Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Timeless Rav Hirsch Series at

  • Parshas Bereishis - The First Stirrings of Capitalism
  • Parshas Noach - The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Parshas Lech Lecha - No Justice, No Peace
  • Parshas Vayera
    Avraham and Yitzchok Walk "Together"
    Special Enough To Care
  • Parshas Chayei Sarah - The Man Who Has Everything
    Going Home
  • Parshas Toldos - One Size Does Not Fit All
    The Three-fold Pattern of Jewish History
  • Parshas Vayeitzei - What Did Yaakov Ask For?
    Romantics Need Not Apply
  • Parshas Vayishlach - Doing Without Power
    No Milquetoasts, These
  • Parshas Vayeishev - An Almost Perfect Family
    Location, Location
  • Parshas Miketz - His Cup Runneth on Empty
    Unfinished Business
  • Parshas Vayigash - The Shared Happiness of Ordinary Existence>
    Life Imitates History
  • Parshas Vayechi - Managing Jewish Pride
    Pick An Angel
  • Parshas Shemos - The Source of All Freedom
    The Origins of State Anti-Semitism
  • Parshas Vaera - Who Speaks For G-d?
    Worse is Better
  • Parshas Bo - Everything New Under the Moon
    The Moral High Road is a Two Lane Street
  • Parshas Beshalach - Don�t Be Skeptical About Skepticism
    Why Amalek Hates Us
  • Parshas Yisro - Epilogue to the Decalogue
    Meet You At Sinai – From a Distance
  • Parshas Mishpatim - The Punishment For Theft
    Cheeseburgers for Dummies
  • Parshas Terumah - The Shulchan and Torah Economics
    The Two Keruvim
  • Parshas Tetzaveh - Inauguration is Not a Ball
    The Two That Couldn’t Wait
  • Parshas Ki Sisa - On Golden Calves and Other Heroes
    The Limits of Grasping G-d
  • Parshas Vayakhel- The Exceptional Melachah
    Getting Directed
  • Parshas Pekudei- Why Seven?
  • Parshas Vayikra - To Thine Own Torah Self Be True
    Elevation in Affliction
  • Parshas Tzav - Pigul: Defining the Essence of Korbanos
    Memory and Innovation
  • Parshas Shemini - A Tumah Primer
    Torah Calories
  • Parshas Tazria - A Message in White
  • Parshas Metzorah - Membership Has Its Price - The High Price of Oil
  • Parshas Acharei Mos - Inventing Ritual
    What Goes Up Must Come Down
  • Parshas Kedoshim - Color Me Needed
  • Parshas Emor - Have An Esrog Day! 
    Divine Service With a Smile
  • Parshas Behar - To Be Or Not To Be
  • Parshas Bechukosai - Making the Numbers Count 
    How to Emerge From Galus
  • Parshas Bamidbar - In Praise of Child Labor 
    E Pluribus Pluribus
  • Parshas Naso - On Justice, Human and Divine 
    The Beis Ha-Mikdosh in a Sound Bite
  • Parshas Behaaloscha - Prayers Without Words 
    The Little Committee That Could
  • Parshas Shlach - Presenting G-d With Plan B
    Paradise Lost, Twice
  • Parshas Korach - Creative Religious Response: Korach Would Be Happy
    Out of Bounds
  • Parshas Chukas - Parah Adumah Demystified
    Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth, A Thankless Nation
  • Parshas Balak - In Praise of Family Values
    Not Playing By the Rules
  • Parshas Pinchas - Who’s Tamid?
    A Month To Remember
  • Parshas Matos - Mikvah, Explained
  • Parshios Matos-Masei - Raining on the Parade That Wasn't
  • Parshas Masei - Tolerance and Its Limits
  • Parshas Devarim - No Need For Senate Hearings
    What Does Mishnah Torah Repeat?
  • Parshas Vaeschanan - The Meaning of “One”
    Getting G-d Right
  • Parshas Eikev - Manna, Updated
  • Parshas Reeh - Of Men and Mice
    The Pitfalls of Private Spirituality
  • Parshas Shoftim - Altars Are Not Green
    Banishing Statism
  • Parshas Ki Seitzei - Xtreme Law
    Keeping It Out of the Family
  • Parshas Ki Savo - Prologue to an Epilogue
    Undeservedly Deserving
  • Parshios Netzavim & Vayeilech - The Really Long Way Home
    Rebirth of a Nation
  • Parshas Haazinu- Location is Not Everything
    Demons and Ghosts
  • Tuesday, July 26, 2016

    Linked Article - Jewish Press: The Life Of Rav Shimon Schwab

    The Life Of Rav Shimon Schwab


    Last month we traced the early life of Rav Shimon Schwab – his intense focus on Talmud Torah, his studies in the Lithuanian yeshivas of Telshe and Mir, and his first rabbinical positions in Germany. Under increasing threat from the Nazis, Rav Schwab was desperate to leave Germany and find a new rabbinical position.
    The following is from an article titled “Memories of Shearith Israel,” written in December 2000 by Rabbi Moshe Schwab, Rav Schwab’s eldest son. I have edited and modified it somewhat, and he has kindly given me permission to share it here.
    Leaving Germany
    During 1936, with Nazi anti-Semitism growing daily in Germany, my father – who was then the betzirksrabbiner, or district rabbi, of Ichenhausen in Bavaria, Germany – was especially targeted by the local Hitler Youth thugs for persecution, and he knew he must leave Germany as soon as possible at the peril of his life.

    Saturday, July 23, 2016

    Are Germans Cold?

    "Gemütlichkeit  describes a space or state of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other qualities include coziness, peace of mind, belonging, well being, and social acceptance." Wiki

    Despite myths to the contrary, this a quality that is prized amongst Germans and quite common. No, Germans don't gush or hop up and down, but they can be quite friendly. I remember the first time I met Rav Schwab. He was seated next to me at a Shabbos table. He turned to me and gave me such a warm and dignified greeting. I never forgot it. I felt, well, respected, by this elderly, distinguished man.

    At all the German kehillas that I have ever visited, whether it be in Washington Heights, Monsey, Jerusalem, Modiin Illit, Beitar Illit, or Bene Brak, I have experienced this Gemütlichkeit. It is real and its really nice. The first time I ever visited WH I was greeted as I walked up the steps, then again as I entered the building.

    At the first event I attended at WH, I was kind of nervous where I might sit and with whom. So the event organizer, sent her son to sit next to me and he gave me this wonderful overview of the community for about two yours.

    I went once to a vort in Monsey, German vort where I didn't know a soul. Didn't matter. We were chatting with people in no time. One elderly man who had been raised in Franfkurt was a particular delight. I have seen him in the shul afterward many times and he has always been so cordial to me. I told him I heard he studies Hirsch in German and asked him to translate a sentence. He invited me to his apartment where we studied a whole page together in the German. It was such a thrill.

    I have been in many non-German shuls where I felt so alone, so unseen, same with weddings, vorts. I have to say that I have never experienced this at a German shul or event. There's no such thing as sitting at a table with a person and not talking to him.

    One of the many myths of Germany Orthodoxy shattered, in my experience.

    Thursday, July 21, 2016

    Knowledge of the Law alone is not enough

    "Knowledge of the Law alone is not enough to gain Paradise in  world to come; if that Paradise is to be won and the earth is also to be transformed into a Paradise, this Law must be not only known but also observed. And there remains a very wide gap between the knowl edge of the Law in theory and its observance in practice." (Collected Writings, Vol. II, p. 398)

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016

    Linked Post from Torah In Motion: Some More Reflections from Berlin

    Some More Reflections from Berlin  By: rabbi jay kelman,

    "One of the most interesting meetings we had was with Rabbi Jonah Sievers a native of Germany and Rabbi of  Synagoge Pestalozzistraße. (Most Shuls in Germany, as in much of Europe, are named for the street on which they are located, in this case Pestalozzistraße.) This was one of the few shuls that was not destroyed in Kristallnacht, with “only” the inside being ransacked. This was due to it being physically attached to residential buildings and its sturdy fireproof material. 
    "After the war the shul was restored and now serves as a Reform Congregation. But as was the case with most Reform shuls in Germany men and woman sat separately and continue to do so today. As Rabbi Sievers explained most Reform shuls in Germany instituted much more modest reforms beginning with a sermon in the vernacular. It was the much more radical yet rarer version of Reform that was exported and further developed in America. 
    "Flipping through the siddur it was hard to find any substantive differences to the Orthodox siddur. It even has maintained korbanot, said as a way of yearning for the restoration of the sacrificial order, and the vast majority of the davening is conducted in Hebrew. As was common in all Reform congregations there is an organ and a mixed choir that sings unseen from the loft above and behind the aron kodesh. What was fascinating was the Rabbi describing how important maintaining the “traditional” German minhagim are and that if his shul does not do so many will be lost. Songs by the likes of Debbie Freidman or Shlomo Carlebach are not heard as it is the “traditional chants” composed by Louis Lewendowski that one hears. While some 70-80 people attend on a typical Friday night and about half that on Shabbat day that is the only day of week services are held.
    "Ironically the largest Orthodox shul, Synagoge Joachimstaler Straße maintains few of the classical German minhagim. They do not have a choir though they do have a young chazzan with a beautiful voice and it was a treat to hear him daven. Kabbalat Shabbat was done to the nigunnim of Carlebach (while the Carlebach family is a German family and Reb Shlomo was born in Berlin escaping with his family in 1939, his tunes are much different than that of classical German nussach) complete with 20 minutes of dancing after lecha dodi. Rabbi Ehenreberg came from Israel some twenty years ago to lead the congregation. His warmth is evident and it is easy to see the love the congregation has for him. I was most impressed to see over 30 people at his pre-mincha shiur. The shul maintains a daily minyan both for Shacharit and mincha/maariv and offers free Shabbat meals to those who live in Berlin something that brings many to the shul."

    Tuesday, July 19, 2016

    Ashkenaz in Beitar Illit

    Shabbos and Yom Tov minyan
    in Beitar Aleph
    20 minutes from Beit Shemesh, bus moves from BS, to Beit, to Aleph to Beitar
    Kavim bus line 128 or 198, approx. 9th stop in Beitar, 
    Beitar Ilit - HaRabi MiNadborna 2 Nadvorna Baba Sali
    The 148 appears to go only to Beitar Beit

    Sunday, July 17, 2016

    Tefillas yeshurin siddur

    New siddur according to minhag ashkenaz. Imagine using a siddur and not having to flip back and forth to put birchas hatorah before korbanos or to exlude the posuk from the end of aleiynu and so on.

    Schlomo Hofmeister put together the siddur. It's hard to get the mind around, but he was born in Germany, in 1975. A rabbi born in Germany. It's been a while since we have seen that.

     Here's his bio

    Schlomo Hofmeister Oktober 1975 in München) ist Gemeinderabbiner der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde Wien.Studien und Rabbinatsausbildung    Schlomo Hofmeister lernte nach Beendigung seiner Gymnasialzeit am Michaeli-Gymnasium München an verschiedenen Jeschiwot in England und Israel, studierte Sozialwissenschaften, Geschichte und Politik an der Münchner Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) sowie der University of British Columbia (UBC) und beendete Ende 2002 seine Universitätsstudien mit einem Master of Science (MSc) Abschluss von der London School of Economics (LSE). 2004 zog er von London nach Jerusalem, um seine Rabbinatsstudien, unter anderem im Rabbinerseminar Toras Schlomo von Rabbiner Mosche Halberstam, fortzusetzen. Rabbiner Hofmeister erhielt Semichos in unterschiedlichen Bereichen des jüdischen Rechts unter anderen von Rabbiner Mosche Sternbuch, dem Vorsitzenden des Orthodoxen Rabbinatsgerichts von Jerusalem. Als er im Jahre 2005 seine erste rabbinische Ordination erhielt, war er der erste Rabbiner seit 69 Jahren, der in Deutschland geboren und aufgewachsen war; der erste deutsche Rabbiner seit seine beiden Mentoren, der Münchner Oberrabbiner Pinchas Paul Biberfeld und der Londoner Rabbiner Josef Zwi Halevi Dunner im Jahre 1936/37 ihre Ordinationen vom Hildesheimer Rabbinerseminar in Berlin erhalten hatten.

    Gemeinderabbiner in Wien
    Seit 2008 ist Schlomo Hofmeister Gemeinderabbiner in Wien, wo bereits seine Vorfahren nach ihrer Vertreibung aus Spanien für mehrere Generationen ansässig waren.[3]

    Saturday, July 16, 2016

    Friday, July 15, 2016

    R' Koppel Charif

    R' Koppel Charif was a great scholar who ran the most prestigious yeshiva in Hungary. The Chasom Sofer eulogies him in parshas Vayichi of Toras Moshe. Koppel Chairf originally was from Bavaria, Germany. His family hails from the city of Altenkunstadt in Bavaria, Southern Germany.

    " Verbau itself contained one of the oldest and largest Jewish communities in the Neitra region. It boasted an impressive list of renowned rabbonim including R' Koppel Charif, R' Binyomin Zev Loew, and R' Chaim Zvi Mannheimer. R' Koppel Charif was one of the outstanding disciples of the famed Noda B'Yehudah. Early in his tenure as Rav of the community and head of its yeshivah [5552-5596 (1792-1836)], the yeshivah became the most prestigious yeshivah in all of Hungary, both in the size of its student body and in the advanced level of its study. (Guardian of Jerusalem, Rav Shlomo Zalman Sonnenfeld, p. 16)"

    Tuesday, July 12, 2016

    German Lessons

    Ich habe das Buch

    I have the book

    Ich sehe eine Küche

    I see a kitchen

    bitte geben Sie mir die Blumen

    please give me the flowers

    Die Innere Bedeutung von den Fest-Tagen von Tishri

    The Inner Meaning of the holidays of Tishrei

    Friday, July 8, 2016

    A different flag on assimilation

    As we look back today, it was more than one hundred years ago that European Jewry also faced a trying time. A generation filled with human kindness sought to make good on crimes committed in past centuries against the Jewish people, and opened the gates of emancipation into European culture for our people -- which had abundantly clear consequences. Spokesmen for emancipation were leaders of the so-called Reform movement, resulting inevitably in total estrangement and mass baptism. God's eternal wisdom has always shown that assimilation would lead to a rekindling of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism led to the Zionist movement, which hung a different flag on assimilation and guided it on a no less ill-fated, completely un-Jewish direction.

    R' Joseph Breuer, "At the End of the Year," A Unique Perspective, Rav Breuer's Essays, pp. 291-2, written 1940, New York City, translated from German.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2016

    A Chink in the Armor

    So anybody who reads any portion of the posts here knows of my adoration for German Orthodoxy whether it be for the minhagim, the rabbanim - Hirsch in particular but others as well, the people, and the Washington Heights comprehensive community. However, everything in this world has its flaws. One of the big challenges with practicing German Orthodoxy is its weak position in the world today. We just don't see that much of it. A few shuls worldwide, each of them struggling in various ways.

    One can hypothesize as to the causes - the Holocaust, assimilation in Germany, being flooded by Eastern Orthodox Judaism and its masses of people and its inspiring rabbanim that draw people into other derechim, and the state of the world, ie. the lack of order, propriety, self-discipline - hallmarks of German Orthodoxy that leave it looking a little oddball.

    But there's another cause, a minor one, but one worth noting, which is that the German communities today are not great at community building. Yes, they historically have been terrific at building structure around their people, but at least lately they haven't been good at reaching out to get new people.

    It's not that the Germans are cold. In fact, I have received far greater warmth at German shuls than anywhere else. Friendliness is a German quality. You see this in the American Midwest where people are more friendly than in the East and West of the US.

    But while friendly, the Germans don't think to invite you into their world. Maybe this comes down to insecurity. The whole Jewish world has gone Eastern European, even the Sephardim in many cases. The Germans who are loyal to their traditions are being loyal to their traditions. It doesn't occur to them that other people might want to join them.

    These other people could include children of Eastern Europeans who grew up in Western countries, as most of them are Germanic - a point I have made many times. These children of Eastern Europeans are Ashkenazim. Let us not forget that. Germans sometimes ask me why I keep Minhag Ashkenaz if my immediate ancestors were not from Germany. The answer is, aside from my attraction to it, is that the ancestors of my ancestors were from Germany. They lived there likely for 100s of years more than they lived in the Ukraine. So the German traditions, which trace back to the times of Beis Shaini, are mine too.

    There's a lot of people in my category and they could help fill the German shuls. But the Germans just don't think of this. Their minds can be a little rigid and this idea doesn't seem to be making sense to them.

    Chabad grew so massively in part due to Russian personal warmth, which the Germans have, but also Russian aggressiveness and the ability of Russians to think out of the box. Chabad was looking for Jews. The Germans should do the same. One's großvater needn't be from Frankfurt. Any Jew will do as long as he sticks to the German traditions. And if he is an Ashkenazi Jew, then the German traditions are his traditions.

    Modern Orthodox communities are the best at embarking on new member campaigns. They take out ads. They organize fairs. They are ready to host for Shabbos but in such a way as to give you a feeling for the community. They give a tour. They say please join us and look disappointed if you don't.

    The German communities just don't do this. Perhaps their flaw comes from their strength. They look backward, they look to their history. MO communities do the opposite. They look forward but not so much backward, relatively speaking, which is arguably their flaw as practitioners of a tradition based religion. I know many people who would be more comfortable in a German Orthodox community who move to Modern ones, in part, because the Modern ones seek them out and make them feel wanted.

    The German communities need to do this if they are to survive. Will they? I withhold my prediction.

    Sunday, July 3, 2016

    Yiddish in Germany

    So all this time I had thought Yiddish was an Eastern European language, based on German. Turns out Yiddish was developed in Central Europe, especially Germany. This makes sense of course. Children learn the language of their host country. I know children of Olim that speak poor English. When Jews went to Russia, they wouldn't develop Yiddish, a Germanic language just because they might have spoken German. They would have learned Russian. So what happened is that when Jews came to Germany or let's call it the Rhine Valley, they learned German and turned it into Yiddish. When they went to Russia, they went with an intact language that actually changed a bit into Eastern Yiddish. In Germany they spoke Western Yiddish.

    After the emancipation most of the Jews of Germany switched to German much as children of Russia immigrants in America switched from Yiddish to English.

    Everywhere Jews went they put a Jewish spin on the host language. So we have records of Judeo-Latin and Judeo-Romance languages. We see one of the words in the Yiddish 'bentch.' This is not from German where the verb 'to bentch' is zu segnen. The word comes from the Latin ut benedicam.

    One sees the various influences on Yiddish in the following simple sentence:

    קומען קינדער בענטשן און עסן די כריין

    Come children, make a blessing and eat the horseradish.

    Come is Hebrew, kinder is German, bless is Latin, and is German, eat is German, the is German, and horseradish (chrayn) is Ukrainian/Slavic.

    Saturday, July 2, 2016

    Book: Coming Up to Yerushalyaim with Chana Pappenheim

    I was handed this Shabbos a fascinating book that you might never have heard of. It's a story of a German Jewish family that came to Meah Sharim in and became part of the community there. They were close followers of Rav Hirsch, and even though the Edah Cheridis community in Jerusalem did not practice Torah Im Derech Eretz, Rav Hirsch's general teachings on life, it's purpose, self-discipline, dignity, faith, and Zionism (being anti) fit terrifically with their new lifestyle. Certain changes had to be made in their switch from Germany to Jerusalem (and I can relate to them personally) and that's an interesting story in itself. There are many loving, respectful references to Rav Hirsch in this moving book.