Thursday, September 29, 2016

40,000 Page Views

Fine, some blogs are in the millions. I'm thrilled to be at 40,000. Long live Torah Im Derech Eretz

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The American Yekkes

My article The American Yekkes has been published on the Seforim blog. In this article I make the case that America is largely a Germanic country and therefore Torah Im Derech Eretz will be appealing to many American Jews.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wisdom from the Gentiles: Gerald Celente

Maybe it's just me, but I have learned all sorts of good lessons from Italians. There's a down to earth quality and an ability to think while relaxed that can be very useful. Here's a good one:

"When you are in panic conditions, and you didn't see the panic coming, the decisions you are going to make will probably be the wrong ones."

Gerald Celente

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Is English Really a Germanic Language?

Is English Really a Germanic Language?

by Langfocus

He argues that English is considered a Germanic language because of its syntax but that it actually has more Romance language words, around 50% of the language, compared to Germanic words, around 25%.

But he points out that common usage tends towards German. Example of an all Germanic sentence of the kind used in daily life.

And he points out that many of the Romance words came into English due to the political prestige of France and to science, which used Latin words. An example of the former is embassy and of the latter is hypothermia. Hypo is Latin, Thermia is Greek, and ia is likely Greek via Latin.

This slide shows a sentence that is half English half Romance. A sentence taken from a newspaper that is more likely to use French words due to the topic.

So what I would continue to argue is that the English are largely a Germanic people but that after the Norman conquest were heavily influenced in their leadership by Romance Europe. Remember that most people have a limited vocabulary and never touch the myriad of scientific, political, or even culinary terms that the elite in their society may use. So the people are still Germanic. The leadership is mixed.

Here's an interesting list from the video that gives you a sense of how Germanic words dominate in certain cases and French in others:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Shiurim of Rav Schwab on the New KAJ WH Website

The first time I met R’ Schwab was in Connecticut at his son-in-law’s summer kiruv program. I was newly religious and 25 years old. It was Shabbos and I was invited to the head table where R’ Schwab sat to my left. I had no clue who he was. When I sat down, he turned to me and greeted me. I don’t even recall what he said, if it was simply gut Shabbos, a term I might not have recognized at the time, or something else. People say hello for all kinds of reasons, sometimes to be friendly, sometimes because it’s customary, sometimes to sell you something. And very often they don’t greet you at all or they do it half-hearted. This greeting seemed to come with complete focus, with complete sincerity, to come as if because I were an important person, as if he could not possibly not greet me because after all I was so important.  Here I was a kid really. And there he was a distinguished old man, likely a rabbi, but I had a significance to him. I remember feeling so utterly respected. He had turned his body, in a wheelchair, to face me and his greeting was accompanied by a nod. I have never forgotten it. It fills me with a feeling of my own b’ztelem elokim to this day. During the meal we chatted a bit and I asked him a few questions and shared a few of my thoughts and he was so utterly focused on me as he talked to me and so appreciative of my words.

Shiurim on Melachim II

Friday, September 23, 2016

P. I. Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 - Itzhak Perlman

P. I. Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 - Itzhak Perlman

Am I fickle? When I listen to Beethoven, he becomes my favorite. When I listen to Tchaikovsky, he becomes my favorite. Same with Mozart. I guess this speaks to the otherworldly beauty and power of all three.

This version by I. Perlman is incredible even as it appears effortless.

Tchaikovsky - a Russian who composed often in the German style, yet certainly Russian. This piece always reminds me of my grandfather Yaakov, who was from the Podalia region of the Ukraine. I lost him when I was 12. I miss him. He was such a gentleman. Wore a bow tie every day. So many questions I have for him now.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

500th Post - Serenity, gladness, and joy

"It is not in sorrow and sadness, not in self-castigation and torture that Judaism reaches its highest level; its holiest goal is serenity, gladness, and joy."  R' Hirsch, Judaism Eternal, Vol. I, "Shebat," p. 39.

On every posting milestone, I provide a quote from R' Hirsch for he is the giant that gave us this holy derech of Torah Im Derech Eretz. Yes, of course, he relied on a mesorah, relied on his rebbes R' Yaakov Ettlinger and Chacham Bernays, as Rav Schwab beautifully described. But he sculpted it all for the modern era. To him we owe endless gratitude.

I'd like to add that I'm very proud of this blog. It's not because I do anything particularly skillful. I know fully well that my posts are very simple, mostly they consist of links to other sources of information, quotes from Rav Hirsch, etc. There are blogs out there that are just brilliant. Seforim blog, On the Main Line, Torah Musings. Alan Brill's blog is impressive. Then there are secular blogs like David Stockman's Contra Corner. Amazing stuff. I don't do anything resembling that.

But we do provide a lot of information on Rav Hirsch and Torah Im Derech Eretz here and feel that we make a contribution along with the KAJ WH and Jers. sites, the Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz, Treasures of Ashkenaz, Dr. Levine's site, and a few others. And I'm very proud that we are doing that, even if in my amateurish way. I know that my life isn't a life without this derech. It's my connection to God. And I hope that I have been able to help some others establish or maintain a better connection to the derech as well.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Only in mourning, in wishing and hoping - RSR Hirsch: Horeb

Excerpt from paragraph 608:

It obliges us, further, to allow our longing for the far-offland to express itself only in mourning, in wishing and hoping; and only through the honest fulfilment of all Jewish duties to await the realization of this hope. But it forbids us to strive for the reunion or the possession of the land by any but spiritual means.'

Paragraph 608 in full:

When Israel was still united in a common land they did not call themselves Am, one people, for the reason that one common soil bore them all. For, alone among all the peoples of the earth, the possession of the land and the ensuing organization of the State was for Israel not an end but a means to the better fulfilment of their Jewish duties. The Torah did not exist for the State, but the State for the Torah. And only the Torah, the idea of being joint bearers of a spiritual calling, fused the individuals into an association of human beings whose inner cohesiveness is reflected in the term (literally, society) and whose character in the wider sense as a nation is designated by the term גוי that is to say, a corporate body or a people.

And even later on, far away from her land, when Israel sees her visible bonds of nationhood broken, the dispersed Jews call themselves Am, one nation, not in remembrance of a land once jointly possessed, not looking towards the future when God, as His words through the prophets teach us, will once more have united them, but in the consciousness of being, in the present as in the past, bearers of an eternal idea, an eternal mission, and of a God-given destiny which, in Israel, overshadowed, and still overshadows, the existence of the State, and which therefore has survived the State's downfall. We mourn over the sin which brought about that downfall, we take to heart the harshness which we have encountered in our years of wandering as the chastisement of a father imposed on us for our improvement, and we mourn the lack of observance of the Torah which that ruin has brought about. Not in order to shine as a nation among nations do we raise our prayers and hopes for a reunion in our land, but in order to find a soil for the better fulfilment of our spiritual vocation in that reunion and in the land which was promised, and given, and again promised for our observance of the Torah. But this very vocation obliges us, until God shall call us back to the Holy Land, to live and to work as patriots wherever He has placed us, to collect all the physical, material and spiritual forces and all that is noble in Israel to further the weal of the nations which have given us shelter. It obliges us, further, to allow our longing for the far-offland to express itself only in mourning, in wishing and hoping; and only through the honest fulfilment of all Jewish duties to await the realization of this hope. But it forbids us to strive for the reunion or the possession of the land by any but spiritual means.' Our Sages say God imposed three vows when He sent Israel into the wilderness: (I) that the children ofIsrael shall never seek to re-establish their nation by themselves; (2) that they shall never be disloyal to the, nations which have given them shelter; (3) that these nations shall not oppress them excessively (Kethuboth, III, I). The fulfilment of the first two vows is confirmed in the pages of history; about the third, the nations concerned must judge themselves.

R' SR Hirsch, Horeb 608

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Nice piece of wisdom, not necessarily about TIDE, except that Torah Im Derech Eretz involves getting out into the world and taking advantage of opportunities is a big piece of that.

"When opportunity knocks, answer – you may not get a second chance. Or to quote the language of our Sages “a closed door does not easily [re]open.” (Bava Kamma 80b) One must always be ready to immediately take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. My father z”l would often say that Mazal, can be read as an acronym for makom, place, zman, time and laasot, doing. Being in the right place at the right time is not enough, one must then “do” to have mazal. While there is a time for “due diligence” there are times when such must and should be dispensed with. The key to success is knowing the proper time for each."

Jay Kelman

Thursday, September 15, 2016

G-d and G-d alone

“When, during the reign of Hadrian, the uprising led by Bar Kochba proved a disastrous error, it became essential that the Jewish people be reminded for all times of another important fact; namely, that Israel must never again attempt to restore its national independence by its own power; it was to entrust its future as a nation solely to Divine Providence. Therefore when the nation, crushed by this new blow, had recovered its breath and hailed even the permission to give a decent burial to the hundreds of thousands who had fallen about Betar as the dawn of a better day, the sages who met at Yavneh added yet another blessing to the prayer for the restoration of Jerusalem. This fourth blessing is an acknowledgement that it has always been G-d and G-d alone Who has given us, and still gives us to this very day, that good in which we have had cause to rejoice; and that for future good, too, we may look to none other but G-d, and none besides Him." (R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, Commentary to the Prayer Book, p. 703)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Title page of Nachalas Tzvi

Title page of Nachalas Tzvi, the journal where Rav Hirsch's article "The Educational Value of Judaism" (CW, Vol. VII) was originally published. (Source: Seforim blog)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Linked Hamodia Article on Rabbi Joseph Elias, z”l

By Mrs. Suri Cohen

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Even a child could sense that indefinable quality that set Rabbi Joseph Elias apart.

"I was that child. Growing up in a family that attended the weekly Minyan that met in Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky’s, zt”l, basement on Saddle River Road in Monsey, I would watch him exit the shul after davening, his regal bearing bespeaking a dignity and formality that seemed to echo centuries of chinuch and tradition."

continue reading Rabbi Joseph Elias, z”l

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Concerning Rav Hirsch and his treatment of the theory of evolution

My post on the Seforim blog concerning Rav Hirsch and his treatment of  the theory of evolution as it was misrepresented, in my view, in a recent article.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pavarotti Moscow 1964

Pavarotti Moscow 1964

The Maestro in his prime. Didn't even have a beard. Can you imagine that voice in its prime. A gift from heaven.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Benno Weis

"Benno Weis was born in Frankfurt in 1910, where he learned the nusach just by listening to the chazzon Benno Peisachowitz. Mr. Weis was a baal korah and baal tefila in the Breuer shul in Washington Heights for over 50 years. And had the foresight to record these niggunim for the next generation. He taught approx 275 boys in the fine art of kerias hatorah, and many people consulted him on Frankfurter minhogim." Bio from daughter


Monday, September 5, 2016

The Hirsch Chumash: An Appreciation of the Wisdom and Timelessness of His Classic Commentary R' Y. Frand

The Hirsch Chumash: An Appreciation of the Wisdom and Timelessness of His Classic Commentary R' Y. Frand, Audio

If I recall correctly, he makes a little statement here about how we respect Rav Hirsch but his derech is not ours. I find this comment interesting since Baltimore is a Yeshiva where boys get college degrees - or used to when R' Ruderman and R' Weinberg were there - and go out to work after a few years of learning, and derech eretz is important there too, and they are part of the beis yaakov system which was inspired by R' Hirsch. So what does he mean that his derech is not ours?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Film Taken During Rav Hirsch's Lifetime

Earliest surviving film and sound recording 1888

No not film of him but people during his lifetime and that to me is pretty special. Life when he was alive. Filmed.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Louis Lewandowski German composer of synagogal music.


"Louis Lewandowski (April 23, 1821 – February 4, 1894) was a German composer of synagogal music.

Louis Lewandowski
He contributed greatly to the liturgy of the Synagogue Service. His most famous works were composed during his tenure as musical director at the Neue Synagoge in Berlin and his melodies form a substantial part of synagogue services around the world today." Read more

Sung by Chazan Michael Friedman
Lecho Hashem haGeduloh
Bircas haChodesh: Mi sheOsoh Nissim

Friday, September 2, 2016

I took a second view of Torah im Derech Eretz - Rav Shimon Schwab

When I was twenty-five years old and a Rav in Ichenhausen, I wrote a controversial book called Heimkehr ins Judentum (Homecoming into Judaism). The year was 1934. This was the time when Hitler, yimach shemo, was in power, and we all witnessed the end of the short historical era of emancipation of Germany's Jews. We saw the return to the ghetto, the return to the Middle Ages. We saw the abdication of the German humanistic Bildungs ideal, on which we had been brought up. All that had a traumatic affect on me as well as on many others. So I decided to say goodnight to the German Kultur, and to bid farewell to my Torah im Derech Eretz heritage with which I was brought up. Instead, I opted in favor of a Torah-only return by the masses to the beis hamidrash of old, back to a very simple and frugal existence in which one seeks total happiness by immersing oneself in limud Hatorah, as our forefathers did in the Middle Ages. Thus we would find inner peace and emotional safety.

As to Rav Hirsch's ideal of Torah im Derech Eretz, I was of the opinion that this had been merely a הוראת שעה. It was a time-bound halachic compromise which was highly successful during the nineteenth century in saving the remnants of European Jewry from total oblivion in the flood of heresy which had by then inundated Western Europe. So about fifty-five years ago I wrote as follows and I quote myself: ''It came to pass in the days of Ahab, King of Israel. Our people were assembled upon Mount Carmel. The only one to stand firm in the midst of public confusion was Eliyahu Hanavi. He knows that in order to demonstrate the existence of the one true G-d, he must use the same methods which the idolaters employed. Like them, he, too, must now erect an altar, but this time it is an altar in honor of Hashem. However, the Torah forbids the offering of sacrifices outside the Beis Hamikdash. But when he sees an entire people
waiting in suspense, hearts hammering in breathless anticipation for a divine sign from heaven. Eliyahu Hanavi knows what he must do: namely, to decide on a הוראת שעה a halachic emergency ruling (to which a Navi is entitled) and to build a bamah on Mount Carmel. He brings a sacrifice, which is consumed by afire from Heaven. And so he succeeds in drawing from the lips of his estranged brethren the proclamation of a national homecoming to G-d: Hashem Hu Elokim; Hashem Hu Elokim!"

I continue to quote: "Let us recall for a moment the unfortunate era that followed Moses Mendelssohn. Western European culture had caught Jewish consciousness off'balance. The hunger for modern studies, for 'good form,' for the right to play a part in the concert of Europe, intensified beyond endurance. The unscrupulous priestcraft of Reform set up Jewish souls for total assimilation. Tens of thousands openly deserted. And so the eyes of all those who were troubled by these developments scanned the Jewish horizon for one ray of hope, for someone who would rescue Western European Jewry from the spiritual affiiction that was threatening its very survival.

"And then he appeared: the gifted teacher, the inspired educator, the fighter, the victor who alone was able to make the great thrust. With indomitable courage, he reconquered position after position and stemmed the devastating tide of perfidy. He became a guide through a labyrinth of conflicting and confusing paths. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch was the historical hero of that period because he was able to find that redeeming, militant device which could stop assimilation short. This saintly fighter, filled with the zeal of Pinchas, emulated the dauntless daring of Eliyahu, he, too, promulgated an emergency ruling in the hour of his nation's agony.

“The device of Torah im Derech Eretz became essential to Israel's survival. However, it was not meant to be anything more than a temporary arrangement, not an ideal state of affairs. The synthesis between Torah and culture could be obtained only as long as the overwhelming impact of a seemingly impressive culture remained unbroken, keeping alive the illusion that the Torah was outmoded. It was not Rav Hirsch who wedded culture with Jewishness; he only found himself faced with a situation that had long been afait accompli. What he did was to respond to the challenge by choosing the only possible path, to make a virtue of a necessity in order to preserve the claim of the Torah.”

''Imbued with love of mankind as he was, he looked at all the accomplishments of culture in his day as the radiant harbingers of the footsteps of Mashiach. He was confident that the people of Europe, 'civilized men,' if you will, reared by Schiller and Goethe, by Leibnitz, Wolff and Schleiermacher, by Kant, Fichte and Hegel, would produce an ethical harvest that would eventually accord with the Will of Hashem and could be integrated into the solid spiritual structure of Torah ideology. I still remember a German poem that was required reading in all classes-Edel sei der Mensch, hilfreich undgut. Let man be noble, helping and good.' Surely this device could be seen as a threshold to the sanctuary of Torah, and sufficient tojustify Rav Hirsch's hora'as sha'ah. But who could have foreseen that Man, in the course of his intellectual, artistic, social and economic progress, would turn into a creature that was anything but noble, helping and good?

"Rav Hirsch could not have anticipated the disillusionment of the generation of the World War [I]. There was nothing written in the indicate that civilized mankind, reared on the classics and the works of the philosophers, would eventually march into the battlefields of the World War, to kill each other off to the tune of twelve million victims. Not even Rav Hirsch's brilliant vision could have foreseen that.

"Reconcile Torah and European culture? It sounds very nice, except that European culture today is dominated by intellectual and political elements whose ideology could never subordinate itself to the discipline ofthe Torah. Not in his wildest dreams could Rav Hirsch have envisioned the frightening spectacle of the Jewish people the world over, cheated of its newly-awakened hopes, standing in shock before the remnants of a collapsing culture and subsequently embracing a new chauvinism of its own as a final quest for salvation." End of quotation.

This was 1934. At the time the satanic forces unleashed by "Der Yolk der Dichter und Denker" (the nation ofthe poets and thinkers), proclaimed loudly the total bankruptcy of Western "Kultur," "Bildung," "Humanism" or what-have-you. The Nazi deviltry had only one meaning for the survivors:
 לך עמי בא בחדריך וסגר  דלתיך בעדך חבי כמעט רגע עד  יעבר  זעם
Go, my people, come into your chambers, close your doors behind you, withdraw for a while until the storm is over" (Yeshayahu 26). Our slogan, therefore, could then only be "Back to the historic ghetto! Back to the Torah-only exist-ence!" This is what I wrote and published in Hitler's Germany with all my power of conviction. The derech eretz which we
had known and befriended was dead forever.

However, after having been rescued by the miracles and the חסדים of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, I woke up here in America only to realize that the historic intellectual ghetto, to which I longed to return, had gone up in flames as well. How could I have visualized that my galus path through the "desert of nations" would lead me into the very stronghold of another Western civilization, this time the American style? Little did I know that the same kind of spiritual European galus would come back again, and only more so.

So about thirty years ago, I took a second view of Torah im Derech Eretz by first studying in depth the writings of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch zatzal. Soon I found out that my notion of the Hirschian philosophy as a mere hora/as sha'ah was totally wrong. He did not consider his leitmotif as time-bound. It was not a compromise, it was not a heter, it was not a kulah, it was not meant to be בדיעבד but לכתחילה.True, he did not say to the Gedolei Yisrael of Eastern Europe, '''קבלו דעתי -- Accept my opinion." He realized they would not accept his Weltanschauung. They followed מסורות אבותיחם the traditions of their teachers. But Rav Hirsch also had behind him a solid mesorah from gedolim who showed him the way. From the time of Chazal through the period of the Geonim; the Rambam; the Chachmei Sepharad through the Talmidei Hagra all the way down to his own Rebbe, the Oruch. L'ner and his disciples. Rav Hirsch had his mesorah. (R' Shimon Schwab, Selected Speeches, p. 243).