Thursday, November 22, 2018


Torah im Derech Eretz requires self-discipline and its no surprise that it developed in Germany as Germans are known for their self-discipline. With TIDE we can get the best of secular materials as long as we are very discerning and leave out the problematic stuff.

With Torah u'Maddah, the philosophy is once we go with the secular, we study it all. We don't differentiate. 

Hirsch and TIDE have been honored by gadolim for a century and a half. And results go along with it. Hirsch was enormously successful at keeping people in the fold and attracting people. TUM  has successes. There are people who can handle it. But arguably the masses cannot. It has resulted in  departure from the fold plus traife offshoots like Open Orthodoxy.

Some authors are known for their decadence. D.H. Lawrence is famous for writing novels that lowered moral standards. We are not talking only about his private life here but the essence of his novels. One of his most famous novels is called "Sons and Lovers." Another is called "Lady Chatterley's Lover." There is no excuse for putting Lawrence in a collection that alleges to hold a higher moral standard.

Isaac Asimov was famous for his atheism. Moreover, his parents were Torah observant. He wrote, "I am an atheist, out and out....Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time." To give children an attachment to an atheistic Jew who left religion is very problematic.

Yet, one sees these authors in books by at least one frum publisher of children's collections. At Stern College of Yeshiva University, they study Lawrence:

3351 Modernism 3 credits
Modernist texts in English focusing on fiction and poetry from 1900-1930. An introduction to the intellectual and technological backgrounds of modernism and their relationship to modernist themes in the visual arts. Writers may include Conrad, Stein, Joyce, Lawrence, Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hurston.
3733 The Development of the British Novel III 3 creditsTreats twentieth-¬century experiments in fiction. Authors may include Conrad, Joyce, Lawrence, Woolf, Lessing, Byatt, Coetzee, and Rushdie.

The frum publisher features Lawrence:

And reads Asimov:

Now the material included in the books is neither illicit nor atheist. So to a large extent this comes down to a disagreement as to whether it is appropriate to include acceptable material from authors who are otherwise unacceptable. There are some people to whom all goyim are the same and as long as the material itself is acceptable it doesn't matter what else the author has done in his writing or life because really they are all traife. But I think that we  can make more precise distinctions. Some authors are far worse than others and kids develop an attachment to writers.

There are plenty of authors who don't have these glaring problems, particularly if you stick to the 19th century and earlier. Dickens, Stevenson, Hawthorne, Irving, Twain. But even if you go with the 20th you have John Steinbeck who was married 3x but his novels strive for morality. Pearl S. Buck, Arthur Conan Doyle, E.B. White, Joseph Conrad, Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, James Joyce. You have plenty of people to choose from who are less problematic than Lawrence and Asimov.

The further back you go, the better it gets. 17th century is better than 18th which is better than 19th which is far better than the 20th. As for the 21st, stay away entirely.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Gaza and Cholera

Some blame the rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel's blockade. However, rocket attacks preceded the blockade. Thousands of rockets and mortars were launched from Gaza prior to the blockade. Israel imposed the blockade in 2006 -7 after the Palestinians elected Hamas, which vows to take over Palestine for Islam and refuses to renounce violence. 


However justified the blockade might be, it seems to be contributing to an enormous humanitarian crisis. 98% of the drinking water in Gaza is polluted in part due to the focus of Hamas on terror, the effects of Israeli bombing on the sewer infrastructure, the availability of a single overburdened aquifer, and the dearth of materials to rebuild the infrastructure.

Gaza borders Israel and sits 70 km from its population centers. According to a recent article in Organic Lifestyle, "Cholera spreads easily through contaminated water and food and kills very quickly; it often proves fatal within hours of the first symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea." So if they get cholera, we may get it, Heaven forbid. 

What to do? I don't know, but we need to know that pummeling and squeezing Gaza is not necessarily the answer. Tough guy tactics are the preferred method in Israel but they really might not be the best course of action. 

Professor Haim Gvirtzman of Hebrew University argues that the Palestinians have the means of correcting the water crisis in Gaza and the West Bank but refuse to employ it. For example, he says that 40 sites were identified for drilling in the Hebron Hills region and despite being offered funding by the international community, Palestinians have only drilled at one-third of them over the last twenty years. He says they refuse to build water treatment plans despite available funding and lose one third of their water through leaky pipes that they fail to fix. He lists numerous other reasons as well. However, most of the concerns the West Bank. He says Gaza could build a desalination plant but refuses. His write-up from the Begin Center is here. So according to his view, it could be that the blockade isn't really the cause even of the water problems. 

It's all quite difficult to unravel when analyzed politically. So we look to the gadolim:

R’ Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe (1860-1920)

Should–Heaven forbid–the Zionists succeed in obtaining a country as they hope, they will defile and desecrate it with their abominations and their evil deeds and thus prolong–Heaven forbid–the length of the Exile.
Brethren, consider the matter well. Does the Lord delight in these matters and will the salvation of Israel be brought about by their hands? No. We will not accept it under any circumstances.
Even the benefit to be derived from these men will we cast before them. Not in this benefit do we delight but in the good granted us by the Lord through the fulfilment of the Torah and the Commandments as it is written ‘If you walk in My statues … then I will give your rains in their time.’ In this do we delight and for this is our hope.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Shin Bet Commander with a Heart

Some Torah Im Derech Eretz in action in Israel:

How to prevent Jewish and Arab terror, from a Shin Bet commander who fought both - Times of Israel

Avi Arieli plays soccer with Palestinian youth to develop a relationship with them and prevent terrorism through education:

“After playing for a bit, we naturally get to talking. I hear about their struggles, and in between, I’m able to caution them against offenses such as stone throwing.”

On developing informants: “it can only be done through persuasion, not by threats or force.”

“If I threaten a prospective informant, I know that from that very moment he’s already planning how to betray me.”

Arieli ran the "non-Arab terror division" aka Jewish terror. He says the Hilltop youth are mostly kids from broken homes. "“They speak about ideology, but the passion that’s driving them is coming from other places — from broken homes and from being tossed out of school.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Use Your Time Well

Life is short. Look at all these great composers who lived a short time on this earth relatively speaking. Still they accomplished much musically. Fortunately, they didn't push off their goals for another day. The primary goals for Jews should be yiras shamayim, Torah, and mitzvos, not to be pushed off for another day.

Beethoven, 56
Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Tchaikovsky, 53

Schumann, 45

Mussorgsky, 41

Chopin, 39

Mendelssohn, 38

Gershwin, 38
George Gershwin 1937.jpg

Bizet, age 37

Mozart, 35

Schubert, 31

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rav Avigdor Miller on Why Are there so few torah Jews

 If being a Torah Jew is so enjoyable, why are there so few Torah Jews?

Let me ask you something, a parallel question. You know, it's enjoyable to have good health. And it's possible to have good health. So why are so few people availing themselves of opportunity to having good health? You know, if every day you would take a brisk forty-five minute walk, and if you would eat your meals on time every time, and go to sleep on time every day, you would be a healthy and happy person. You should drink a glass of water every morning before davening, and be careful to avoid sugar and sweets; don't overeat! 

You know, it's possible to live a happy life! So why are there so many lunatics? You see them coming out of the cake stores, bakeries, carrying big paper boxes full of cakes. It's poison. Pastries with icing. Why are there a world full of so many lunatics?You can see the evidence on every block. Liquor stores everywhere. A liquor store is a sign that there are crazy people in the world. You need liquor like you need a hole in your shoe. So why are there so many liquor stores?

And the answer is that the world is throwing away opportunities for living happy lives. If they would smash the television and they would go out every day in the fresh air, around the block a few times, it would give them a different kind of a hold on life. Their eyes would sparkle, their cheeks would be red. They'd go to sleep early and get up early. They'd be living a life of happiness.

The truth is, happiness is available. I didn’t outline it yet. I'd be happy to speak about it more some other time. But there's a great deal of joy in this world that the vast majority of mankind hasn’t even begun to tap! There's so much happiness; enjoying the weather, enjoying the zest of the wind, enjoying the slap of the rain on your face. Enjoying the sunshine, taking a pleasure in the winter and the summer. There's so much fun in the seasons! If you learn how to taste each season you’ll find that each season has its own savor. And you’ll look forward to the zest of winter. You look forward to the delicious quality of summer. You look forward to spring and to autumn. There should be a song in your mind for every month. Every month is its own song! There’s a song, "Achta liba august"- a German song. Achta liba august; ah, the lovely August. But you could sing the same about every month. There’s a song, "There's Nothing Like a Day in September." There's a song like that. There's another song, "October." If you learn all these songs, you'll be singing your own songs, "How beautiful is January," and "How wonderful is February." We have to learn how to enjoy life. You know that it’s a big chochma to learn how to enjoy life.

Now there are a lot of frummeh who don't have any sense. And they say, "Enjoying life? This world you want to enjoy? No!" And so, these frum fools are missing out on life. There's so much to get out of this world. You know how much fun it is just to have your two feet and your two arms and your two eyes and your two kidneys? It's so much fun! If you don't believe me, ask a man in a wheelchair, sitting with a blanket over his knees. If you pick up the blanket, you'll see there's nothing underneath. He doesn't have any feet. Suppose he could have one foot. Just one foot! Now he could hop around on crutches. He'd be a millionaire! And you have two of them?! So you’re a multimillionaire! There's so much happiness in life, you can go meshugah from happiness!

So you're asking me a kasha, if Torah Judaism is so much fun, why are there so few Torah Jews? So I ask you, why are there so many lunatics who are ruining their health, ruining their teeth, ruining their stomachs, ruining their hearts! You know people are eating their hearts out by fighting all the time, and worrying! Recrimination in the house! Eating themselves up! There are a thousand and one things that people are causing themselves. Diabetes is usually caused by people fighting, by quarreling. Heart attacks are the result of excitation. People are excited and quarreling. How many family tragedies take place over the biggest narishkeiten?!

"Your mother said this," and "His mother said this," and there's a whole tragedy! I hear it every day. And people die of that. Here’s a woman who had cancer and died young because she had a bad husband. A wicked husband. He killed her! He murdered her with his wickedness. Here’s a man who had a heart attack because his wife always egged him on until he lost his temper. And finally in the midst of a burst of temper he fell dead. People die from emotions. If people would train themselves to live quietly, not to take anything seriously, to laugh it off, and instead to learn the science of being a שמח בחלקו, then their lives would be different.

So you asked me a question, why are there so many people who don't understand the joy of being a frum Jew? The joy of sitting shabbos around the table with your family singing zemiros! You know what a geshmak that is? You're sitting with your sons and leading them in zemiros. You have to have children of course. If you don’t have any children, then it’s just an empty table. If you want to practice ZPG (Zero Population Growth) by not having any children, so what can you expect in an an empty house already? But here's a man with ten children. And they're all singing, it's a choir. Ah, a pleasure, a taanug. It's oilem hazeh, it's gan eden on this world. Of course, the housewife is putting all of her talents into making delicious viands for Shabbos, and that makes the Shabbos so delicious! And everybody is smacking their lips and diving into it; they're enjoying it. They’re enjoying the shabbos. And everybody takes a nap. Instead of sitting behind the steering wheel and smelling the man in front of you, his gas fumes coming out of his [inaudible], you're sitting around your table with your children. And then you go to sleep; it’s quiet and peaceful. Then you get up, and everybody is learning, going to shul, you're family is together. The happiness of a true Orthodox life! Why are there so few people who don't have sense to live a normal life? Go ask them. 
TAPE # 403

Monday, November 12, 2018

Efraim Karsh vs. the New Historians

The New Historians are a group of Israeli historians that emerged in the 1980s and worked largely from newly released archival documentation on the 1947-8 wars. As a group they debunked many of our self-serving notions of "purity of arms" and how holy and perfect the Zionist militias were at that time. This is not to say that they necessarily put forth the opposite view. For example, Benny Morris noted famously that the Zionist militias did engage in massacres and even rapes but the numbers aren't off the charts. They don't compare to Bosnia or Stalingrad or anything remotely on that scale. For Jews, it's pretty bad and unacceptable and greatly damages the notion that the founding of the state represented any kind of national redemption. But on the other hand, it doesn't put the state's crimes on the level of the worst on earth. And he points out as well that little of it was premeditated. Most emerged in the heat of battle in a war that he believes the local Arabs started. I think it's a bit complicated as the Zionist terrorist groups were doing an incredible amount of provocation. But that's a long discussion.

Some of the other new historians like Elan Pappe speak much more harshly about the Zionist political enterprise, that it's nothing other than colonialism. In my view, Benny Morris is the most objective and fact based of the group.

Anyway, comes along Efraim Karsh. He has worked in the period of the opened archives (note 90 plus percent of archives are still closed). Yet, he is very critical of the new historians. He argues that many distort the records to paint Israel as nothing other than an oppressor. He also is worth reading and listening to. What I like about Karsh is that he speaks calmly, rationally, and factually when defending Israel vis a vis the Arabs. He is not hysterical, shaming, or doctrinaire. Here are some interviews of him, Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, and Ilan Pappe.

How have 'New Historians' distorted the Israel-Palestinian conflict? - Historian Efraim Karsh

Benny Morris ─ The Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949

Avi Shlaim: Britain and Palestine: From Balfour to May

On 1948 | Ilan Pappe | Part I | *NEW* 2018 interview

Who is right? So hard to know. But it's better to not know in an informed way than an ignorant one. And more knowledge tends to lead us to the state of knowing that we don't know, which is the proper place to be in many cases in life.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Confessions of an Israeli Soldier

"And somehow it was the most normal thing. Because in Gaza, everything was permitted. As one of the commanders of the Girit outpost that sat on the neck of Rafah, I was involved in dozens (yes, dozens) of incidents in which all the positions in the outposts fired simultaneously at the houses in Rafah, using any weapon possible. In 98 percent of the cases, the shooting began because someone imagined that they saw something, and the rest was just part of the fun. To our credit, I must say we weren’t discriminating. As we fired in all directions, we were also firing at our own troops in the neighboring outpost, at the Israelis of Rafiah Yam and at anything in-between."

"In such a situation, there are no rules and no one holding you to account. As an engineering unit without too many resources, we were often given new, unfamiliar weapons. And the best way to test their efficacy was to aim them at the homes of Rafah. Thus, we conducted tests with light bombs that fell in the middle of the city. It’s how we tested an automatic grenade launcher that fired grenades in bursts, indirectly firing into Rafah. At whom or at what, we had no idea. Everything was allowed. That’s how we behaved in the most moral army in the world."

Keep reading: What Really Happens in the World's Most Moral Army  by Eyal Harel


"Alas, to what cruel slander has Judaism, the heritage of the Abrahamites, along with its bearers, the Jews, been subjected through the ages! The "circumcised race" has been accused of regarding itself as the sole chosen people of God. We are told that the sign [of the covenant] which sets the Jews apart from all the others must of necessity rob them of all cosmopolitanism, of all thought and feeling for their fellow men, turning the God of heaven and earth, the God of all human souls, into the narrow, parochial deity of their own particular spot on earth, the national god of their own tribe."

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch on Bereshis 18:1, parshas Vayera