Thursday, August 15, 2019

15th of Av and Religious Exemption

Happy 15th of Av!
This day is celebrated by Jews worldwide since antiquity. Never before has this special day had as much timely relevance as today, as the fate of religious exemption hangs in the balance.

Why? Let's first consider the five happy events that occurred on this date in Jewish history.
    1. The dying of the generation of the Exodus ceased. Men in their sixtieth year – who were thought to have been doomed to perish in the desert – were forgiven and allowed to proceed to the Promised Land with the new generation. G-d began to lovingly communicate with Israel via Moses once more, after 38 years of not doing so.
    2. Tribes were permitted to marry within one-another. Prior to that date, during the early times of conquest and settling of the Land, a woman who had no brothers was not permitted to marry outside of her tribe, since her heirs would then be members of their father’s tribe. Such a marriage would eventually cause the transfer of land from one tribe to another (see Numbers 36). On the 15th of Av, this rule was repealed, and women inheriting land were permitted to marry men from other tribes.
    3. On this date circa 1200 BCE, the Tribe of Benjamin, which had been excommunicated and alienated from the other tribes due to the incident of the “Concubine at Gibeah” (Judges 19-21), was welcomed back into the community of Israel. Men from Benjamin were once more permitted to marry women from other tribes. 
    4. After the death of King Solomon, the ten northern tribes rejected the kingdom of Judah to form their own breakaway kingdom. Roadblocks were built to prevent citizens of the northern Kingdom of Israel from making pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. On this date, 15 Av (in 574 BCE), these divisive barriers were finally removed by Hoshea ben Elah, the last king of the northern kingdom, who opened the roads to Jerusalem
    5. On the 15th of Av (in 148 CE) the corpses of the many thousands of residents of Betar (slain by the Romans after the Bar Kochba rebellion) were finally allowed to be buried by their fellow Jews.

Do you see the common theme here?
Each of these events signified reconciliation and reunification after a period of alienation and estrangement.

  • The generation doomed to die in the desert was forgiven and permitted join the new generation, and Israel was reconciled with G-d once more.
  • The barrier of patrimonial inheritance laws that had once divided the tribes was now repealed, and all Israel could unite through marriage.
  • After years of alienation, Benjamin and the Tribes reconciled and reunited through matrimony.
  • After two centuries of restrictive barriers, Israel could once more join their brethren to the south and reunite with G-d in the Holy Temple.
  • The bodies of the slain Jews could finally be laid to rest in proper Jewish burial, a posthumous reunification with their people.
And now, on the 15th of Av of this year (August 16, 2019), we yearn for reconciliation and reunification yet again.
Sadly, several months back, thousands of Jewish children were wrongly banned from school for no good reason. Due to zealous school administrators and principals, goaded on by city and state officials, these innocent children were alienated from their schools and neighborhoods, treated as pariahs and lepers. Even worse, the state legislature then hastily passed an unjust law cementing these poor children’s fate.
In a flagrant violation of First Amendment rights, the state eliminated religious exemption thereby coercing all residents of NY State to vaccinate or be barred from school… an unprecedented barrier driving a wedge between these children and their peers, marginalizing Jewish families from their communities.
Today, the 15th of Av, we hope and pray for the end of this unlawful alienation of Jewish children.
We yearn for a reconciliation between NY’s Jewish communities and these precious children who suffered estrangement, humiliation, and scorn. 
Let Klal Yisroel reunite once more, and let’s tear down the artificial barriers that divide us into “provaxxer” and “antivaxxer” camps.
Let’s learn to respect one another, and honor each individual’s freedom to his or her own medical choices. In truth, we are one people, bound by an inherent unity that transcend all differences.
Please join me in prayer as we look forward to hearing good news, the return of sanity to N.Y. State and a stay on this deplorable law, and ultimately, its repeal.

The Talmud states: "There were no greater festivals for Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.

Indeed, there is no greater joy than when Jews reconcile and unite as one.

בימים ההם בזמן הזה. In those days and in our times.
Celebrate Jewish unity. Celebrate the 15th of Av!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

First Crusade Revisted?

First Crusade Revisited?
Don’t abandon Jewish children!

The First Crusade is mourned by Jews each year on the Ninth of Av.

Precise numbers are not known, but it is estimated that between 7,000 to 10,000 Jews were murdered by bloodthirsty mobs during May of 1096, and the killing sprees continued till 1099. In their pious zeal, Crusaders violently attempted to coerce the defenseless Jews to submit to baptism. Thousands of Jews of all ages refused and were cruelly butchered. Frenzied Catholic peasantry committed these atrocities in the name of their faith and “righteous indignation,” eager to punish Jews for the crucifixion of their messiah. By murdering Jews, they thought they were performing an act of “holy bloodletting” for the sake of a greater good!

Although the actual death toll was relatively low in comparison to subsequent tragedies, it is nonetheless regarded as a watershed cataclysm that unleashed 850 years of widespread hatred and persecution of Europe’s Jews that culminated with the recent Holocaust.

In the morning prayers of Tisha b’Av, we read the mournful dirge “מי יתן ראשי מים” ("Would that my head were water...") lamenting the devastation of this bloody Crusade. In particular, it bewails the marginalization, abandonment, and slaughter of Jewish school children:
“My eyes shall be filled with copious tears… over the tender children…

“wrapped in their scrolls and dragged to the slaughter…

“their appearance ruddier than rubies, sapphires and gems,

“yet they were trampled and discarded like mud in the streets.

“’Turn away from the unclean Jew!’ they called out to each other, lest they come too close.”

That was in 1096, but here we are, over 920 years later, and a destructive Crusade has been unleashed against our children once again.

Precise numbers are not known, but it is estimated that between 7,000 to 10,000 children Jewish children have been banned from being able to attend Jewish schools with their peers in New York State. That’s right… seven to ten-thousand children!

This time, however, the Crusaders are fellow Jews including some rabbis, Hashem yishmor!

In their pious zeal, these individuals attempted to coerce Jewish children to submit to vaccination for the sake of public health. With righteous indignation, they sought to punish these non-compliant children by barring them from schools, synagogues, and in some cases even camps. By marginalizing and abandoning these defenseless children, these modern-day crusaders truly believe they’re performing a holy act on behalf of a greater good, so-called herd immunity!

“Turn away from those unclean ‘contagious’ children!” They call out to each other.

In 1096, it was the ruthless Catholic peasantry, but now it's our own community leaders uttering these reprehensible words against holy Jewish children:

“Ban those unclean children from school, lest they come too close.”

Abandoned, trampled, discarded like mud in the streets… by whom? By the administrators of yeshivos and day schools throughout NY and the entire USA.

When will we learn the painful lessons of history?

Haven’t we suffered enough?

To these errant administrators I say:

Enough of your malicious crusade against Jewish children!

Enough of your madness and destructive fury.

These precious Jewish children are not “unclean” nor are they “contagious.” The fact that they don’t have immunity to Hepatitis B does NOT make them unclean or inferior, or somehow undeserving of a Torah education.

These are healthy yiddishe kinder, beloved and cherished by the Ribono shel olam.

It is in the merit of the breath of their holy lips that the world is sustained.

Let them into school!!

Don’t discard Jewish children!

“Touch not My anointed!” says Hashem. This refers to Jewish children, tinokos shel beis rabban. (Shabbos 119b).

These children are our future.

Their Torah study is the key to bringing Moshiach.

"Touch not My anointed" indeed.

Don’t malign them and don’t marginalize them!

Stand up for them. Stand with them. Assure them they are not alone and will not be abandoned.

Teach them Torah.

Don’t neglect them. Don’t neglect your sacred halachic duty to educate all the Jewish children in your city without exception.

We suffered enough crusades. Enough marginalization and abandonment of Jewish children.

Have we learned nothing in 920 years!?

Please! I implore you… on behalf of Klal Yisroel.

Ad mosai!? Until when?

May these days of sadness be transformed to days of gladness and joy.