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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Maharal on dissent

Maharal's Be'er HaGolah

It is proper, out of love of reason and knowledge, that you do not (summarily) reject anything that opposes your own ideas, especially so if (your adversary) does not intend merely to provoke you, but rather to declare his beliefs. And even if such (beliefs) are opposed to your own faith and religion, do not say to your opponent: "Speak not and close your mouth." If that happens there will take place no purification of religion. On the contrary, you should say at such times, "Speak up as much as you want, say whatever you wish and do not say later that had you been able to speak, you would have replied further." For one who causes his opponent to hold his peace and refrain from speaking demonstrates (thereby) the weakness of his own religious faith....This is therefore the opposite of what some people think, namely, that when you prevent someone from speaking against religion, that strengthens religion. That is not so, because curbing the words of an opponent in religious matters is naught but the curbing and enfeebling of religion (itself)....

When a powerful man seeks out an opponent in order to demonstrate his (own) strength, he very much wants his opponent to exercise as much power as he can, so that if he defeats him his own victory will be more pronounced. What strength is manifested when the opponent is not permitted to fight?....Hence, one should not silence those who speak against religion... for to do so is admission of weakness. (4)

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Torah Umadda (Northvale, NJ/London: Jason Aronson,1990) pp. 57-58,
      translation of this passage from Maharal's Be'er HaGolah, end of last chapter.

From Rabbi Nathan Cardozo's Thoughts to Ponder 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Interesting passage from Marc Angel on postures in halacha:

Rabbi (Ovadia) Yosef, drawing on a passage from the Hidah (Rabbi Hayyim Yosef David Azulai), suggested a distinction between the Ashkenazic and Sephardic approaches to halakha. Historically, the Hidah noted, the Ashkenazim tended toward the quality of “gevurah,” strength. They viewed halakhic stringencies as a positive expression of love of God. The stricter the demands of halakha, the more self-sacrifice and heroism were entailed in fulfilling the commandments. In contrast, the Sephardim tended toward the quality of “hessed,” compassion. They viewed halakha as a loving means of serving God. Whereas Ashkenazim veered toward halakhic stringency, Sephardim tilted toward halakhic leniency. As Rabbi Yosef said: “The Sephardic rabbis are of the school of Hillel, tending toward hessed, and they do not have stringencies; they walk on the ‘king’s highway.’ However, Ashkenazic rabbis tend toward gevurah, and are from the school of Shammai who were strict.” Rabbi Yosef assured his audience that he himself was of the school of Hillel, and wished that “the Ashkenazim would be in order as we are.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The chassidim conquered America

In an interview with YU’s student newspaper, The Commentator, you said, “To me it’s a compliment that I don’t need [a black hat] to be frum.” What did you mean by that?
Today we all wear uniforms. What is the concept of wearing a uniform? What is chassidus all about? It’s beautiful. You have a social order, you build a wall around yourself . It’s a way of protecting yourself from outside influence. My generation didn’t need it. When we made a commitment, we made a commitment. That’s what I meant.
But if a black hat will keep you frum in America, you should wear two black hats, not just one. To me, being a Torah Jew is the most important thing in the world .
But when all is said and done, the chassidim conquered America. The Litvakim lost. In the Litvishe yeshivas no one dressed the same. When I learned in Lakewood, the only one who wore a black hat was Reb Aharon Kotler.
Even the old mashgiach, Reb Nosson Wachtfogel, wouldn’t dare wear a black hat. No one wore black pants and white shirts. It was unheard of. Everyone dressed different and stylish. In YU, not so much. Lakewood was more stylish because it’s part of Slabodka mussar [to dress in a dignified manner].

Jewish Press

From Lakewood To Yeshiva University: An Interview With Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff

Rabbi Yaakov Emden Referencing Christians with noble qualities and excellent morals

Preface to Seder Olam by the famous halachic authority, Rabbi Yaakov Emden ("Yavetz," 1697-1776):

"The founder of Christianity conferred a double blessing upon the world. On the one hand, he strengthened the Torah of Moshe and emphasized that it is eternally binding. On the other hand, he conferred favor upon the gentiles in removing idolatry from them, imposing on them stricter moral obligations than are contained in the Torah of Moshe. (!!) There are many Christians with noble qualities and excellent morals. Would that all Christians would live in conformity with their precepts. They are not enjoined, like the Israelites, to observe the laws of Moshe, nor do they sin if they associate other beings with God in worshipping a triune God. They will receive a reward from God for having propagated a belief in Him among the nations that never heard His name: for He looks into the heart."

from Thoughts to Ponder, Noson Cardozo, Jesus and SpinozaThe Story of a Jewish Tragedy

Monday, December 12, 2011


I was at a shalom zachar a while back and watched as 30 yeshivah boys,
all dressed the same, sang for two hours. It was a tisch without a rebbe.
I don't think the boys of Telz in Lita would do that. They'd talk Torah.