This Has Never Happened Before – Right?

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33 Responses

  1. Yossi says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    As I’m sure you realized, some of this is very similar to what Cross Currents posted from Rabbi Karlinsky.

    • Of course. When R Karlinsky wrote his piece, R Pfeffer’s print version was not available. I wished to call attention to it and his work in general, as well as highlight some ideas in R Leuchter’s piece that had become clearer

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Nobody can honestly say on reflection that he or she can’t do better, even during our current crisis. Despite our physical isolation from normal Jewish community interactions, we can each still look for specific ways to improve in thought and action. We know that improvement coming from that direction can do wonders for Klal Yisrael, not because of some arcane theory, but because our Mesorah tells us so.

    Ignore the strange creative pitches for nissim-to-go and give where it seems objectively to do the most good, starting locally.

  3. joel rich says:

    As a close friend/ fellow maskil/ prominent East Coast rav and kiruv figure once put it to me in a moment of weakness and desperation, “Adlerstein – the two of us are going to start a new religion, different from the one we see around us. I think we should call it ‘Judaism.’” ↑
    Yet we all “have to declare a major” based on what’s available rather than what we would like to be there for us. It’s also true in the MO world. The real question is how do we as individuals effect change in our “community” – I would tell you if I felt I’d had any success at it.
    KT and Be Well

  4. Arnold Lustiger says:

    Among the hundreds of essays that have been written on the appropriate spiritual response to the pandemic, for me Rabbi Leuchter’s resonates the most.
    What Rabbi Leuchter writes about the sacrifice motif in davening is reflected in a Tosafos in Menachos 110a (d”h Umichoel). Tosafos suggests that the phrase ve-ishei Yisrael in Retzeh is connected to the word usefillasam. It does not refer to the fire on the altar but to the sacrifice of the soul, the very being of man.
    Based on this Tosafos, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik indicates that when a Jew says Retzeh he does not refer to the satisfaction of needs and the fulfillment of the desires about which he poured out his heart in the middle, petitionary section of Shemoneh Esrei. For this he has already prayed in Shema Kolenu. When he reaches Retzeh these “petty” matters no longer concern him. His soul is bound up in a profound request. He asks Hashem to accept the great sacrifice he has just offered, to accept his being that is returned to Hashem. The very word Retzeh connotes acceptance of a sacrifice (venirtzah lo lechaper alav). He who davens annuls himself in order to acquire himself. Man finds his redemption in self-loss and self-recovery. (The idea appears in “Worship of the Heart”).
    in light of Rabbi Leuchter’s brilliant analysis, we all need more kavanah for this message.

    • dr. bill says:

      Differing very slightly, the Rav ztl was biased towards wanting to feel God’s immanence; Rabbi Leuchter felt more like a man reaching towards transcendence; a thoroughgoing halakhic versus religious outlook.

  5. dr. bill says:

    I have often repeated that one of the (many 😊) keys to my success in the corporate world came from something I learned from a mentor along the way – the ability to make an opposing argument better than its proponents. That is key to successfully countering it. While reading Rabbi Pheffer’s two insights into the hareidi viewpoint that led to their early positions as COVID 19 was just gearing up, I felt that I now more clearly understand a view that thinks of itself as a “state with a state” and one that values community over individuality, allowing me to better articulate my strong opposition. The former lacked the sophistication of the Rav ztl’s most insightful comment on “ger ve’toshav.” Of course, when in centuries past during the pre-modern period, we were granted rights akin to a state within a state, the head of the state recognized community was not daat Torah but the tovaii ha’ir. The latter explains the regretful mediocrity that sadly accompanies sacrificing 1000 children without producing that one Gadol. The creativity of gedolim is not created on an assembly line or as the result of nepotism. Home schooling and yeshivot of the ilk of Slabodka produce gedolm.

    As I read R. Adlerstein’s citation of the Ran, I thought back to a very deep theorem of the early 20th century in probability theory about how what is random appears infinitely often as ordered. Similarly, nature’s normally routine progression can on rare occasion appear as a unique intervention by God.

    As I was reading this post, I read of the latest announcement of instructions from R. Kanievsky and R. Edelstein. The wag in me applauded their suggestion to use a telephone versus tin cans; the serious side wondered if they were aware of the ability to teleconference.

    The main article by R. Leuchter at first sounded like it was going in the direction of “how to respond” versus answering why. But it veered off the path the Rav implied. The what that we must learn is unique to each of us given our individual situation. Welcoming God fully into our lives is still the most I can strive to achieve; attaching to what is above even as Rambam outlined is beyond my, and I suspect most people’s, comprehension or attainment.

    Rabbi Farkash, whose article you linked to as well, hit the mark in a productive way, which I am most often not capable of doing. I strongly believe that change occurs when the need to change is recognized. Hopefully, that need is recognized earlier rather than later. Hacham einov be’rosho; plan based on what lies ahead.
    Not surprisingly, I remain a rationalist in the sense of Rambam. I remain committed to Torat HaShem without any demands to mekabail sechar, but thankful to HKBH when I do receive it.

    • Mycroft says:

      I thought back to a very deep theorem of the early 20th century in probability theory about how what is random appears infinitely often as ordered. Similarly, nature’s normally routine progression can on rare occasion appear as a unique intervention by God.

      Depending on ones beliefs one either tries to after the fact read into events as a sign from God or as a result of natural process. IIRC R Hayym Soloveitchik ib his Rupture and Reconstruction refers to the fact that if one asked a child five hundred years ago why he got sick-would answer because God wanted it. Today he stated even the chareidi child would answer I got sick because of germs. Neither person had seen either a germ or proof that God did the action

      • Bob Miller says:

        So how do you personally view it as an adult?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        What if the science re predictions of deaths RL was so flawed to constitute junk science? Niall Fergusons Imperial College study which predicted 500,000 deaths in the UK overwhelming of the National Health Service advocated massive shutdowns and which has been severely criticized for its conclusions may very well be win the junk science of the year award

    • Bob Miller says:

      Regarding “…the regretful mediocrity that sadly accompanies sacrificing 1000 children without producing that one Gadol…”, what’s your idea of proper Jewish educational choices for the 1000?

      • dr. bill says:

        Two things are critical for a proper education even to one of a hareidi bent: 1) a solid secular education for the vast majority of students. 2) a curriculum more akin to that of the Mishnah than one that emphasizes Talmudic reasoning almost exclusively. Not all students benefit from a Talmud focused program.
        Practical details on both are challenging.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Sacrificing 1,000 for the sake of one is as questionable a philosophy of education as is system that focuses on Mishnah to the exclusion or reservation of Talmud for the elite Everyone should learn and study Gemara on their own level because TSBP is the basis of the bris established after the Chet HaEgel .Today there is no shortage of excellent tools both in Lashon HaKodesh and other languages that facilitate learning Gemara .it is just a matter of will power and desire EIn every generation. Chazal tell us that new Gdolei Talmidei Chachamim emerge somehow Of whom there are no shortage in our generation including Gdolei HaPoskim regardless of ones hashkafIc leanings

  6. Bob Miller says:

    Since our worldwide pre-plague situation was golus, returning to it can’t be our highest aspiration. After 9/11, officials kept urging us, “Let’s show them! Get back to normal!” We might have been too accepting of our normal life, both then and now.

  7. Raymond says:

    I wonder if there is an entirely different take on this Chinese virus, one that I have not seen considered in anything I have seen online in regard to this Chinese virus. Let me see if i can explain myself.

    Probably the most frequently asked question to Rabbis and just to traditional Jews in general, is how G-d could have allowed the Holocaust to happen. Where was G-d? I myself have often asked this very question, as it is the fundamental problem of evil that every religious person must confront. I do not recall where I saw this response, but somebody somewhere along the line has countered this question by asking, “Where was mankind?” For the fact is, that it was not G-d that built those death camps or ovens used to turn Jews into ashes. It was the nazis, the Germans, the Poles, the Ukrainians, and as much as we may not like to admit it, even those people were human beings. One can counter this by saying, well, but nothing happens without G-d’s Will, and for whatever reason, G-d used the nazis and others to inflict suffering on us Jews, for whatever reasons He had. But then there is a counterargument to that as well, right there in our Torah, in the discussion of our enslavement in Egypt and Pharoah’s role in it. People reading the text logically ask how Pharoah could possibly be held accountable for inflicting such suffering on the Jews, when G-d Himself tells Abraham far ahead of time that such enslavement will take place among the Jews in a foreign land? To which the answer given, is that the land was never named in that prophecy, so it did not have to be in Egypt, plus nobody told Pharoah to inflict suffering in such an extreme way, accompanied by such sadistic pleasure.

    Perhaps that is what is going on here as well. Perhaps it is obvious in a plague this extreme that all of us are experiencing, that it impossible to deny that it is the Will of G-d. Yet nobody asked the Communist Chinese to do it, and nobody instructed the Communist Chinese to unleash a virus that would do this level of damage in which hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are suddenly dropping dead like flies. So while it may be convenient and even reasonable to point to G-d during this plague that He has inflicted on us, we should also not let the Chinese off scott-free for either their negligence or possibly deliberate malicious intentions.

    Another aspect of all this, is that we must not forget that G-d deliberately created an imperfect world, and that in creating Mankind, He hopes that we will be G-d’s partners in creation, that we will strive to perfect the many imperfections of this world, because in so doing, we become G-dlike, which is the greatest act of giving, and therefore kindness, that G-d can provide for us. and so perhaps one of the reasons for this virus is not so much punishment, as it is to give us an opportunity to help perfect the world. Every time we do what we can to help those who have contracted this awful virus, we become more G-dlike, and in so doing, fulfill the purpose for which G-d put all of us here in the first place.

    • Reb Yid says:

      Is it too much to ask to stop calling it the “Chinese” virus?

      Would you like it if people called it the Orthodox Jewish virus? There are reports of Orthodox Jews being vilified by others in heavily Jewish areas for spreading the virus. There have been far too many Asian Americans who have been attacked here for the same (even though the actual proportion of Asian Americans with the virus in the NY area is actually below their proportion in the actual population).

      Yes, the government of China was not upfront about the extent of the virus’s existence, spread and devastation. But neither, for that matter, has our own Chief Executive.

      Let this tragic episode hopefully bring people together instead of blaming others for our own deficiencies.

      • Mr. Jay says:

        Reb Yid, you’re right about why we shouldn’t call it the Chinese Virus. Doing so endangers innocent Asians by implication. But the Chinese government was far worse than “not upfront.” They hid the problem and are still trying to do so, even disappearing doctors who dared to speak the truth. President Trump is an execrable human being, but he doesn’t come close to the Chinese Communist Party.

      • steve brizel says:

        The virus was spread from an open market in Wuhan by the negligent practices of a lab in Wuhan which were covered up and denied by the CCP which allowed foreign travel from Wuhan to NY and the West Coast until President Trumpp banned travelfrom China. Lyme Disease is named after the town in Connnecticutt where it started. So was the Spanish flu. We need a total reset of relations with the totalitarian Communist regime in China not apologetics.

      • Dovid says:

        “There are reports of Orthodox Jews being vilified by others in heavily Jewish areas for spreading the virus.” That’s awful. Could someone please report this to the mayor of NYC?

      • Raymond says:

        I call it the Chinese virus because the virus came from China. It is not my fault that the Intolerant Leftists cry racism in response to even the most reasonable and moderate of statements. Besides, it is important to point out the fact that this Chinese virus is !00% the fault of the communist Chinese government, so that they may face some of the consequences of their actions.

      • Reb Yid says:

        To Mr. Jay, Steve Brizel, and Raymond:

        Whatever China did or did not do does not absolve our own government of immense blame. Our President painted a very rosy picture to the American public. It still does–his son-in-law has the chutzpah to give his Administration a Bush-like “Mission Accomplished” while more than 1,000 Americans continue to die of this virus every day. Testing is woefully inadequate on a per capita basis compared to the vast majority of industrialized countries, despite our President claiming that “anyone can get a test who needs one”. Brave medical experts who are telling the actual truth about what is actually happening are being muzzled and silenced (and sometimes fired) by the present Administration.

        The cover up takes many forms. The state of Florida is prohibiting the state’s medical examiner from releasing information about the cause of death of individuals in its state. Its governor is being very cagey about revealing what is going on in the state’s nursing homes–we simply don’t have good data from that state, period.

        There’s plenty of blame to go around here. Including right in our own backyard.

        Don’t keep on screaming at China when there’s still plenty of work to do in this country to avoid needless deaths.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        This is the John Lennon School of Politics at work The US has to reset all of its relations with Beijing which is a totalitarian Communist regime that seeks to dominate the world at American expense and suffering

      • Bob Miller says:

        Groucho Marx and John Lennon:×600/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-604905-1320610877.jpeg.jpg

      • Bob Miller says:

        Today, this Marx-Lennon link worked for me and the old one didn’t

  8. MK says:

    “Adlerstein – the two of us are going to start a new religion, different from the one we see around us. I think we should call it ‘Judaism.’”
    Sometimes we can make a small difference in the Chareidi world if we’re creative.
    I went to EY for a nephew’s wedding shortly after the passing of my brother ZL, father of the chassan.
    My goal was to give chizzuk to the family. At Shabbos Sheva Brachos, although it was only the two families,
    there was a mechitza up to the ceiling. The speakers were not only not addressing the women, they weren’t even facing in their direction. It was clear to me that if I did not find a way to speak to my widowed sister in law, I would “burn” in the next world! (My brother was close to Rav Gustman and I KNEW that he would say that!) What did I do?
    I took the shtender from the men’s section and placed it in the middle, from where I would be seen by both men and women. And I began my speech by saying…
    “Minhag Chicago”!
    It got a good laugh and I was able to inspire my sister in law!
    And guess what the next speaker did?
    He said “we can learn from Chicago” and he spoke from the same place!
    Because most people know in their heart of hearts that there is nothing wrong with it!

    • Three cheers! Unfortunately, the reverse also takes place. Someone spends time in Bnei Brak and sees an unfamiliar hanhagah. “Minhag Eretz Yisrael!” He brings it back to the US, and people decide, we can learn from Eretz Yisrael!”

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    I don’t like engaging in theodicy based answers and approaches but rather in thinking about we can learn as individuals and as a community in our Avodas HaShem in this very challenging period of our lives .i do not think that acting in a religiously immature manner and attempting to justify the existence of porch minyanim and the line halachically or on the basis of emotions that such halachically dubious gatherings somehow enhance ones Avodas HaShem reflect a mature sense of Kabalas Ol Mitzvos when the Ol is uncomfortable’ such gatherings IMO refelect an improper antinomians rejection of the importance of Pikuach Nefesh as a Halacha of overriding importance. Would anyone offering such an excuse even think of blowing Shofar or a performing a Milah Shelo Bzmanah on Shabbos? Like it or not Tefilah Btzibur is not a Mitzvah Min HaTorah except possibly on YT according to Ramban but it is not a Mitzvah on the same level as Bris Milah or blowing Shofar . We are living in a at least a Safek Sakanah and we have to daven that we get back into our shuls and Batei Medrashim sooner rather than later but acting in a religiously immature fashion will delay our return . The realization that a vaccine may not be developed at all RL or may take a while as in the case of Polio may then require advovacy that if certain stores like liquor stores and thevlikecare open so too should be houses of worship Irrespinsible acts of self help won’t help and neither will be accepting Zoom in place of and instead of personal interaction in any interpersonal setting whether Talmud Torah work or family .we should be more than a little upset that we have reduced all of Talmud Torah and Chesed to a Zoom number but acting irresponsibly will aggravate a situation

    Why is it that such many such advocates are cavalier with the Halacha of Pikuach Nefesh but insist on advocates when dealing with the health care establishment ? The first step towards learning about what steps are out of kilter is to realize that something is very mistaken about ones present approach ,

    • Bob Miller says:

      Steve, what does this mean?
      “…but insist on advocates when dealing with the health care establishment …”

      • Steven Brizel says:

        I would not be shocked if some who are so vehement about having advocated to deal with the health care system are equally insistent on having porch minyanin and the like We should be dealing with CDC as to how reopen our yeshivos and shuls sooner rather than later and every ad hoc minyan will result in that issue being delayed and subject to more restrictive regulations

  10. Shades of Gray says:

    “Elevation requires hard work, not just changed conditions”

    In  “The Route to Different” in the Pesach issue of Mishpacha, R. Aaron Lopiansky writes  in connection with this year’s Pesach and Sefirah that “we need to make conscious decisions, and take realistically small, but very consistent, steps”. R. Lopiansky quotes the Rambam:

    “Perhaps no one expresses this idea more powerfully than the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:32). The Rambam, in his famous explanation for korbanos, says that the obligation of animal sacrifices was meant to gradually wean us off idolatry … Human nature, he says, is such that deeply ingrained behavior can never be eradicated by sudden change….the Rambam states strongly that Hashem’s desire is that human nature change from within, not from without.

    He proves this point from the fact that Hashem took the newly liberated nation on a circuitous route out of Egypt, because they did not yet have the necessary courage to face the inevitable battles to be fought along the way. “Why,” asks the Rambam, “could He not have just ‘injected’ them with bravery, instead of taking the longer route and forcing them to build up their stamina naturally?”

    As a matter of fact, the Rambam points out, all of Torah is a long and arduous process meant to change a person’s character. Because Hashem does not change a person’s character by external acts (note: the Rambam adds that obviously He has the ability to do so if He wishes to); rather, He wishes that people bring these changes about internally.”

    See link to the article:

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