This Has Never Happened Before – Right?

How unique is a crisis affecting a huge portion humanity at the same time? Here are two points of view worthy of our consideration.

The first is that of the Ran, in the tenth of his Derashos. He believed that he and his audience had witnessed something entirely new and unusual in the Black Death that broke out in 1348. In loose translation:

Thirteen years ago we saw G-d’s chastisement. The entire order of Creation was changed. Most of the inhabitants of the world suffered at one time strange illnesses, which cannot be attributed to the usual conduct of the world. Every rational person must concede that it was “the finger of G-d.” While diseases that commonly affect man are related to his nature. The very unusual ones, however, don’t strike people because of their nature. They come as punishment, through Providence… We saw more upheaval and change as a consequence, than occurred in the previous two centuries.

The Black Death took the greatest toll of any pandemic known to man – somewhere between 75 and 200 million died. Did it affect “most of the inhabitants of the world?” It was certainly true of the inhabitants of the world the Ran knew about. Whether it did strike areas outside of Eurasia is beside the point. The Ran believed that it affected the majority of mankind, but that did not convince him that the phenomenon was sui generis as far as G-d’s relationship with the world. To the Ran, the radical difference between the Black Death and others was the clarity that it was visited upon man by G-d, rather than attributable to causes that are part of the natural world. What was behind it? Sin. What should our response be? Looking into ourselves and doing teshuvah.

The Ran does not talk about how the Divine intervention that he witnessed differed, if at all, from other interventions against sin, so frequently spoken of in the Torah. A recent set of three mussar vaadim given by Rav Reuven Leuchter does. Speaking from Israel (at 4:30 AM!) to American followers, R. Leuchter – best known to many of our readers for his long association with Rav Wolbe zt”l and his thought – sets off on a very different path than many others who have waved in.

The first two of these vaadim were prepared for publication by R. Leuchter’s illustrious son-in-law, my good friend R. Yehoshua Pfeffer. Raised in the UK and educated at Oxford, R. Pfeffer’s accomplishments, once he came to Israel, include becoming a talmid chacham (particularly close with moreinu R. Asher Weiss, shlit”a), a dayan, a lecturer in Jewish law at Hebrew U., and the head of operations for the Tikvah Fund in Israel.

He is also the editor of Tzarich Iyun, a fascinating online journal. It is unique in providing a place where charedim who are gingerly entering new worlds of employment, academia (or otherwise questioning parts of charedi culture that do not flow directly from halacha) can express themselves. Contributors are anything but dropouts from charedi life. To the contrary, they are fiercely loyal, and determined to stay within its precincts, even if others are just as determined to drive them out. Most of the contributions are in the original Hebrew; some are translated into English. Readers who wish to read some brutally honest (but lovingly offered) considerations of mainstream charedi reactions to corona should look here and here. In general, it is an essential tool – the place to go repeatedly to follow the changes that are (not so slowly anymore) occurring in parts of the Israeli charedi world, and that displays the huge reservoir of talent outside of pure limud Torah that it possesses.

R. Leuchter’s article should be read in its entirety. For those who need to be coaxed, I will offer a scaled down version by listing his main points – and by embellishing some of them in a few footnotes about my own observations. Here goes:

While plagues have struck before, there is something new in this one, as it has propagated through mechanisms associated with the “global village,” a relatively new phenomenon which now is central to so much of our living.

More importantly, however, is the fact that we cannot relate to what is going on the way we are trained to face other challenges – by identifying the spiritual sources of our vulnerability, and by increasing our odds of survival by pumping up our merit, through the performance of more mitzvos. Both are inappropriate here. R. Leuchter tells us that he will not point, as others have done, to this failing or that. Moreover, such thinking misses the point of what a plague is.

Typically, says the gemara,[1]the malach ha-mavess cannot perform his diabolical task in less than eight steps. This means that there are heavenly protocols that need to be complied with, and his mission can be aborted at any one of these steps. Not so, continues the gemara, during a plague. He accomplishes his grim mission in a single step. Once empowered, nothing will prevent him from doing his job. One of the consequences is that there is no discrimination between the righteous and the not-so-righteous. During a plague, the malach ha-mavess is assured equal opportunity in the selection of targets. The usual application of G-d’s mishpat – which takes into account all kinds of considerations – is suspended.

Why would Hashem choose to ignore a divinely-ordered playbook that governs the overwhelming majority of time? It must be that a different protocol substitutes for the usual one. This unusual protocol must be assumed to come from an even higher place than the ordinary one.[2] Looking for a specific “cause” for the plague makes no sense, because that logic only applies to the ordinary system, in which merits and demerits have particular weights. In a plague, something higher, more elevated is taking place.

Another way to look at things is that this higher-level protocol asserts G-d’s mastery of the universe to the exclusion of all human power. With all our technological prowess, we stand powerless against an invisible force that G-d has unleashed. The efficacy of kochi v’otzem yadi / “my strength and the power of my hand,”[3] shrivels and melts in its presence.

What follows may be the most interesting lines of the essay: “We too share in the very same hubris, just in the spiritual rather than physical sense. Even we tend to think that we have control over our situation—control by means of studying Torah and performing mitzvos, by davening and by donating to Kupat Ha-Ir.[4] The condition of plague rails us in. No merit, even that of Torah and mitzvah performance, can save us; those who believe otherwise share the same arrogance as the Western disposition to control the world by means of scientific advancement.”

Is there any way to alleviate the effects of a plague? How do we connect with Hashem on this higher level from where the rules governing plagues emanate? It turns out that the Torah provides some very obvious advice. Aharon contained a plague among the people through the ketores, the Biblically described incense.

The ketores acts powerfully and with great effect. When used improperly, it brings death in its wake, as it did to the 250 associates of Korach, each one of which held the incense in a fire-pan in his hand. That same ketores, however, when supervised by Aharon, stopped the plague. Coming from a higher place[5] (just as the inscrutable Divine protocol behind the plague does), ketores either cures the ailment, or kills the patient.

It should be apparent that ketores is in a category of its own. Alone among the offerings, absolutely nothing of it remains below; it is all sent “up,” so to speak, to Hashem.

Of course, we do not have the ketores, nor people of sufficient stature to correctly utilize it. What we do have,[6] however, is tefillah.[7] Ketores suggests to us that our prayer needs to add a dimension that is usually missing. Regardless of the way it is expressed, we realize that most of our prayer is petitionary. We want something, and we ask for it. There is another mode of davening, in which we succeed in annulling our own selves, and purely serving Hashem. Through it we transcend our ordinary reality, and connected with a place of higher elevation. The plague “reveals the harsh side of this elevation; through prayer we are able to reveal the same elevation, the same connection, in a way that gives life.”[8]

Besides a different kind of prayer, ketores also suggest to us a higher plane of existence. He rejects the idea that World 2.0 is a back-to-basics one. First, because that is too simple a solution. Elevation requires hard work, not just changed conditions. Second, because it runs counter to human nature. Man is hard-wired to aspire to more. Our problem is that we set our sights of more of the wrong things. The home isolation directs us to work hard[9] at achieving more – more davening, more emunah, more tzniyus, deeper relationships. Achievements that take place outside the public eye.

Rav Leuchter provides his own summary, reproduced here in part:

Which spiritual lens should we adopt for looking at the situation of a plague? What is even the appropriate terminology for reflection on the ongoing situation? Instead of escaping from the reality we live, as some tend to do, by chasing after segulos and other fantasies, it is incumbent upon us to remain connected to reality—to the physical reality we live in, and even to the parallel spiritual reality that confronts us.

I wish to see our reality as one of fundamental elevation. Hashem is showing us that we are higher than we usually think, more elevated than we ordinarily assume. Our own reality touches a higher plane, one that has the capacity to overwhelm the regular world order. Even the Divine system of reward and punishment is suspended in its wake.

Certainly food for thought!

  1. Berachos 4b

  2. This might be partially explained by Chazal’s assertion that Hashem’s initial intention was to create a world based upon the attribute of din/ judgment alone. Man’s propensity to fail made it necessary to blend in much rachamim / compassion. Great tzadikim, we are taught, understanding that the “earlier” plan reflected a more profound state of affairs, longed for an opportunity to live according to its greater demands. (See Pachad Yitzchok, Rosh Hashanah 4:3, and Asufas Maarochos, Yomim Nora’im vol.1 pgs. כא-לא [Thanks to Dovi Adlerstein, Dallas, for retrieving the cites.] See Michtav Me-Eliyahu vol.3 pgs. 224-249 for the ways in which the demands of din are stricter and more exacting.)

  3. Devarim 8:17

  4. R. Leuchter spoke before the Kupat Ha’ir campaign devolved into a guarantee that anyone who donated 3000NIS would be spared from the illness, and would receive a silver amulet to make it more real. My wife absolutely hates my expressing my thoughts about some behavior that is beyond the pale. In deference to her, I will not relate my contempt and disgust for the arguments offered in defense of the campaign in a media interview with someone close to R Chaim, shlit”a. In that interview, it was argued that any sensible person would be quick to take advantage of such a bracha from the gadol hador. When the interviewer said that some people who regarded themselves as given to rational thought were skeptical, he said that he would not regard them as rational, but as tinged by heresy, like all maskilim. 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.’”

  5. See Ramban, Shemos 30:1, that ketores addresses midas ha-din, and supra, n.2. See also Rabbenu Bechaye, Vayikra 10:1 that the word ketores relates to “binding.” Through it, a person is bound to the sefiros, drawing down a shefa from above to midas ha-din, and from there down to the one who offers it. The error of Nadav and Avihu was in abstracting midas ha-din from the fuller Name. While ketores addresses midas ha-din, it should not be focused upon as the object of the avodah.

  6. We are tempted to find support for the idea that the concept of ketores is “portable” from the Meshech Chochmah Shemos 30:1, in addressing the question of why the instructions for the incense altar were deferred to the end of parshas Tetzaveh, instead of Terumah with all the other appliances of the Tabernacle. Rav Meir Simcha observes that those other appliances are critical to the service associated with them. If there is no aron, there is no place to put the luchos. Without the large altar, there can be no offerings. There is no lighting of the lamps if there is no menorah. The burning of the incense, however, can take place without the golden altar. Perhaps this suggests that there are aspects of the ketores that are not strictly linked to the way they are described in Chumash – perhaps even when there is no beis ha-mikdosh. No proof, to be sure. But we can hope.

  7. Another way, which Rav Leuchter does not mention, is unity. The ketores contained eleven ingredients. One of them was foul-smelling. According to Chazal, it symbolized the sinners of Israel, who also must be included (ketores = tied, bound – see supra, n.3)

  8. If we accept the proposal that ketores is linked to din, we might find another part of davening to bear its imprint. Perhaps the connection to din contributes to making it unpopular and maligned. I mean the long tachanun on Mondays and Thursdays. We say it on Mondays and Thursdays because they are the only days of the week whose sefiros are also entirely מצד הדין: Monday = גבורה, and Thurs. = הוד. The long tachanun may be the only thing we have in davening that has any connection to the ketores, which the Ramban writes, was an avodah directed at מדת הדין. See supra, n.5

  9. R. Leuchter stresses the work that needs to be done by individuals, acting as individuals without the crutches contributed by the group. My son Rabbi Akiva Adlerstein in the Berlin Kollel added a few observations:  We should think of the kind of isolation-unity that we should, and hopefully will, develop. The individual has a very hard time standing up to din. (Interestingly, as we see, mageifa by its nature dissociates the members of a tzibbur from . other, and to an extent dilutes its strength.) We know that taking an unnecessary census – counting people as ciphers, rather than individuals, or upsetting the balance between the values of individual and community – leads to mageifa The antidote, machatzis hashekel, may be seen as paralleled, or perhaps enhanced, in the foul-smelling chelbena aspect of ketores. In other words, it’s not just unity that we are looking for, it is unity that utilizes and appreciates the individual contributions of every individual, rather than a melt-into-the-fabric unity, which is what we have become accustomed to. It calls attention  to each unique ingredient, yet combines them into a tzibbur

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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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