Hirsch's great-granddaughter. Wow. I felt like they were standing in front of me. In a way they were because she too was very personable and respectful and helpful and with it, really with it.

Such a great night. I thank the rabbano shel olam and recommend that all you Hirschians out there in the blogsphere come out to KAJ or KAJ Monsey because Torah Im Derech Eretz is still alive in actual communities despite the rumors otherwise.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


"Forty years ago on a summer morning, we children were taken for a walk along the den", the green belt which surrounded the old town of Frankfort-an-Main. We were not far from the "Schoene Aussicht", close to the bank of the River Main where Samson Raphael Hirsch lived, when my brother, my senior by two years. took hold of my arm and whispered: "The Rabbi". We stopped. Accompanied by one of his grand-daughters. Samson Raphael Hirsch, stooping slightly, but with firm steps, passed by. He raised his hat to the two small boys who stared at him with curiosity. His dark eyes were lit up by a kindly smile on beholding two members of the third generation of his community. I have never forgotten the friendly gesture of the Rabbi whose venerable figure had become part of my life at a very early stage."


Monday, December 9, 2013

TIDE in the Hirsch Chumash: Secular Studies

"If we understand these sentences of the תייכ aright, then the sentence which stands at their head: forewarns one not to take the following sentences to mean that one is completely to ignore and remain in ignorance of all knowledge and science which has been gained and nurtured by non-Jewish sources or which have no direct bearing on the knowledge to be gained by the study of the Torah. Inasmuch as what is commanded is: עשם עיקר ואל תעשם טפלה, the permission to occupy oneself also with other spheres of knowledge is assumed. Only, the knowledge of the Torah and the understanding we derive from it is to be our principle concern and to be regarded as having been given to us as the absolute and firmly established Truth. Only as accessory knowledge and in as far as they serve to truly help the study of the Torah and are subordinated as the טפל to the עיקר, are they to be studied. But the Torah and all its teachings must always remain that which we have received from Above and must be the yardstick by which we measure all the results obtained by other spheres of learning. Only that which is in accordance with the Truths of the Torah can remain true for us. All that we accept intellectually as well as all our actions must always be considered from the point of view of the Torah and be within the lines of the doctrines it teaches, so that we only accept and adopt  that which is in accordance with them, and do not adulterate the knowledge we draw our of the Torah with ideas which have developed form other and strange premises."

R' Hirsch, Chumash, Leviticus, 18:5, trans. Isaac Levy, Judaica Press.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Washington Heights Jews Caught In A Growth Bind

Linked article

Washington Heights Jews Caught Growth Bind

by Rivka Oppenheim

"Young couples and families are flooding into Washington Heights, drawn by affordable rents, convenient commutes and a vibrant Jewish community. And they are changing the look and feel of what used to be referred to as Frankfurt on the Hudson for its concentration of German Jews."

continue reading

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

World Chorus: Nagano 1998 Opening Ceremony - Beethoven Ode to Joy

World chorus of Beethoven Symphony N°9 (Ode to Joy) at the closing moments of the Nagano 1998 Winter Games opening ceremony

Click to watch

Monday, December 2, 2013

How Does TIDE Differ From Other Derachim and What Do We Do About It?

God gave the Torah at Har Sinai and in the Midbar. This much we believe. It tells us our purpose in life and what to do with our lives. But it's a big book and hard to understand completely. It contains commandments, many types of them. We do our best to understand them and to pursue them. This much we know for sure.

Within that, different schools of thought have developed. In a way, they are all throwaway. We are Jews. We try to keep the Torah. The different paths are all means to that end. That's why we need to love people from all camps and not get too worked up about our particular camp or else we are missing the whole point.

If you are Haredi, wonderful. Be a good Haredi Jew. If you are Modern, wonderful. Be a good MO Jew. If you are TIDE, wonderful. Be a good TIDE Jew. But be a Jew first and last. You want to fight with people. Fight with people. But make up. Be friends in the end.

The different derachim differ of course and they overlap. Take Rabbi Miller. His philosophy is not TIDE because he advocates staying away from gentile society as much as possible. He'll tell you to go to work but only to earn money and to perfect your middos. Dealing with a difficult boss refines the character he'll say. TIDE will say going to work allows you to contribute to your host society as well. It allows you to be part of humanity. Rabbi Miller doesn't mention those points. He might acknowledge them. He might scoff at them. I don't know. But his approach might work well for a guy from Brooklyn. That in the end, is who Rabbi Miller is speaking to. It won't work well for a guy from the Midwest who comes quite frankly from a much more civilized place than Brooklyn, which is a tough place. So one derech for the Brooklyn guy. One derech for the guy from Illinois where strangers say hello to each other on the street. It's all Torah. Different paths for people in different situations. On this blog, when R' Miller offers a TIDE thought we share it. Same with Rav Kook. He was huge Zionist of course. TIDE is suspicious of that philosophy. A religious Zionist might tell you that you must move to Eretz Israel. TIDE believes you can practice Judaism wherever you are. (R' Soloveitchik concurs). But when R' Kook shares a TIDE thought we share it on this blog. He was a tzadick and a great scholar. We don't have to deliver only the Torah of R' Hirsch here even though his derech was TIDE through and through. 

R' Hirsch is our master guide. If he argues with another gadol, I go with him. But if they agree, why not cite that other gadol who may explain an idea well even though they disagree elsewhere?

Haredism and TIDE overlap. Hareidsm and MO overlap.  TIDE likely overlaps with those two more than they overlap with each other. Whatever. 

They all come from the same source so like brothers and sisters they will resemble their parents. 

The musician Bruce Springsteen once said about music rock n' roll music that you have to approach it like it's the most serious thing in the world and at the same time remember that it's only rock n'roll.

Same here. We take our derech seriously. And then we remember that it's throwaway. It's a means. It's not the end. 

This is very hard for Orthodox Jews to do. If ever I met a group of people that take themselves too seriously, this is the group! And who, by their recognition of a supreme being and of eternity should take themselves less seriously? Maybe we aren't thinking enough about that supreme being.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Light Unto the Nations

Assorted sources showing that Light Unto the Nations applies before Moshiach

(bold lettering added here for emphasis)

R' Hirsch, Psalm LXXXIX

"This 'teaching ode' also looks with confidence to deliverance from the anguish of the Exile, but from a point of view different from the one expressed in Psalm 88. While Psalm 88 tells us to trust in eventual redemption because of Israel's survival throughout the troubles of Exile, Psalm 89 teaches us to have faith because of the Divine promises linked with the election of David and his descendants.

"Verse 3 contains the thought that the universal salvation which God in His mercy has appointed for Israel and mankind in general indeed still lies in the future. It must be remembered, however, that the building of this future goes on ceaselessly even now, and that every event that Heaven decrees to happen on earth is nothing but a manifestation of God's faithfulness, which guides and trains us for this goal of ultimate salvation. Side by side that salvation, and closely linked with it, there is the promise pertaining to David, to the fulfillment of which the whole course of history is dedicated (Verse 4,5).

"This faith is founded upon the unlimited omnipotence of God in nature and history (Verses 6-14), upon the right and order which the basis of all of God's reign, and upon the loving-kindness and truth which are the goals of His Providence (Verse 15). From this (see Verses 16-19) the Psalm proceeds to the ideal state of salvation which is certain to come to every human society and also to Israel in particular, once it accepts and adopts as its own this recognition of God's will and sovereignty, and once it subordinates every aspect of its life, both individual and communal to God's guidance.

"God has chosen David, and his descendants, who do not forfeit this mission despite temporary straying, to be His co-workers in behalf of the goal of salvation that is dependent upon the spiritual and moral ennoblement of men and nations (Verses 20-38). At the present time, contrary to the expectations fostered by God's promises, the kingdom and sanctuary of David lie in ruins (Verses 39-46). But only one glance at the depths of impermanence and vanity into which mankind would sink were it bereft of the spirit of David, will suffice to assure us that God will surely come forth again and complete the work which He had begun with Israel and David. (Verses 47-50). For Israel is still in the service of God (see Verses 51-53) and bears within its bosom the future of all the nations, so that Israel's troubles are simply the birthpangs of the dawn of the morning that is to come to all mankind. Israel's enemies are the foes of the kingdom, and their very abuses are the footsteps of the coming Messiah."


R' Hirsch, Collected Writings, Vol. VII, p. 269
“It was a Jew with his lyre, David with his harp, who from the very beginning perceived himself as participating in a historic mission to all the world, sounding his harp in order to stir all the nations to recognize God and to worship Him with devotion (II Samuel 22, 50; Psalms 57, 10; 108, 4).


R’ Avidgor Miller, Behold A People, p. 285
“Yet despite the perfect legitimacy of this marriage, it earned the censure of G--d: "When Shlomoh took the daughter of Pharaoh, Gabriel came down and set a stick into the sea, upon which mud collected; and upon that was built the great city of Rome" (Shabbos 56 B). But this censure was not for the act, for it did not prevent Shlomoh from attaining the highest perfection in his career: the two visitations from G-d. Had the subsequent developments continued according to Shlomoh's plan, the union with the daughter of Pharaoh could have achieved the greatest results for the honor of G-d; for this wise monarch planned to induce the nations to cast away their idols and to accept the true G-d. In this, Egypt would have shown the way, just as had been the Case at the Exodus when a great number of their choicest families had joined Israel. There were good reasons to expect success, for Shlomoh had gained great admiration among the nations; and his policy of marriage unions with many monarchs was part of a grand plan which would have succeeded, had not the weakness of old ege (like his father's) prevented him.”

(R' Miller explains on one of his tapes that Shlomo married these princesses in order to influence their fathers to abandon idol worship).


The following sources and explanations are by R' J Dovid Bleich, Tikun Olam, Jewish Obligations, Tikun Olam, The Orthodox Forum

Netziv, Introduction to Shemos
He explains that the book of Shemos complements the book of Bereishis which declares Israel to be the tachlis of creation. Israel does not achieve this goal "until Israel excited from Egypt and achieved their purpose that they be fit to be an illumination unto the nations to cause them to arrive at knowledge of the Lord of the Universe."

(They are fit for this illumination after Har Sinai. The matter does not wait unto Moshiach)

Netziv Ex. 12:51
"And it came to pass the selfsame day that God brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt al tzivotam." The Netziv translates al tzivotam to mean "for service of" which is "to be an illumination unto the nations to cause them to arrive a knowledge of the Lord of the universe." They were fit for this purpose only after bris milah and the Exodus.

(He does not say they were fit only after Moshiach)

Malbim, Isaiah 2:2-3
"Come ye, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob and he will teach us His ways (derakoav) and we will walk in his paths (orhotav). The Malbim defines "ways" as major roads and paths as secondary roads. He says the Jews will teach the nations the "roots and principles" of divine service and in the end of days the gentiles will seek greater edification and learn the byways. 

(This suggests active teaching in the millennium before Moshiach).


Rav Kook on “Light unto the nations” Now or After Moshiach Mikeitz: Joseph and Judah

"The strife among Jacob's sons centered on two conflicting viewpoints vis a vis the sanctity of the Jewish people. Judah felt that we need to act according to the current reality and that, given the present situation, the Jewish people need to maintain a separate existence from other nations in order to safeguard their unique heritage. Joseph, on the other hand, believed that we should focus on the final goal. We need to take into account the hidden potential of the future era, when "nations will walk by your light"  (Isaiah 60:3). Thus, according to Joseph, even nowadays we are responsible for the spiritual elevation of all peoples. So which outlook is correct - Judah's pragmatic nationalism or Joseph's visionary universalism?

"The Present versus the Future

"The dispute between Judah and Joseph is in fact a reflection of a fundamental split in the world. The rift between the present reality and the future potential is rooted in the very foundations of the universe. On the second day of Creation, God formed the rakia, the firmament separating the waters below from the waters above (Gen. 1:7; see Chagigah 15a). This separation signifies a rupture between the present (as represented by the "lower waters" of this world) and the future (the "higher waters" of the heavens). The inability to reveal the future potential in the present is a fundamental defect of our world; unlike the other days of Creation, the Torah does not describe the second day, when this breach occurred, as being "good."

"Joseph and the Letter Hey

"According to the Midrash (Sotah 36b), the angel Gabriel taught Joseph seventy languages. Gabriel also added the Hebrew letter hey from God's Name to Joseph's name, calling him "Yehosef" (Ps. 81:6). What is the significance of this extra letter?

"The Sages wrote that God created this world with the letter hey, and the World to Come with the letter yud (Breishit Rabbah 12:9). In Joseph's view, each nation is measured according to its future spiritual potential, according to how it will fit in the final plan of kiddush ha-Shem, the sanctification of God's Name and revelation of His rule in the world. The particular role of each nation is indicated by its unique language. Without the letter hey, however, Joseph could not properly grasp the language of each nation, i.e., he could not ascertain the nature of their role in the future world. With the addition of the letter hey to his name - the letter used to create this world - Joseph gained the ability to understand the universe as it exists now. Joseph was then able to comprehend the languages of all peoples and assess their spiritual potential.

"Joseph was able to discern the world's potential for kiddush ha-Shem with the help of a single letter. He used the hey, a letter which is closed from three sides, as this future potential is currently almost completely hidden. Judah, on the other hand, looked at the world's spiritual state as it is revealed now.

"Joseph, who sanctified God's Name in private, merited one letter of God's Name. Judah, who sanctified God's Name in public, merited that his entire name was called after God's Name" (Sotah 36b).

"Two Types of Tzaddikim

"According to the Zohar, Benjamin complemented his brother Joseph. "Rachel gave birth to two tzaddikim, Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph was a 'higher tzaddik,' while his brother Benjamin was a 'lower tzaddik'"  (Vayeitzei 153b). What are these two types of saintly tzaddikim?

"The "higher tzaddik" is a conduit for the shefa (the Divine influence), drawing it down from above, while the "lower tzaddik" passes the shefa to the physical world below. Benjamin's role, as the "lower tzaddik," was to imbue our world with holiness. His whole life, Benjamin was concerned that the Temple should be built in the portion of Eretz Yisrael that his tribe would inherit. Why was that so vital to Benjamin?

"The Temple is "a house of prayer for all peoples," allowing all to share in its holiness. "Had the nations known how important the Temple was for them, they would have surrounded it with forts in order to guard over it" (Tanhuma Bamidbar 3). The Temple has a fundamental role in Joseph's universal outlook.

"The Monarchy and the Temple

"The dialectic between Judah and Joseph finds expression in two institutions: the monarchy and the Temple. The monarchy, whose role was to protect the national sanctity of the Jewish people, was established in Judah's inheritance, in Hebron and Jerusalem. The Temple, whose role was to elevate all of humanity, was built on Benjamin's land. Yet the Temple was partially located on a strip of land that extends from Judah's portion into Benjamin's portion. This strip represents the synthesis of Judah and Joseph, the integration of the national and universal viewpoints.

"Mikeitz, the name of the Torah reading, means "at the end." The Midrash Tanchuma explains that God established an end for all things. Just as Joseph's imprisonment ended in Mikeitz, so too, the conflict between Judah and Joseph will be resolved after a constructive period of development and change. The fundamental dissonance in the world will be repaired, and the rift between the present and the potential, between the lower and higher waters of creation, will be healed."

(Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Shemuot HaRe'iyah 10, Mikeitz 5690 (1929) Posted with permission. adapted by Chanan Morrison

Monday, November 25, 2013

Not Another Science and The Implications of That

"The study of the Torah shall be our main intellectual pursuit... We are not to study Torah from the standpoint of another science or for the sake of that science. So, too, we are to be careful not to introduce into the sphere of the Torah foreign ideas... Rather, we should always be mindful of the superiority of the Torah, which differs from all other scientific knowledge through its Divine origin... [Our Sages] do not demand of us to completely ignore all the scientific knowledge... [but rather] that a person [be] familiar with these other realms of knowledge, but ... only from the Torah's perspective ... and they warn us that neglecting this perspective will jeopardize our intellectual life."

Commentary on  Deuteronomy 6:7 in Wikipedia

This might be where TIDE departs from Torah u'maddah. Now, Rabbi Soloveitchik isn't going to tell you that science is the equal of Torah. But on a practical level he believed you should study science and secular subjects without diluting them. This approach might have been crafted to our era. He worried if you restrict people intellectually that the Torah will lose credibility for them. I know people for whom this is very true. So YU has a full blown yeshiva and a full blown university. The latter is not filtered or controlled like a Catholic university as Aaron Rakeffet explains. Thus you can read any poet. In TIDE, you read Schiller or other idealistic wholesome poets. You restrict the material. The Rav didn't restrict the material even though he didn't consider them equal.

Now there are others in the Modern camp who in my view approach the sciences as if they are equal to Torah. Many in the feminist camp are like this. They really don't understand marriage and/or the gender roles from a Torah perspective and impose secular philosophies on the Torah as if the two are equal. That's how I see the institution of pre-nups. They can't deal with the Torah rule of get. But the Torah must have it it's reasons for not imposing a divorce on a man. Women's emotionalism perhaps? Whatever the reason, the agunah people are trying to rewrite the Torah as they have been influenced by feminism. They view the Torah and feminism as equal so the latter can change the former. Many in the natural science camp are like this as they desperately try to find room in the Torah for the theory of evolution. Same with the Zionist camp in my view. They are too caught up with secular notions of earth bound nationalism and try to change the Torah to suit it. You can argue that this is the problematic offshoot of Torah u'Maddah that the students in studying both subjects on their own terms come to see both as being equal even though the Rav did not.

However, the argument for keeping TuM is a good one, that without it, the Torah will lose credibility, that it can't stand up to rigorous vetting, that it needs silencing and repression to keep people. In an open society like the USA, you will lose people like that. Lots of them.

I find it useful personally to have TuM out there to know that we aren't repressive even though I naturally limit myself to the kosher poets.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hirsch's TIDE is TIDE for Westerners

Isaac Breuer said that Torah is eternal but derech eretz changes in each era. R' Hirsch defined it for his era. (See Artscroll Bio for the passage).

The Gemara says that most Jews should pursue Torah Im Derech Eretz. I propose that in East Europe most did, ie Eastern European derech eretz. They worked. They were involved in the world to the extent they were allowed. What R' Hirsch did is define Derech Eretz for Westerners.

I am a Westerner. I was in Poland for a grand total of 4 hours back in the 1990s. That's my exposure to Eastern Europe. Even though my ancestors are from the Ukraine, I am a Westerner. Thus, when I follow the Gemara's advice to pursue Torah Im Derech Eretz, I follow that of R' Hirsch.

My derech therefore is not simply TIDE but Hirschian TIDE.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Another Good Definition

"Just for the time being, though, one noted Hirschian told me that, as a two-sentence definition of TIDE, the following is acceptable: "The application of Torah ideals to all situations and environments that G-d has designated for us. And the use of everything from those situations and environments that will be beneficial for Torah purposes, while rejecting that which is incompatible with Torah.""

from bmoftide blog

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vayishlach: Jacob Arrived Whole

This piece of Torah from R' Kook sounds quite Hirschian to me:

Torah of Rav Kook - Vayishlach: Jacob Arrived Whole, adapted by Chanan Morrison
(posted with permission) Gold from the Land of Israel

Having survived the trickery of uncle Laban and the enmity of his brother Esau, Jacob finally returned to his homeland.

"Jacob arrived whole (shalem) to the city of Shechem in the land of Canaan" (Gen. 33:18).
In what way was Jacob "shalem"? The Talmud explains that he was "whole in body, whole in money, whole in his Torah knowledge"  (Shabbat 33b).

According to the medieval commentator Rashi, these three areas are directly related to Jacob's previous ordeals. Physically - Jacob healed from the lameness the stranger had afflicted upon him in their mysterious struggle at Peniel. Financially - he did not lack money, despite the expensive gifts he had offered this brother Esau. And spiritually - he had not forgotten his Torah learning, despite the long years of intensive labor at Laban's house.

Jacob's Holistic Perspective

In truth, Jacob's wholeness was not to be found in any quantitative accomplishments. It could not be measured by how fast he could run, by how many sheep he owned, or by the number of scholarly discussions he had memorized. Rather, Jacob's wholeness was in his holistic approach towards these diverse spheres.

People think that the pursuit of excellence in one field entails neglecting other areas. A person who seeks perfect health and physical strength will come to the realization that one needs money to attain this goal. But the pursuit of wealth can become such an all-absorbing goal that it may come at the expense of one's original objective – good health. Ironically, the anxiety to acquire wealth can end up ruining one's health.

It is clear that both good health and financial security help provide the quietude needed to refine character traits and attain intellectual accomplishments. However, these different areas, instead of complementing one another, often compete with each other. We suffer spiritually when our desire to strengthen the body and cultivate social living (which requires certain financial means) are not understood in their overall context.

The perfection of Jacob – the "ish tam," "the complete man" (Gen. 25:27) – was in his ability to live in a way that no single pursuit of excellence, whether spiritual or material, needed to contradict or detract from other personal goals. On the contrary, when they are understood properly, each aim complements and strengthens the others.

This is the profound message of the Talmudic statement. Jacob was whole in body and wealth, and from both of these together, he found the inner resources to be whole in Torah. Jacob exemplified the trait of emet, truth - "Give truth to Jacob" (Micah 7:20). He demonstrated how, in their inner depths, all accomplishments are united together; all reflect different facets of the same inner truth.

(Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 73-74. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. III, p. 209)

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Minority

“We find ourselves in the minority. Should we therefore lose confidence and despair of our own cause? Is it always the numerical majority that the noblest, most important and promising tasks are entrusted?…” Collected Writings, Vol.II, page 233.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Return to Basics: A Call to Revitalize R’ Hirsch’s Torah im Derech Eretz

linked post

by Daniel Adler

How is it that over the past few decades, Yeshivos all over the United States have produced students that are “un-Jewish” (to use a Hirschian phrase)? By that I mean that, after twelve years of a Jewish education, many of them are not committed to Judaism at all. Not until after high school, when students learn in Bais Medrash/Seminary for a year or two (often in Israel), do they become committed to a Torah lifestyle. A second problem that presents itself comes as a result of the Yeshiva day school system naturally feeding into a kollel lifestyle. This lifestyle has become automatic for many Yeshiva/Bais Yaakov graduates: they do not decide as individuals whether or not a kollel lifestyle is appropriate for them. These two problems not only afflict the Yeshiva world; they also affect the insular Chassidish world.

Based on my own experiences in Yeshiva and upon anecdotal evidence heard from neighbors and friends, I can list a number of reasons why these problems exist. These include: Appearances (some parents force their children to fit into a “Yeshivish lifestyle” regardless of their child (ren)’s personality and leanings); Peer Pressure (both students and their parents desire to be like everybody else, which has resulted in a “cookie cutter” society); Apathy (today’s students are indifferent toward Judaism due to either superficial study or multiple distractions/outside temptations); Judgmentalism/ Fear (intellectually curious students are often branded as heretics for asking questions); and Insularity (studying anything other than Gemara is considered, at best, a waste of time). These ideas are probably familiar to the reader from his/her own personal experiences.

An effective solution to “un-Jewish students” or to students who have mindlessly “chosen” a kollel lifestyle, is a return to R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch’s educational system. Both the modern day Yeshiva system for boys and the Bais Yaakov movement for girls are based on R’ Hirsch’s ideal of Torah im Derech Eretz. In fact, without R’ Hirsch’s successful educational program (in the 1800s in Germany), the Bais Yaakov movement would likely not have been started and the modern day Yeshiva system would not exist as it does. Unfortunately, today’s Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs have strayed far from their original forebear’s weltanschauung. This is undoubtedly due to a takeover of the Yeshiva system and its ideology into every phase of life – and the Hirschian school of thought has seemingly lost this struggle. To a large extent, even the supposed successors of R’ Hirsch have given up on him. What then, can be expected of everybody else?

Read more

Monday, October 28, 2013

R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz

"R’ Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz told his students in America, “I cannot understand how it is possible for an American yeshiva student to be Jewish without ‘The Nineteen Letters’” "(Klugman, 1998)

from Return to Basics: A Call to Revitalize R’ Hirsch’s Torah im Derech Eretz

Read more

Friday, October 25, 2013

Life, living, aspirations, achievement, and creativity

"Pagans, both ancient and modern, have a predilection for associating religion and religious matters with death and thoughts of death. For them the kingdom of God begins only where man ends. They view death and dying as the true manifestations of their deity, whom they see as a god of death, not of life; a god that kills and never revives, that sends death and its forerunners, sickness and affliction, so that men’s realizing the might of their god and their own impotence, may fear him. For this reason they set up their shrines near graves and the place of their priests is prominently near the dead. Death and mourning are the most fertile soil for the dissemination of their religion, and it seems that in their view, the presence, on their own flesh, of a mark of death, a symbol of death's power to conquer all of life, would be a sign of religiosity par excellence and, above all, the most essential attribute of the priest and his office.

"Not so the priests in Judaism, because the Jewish concept of God and the Jewish religion are not so. The God Whose Name assigns the priest his place among the Jewish people is a God of life, His most exalted manifestation is not the power of death that crushes strength and vitality but the power of life that enables man to exercise free will and to be immortal. Judaism teaches us not how to die but how to live so that, even in life, we may overcome death, lack of freedom, the enslavement to physical things and moral weakness. Judaism teaches us how to spend every moment of a life marked by moral freedom, thought, aspirations, creativity and achievement, along with the enjoyment of physical pleasures, as one more moment in life's constant service to the everlasting God. This is the teaching to which God has dedicated His Sanctuary and for whose service He has consecrated the ihbvf, the guardians of the basis and "direction" (Hebrew: ivf [priest] = iuf [direction] of the people's life.

"When death summons the other members of his people to perform the final acts of loving-kindness for the physical shell of a apb [soul] that has been called home to God, the ‘v hbvf ["priests of God"] must stay away in order to keep aloft the banner of life beside the dead body, to make certain that the concept of life; i.e., the thought that man has been endowed with moral freedom, that he is godly and not subject to the physical forces that seek to crush moral freedom, is not overshadowed by thoughts of death. Only when the realities of life require even the priest to perform his final duty as a husband, son, father or brother for the shell of a departed apb, or the presence of an abandoned body makes it necessary for him to take the place of the father or brother of the deceased, does his priestly function yield to his calling as a human being and as a member of a family. In such cases he is not only permitted but in fact commanded to have the necessary contact with the dead body. Under all other circumstances, however, priests must stay away from the bodies of the dead."

R' Hirsch on Genesis Emor 21:5

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Country Wisdom

"In the end, he was satisfied with a career that never yielded a hit album. ''All these boys -- Elvis, Jerry Lee, Roy Orbison -- they all lost their wives, their families,'' Mr. Perkins said in a 1996 interview. ''People say: 'What happened to you, Carl? All of them went on to superstardom. Where'd you go?' I say, 'I went home.' And that's a good place to be.''"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Open Yet Focused

In our era, you need to be both more open yet focused than in the past. We live in a cholent of a society, both frum and general. In the office, there are Chinese, Indians, Albanians, you name it. That's not how things were 50 years ago. In my shul there are Sephardim, Hungarians, Israelis, Germans, Midwesterners, Brooklynites. You can't say my way or the highway anymore. It doesn't matter if in Frankfurt one frum community didn't say hello to the other. That won't work today because we are all mixed together in families, in schools, and in shuls. As R' Miller advises often, you have to get along with people. Moreover, the American personality is more open and accepting.

Yet, at the same time you have to maintain your focus. If you are not mystically based, the mystical stories can confuse you if you take them too seriously. If you are not punishment model based, same thing. In the Hirschian model, the rabbis don't dictate policy every 10 seconds so when they do you listen. You can go crazy if you have the Hirschian mindset and step into a Haredi shul, unless you know how to take it. So you have to be aware of the different styles that are out there and how they differ from yours, so you'll know how to take them.

If derech eretz is fundamental to your observance, by that I mean honesty and politeness and order, you have to be careful in communities where that isn't so important because you can get influenced and lighten up on a key avodah for you. And then you are lost as you try to base your day on values that are not core for you.

In Haredi communities, staying away from society is core. They pride themselves on that. People will brag that they have no idea who Shakespeare is. They tell you with glee.

That's fine. I'm not telling everyone how to live. I pride myself on worldly knowledge, but also on being able to separate out the bad and keep the good. Very different approach. That approach is bad for some, good for others. Each person has to find the one that works for him. In our society, you can't simply do just what people around you do because there are all kinds of people around you. It's not as simple as, I'm from Hungary, I do everything Hungarian style. But you don't have to condemn the others. Remember we are American Hirschian TIDE. Americans are more open than Germans, more tolerant. Like that other Germanic people the Dutch. Torah is eternal. TIDE changes in each society.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Introducing American Hirschian Torah Im Derech Eretz

So what is American Hirschian Torah Im Derech Eretz? Well, it is fundamentally Hirschian Torah Im Derech Eretz. He is the foundation for a modern understanding of Torah Im Derech Eretz. However, 125 years have transpired since his passing and the world is vastly changed. It is important to note that we are still in the modern era so it has not changed as much as it did with regard to Torah observance between his era and the pre-modern. Yes, technology has exploded maybe even as much between our era and his and his and the prior, but philosophy, society, government - all that stuff puts us in a similar era to his.

So what's the American piece? For one, it has a different stance on Zionism. R' Hirsch generally was opposed and he referenced the three oaths from the Gemara in Shavuous. However, some significant events have happened since then: the conference at St. Remo, the UN Vote in '48, and the Holocaust. According to the Ohr Somayach, the vote at St. Remo alone nullified the three oaths. So all the more so for the other two events.

Besides that, half of Jewry lives in Israel today. Moreover, there really isn't much of a secular Zionist movement anymore. The threat of a Jewish identity outside of mitzvot, which was the real basis for opposition to Zionism, isn't that relevant.

You can argue that the Mizrachi movement has Hirschian qualities in its orientation of engagement with life. We are not Jews only in the beis midrash but in the field, in the army, in the lab, etc. The problem with Mizrachi was their involvement with the non-religious. Austritt is a big part of TIDE, but Austritt may have changed too. R' Hirsch's Austritt consisted of pulling away from a dominant reform community that was openly and actively opposed to mitzvah observance. Many worked with the government to shut it down. It operated in a city that had gone from a strong hold of Torah to a place with 100 frum families by the time R' Hirsch arrived.

Was the Washington Heights Austritt against Yeshiva University constructive? George Frankel argues that it was not or at least that it should not continue. The Hirschian community, he argues, needs to team up with YU, lest it be swalled by Haredism.

So the Austritt is different too. I think you can just as easily argue for an Austritt against the Haredi world as the Modern. Both take a different course than TIDE. However, I don't see the point of Austritt against Orthodox groups. We are up against 7 billion heathens for the most part. We need each other. The Haredim remind us of the need for resistance to the world and for a seriousness in life. The Modern remind us of the need for proper engagement with the world.

Thus, American TIDE is more complex and looks to more places. For example, I don't see how one cannot not look to the teachings of R' Joseph Soloveitchik. While he was a Torah u'maddah personality, much of his Torah spoke to TIDE. Same goes for R' Kook. Recall R' Hirsch's criticisms of the Rambam in the 18th letter of the 19 letters. R' Hirsch criticized the Rambam for being influenced by the Arab and Greek philosophy in his idealism of the the philosopher and his making mitzvos a handmaiden to it. I think this is an incredible and bold insight and it informs us of some of the flaws in the Haredi world today, which does something similar with Torah study. Nevertheless, R' Hirsch still called the Rambam a great man who saved Judaism. This idea of throwing people away for saying anything one does not like is a contemporary fad. So one can enjoy R' Kook while setting aside some of the more strident Zionism. Same with any of the great figures who don't fit in perfectly with contemporary agendas of different groups. Most of the time these people just talked Torah. You can study it. If they said or did something that doesn't align with Hirsch's TIDE (as you would expect him to apply it today) then just ignore that part. Would R' Hirsch approve of an Advanced Talmudic institute at Stern College? Hard to say. My guess is no. But that doesn't mean you can't study R' Soloveitchik who gave the opening shiur there.

American TIDE also would not be limited to 19th century high culture as I would guess it did in Frankfurt. Could it include Jazz music for example? Not sure. Maybe in limited quantities. Could it include folk music? These are all the questions we must ask.

I think this is one reason that Hashem gave us Rabbi Soloveitchik. Our era needed a gadol to present Torah that was not limited to Frankfurt Torah Im Derech Eretz. We needed someone who could talk about despair, even his own, who gave you more leeway in which to operate. That doesn't make him a Torah Im Derech personality in the Hirschian sense but maybe in the 20th century sense of it. R' Hirsch talked often about God as a loving God. The Rav even called God a friend. I believe that was needed for many in our era. This stuff isn't simple.

The main thing is to formulate a TIDE that works constructively for you, that inspires you to be your best. Today, it's highly personalized. You really have to work at it.

It's my view that contemporary Modern Orthodoxy is not Hirschian. Same goes for Haredism. The former is overly engaged with secular society. The latter hides not just from the world but oftentimes from life. This doesn't go well for people who work in an office 60 hours a week. It's hard to be motivated only by Torah study when you have only an hour a day for it.

Hirschianism is a wonderful alternative to these, containing elements of each. However, most people need to apply it to contemporary life - I call this application American Hirschian Torah Im Derech Eretz.

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Visit to Washington Heights

On Sunday, I stopped off at Breuer's for schacharis. I have been to the community once or twice before over the years but never with an eye for joining. In the past, it was a curiosity.

Would this yield something good or would it be disappointing? 

Oh my goodness, what a wonderful morning it was. First of all, I was impressed by the neighborhood. Where I live in New Jersey, you have a lot of fiberglass shingled houses that don't age very well. The newer buildings all have fake facades. You can't imagine them standing up to a good wind.

Conversely, upper Manhattan is built like a castle. Hurricane? No problem. Big bricks buildings with pretty designs all around them. It was impressive. The view of the Hudson and cliff rocks are attractive too.

I noted also that the A train takes you right you to Breuers, 2.5 shorts blocks away.

The outside of the shul is nice. It's not ornate like the upper East side synagogues, which are pre-War. Architecture changed vastly after the War, where beuax-arts seemed to go out of favor. But is isn't bland. It has a certain humble grandeur to it. Maybe dignity is the word. I don't own an architect's vocabulary, so I may not use the right words here, but the area around the steps, where the building juts out into an alcove, gives some dimension to it. The brick is classic color rather than the white or colored brick that in my view doesn't age very well. The brick has aged well. There is some nice design in the brick. There are some concrete or perhaps granite ornaments. I can never tell the difference. The iron fence gives you the Buckingham palace feel. In the suburbs it's all plastic. The reliefs of the tablets and menorahs give a nice decorative touch. There's a simplicity to it, a humility even. Yet it's sort of grand, if only by sheer size. I liked it.

Inside is really special. The shul has perfect proportions. I have seen shuls with odd shapes. This one was done really well, from the main area, to the lady's balcony. Really well done. The architect knew his stuff.

The aron kodesh is just beautiful. A dark mahogany wood. Not overly ornate like in so many shuls. It's quite large but not too much. Just right for the building. To either side are strips of blue glass. Again, not too much, but adding color. 

The whole room is grand yet cozy.

Most importantly, the people were the same. On the way up the stairs a gentleman greeted me and chatted a bit. Within 10 minutes, I was greeted by three more that asked if I needed anything. A Hirsch Chumash I said. He went and quickly got one. One sometimes hears that Germans have a reputation for being cold. Actually, I have not found that over the years even by gentile Germans. Rather, I have found them to be fairly friendly. Same here. I think the whole thing is a kenard. But more there was a manner of civility. It was noticeable. I don't know if I ever have had more people come up to me than I did here, certainly not in the span of 10 minutes.

One gentleman talked to me for about twenty minutes about the community once I told him of my interest. He gave me little tips about the minhagim, sensing that they would be knew to me.

We were talking about customs regarding milk and meat, the 3 hours. He said R' Schwab advised 6. I asked why and he called over another gentleman that R' Hirsch suggests the same in Horeb.

I couldn't believe I was having a discussion where the textual reference to a halachkic discussion was Horeb and not Mishneh Berurah. Note, they do have a MB class there.

I had my very worn copy of the Hirsch siddur with me, the one I have been carrying for 25 years, the first siddur I ever bought, the one with black tape on the side. So I didn't need their siddurim. Neverthless, I was over the moon to see a wall of Hirsch siddurim. A man who was grabbing a siddur of his own, an Artscroll, joked to me, 'feels like sacrilege.' I didn't understand. 'Using an Artscroll here,' he explained. I laughed.

The place was in good shape and very organized. The light switches are all numbered and color coded. The books are in order. The front door contains a neat and clean sign with times for davening and classes. 

There was only one yarzheit light on and checking it I noted that it actually had the day's date. Well the next day's date, it was the 3rd of Cheshvon, while the day was the 2nd. But I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that they turn on the relevant ones for the whole week.

I certainly got the feel of German Orthodoxy during my little visit. There were shirium going on, yet there was a sense of the complete Judaism, including derech eretz and mitzvot. I was so happy. I raced home to tell my wife. Now I'm telling the world.