Our Parshat HaShevua Ki Teitzei is dedicated for good health and continued development of Yiska bat Shoshana Batya.
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As this Parshat HaShevua begins to be compiled, this piece appeared in Israel’s news: New Reform Liturgy to Expunge Traditional ‘Aleinu’ Prayer The headline speaks tons, such that one need not waste time reading past the first line:
The Israeli Reform movement has decided to expunge a prayer recited by Jews for thousands of years due to concerns that it is offensive to non-Jews.
Many of the regular readers of this blog know that this author has written extensive about the centrality to Judaism of the thrice-daily recited Aleinu tefillah at the conclusion of each davening. Many also will recall that this author gave over a Chabura: Aleinu L’Shabeiyach: “Our Duty” — Mission Statement or Afterthought? This author has also posited that the sefer, “The Power of Aleinu”, by Rabbi Asher Baruch Wegbreit should be in the home of every Observant Jew and on the library shelf of every Beit Knesset and Beit Medrash.
Nearing completion of his discussions relating to the “ben sorer u’moreh” — the disobedient and rebellious son, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin writes these compelling words in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” (Sefer Devarim, page 234) which seem to this author to extend far beyond the rebellious and unrepentent son’s projected downward spiral, to modern-day evolvements of B’nei Yisrael, on a national level:
So critical is the phenomenon of parent-child transmission to the survival of tradition [in Judaism] that Hashem will apply the concrete language of the law to the painting of a theoretical picture. In this way, theory will enter the realm of practicality as “what could be” becomes frighteningly real: Gaze upon the tragedy that can unfold if you are not careful. Parent your children; teach together with consistency; watch for warning signs; show extra care during the transition from childhood to adolescence; intervene before it’s too late; turn to others for help; do not let it come to this.
So, the questions might be asked; What does the Israeli reform movement’s expunging of Aleinu from their “prayer” texts have to do with the above citing from R’ Goldin? And what impact might this step by Israel’s “reform movement” have on Yiddishkeit, spirituality, chinuch (nurturing of children, religious outreach) on a national level?
Extending beyond the role of “parent-child transmission” in the “survival of tradition” about which R’ Goldin writes, this author views at least two, possibly three directions, perhaps there are even more, regarding “theory entering the realm of practicality,” i.e. foreseeable future reality — as R’ Goldin puts it, “what could happen… if you are not careful.”
The first direction seems from the bottom-up, as this author views history, that successive generations move further away from Torah ways or that rebellious youth, perhaps due to peer pressure, “go off the derech”, despite the best efforts by their parents in nurturing. Added, in this direction is exposure to a wide range of ideas and agendas, through various forms of media — not only via internet (computer, i-phone, i-pad, etc.)
However, this author does NOT favor banning internet and its devices and platforms or complete denial of access to national and international news and information. Such bans or complete denials, at least in this author’s view, can plant and feed the seeds leading to rebellion and going off the derech by numbers of youth. Often, in this author’s view, judicious exploitation by parents, i.e. reward and punishment, can serve as incentive, motivation for desired development of children. And access to news and information seems a guard against oppression.
Having written all of this, the author holds that parents’ best efforts in nurturing their offspring means consistence, diligence in learning while being careful and sensitive when teaching Torah and in answering a youngsters’ questions, and by parenting by example; in tefillah, in learning, in kindness and in derech eretz.
The second direction, as this author views it, seems to be from the top-down, i.e. the negative spiritual impact and influence of successive Israeli governances upon its populus.
When contemporary Israeli governance and its secular “justice system” invoke “separation of religion and state”, it seems a disguise for what their true goal seems; de-emphasis, or perhaps delegitimization of Yiddishkeit and spirituality, i.e., making what was meant by the contemporary founders to be the State of the Jews into the state of all of its people — devoid of spirituality. The fines levied in two recent cases (here and here) against Chabadnikim manning tefillin stands — the latter fine subsequently cancelled by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and the banning of Torah outreach in the IDF stand as proof of top-down influence of Israeli governance, the true goal of secular governance laid bare. A knowledgeable populus must be aware and on guard against such possible governmental tyranny.
Tanach provides repeated instances of both bottom-up and top-down cases of B’nei Yisrael doing “what was displeasing in Hashem’s eyes.” And in our generation in Eretz Yisrael, we see numerous examples of the “realm of practicality as ‘what could be’ becoming frighteningly real” — “Women of the Wall” with their desecrations of Sifrei Torah and tefillin and attempts to disrupt decorum at the Western Wall, same-genderism as the “new normal” in Israeli society, military protocols regarding confrontation with an enemy which stand in stark contrast to and contradiction of halacha, the possible spectre of civil marriage on the horizon. And lest we forget: thirteen years ago — the expulsion from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron — Jew physically and often violently expelling Jew from parts of Eretz Yisrael, not to mention the twice expelled Jews of Amona, repeated army/police destructions of Federman’s farm, repeated expulsions over the years of Jews from properties in Hevron owned by Jews based on false bogus court rulings contrary to halacha. One could go on and on.
The third direction seems to be from seemingly well intentioned, nascent political entities who seek changes to Israel’s governance based on true Jew[ish] nationalism (this author abhors the “ish” — Are we Jews or are we “like Jews”, i.e. would you eat in a “kosher-style” restaurant?). They support free access for Jews on Har HaBayit (The Temple Mount) and to the Ma’arat HaMachpela (Tomb of Patriarchs and Matriarchs) in Hevron, abolition of the “Oslo accords,” minimalist, libertarian governance, emphasis on history and Judaism in education and more. But yet, it seems to this author that their platform espousing “separation of religion and state” as applied to several central principles in halacha, perhaps inadvertently or unwittingly, reinforces the ongoing governing agenda of de-emphasis, or perhaps de-legitimization of Yiddishkeit and spirituality. As this author views it, this position in their platform seemingly contradicts their positions regarding the Kiddusha and possession of Eretz Yisrael.
R’Rafael Katzenellenbogen is cited in Studies in the Weekly Parsha on Parshat Balak, by Yehuda Nachshoni, referring to R’ Sonnenfeld who noted that Zimri’s distorted sense of “acting for the sake of Shemayim” evolved
“…a novel, misleading ideology, that evil must be tolerated by incorporating it into the Camp of Israel, to dissuade the lustful man from finding himself in the camp of idolaters.” (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni, Parsha Balak, page 1115.)
Zimri’s alleged “L’Shem Shemayim” model; bringing co-habitation with Moabite women into the camp of B’nei Yisrael lest men go looking for it outside, i.e., at the Midianite/Moabite Bazaar where the co-habitation was an enticement and seduction to the avodah zora Ba’al Pe’or, seemed a cover for his (Zimri’s) true motivations and intentions. Zimri’s “In your face, Moshe” demeanor appeared as motivated by lust for power, just as Korach’s true motivations were covered by rationale of accusation of nepotism against Moshe Rabbeinu and Aaron.
But perhaps we can’t entirely equate today’s attempts by Israel’s leftists or “deep state,” including the Israeli Reform movement, at incorporation of various alien practices into today’s “camp of B’nei Yisrael” with Zimri’s alleged “L’Shem Shemayim” model. R’ Katzenellenbogen’s understanding of Zimri’s actions of “incorporating toleration of evil within the Camp of Israel,” apparently for the sake of Shemayim, might have had some ostensibly outward well-meaning purpose of promoting a sense of unity among varying sectors of the Kehal.
But, the Israeli Reform movement’s decision to expunge Aleinu fits right in with what appears to be an ongoing government agenda which stands in direct confrontation with Torah principles. Do we see and are we alert to the warning signs?
Is it not high time for for us to fulfill Hashem’s intent of Israel, a state of the Jews, rather than a state of all its peoples? Only then will Israel win, Hashem Delivering Eretz Yisrael into our hands.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.