Lifnei Iver… Do I put a stumbling block before the blind?

10 bIyyar

I often wonder whether my participating in blogs, debates, and discussions, can lead to my putting a stumbling block before the blind- violating the prohibition we read here last week from Parashat Kedoshim warning “lifnei iver lo titein mikhshol” (Lev.19:14). Perhaps blogging is at the expense of study.

There were many insightful (and inciteful) comments on my posting about the Holocaust and Martyrs’ Rememebrance Day, and I learned much from them. I would like to restate my position. There are two avenues that lead most directly to the preservation of the Jewish people and constitute the true memorial for the Churban Europa. In my posting, and in my J Post article, I emphasized the first avenue:building large families. I did not emphasize the second avenue – Zil Gmor. Study. Rather than write, talk, and read ABOUT the Churban, it is more productive to engage in serious study. By study I mean traditional texts –Tanakh, Talmud, Jewish thought, and texts written during the Churban. Here are a few:
(a)Naomi Israel (in comment #14 to my post) mentioned Rabbi Kalonymus Shapira, the Admor of Piaseczno who wrote Esh Kodesh during the war. If you can’t read the Hebrew, then there is Nehemia Polen’s The Holy Fire:The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1994).
(b)Several works by Esther Farbstein are superb. Her tour-de-force is Be-Seter Ra’am (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook) a Hebrew compedium. It will iy”h be published in English next year. She has a chapter on Rabbi Shapira. Rabbanit Farbstein’s chapter citing “Halakhic Historical Observations on Marriage During the Holocaust” appears in English in The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Theology edited by Steven Katz (NYU Press) $30 via amazon. I have a copy in WORD of her essay in English which I can email anyone interested. Esther Farbstein published a book containing sermons in Hebrew given during the Churban by Rav Moshe Kahlenberg, titled Yedei Moshe. See the website of the Michlalah Jerusalem which hosts the website for Zachor – a valuable source for Churban material.

(c)Rabbi Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal, (died 1945/5705). His book has been translated twice into English: Rabbi Moshe Lichtman’s translation is called Eim Habanim Semeichah: On Eretz Yisrael, Redemption, and Unity (Kol Mevaser, 2000)
I came across the entire 500- page book translated by R.Lichtman in English on the internet .

Another translation is by Pesach Schindler, Em Habanim Semeha:Restoration of Zion as a Response During the Holocaust (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1999).

(d) Rabbi Ephraim Oshry’s books on Responsa from the Holocaust are invaluable. There is an English summary, but the original Hebrew is preferable.

These are a few primary and secondary sources. I would be happy to see other suggestions for study.

Blogging has its place, but I worry that it may detract from study. I wonder whether others have the problem that I have with the temptations of internet discussions.

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via

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8 Responses

  1. Ori Pomerantz says:

    I consider the kind of Internet discussion we have here and on to be a form of study. Sometimes reading references here sends me back to the original to try and see it in context.

    Serious Torah study is not always available. I’m at work right now. My boss would have a problem if I had brought a Gmarah and tried to read it for thirty minutes straight. But taking a five minute break for blogging, which relaxes me and lets me write better courses the rest of the time, is perfectly acceptable.

  2. Steve Brizel says:

    WADR, Ms. Schmidt’s post illustrates the good side of the net-as a source of Torah resources and discussions-which by their very nature are not one-sided restatements of discussions. I heartily reccomend Professor Farbstein’s work. Would Mrs. Schmidt be kind enough to email the essay by Professor Farbstein? If you are curious in a critique of Daas Torah during this time period, then you should also read R Lawrence Kaplan’s articles which I have quote from verbatim in our discussions on this issue as well.

  3. ak says:

    I know that I waste A LOT of time following this blog (and news from Israel), “religiously.
    Kol Tuv

  4. Drew Kaplan says:

    While blogging may detract from study, it’s most likely not “placing a stumbling-block before the blind” as it you who is taking away the time from yourself and not from others. And even if you’re worried about others from reading your posts, etc., there are plenty of other places, as well that people could be reading and commenting. Additionally, have you not learned, gained, or grown from any of the e-discussions in which you have taken part?

  5. Jewish Observer says:

    “Blogging has its place, but I worry that it may detract from study”

    Some reactions:

    – Is blogging not – or can it not be – study? Pencils can detract from study; unless you use them to support study.

    – why do you pick on study? What about other mitzvot; i.e. chesed, bikur cholim, levaya, tzedaka, family time, shalom bayit (probably the biggest victim of internet time investment) etc. etc.

    – why just blogging? what about other “kosher” distractions; chinese auctions, parlor meetings, lectures (even Torah lectures), meshulachim, calls by local Jewish officials to vote, etc. etc.

    The point is that decisions regarding one’s use of time are the responsibility of the individual. You can put stuff out there and let each individual decide what to do with it. It’s a big presumtuous to think you can / should be responsible for others’ decisions.

  6. YM says:

    I wish Rebbetzin Faberstein’s essays were translated into english

  7. easterner says:

    i would not include em habanim semeicha, since this is a case of a haredi anti-zionist whose post-holocaust thought toes less to the anti-zionist party line….

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    Having read the essay by Professor Farbstein,I highly reccomend the original or translation of her excellent book on religious leadership and the Holocaust. Professor Farbstein’s works should be a fundamental source for any course materials on the Holocaust in yeshivos and seminaries.

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