Too Much Money-Too Much Leisure Time

The Rabbis of the Mishna were very much aware of the pitfalls of having too much time on one’s hand. They advised in the Ethics of the Fathers that the ideal is to study Torah while having a job. For being busy with both, will not allow one to sin. Simply put, if one fills his day with his occupation, and the remaining hours are devoted to Torah study, he will not have time to get into trouble.

Contrast this, with today’s Western society, where a typical work week is forty hours, there is a great deal of free time. As society has developed and we now have so many short cuts in taking care of our daily needs, running a household does not require nearly the amount of time it did fifty years ago. We have also grown accustomed to instantly prepared foods, as well as fast foods, so that the things that once occupied a great deal of our time, does not exist.

When we add the increase in affluence to the equation, we are suddenly faced with a new problem. The combination of increased leisure time, with increased money, contributes to many of our social ills. People want to find meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Boredom leads to frustration and depression. People are generally not given guidance as to how to take advantage of the luxury of free time. This situation probably contributes to drug and alcohol abuse. These items are expensive, but funds are readily available to purchase them. This is a good explanation as to why in a time of great affluence and comfort, so many people are taking medication for their sadness and depression.

Time is a gift, and it passes very quickly. It is something that is very precious and we cannot get back. One of the basic ways to avoid frustration, is to become giving people. Selfish people cannot be happy. Helping others and making a difference in someone’s life, brings a great sense of fulfillment. There are so many organizations where one can volunteer his time. One needs to just reach out, and he will find places where he can be of service. Giving is a good place to start in our quest to deal with the problem of too much leisure time.

In the Yeshiva world, students are taught the concept of “Bitul Zman”, or wasting time. Students are urged by their teachers to plan their day so that there is a minimum amount of wasted time. Unfortunately, this is not something which is taught to the general public. I have been told by some of my retired students, the importance of using one’s mind in a constructive way. One such student worked for decades at IBM. The work there required intense concentration and problem solving. For those who retired and did not prepare themselves to continue using their minds, they literally died after a relatively short period of time.

This leads us to probably the most constructive use of time. And that is Torah study. Judaism has a wealth of knowledge, and delving into our holy books fulfills many of the pitfalls of too much time on our hands. Such study is challenging and gratifying. The study of Talmud, sharpens one’s mind. And a side benefit of such study, it also teaches morality. It reinforces the priorities one should have in life, and what to stay away from.

The way to solve a problem, is to first be aware that the problem exists. Too much money and too much leisure time, is a serious problem. Once we are aware, we must be proactive in being sure that we truly cherish this wonderful gift of time, and we use it wisely.

Passover in Europe

In recent years, numerous Passover programs have been popping up all over Europe. One can celebrate the Holiday of Matzot in places like Spain, Portugal, Italy, and even Croatia, just to name a few. The highest standard of Kashrut, (dietary laws) are provided, along with entertainment and interesting excursions. Those living in Israel justify this experience because they want to see Europe, and often prices are cheaper than Israeli programs.

Nevertheless, inevitably, there will be friends who will try to put the guilt on those leaving Israel. They might say things like, “Did you forget, ‘Next year in Jerusalem’, or “Isn’t there a commandment to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the festivals? How could you leave!” Admittedly, I have been guilty of these accusations, but I have come up with a viable explanation of this Pesach phenomena, as a result of the recent fire in Notre Dame.

While on the one hand, we are taught to be respectful and tolerant of other religions, we are not expected to forget the lessons of history. Maimonides, in his classic work, Mishne Torah, writes about Christianity and Islam. He felt that it is better for Gentiles to worship these religions, rather than no religion at all. Such religious observance, although totally false, will enable its worshippers to be aware of the concept of Messiah. When the true Messiah comes, they will more readily adjust to the idea more than a pagan or non-believer. (This particular section is still censored in most editions of Mishne Torah.) Therefore, we can commiserate with the pain felt at seeing such a structure go up in flames as Notre Dame.

But, on the other hand, we must never forget how much Jews suffered in the name of Christianity. Notre Dame was one of many Christian sites that clearly mocked the Jews for having been rejected by G-d. This so called rejection motivated the masses to ridicule, torture, and murder thousands of Jews. This is also the justification for burning thousands of hand written Jewish holy books. A basic Christian doctrine, that was also held by the Muslims, is that G-d once loved the Jews, but because of their sins, He rejected them forever. Instead, He chose the Christians or Muslims.

The State of Israel has torn apart this rejectionist theory. With a return of the exiles and over six and a half million Jews, and a powerful army, the rebirth of the Hebrew language, numerous modern cities, leading the world in high tech, and the list goes on, does not make us look very rejected. And most impressive of all, is the intense study of Torah that we have not witnessed in two thousand years. No one in his right mind could possibly look at the Jewish people as being rejected.

The Passover programs in Europe are in places that were guilty of such persecution of Jews. In some of these places, Jews were even expelled. Yet, we come to the twenty first century, and Jews come with their money to celebrate this Holiday of Freedom, in the same places where they tried to take away their freedom. Perhaps my true blue Zionist friends will see this as a rationalization, and to some extent it is, but there is some truth to this as well. Is it not ironic that these same locations where its citizens mocked us and looked down on us, now serve us hand and foot? With all of the Christian gloating, could they ever have foreseen the day when they would be doing everything possible to please prosperous Jews on their holiday.

Far be it from me to try to understand G-d’s plan for the Redemption. Events of the last seventy one years, clearly point to great and miraculous events. One of the final signs of this Redemption, is the end of the Exile. In Leviticus 26:38, the Torah predicts that a time will come when, “You will perish among the nations. And the land of your enemies, will devour you.” Many see this verse as referring to the times we are living in. Assimilation and intermarriage has decimated our numbers in the Diaspora, and it won’t be long before the majority of the Jews in the world, will be living in Israel. Anti-Semitic acts such as those seen in San Diego and Pittsburgh, are wake up calls that it’s time for Jews to come home. A viable future for the Jews is only in Israel. This is how it was predicted and this is what is happening.

In the meantime, we have one bit of unfinished business to take care of. We must set the record straight in Europe. Jews are not rejected. We have survived all efforts to destroy us. You, Europeans, can see for yourselves, when you see how G-d has blessed the Jews. Look at how they observe their Holiday of Freedom in your cities. The Jews are the chosen people and G-d’s love for them endures. He is rebuilding the House of Israel exactly as He said He would. Open your eyes and see that Israel truly is, “A light to all the nations.”

Pants are Overrated

This is not going to be an article permitting Jewish women to wear pants. It is essential that the code of Jewish law, Halacha, be respected and observed. The point of this article is to show how we need to prioritize, and learn how to present this subject in a gentle and understanding manner.

Maimonides, in his classic work, Mishna Torah, organizes the 613 commandments according to importance. He first explains those commandments related to the existence of G-d. he shows how we must learn to love and fear G-d, and sanctify His name. These laws take priority for without understanding our connection to the Al-mighty, what meaning would the other laws have. This section is followed by the rules connected with how to treat people in a kind way. Here, the Rambam, as he is also known, brings the Mitzva to love every Jew, and not to speak badly about another Jew. The point here is that if we don’t first learn how to treat people, our holy Torah will be profaned.

Maimonides takes his ideas a step further by categorizing laws according to what he calls, “strict” laws and “light” laws. This definition is based on the punishment connected to a specific transgression. if there is a death penalty or Karet (being cut off from the Jewish people),in the Torah, they are considered strict. Otherwise, they are light Mitzvot.

The point here is that it is important that we know where we need to place our emphasis. Unfortunately, in today’s religious world, there are too many labels. One such negative label is given to a girl who wears pants on a regular basis. The schools begin harping on the subject of modesty even before adolescence. Often girls in middle school do not understand why their educators are making such a big deal about dress code. After all, most of society condones the wearing of pants by women in all positions in life. It is even acceptable to wear stylish pants outfits to very extravagant affairs.

What adds to the confusion, is that these rules are often harshly dictated to young girls in such schools. Young ladies are insulted and embarrassed for the crime of being caught wearing pants. I personally experienced one such incident one summer with one of my daughters. During the vacation, a “friend” told the principal of the school that she spotted my daughter wearing pants. I received a letter from the school telling me that on the basis of the friend’s testimony, my daughter was no longer welcome in the school. I protested to the principal that it was wrong to accept such testimony and it was wrong to make such an issue in this manner. The principal’s reply, “If my daughters wore pants, I’d burn them!” To which I replied, “Burn your daughters or burn the pants?” My daughter was reinstated, but the incident left a wound that may never completely heal.

There is a famous story about an argument between the sun and the wind as to who was stronger. The two agreed that the one who could get a gentleman sitting in the park, to remove his coat, was the stronger, The wind went first. The stronger the wind blew, the more the man held tightly to his coat. The sun simply shined so brightly, that the warm air caused him to take off the coat himself.

It seems to me that the way modesty and dress codes laws have been taught, have turned away more young ladies, rather than making them want to observe these laws. There has become stereotype in many yeshivot, that a nice girl would not wear pants. It’s not worth going on a date with such a girl. Is it fair to say that a girl cannot be spiritual and of the highest moral character, just because of the pants?

Rabbis and teachers need to learn how to present their subjects with love, in a “sun” like manner. They need to show how much beauty there is in these laws. A young lady will acquire more dignity and self respect by adhering to the traditions of our Torah. We would have a much better chance of success this way, rather than how it’s been taught in recent years. We need to know how to choose our battles. Things need to make sense to young people before they will become believers. By over emphasizing what they might see as foolishness, they might think the whole system is foolish, G-d forbid.

We must follow the example of Maimonides in showing where we first begin in our quest to observe G-d’s law. If we approach things in a logical and kind manner, it will only be a matter of time, when all of the laws will be observed. The Torah and its laws represent truth. And the truth always wins in the end.

Prophecies Made-Prophecies Fulfilled

Numerous articles have been written about the State of Israel’s remarkable achievements. However, very few show how what we are witnessing in our lifetimes was predicted by way of prophecy more than two thousand years ago.

Rav Shmuel Eliyahu researched this topic extensively. Much of what will be presented here, is based on a lecture given by Rav Eliyahu in the holy city of Tzfat. (The Rav gave me his blessings to translate his ideas into English.)

Aliya: In Deuteronomy, Chapter 30, Moses tells the nation, “And G-d will return your captives. He will have mercy on you and gather you from among the nations.” Two hundred years ago, there were only 7,000 Jews living in Israel. Before World War One, the number grew to 84,000. Today, there are more than six and a half million Jews living in Israel.

Victory over our enemies: In Leviticus Chapter 26, the Torah says, “And five of you will chase 100, and 100 of you will chase 10,000. Israel’s war victories were a fulfillment of this verse. This was especially true in 1967 when seven Arab nations called for Israel’s destruction. Israel defeated them all in just six days!

Economic and agricultural abundance: In Deuteronomy Chapter 7, the prophecy reads, “And G-d will show His love for you and will bless you and give you abundance to the fruit of the womb and the fruit of the earth.” Israel’s economy is among the most stable in the world. Israel’s cows produce more milk daily than any cow in the world. We see this abundance in the produce of the land.

Rebuilding of cities: In Ezekiel 36, the prophet predicts, “And the desolate land shall be worked after it was utter desolation to all who passed by. And the destroyed cities will again be rebuilt.” From 1950 to today, we grew from 771 settled areas to 1084. During the same period, Arab settlements only grew 109 to 136.

Paving new roads: The Book of Isaiah, Chapter 57, says the following: “Prepare the way. Take the stumbling blocks out of the way of My people.” This prophecy refers to the actual paving of roads that will ultimately lead to Jerusalem. In 1960, there were 6,570 kilometers of highways in Israel. Today, 18,482 kilometers of highway. The numerous entrances to Jerusalem is a clear Messianic sign.

The rebuilding of Jerusalem: The Prophet Zechariah, Chapter 6, predicted,” And old men and old women will again dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, with young boy and girls playing in these streets.” One hundred years ago there were 45,000 Jews living in Jerusalem. Today, more than 650,000.

Returning to tradition: Again, Ezekiel 36, predicts, “And I will pour waters of purification upon you. And you will purified from all of your impurities. And you will be given a new heart. You will be My people, and I will be Your G-d.” Statistics have shown a sharp rise in the enrollment of young children to religious schools over the secular. The country has clearly become more religious.

Israel’s contributions to the world: Deuteronomy Chapter 4 states, “Only a wise and understanding people. This great nation.” Israel’s technological advancements as well as their inventions in the fields of medicine and the military, are the envy of the world. The same is true of Israel’s disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners.

Diplomatic Relations: Isaiah, in Chapter 62 declares, “And the nations will see your righteousness, and kings will honor you.” The past thirty years has seen Israel double its diplomatic ties from eighty nations to one hundred and sixty. Israel is respected and admired throughout the world.

Fall of our enemies: Deuteronomy Chapter 30 says, “And G-d will place all of the curses on your enemies and pursuers.” There is virtually no religious persecution for Jews anywhere in the world. For the first time since Temple days, Jews are free to practice their religious beliefs. This is truly amazing.

End of Exile: Leviticus 26 states, “And you will be destroyed among the nations. And you will be devoured in the lands of your enemies.” The number of Jews living in the Diaspora continues to diminish. This is primarily due to assimilation and the increase in Israel’s population. This, too was predicted and is taking place before our very eyes.

Israel’s future: Isaiah Chapter 69 predicts, “ Shall I bring to the time of birth and not cause delivery?” This is a clear and strong statement that the world cannot but acknowledge that G-d loves His people, Israel. These prophecies clearly show the special relationship between G-d and Israel.

Rav Eliyahu said that this research that clearly shows how we have been so fortunate to see these numerous prophecies fulfilled in our lifetimes, serves another purpose as well. Instead of trying to prove G-s’s existence by way of theology, it is even more effective by showing what was written then, and fulfilled. Nobody could doubt the truth of G-d and our religion.



Those Inspiring Converts

There is well known rabbinic dictum that says that converts to Judaism are like thorns. Some interpret this to mean that often they prove to be insincere and a burden. While others explain this to mean that the converts are so special that they outshine those born into our faith.

I have been working with converts for more than two decades at Machon Meir. We have received men and women from all over the world. Recently we converted individuals from places like Kenya and Namibia. And currently our conversion candidates come from the Philippines, Germany, Poland, and Canada.

All of these unique individuals share one thing in common. They are passionate in their desire to join our faith, and they are passionate in their love for the Land of Israel.

Many are disowned by their families who believe they will suffer in eternity for making such a foolish decision. Recently, a student told me that his father was so furious that he was becoming Jewish, he cut him out of his will. His portion that he forfeited was in the neighborhood of two million dollars!

A common story that is told is the impression they received on their first visit to Israel. On numerous occasions, I’ve seen these incredible people get teary eyed when they recount that special feeling when they walked the streets of Jerusalem. Something inside of them, told them they were in a holy place. This holy land must become their home.

Despite the difficulty of being in a new country without the connections of influential family members, they are content to duke ir out here. They are not proud and they are prepared to take on whatever work they can, in order to pay their bills.

The most common reason given for their decision to convert, is the State of Israel. In their search for truth, they are unable to accept Christian doctrine that G-d has abandoned the Jews. When they see our flourishing country filled with over six and a half million Jews, they do not see us as rejected. When they witness the numerous Torah establishments and the study of G-d’s law abounds, we do not look rejected. And the same is true of our army, modern cities and high-tech achievement. It is crystal clear. The Jews have come home. The Jews are G-d’s chosen people, and His love for His people, is as strong as ever.

Their search for truth is over. They feel the magic and uniqueness of the Jewish nation. Their desire to become Jewish and help strengthen our country, burns within them. Many join the IDF after conversion. None have been dissuaded by the unpleasantness of having to go through circumcision as adults. They eagerly run to fulfill this final step in the conversion process.

It is understandable why I have a deep love, respect, and admiration for my students. I see it as my duty to do all I can to help them through the process. They deserve every bit of assistance that can be given.

One of the most beautiful weddings I ever attended, was the wedding of my Kenyan student to an Ethiopian lawyer. Here was a young man who grew up not knowing what running water or electricity was. Because of his desire to become part of our people, he was blessed to meet the love of his life and stand under a Chuppa, wedding canopy, in holy matrimony. The love and joy felt by everyone at that wedding, was beyond description.

It is very obvious to me what the Rabbis meant when they said that converts are like thorns. They put to shame Jews of privilege who for some reason are denied their passion for the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. We have a great deal to learn from my converts. I love them. They inspire me.

Blame it on Judaism

There are two stories concerning two different uncles that occurred approximately eighty years ago. Both incidents ended in a tragic outcome.

The first story took place in Chicago and involved my great-uncle (who was born on 3.3.03, March 3, 1903), and my uncle. The uncle was a young boy. He was taking a walk with the great-uncle and they were met by an observant Jew. He asked whether the young boy was wearing Tzitzit, the traditional four cornered garment with fringes, under his shirt.

This led to an impromptu examination as to whether the boy maintained his religious obligation. When it was revealed that the Tzitzit were missing, the boy was slapped in the face for his transgression. This “slap in the face” was the slap that meant good riddance to anything that resembled traditional Jews. I have heard this story on numerous occasions that “explained” why my uncle was not a practicing Jew.

At around the same time in India, a different uncle was asked to help make a Minyan, the necessary quorum of ten men needed to recite holy prayers. This uncle was a teenager at the time. He was horrified to see that this group of Jews, refused to count a black Jew as part of the Minyan. It was clear that the racism of these so called pious Jews, denied the possibility of praying in the Synagogue.

This was the episode that caused this second uncle to become “allergic” to religious observance. He wanted no part of a religion that acts in such a despicable manner.

Then there are the more recent instances, where observant educators disgrace their students for not meeting up to Jewish dress codes. This is done in such a degrading and humiliating tone, that the student becomes turned off for life to Jewish Law or anything that reminds them of this horrible teacher.

Judaism also gets blamed when religious figures treat others less observant in a degrading manner. They act in a superior “holier than thou” manner. They act in such a superior fashion that it causes the degraded to despise Judaism. They want no part of a religion whose adherents act in such a manner.

It appears that many, many families can tell similar stories explaining why traditional Jewish practices were abandoned. The narratives are similar as are the end results.

I often remind my students the huge responsibility they have, just by having a Kippa, or skullcap on their head. They might be the only observant Jew that the person they come in contact with, will ever meet. The opinion they have of the religious may be based on that one encounter.

While all of the above is true, and such situations do take place regularly, the conclusions drawn are so unfair. It is difficult to tell a young boy or teenager that he is being intellectually dishonest, but he is.

If one were to search a little deeper, he might find many more upstanding and pious Jews, than those who bring shame to our religion. There are many stories connected to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Shneerson, where upon meeting a Jew, he would express the importance of Shabbat and Kashrut observances. The Rebbe would explain the benefits of such observance. And the Jew would be so moved by the rabbi’s great piety, that he began living a traditional observant way of life.

Dr. Eliezer Berkovits, in his book, “Faith after the Holocaust”, made a distinction between those who actually witnessed the atrocities of the Shoah, and those who only heard about. Dr. Berkovitz felt that if someone was there and abandoned his faith, it was understandable. But those who were not there and blamed the Holocaust for their lack of faith, were cowards.

It is certainly clear that anyone identifying himself with traditional Judaism, must go to great lengths to live in such a way, that all will admire the beauty of our sacred religion. If their representation of Judaism is ugly, they are desecrating the Name of G-d.

But for the uncles and ridiculed students who left Judaism because of the bad behavior of one individual, they need to rethink what they have abandoned. The traditions and observances that began on Mount Sinai, and was upheld by our ancestors in the best and worst of times, is too beautiful and rich to throw away. All Jews need to come home to G-d, our people, and our Land.

The Torah and The Left

Jewish tradition teaches that the Torah is Divine and represents the ultimate truth and the will of G-d. We are taught in the Mishna that we are to make our ideals or will, coincide with the Al-mighty’s ideals, so that His ideals will coincide with ours.

Ideally, every opinion that we have on any subject, should be based on a legitimate Jewish source. Therefore, if a movement arises that expresses very definite views, we need to examine if such views are in line with the Torah and Judaism.

Regarding many of the views expressed by the Left, they not only are not in line with traditional Jewish beliefs, but actually oppose such beliefs.

We can begin by examining the special role of the Jewish people in the world. We were chosen by G-d for a special role in the world. We are given the task of teaching the world morality. We are to epitomize that which is right and holy. We were given 613 commandments.

We were also warned against mingling too much with the Gentile world on a social basis. Intermarriage represents a tragedy for the Jewish people. The Rabbis even adopted laws to prevent such social interaction.

The Left believes that all nations are equal and negates the unique role of the Jewish people. They do not see intermarriage as being so catastrophic. What is important is that two people love each other. What feels good is given great priority.

Traditional Judaism has very definite laws about right and wrong. There is a strong belief in the evil inclination that we are meant to try to overcome. “Feeling right” may be motivated by this evil inclination. This is especially true if what feels right is contrary to Jewish Law.

Another major clash between the Left and the Torah, relates to the subject of evil. The Prophet Isaiah says clearly that G-d created good as well as evil. He wants man to choose good so that He can reward him for not giving in to temptation.

The Left believes that man is inherently good and if he commits a crime, it is only out of frustration. If that individual received love and lots of hugs, he would behave. Dennis Prager pointed out that most terrorist attacks were perpetrated by the middle class and not the poor. Prager added, “Moral poverty corrupts. Not poverty.”

On a subject such as gun control, there is a clear dictum, that when one comes to slay you, slay him first. We are commanded to defend ourselves. Obviously, this can only come about,if we are armed.

Even a topic such as global warming, has a Torah source. The world is meant to last to eternity. We believe in the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead. This won’t happen if the world self
destructs to being overheated. It clearly challenges G-d’d being in control of the universe. Those who are concerned with global warming are questioning the power of G-d.

Regarding capital punishment, there are sources that say that it is merciful when the evil doer is put to death for his crime. The world becomes a better place as evil is eradicated from our midst.

It is so essential that we understand that a human being is not capable of having more compassion than G-d Himself. Admittedly, some laws are difficult to comprehend. Yet, it is clear that the more one surrenders himself and accepts that G-d knows better, the more peace of mind he has.

If the Left feels their value system surpasses our tradition, it borders on arrogance to say the least. We have been taught the dangers of what happens to a society where each acts according to what is “righteous in his own eyes.” We have chaos and anarchy.

Leftist views do not make the world a better place. Their world is filled with confusion and futility. It makes much more sense to return to the traditions and beliefs that have allowed us to survive 2000 years of Exile.

We have been rewarded for our convictions and closeness to G-d by seeing the rebirth of our people in the Land of Israel. Torah beliefs give us the resiliency to cope with every situation. We ultimately fulfill our role of being a “light unto the nations”, standing tall for all that is good and decent in this world.

Ignorance and Apathy

Many years ago at my daughter’s six year old birthday party, her little friend calmly asked, “What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?” We were all surprised to hear such vocabulary from this young girl. She then blurted out, “I don’t know and I don’t care!”

Unfortunately, the ignorance and apathy in the Jewish world is not a joke. The prophets foresaw the era we are living in when they said that a time will come when there will be a famine in the land. It will not be a famine for lack of bread and water. But it will be a famine of those unwilling to hear the word of G-d.

The ignorance of basic Jewish concepts and even simple bible stories, is appalling. On the one hand, so much information is readily available by way of the Internet. But too many Jews are either apathetic or honestly do not believe that our religious teachings have relevance to them.

For those who have had the opportunity to study our sacred teachings, realize the Divine wisdom contained in it. They get direction from our Torah, and understand their purpose in this world.

This might explain why there is so much intermarriage and assimilation in the world. If Jews would only open these books, their perspective on their Jewishness would definitely change. They would not have to create their own value system, or look to other cultures in their search for meaning. Everything is right there in our holy books.

Added to this tragedy of incredible Jewish ignorance, is that many who have studied and identify themselves as Orthodox Jews, have also displayed their own share of ignorance. Some of the most basics principles of Judaism are completely neglected.

In our Mussaf prayers on every holiday, the liturgy begins with the words, “Because of our sins, we were exiled from the Land.” It should be rather obvious that the presence of Jews living outside of Israel represents a curse of sorts. It is a sign of being rejected or unworthy to be able to live in our holy land.

The Prophet Ezekiel goes a step further by saying that those outside of Israel desecrate the Name of G-d. The Gentiles are able to mock the Jews by saying. “If you are G-d’s chosen people, why are you not living in His land?” Such accusations make G-d look weak. Thereby, desecrating His Name.

The Galut, exile, is a curse. Knowledgeable Jews know that if we are not in Israel, we are guests anywhere else. Only Israel is our home. When we are guests, we are meant to live modestly and not arouse the envy of the Gentile.

Another example of such ignorance, is seen every year on the Fast of the Ninth of Av. It is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. It marks the destruction of our two holy Temples in Jerusalem. It is a day where we reflect upon what we once were as a people. The Jewish nation that once all served G-d in Jerusalem with holiness is scattered throughout the world.

In essence, Tisha B’Av is the day that created this apathy and ignorance. We were once a people who collectively knew its purpose and what G-d expected of us. All that was shattered with the burning of our temples.

Somehow, the lessons of this fast day have been changed into anti-semitism day. Rabbis recount the bitter torment of our history by mentioning the pogroms and persecutions that Jews suffered over the generations. Ignorance has caused a diversion from the true meaning of this day.

The Jewish people remain a great people. By the grace of G-d, we have always been blessed with holy Jews who never stopped studying and never strayed from true Jewish ideals. Israel is strong and Torah study is equally strong. They are “holding down the fort” so to speak. It is our fervent prayer that Jews everywhere intensify their studies. This applies to the most ignorant and apathetic who have never studied, to those who have studied but somehow have strayed from true Jewish beliefs.

When this happens, ignorance and apathy will no longer be a tragedy, but will remain a cute little joke of a six year old.

Orthodox Rebellion

Today, the authenticity of Judaism, as practiced by Orthodox Jews, is constantly being challenged. Many claim that the Torah is outdated, G-d forbid, while others claim that the true seekers of G-d are found more often in coffee shops than in synagogues.

The great philosopher and Halachist, Maimonides, described the incredible holiness in how the Torah was originally written. Moses was elevated to the level of angel when he was with G-d on Mount Sinai for 40 days.

In this prophetic state, Moses records the words of the Bible by way of intuition and prophecy. There has never been a book written in this fashion. And because it was directly from G-d to Moses, it represented the ultimate in perfection. It was written for all times. To imply that this hallowed book is no longer applicable today, borders on heresy.

Rav Yakov Emden, over 200 years ago, declared that a greater miracle than the splitting of the Red Sea, was the continued survival of the Jewish people living under the most horrible oppression. Yet, there were always Jews who remained steadfast in their diligence and worship of our holy Torah.

The biggest problem today is not the lack of appeal of Orthodoxy. It is the flawed educational system and extremist views that turn people off to religious practice. 

I am not convinced that changes made in Orthodox synagogues that were meant to accommodate enlightened Jews, has made any real impact in bringing back lost Jews to the fold. Changes, such as attempting to give women a greater role in prayers is fine within Halachic boundaries, but it’s still missing the point.

What needs to be examined is what could be done to present Judaism in a better light. When adolescent girls are ridiculed for minor infractions in dress code, it leaves these young ladies angry at a system that seems so petty. When young men are forced to attend a long and boring Synagogue service, they become resentful and hate going to shul.

Many carry this anger into adulthood, and blame their frustration on Orthodoxy altogether. When they are encouraged to see Orthodoxy as the cause, they remain outside the community and are left lonely without direction.

They decide to group together with others who have similarly been victims of traumatic educational experiences during their Yeshiva education, and do not allow themselves to find their place. They latch on to writers and philosophies that also attack traditional Orthodox beliefs.

There is a quote made famous by the beloved educator, Rabbi Aharon Rakefet. “Judaism is perfect. Those who practice it are not.” Too often we hear stories of people who attribute their leaving religion to a specific incident. It was a moment where one was shamed for not wearing Tzizit, fringes on a four cornered garment. Or being insulted by a teacher who had no business acting as an educator.

While such situations are infuriating, they still reflect intellectual dishonesty. For one to walk away from such a miraculous and incredible religion, based on the bad behavior and self righteousness, of one individual, is a cop out. It becomes an emotional wound that loses all sense of rationality.

There are hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the world who continue to practice Orthodox religious observance. They feel assured that they are serving the Al-mighty as prescribed by G-d to Moses and transmitted by our holy sages from generation to generation. They realize their responsibility in carrying out the covenant made at Mount Sinai by all Jews for all times.

True, we need to be more sensitive and gentle in the manner in which we teach Judaism. It must be handed over with great care and love. It must be shown that this way of life represents beauty and truth. It allows man to live in this world with purpose and contentment. A few tweaks in how religion is presented could certainly help. But we must never question G-d and the uniqueness of His Torah.

The Galut Tragedy

The Galut is a curse. It is a punishment. It is proof that the holy land of Israel does not tolerate sinners. It is a fulfillment of the warning that if you do not keep the mitzvot, “the Land will vomit you out.”

The disconnection between the Jew and his land, is an expression of spiritual pain. The Jewish soul yearns for this connection, just as a baby yearns for his mother’s nourishment and love.

One cannot serve Hashem on a very high level, when he is detached from the source of his spirituality.
Only in Israel is one able to feel the Shechina, the Divine Presence. And only in Israel, is a Jew truly in his home. In the Galut, he is a guest. And history has taught us that he is usually an unwanted guest.

We are close to the commemoration of the destruction of our two Temples on the ninth of Av. Throughout our exile, Jews understood why they were mourning and what this destruction meant for our people. Sadly, in today’s world of affluence and self indulgence, the significance of Tisha B’Av, is being grossly overlooked.

On the one hand, Jews are free to practice their religion anywhere in the world. And Jews are free to come to live in Israel, without obstacles. But today’s tragedy is that the majority of the Jewish people in Galut, choose not to take advantage of these privileges that our ancestors never had.

The assimilation and intermarriage rates of Jews in the Diaspora, is nothing less than a spiritual holocaust. But the smugness and complacency of comfortable Jews who should know better, is also a tragedy.

We waited for a homeland for nearly two thousand years. Now that we have a beautiful, thriving country, that is the envy of the world, the knowledgeable, learned Jews have turned their backs on this incredible, Divine gift. Perhaps this reality is the more painful one.

This Tisha B’Av when we mourn for the destruction of our holy Temples, we should also mourn for the ignorant and complacent Jews. We should pray that G-d should open their eyes that they have the courage to do what is “right in the eyes of G-d.”

The Rabbis tell us that he who mourns for the destruction of Jerusalem, will merit to see it rebuilt. May the third Temple in Jerusalem be speedily rebuilt in our times.

The Galut the Youth Do Not Know

We are living in truly amazing times. If one were to look back at history, he would not believe that so much could transpire over a seventy year period. The Jewish people not only survived the horrors of the Holocaust, but we have emerged as a flourishing

nation in our precious State of Israel.

For the younger generation, 40 and under, their view of the Galut, the Exile, begins and ends with the Shoah. Tonight we commemorate “Yom Hashoah”, Holocaust Memorial Day, with a day of national mourning for the six million who perished during World War Two. For those living in Israel, it is impossible not to be aware of this tragic piece of history.

The younger generation has not lived through any period where there was religious persecution for the Jew, anywhere in the world. Jews are free to practice their religion without hindrance regardless of where they live. They did not witness the difficulties of Soviet Jewry, Syrian and Iranian Jewry, or the plight of Ethiopian Jewry, that took place shortly before their birth.

The younger generation have come into this world to a situation that probably has not existed for at least two thousand years. The Talmudic term, ” SHIBUD MALCHIOT” refers to our exile and our subservience to foreign rule. It becomes difficult to practice our religion while living under foreign rule, who often forbade us from practicing Judaism. By the grace of G-d, this term is no longer applicable.

Sometimes it is a good idea to witness first hand, the conditions that Jews were forced to live in, during various periods of our history. One can visit Spain, for example, and see the remnants of a once thriving Jewish community only to be expelled in 1492. In Barcelona, there was already an edict as early as 1401, forbidding Jews from trespassing the soil of that city. (Jews get their revenge today with luxurious Passover packages all over Barcelona, with the Spaniards serving them hand and foot!)

Our youth need to be made aware of the resiliency of our people through the most difficult hardships imaginable. Surviving inquisitions, pogroms, and expulsions was no small task. The Jewish people were likened to olive oil as it always rises to the top, so did they. For the most part, it was clear that we were guests in most of these countries, and usually, unwanted guests.

The reason why these lessons must be learned are twofold. The older generation has a more justifiable reason to be on guard in terms of its interaction with the non-Jewish world. We have witnessed reasons to be suspicious and cautious.

I certainly would like to believe that things are changing in this area. The youth often see us as paranoid and intolerant in our dealings with the non-Jewish world. Perhaps if they better understood the source of our suspicions, there would be less tension between the older and younger generation.

The second reason why understanding the Galut is beneficial, is the necessity to be constantly conscious of how fortunate we are. Our ancestors would have had a difficult time believing that a day will come when Jews all over the world can practice Judaism if they want to. That day is every day. The paradox is that while we are free to live as Jews, so many choose not to take advantage of this luxury and gift.

Maimonides was very pragmatic in his approach to Judaism. He believed that the only difference between this world and the world to come was SHIBUD MALCHIOT. So according to him, we may have turned the corner in that we have entered a new phase of our Jewish destiny.

Today, on the eve of Yom Hashoah, it is a good time to take stock of where we are, and from where we came. The lessons of history are invaluable. Sometimes when we are too close to the mountain, we don’t realize how high it is.

If the only lesson to be gained from this article is that we acquire an awareness of how much we are blessed and how much we need to give thanks to G-d for bringing us to this miraculous state, it will have achieved much. We will realize that we are living in truly amazing times.

Dennis Prager and Yom Tov Sheini

I truly admire Dennis Prager. He is a great representative of the Jewish people and is a very proud Jew. He emphasizes the importance of holding on to ethical values and strongly speaks out on behalf of the State of Israel.

Many years ago, I met Mr. Prager at the home of a mutual friend. I was introduced as one who lives in Israel. Without even a polite, “nice to meet you,” Prager went on attack mode and asked, “What’s the deal with the two-day Yom Tov?” I was ready for him and answered, “It’s your punishment for not moving to Israel!” To this, Prager responded, “That’s the only answer I will accept.”

Very recently, I was sent one of Dennis Prager’s excellent rebuttals to repeated Donald Trump bashings. It appeared on You Tube. I noticed that on the side, there was a short interview with Prager, something about the observance of two days Yom Tov for Diaspora Jews.

In this interview, Prager was asked why he did not consider himself Orthodox when he was such a champion of the Torah and traditional Jewish values. To my surprise, Prager again mentioned that he could not embrace Oethodoxy when the two-day Yom Tov was still in operation even after there was a set Jewish calendar.

Apparently, this two-day Yom Tov issue, has been an open wound for Mr. Prager for several decades. I would like to offer an explanation that perhaps Prager might consider, for he is a very honorable man.

For nearly 15 years, I have been teaching Talmud five mornings a week, to a group of highly intelligent retirees. As we have been delving into this sacred text, we continue to marvel at the incredible wisdom of our sages.It is not only their wisdom that impresses, but it is also the high level of personal sanctity that they were able to achieve.

The Rabbis who fixed the set calendar in the year 358 of the Common Era, were known as Amoraim. We are taught that these Rabbis were on such a saintly level, that it was impossible to even fathom. It seems obvious that they were aware of the implications of demanding that two days of Yom Tov be observed outside of Israel, while one day is observed in Israel. It is perfectly in order to accept the reasoning of the Amoraim as being something beyond our comprehension, rather than simple foolishness.

A similar situation applies to the separation demanded by the Rabbis between husband and wife, for those observing the laws of Family Purity. The Torah sets the separation at seven days while the Rabbis made it a minimum of 12 days. Many view this as unfair or unreasonable. Again, the Rabbis of old applied their intense wisdom designed to enhance a Jewish marriage. After many years, a learned Chassidic rabbi, speculated that the Rabbis were trying to increase passion between husband and wife. A 12-day separation accomplishes this. A seven-day separation does not.

I do not know if Dennis Prager will read this. However, this is a good lesson in humility that we defer to those holier and more learned than we are. It is certainly disappointing that the Rabbis of today do not reach the toe nails of those of previous generations. We can look at this positively that it is a sign of the Mashiach’s imminent arrival. In the meantime, we would be wise to study our ancient texts to get an understanding of the Judaism that has survived nearly two thousand years.

Redemption then and Now

The Passover Hagadda asks the question as to why the Seder is held in the evening. The Tanna, Ben Zoma, explains that the extra word in the Torah , “Kol” teaches the Seder should be at night. The Rabbis disagree and say that “Kol” teaches that the exodus story

will be told in this world and in the world to come.

The Talmud in Tractate Brachot 12b, refers to a verse in the Book of Jeremiah that states that in the future we will no longer praise G-d for the miracles in Egypt, but we will praise Him for taking us from the north and gathering our people from all of the lands that we were scattered. If this will be the case, the Talmud asks, then we will no longer mention Egypt in the world to come.

The Rabbis answer that while it is true that future miracles will surpass those witnessed in Egypt, we will, nevertheless, still praise G-d for taking us out of Egypt.

My good friend and study partner, Dr. Eli Passow, made a profound observation when this section of Talmud was studied recently. Dr. Passow observed that we have already witnessed miracles in our lifetimes that have surpassed those we enumerated at our Seder. The plagues in Egypt lasted one year before we were driven out of Egypt. Compare those miracles with what we have seen in the last seventy years:

The Jewish population in Palestine in 1800 was 8,000 Jews. Today, we are blessed with over six and a half million Jews from the four corners of the earth.

The image of the Jew has dramatically changed. After suffering the tragic and horrifying Holocaust, Israel and the Jewish people have learned how to defend themselves. Israel is listed as the eighth superpower in the world! And the image of the defenseless, easy to pick on Jew, is over. Today, Jews fight back and they win.

A land that was bemoaned by our prophets as being desolate and non-productive, is filled with the most modern cities. The produce of Israel, is the envy of the world. Even our cows give more milk than any other cows in the world.

Israel has established diplomatic relations with 160 of the 193 nations of the world. They are seeking our guidance in matters of agriculture, technology, and medicine.

When looking at the bigger picture, not only is all of this miraculous of biblical proportions, but we are witnessing the fulfillment of prophecies made over two thousand years ago.

It is far from an exaggeration to say that indeed the miracles we have been privileged to see, if we’d only open our eyes, do surpass that which our ancestors witnessed in Egypt.

Chag Sameach

Shevet Moriah

I am proud to be a member of Shevet Moriah. We are high school graduates from the Class of 1971. We are all members of Bnei Akiva, a religious Zionist youth organization.

We met in high school and we have remained close friends for about fifty years. We have become more like an extended family rather than just friends. We began as innocent youth that met socially on a regular basis. We were instilled with idealism and a love for Israel. Many of us fulfilled this Zionist dream by making Aliya and strengthening the State of Israel.

This sense of family was felt very strongly when one of our dear friends tragically passed away suddenly. Each of us felt that we lost a sister and the pain was very great. The passing of Phylis Zisken Goldman, of blessed memory, who was a special lady respected and loved by all, affected us deeply.

The passing of a dear friend coupled with plans of a Shevet Moriah reunion next November, made me realize that I was fortunate to be a part of something very special. Approximately twenty five couples from the States as well as over fifty couples living in Israel, have already registered for this reunion.

The sad reality of our Moriah experience is that it seems highly unlikely that this could be duplicated in today’s world. We had a certain innocence about us. For the most part, we were able to maintain Platonic relationships between boys and girls. Our rabbis were aware of our activities, and allowed us to continue. There are very few couples from this group who married. It was a wholesome comeraderie.

Today’s Judaism does not have that same sense of idealism. Our youth is not innocent in today’s society with the internet and an overall lack of morality. And the rabbis of today are much more extreme and would not allow such “mixing” between boys and girls.

Perhaps telling our story might inspire others to at least attempt what we have accomplished. In the meantime, I am so grateful to have been able to be part of this Shevet Moriah experience. And we all look forward to next November when our “family” gets together again to share our wonderful memories.

Her Son-Not Your Son

It is well known in Jewish law that a child is Jewish if his mother is Jewish. This is known as “matrilineal descent.” I will try to explain the basis for this law.

There are two places in the Torah that deal with the subject of matrilineal descent. The first relates to the subject of the Hebrew slave. A Jew can be sold into slavery if he was a thief and was unable to pay for the item he stole. As a form of rehabilitation, the court will assign him a Jewish family to live with and work for over a period of six years.

During those six years, his master may give him a non-Jewish slave to sire children with her. The Torah is very specific in telling us that at the end of six years, when the Hebrew slave goes free, “His (non-Jewish) wife and children belong to the master, and he goes free.”

The children are considered her children and not his, and they also have the status of Canaanite slaves. This case is our first proof that the offspring of a Jewish man and non-Jewish woman, follow the mother.

The second proof comes from today’s Parsha that discusses the prohibition of intermarriage in Chapter seven of Deuteronomy. This is explained in the Talmud in Tractate Kiddushin 68b.

The Torah is very specific by telling us, “You shall not give your daughter to his son, and you shall not take his daughter for your son.” The next verse begins with the words, “When your son shall be removed from before Me and he shall worship other gods.”

The Talmud explains that this verse is only referring to the case of your daughter marrying a non- Jewish man but not the case of your son marrying a non-Jewish woman. The reason being that the son that comes from such a union is “her son” but not your son.

The belief based on the Talmud is that this tradition taught by Moses himself was that the offspring of the union of a Jewish man with a non-Jewish woman is “her son” and not your son. Hence, that child is not considered Jewish according to Jewish law.

Hopefully, this gives a little better understanding of the origin of matrilineal descent. We must remember that the Jewish people managed to survive through a very harsh exile, due to their strict adherence to the Torah and traditions handed down from generation to generation.

Galut

M any do not really understand the term, “Galut”. We translate the word to mean, “exile”, but its significance is far greater than we realize. During the period of the “three weeks”, we are supposed to reflect on the curse or punishment known as Galut.

The Jewish people had a very special role that we were meant to fulfill in an ideal society. All of the Jewish people were meant to live in the Land of Israel. Each Jew was connected to his particular tribe, and each tribe was allocated their own parcel of land to settle.

The law of the land was the Torah and its implementation was left to the holy scholars of the Sanhedrin. The priests and Levites had their specific task in serving as the spiritual leaders of the people. Tithes were given by the nation to support these spiritual leaders as well as the poor.

The Temple in Jerusalem was a source of pride to the entire nation. The temples of Solomon and Herod were visited and admired by the nations of the world. There truly was a time when the prophecy of Ezekiel was fulfilled: “You will be My people and I will be your G-d.

The tragedy that led to our banishment from the land, was due to our turning away and violating G-d’s covenant to strictly adhere to the commandments. A people who were well versed in the Torah, began to be ignorant and apathetic of the sacred laws and tradition given from G-d to Moses.

Our Galut has lasted nearly 2000 years. Jews were scattered among the nations where they were usually unwelcome. Most of the years of our Galut involved suffering and persecution in every way imaginable.

The countries that welcomed us and treated us kindly, brought a different curse. This was the plague of assimilation and intermarriage that runs rampant in the world today.

The only good that could be said of our Galut is that individual Jews made their mark in setting a great example of exemplary morality and scholarship. Despite the hardships and challenges, we miraculously survived. This was only due to the meticulousness of each generation to remain steadfast in transmitting the Torah and its laws to children and grandchildren.

Today we see another fulfillment of prophecy when we were warned: “Behold a famine is coming to the Land. It is not a famine of bread and water. It is a famine of listening to the word of G-d.”

The ignorance of the majority of the Jews of the world is astounding. When once every Jew knew the Five Books of Moses by heart, even the most basic concepts allude most Jews.

In the long run, the affluence that Jews have known, does not spell Jewish survival. The rebuilding of the House of Israel with a return of over six and a half million Jews, is certainly a reason for hope and optimism.

However, until all Jews return to their roots and realize how precious our religion is, there is the necessity to pause and reflect on this very painful and bitter Galut. We must learn its lessons and pray that G-d returns the glory we once had with the rebuilding of the third Temple speedily in our days.

G-d and the State of Israel

R av Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat,made an important point regarding Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. We are to see the similarities between the redemption from Egypt and today.

Every time there was an incident of strife in the desert where G-d was questioned, the troublemakers always accused Moshe Rabbeinu of taking them out from Egypt as if it was his own idea.

We see this before the splitting of the Red Sea, and we saw it when they complained for lack of meat, and it was the excuse for creating the Golden Calf. Each time Hashem had to make it clear that Moshe was the messenger and Hashem in His glory, redeemed us.

Today we must never make this same mistake and attribute the miracle of the State of Israel to anything less than it being ONLY because Hashem decided that now is the time to rebuild the House of Israel.

I was deeply saddened to see the prime minister of Israel being unable or unwilling to give gratitude to Hashem, in a brief Independence Day message. Netanyahu claimed that he’s often asked by world leaders how to explain the establishment and incredible growth of the State of Israel. Instead of sanctifying the Name of G-d by telling all who will hear that we are enjoying G-d’s blessing and that is the only explanation, he praises the citizens of Israel.

It is true that the Jewish people are a great people with intense faith and amazing resilience. However, as we say in the Haggadah, if G-d had not taken us out, we would still be in Egypt no matter how wise and intelligent we were. Now, more than ever, when we have so much to point to and be proud of, we must not forget that without Hashem, none of these achievements would have come to be.

The Miracle of the State of Israel

Y ears ago Rav Meir Kahane used to begin his lecture tour with the following opening statement: “Anyone who has witnessed the events since 1948 and does not see the Hand of G-d, is not a non-believer, is not a scoffer, he is blind!”

This quote has been stuck in my mind this Yom Haatzmaut as Israel celebrates its 69th birthday. The accomplishments of this little country in such a relatively short amount of time, is nothing less than miraculous.

I was privileged to hear Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Tzfat rattle off these miracles in the context of prophecies made over 2500 years ago. Some of his observations:

-The Jewish population in 1800 was only 7000 and in 1920, roughly 50,000. By 1948, the population rose to 650,000 and in 2017, nearly 6,500,000.

-There is a prophecy regarding the widening of the roads to Jerusalem. Our transport minister, Yisrael Katz, told Rav Eliyahu that his purpose in building a Tel Aviv-Jerusalem speed train, and the widening of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, is in preparation of the building of the Beit Hamikdash.

-Israel is considered the eighth superpower in the world militarily, when we had only a makeshift army in 1948.

-According to Rav Eliyahu, the birth rate of Jewish women has surpassed that of Arab women, when once the average for the Arabs was 9.1.

-The number of countries desiring to have diplomatic relations has been rapidly increasing, where the nations of the world want to glean from Israel’s wisdom and technological advances.

-A final point that is so significant is that the growth of the State of Israel, proves that G-d has not rejected the Jewish people. On the contrary, Israel is the number one reason for the huge increase in non-Jews flooding our Jewish courts seeking conversion. As a rabbi, it has become easier to prove G-d’s existence, by simply pointing to our modern day miracles.

Indeed, anyone who doesn’t see the Hand of G-d that we are witnessing today, has to be blind. We must give thanks to Hashem that we have merited seeing the fulfillment of these prophecies in our lifetime. Chag Atzmaut Sameach!

Halacha

Pesach is definitely in the air with tonight being Rosh Chodesh Nissan. This is a holiday that tests one’s commitment to Halacha. On the one hand, it is clearly a holiday of abundant Chumrot, stringencies, as it is only one week and people tend to be extra strict during the week of Pesach. Admittedly, some of these Chumrot are often exaggerated, but the actual Halacha must not be compromised.

Years ago, I remember young students taking home a flyer titled, “Do it right on Pesach night. It had all of the measurements necessary in order to fulfill the Mitzvot of the evening. This included the required size of our wine glasses for the four cups, the amount of Matza, Maror, Karpas, etc.

Pesach is really a test for all of us to see how seriously we take Halacha and how thoroughly we want to follow it. Ideally, we are to act like the wise son in the Hagaddah. He wanted to know everything about Pesach to the last detail. So should we.

My Female Soldier

A great deal has been written and said recently that paints an unfair picture of religious girls serving in the IDF. I would like to set the record straight as the father of such a soldier.

Our fourth daughter decided that she was going to the army, unlike her three older sisters who did national service known as “Sherut Leumi.” At first we were apprehensive about her decision, mainly because of the bad press and the concern that the army will be a bad influence on her religious observance.

She was adamant that this is what she was doing. She joined a wonderful preparatory program that involved serious Torah studies at Kibbutz Ein Hanetziv, and the deal was done. Her Kibbutz experience intensified her love for learning at a higher level than at any time in her previous twelve years of study.

She has been in the army for nearly a year now and it has been an extremely positive experience. When she told people in the army that her father was a rabbi, they assumed I was a Reform rabbi. The idea that I am Religious-Zionist came as big a surprise as the fact that she did not hide that she was religious.

Our daughter works in a unit that works at rehabilitating soldiers who are greatly disadvantaged. Many come from the streets or from difficult home situations, and the army wants these soldiers to be productive members of society when they finish their service. This specific service involves teaching and building self esteem.

We are impressed that the IDF shows such concern for its soldiers. But we are more impressed by the dedication of these young “religious” girls and the devotion they show in their work. It is extremely rewarding and they have seen great success.

Aside from all of this, the willingness to interact between religious and secular is extremely important. It may sound shocking but there are numerous secular Israelis who have never even had a conversation with a religious Jew. This is not an exaggeration.

When these girls show a willingness to explain what it means to be religious, it bridges gaps and the girls themselves are strengthened. They know they are being looked at all of the time and must set a good example.

Admittedly, not all units are like this one and there are definitely problems of religion and the mixing of the sexes. It needs to be pointed out that giving “labels” to things, can be very damaging. The label that religious girls serving in the army are “damaged” does such a terrible disservice to so many remarkable young ladies.

In many circles, a girl is similarly branded for the terrible sin of “wearing pants.” Such an act of heresy may prevent the “good catches” from looking at a girl in pants. I am well aware of the rules of modesty and agree that dressing according to Halachic standards, is preferred. But this issue like so many others, is blown way out of proportion.

Meanwhile, I will tip my knit Kippa (a symbol of religious Zionism), to a number of very special pants wearing female soldiers, that bring us all a great deal of pride