Saturday, December 31, 2016

Linked Article from -- The unholy balk at the idea of self-discipline

"2-6  Seven cows… seven ears of grain: Although, as we have seen, Pharaoh's dreaming stemmed from Joseph, the content of his dreams differed profoundly from that of Joseph's. Pharaoh dreamed only of produce and animals but not of work. Joseph's dreams, in contrast, began from the start with the image of work—the brothers gathering sheaves in the field.

"This aptly reflects the difference between how holy individuals and unholy individuals receive sustenance from on high. The holy receive sustenance through the work of aligning themselves with God's will. When they do so, Divine sustenance flows to them naturally. The unholy balk at the idea of self-discipline and work and therefore refuse to conform to God's will; they are therefore sustained by God in a backhanded fashion."


7th Lubavitcher Rebbe

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wisdom from a Marxist

I don't know what they have to say,
It makes no difference anyway,
Whatever it is, I'm against it.
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I'm against it.

Your proposition may be good,
But let's have one thing understood,
Whatever it is, I'm against it.
And even when you've changed it or condensed it,
I'm against it.

From the Marx Bros. film Horse Feathers (1932), as sung by Groucho Marx
(Harry Ruby / Bert Kalmar)


The attitude reminds me of more than a few people that I have met that are what Rabbi Soloveitchik used to call againstniks. "Don't be an againstnik," he once told a student.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Simmy Lerner Presents Rav Hirsch on Parshas Noach

Parshas Noach

The message is basically that the state is supposed to serve the person, not the reverse. When the person serves the state, then you get real problems. Think of highly conformist communities where fitting in to the crowd in every detail seems to be the highest avodah.

I also think of this quote:

“Everything for the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” Benito Mussolini

Monday, December 26, 2016

Herculean efforts

Even after the Herculean efforts of Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, whose influence caused a tremendous improvement, Rabbi Isaac Halevi (author of Doros Rishonim) wrote in 1901: "In Germany, the Neologues [the reform and semi-Reform] are by far the majority, and they have gone so far that there is no longer any hope of retrieving them." 

[R' Avigdor Miller, A Divine Madness, pp. 77-8. Rabbi Miller was discussing the falling away from Torah observance in 19th century Europe]

Friday, December 23, 2016

Linked Post - More On The Importance of Honoring One's Nature -

"Every individual is required to serve G-d according to his nature and spiritual level. A person who can pierce pearls or polish gems, yet occupies himself with baking bread, is considered to have sinned, even though this too is a much needed task. The parallels to this in our Divine service are obvious." Igros Kodesh of the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz, letter #1022, Heb. Vol. 4, p. 340.

"~ A Story with an Echo ~

The Alter Rebbe would tell the following story." One Friday afternoon, a wagon driver drove his wealthy and pampered employer to the mikveh, and then led his horses to the stable where they would be housed over Shabbos. As he was leaving, he saw a squad of soldiers dragging a Jewish family away in chains. He sprang up and with a few powerful blows felled several of the soldiers. Before a major struggle erupted, their commanding officer approached him calmly."


Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Fields of Athenry

I have posted some classical music here but no other gentile music. That isn't to say there isn't non-classical that can be ennobling. Here's an example of a song that is:

The Fields of Athenry

(Note, when the audience sings you can hear faintly some women singing along with the men.)

This is a big song in Ireland. You can see that here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rav Scheinberg on Bitul Torah and Reading about the Holocaust

Q. Is it bitul Torah to read about the Holocaust.

Rav Scheinberg: "If it will make you more religious, then you may read it and it is not bitul Torah."

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Linked Post: Jews in Wonderland - Seforim Blog

Jews in Wonderland by John M. Efron

This article discusses the interest German Jewry had in Sephardic Jewry. Key paragraph:

"One aspect of the great cultural transformation of German Jewry was the special place of honor it accorded medieval Spanish Jewry during its so-called Golden Age.  For the entire German-Jewish elite, the Sephardim were a cultural nobility and over the span of about 120 years, from approximately 1780 to 1900, what first began among community leaders as an appreciation of Sephardic Jewry blossomed into a rhapsodic and full-blown infatuation with the Jews of Sepharad.  In fact, the adulation shown towards Sephardic culture had a deep impact on German-Jewish self-perception, for the celebration of Sephardic Jewry led simultaneously to a self-critique, often a very harsh one, of Ashkenazic culture.  German-Jewish elites portrayed the Jews of Germany and Poland as insular, unattractive and primitive and in response, they felt that the time had come to rectify this and become like they imagined the Jews of Spain to have once been—worldly, alluring, and cosmopolitan."

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Linked Post from Beis Vaad L'Chachamim: Rav Schwab on Maishiv HaRuch

"Rav Schwab is quoted (in his son's sefer) as asking, why do you have to repeat shmoneh esrei if you skip Mashiv haru'ach umorid hageshem? Not every word in shmoneh esrei is essential, as shown in havineinu, and here, we're not even asking for rain, it's just a mention of the gevura of rain. He answers with the Gemara in Chulin brought by Rashi in Breishis 2:5. The passuk says "Now no tree of the field was yet on the earth, neither did any herb of the field yet grow, because the Lord God had not brought rain upon the earth, and there was no man to work the soil."  Rashi says..."

cont.  Beis Vaad L'Chachamim

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Saint-Saëns conducts, plays and speaks

Saint-Saëns conducts, plays and speaks, 1914 and 1904

Take me back. I always want a taste of that era.

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (French: [ʃaʁl kamij sɛ̃sɑ̃s], traditionally pronounced [sɛ̃sɑ̃] in French;[n 1] 9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. His best-known works include Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso (1863), the Second Piano Concerto (1868), the First Cello Concerto (1872), Danse macabre (1874), the opera Samson and Delilah (1877), the Third Violin Concerto (1880), the Third ("Organ") Symphony (1886) and The Carnival of the Animals(1886).  Wiki

And his second Piano Concerto.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Even More on the Imperative to Study Grammar

"The study of grammar is a cornerstone of Torah and when studying a lesson in Gemara, one should also have grammar books in front of him." The Pri Megaden, Introduction, 16.

The Rambam considered the study of Hebrew a mitzvah in its own right." Yitzchok Frank, Grammar for Gemara, p. 1, referring to the Rambam on Avos II:1. See also Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:3 and Tosfos Yom Tov on Avos 3:8, d'h: takufos.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Being a Jew is only a higher stage of being a man

"Twenty six generations did דרך ארץ precede the תורה, for it says, cherubim and sword were established to keep the way to the tree of life; but the way is culture, and only then can one reach to the tree of life, to the Torah". 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, דרך ארץ and תורה are one. The most perfect gentleman and the most perfect Jew, to the Jewish teaching, are identical. But in the general development of mankind culture comes earlier. The "Sword and the Cherubim", the exigencies of life and the intuition of Something Higher in life lead the generation of mankind to the path of culture which ultimately opens onto the tree of life. That is why the Jew rejoices whenever and wherever culture elevates people to a perception of true values and to nurture goodness. But of course where culture and civilisation are used in the service of sensuality the degeneration only gets all the greater. But still such misuse of culture does not do away with the intrinsic value and blessing of דרך ארץ, for אם אין דרך ארץ אין תורה. Therefore Jews, too, are to attach themselves to, and love all good and true culture and by the ways and manner of their behaviour and demeanour appear as educated people, and show that being a Jew is only a higher stage of being a man. And of course, on the other side too, אם אין תורה אין  דרך ארץ, if culture and education instead of leading to תורה, take the place of it, then it is not the way that leads to the Tree of Life, but is the way that leads to degeneration.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, Commentary on Pentateuch, Genesis 3:24.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Hungarian Playing the Hungarian Rhapsody

Adam Gyorgy Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

To me any version of Liszts Hungarian Rhapsody #2 where all the notes are played is impressive. However, I very much like this one by the nice clean cut Hungarian pianist Adam Gyorgy. So many classical performers today are either immodestly dressed or pretentiously stylish in dress, as if wild hair makes you a genius. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

R' Moshe Brody - Parshas Toldos: in praise of Torah true, ehrliche Balle batim

Posted with permission


Parshas Toldos: in praise of Torah true, ehrliche Balle batim

1.       And this week’s parsha, the Torah tells us how Yitzchok loved Esav while Rivka loved Yakov. The Torah tells us that therefore Yitzchok wanted to give the berchos to Esav but that Rivka was able to get the berachos for her son Yaakov. Rav Belsky zatzal asked-why did Yitzchok want to give the berachos to Esav and not Yaakov when Yaakov was a greater person? He answered, as many others have done as well, that Yitzchok originally thought that perhaps being that Esav was a man of the field, that he would more suited to support the physical means of Yaakov while Yaakov dedicated his full to Torah and spiritual pursuits. Thus he would give the blessings of material bounty to Esav, while keeping the spiritual blessings for Yaakov.
2.       However Rivka understood the true nature of Esav and that Esav would never partner successfully with Yaakov. Therefore, she decided to do otherwise and get the berachos to Yaakov instead. What, we can take out from this is the need to have both financial and spiritual independence. We cannot rely on those who are uncommitted to our values to help us in this sphere. We need to have both the spiritual and financial abilities to make what we need for the creation of spheres of spiritual enclaves.
3.       But in truth, this thought leads me to more. Last week we discussed the question that many privately ask: why does my yiddishkeit matter. This question is not felt that much by the spiritual elites but more by the plain (shrinking class of) ball habus in our society. In particular, why the middle of the road, average baal habus matters to yiddishkeit. Why the simple ball habus is needed to stand strong, in face of the onslaught of the yetzer hara who entices them every moment of the day. Besides for all the ideas of chiyvim and the rest that we all know well, what is it that balle batim can inspire themselves and stave off the yetzer hara with. This question is not so much faced by the much praised and needed rich and wealthy ball habus, and not by the ones who learn a whole day and are on the top of the spiritual totem pole-but those who are oisak biparnasah and are kovea iteim everyday-what is their role in yiddishkeit?
4.       While, I will ihy”h address this question in much greater depth a different week, and in fact there is a much greater conceptual answer to this burning question, there is in fact a very practical and incredibly important role that balle batishe people play in supporting klal yisroel’s spirituality. And here I don’t just mean in financial terms, which is also the case, but in fact in spiritual terms.
5.       As we mentioned before, Rivkah understood the outcome of such a shidduch between Esav and Yaakov, perhaps even better than her sublime and holy husband understood it. She understood, that while it’s true that it is that the Esav could be saddled to this holy task of supporting his brother in his spiritual pursuits, the reality won’t be like that. Why not? Why wouldn’t it work for an Esav to fulfill the role of the “supporter of Torah” while Yaakov be completely devoted to spiritual pursuits?
6.       The answer I believe is as follows. While it may work for the first generation-it would be a disaster for the next. For the nature of human beings is: people look up to rich people, to successful, self-supporting individuals. People respect people that can bring home sustenance. If Esav were to be the breadwinner and Yaakov dependent upon him, it is very likely that the next generation of people would begin to look up to such a figure in respect. And as their respect for him grows, his influence will grow as well. And as his influence grows, so will the respect for his evil ways, his lust for pleasure, his drive for power and all the other negatives associated with Esav, to the next generation. And this is what Rivka was possibly afraid of. She was afraid of those with means being a negative spiritual influence upon the next generations. And so thus, in order to spare her children from almost certain influence, the money and support needed to come from internal sources-not to be beholden to treife outside sources.
7.       And this is why ehrliche, sincere balle batim matter. All types of levels of sincere ehrliche balle batim. For they provide a powerful spiritual example to those growing up that yes-you could be a member of this world and still be a completely ehrliche Yid. And more importantly, the presence of Torah true balle batim diminish the power and persuasive effect that “fake Jews” have on the klal. When people who have been cloistered and peer pressured into being frum come into the world to “escape”, and see strong bnai Torah working, people who keep to the gdirai hatznius even in office environments, away from the frowns of Rabbaanim, it makes a deep impression. (Maybe even more than a Rav in all his lectures can have).
8.       Moreover, the mere presence of such kinds of balle batim, strengthens weak yidden. For when such people see a person learning during his lunch break, when they see one who has his own business and schedule, starts his day after learning a few hours in bais Medrash each and every morning, it makes a strong roshem. When such weak yidden, see one who travels on the train with his eyes glued to a sefer or tehillim and not to the pritzus of the outside[1], where they see someone who goes out regularly and excitedly to meet his master for mincha no matter what the deal is that he may be missing, or when they see that no matter how much money they could make, they keep halacha and are nosai vinosai bemunah, those little signs have a tremendous impact. They inspire those who have weaker spiritual constitutions, and weaker feelings towards Torah to remain in the fold, and may make these “fake Jews” inspired (or lichol hapachus just embarrassed to show outwardly their laxity regarding halacha) to keep halacha when they see their balle batishe friends who are real and inspired Torah true yidden.
9.       And how sad it is that these types of ehrliche Jews are, and have become, a relative rarity in the workforce. As society has become more and more polarized between the “earners and learners”, away has slipped these ehrliche balle batim. And away has slid the weak Jew and R”L has dropped everything. Now, in our polarized world, instead of having positive erhliche role models “in the trenches”, being the true foot soldiers of Hashem, we have throngs of  weak Yidden becoming ever more disenfranchised from the spirit of Klal Yisroel.
10.   And so chazak viematz to those that wage the holy battle of becoming ehrliche balle batim. You matter because of the power you spill over to others to remain Torah frum Jews in challenging spiritual environments. You matter because you inspire the next generation of children who can’t see themselves in full time learning that they too can be a somebody who counts on this world. You, by your example, inspire young children who won’t remain in the koslai beth medrash literally all their lives, to become erhliche balle batim and to see a future for themselves as well in a yididshkeit that balances Torah im derech eretz.  It’s true, most glossy magazines won’t put you on the cover because you haven’t done anything spectacular in the eyes of masses, but Hashem knows and that’s who really cares. Hashem knows the literal mesiras nefesh it takes you to remain strong to your ideals, values and Torah practices in the world today and it is to that which you will be rewarded justly. And in the end, people know and are influenced by your actions. Your actions will have an everlasting impact on amcha-on those around you who are influenced by your Torah true ways. Ashraichem.
Chazak viematz and ah gut Shabbos to all.  

[1] I remember more than a few times how Rav Belsky would sing the praises of the ehrliche yid sitting amongst the 49 shaare tumah on the train, his hat slouched down low over his eyes to shield his purity of his eyes from seeing evil and instead glued to the sefer on his lap. Rebbe’s eyes would glaze over, would tear up as he remembered this scene. The thought of this great act of gevura, not recorded anywhere expect in heaven, not praised on any magazine cover, but sincere ehrlichkeit as he shut out the world from his eyes and ears and eased away from the tumas haaretz into the purity of a sefer.
And how much can people accomplish on the train! My father shilit”a finished shisha sidrai Mishna with the bartenura and other meforshim and other such monumental feats just while going back and forth on the train daily from work. Ashrecha! And ashraiechem to all those who have completed daf yomi on the LIRR and all those others like them. You are an inspiration to all!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Linked Post - Balancing Prayer and Torah

“One should always study that which one’s heart desires” (Avodah Zarah 19a).

The Sages taught an important axiom regarding Torah study: “One should always study that which one’s heart desires” (Avodah Zarah 19a). The rabbis recognized that our inner inclination will lead us to the proper path. If we are drawn to a particular area of Torah, this is a sign that the state of our soul currently requires spiritual sustenance from this aspect of Torah.

This principle is also valid when seeking the correct balance between Torah and prayer. The intellect is not fully capable of judging how much we should nourish ourselves from the wellsprings of Torah wisdom, and how much we need to add the ’spices’ of emotion and feeling. Here, too, our inner inclination will guide us appropriately.

When we are drawn to Torah study, then this is “the time for Torah” - the staple for spiritual advance for the individual and society as a whole. But if we feel from within a hunger for the holy experience of authentic prayer, a yearning to pour out our soul before God, then this is a sign that our soul currently requires this form of spiritual service.

(Rav Kook List <>
Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. III, p. 3; Olat Re’iyah vol. I, preface p. 20) 

Posted with permission

Thursday, December 1, 2016


"I sent to Rav Mazooz something from Rav Henkin's [Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin] newest volume in which He says that the Sephardim have something over us. They study dikduk and we all should study dikduk. And it's a problem and in the Ashkenaz world none of us study dikduk and we don't know dikduk and he has a whole piece there how important it is. Again showing Rav Henkin broke from the common way of thinking."

"Isser Zalman Meltzer, part 1," Great Rabbinic Figures, 17:08

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

More on the Importance of Fluency in Hebrew

“In Israel, the language of the Siddur, the language of the Chumash, the language of the Tanach is the lingua franca and the most secular Israeli can read Chumash with a little bit of work better than a kid who has gone to day school here [in Canada] for whatever years. A little bit of work just to get the syntax, etc. But Hebrew is – I believe this strongly –  Hebrew is the key to almost everything in Judaism from a skill set perspective. If you have Hebrew – many of us grew up in an Ivrit b'Ivrit generation and that is not the case now, there's a sense of oh if I teach in Hebrew I won't be able to teach as much Gemara, I won't be able to teach the Ramban and the Rashi the same way. To me it seems like once a person has the real skills in Hebrew they'll get the other thing. It was a wrong educational turn [moving away from instruction in Hebrew], but there are reasons for that.”

Professor Adam Ferziger, “Between East and West Israeli Religious Zionism and American Modern Orthodoxy,” 9:06, Audio lecture at Torah In Motion.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Interview with R' Yaakov Weinberg on the Importance of Skill in Hebrew

Question: Should yeshivos have a curriculum to teach lashon hakodesh in an organized manner or is it enough to depend on teitch, reading and translating? And should dikduk be taught?

Rav Weinberg: One time everyone knew that you had to learn dikduk. But I'm not sure that today it would be a good idea because you need an extraordinarily good teacher to teach a proper and helpful dikduk. The dikduk taught today may not be all that helpful.

But there is one thing everyone should know. The most important thing that any school that hopes their children will go on to learn in a high school must give them -- more important than Chumash, halachah, Gemara, and hashkafah -- is to be able to read and translate. If they are able to read and translate they will have a future in which they can, for example, learn the Mesilas Yesharim quickly. You know that to learn Mesilas Yesharim properly you have to run through it a few times to know its totality before you can learn it slowly. But a bachur today cannot learn it that way because he is struggling with each sentence to figure out what the words mean. Therefore there is no such thing as learning through the Mesilas Yesharim or the Sha'arei Teshuvah. Baruch Hashem, today we have Artscroll and other translations. Now he can forget about reading the Sha'arei Teshuvah and learn the English, The Gates of Repentance. Beautiful! But would it not have been nice if he could learn it inside?

What will this bachur read? If he knows how to read Hebrew, there are midrashim, sefarim, and histories. If he cannot read Hebrew, he has to read English. So what is he going to read -- a Western, a mystery? You are closing doors on him.

The most important thing that any school can do for its children is to enable them to read lashon hakodesh. Then, when they are in the ninth grade, they will go through the Chumash and read Mishnah and be able to make a leining on Gemara, and their whole future and existence will be different. So instead you are going to learn another parashah Chumash and take away their whole future? Think -- make a cheshbon. There is no more important thing that a school to give the children than the ability to read lashon hakodesh because it opens a whole world to him. But if he cannot read Hebrew, it is closed! Baruch Hashem, ArtScroll makes a lot things accessible than they used to be, but, gevalt, is that the answer?

Question: But is tieitching enough for that?

Rav Weinberg:  What can I tell you? I don't know. You must understand that I have no experience in the classroom. I can tell you my best understanding of what the halachos of chinuch say -- halachos that I learned and struggled over, that I take out of the Gemara, Rambam, and Shulchan Aruch -- but you have to tell me what happens in a classroom. I do not know which is the most effective way to teach the Hebrew. For that I have to listen and learn from you.

"Rav Yaakov Weinberg talks about chinuch," 36a and 36b, Targum Press

Saturday, November 26, 2016

TIDE Society Organizes Translation of Toldos Yaakov

The Torah Im Derech Eretz Society is organizing the translation of a biography on the great German gaon R' Koppel Charif Reich. The biography was written in Hebrew by Dr. Charles Duschinsky a century ago. The translation will bring more awareness of this great scholar to the English reading public.

For more information on R' Reich, please see the hesped written about him by the Chasom Sofer in Toras Moshe, parshas vayichi.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Who Are the German Jews?

When people ask, are you a yekke (and I get asked this often enough) they generally mean, I believe, do your parents or grandparents come from Germany? And I suppose the strict definition of a yekke is a Jew from Germany or a Jew with traceable lineage to Germany as parents from places like England, South Africa, the USA, Holland, or Switzerland (countries to which German Jews immigrated over the last 100 years) with known ancestors from Germany, Prussia, or Austria also seem to qualify. The term yekke is of uncertain origin. It might be a reference to short coats or Jacke in German as German Jews of the last few centuries tended to wear shorter jackets than their brothers out East. 

So you might wonder then what is an Ashkenazi Jew as you certainly know of Ashkenazi Jews from places like the Ukraine and Poland. The name derives from the biblical figure Ashkenaz, the first son of Gomer, the eldest son of Japeth, a son of Noah. For reasons which are much debated, this name became attached to the mass of Jews who made their way through Italy and into Central Europe in the centuries after the destruction of the second Temple. Another set of Jews, which we now call Sephardim, made their way to Babylon and then North Africa and eventually Spain. In the words of the Jewish Virtual Library, "The name Ashkenaz was applied in the Middle Ages to Jews living along the Rhine River in northern France and western Germany."  Many of these people migrated East and by the 16th century, the center of Ashkenazi Jewry was located in Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia and Moravia and soon after in Russia, the Ukraine, and the Baltic states. They all are Ashkenazim, decendents of the Jews who lived along the Rhine River. Their shared lineage is evidenced in the language Yiddish which is an offshoot of German. As R' Shlomo Hamburger, an expert on German Jewish customs, points out, the Yiddish word for translate - titsche - comes from the word Deutsch or German. So imagine a conversation where two people are chatting away in Italian and you can't follow it. You want them to switch to English so you shout "English!" Centuries ago one of your ancestors, if you are Ashkenazi, might have shouted, "Deutsch!" or "German!"

So you might ask, are they yekkes too? Well it gets complicated due to the rise of the Chassidic movement in the 18th century as a large portion of Ashkenazic Jewry took on a new set of customs, called Sefard, some of which developed under the new conditions of Eastern Europe and some of which were taken from Sephardic liturgy and kabbalah. Technically, these people are Ashkenazim, but we wouldn't call them German Jews or yekkes, even though originally their ancestors were from Germany. There also are Eastern European Jews such as those from Lithuania, who didn't take on nusach Sefard, yet don't call them German either. They are Litvacks and their practice is much closer to that of German Jews with many significant differences.

So it seems that ancestry alone is not the determining factor as custom and even outlook plays a large role in group identification. This is why I, all by my lonesome, have determined that there exists a new variety of German Jew and that is the American yekke. My reasoning is that the USA is largely a Germanic country and many of the people raised in the USA, depending where one is raised, have Germanic sensibilities that fit in best with the German Jewish style. Since originally their families were from Germany, ie they are Ashkenazim, the original German practices are part of their heritage and while their ancestors in Eastern Europe were not raised in a Germanic culture, they were. See my article "American Yekkes" for a more lengthy explanation on all this. This applies in particular to baalei teshuva, particularly those over the age of 40 who were raised in the suburbs, and even more so those raised or educated in the Midwest. Again, see my article for more on that.

Interestingly, the USA currently is home to more Ashkenazi Jews than any other country in the world. Here's a chart from Wikipedia:

Total population
10[1]–11.2[2] million
Regions with significant populations
 United States5–6 million[3]
Israel State of Israel2.8 million[4][5]
 United Kingdom~ 260,000
 Canada~ 240,000
 South Africa80,000
 New Zealand5,000
 Czech Republic3,000

So that's what I'll say for now about the German Jews. Torah Im Derech Eretz came out of Germany. It's the work of Rabbi Hirsch but he designed it for Germany utilizing the traditions from his German Jewish rebbes. A person need not take on German Jewish custom or identity to gain from Torah Im Derech Eretz as the philosophy is useful to the modern, western dominated world in general.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Minhag Ashkenaz Minyan Forming in Beit Shemesh Aleph

Starting with Friday nights only, to be held likely on Nachal Refaim. If interested please write to

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Population Figures of Frankfurt

10,000 Jews in Frankfurt around 1860
35,000 in 1933
Hirsch community 2,000 in 1920s, the general community had around 30,000
Generally, Hirsch's community was around 10% of the general.

data from Dr. Rachel Heuberger in

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch and Contemporary Orthodoxy- A Panel Discussion with all the Speakers

Let us bring these figures as objections to comments by R' Dessler and other Eastern Europeans about the ability of Torah Im Derech Eretz to produce as many gadolim as they did in EE. Eastern Europe had millions of people. Even in 1920, Frankfurt had only 30,000. In 1933, Eastern Europe had more than 6 million Jews.

The majority of Jews in prewar Europe resided in eastern Europe. The largest Jewish communities in this area were in Poland, with about 3,000,000 Jews (9.5%); the European part of the Soviet Union, with 2,525,000 (3.4%); and Romania, with 756,000 (4.2%). The Jewish population in the three Baltic states totaled 255,000: 95,600 in Latvia, 155,000 in Lithuania, and 4,560 in Estonia. Here, Jews comprised 4.9%, 7.6%, and 0.4% of each country's population, respectively, and 5% of the region's total population. (Holocaust Museum)
So let's do some math. 30,000 Jews in Frankfurt, 3,000 of them in Hirsch's community. 6 million Jews in Eastern Europe. The Jewish population of all of Frankfurt was a 1/2 of a percent of that of Eastern Europe. And the population of Hirsch's community was less than a 1000th of Eastern Europe. So what are we comparing?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Order and punctuality as Jewish virtues

According to Rabbi Avigdor Miller, the idea of order and punctuality as Jewish virtues traces back to the great generation of Har Sinai as depicted in the Chumash:

"But before Moshe, the Am Yisroel were so good that even Bilaam, al corchei had to praise them. Now it states, Vayisa Bilaam es einav. Bilaam lifted up his eyes. Now he wasn't looking for good things in the Am Yisroel. You have to know that. If Bilaam could have found faults, he would have pounced on it like a fly pounces on a speck on the rotten apple. He was looking for faults. Vayar es Yisroel shochain l'shvatim. He saw Yisroel dwelling according to their shevatim. Now this I'll say in passing although it's not our subject. He saw that they were orderly. That they didn't mix. Everything was done with a seder. Now that's off the subject. Someday I'll talk about the importance of the orderliness of the ancient Jewish people. The ancient Jewish people were punctual in time. It's a mistake when you say Jewish time. It's a big lashon hara. There's a zman krias Shema and that's the time. You got to be punctual. No fooling around with that time. And other things in Halacha. Oh no, Jewish time is the most punctual, precise time. They were baalei seder."

Rabbi Avigdor Miller, “True Modesty,” tape 412, 42:27.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

New Simi Lerner Talk: Hirsch on the Community as a Means

I was in a community recently where I felt an enormous conformity and sense of people trying to simultaneously fit in and out do each other religiously. It was disturbing. And then via Divine providence came this recording of Simi Lerner in his wonderful series of lectures on the Hirsch Chumash. In parshas Noach on the events of the Tower of Babel, Rav Hirsch points out how the community is supposed to be a means for the individual to connect to God. But when the community becomes the end, the goal, the thing to serve, then you have real problems. See the talk and Hirsch on Genesis 11:4.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Inside of the Old Telz Building

You have seen photos of the outside of the old yeshiva in Telz. Want to see the inside as it looks today? This Telz Footage takes you inside of one of the most interesting yeshivos of the 19th century, a place that responded to the needs of the time with its theme based classes, different class levels, and other innovations.

Plus Rabbi Schwab studied there.

Source: Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer הרב יוסף גבריאל בקהופר

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Linked Post from Daas Torah blog: Torah Revolutionaries by Professor Cyril Domb F.R.S.

Torah Revolutionaries by Professor Cyril Domb F.R.S.

"No one interested in the spread of Torah Judaism could fail to be impressed by the record of positive achievement of German Orthodoxy. Hence we find that, after an initial period of trial, Rabbi Hirsch was treated with respect and even admiration in the Torah centers of Eastern Europe. But the philosophy of Torah im Derech Eretz  as interpreted by Hirsch was always regarded as relevant only to Germany, since the large Jewish masses of Eastern Europe had not been significantly affected by European culture."

The article has much to say about Rav Hirsch and also Sarah Schnirer:

"But as the movement grew, she became aware that something more sophisticated would be needed. At this time a curious incident occurred which had very positive consequences. She had planned to travel for a few days to Hamburg in North Germany, for which she needed to change at Breslau. But she made a wrong connection and got on the train to Frankfurt in South Germany. The inspector pointed out her error when he came along the train to check her ticket, and suggested that she change at the next station. But she decided that the error was min haShamayim and that she should carry on to Frankfurt where she had a number of contacts. She spent ten days in Frankfurt looking at girls' schools and other educational institutions."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Linked Article: NOVEMBER 13, 2016 BY SARA LEVINE

This is a really remarkable revelation, songwriting legend Leonard Cohen was a practicing Jew. That's what you want to hear about the man who wrote the following lyric:

"I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah"

or this:

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."

Leonard Cohen’s Orthodox Jewish Upbringing and Shabbos Observance


"Beloved singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died last week at the age of 82. Most famous for penning the hauntingly poignant ballad “Hallelujah” among other songs in the past 40 years, as well as poetry and novels, not many people were aware that Cohen was born and raised Orthodox, spent some time involved in Buddhism then returned to his own form of Jewish observance in the 1980s. He was a practicing Jew until his death."


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Judaism is also universal

“Judaism is a national religion in that it is the religion which God has given to Israel. According to the Torah, He has chosen us as His peculiar people, 'to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' But Judaism is also universal, for that very choice implies that, as a priest to his congregation, the whole nation should be an example unto the gentile world of a life lived with God – upright, just, and kind. Our rabbis tell us that Judaism is the way of salvation for the Jew, but the righteous men of other religions will also partake of eternal salvation.”  Rabbi Leo Jung, Between Man and Man, p. 150.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Population Survey on Orthodox Day Schools - Linked Post

by Dr. Marvin Schick

(Excerpted from “A Census of Jewish Day Schools in the United States, 2013-2015”) in Torah Musings

"Schools under Orthodox auspices have always been dominant in the Jewish day school world. For many years, these were the only day schools. Even with the enthusiastic establishment of Solomon Schechters in the post-Holocaust period and then expanded non-Orthodox interest in day schools in the aftermath of the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey, Orthodox schools have remained by a great margin the largest component of the day school world. If only because of the contraction in non-Orthodox sectors already touched on, the proportion of students in Orthodox schools has grown. This growth is fueled even more strongly by high Orthodox fertility, especially in the Chassidic sector but also in the Yeshiva World sector. As noted, the latest census shows 70,000 more day schoolers than there were 15 years ago and almost all of this increase is attributable to enrollment in Orthodox schools."


Friday, November 11, 2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Kristallnacht, Continued Through Nov. 10

Linked Article - Huffington Post: Kristallnacht Photos Recall Horror Night Of November 9, 1938

"On the night of Nov. 9, 1938, gangs of Nazis attacked Jewish businesses and religious sites around Germany, destroying thousands of stores and synagogues. The violence would continue for nearly two days, and the Nazis chose to name it Kristallnacht or crystal night — symbolizing the final shattering of Jewish existence in Germany."


And here's some film footage of the events.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Linked Post - Kristallnacht Survivor’s Firsthand Account

"To commemorate the coming 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht (November 9,1938), we present to our readers a first-person account of Kristallnacht, written by Mrs. Hanna Tennenhaus, OBM, whose Shloshim was just marked by her descendants. This account was published in the Canadian Jewish News in November, 1998:

"That fateful night, Nov. 9, 1938, I studied late. After finishing my homework, I took a piece of paper from a notebook, wrote Ich hasse Hitler (I hate Hitler), then quickly burned it in the dying embers remaining in the red tiled stove and went to bed.

"At 2 a.m. there was a great commotion in the street. “Juden raus, Juden raus” (Jews out, Jews out) went the awful shouts. Our bell rang incessantly. My mother, in a long white nightgown, went from room to room in great agitation, while my father prayed silently."


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Compare Caruso to Pavarotti

Enrico Caruso - La Donna e Mobile

Pavarotti La Donna e Mobile Moscow 1964

Sounds similar to me, but I'm not exactly a music critic. Maybe Pavarotti has a fuller voice but the Caruso recording is old, old, old technology.

Monday, November 7, 2016

What's the Easiest Language to Learn?

Not TIDE per se, but since we have been watching these excellent videos on language, here's one that addresses a question that many college students have asked over the years. What are the easiest languages to learn for a person that only speaks English. They are:

What's the Easiest Language to Learn? by Langfocus

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Torah Im Derech Eretz at Maimonides?

Yesterday I talked about the educational curriculum at the SAR Academy in the Bronx, NY, about how they have an actual methodology that approaches subjects rather than just grinding through texts with minimal explanation as is done in so many schools.

So it seems that the Maimonides School in Brookline, Boston works the same way.

Here's fifth grade Hebrew:

In fifth grade we continue the Chaverim Bivrit curriculum that we began in fourth grade. Depending on the level, students learn between 2-3 books in Chaverim Bivrit curriculum. In fifth grade, Ivrit is taught for four periods weekly. Students are asked to write paragraphs of greater complexity and length than in previous years, compose songs and poems, read and write newspaper “advertisements” and, of course, speak only in Hebrew. As in previous years, students read at home on a daily basis in order to practice their reading skills. Students have discussions about food and nutrition, hear stories about food and restaurants, and prepare menus for their class restaurant. In the restaurant, students actually order and serve foods as well as dine in the restaurant (all in Hebrew). This is an enjoyable activity that is remembered by Maimonides students for years. It leaves a joyful and satisfying “taste” of Hebrew language with them.

A living language just like in Horeb.

"We may therefore tabulate the general subjects of instruction for Jewish youth as follows:(I) Hebrew language.
Concurrently and as living languages at an early age along with general knowledge and development of the mind.
(3) Torah, Nevi'im and Kethuvim....."  Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb 552

Here's grade 5 Talmud at Maimonides:

...This curriculum includes an introduction to the ”Chain of Tradition” with great emphasis on the historical background of each of the periods leading up to and including the Talmudic period. Teachers explain key foundational concepts in Talmud study. Students learn and memorize selected mishnayot, and analyze them in terms of the historical elements and content. Students use the “Bonayich” website to further enhance their knowledge of the mishnayot and the historical background.

I'm still waiting for my introduction to the "Chain of Tradition." I have done my best to pick it up from books such as those of Rav Hirsch and Rabbi Miller. It was never explained to me in yeshiva. In my mind, such explanation is a necessity to working productively with the Talmud. What is Horeb if not an explanation of the Torah using text but arranged by subject. That is what young people need today. 

So hats off to you too Maimonides. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Torah Im Derech Eretz at SAR Academy?

You think I'm joking. And in a way I am. But in a way I am not. Look at this educational curriculum.



Building vocabulary

Conjugating verbs in present and past tense

Writing expanded sentences that incorporate adjectives

Speaking with new grammar skills and vocabulary

It's first on the list, just like in Horeb. Imagine Jewish kids being taught the language of the Torah. What a concept. Doesn't happen in so many schools.


In Chumash, we help students build their skills for independent Torah study. This year, we learn Sefer Shemot, perakim 1 - 20. By mid-year, students learn daily with a chevruta. With the definitions of the most difficult words, students answer guiding questions as they learn each perek. One particular highlight of our Chumash curriculum is the unit in which the students learn the entire section of the makkot, the ten plagues, independently, with their study partners. This is a wonderful experience and is supplemented by review sessions in which the teachers point out relevant patterns and ideas they may have missed.


Answering comprehension questions in Hebrew sentences orally and in writing

Identifying shorashim and the speaker within each pasuk

Differentiating between peshat and drash explanations of textual difficulties

Using Rashi to understand textual difficulties

Compares this to schools where the rebbe grinds through chapter after chapter, no chavrusos, no review sessions with patterns, no identifying speakers or differentiation between  peshot and drash, just trucking on to the next page - daf yomi for children.


This is the year when our students are exposed for the first time to the treasures of the oral tradition, the Torah Shebe'al Peh. Since the interplay between the written and oral laws is key to any later study of Torah, our curriculum begins with an introduction to the whole concept of the oral law and to Mishnah in particular. Students then study the first five perakim of Masechet Brachot which focus on the Shema and Shemoneh Esrei.


Locating a perek in the Mishna

Identifying different opinions and themes in Mishna

Analyzing repeating structure of individual mishnayot

Supporting analysis of mishnayot with proofs from various opinions in the Mishna

This is my favorite. Imagine preparing children for Mishnah with an introduction to Oral Torah. How radical. What I have seen in school after school is Mishnah with no introduction. Just open up Mesechta Shabbos and start learning that two are really four and that the tailor can't go out without his needle and then find out that one can't light with moss that grows on ceders. As one kid told me, it's just a list of everything I can't do. Without an introduction, the Mishnah sounds like lunacy. One needs to be taught how the Oral Torah works with the Written, that the Mishnah was written in code, and that it was written down after thousands of years of oral transmission. (One also needs to be taught a philosophy of mitzvos and the moral purpose of restrictions, but I'll leave that to other material that also is not taught in many schools.) How much ground do they cover - 5 chapters with particular focus on two everyday practices. I know a school in Israel that has covered in one month 10 chapters of Mesechta Shabbos, most of it with material like "one may not light with pitch, tar, or castor oil." I'm not knocking the Mishnah. I'm must saying children need to be introduced to it in the right way.

It's hard to propose that a Torah Im Derech Eretz family send a child to SAR with its mixed gender classes, knee length skirts, Zionism, and feminism. But looking at this curriculum, one is tempted. There is an actual curriculum here, some teaching methodology, some sense of how a child's mind is stimulated, something other than grinding through texts that were meant to be taught orally with explanation. The "better" schools are big on the warmth of the rebbe. They attempt to replace educational methodology with warmth but this doesn't really work for intellectually inclined children of which they are many in the Jewish world. Hats off to you SAR.