Monthly Archives: October 2011

Peace among brothers

I just read a fascinating story, written by Rav Aharon Soloveitchik zt”l in Perach Mateh Aharon on hilchos tshuva, that he heard had happened with his father, uncles and grandfather, Rav Chaim in Brisk. To be brief, the story goes that Rav Chaim presided over a case in beis din in which the local butcher was being sued for 3000 ruble. After failing to persuade the butcher to agree to a compromise, the case was decided on its merits, and the decision went against the butcher – he had to pay the full amount.

The butcher was enraged and became very rude to Reb Chaim. He called him names and said very disparaging things to him. Reb Chaim remained silent, until he eventually became frustrated and no longer could. He said simply “Chatzuf, get out of here.”

The story goes on that shortly after, right before Yom Kippur, Reb Chaim searched out for the butcher in shul and asked forgiveness. The butcher refused and again became very rude. Reb Chaim said he asked 3 times in front of 3 people (his 3 sons) and he need not ask again. he added that he did not do anything wrong with what he said, he had not transgressed any rabbinic or Torah-based prohibitions. However, he felt it necessary to ask forgiveness because his words, even though they were allowed, had been hurtful to the butcher and had shamed him, and for that he must ask forgiveness.

A story in that vein just happened here in Bet Shemesh, via the local Tmura newspaper. Two local activists at times, more often than not, find themselves at odds with each other,  at opposite ends of many local issues. that would be Rav Dov Lipman and Rav Shmuel Peppenheim.

Rav Dov Lipman is involved in local activist activities on behalf of the Dati Leumi community, on behalf of Old Bet Shemesh, on behalf of many local groups who feel they are being slighted. Sometimes the perception is that he is anti-haredi, but he is really pro-keeping Bet Shemesh diverse and giving everybody his fair share and not taking away from others just so you can get yours (that’s how I would define it, though I don’t know if he would say that is an accurate description).

Rav Shmuel Peppenheim is a member of Toldos Aharon, and from an “Eida establishment” family. His activism is mainly on behalf of Eida issues, and for the hard-core haredi community, though he has more recently been involved in the opening of a vocational training center and other “more moderate” issues than one would expect from an Eida representative.

Both Lipman and Peppenheim have been writing in Tmura newspaper for a long time, each from his own perspective on various local issues. At times, Rav Peppenheim has used his platform to attack Rav Lipman and his position on whatever issue is the hot topic of the day.

Before Yom Kippur, Rav Peppenheim decided to go for a sulha of sorts and apologize to Rav Lipman for his attacks on Lipman. He sent a letter to Rav Lipman and publicized it in the Tmura newspaper before Yom Kippur. Rav Lipman sent a response, also publicized in the newspaper, and they then had a brief meeting to solidify the new relationship.

Rav Peppenheim’s letter:

Requesting forgiveness.
Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is a time for appeasing people you have hurt, and Chazal say that Yom Kippur does not clear sins between man and man, but one must appease his friend and ask forgiveness.
For a serious amount of time I have participated in the “Weekly Parliament” column of this newspaper and in the heat of my words I caused harm to important and dear people. I thought at the time that I was responding to the issue  and not to any specific person. But it turns out that I hurt people, and they suffered because of me in various ways.
Specifically I am coming to appease the person of action in Torah ways who busies himself in communal affairs with vigor Rav Dov Lipman, whom i failed via him as I wrote about him personally harmful words, for which there was no place. My criticism could have been made more restrained and more proper and directly to the issue and not regarding the person.
I wish to use this platform to appease him and to invite him, in the spirit of the day, to dialogue out of respect and mutual respect, as a person of Torah to a Torani person, people who are Torah and Mitzva observant.

Rav Lipman’s letter:

I wish to publicize the thanks I feel towards R’ Shmuel Peppenheim regarding his apology for what he wrote about me two years ago, and to say i completely forgive him.
In the past weeks, I have learned a lot about this courageous man. Yes, courageous. When the violence began against the students of OROT Banot, Reb Shmuel immediately opposed it publicly. You must remember that we are talking about a Jew who dresses the same and comes from the same place as the extremist thugs. Despite that it could have caused damage to himself, he opposed them and continues to oppose them. This person i call courageous. And also his apology to me testifies to his courage.
The whole nation of Israel needs to understand that throughout our history there were differences of opinion. There were intiially 12 tribes, and in the time of redemption we will  again be 12 tribes. There are many ways and approaches in religion, many various possibilities where to put the stress and focus, and many various customs and cultures. But, it is important to remember, at the end of the day, we are all children of the same family that must learn to respect each other. Reb Shmuel is a tremendous example of this.
I hope and wish that he and we all will have a good year. With the expectation of a year of cooperation between me and Reb Shmuel, and between all of us – the children of one city, one country, one nation and one family.

[Source: Sulha in Bet Shemesh – Life in Israel –]

The premise with which we begin

Quite frankly, the word “God” does nothing for me. If anything, it interferes with my true faith. Personally, I don’t believe in “God.” It’s an English word of German derivation and is not found in the Bible, if you read the Hebrew original. The word “God” has been so overused, abused, and misunderstood that it actually stands in the way of discovering the ultimate truth we are seeking.

Thinking about this problem, I begin to understand what Nietzsche must have meant when the God is dead. The concept of “God” – what we mean we say “God” is a dead concept. It is not real. The male, Zeuz-like avenger floating about in heaven doesn’t even come to close to representing the reality.

How childish and counterproductive this concept is was brought home to me when one day, into my seminar walked a fellow wearing a T-shirt depicting an exchange from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Hobbes, the toy tiger, is asking Calvin, the little boy, “Calvin, do you believe in God?” Calvins reply is: “Well, someone is out to get me.”

Unfortunately, many people harbor an image of God as some kind of almighty heavenly bully who is out to get them. No wonder they don’t want to believe in that God; no wonder they don’t have any idea how to connect with that God. As one woman said to me, “I just wish that He would leave me alone. I don’t bother with Him; He shouldn’t both with me.” But down deep, such people really suffer from an intense fear of God and punishment. This is called theophobia. Often the people who suffer from theophobia describe themselves as atheist. They try to escape their mental torment by denying the God whom they actually continue to fear daily.

I understand their fears. I remember the first time I felt that kind of fear. I was a child watching The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston as Moses. Only later on in my life did I realize what a negative experience that was for me. For one thing, the voice of God stayed imprinted on my consciousness for a very long time. Can you imagine the auditions for the part? Actors with a sweet, gentle voice need not apply! Only someone with a booming, loud, oppressive-sounding voice could be the voice of God.

These are the kinds of memories rambling around in most people’s minds. In total they add up to an awful image of God. So, I believe that before real spiritual growth is possible we must get rid of God.

Just like Abraham, we need to smash our own graven images, free ourselves from the conceptual idolatry obstructing the eyes of our soul. The time has come to see the One whom we seek.

(R’David Aaron – Seeing God: ten life-changing lessons of the Kabbalah)

Rabbinic elections in the new age

I just came across these two videos on-line. I personally know Rabbi Braun from Sydney, Australia. I found the above videos really insightful, both in regards to Rabbi Braun as an individual and also in terms of the dynamics of the Crown Heights community. What is even more interesting is that in the modern age, Beis Din positions are being promoted/debated/discussed on Youtube….. welcome to the new millennium.