A Torah Personality’s Pain

Not everyday do you get a call from a Torah personality asking you to spend more time on the internet, rather than less. But that is just what happened to me a few days ago.

I can’t mention his name. Nor can I tell you how he happened to come across a story that touched his curiosity. Once he read it – or, more accurately, once he saw reader reaction to it – he was so disturbed that he asked me to write about it, since he couldn’t do so himself.

Akiva Finkelstein is an 18 year old from Bet El. An honor student in a dati Leumi school, he trained for eight years, and became Israel’s welterweight champion, and representative at an international competition in Armenia. Scheduled to fight motza’ei Shabbos, a change in the rules demanded that he be weighed in on Shabbos itself. His father flew in to help argue the case for him, and convinced the powers that be that Akiva could not get on the scale, but it would be OK if the officials lifted him on to the scale. At the appointed hour, the overall boss balked at this in a monumental act of small-mindedness, and told Akiva that he would either step on the scale himself or be disqualified. The secular Israeli coach urged him to do it. Akiva refused; in a single instant, he sacrificed eight years of training.

Back to the phone conversation. The Voice at the other end spoke not so much about Akiva’s decision as the reactions to it on some website. He said that there were three kinds of reaction. Two were expected. Some cheered Akiva on, speaking of his kiddush Hashem and his exemplary commitment to principle. Others mocked halacha itself, arguing that some silly old religious rules should not have gotten in the way. Both of those reactions came from predictable parts of the population.

He asked me to guess the third reaction. I did, and got it right. It was the third reaction that got him upset. These comments gave Akiva no credit for the decision, but denigrated the eight years of training. Think of all the Torah he could have learned in the time he spent outside the Bais Medrash! Akiva was a loser, and so were his parents.

The Voice at the other end was no great fan of boxing. But he termed this third reaction “sick,” and asked what is becoming of us in the yeshivah world. Whether he had spent his time wisely or not, how could they – however many or few of them there are – not fail to see the beauty of that boy’s heroic decision? How could they believe in a one-size-fits all Yiddishkeit that left no room at all for individuality of expression? Even if they took justifiable pride in their own constancy in learning, did they have no regard for the way others who could not understand that devotion would look at them – and at Torah itself? Did their immersion in Torah have to mean that they would be oblivious to the world around, and uncaring about their impact upon it? Is this really where the triumph of the remarkable resurgence of limud Torah in our generation had to lead? Do we want to pay that price?

I had no answers, of course. Listening to him was hard, but also reassuring. I had asked myself those questions at times, as had most of my friends. It was good to hear that someone with far more Torah under his belt felt the same way.

Most impressive to me was the chief concern of the Voice. “How could they write so contemptuously? Didn’t they realize that the boy might read their words himself, and how hurt he would be?” Of all his concerns, the lack of menschlichkeit pained him the most.

The Voice insisted that it was the duty of those of my generation to try to wrestle Torah back to a position of equilibrium with other realities. I protested that the most my friends and I could do was to remind those who felt crushed and weary that they were not alone, and most importantly, that the emes of Torah was more important than any of its distortion.

The Voice had no solution. Just pain. But he wanted it expressed, even anonymously. I hope I have done justice to it.

[Postscript, Sunday 4PM PST By now the editors have rejected literally scores of comments, all of them conveying their displeasure with a Torah personality preserving his anonymity. There is nothing wrong with these comments. They were rejected simply because they all say the same thing. We have also received a longer guest contribution from Dr. Yoel Finkelman, an observant (but not haredi) social scientist whose specialty is the haredi world. It will appear in a few days, and undoubtedly inspire even more discussion. For the moment a few observations will have to suffice. 1) The vast majority of those who have complained about the anonymity of The Voice have not provided their own names. Instead, they have hidden behind screen names. Could it not be that some of the reasons that inform their decision to do so might not apply to Torah personalities as well? 2) Assume for the sake of argument that anonymous Torah personalities cannot be effective leaders. Is it true that every Torah personality has it within himself to be a leader? Is it not true that only certain people have the skill set to be leaders? Rav Soloveitchik famously said that he was not a manhig, but rather ta melamed. (“We make a bracha each day referring to the Ribbono Shel Olam is ‘melamed Torah l’amo Yisrael.’ If it is good enough for Him, it is good enough for me.”) R Elyahsiv, asked by R Shach to assume a mantle of leadership, refused. Begrudgingly, he agreed only that “If they ask me questions, I will give answers. The subject of this posting was one individual who is not a leader, albeit an important figure and thinker. Does he deserve everyone’s venom for not assuming the risks and consequences of speaking out publicly?

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53 Responses

  1. Ellen says:

    Ha. If those third voices were so sincere about learning Torah with every moment of the day, why are they on the internet writing comments to blogs or sports articles….

    Meanwhile here’s what I’m taking from the Rav’s insight: even if someone is coming from a place where they shouldn’t have been (which this third voice claims the boy was), we are each constantly growing and changing, so that focus on one’s past decisions generally misses the moment of where we are today.

  2. E. Fink says:

    Beautiful. I felt the same way when there was mass charedi disapproval upon Gilad Shalit’s Shabbos trip to the beach shortly after his release.

  3. Shmuel says:

    “Mass charedi disapproval”? where? in Mishpacha magazine? It wasn’t among the tens of thousands of Israeli charedim who davened for him daily and barely knew of the beach visit & surely were not surprised by it….we all knew he is not Shomer Shabbos!

    Just like the secular media barely portrays our secular Jews accurately the frum media barely gets us right either.

  4. Shaya Goldmeier says:

    Wonderful sentiment from the voice, mimicking something many of us have been arguing for years. yet a shame that the voice does not feel that he can reveal his name to both lend more credence to the words, as well as help add to a growing ground-swell of people looking for leaders who are willing to use their brains and not just their associations when it comes to thinking.

  5. Harry Zeitlin says:

    And now I learn that at least two people with far more Torah under their belts than me feel the same way I do on these issues. Thank you for this article. Shabbat Shalom.

  6. Alex says:

    Was the disapproval really “mass”, E Fink? You wouldn’t be exaggerating now, would you?

  7. Ari says:

    The direct relt of chareidi ideology for the past 300 years and the reason why Rav Kook and others were right.

  8. Ori Pomerantz says:

    People who claim to be dedicated to the study of Torah should realize that when they appear to lack menschlichkeit they cause Chilul haShem.

  9. avi says:

    E. Fink, Gilad Shalit is not a hero. He was a passive participant in a tragic and hellish ordeal. This kid pro actively took a stand.
    Also, notice how Rabbi Adlerstein used no labels in his piece. He fingered a mindset, not a demographic.
    Thank you rabbi Adlerstein for another great piece. Poignant, classy, and respectful. Dead on.

  10. Yossie says:

    Yet we still live in a society where The Voice has to remain anonymous. Is it then any wonder why opinions such as “the third” are vocal, and spreading?

  11. Mike S. says:

    The Navi Hoshea tells us that “God’s ways are just, and the righteous walk in them but the sinner stumbles on them,” and Chazal warn us that Torah can be a sam hachayim or a sam hameavet (a medicine or a lethal poison.) It is a great shame that for at least a miut hamtzui (a noticeable minority) Torah study seems to feed condescension and arrogance rather than build kindness and quite strength. Perhaps more attention to Nach and the aggadah in the Talmud would help; I find it hard to imagine that someone could think seriously about the aggadah in perek cheilek, for example, concerning Yerav’am ben Nevat without realizing what a dangerous mix Torah learning and arrogance is. And every yeshivah student should know why the Netziv says that breishit is called “Sefer HaYashar”

  12. Chaim Saiman says:

    This is nice, but isn’t the real issue the fact that the Voice must remain ופני לא יראו?

  13. T.A. says:

    What I don’t understand, is if the “Voice” found this issue so disturbing, why didn’t he write about it himself? Why hide behind the veil of his reputation? If anything, his stature would give his point more weight, particularly among those he castigates.

    Avi, Gilad Shalit is a hero. Just staying alive and not succumbing to despair under such atrocious circumstances is an act of heroism.

  14. DF says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein and The Voice are correct, but not so much because of the pain or hurt these “third reaction” types might inflict on the boxer. Rather, because it displays how snall their life experience is and will be. There is an entire world of boxing (like all athletics) with competition, health, travel, meeting people, etc. It’s an entire avenue of life foreclosed to charedim, sadly. It’s politcally incorrect to say in some circles, but there is far, far more to life than a beis medresh. I dont feel bad for Akiva, who will probably react to their sniping like a horse reacts to a fly sting. But I do feel bad for the others.

  15. Pesach Sommer says:

    There is an obvious connection between this and Rabbi Adlerstein’s last post, with its quote from Rav Hirsch. Thank you for saying what needs to be said.

  16. Binyamin Solaimani says:

    Until the “Voices” put a name behind the voice, this will never change. I don’t understand why the [collective] “Voices” can’t chap that. We [they] have conditioned people to analyze information based on source alone, so nothing is going to change until our leaders put their name behind the tochacha.

  17. E. Fink says:

    I’m sorry. I should nor have said “mass charedi disapproval”, although I have a feeling it was to the same or similar degree as the criticism of Akiva, it did make the secular media news sites when a shas MK publicly criticized Gilad.

    My apologies.

  18. Bob Miller says:

    This athlete saw his path of least resistance but instead took the right path on principle. There are some in our cozy Jewish educational system who have taken their own path of least resistance all their lives, and can’t or won’t relate to the athlete’s struggle and decision. Before sounding off, they should have considered the relevant Torah laws of interpersonal relations, not to mention the overall human aspect. If they didn’t do that, their education to this point has been flawed, no matter how much time (maybe not such quality time!) they have put in.

    The idea that, because we (whichever we) are the elite, we should look down on everyone else, and even make everyone else aware of our contempt, leads to Chillul HaShem and the negation of our duty in the world. Our educational and community leaders need to fight this idea wherever it comes to light.

  19. Daniel says:

    Avinu She’ba’Shamayim, may it be Your will that the comments section of this website not turn into the same dumpster fire as YWN or VIN, v’nomar amen.

  20. Shlomo says:

    Torah study without yiras shomaim is the culprit here.
    Real yiras Shomaim requires a knowledge as to what Shomaim is and what yirah is. This knowledge is taught by the masters of mussar and chassidus. Until these paths to avodas Hashem are taught in earnest you should not be surprised at the attitudes you describe.
    You can be sure that children in Chabad schools will be told this story and will be taught the positive message implied.

  21. mb says:

    “The Voice at the other end was no great fan of boxing”

    For those that are wondering, Maimonides was. Guide 3:25 (and Rav Kook)

  22. Danny Rubin says:

    “The Voice at the other end was no great fan of boxing. But he termed this third reaction “sick,” and asked what is becoming of us in the yeshivah world.”

    Nothing in the Yeshiva world exists in a vacuum. Every institution needs donations. These donations often come from those of us who are involved in the “secular” world and aspire to rise to moral, ethical and halachic standards in the context of professional excellence. We can certainly appreciate this heroism and vote with our checkbook by refusing funds to any institution that does not appropriately address this issue IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS!

    Secondly I do not think we should lose sight of the fact that Baruch and Akiva Finkelstein are heroes for another reason:

    They are role models for those of us who want to live as individuals and raise their children as individuals- not members of a herd stampeding to implosion!

  23. MK says:

    I often talk about Sandy Koufax.

    (That really “dates me”.)

    How despite the fact that he was not a religiously observant person, found the strength to express his Jewish identity in a most difficult challenge and refused to pitch on Yom Kippur.

    I contrast that with what I and many other Yeshiva boys did on that very same Yom Kippur.

    During the Yom Kippur break, we stood outside an appliance store and watched the game in which he refused to pitch!

    And I wonder who Hashem was more pleased with on that Yom Kippur?

    Koufax who, given his background, did something Jewishly heroic, or the Yeshiva boys, given their backgrounds, should not have been concerned with the World Series on Yom Kippur!

    I suspect that, at least on one level, it was Koufax!

  24. Kevin in Chicago says:

    While Akiva Finkelstein’s decision was commendable, isn’t his devotion to boxing problematic, to say the least? Yes, as DF said, “there is far, far more to life than a beis medresh.” But devotion to boxing isn’t only “bittul Torah,” it’s “bittul” everything else that has Jewish value. Why was this encouraged in a supposedly Jewish school? I have very little Torah “under my belt (hat?),” but shouldn’t boxing be considered non-Jewish l’hatchilah? Boxing is fighting for the sake of fighting. The object of the sport is a “knockout,” i.e., causing a concussion resulting in loss of consciousness. Although it happens rarely, the opponent can be killed, and repeated blows to the head can cause permanent disability, as in the case of Muhammad Ali. Watching the sport does not bring out the nobler sentiments in the spectators, either. How is this consistent with Judaism? I understand the Jewish value in conditioning the body and in being able to defend oneself, but there are better means to those ends than competitive boxing. Shouldn’t a religious Jew be grateful for the decision of the unsympathetic official that required Finkelstein to make a choice, and hope that he will turn his attention to better things?

  25. Yossie says:

    Kevin, and others asking about boxing,
    Besides the Rambam, I seem to recall Tosfos (in passing) writing about how the bochurim would “joust” in their spare time.
    In the “olden” days, recreation was allowed, and encouraged. Look at quality of what was back then, with all the boxing and jousting, versus what we have to day with 24/7 learning.

  26. Yehudit Spero says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Rabbi Adlerstein. Yes you did justice. Keep up your messages. Gradually it will make a difference please G-d. The third voice is a dangerous voice. It endangers our children. It is the voice of “there is no place for you if you do not toe the line exactly the way the “third voice” sees things. Hashem in His infinite wisdom said there are “ayin panim l”Torah” since He made so many different types of Jews He also made many ways for us to get close to Him and find him. Some through Torah study and some chose other ways. This does not lessen their love of Hashem or Hashem’s love of them. This boy did a great Kiddush Hashem. How sad that some will not see it that way. What a pity. But you, Rabbi Adlerstein will know you made a difference. Shavua tov. Yehudit Spero

  27. Dovi says:

    I happened to come across this article a couple of weeks ago. I sat my kids down and read them the story each one had tears in their eyes when i told them that he refused to go step on the scale. This 18 year old boy may not have won his boxing match, he did something we can only dream of. He pursued his dream and was actually a step away and he choose shabbos over what his dream was. How many of us can say we would be able to do the same. He is what makes an jew proud.

  28. aa says:

    The problem is that people do not understand why they learn Torah in the first place. “Al menas laasos” is not a theoretical “if something comes up, I’ll do it.” Its the very purpose of Torah itself – learning elevates us ONLY when we make the heroic decision Akiva made. He is a true example of Kol Halomeid Torah LISHMAH zocheh ledvarim harbe.

    To disparage someone who puts Halacha over material wishes only because “he wasn’t learning enough” is tantamount to Avodah Zarah. AS the Gemara says, such people should have had their afterbirth thrown in their face and never entered the world (Gemara’s words, not mine).

  29. A says:

    What is sick is the society that compels said personality to remain a voice. And the refusal of the leaders who feel the way the voice does to lead rather than follow.

  30. mlosangeles says:

    I always had a problem with those types of people who say that doing other activities that you enjoy is bitul torah. Not everybody is meant to spend his entire life with his head in the gemara everyday. Its amazing how these people who claim to be so religious can commit such a hilul hashem so easily.

  31. Jill Schaeffer says:

    Reminds me of Job’s so-called “friends.” What Akiva did he did because he loved G-d and Torah (meaning life, too, as instruction) with a sense that the meaning of Torah always transcends the sum of its parts in any existential moment. He didn’t throw his training away much less himself. The gift of gratitude, more than obedience, governed his actions. What he learned, he learned through Torah; his skills, his patience, his sweat, all from Torah. His act was a positive one. In my view, by refusing to “give in,” to secular pressure, Akiva simply said to G-d and community, “Thank you.”

  32. Yitzhak says:

    The Tosafist mention of jousting is Sukah 45a s.v. miyad. Other famous medieval references to the practice are responsa of Ra’aviah (concerning a Jew who lost borrowed armor in a tournament) and Mahari Bruna (concerning spectation, rather than participation). These sources are all cited in a blog post of mine, “As The Christians Do …”, at בין דין לדין.

    Regarding Maimonides on boxing, he is in favor of certain forms of physical activity, including wrestling, insofar as they are engaged in for reasons of health – i.e., exercise. I don’t see that he’d have much use for making a career out of it, or of the intense levels of training necessary to succeed at an advanced level of competition.

  33. cvmay says:

    TWO points in regard to Rabbi Adlerstein’s post and comments:
    1. For those who show disdain to the world of boxing, it may pay to revisit the sport and check out how many Jewish and Shomer Shabbos men were involved and very successful in that field. In the mid 1900s it was a sport that paid well and your were able to still remain Shomer Shabbos in contrast to most other means of parnassah. Also the main Halpern OPTICAL stores in Israel and USA was started by the well-known Charedei Halpern boxer.

    2.”The Voice had no solution. Just pain. But he wanted it expressed, even anonymously. I hope I have done justice to it”.

    YES, you fulfilled your part of the deal you have expressed it with justice. EXCEPT please let the anonymous Rav know that I AM IN PAIN for the lack of leadership, for a generation of sheep without a caring shepherd and for NO SOLUTION in sight. Did he think to speak up at the Agudah convention or the next Torah Umesorah one? I can not forgive a passive voice, instead call for meetings, venture out with ideas, throw in some creative twists. There are prominent Rabbonim who had crossed the line of passivity and have come out strongly for issues. SAY & DO SOMETHING….

    [YA – IIRC, Halpern only boxed before he became frum. Later modified: Others have observed that he was a wrestler, not a boxer, and that is quite different. It is also not clear whether he was observant before he gave up the sport. He did give it up before or at the time he entered the haredi world.]

  34. mb says:

    “Regarding Maimonides on boxing, he is in favor of certain forms of physical activity, including wrestling, insofar as they are engaged in for reasons of health – i.e., exercise. I don’t see that he’d have much use for making a career out of it, or of the intense levels of training necessary to succeed at an advanced level of competition.

    You are speculating. Besides whether he supported boxing as a career is not germane to the issue. What is germane is that he did support boxing. The Voice doesn’t.

    [YA – Look again. Wrestling, not boxing. Clearly your mistake is a result of the aftereffects of your British Boxing Day last week.]

  35. Ben Waxman says:

    The only disapproval that I read about Shalit’s beach trip came from Rav Rosen, of Machon Zomet.

  36. Nachum says:

    As with many Israelis, it’s hard to define when Rafael Halperin was or wasn’t “frum” (or even if he wasn’t at all). It is important to note that he was a wrestler, not a boxer, and there is a difference. Also, it’s helpful to point out that he never hid his past.

  37. Daniel says:

    This is amazing. 34 comments, and not one disagrees with the article.
    מי כעמך ישראל!!

  38. Dr. E says:

    From time to time, posters to less moderated frum sites will post comments in the spirit of cynicism and just like to sit back and see what negative sentiments such “predictable” combative statements might elicit against the Yeshivish establishment. It is possible that one or more of these might fall into that category.

    That possibility notwithstanding, there is a prevalent lens through which “success” in life is defined in many frum circles. And it is a narrow one at that. This is not really about wrestling. In many cases, it’s the proverbial cart that pulls the horse in child raising within the more Yeshivish community. Take a casual conversation between two contemporaries (Reuven and Shimon) who were chaveirim in Yeshiva, have not seen each other in 20+ years, and find themselves catching up with one another. The first question from Shimon after Reuven lists his kids and ages is “So, where is he learning?”. The A-level response is “Lakewood”, Brisk, etc. How many fathers would proudly say that their son is 25 and has been working as an Accountant or Contractor for a couple of years? Or even in medical school or law school, which at one point was the pride of every Jewish mother!)? Certainly not a boxer. We see this ultimately manifested in an area like shidduchim where expectations are certainly such. Parents start very early in tracking their kids so that they will be able to give the A-level response when they are asked “nu, so where is he learning?”, whether the track is ultimately in the kid’s best interest (i.e., tafkid) or not. Unfortunately, living a responsible life or even an act of Kiddush Hashem for that matter is merely an irrelevant substance factor, when the playing field is one which is predicated on style.

  39. Raymond says:

    I obviously read this article far too late (although it only started two days ago!), because there are already 34 responses to it. As is my usual practice, I am going to give my own response before reading what other people had to say about this, so that my response is as much my own as possible.

    I do not wish to hurt anybody’s feelings, but I find myself agreeing with that third opinion. Of course I do not agree with how they said it if they said it in a rude and unfeeling manner, but I do have to agree with the essence of their message. In fact, I will go further than they apparently did, by saying that I do not understand how boxing can be allowed by Jewish law in the first place. I remember hearing a statistic some years ago, that 90% of boxers eventually incur serious brain damage. Think of what happened to the most celebrated boxer of them all, Mohammed Ali. Is this the Jewish way? Jewish law forbids us from wearing permanent tattoos, because we are not allowed to deliberately and unnecessarily damage our bodies. How much moreso should Jewish law forbid boxing altogether.

    Now, I understand that if the young man in question reads my words, he may feel hurt. After all, aren’t I saying that he has just wasted eight years of his life? Well, let me tell you something from my personal experience that reminds me a lot of boxing: I was for almost eight years myself, a substitute teacher for upper grades in the Los Angeles public schools. Finally, I realized I had just wasted eight years of my life. But just because I wasted those years, does not mean I should have continued wasting my life like that. Similarly with this young man taking up a thoroughly non-Jewish activity like boxing. And by the way, as a necessary footnote, let me add that a prominent local Rabbi basically told me to get out of teaching, for the same reason that I am writing about now. Was I insulted by his words? No, not really. In fact, I felt a sense of relief. So should this young man, who can now pursue activities far healthier for his body and soul. He should be grateful that he was not able to get weighed on that life changing Shabbat afternoon.

  40. simi irkodesh says:

    Seriously, Daniel, how could you disagree with the article?

    You can be angered at Rav Anonymous?, or tell R. Adlerstein he is not justified in his answer? or disagree with the original comments to the first article about Akiva, the boxing star? The facts are the facts and I join in showing Anger to the Rav. The entire system of Education, Charedei and Torah Nationalist in Israel stinks. There is zero respect, honor or admiration for anyone outside of their Daled Amos. The fragmentation, polarization & distance between groups is huge. (Just check out the in&out fighting in the pre-election weeks) AND it seems that the Diaspora is willing and wanting to import this type of chinuch to their shore fronts. Beware.

  41. dovid landesman says:

    Rafael Halpern was frum when he became a wrestler and remained frum when he began his career which included many performances in the US. His father was one of the founders of Bnei Brak – the Zichron Yaakov neighborhood is named for him. Halpern learned in Chevron and also had a relationship with the Chazon Ish – the nature of which is somewhat unclear.
    While I understand why the unmentioned Rav is reluctant to have his identity known, given the number of crazies out there, until rabbanim and gedolim become leaders rather than reactors, we will see Orthopraxy grow at the expense of true chareidi Judaism.

  42. A. Schreiber says:

    “Not everybody is meant to spend his entire life with his head in the gemara everyday.”

    In point of fact, almost no one is. Like someone said above, the quality of learning one realizes when he has a job, or other interests, is vastly superior to that of those who spend, or supposedly spend, all their time in the bais hamidrash. (Exceptions there are, of course.) This is undoubtedly true for the masses of yeshivah students and avreichim, who really are doing nothing more than whiling away their time. But I would say this even of the top tier of the yeshivah world. When I read the articles and seforim and websites that are regularly printed, from ballebattim or otherwise occupied individuals, I would pit them against what I see coming out of the yeshivah world, any day. I personally find the product of the former group better written, and I also find their sevaros more compelling and more reality-based. Some might hold otherwise, but that it is even a debate is one more indictment of the “24/7” model of learning.

  43. Kenneth H. Ryesky, Esq. says:

    I wouldn’t want to go back to it, but having, in my youth, attended a junior high school where the Jews could be counted on the fingers of both hands, I learned very poignantly the importance of Jews sticking together despite whatever personal differences we may have.

    Terms such as “dati” or “charedi” or “chiloni” or “ultra-orthodox” have, over the past few years, morphed from being descriptive adjectives to denigrational labels. We need to realize that a Jew is a Jew is a Jew, and act towards one another accordingly.

    These troubled times, when we see the Syrian regime killing its own people, and the deadly riots of Arabs against Arabs in Cairo, and other instances schisms amongst our enemies, present such a great opportunity for us to stop this sinas chinam and start accepting our fellow Jews and start seeing all of the good in what they do. If we ever can do it, how great the rewards to us all would be!

  44. Daniel says:


    I wrote out a thoughtful response disagreeing with the article, but it was not posted. I then noticed that all 34 responses agreed with the article, and easily concluded they were simply only allowing comments which agree. So I posted that facetiously, and amazingly, it was posted.

    I’m currently not sure if I agree or not, but I do think that it is a conversation we should not be afraid to have.

  45. joel rich says:

    Unless the pain is caused by a quickly self healing disease and is limited to a single individual, a course of treatment should be recommended. J’m not sure talk therapy will do in this case.

  46. joel rich says:

    Regarding proofs
    The “Good News” is :Rav Soloveitchik is talking about the revolution wrought in religious thought by Immanuel Kant. Kant proved that it is impossible to prove the existence (or non-existence) of God. Rav Soloveitchik argues that in so doing, Kant in no way damaged religious belief. On the contrary – he liberated it from the burden of logical proof, which had been a foreign implant in religious faith. Faith, according to Rav Soloveitchik, is based on an inner certainty, not on any sort of logical proof. The experience of the encounter with God cannot rest upon logical proof. No one among us needs logical proof that his mother exists, or that he himself exists. Likewise, there is no need for a logical proof for the existence of God. Faith does not contradict reason, but it likewise does not rest upon it.

    The “Bad News” is that Joel Rich thinks (FWIW) you can’t easily convince someone how they should experience their, or someone else’s, existence


  47. Charlie Hall says:

    I live in a Jewish neighborhood with lots of shiurim and minyanim. I work for a Jewish institution with kosher food in the cafeteria that wouldn’t dream of forcing me to work on Shabat or Yom Tov. When I travel for work, it is usually to places with shuls and kosher restaurants.

    In short, Jewish observance is very easy for me. I will likely never have to face the decision that Akiva Finkelstein had to make. He trained all these eight years and was rewarded not with a victory in the ring, but with the opportunity to make a Kiddush HaShem that I will likely never be able to make, nor will anyone else who lives mostly in our protected Jewish world. I salute Akiva for letting the entire world know what is really important. He may have spent less time in the yeshiva, but he clearly learned a lot!

  48. moshe parry says:

    rav meir kahane Hy”d once discussed eliyahu hanavi’s statement to Hashem’s query at har sinai “what are u doing here eliyahu…? with… “i have been very zealous for the L-rd… and i alone remain a navi to Hashem…” rav meir asked… didn’t ovadiah just inform eliyahu shortly before the confrontational showdown at har carmel that he had been hiding 100 prophets 50 to a cave to protect them from the wrath of achav and yezevel…? so why was eliyahu claiming to be the only one left standing…?

    rav meir answered that a navi in a cave is no prophet and does not count for anything… only someone who strides onto the field of battle with no holds barred can possibly defeat evil and remove it from our midst to be m’kadesh shem shamayim b’rabim… and complete the mission of every jew in service to Hashem… as He has commanded us… if we run and hide we cannot win… we have to have no fear and display no fear of anyone save for Hashem and when we do that we are truly invincible… and we really can accomplish what Hashem has sent us out into the world and into history to achieve for Him… but first we have to lose our fear of man… jew or gentile and just do the will of Hashem…

  49. cvmay says:

    I found this post and the many comments interesting, varied and productive.

    Regarding Akiva himself, I highly doubt if any of the original comments, thoughts or judgements even hit his radar. Having the blessed opportunity to grow up in Bet El, the home of two renown, loving, and ‘hands on’ Roshei Yeshiva and several Batei Knesses led by Talmidei Chachmim his hashkafas and hadrachos is set in a proper path. As an Honor Student which entails quite a journey into the depths of Tanach, Gemorah and Halacha in this particular kehilla, he is quite unique. The fact that he spent 8 years enjoying and training for this sport, does not mean in any way that it negated his limudim in Torah or Chol. Anyone ever hear of “after school activities” (not a given in the Tri-State area).

    The original comments should be analyzed and scrutinized anyway to further true Torah perceptions among our people.

  50. lacosta says:

    in RYA’s comments about the rejected comments, no one should be -angry- at the anonymous torah personality. rather, they should be -saddened- that the state of Haredi society is such one’s pronouncements, even in private , can come back to destroy one’s life [and since shidduchim tie in , ruin their family] if they don’t meet the ever-rightward-moving circle of acceptability….

  51. Yaakov Menken says:

    I’ve only now followed Rabbi Adlerstein’s link to the original article, after posting an understanding of the Voice’s position in comments to Yoel Finkelman’s post. But now, having read the article, I am bothered by something — to the point that I will share it with you, knowing full well *I* will now be categorized by some as one of those “kanaim.” I believe there is a fourth option which the Voice didn’t separate from the third.

    Like Halpern, my grandfather was a wrestler, who turned down the opportunity to try out for the 1936 Olympics because of where they were held. I’ve already stated clearly that this boy made a Kiddush H’ by refusing to get on the scale. But… but… boxing? It’s not about whether every kid is suited for Beis Medrash alone. I don’t think we would talk about the Kiddush H’ done by the gambling prodigy who refused to participate in a tournament that ran into Shabbos… would we?

    Here’s the problem: the entire purpose of boxing is to beat your opponent into unconsciousness. I know there were a lot of Jewish boxers, but today we know the sport routinely causes permanent brain damage. This isn’t marathon running, baseball or even football — it’s much, much worse. It is incredibly violent. And for that reason, I have to admit I also find it turning my stomach to talk about the sport, regardless of how excellent it was that the boy refused to step on the scale. Is it wrong to think that others might have steered him towards a more civilized [sic] sport? That, I think, is a fourth option, and not everyone criticizing the boxing is therefore simply a zealot.

  52. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Menken,

    Anonymously lobbing snarky public comments at the Jewish boxer is not the same as advising him in private to pursue a more fitting career path.

  53. Yaakov Menken says:

    Bob, that is true, but I think you, too, paint the comments with too broad a brush. Some of them, at least to my eye, were directed not to the boy but to his parents, wondering why they did not steer him towards a more refined outlet for his physical talents. That is not the same as saying that every boy belongs only in the Beis Medrash.

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