Wednesday, September 21, 2005

An outsiders view of Melbourne

How does an outsider view our haimish community down under? Read on if you’d like to find out. The article appeared in last Fridays London Jewish News. It is written by Clive Lawton, executive director of Limmud, chair of development charity Tzedek and a former head teacher of King David high school in Liverpool. The 53-year-old is also a regular contributor to the Jewish News.

The Limits Of Charity
Thursday 15th of September 2005

If Sydney and its Jewish community is a bit Los Angeles, then Melbourne Jewry is the closest thing we have to pre-war Warsaw.
Some 40,000 Melbourne Jews manifest every passionate Jewish position between them. The Adass has a strong presence, but then so does Habonim. The Bundist school, Bialik, teaches Yiddish, and the Lubavitch have an iron grip on orthodox life. (Several shuls have been forced to adopt Lubavitch liturgy when they’ve appointed Lubavitch rabbis, for example, and a unit in the Jewish Studies A Level equivalent is “a study of Chabad”.)

Some renegade orthodox have established a Shira Hadasha shul imitating the radical feminist/egalitarian orthodox prototype Shira Hadasha in Jerusalem.
A huge proportion of young Jews attend Jewish day schools. The 2,000-strong Mount Scopus is a bit JFS-like, while Yeshiva High is more Hasmo. London doesn’t yet have an equivalent to King David, Melbourne’s Progressive Jewish school (about 850 pupils), nor anything quite like the 1,000 strong Bialik. Beis Rivka is the Lubavitch girls’ school which, together with its counterpart boys’ school, accommodates nearly 1,000 children from across the orthodox range. And so on.

They have only one kashrut authority, but every shul is independent and does its own thing. Melbourne’s LimmudOz last year attracted 850 people to its first ever two-day fest of learning Limmud-style and they figure it can only grow. One of the commercial cinemas is to run regular films of Jewish and Israeli interest all through the year because they reckon there’s a viable market. There’s even an eruv which everyone seems to use.

On my visit there last weekend, I was invited, amongst other speaking engagements, to deliver a d’var Torah to the Shabbat afternoon gathering of the Mizrachi shul, a right-of-centre-but-Zionist community whose members take their Judaism sufficiently seriously that the Shabbat afternoon congregation numbered at least 100. I addressed the Jewish principles underpinning Tzedek, the Third World development charity I chair.

When I’d finished, several people thanked me for this “breath of fresh air” or “challenge to our parochialism”. Some said it was helpful to be forced to think about our place in the wider world. And then an astonishing thing happened. When we went back into shul for ma’ariv, the rabbi went into the pulpit and proceeded to try to dismantle all I’d said – very politely but very firmly. He must have spoken for 15 minutes, stressing, for example, that the need to follow justice referred only to justice between Jews. He concluded by accepting that Jews should be an example, but that that was best done by looking after “our own” in an exemplary manner. Others then would be impressed and would look after “‘their own” too. If this were to happen, then there’d be no need for Jews to give to such charities as I had described.

Several people told me afterwards how strongly they disagreed with him, but clearly what he’d said was music to the ears of others.

But I have three questions. How can a learned Jew, especially just before Yom Kippur, when we read about Jonah being forced to prophesy to Nineveh, talk such claptrap about Jews only looking after their own? And, in the wake of, for example, the London bombings, how do we know who is “our own” and who is excluded? And, finally, when all of his congregation buy cheap clothes from the Far East, coffee from Latin America and chocolate from Africa, how does he decide that he’s not inextricably linked with the global community?

But don’t get me wrong. This could have been London as easily as Melbourne. You don’t have to live in a small community to have a small mind, nor live miles away to be far distant from thoughtful understanding.

The photo is not from his talk in Melbourne. I think what Clive has said about Melbourne is spot on. Living in such a tolerant and Jewish-friendly society as we do, I has always bothered me that support for non Jewish causes, particularly the terrible genocide occurring in Darfur, is not given enough attention.


Ittay said...

One orthodox group mentioned in the article, Shira Hadasha, is being pro-active about the welfare of non-Jewish communities.

Sudan: A Rosh Hashana Fundraiser and Reflection

The ongoing crisis in Sudan has resulted in much
destruction and suffering. There has been a huge movement of refugees leaving Sudan to the surrounding
countries. (There is also a growing community of
Sudanese refugees in Melbourne).

The evening has two main aims:
(1) To educate ourselves about the crises, it's
history , politics and effects.
(2) To raise money for the Sudanese refugee community
in Melbourne.

The event is taking placet during Aserei Yamei Teshuva because
it's a really important part of introspection and teshuva to think about our social responsibilities outside the Jewish community.

There will be 4 speakers:
1. Matt Albert (A young Jewish activist. He worked in Sudan last year and was the cofounder of SAIL, a really big volunteer programme where Australians teach
Sudanese Refugees English. He is also Young Victorian of the Year.)
2. Terefe Aborte (The head of Horn of Africa Family
Services who have provided social services to Sudanese
3. Rosa Kiak (A Sudanese Refugee who also works with
4. Lisa Buchner from Jewish Aid.

It's on October 9th, 7:30-9pm at Shira Hadasha. Money will go to SAIL and Jewish Aid project with Sudanese Refugees in Melbourne.

Michael Lawrence said...

How widely is that piece from Clive Lawton getting distributed in Melbourne? Might well disturb a few people up Balaclava Road and beyond.
Shame that he had to snap back with some harsh comments. If he's been trodden on it might be better to let others do the dirt flinging rather than get dirty yourself.

Nemo said...

The Rabbi has a point, though he missed the point too.

The Halacha is that you've got to look after your own first. Your family members, your town, and then all the Jews in the world and then the world at large.

If you won't be generous to your brother the Jew, how can you possibly give to world causes. And alternatively, how can you worry about every person in the world, if your Jewish brother is hurting?

subjewd said...

Actually, nemo, thats exactly what the rabbi did say, and he was misquoted by the person who wrote the article.
Ittay, its cute that Shira Chadasha is invloved in all these sudansese projects, but quite frankly, i think all that energy you guys are using is misdirected.
Shira Chadasha's memebers have once again proved themselves to be, simply put, apologetic jews. Well, you don't get my support or symplaythy (or anyone else's in the world) - when Jews become proud Jews, then the world will appriciate us for who we are.
I have nothing against the Sudaneses refugees, but why is that a priorety for Shira Chadasha memebers? are you aware that there are Jewish families - in melbourne, with no money to buy food and clothing for yomtov, i'm not talking about no money for lavish meals, i'm talking about kiddush wine and challah.think about it.

Jake said...

I saw the absurd comments of Clive Lawton. Frankly, he is a misinformed and/or amazingly ignorant idiot. I Googled him briefly. This guy is concerned about every left-wing concern on the planet, but has a rabid hatred of Jewish causes. His diatribe against the Jews of Gaza betrays his remarkable ignorance of Jewish history and contemporary Jewish issues as well as his radical leftist impulses. Tellingly, while I found Clive Lawton mentioned on a number of web-sites where he babbles on freely, I didn't notice any that allow for feedback, i.e. rational debate. For demagogues like Clive Lawton this is very convenient.

I offer a line-by-line rebuttal of his rave against Gazan Jews here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

>Clive Lawton: They are rabid ideologues.

Instead of debating issues, Lawton attacks people. Not very impressive. Especially coming from a "rabid ideologue" such as Lawton. Glass houses, you know...

>CL: Encouraged no doubt by various tax breaks, incentives and bribes, these 8,000 people chose to live in Gaza in the full consciousness that this territory was utterly Palestinian.

Mr. Lawton considers himself a premier Jewish educator but seems entirely ignorant of the ancient Jewish communities of Gaza. Check up HaRav Najara. Jews have been present in that part of the Holy Land for centuries. Somehow Lawton deduces that this ancient Jewish presence in the Holy Land makes it "utterly Palestinean". Hmmm.

>CL: Tens of thousands more moral Israelis resisted the baits to lure them across the green line on to the West Bank – let alone marauding into Gaza – despite desperate attempts on the part of various governments, right and left, to persuade them to do so.

Hiding out in Medinat Tel Aviv doesn't make them "more moral"? Indeed, army deserters are primarily made up of these Tel Aviv leftists who prefer to let others do the hard work. These are disproportionately kippa-wearing Bnei Akiva types. So who is more moral here, those who do more than their share of the hard work or the parasites? Or does Lawton have a refreshingly Clintonesque definition of "more moral"?

>CL: off the disproportionate military drain that was necessary to let them live their idyllic lives on the best part of the strip.

Clive, getting shot at on your way to school, work or play isn't exactly part of an "idyllic" life for anyone. The Jews who were dedicated to living in Gush Katif did so because of their dedication to this vital Jewish cause. Are Jewish causes part of Clive Lawton's repertoire - or is it only when NON-JEWS need help that Lawton springs into action?

>CL: their determination to live in luxury was costing the state dear

If you consider sending kids to school in a bullet proof bus, rocket-proofing the roof of your home, and mounting bullet-proof screens on your car to be luxuries, then Clive Lawton has got it exactly right. Otherwise, he seems to be a bit confused.

>CL: So, we've been well manipulated, but I'm not buying it.

Clive Lawton has been manipulated, alright. He also seems to have bought it - hook, line and sinker.

>CL: These folk are squatters and the fact that they are Jews does not diminish that.

Clive, what exactly would you say about that desecration that offends all of Judaism in the most vile way: the occupation of the Holy Temple Mount? Would you call those people "squatters"? "Rabid ideologues"? Or do you reserve those labels only for your most hated enemies?

>CL: They weren't contributing to the good of the state.

In a single article, Clive Lawton is so wrong with the facts so often that he seems to have graduated from the "Hannan Ashrawi School of Jewish Love and Jewish History". The people of Gush Katif have actually succeeded in what the Kibbutzim have failed: they have made agriculture PROFITABLE without massive government subsidies. And they did this in the incredibly hostile environment of Gaza. They were "contributing to the good of the state" in many other ways, as well.

>CL: these 8,000 squatters found it easy, despite their apparent Jewish convictions, to look down the road at the overcrowded misery of the Palestinians and thumb their noses at it.

What precisely is easy about driving in armed convoys every day? About helping one's children out after their legs have been blown off by Palestinean neighbors down the road? About wondering when the next rocket will land in the living room, unanounced ?

>CL: They must go now.

The only thing clear now is that Clive Lawton is stunningly ignorant of the facts and very free with his opinions. Had he kept his mouth shut more tightly, we might not have been made aware of his incompetence. The obvious conclusion, then, is that so-called "Jewish educator" and self-promoter Clive Lawton must go now.

As Mr. T used to say years ago: If anyone bothers to "learn" with or from Clive Lawton, then "I pity the fool".

Jake in Jerusalem

Ittay said...

Subjewd, Jews that daven at SH are very proud Jews. The suggestion that they take their Judaism any less seriously than others offensive. Shira Hadasha has organized many public learning events around Jewish Issues, eg: The issue of Agunot, Shoah Seder, Public Learning about Jerusalem on Tisha Be’av.

In regards to jewish families in melboure who have nothing to eat on Rosh Hashana, SH provides a Shabbat meal every Friday night and Shabbat lunch, and SH is one of the few shules in Melbourne we you can get a seat on the high holidays and not be a paid member. These are just some of the many chesed activities SH supports for the community.

In regards to our choice to focus on the situation in Darfur in the aseret yemei teshuva, how many people need to die before the Jewish community decides to take action against this Genocide? The people who have come here from Sudan need our support, and we are in a position to give it. Of course we give priority to Jewish causes, but on this occasion, we have decided a non-jewish cause also deserves our support.

Anonymous said...

Subjewd, I agree with your sentiments that tzedaka to Jewish sources is of utmost importance. butI am wondering who exactly is to be responsible for other, non-Jewish people who are suffering? I think that we are living in a sad world if we can only help people with shared beliefs, a common history or belief in the same g-d. If we go by the theory of loooking after "your own" then the Sudanese refugees in Melbourne would have no support at all. Who would look after them? Fellow Sudanese refugees who are struggling to put food on their own plate? I am not denying the difficulty in deciding where to direct tzedakah but I think that its realy important that we dont dismiss our responsibilities as Jews to challenge injustices.

subjewd said...

I think I need to clarify what I said. I genuinely care for all human beings in the entire world.
It is however, immpossible for me, to care in a practical manner, to all those who are need of help (being that there are 6 billion people in the world), I have limited resources and energy at my disposal.

The question is, what does Judasim have to say about social responisiblity in a broader context.

Let us imagine that we have 'care circles' - starting with ourselves, then (another ring on the outside) our closest family memebers.
For most people, if they were aware that there was something wrong with anyone in their innermost 'care circle', they would drop everything, and even risk our own lives to help them (after all its their closeset family members).
At that moment in time, they would not be concentrating efforts in helping anyone else in the whole world, becuase they are busy saving the life of their closest loved ones.This is not being selfish or close minded.

In the next circle (could be more distant relatives, friends etc) - wheras one may not risk their lives for these people, but they would would try our best to help them through whatever means at are their disposal.

the circles become more and more removed, e.g. caring for poverty stricken people by sending a check to the salvos, caring for cancer affected people by sending donation to anti cancer council etc) to the point where there could be a 'care circle' so distant that one may see an ad on TV about a 3rd world country and not really care at get the picture of what I mean by 'care circles'

I think it is fair to say, that
it would be immposible and illogical to function on the level that all humanity would be placed in your closest 'care circle' (where you drop everything and risk your own life) - you simply would not have an oppertuinity to live a 'normal' life.

But thats exactly where Judasim kicks in and says "all Jews whether you know them or not, should be considered as if they are in your INNERMOST CARE CIRCLE" - yes, its demanding so much.

Look at it this way.
If your (blood) brother or sister, had no money for food, clothers, education etc., and you only have a limited amount of money to give him, are you justified in sending that money it off to sudan?

shouldn't you be giving it to your brother or sister first?

and what if you did send to sudan and your brother looks at you in the eyes and asks for some help, how could you explain to him that you send it off to another country?

all jews are brothers and sisters, and therfore in our closest 'care circle'.

once again.
think about it.

Ittay said...

Subjewed, I agree with you that Jews should be in the innermost circle of care for Jews.

Let’s say a shule is going to hold 15 different functions during a year where they can raise money for various types of tzedaka. Obviously, the majority should be Jewish causes(providing shabbat meals, visiting sick, supporting Jewish education etc), but out of those 15, is not it possible for just ONE, to be about a very preventable slaughter of innocent Africans occurring in Sudan that most of Australia is completely oblivious to.

How can Jewish people, living in the generation we do, ignore this genocide?

Shabbat Shalom

Adinah said...

I took a politics class in third world development. One article that i came accross in particular questioned the universal responsability to act. It gave a metaphor. Your house is burning on fire, and you realise that you have only the opportunity to run in once. yet two people are in your house. your grandmother and Oprah Winfery (author actually used Mother Teresa, but she's now dead which makes her somewhat inappropriate for the use of the metaphor) The question is who are we more morally ubliged to run in and save? Oprah Winfery just gave 10 million dollars to the devastation in New Orleans, has helped millions of people out in the past and will probably continue to give enormouse amounts, due to the large influlence she yields. Your grandmother is your family, through her, you came to live. Yet her existance is ultimatly inconsequential to the benifit of the entire world. According to this theorist (sorry, i forget his name) your morally obliged to save your grandmother. Your devotion and willingness to risk your life for your grandmother is considered to be expected, a natural impulse where you would not think twice before taking the drastic move. To save Oprah, if she were the only one in the burning house, would be considered heroic. Not being emotionally tied, makes a person a lot more considered when forced into a dilemma of drastic action. Irrelevant of the fact the Oprah does so much for the benifit of people around the world, the impulse to save her is not there.
To help out the sudanese, would perhaps do more for our self- acknowledgemnt as good people, then it would actually make us perhaps good people. We would be considered heroes for taking the effort to raise money and rightly so. But as to the degree that we can consider it a primary responsability is questionable. A jewish cause, is not anything heroic, it's an expected responsablity that should always come first.

a said...

Subjewd: "I have nothing against the Sudaneses refugees, but why is that a priorety for Shira Chadasha memebers? are you aware that there are Jewish families - in melbourne, with no money to buy food and clothing for yomtov, i'm not talking about no money for lavish meals, i'm talking about kiddush wine and challah.think about it."

I think that a few issues are getting tangled up here.

Let me refer specifically to the grandmother vs Oprah dilemma. I think that example perpetuates a certain misconception that has informed a lot of this debate: The belief that there is as much need in the Jewish communities of the world today as in any other communities. That is not the case.

Let's say that one accepts that, all other things being equal, it ought to be a priority to help members of one's own community ahead of others. Then, if there's a person who is poor in my community, I should endeavour to assist them ahead of an equally poor person in a different community. Hopefully, someone in that person's own community will help them. This raises two important questions:

i) What if there is no one in that person's own community who can/will help them?

That being the case, I would suggest that responsibility must fall on people outside of their community. And if that's the case, there is no reason that Jews should be immune from such a responsibility.

Let me give an example the other way around: Before World War II, many of the most important centres of Jewish life were in Europe. Whilst they were being wiped out, Jews in other places did not have, alone, the power/influence/resources to deal with that injustice. Would you sanction a British person saying, "I have nothing against Jewish refugees, but why is that a priority? Are you aware that there are British families - in London, with no money to buy food and clothing for Christmas, I'm not talking about no money for lavish meals, I'm talking about a basic Christmas meal with the family.Think about it."

I hope not.

I would suggest that such a person certainly does have a responsibility to his poor 'brother/sister'. But, does he not also have a responsibility for those with no 'brother'? For the equivalent of the ger, the yatom, the almanah of biblical times, the person who does not have anyone to support them? The yatom is not of my family, yet I have to help him. The Sudanese refugee (and it ought to be mentioned that the genocide in Sudan is but one of many injustices going on in the world) is not of my people, yet perhaps I have to help her too.

ii) What if poverty/suffering in a particular community or in particular communities outside of the Jewish community is exponentially worse than what is to be found, in our particular period, in Jewish communities?

Let me say first: There is poverty in Jewish communities today, especially in Israel, and Jews, in my opinion, have an obligation to take responsibility for the alleviation of such problems that exist in our own communities. However, the 'average' material situation of Jews today is much better than any kind of global average. This means two things: a) as a community, since we sit at the top of the financial scale, we do have resources to help those in worse situations, even whilst helping our own; b) the worst suffering that goes on in the world today, the most desparate situations, are not suffered by Jews.

We live in a world where thousands of children die of preventable diseases every day. Is a vaccination for such a child (not to mention healthy drinking water, sufficient food, etc) less of a priority than kiddush wine for someone in our community? Is a donation to a yeshiva a greater priority than the establishment of primary schools in places where most people can't read?

Since people have been using a lot of analogies to situations which involve individuals, I'll use a variation on the grandma dilemma, though I think such analogies dangerously simplify the issues: Suppose that there is someone at the end of my street who has been living on a couple of potatoes a week for months, has no running water, and can't afford to send their kids to school. Grandma, who lives next door, needs help with her shopping. I should help grandma because she is grandma, because she is family, because she is old, because she needs my help. But should this come at the expense of someone else in a much more desparate situation? And what if I have enough resources to help both, and no one else is doing anything to help the poverty stricken individual at the end of my street?

Think about it.

And one more thing:

Subjewd: "Shira Chadasha's memebers have once again proved themselves to be, simply put, apologetic jews. Well, you don't get my support or symplaythy (or anyone else's in the world) - when Jews become proud Jews, then the world will appriciate us for who we are."

I don't know you, and I don't like ad hominem arguments, but in this case I'll make an exception: Your ignorance is hanging out. You clearly have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. I'm a member of shira chadasha, and your suggestion that my Judaism/Jewish identity - of which you clearly know nothing, since we've never met nor had a conversation - is somehow 'apologetic', 'unproud', or inauthentic, is as offensive as it is wrong. Please note in the above that I have not engaged in any 'apologetics' whatsoever. Have you? Think about it.

Anonymous said...

ittay, clearly you dont understand subjewd about the innermost circle of care. If you were to have 1000's and 1000's of brothers who were in desperate need for so many criticle things, how could you justify giving to preventable slaughter of innocent Africans occurring in Sudan (a very worthy cause) before giving to them

ruch said...

From another non-apologetic, proud Jew and member of Shira Hadasha:

I don't know exactly why subjewd wrote that Shira Hadasha attendees apologetic. Allow me to hazard a guess:

Subjewd assumes that
(1) Judaism has very specific values and Jewish values are in conflict with modern Western morality.
(3) Shira Hadasha preferences Western values above Jewish values.

These assumptions are problematic for a variety of reasons. I'm just going to make one suggestion.

When Shira Hadasha members attempt to do what they think is right - for example, when they fundraise for Sudanese refugees, try to be inclusive toward women, learn Jewish texts or pray - they are not necessarily making a distinction between Jewish values and foriegn values.

The fact that they have decided to organise the fundraiser for Sudanese refugees during Aseret Yamei Teshuva implies that they consider it a Jewish value. In which case, I don't think it can be considered apologetic.

ruch said...

On self acknowledgement:

Some people criticise people who try to do what is right and good, saying that they only do it for self-gratification.

I don't want to argue motives. I think motives are complex. A single act may have many motives and they may be impossible to discern. However, if doing what is good for others is self-gratifying, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do the right thing. Surely, it's not better to be immoral in order to avoid self-gratification.

Adinah implied that helping Jews is good but helping non-Jews is self-gratification. Now, if helping Jews is more noble than helping non-Jews, surely it is also more self-gratifying. If both are important, both are self-gratifying.
An act can only be self-gratifying if the person doing it thinks that it is the right thing to do. The more right or good the person thinks the act is, the more potential it has for self-gratification.

There is a Jewish dictum that says something similar: Even if a person fulfils a mitzvah (commandment) not lashem shamayim (for the sake of G-d), the mitzvah will still reach shamayim (G-d): it is still preferable for them to do the mitzvah than not to do it. As it happens, in this case perhaps Shira Hadasha is acting lashem shamayim. But even if you doubt their motives - which I'm not sure why you would, I find it a tad offensive - that doesn't mean that their actions will not reach shamayim.

subjewd said...

I apologise to all those people I have offended, by making generalisations and assumptions.

I actually think that writing on Ittay's blog is wasting my time. So, I'm not going to write any more, in fact, i'm scrapping my blog as well.

This sequence of comments has shown me that, blogs, although may be a powerful tool in promoting dialoge, in this case have:

- resloved nothing
- offended and upset people
- created negative energy

For that I am to blame, as well as some other people.

I think Ittay, you mentioned to me that you wanted this kind of thing on your blog (controversy etc.) But, I don't want to be a part of it.

Shana Tova,
let this year be sweet, for everyone who needs it, for the world, for a true and ever lasting uniting peace.amen.

Adinah said...

On the discussion of a righteous act and its effect on self gratification. It's true both the minor act and a small act both create feelings of self righteousness. But the degree to which doing a mitzvah is important does not correlate to the degree to which a person will feel self rigteousness.
Ruch - your logic is entertaining, but i think you miss the mark.
If a person is required to do a moral act, then yes they will feel good about it. But if a person is not required to do a moral act,yet they do it anyway because of its morality, then they are more prone to feel self rigteousness because they went beyond the letter of the law. In 'The path of the Just', it says the rigteous are more vulnerable to their evil inclination then a simple person, because their feelings of self-rigteousness are justified.
Keeping the moral requirements of Judaism are difficult to hold up to as it is, the important lesson, is not to make holding up to an authentically moral existance excessively difficult.
it's true, motivations are always mixed and complex. Rosh Hashanah being a good time to be honest to what indeed motivates our behaviour. Especially when doing something we are not specifically required to do.
Anyway, i don't believe that helping the sudanese over jewish people as a situation of bad behaviour versus good. it's a matter of two goods; one that's obliged another that's commendable.

ruch said...

Sorry Adinah, I misunderstood what you were trying to say in your first post. I think you were trying to say that helping needy non-Jews is a moral obligation but not a halachik obligation.

(In your first post you referred to a political philosopher who – unless s/he was a Jewish political philosopher – couldn’t have been talking about the same thing as you.)

There are certainly halachik opinions that say that a person is halachikly obliged to fulfil their moral obligations. This would include helping needy non-Jews. See Rav Lichtenstein’s Lifnim Mishurat HaDin.

If we go by Rav Lichtenstein’s (and others) opinion, then we are halachikly obliged to help non-Jews. Fundraising for Sudanese refugees would then be a way to (partially) discharge that obligation.

If we don’t, then we can still say that we should help Sudanese refugees for moral reasons. This need not be in conflict with halacha. It would still be encouraged by lots of Jewish sources. Yom Kippur shacharit haftorah is one pertinent example. It is from Isiah. Isiah tells us that Hashem doesn’t want self-negating fasts where we prostrate ourselves and wear sackcloth. Hashem wants fasts that untie the bonds of wickedness and oppression. I think that speaks for itself.

If we say that because it’s not obligated (and Rav Lichtenstein amongst others might say that it is obligated but anyway) we shouldn’t do it, then we are using Judaism to justify immorality. What worse (possibly self-serving) Hilul Hashem could there be?

On Yom Kippur Shacharit the haftorah reading is from Isiah. In it, Isiah tells the Jewish people that G-d doesn't want their fasts where they aflict themselves. According to our YK haftorah, G-d doesn't want a fast of sackcloth, prostration and self-negation. G-d wants a fast that will lessen wickedness and oppression. This may or may not be halacha, but it's our haftorah reading on YK shacharit. So it would seem that someone thought it was the appropriate thing to read...

Anonymous said...


I jst read through this blog... i've never written on a blog but this got me going.

Ruch, if you study YK and the various components of it. A large part of YK requires prostrating and if you look at the translation of the various prayers you'll notice a lot of self negation in the eyes of Hashem.

In addition, when quoting from the Prophets orthodox tradition teaches us to read through the commentaries to better understand what we are reading, the context and what practical requirements apply to us.

Without meaning to be rude, the way you have quoted is typical of both Reform and Christianity, taking the literal meaning of a particular chapter or verse and disregarding everything else.

The fact is that as much as there are those in this community that are exceptionall wealthy , there are hundreds of families that require the left overs from Glicks/ Heimishes etc... and this doesn't take into consideration all the other jews around the world.

This may sound cyical, but we live in a world where no one is out there supporting the Jew and as much as there is great proverty and others across the globe have terrible burdens, we ufortunatley need to stick together. To make thise point, I refer to tha fact that neither the red cross nor the red cresent recognise Magen David Adom...which offers exactly the same service to the citizens of Israel and at time the Palestian population as well.

In addition, no money ever raised from the 40 hour famine has ever gone to the poverty stricken in Israel, and there are hundreds of thousands in Israel who live below the poverty line. I am not saying that the money shouldn't be distributed to whomever they see fit. Unfortunately, Jews don't register a blip on the radar and it would only make sense that we look after our own well before others.

As was written earlier, why not make one of the many charity function a non-Jewish fnction... I ask what about all the Jewish people that need the money and will miss out from that one opportunity...

If you require any more info about what is really out there in terms of wealth and poverty, contact a Yad Eliezer rep... it'll leave you in tears... it certainy left me all choked up.

Ittay said...

Shalom Chaverim,
I’ve just been in Israel for three weeks, and only now have I finally found the time to read and respond to your many thoughtful comments. The debate about our responsibilities to jews Vs non-jews is one raging in our minds this succot. Just for some perspective:

7000 Christians will march in around Jerusalem tomorrow, commentating the sacrifices non-Jews gave to Hashem in temple times.

Israel has offered aid to south-asia earthquake victims, and on previous occasions assisted victims from the tsunami, hurricane rita and many other natural disasters.

How is this relevant? Our torah tells us that non-jews should care about jews (succot sacrifices), and that jews should care about jews(tzedaka), but where does it say that jews should acre about non-jews?

One example may be found in the exemplary behaviour of the State of Israel towards non-jews, from which I personally draw much of my inspiration and jewsih identity. Other examples may be found in the prophets and Talmud if you serach hard enough.

May this time of succot, a time when we are in god’s holy house, be a “zman simchatenu” for jews and non-jews alike.