Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thinking AND Living "Outside of the Box"

I agree with Batya's post, "I Don't Understand How G-d Fearing People Don't Celebrate Israeli Independence!" I cannot fathom a religious Jew not celebrating and marking Yom Ha'atzmaut in some way. How can one not appreciate the tremendous miracles He has wrought by allowing us to found our own country and witness the rebirth of Torah living and Torah learning here in the Holy Land? (Sorry this sounds shmaltzy, but after 31 years here, I still get teary eyed every time a plane with one of your boys flies over my head!)

Having said that, I must mention that there are different ways to celebrate this glorious day. Our country is extremely polarized and I don't give a hoot if what I do is considered "normal," as long as my husband and Hashem allow it :) Need one light a "mangal" and eat barbecued meat to celebrate the day? Is there only ONE kosher approved way to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut? I have in my possession a tape of my Rebbe, Rav Yehuda Cooperman, shlita, founder of the Michlala Jerusalem La'banot. He says that to say Tachanun on this day as if it is the same as any other day is tantamount being "kafuyi toda" (lacking appreciation) for His goodness in allowing the founding of the state of Israel after the Holocaust.

However, I recently read a copy of the new book by Rabbi Dovid Holzer on Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, "Thinking Aloud." (Superb reading, by the way!) Rabbi Holtzer served the Rav as his Shamash-- right hand man: chavruta and "sounding board" for over six years. He explains Rav Soloveitchik's stand on saying Hallel with a bracha. It is not so simple, according to the Rav, and NOBODY can accuse him of not having been a zionist! It is a strictly halachic issue which Rabbi Soloveitchik analyses and explains in great detail. (This book is based primarily on tape recordings of the Rav speaking.)

Personally, when I made aliya, I bent down and kissed the ground despite the funny looks I got, and since then have never hid my zionism. My children, (boys with black kippot, girls who studied at Bait Yaacov schools) were raised in a home where Yom Hatazmaut meant another lecture about " blessed we are to all live here."

It has meant listening to the International Chidon Tanach (Bible Contest,) while preparing a very special holiday meal. It has meant spending the day in joyous reflection about how wonderful it is to be a Jew here in Eretz Yisrael. It has meant special food and dress, despite the day falling during sefirat ha'omer. I don't believe that I am any less a zionist than someone who chooses (as I did several times in my late teens,) to pray at Mercaz Ha'rav and dance to the Kotel.

Why? For one thing, living here has meant great sacrifice on my part. My parents were unable to fly in for my sons' bris ceremonies; nor was I able to see them every year. And, my children's weddings have never included any of my close family due to monetary and/ or health reasons.

The Netura Karta are "kafuai toda," in my eyes, living here while hating the state and they disgust me. Additionally, I find repugnant people who lack the basic derech eretz to stand in place during the sirens remembering our fallen heroes. You don't want to stand still? Then stay at home!!!! Otherwise, stand and say a bit of Tehillim for the many holy people killed "al kiddush Hashem" while sancitfiying His name, some of whom have nobody to say neither Kadish nor Tehillim for them!

I abhor young men who hypocritically claim Torah to be their life (as it is for my husband, who for the first 20 years of our marriage learned 15 hours a day. My children grew up calling out "Abba" at night, for Abba was learning Torah until 3.00 - 4.00 a.m. daily!) As a Rosh Kollel, my husband said often throughout the years to batlanim ( lazy men ) supposedly dedicated to learning, "Who are you kidding? Go do army service and get a job! What you're doing-- pretending to dedicate your life to learning- is a chilul Hashem! (desecration of His name.)

Two of my cousins in the USA work in chinuch (Jewish education,) garbed in dark blue suits and hats, with knitted kippot underneath. One studied for a few years at Kerem B'Yavne and the other at Shalabim before finishing degrees at Yeshiva University. Can you imagine an Israeli's reaction at seeing them remove their hats.... to reveal a kipa seruga???? What are these men meshugane- crazy? Not at all! Many in Ner Yisrael Yeshiva of Baltimore and Chafetz Chaim Yeshiva of N.Y. used to dress this way in my time. (I have lived here since '78 so can't say what goes on there now!)

Why must everyone in this country conveniently fit into a little box, like the children's toy that teaches them to recognize shapes. You must be a PERFECT triangle; square; rectangle; etc. to fit in. If not, well... you don't get to go into the box. There is no place for individuals who refuse to conform to being conveniently labeled "chiloni," "dati leumi," or "charedi." Well, my children were raised in a home where these lables were simply not allowed. There are people who keep Torah and mitzvot, even if they dress differently than we do, and those who as yet do not keep Torah and mitzvot. Period! When my young ones were quizzed by other children in kindergarten if we are Ashkenazim or Sepharadim, (I am the first; hubby the second; the house goes by Sephardishe halacha,) I would tell my kids to say, "I am a good Jew like all the other good Jews the world over whose souls were at Har Sinai!" Loving your fellow Jew as yourself includes EVERY Jew, no matter what his attire or affiliation.

I would never, ever wish to live abroad. I abhor my visits to the USA to visit my 84 year old father and have let the family know that after 120, they will come visit me should they wish to see me. Nevertheless, here in Israel we could do with a little bit more patience and acceptance of other Jews without pre-judging him or her by dress ; kippa; etc. such as that we witness abroad.

I adored my year at the Michlala: We were eight girls in the apartment. Two were American daughters of illustrious Charedi Rabbis; Two were American ba'alot teshuva (yours truly one of them,) a third room housed a Gerer Chasidic girl who lived in Bnei Brak across the street from a Bnei Akiva counselor (who married a boy from Mercaz during that year;) and the last room housed an Israeli Charedi Ashkenazi girl from the Haifa area with a lovely Yemenite girl from a moshav up north. I don't recall if she was dati leumi or charedi. You see I never noticed. These words and concepts mean nothing to me! She was simply a good girl-- whose neshama was at Har Sinai with mine!


Batya said...

netivotgirl, thanks so much for posting your beautiful essay!!!

A Netivot Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Netivot Guy said...

I find myself cheering you on for virtually everything you wrote in this post - except your identification with the phrase: "I Don't Understand How God Fearing People Don't Celebrate Israeli Independence!".

Like you I abhor labels - and the Israeli tendency to fit every peg into a hole. I hope you will be able to hear an outlook that differs from yours.

Although I personally agree that saying tachanun does seem a bit "ungrateful" (and personally I do not), I can certainly understand the attitude of those who do say it. Furthermore, I would call my aversion to saying tachanun merely an "acknowledgement" of Yom Ha'atzmaut. As for actually CELEBRATING it - well I can certainly understand those who don't, as I don't myself. (I will confess that last year I went to the Great Synagogue in Jlm to hear some Yom Ha'atzmaut hazanut in the evening, and since the girls are always off school on that day we have sort of developed a minhag in our family of having a special family lunch - but neither of these are really "celebrating" the day as much as simply taking advantage of it since it's there anyway.)

Netivotgirl, I'm not telling you anything you don't know already, but life in the modern State of Israel for those who wish to be - or see themselves as - dedicated to Torah observance is far from ideal. In many ways - as you know yourself - it is easier in the US where "difference" is tolerated. I'm sure you yourself have experienced discrimination in the State of Israel for being religious - I certainly have - enough said.

I remember listening to an American Senator being interviewed on Israel radio as 9/11 happened. He mentioned the hand of God several times. The Israeli interviewer actually giggled when he did this, and translated everything except the mention of God.

Our "leaders" are continually pontificating to the world on our behalf - representing us in saying things we cannot identify with, and with never a mention of the Almighty. We visit Yad vashem and see a clear anti-religious slant. We see our taxes used to fund youth dancing in their underwear to celebrate Independence, and Israel is represented in Eurovision by a band using cucumbers as provocotive phallic symbols.

Perhaps these few examples are too trivial and not thorough enough, but - not wishing myself to write an essay here - well, that is part of why I do not and cannot celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut.

Netivotgirl said...

Netivotguy, I am always willing to listen, truly listen to opinions different than my own. Sadly, most people during a conversation, while quiet, plan their future words instead of listening! Thankfully I was raised in a home where we learned to truly LISTEN to opinions different than our own!

I agree with a great deal of your comments. Sadly, I too am always ashamed when newscasters conveniently fail to translate "Thank G-d" and "G-d bless America!" It was so blatant during the memorial service for Ilan Ramon, for example.

Additionally, the media and government leave a lot to be desired in their treatment of religious Jews. Having said that, I must say that I did not grow up in Brooklyn, or a major frum Jewish area. Rather, in a rural highly anti-semetic area where people told my Dad to his face, "Pinky, I HATE Jews. You're just different!" Thus, even when faced with anti-religious sentiment on occasion, it pales alongside my childhood memories. (A swastica painted on our barn; etc.)

Moreover, lets face it: there are religious people who don't do very good p.r. for our sector. i.e. How many clean religious neighborhoods have you recently seen here in Israel? To my shame, Jerusalem is filthy!!! (Lakewood was spotless last time I visited there.)

As well, having participated in meetings with totally irreligious people in a forum for breaking down barriers between Jews, I found to my surprise that the irreligious folks there were not at all filled with virulent hatred as the media would have us believe. Sadly, a tiny proportion of the country RUNS the economy; the media; etc.

We may be unhappy with what people have done here in Eretz Yisrael, but that does not in any way lessen our obligation to show thanks TO HASHEM for the founding of our country.

My grandfather had a cross burnt on his lawn by the Ku Klux Klan. So, no matter what kind of dirty looks I may get on rare occasion for my religious attire, there is no comparison. We must ALWAYS see the cup half full in life, and there is a great deal here to be grateful for!

If people have been so badly treated by the establishment that they truly suffer here, I pity them. And I'm certain that there are quite a few of them! We can only do what we can to make our country a better place for everyone, for we certainly have no other option!

Anonymous said...

Netivot Girl, what you don't seem to realize about Netivot Guy is that his main disagreement with you is the insistance that if you don't recite Halel and wave a flag on Yom Ha'Atzmaut, someone like that must be hate the state and have no Hakarat Hatov for what Hashem has done.

You fail to separate the practical halachic disagreements from the general overalll Hashkafic agreement.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik said that reading the Torah and Haftarah on Y"H "smelled of Am-Aratzut", as well as calling it "absurd." He felt no need to recite Halel on Y"H and in fact refused to recite it when said with a Beracha.

So was Rav Soloveitchik a rabid anti-Zionist? Did he lack recognition of the wonderful gift Hashem bestowed upon us with the State of Israel?

For that matter, what historic holidays did our prophets establish for the original conquest of Eretz Yisrael? For the building of the Beit Hamikdash? For the return to the land at the time of Ezra? For rebuilding the 2nd Beit Hamikdash?

Have you ever asked yourself those questions?

Batya said...

This post was written by netivotgirl, so I'm just commenting as a regular reader.

shy, I've come to the conclusion that rabbis in chutz l'aretz, even those as distinguished as Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, are not qualified to posken on anything concerning Israel and aliyah.

It's not that I agree with every Israeli rabbi, nor disagree with everyone from chu"l. The perspective here in Eretz Yisrael is different, and the commitment to the mitzvah of yishuv Ha'Aretz is essential.

Anonymous said...

Your post again relates to the counter halachic aspect of Yom Ha'Atzmaut, not to the common Hashkafah aspect that even contradictory halachic opinions can agree on 100%. That was the crux of my post.

Netivotgirl said...

I don't wave a flag, nor do I say Hallel on Yom Ha'atzmaut!!!! I live in a very black charedi community, in Netivot! My husband learned in Ponevich under Rav Shteinman!!!!!!!However, what shall I call us? "closet zionists?" Very ardent lovers of living in Eretz Yisrael where our sons can learn and live Torah without persecution by goyim, B'H!

My blog post was meant primarily to show that there are different kinds of "zionists!" You needn't wave a flag nor run around hitting people on the head with a plastic hammer, nor must you do anything specific. But how can one NOT feel the need to thank Hashem for the founding of OUR land?

My point was that every Jew living here in Israel should find some way of showing ha'karat ha'tov for what Hashem did, in allowing us to rise out of the ashes after the Holocaust. With kol ha'kavod to Lakewood and other yeshivot abroad, it is primarily in Eretz Yisrael that we have what is called by Gedolai Yisrael "Olam Ha'torah." This was decimated in WWll and HERE was rebuilt, beginning by R' Kehanaman with the Ponevitch Yeshiva in Bnei Brak.

As my rebbe, Rav Yehuda Cooperman said (he founded the Michlala and his sons today are Magidei Shiurim in the most elite BLACK yeshivot such as Nachlat Ha'levim in Haifa and Mir in Jerusalem,)it is chutzpa to treat Yom Ha'atzmaut as any regular day of the year!!!! You NEEDN'T say Hallel. You NEEDN'T do something specific. But you are required to thank Hashem on this day for allowing us to have our own country, albeit with her "blemishes," in whatever way you choose.

And, having eaten 'maror" in the form of rockets for 8 years, I agree with Batya 100%-- you have to live hear to have the right to affect what goes on here in Eretz Yisrael. Coming for camp for a month; learning here for a year gives one a "shmeck," a taste of the life here. But, it isn't easy and I don't think the words of a Rav or a layman abroad should carry weight.

Thank G-d we have diversity in our people. I was not simply praising Hashem for our country. I was pleading for more understanding, patience and ahavat yisrael for EVERY Jew-- religious (no matter what type); background--- sepharadi / ashkenazi. I was pleading for us all to be more accepting of others and their ideas.

Most Charedim here do NOT celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut, neither privately nor publicly. That is a fact. One that pains me. But, to each his own-- there ae 70 faces to the Torah!!! May He bring us Moshiach today to answer all our halachic and hashkafa questions!

Anonymous said...

Netivot Girl, we agree.

Similarly, have a look at:

The uncertainty of Yom Ha'atzmaut

Netivotgirl said...

What an OUTSTANDING blog post!!!! What a brave person for verbalizing what so many of us, mainly Olim from the West, feel. This...ambiguity.

The link you mentioned says : ...
the way it is, people want to celebrate somehow, think they cannot, don't know why, and have nobody to turn to. They think that if they ask then they will look too much like a Zionist and their kids will be thrown out of school, they will be chased out of the neighborhood/community, or just thought of as being too modern.

Why can we not get guidance on this?"

Until I received a cassette tape of Rav Cooperman speaking about Yom Ha'azmaut, I felt torn into two.

I have additional questions!Although Rav Elyashiv and Rav Kanievsky wrote to Bush to free Pollard, why is there no tefilla in shuls here, only in the USA?

I have a friend whose husband, Yona, has smicha from both Rav Sheinberg and Rav Noivert, Shlita. (He teaches Halacha at two excellent Charedi seminaries.) At the time of the Expulsion from Gush Katif, I kept asking both my husband and him, "Why are most of the Rabbanim here SILENT on this issue? Okay, I understand that in the charedi world, yishuv Eretz Yisrael is not considered of primary importance. But how can they keep silent and not speak about this issue? JEWS KICKING OUT JEWS FROM THEIR HOMES!

Yona said that I could at least hold my head up for I had voted Shas the election before, and Rav Ovadia Yosef as well as Rav Mazuz from Yeshivat Kisay Rachamim spoke out on several occasions against this sin! He had no answer, and likewise felt extremely upset at the silence over this burning issue. This from a brilliant American Talmid Chacham who has a conscience!

With my huband's blessings, I went to anti-gerush demonstrations and organized reading of Tehillim.
People looked at me askance. But my conscience insisted.

About the sirens, and having children expulsed from school, my eldest daughter (who studied at a superb sem. after h.s.) said Tehillim on Yom Ha'zikaron and a very old teacher "caught her" and gave her "mussar." I'm proud to say that Michal answered, "I was taught at home that there are poor souls with nobody to say Kadish for them, and hence it is a mitzva to say Tehillim for them." The "tzadekes" teacher was speechless!

I believe we get a mitzva for giving our children chinuch for joint responsibility about what goes on among our people here. If I were a man, I'd go query the Rabbanim. My husband sits and learns, and has no time. So, we give chinuch from our hearts and neshamot.

All we can do is pray. Pray Moshiach comes already to clear up all the ambiguity!!!

Batya said...

netivotgirl, Thanks for blogging on my blog. Please write more.