Sunday, February 28, 2010

For your Purim Seudah: Rav Kook on Kiddush

[This week's outstanding Haveil Havalim is here]

The following is my translation of a comment by Rav Kook in his עולת ראי"ה, brought in Mossad haRav Kook's Haggadah shel Pesach at the start of Kiddush at the Seder. It speaks to our ability to sanctify the day [קידוש היום] and to sanctify the world around us, and it charges us to create this sanctity.

I had to read through the Hebrew many times in order to render this translation, and it will likely take many reads through this English for people to get a sense of what Rav Kook is saying here. But over a long Purim Seudah, this might just begin to be comprehensible - and for those who succeed, the message could be worthwhile:

“For HaShem’s portion is His nation, Yaakov is His lot.”

This “lot” is the lot of truth. The events via which the generations will inherit this [status] via their sacred actions are events of implemented truth, which on the individual’s level never vary from their truth. Those events [the sacred actions] have the power to provide the force of life to each Jew, and so each individual action by each individual soul will add light and eternal life to itself, and to its generations, until each Jew will be able to provide individual holiness to the day, to sanctify the day.

The most active root of sanctification, the individual one, with which we influence the day, emerges with the departure from Egypt, the revelation of implemented truth which is immutable in the general radiance with which it affects each individual. This is the power of freedom, the departure from the house of slaves.

The individuals in every nation and tongue cannot become part of the spiritual philosophy of their nation unless they serve the collective, meaning that they are only influenced and activated by that collective. They cannot, as individuals, implement truths which will stand and endure and be active forces, from their national root, in the path of the freedom of decisive truth – as opposed to Israel, the children of truth. “But they are My nation, children who will not lie, and I am their Redeemer.” HaShem in His true eternal unity is their Redeemer, and they do not need a foreign god or redeemer besides Him. The strength of this Divine truth, which is the root of the national sanctity of Israel, invests strength in each private individual, to be sanctified independently, and so to be prepared to add its unique sanctity to the day.

Therefore, with holy emotion, all declare on the night of the sanctification of this holiday - the source and foundation for all of the Divine holidays preserving the national memory which illuminates all individual actions as part of a greater whole, the wealth of the points of life added on that holiday on each specific level of Israel’s holiness – this holiday which sanctifies the times, on this day it is declared to each Jew that he must recognize the worth of his actions, planting righteousness and receiving a reward of truth: Kadesh!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Purim 5770 2010: YI/OU seeking LOR for…

One of the good things about being out of the shul rabbinate is looking at shul “Rabbi Wanted” ads for the fun of it rather than with professional interest.

In my opinion, these advertisements, as posted by the RCA/YU Placement Office, have come a long way in the fifteen or so years since I first started reading them. I remember listings that presented the state in which the shul was located, a rough estimation of shul size, and “salary commensurate with experience.” Today, many advertisements describe the nature of the shul and the broader community, the full array of anticipated rabbinic duties, and specific benefits packages.

On the other hand, if I am correct in comparing the rabbinic search process and dating, then perhaps shul “Rabbi Wanted” ads should look less like job descriptions and more like personal ads.

Here, then, in honor of Purim 2010/5770, are Shul “Rabbi Wanted” Personal Ads:

Necessary Disclaimer: I have loved both communities I have served, and I have loved their search committees as well. This is just Purim material!

* YI/OU shul seeking LOR to build a Jewish home together. Should enjoy short Shabbat morning davening and long strolls at the kiddush, Lag baOmer picnics and nights out of the house [out of his house, that is].

* Last rabbi was a cold gefilte fish who didn’t blend with our fleishig chulent. Looking for “mi casa su casa” type who likes to linger at the Shabbos table - but not at the pulpit.

* Shul newly single after difficult separation ISO kind, sympathetic, patient, nurturing, community-building rabbi who does not seek a long-term commitment.

* Israel, Israel, Israel! The right candidate will promote Zionism, lead missions to Israel, inspire our youth with love of Israel, wear the Israeli flag atop his Kipah Srugah and present Yahrtzeit shiurim for Theodor Herzl. Must commit not to make aliyah.

* Will support serious talmid chacham with strong yichus, intimidating hat and long peyos who can bring us the atmosphere of Lakewood - but only the atmosphere.

* Looking for a rabbi who likes [musaf] drinking and [mixed] dancing and long walks on the beach on summer afternoons. Able to laugh and joke with every member, admires and cites Spinoza and Nietzsche, has a nice smile and warm hug. Must be good-looking and well-dressed, and must command the respect of the right-wing.

* Cerebral shul seeks academically minded, yeshiva-trained, PhD rabbi with a record of publishing scholarly articles, who is articulate, eloquent, entertaining and impressive in his three-minute Shabbat morning derashot.

* Are you a demanding rabbi who urges his community to grow in Chesed and Torah? Do you want to see your shul’s youth excel in learning and your membership make a serious commitment to minyan? Then you are not for us; we are seeking a rabbi who accepts us as we are.

* Geographically challenged shul wishing for a rabbi whose sincere affection and embrace of the community is not dependent on externalities like beauty, wealth and good local yeshivot for his children.

Feel free to add your own in the comments...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Purim Costumes: Dressing for Success, or Dressing for Trouble?

[From an article I wrote for our Toronto Torah two weeks ago.]

Today, Purim costumes are largely the province of children and shul rabbis, but historically Jews of all ages costumed themselves for Purim. Notwithstanding the Mishneh Berurah’s recommendation (695:3) to wear Shabbat clothes on Purim, for at least 750 years adult Jews have also dressed up in costume for Purim.

Rav Klonymus ben Klonymus, living in late 13th and early 14th century France, wrote in his Even Bochan, “And on the fourteenth of Adar, for the sake of honor and beauty, young men are glorified and exalted, acting in a manner of insanity and foolishness… One wears a woman’s dress and a necklace about his throat, one acts like one of the fools, with a drum and a dance and joy…”

Numerous reasons are offered for this practice, including:

• Relating to the events of Purim itself, Megilat Esther revolves around changes of clothing, from the clothes of Achashverosh’s party, to Vashti’s refusal to undress, to Esther’s pageant, to Mordechai’s sackcloth, to Mordechai’s parade, to Haman’s pre-party downfall, to Mordechai’s elevation to royal robes.

• The sefer Eleh haMitzvot suggested that since the gemara states that the Jews sinned “for show” in bowing to idols in the days of Nevuchadnezzar, and HaShem only acted “for show” in endangering us (Megilah 12a), and so we, too, display a façade which does not match who we are underneath.

• Chassidic authors discuss changing clothing in order to induce the joy and laughter that comes with the unexpected and unusual.

• Anthropologists describe liminal festivals, in which individuals or societies mark a rite of passage by erasing their old identities and taking on something new. Jeffrey Rubenstein, in his Purim, Liminality and Communitas, mentions this as a possible explanation for why masks have such appeal on Purim, a day of transitions and reversals, a time when we re-accepted the Torah (Shabbat 88a), a moment when we were transformed from endangered vassals to a celebrated population en route to a new Beit haMikdash.

Despite these various explanations, the practice of dressing up has, historically, raised troubled halachic eyebrows. Two specific questions were raised regarding potential prohibitions against Shatnez and Cross-dressing, but prominent halachic authorities justified the practice.

Regarding shatnez, the Maharil argued that costumes are not truly “worn.” Just as the gemara (Yevamot 4b) notes that merchants who sell Shatnez goods may drape them on their own bodies for display and we do not consider this an act of “wearing clothing,” so the Maharil considered dressing up in costume as an act of display rather than an act of donning clothing.

Regarding the prohibition against cross-dressing, the Rambam ruled that intent is irrelevant; the phenomenon of cross-dressing is, in itself, an act associated with idolatrous rites. However, other authorities viewed it as an issue of leading to sexual license, and so they argued that it depends on intent, and so Maharil, Rav Yehuda Mintz and other early authorities permitted the cross-dressing costume, so long as it was limited to the special occasion of Purim.

And so we are heirs to a centuries-old tradition of dressing up on Purim, mirroring the events of Purim, inducing joy and marking our transition. We might also mark two other Purim practices described by Rav Klonymus ben Klonymus: “They send portions to each other from the seven species, but gifts to the poor are minimized, like the rest of the year.”

Sending mishloach manot which include the seven species for which Israel is known is an excellent way to connect Purim to our national return from Persia to Israel, which was advanced by the miracles of the day and which we have merited to witness in our own time.

As far as the observation that people stinted on matanot la’evyonim in centuries past, may we merit to see ונהפוך הוא, a Purimesque reversal, such that we will follow the Mishneh Berurah’s advice (694:3) and make sure that our primary Purim expenditure is not on costumes, or even on the feasting and mishloach manot of the day, but on ensuring that we provide for the needy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What we can learn from Toyota and Failure Analysis

[The Purim edition of Toronto Torah is available here!]

[Note: This is a quasi-rant, but it is meant to be productive. I hope that shul presidents and rabbis and others in charge of Jewish communal institutions will read it through.]

I cringe when shuls encounter a problem and the board says, “We’ll just have to be more careful next time.”

I see two ways to understand that language:
1. I didn’t take things seriously before, or
2. I don’t think that making practical changes to our process is worthwhile.

Neither of those explanations appeals to me:
1. If you didn’t take it seriously before, we have big trouble and I have no way to know how seriously you are going to handle it in the future.
2. And if you did take it seriously before, and something unanticipated happened anyway, then why risk something unanticipated happening again?

It’s like the Toyota recall – I want to know why next time will be different. If the answer is, “We’ll be more careful,” you’ll never see me in a Toyota again.

This is stunningly simple – and yet I’ve seen Jewish community organizations (like businesses and manufacturers) make this mistake repeatedly. Failures abound: Programs that attracted tiny crowds. Dinners with bad food. Members who are turned off. Event entertainment that was inappropriate. Davening that is not inspirational. Fundraisers who fell short of their goals. Budgets that are not kept. Speakers who couldn’t reach their audience. Boards that were dysfunctional. Funds that disappear. And so on.

And, each time, the answer of, “We’ll be more careful next time.”

We don’t like to analyze failure, because it costs us time and effort, and sometimes funds.
We don’t like to analyze failure, because we don’t want to admit that we have failed.
We don’t like to analyze failure, because we are afraid of the results.

This remarkable website quantifies the problem, noting: Alexander Dunn, director of Assetivity Properties Ltd., in a paper posted on the Maintenance World web site, quotes a study which showed, "…that, when trying to prevent unacceptable events from happening again, 10 percent of participants immediately sought to place blame, 26 percent immediately expressed an opinion of the causes and offered an opinion without investigating the problem, and only 20 percent of participants examined the problem in sufficient detail to be able to identify an effective solution."”

How is Failure Analysis done? The method I favor, at least for relatively uncomplex operations, is the Six Sigma DMAIC approach.

To excerpt from the website cited above:

Define and Measure the Problem
- What does the company want to prevent from recurring? When and where did it occur? What is the significance of the problem?

Analyze Cause-and-Effect Relationships - Once the problem is defined, it is important to uncover the root causes of the problem and to understand how they interact with one another.

Implement and Control the Best Solutions - Identify solutions based on the results of the root cause analysis and perform a cost/benefit analysis. Solutions are specific actions that control root causes of the problem.

The key is that last point – solutions must control the root causes of the problem. Going back to that website yet again, here’s a great example:

As a simple example, picture a large block of very good Swiss cheese on a kitchen table a few feet away from an open screen door. The weather outside is warm. A man comes to the table for some wine and cheese and sees a mouse in the cheese.

Problem: There is a mouse in the cheese.

Solution: Throw out the cheese with the mouse and put a new block of cheese on the table.

As the site shows, that approach is foolish. So is the approach of “Be sure to close screen door,” and, “Put a note on door asking, 'Did you latch me?'” That amounts to, “Be more careful next time.”

A good solution recognizes that the root cause is the screen door being left open. The key is a solution that controls this factor – such as putting in a spring-latched screen door. This way, the door cannot be left open.

Example: If the entertainment at an event was inappropriate, saying, “We’ll be more careful next time” does not address the root cause. Dropping that form of entertainment, or educating the players about the propriety issues involved, or previewing the entertainment, is a more sound approach.

Failure is, as they say, an opportunity, a chance to learn how to do what we do better. Even if an event or project is, overall, a success, there are always small failures from which we can learn. Failure Analysis is not a dirty word; Failure Repetition is.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Re-post: Drinking on Purim

First: Thanks to a brainburst from my Rebbetzin/muse, I have my costume for this Purim. Clue: What do Jack McCartan, Mark Pavelich, and Chris Drury have in common?

Second: A re-post from last year, with minor changes. I'm sure that I will annoy just as many people with this post as I annoyed last year. Perhaps I'll annoy more people, more since I now live in a community which seems to be more comfortable with alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, and perhaps even because of that, here goes:

Warning: Soapbox ahead.

On Purim we celebrate the ultimate joy of a sudden national rescue, and our sages taught that we should imbibe alcohol at the Purim Seudah as part of this celebration. Just as we abstain from various foods and from drink at certain times of the year to induce sadness, so we indulge in various foods and in drink at other times of the year, to induce joy. The gemara’s standard for imbibing is to drink until we cannot tell the difference between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai” (Megilah 7b).

Authorities differ on how much to drink, but the following is clear: An adult who is medically, psychologically and emotionally able to drink, and who has a designated driver, should drink some amount of alcohol - preferably enough that he will feel lightheaded (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 695:2). One should enjoy his Seudah relatively early in the afternoon, drink a little, and then sleep off the effects of the alcohol.

Many people, and I include myself in this number, have embraced the practice of drinking minimally at the Purim Seudah and then fulfilling the state of intoxication by taking a nap after the meal. This approach is sanctioned by the Rama (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 695:2).

The following is obvious, and I apologize for taking your time with it, but if my blog has any reach at all then I feel an obligation to state this obvious point. Please:

1) Never give alcohol to minors to drink on Purim. It is not necessary for their fulfillment of any mitzvah. The practice might be secularly legal as sacramental wine, but it is a foolish and dangerous ritual and therefore prohibited as endangering our children as well as violating our obligation of chinuch for our children.

I do believe there is a difference between giving children a taste of wine from Kiddush and engaging in Purim drinking in their presence. The former is a formal setting, and no one (I hope) is drinking to get a buzz. On Purim, though, because the general drinking is more loose and more geared toward celebration, I believe that the rule should be that children drink no alcohol at all.

2) Adults should not drink on Purim, beyond what would normally be consumed at a meal on Shabbat, in the presence of young children. Immature children cannot tell when you are in control and when you are not, cannot comprehend the dangers associated with alcohol, cannot accept the idea that adults can do what children are not permitted to do, and cannot understand the difference between Purim and the rest of the year.

Note: When I say young children, the definition depends upon the child. It may well include teenagers; it's a matter of maturity, per #2 above.

The finest joy is a celebration which centers around a Mitzvah, and this is the essence of Purim – the four mitzvot (Megilah, Sending Gifts of Food, Giving to the Poor and having a Feast) which are about experiencing joy and spreading joy and thanking HaShem for saving us from destruction.

For more on this theme see Shaarei Teshuvah of Rav Chaim Margaliyot (printed with a standard Mishneh Berurah), in his final comment on Orach Chaim.

I apologize for wasting anyone’s time by stating the obvious, but as I said above, I feel the responsibility of stating this in any forum I have available.

Monday, February 22, 2010

5-3, eh?

The only thing better than the USA beating Canada in hockey at the Olympics... living in Canada when the USA beats Canada in hockey at the Olympics.

Listening to the radio this morning, listening to the people at minyan this morning, it's amazing how American I've suddenly become.

All the build-up on the radio before last night's game, Canadian-on-the-street interviews with average, mild-mannered citizens coaxed into proclaiming, "Yeah, we're gonna beat them, eh! This is our game!"

Liquor stores closed in Vancouver yesterday evening, in anticipation of the need to control a rowdy Canadian celebration.

Don Cherry on his show this morning, ranting about the Canadian lines and penalty-killing.

Grumblers second-guessing Team Canada in shul at shacharis.

Radio announcers talking about how they need to stop obsessing over last night's game, and instead need to channel the spirit of the come-from-behind 1972 team.

Headlines like, "Canada in shock after ice hockey loss to the US."

Gotta love it. Happy birthday, Torczyner.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rabbi Motti Elon, Rabbi Leib Tropper, and our Yosef Mistake

[This week’s Haveil Havalim is here]

The more I think about the scandals of Rabbi Elon this past week, and Rabbi Tropper a short while ago, the more I believe that the Jewish world makes two mistakes:

1. We have a very low bar for entering leadership

Many people have desires which go unfulfilled because they lack opportunity. Admired leaders, whether overseers of conversion processes or heads of yeshivot and seminaries, have that opportunity on a daily basis. We should be doing more to vet people before putting them in those positions of opportunity.

I’ve actually believed this for a long time, ever since I was put in charge of various things at a pretty young age. A leader, a Gadol, someone we will trust with our institutions as well as our hopes, cannot be a work in progress other than in his own humble mind.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we hunger for leaders. We look at generations past and see their great figures, we look at the recent ones, like Rav Moshe Feinstein, and we long for their kind. And so we look to people who have yet to prove themselves, and we make them leaders. But Rav Moshe, to use him as an example, was a long time in the making, decades before he was recognized as a leader.

A leader should spend decades proving himself before the nation turns to him with that level of respect and trust. In learning, in chesed, in publishing, in apprenticing, a potential leader must prove himself before we place the Jewish world, and our trust, in his hands a la וגם בך יאמינו לעולם (Shemot 19:9).

2. On adultery, we overstate Yosef’s greatness

The Torah portrays Yosef passing the test of Potiphar’s wife (Bereishit 39) with little hyperbole. Yosef went to work, she approached him, Yosef ran away. Gittin 57a also notes that Yosef's deed was a one-time event; righteous, certainly, but not truly heroic.

We, on the other hand, play it up as an incredible deed, this refusal to commit adultery with the wife of his employer.

I wonder whether this hyperbole doesn’t provide a subtle heter (permission) for adulterers: “Well, Yosef was a great tzaddik, and that’s why he didn’t stumble; I’m not Yosef, it’s not the greatest problem if I stumble once or twice.”

I know you could (and perhaps should) argue the point, but I’m just wondering about it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Things you don't want to hear your attorney say at a press conference

I’ve been very grim lately, I know. It happens, from time to time, and with the trauma of last week I think it’s understandable. But one of the side effects of this grimness is that when I read something even marginally absurd, I can’t stop laughing.

The item here, ‘Lawyer regrets calling prof ‘wacko’, restored my sense of humor tonight. Of course, the article’s catalyst was a horrifying and most un-funny set of murders, which makes me feel guilty for finding the piece humorous. Nonetheless, the article itself, with its record of comments made by Attorney Roy Miller about his client, Amy Bishop Anderson, compelled me to cull this list of “Things you don’t want to hear your attorney say at a press conference” :

1. Something’s wrong with this lady.

2. I just think the case speaks for itself. I think she’s wacko.

3. Good lord, y'all. Listen, I went overboard with that. When I talk to y'all I make statements ... I wish I hadn't have made. And probably that's one of them.

4. She knows she's killed some folks, I'm sure.

5. Doctors of biology "have got, in my estimation, high IQs -- and the high IQ in my opinion is sometimes not good for people."

I then went looking for video of Attorney Miller’s comments, just to be sure they were cited accurately. I didn’t find that, but I did find an interview with him here.

My favorite part is at 2:00-2:15 of the video, when he talks about Bishop’s incarceration: “She has no media access. I don’t know how she keeps from goin’ – getting’ worse, under those conditions.”

Good job, Attorney Miller, in keeping from saying the “w” word again…

…but if I were your client in a life-and-death case, I’d worry about your response to the question, “Where do you go from here?” (3:35):

“Today is Friday, the best day of the week, ‘cuz I want out of here and I want to get out of here and do something besides give interviews and work on the case.”

And, in closing, there was also a fascinating “My Cousin Vinny” moment from the interviewer (5:15):
“[She has been talking about] how the suspect pointed the pistol at her and repeatedly tried to fire it, and it was making a clicking sound – how does that work with a 9-millimeter semi-automatic? Y’ know, typically, it won’t sit there and cycle like that.”

To which Attorney Miller replied, "Me and you both!"

Friday, February 19, 2010

Steve z"l - The hesped

Since Shabbos-timing constraints prevented me from attending the levayah (funeral) of my great friend, Steve Weiner, here is the hesped (eulogy) I wrote. I am grateful to Rabbi David Wilensky for reading it at the levayah this morning. May this publication also count as a way to eulogize Steve and encourage others to mourn this אדם כשר.

Steve Weiner, Zev ben Michoel and Zlata Freyda, was the best of us.

Of course, Steve would be the first to declare that he was no saint. He said that to me outright a couple of weeks ago; commenting on his own suffering, he shocked me by insisting that it was fair, saying, “Oh, I haven’t always done the right thing.”

I admit, Steve, that you may not have been perfect, and we are not allowed to exaggerate in a eulogy, but you were still the best of us in so many ways. You displayed what Rabbi Elazar ben Arach, and his rebbe, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, exalted in Pirkei Avos as a Lev Tov, a good heart. This term sounds so benign, so nice, as to be almost meaningless – but far from it, Lev Tov means everything.

Lev tov is a glowing description of an ever-renewing spring. Lev tov is testimony to a resource that can create אהבה ואחוה, that can glue people and communities together, that can convert יחיד into ציבור. Lev tov is dramatic tribute to a heart and soul that can love its Creator even when the Creator appears to have betrayed the Creation. Lev Tov is no pareve compliment – it is the inspiration of the Jew, the Jewish People, and Judaism.

Steve, your Lev Tov meant that you had a tremendous love of friends and friendship and chevra. From chevra at shiurim, to chevra at shul social events and Super Bowl parties, to chevra devoting Thursdays to preparing the shul kiddush, to chevra at the shabbos table and hosting get-togethers in your home, to chevra in your concern and love for your parents, your brother Robert and his family, your heart was always with people.

Your Lev Tov meant that you were inspired by a driving compassion for people in need, for people being bullied and mistreated. You had a fiery sense of justice and righteousness. You couldn’t stand people who picked on others, and you wouldn’t tolerate falseness and arrogance and insincerity. On boards and committees you stood up for what you felt was right, no matter who opposed you. I was often the beneficiary of your kindness; you saw all sides of issues, but you were quick to my defense when you agreed with me. Thank you.

Your Lev Tov meant that you volunteered, volunteered, volunteered. Member of numerous committees, chair of various events. Gabbai extraordinaire and chief signaler for Krias haTorah. Head of Adult Ed for years. Don Isaac Abarbanel in Costume that memorable Shabbos morning in shul. You would have been shul president one of these days, if not for this accursed illness. We could always tell when you were feeling better, because you would show up in the shul kitchen on Thursday afternoons to help out. When we needed someone for a job, we knew we could call you.

And your Lev Tov meant that you had a great love of Judaism. You loved to lein; one of the highlights of my life was seeing you lein a haftorah a couple of years ago, mere weeks after lying at death’s door. On a day to day basis, you helped out with minyan at shul, for a while you came to daf yomi, and you attended many other shiurim. We learned our way through one masechta b’chavrusa, and almost completed another. And your zemiros brought our shabbos table to life; I don’t know how we’ll make it through your Menuchah v’Simchah this Shabbos. And all through these last, terrible years, through the ups and downs and the deepest of depths, you somehow kept that love of Judaism and that faith in Gd. I saw it firsthand, down to the end, every time we said viduy together; if I hadn’t seen it, I would never have believed it possible.

I believe that this is what Rabbi Elazar ben Arach meant, when he said the Lev Tov is the trait a person should choose above all. It’s what Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai meant when he concurred with his student.

Lev Tov is Avraham and Sarah creating the Jewish people by giving to every passerby. Lev Tov is Moshe qualifying to lead the Jewish people because he would carry them like a nurse carrying a nurseling. Lev Tov is Iyyov defiantly adhering to his faith, clutching the very foot that is crushing him and declaring, לו יקטלני לו איחל, Even if You kill me, I will yet long for You.

Lev Tov is the heart that loves chevra, the heart that feels compassion and righteousness, the heart that volunteers, the heart that loves its Creator. It is, as Rav Ovadia of Bartenura wrote, the heart that drives everything else.

Funny – just before I came to see you a couple of weeks ago, ______ emailed me a status report. He said that time was short, but the nurse said you could still go on for quite some time, because your heart was strong. She didn’t even know how strong, Steve.

And your heart did remain strong, and visible. One of your frustrations, as you told me just recently, was the idea that people would remember you from these past few years. But Steve, although the illness certainly affected you, limited you, pained you and tried to drag you down, you were still Steve through it all, and we could see it. We knew you before, we knew you during, and we continue to know you.

With that heart, you were the best of us - and so much more.
There’s a reason why ___ and I drove down to see you in Philadelphia that Motzaei Shabbos Bereishis a few years ago, when you collapsed in the airport.
There’s a reason why so many people stayed close these past few years, to help out daily in any way they could.
There’s a reason why our mood rose when your health rose, and our spirits sank when you were in trouble.
There’s a reason why we embraced your mother of blessed memory, your father yibadel l’chaim, and your brother, on their visits to town.
There’s a reason why our community rallied around you, with meals and visits and get-togethers and tehillim.
Yes, part of it is because Allentown is wonderful. But it’s also because of you, Steve.

In professional sports, when an athlete admitted to the Hall of Fame has played on multiple teams, they ask him which jersey and hat he wants to wear. We do the same thing with our memories of our Hall of Famers, in our own minds, putting people in the uniforms in which we want to remember them best.

For me, Steve, your uniform is your smile; it’s what captured your Lev Tov most of all. I see you joking with me at the bimah between aliyos. I see you playing keyboard in the band and in your home. I see you talking to my kids, laughing with _______, hanging out with the guys. I see you at the shul Gala, at an Adult Education brunch at your house, at a shiur. And all through it, your Hall of Fame smile announcing the Lev Tov inside.

Finally, Steve, I ask you forgiveness for myself, and for all of us in the community and beyond who tried to help you. We weren’t always perfect; sometimes you needed things we didn’t provide, and sometimes we did things you didn’t need. You endured a lot of emotional turbulence, and although we tried to be supportive, I know that sometimes we didn’t achieve the right balance. And I apologize for the insufficiency of my own words today, and for being unable to make it in person for your levayah. Please forgive all of us.

תהיה נשמתך צרורה בצרור החיים, May your soul be bound up in the bond of life, Steve, in the bond of all of our lives and in the bond of the universal life HaShem created. You were, are and always will be, the best of us.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Steve z”l

On Wednesday evening, Steve Weiner, זאב בן מיכאל וזלאטע פריידע, passed away.

I’m struggling to say the magic words ברוך דיין האמת, Blessed is the Judge of Truth, without it coming out as parody or blasphemy.

Who is Steve? Steve is a great friend, a real mensch, a לב טוב, an uber-volunteer, a man who suffered incredibly over the past few years. Steve is a musician and a chemist and a lover of Torah and a lover of chevra. Steve is a builder of community.

Steve spent Shabbos and Yom Tov meals in our home. Steve and I learned b’chavrusa weekly for years, completing one masechta and almost completing another. Steve chaired our Adult Education committee and was creative and community-minded and energetic and devoted.

Steve sang Shabbos zemiros (songs) with energy and passion. Steve played poker and Risk and the keyboard. Steve loved his friends and was there for them. And Steve inspired reciprocity in us.

Steve stood for honesty and sincerity, and railed against artifice and arrogance. He was not always my defender, either; he could tell me when I was wrong. But he was דן לכף זכות, he judged me and others favorably.

I could go on. Actually, I have gone on; I’ve written a draft hesped, and it’s filled with descriptions like that. But it’s not adequate, none of it is adequate.

Please don’t give me advice or encouragement; I’m not in a frame of mind for it. In any case, I know how to write a eulogy; I’ve be around the block way too many times, I’ve written somewhere upward of 200, I know how they’re done, and none of the styles with which I am familiar are adequate.

I think it’s because this is so personal. (That’s not new to me; I’ve buried close friends before. But each death is unique and carries its own trauma and emotions, and this one is hitting me in this way.)

I prefer eulogies that focus more on the person who passed away than on the mourners, but so much of Steve is personal for me that I can’t get away from it, even though I want to stick to Steve and not to myself.

I remember one of my first funerals in Allentown, when a brother of the niftar wanted to open the casket and see his brother. That’s the way I feel. No, I wouldn’t do it, of course, but I feel that powerful pull to see him one more time.

I apologize for the diffuseness of my comments here. As the Rav said on Tishah b’Av, the mourner’s kinos jump around and lack proper structure; this is the nature of the grieving heart. Even though this was coming for a long time, I’m not ready to write this in a formal way. It is what it is.

One thing I can say: Relationships like my friendship with Steve made it easier for me to leave the pulpit, because being a shul rabbi meant that I came to know people this way, and to feel this kind of hurt. But relationships like these are also the magnet that draws me back, they make life so much more than a selfish string of narrow experiences.

I am torn to pieces by this pain, but I can’t imagine living a life without it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Prisoner Exchanges in Jewish Thought and Law

Since it was requested, here are the sources I will use on Shabbat for my shiur on Hostage Negotiations.

The sources are fairly straightforward, and will be familiar to anyone who has studied the issue. The value of the shiur, if I may be so presumptuous, will be in the way I frame it. Note the three questions in the source sheet.

1. Maimonides, Laws of Gifts for the Needy 8:10
פדיון שבויים קודם לפרנסת עניים ולכסותן, ואין לך מצוה גדולה כפדיון שבויים שהשבוי הרי הוא בכלל הרעבים והצמאים והערומים ועומד בסכנת נפשות, והמעלים עיניו מפדיונו הרי זה עובר על לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפוץ את ידך ועל לא תעמוד על דם רעך ועל לא ירדנו בפרך לעיניך, ובטל מצות פתח תפתח את ידך לו, ומצות וחי אחיך עמך, ואהבת לרעך כמוך, והצל לקוחים למות והרבה דברים כאלו, ואין לך מצוה רבה כפדיון שבויים.
Redeeming captives precedes feeding the poor and clothing them. There is no Mitzvah as great as redeeming captives, for a captive is in the same category as people who are hungry and thirsty and unclothed, in immediate mortal danger. One who averts his eyes from redeeming such a person violates the verses, ‘Do not harden your heart and do not close your hand,’ and ‘Do not stand by the blood of your neighbor,’ and ‘He shall not cause him to suffer before your eyes,’ and fails to fulfill ‘You shall open your hand to him,’ and ‘The life of your brother will be with you,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ and ‘Save those who are taken to die,’ and many similar verses. There is no mitzvah as great as redeeming captives.

Three Questions:
• Do the needs of the community trump the needs of the individual?
• Do we expect our soldiers to accept this as a standard risk? Is it any different for civilians?
• Perhaps the needs of the individual are also the needs of the community?

Do the needs of the community trump the needs of the individual?
2. Avot 5:10
האומר שלי שלי ושלך שלך זו מדה בינונית ויש אומרים זו מדת סדום
Saying, “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours,” is an intermediate trait. Alternative, that is the trait of the city of Sdom.

3. Samuel II 20:15-22
(טו) ויבאו ויצרו עליו באבלה בית המעכה וישפכו סללה אל העיר ותעמד בחל וכל העם אשר את יואב משחיתם להפיל החומה:
(טז) ותקרא אשה חכמה מן העיר שמעו שמעו אמרו נא אל יואב קרב עד הנה ואדברה אליך: (יז) ויקרב אליה ותאמר האשה האתה יואב ויאמר אני ותאמר לו שמע דברי אמתך ויאמר שמע אנכי:
(יח) ותאמר לאמר דבר ידברו בראשנה לאמר שאל ישאלו באבל וכן התמו: (יט) אנכי שלמי אמוני ישראל אתה מבקש להמית עיר ואם בישראל למה תבלע נחלת יקוק: פ
(כ) ויען יואב ויאמר חלילה חלילה לי אם אבלע ואם אשחית: (כא) לא כן הדבר כי איש מהר אפרים שבע בן בכרי שמו נשא ידו במלך בדוד תנו אתו לבדו ואלכה מעל העיר ותאמר האשה אל יואב הנה ראשו משלך אליך בעד החומה:
(כב) ותבוא האשה אל כל העם בחכמתה ויכרתו את ראש שבע בן בכרי וישלכו אל יואב ויתקע בשופר ויפצו מעל העיר איש לאהליו ויואב שב ירושלם אל המלך:
And they came and besieged him [Sheva] in Avel Bet-Maachah, and they set up a mound against the city, and it stood in the moat; and all the people with Yoav battered the wall to knock it down.
Then a wise woman cried out of the city: Hear, hear; say, I beg you, Yoav: Come near, that I may speak with you.'
And he came near; and the woman said: Are you Yoav?
And he answered: I am.
Then she said to him: Hear the words of your handmaid.
And he answered: I do hear.
Then she spoke, saying: People used to say, ‘They shall seek counsel at Avel,’ and so they ended matters. We are of the peaceful and faithful in Israel; do you seek to destroy a city and a mother in Israel? Why would you swallow up the inheritance of Gd?
And Yoav answered and said: Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy. It is not so! But a man of the hill-country of Ephraim, Sheva the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against the king, David. Deliver him and I will depart from the city.
And the woman said to Yoav: Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.
Then the woman went to all the people, in her wisdom. They cut off the head of Sheva the son of Bichri and threw it out to Yoav. He blew the horn and they dispersed from the city, every man to his tent. And Yoav returned to Jerusalem, to the king.

4. Talmud Yerushalmi, Terumot 8:10
תני סיעות בני אדם שהיו מהלכין בדרך ופגעו להן גוים ואמרו תנו לנו אחד מכם ונהרוג אותו ואם לאו הרי אנו הורגין את כולכ' אפילו כולן נהרגין לא ימסרו נפש אחת מישראל ייחדו להן אחד כגון שבע בן בכרי ימסרו אותו ולא ייהרגו אמר רבי שמעון בן לקיש והוא שיהא חייב מיתה כשבע בן בכרי ורבי יוחנן אמר אף על פי שאינו חייב מיתה כשבע בן בכרי
We learned: If groups of people were traveling on the road and they encountered non-Jewish bandits who said, “Give us one of yours and we will kill him, and if you don’t then we will kill all of you,” then even if all would be killed they should not give over anyone. If the attackers specified a victim, such as Sheva ben Bichri, then the group should give him over and not be killed.
R’ Shimon ben Lakish said: Only if the victim is liable for death like Sheva ben Bichri.
R’ Yochanan said: Even if he is not liable for death like Sheva ben Bichri.

5. Mishnah Gittin 45a
מתני'. אין פודין את השבויין יתר על כדי דמיהן, מפני תיקון העולם
One may not redeem captives for more than their value, due to Tikkun haOlam.

6. Talmud, Gittin 45a
איבעיא להו: האי מפני תיקון העולם - משום דוחקא דצבורא הוא, או דילמא משום דלא לגרבו ולייתו טפי? ת"ש: דלוי בר דרגא פרקא לברתיה בתליסר אלפי דינרי זהב. אמר אביי: ומאן לימא לן דברצון חכמים עבד? דילמא שלא ברצון חכמים עבד.
Does Tikkun haOlam refer to the burden upon the community, or to a concern that the captors may capture and bring more captives?
Come and hear: Levi bar Darga redeemed his daughter for 13,000 gold dinar.
Abayye argued: Who says that the sages agreed with this? Perhaps he did it against the desire of the sages.

Do we expect our soldiers to accept this as a standard risk? Is it any different for civilians?
7. Minchat Chinuch 425:3
נהי דכל המצוות נדחות מפני הסכנה, מכל מקום מצוה זו התורה ציותה ללחום עמהם, וידוע דהתורה לא תסמוך דיניה על הנס, כמבואר ברמב"ן [במדבר ה:כ], ובדרך העולם נהרגים משני הצדדים בעת מלחמה, אם כן חזינן דהתורה גזרה ללחום עמהם אף דהיא סכנה, ואם כן דחויה סכנה במקום הזה
Granted that all mitzvot are overridden in the face of danger, still, the Torah instructed us to do battle for this mitzvah. It is known that the Torah will not depend upon miracles, as explained by Ramban [Bamidbar 5:20], and it is normal for people to be killed on both sides in a way, and so we see that the Torah decrees to do battle despite the danger. If so, then the concern for danger is overridden in this case.

8. R’ Yitzchak Blau, Biblical Narratives and the Status of Enemy Civilians in Wartime, Tradition 39:4 (2006)
Anyone taking such a position must keep in mind that much of our contemporary fighting of Palestinian terror might also not qualify as war… For example, even after recognizing the evil done by terrorists, can it truly be said that modern Israel is in a state of war with the collective body of Palestinians when Israelis frequently hire Palestinian workers? If we answer the preceding question in the negative, the distinction between war and battle outside of the war context would not prove decisive in our current situation.

Might the needs of the individual sometimes also be the needs of the community?
9. Talmud, Gittin 58a
מעשה ברבי יהושע בן חנניה שהלך לכרך גדול שברומי, אמרו לו: תינוק אחד יש בבית האסורים, יפה עינים וטוב רואי וקווצותיו: סדורות לו תלתלים. הלך ועמד על פתח בית האסורים, אמר: +ישעיהו מב+ מי נתן למשיסה יעקב וישראל לבוזזים? ענה אותו תינוק ואמר: הלא ה' זו חטאנו לו ולא אבו בדרכיו הלוך ולא שמעו בתורתו. אמר: מובטחני בו שמורה הוראה בישראל, העבודה! שאיני זז מכאן עד שאפדנו בכל ממון שפוסקין עליו. אמרו: לא זז משם עד שפדאו בממון הרבה, ולא היו ימים מועטין עד שהורה הוראה בישראל. ומנו? רבי ישמעאל בן אלישע.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah said: I will not budge from here until I redeem him for whatever sum they demand.

10. Tosafot, Gittin 58a כל
כל ממון שפוסקין עליו - כי איכא סכנת נפשות פודין שבויין יותר על כדי דמיהן כדאמרינן בפרק השולח (לעיל דף מז.) גבי מוכר עצמו ואת בניו לעובדי כוכבים כ"ש הכא דאיכא קטלא אי נמי משום דמופלג בחכמה היה.
When there is a threat to life one may redeem captives for more than their value, as we learn in Gittin 47a regarding a person who sells himself and his children to idolaters, “There is certainly true here, where there is murder.” Alternatively, it was because he was superlative in his wisdom.

We will also distribute three news articles on hostage negotiations:

Terror in Black September: An Eyewitness Account
by David Raab, Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2007, pp. 33-42

Yielding Prisoners, Israel Receives 2 Dead Soldiers
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, July 17, 2008

Mediator in Gaza for response
Ali Waked, Ynet News, January 5, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rabbi and Toastmaster

It’s often said (and I’ve heard this in the name of no less formidable a speaker than the Rav, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichik) that the worst time to speak is Kol Nidrei, when people are stressed and worried about the Yom Kippur fast as well as their davening, bloated from their pre-fast meal, and tired from the day’s labors.

Over the years I’ve spoken in a broad range of settings, synagogues and chapels, my own pulpits and those of others, at breakfasts and kiddushes and bar mitzvahs and weddings, bris and shalom zachar and funeral and funeral and hakamat matzeivah (unveiling) and funeral, Shabbos and weekdays and after minyan and Yamim Noraim, etc, and I’d agree that Kol Nidrei is tough.

Nonetheless, I find the toughest speaking slot to be a communal Shabbos lunch.

* Food in front of people, passed around tables, possibly distributed by wait staff or, at any rate, lounging enticingly on a buffet.

* Kids freed from davening and youth groups and let loose to roam or munch or play.

* Social conversation around the table rudely interrupted for the words of a speaker – that would be moi – who may be heard any other time, in any other venue.

What can you say at such a moment, that will be more interesting to people than their food and their friends? How can you even get their attention?

I know the formula, of course:
* A joke or an amusing story
* A leading question
* A light lesson
* A closing zinger.

Simple, to the point. You’re not there to lecture, and it’s not the forum for a deep concept. In that setting, most people are looking for food, not food for thought.

But although I know the protocol, I find this to be my most challenging pulpit. I’m just not as smooth at the light presentation, and particularly in front of crowds I don’t know well.

I had a chance to do it at Shabbos lunch at one shul a couple of weeks ago, and wasn’t able to pull it off; I came away quite unsatisfied. I have another such engagement this coming Shabbos, at a different shul, and there I am supposed to speak with real depth on a serious topic. It’s going to be a challenge.

In one sense, I’m glad there is an opportunity to grow, something I don’t do as well as I could/should, a speaking skill I need to develop. But it’s nerve-wracking, nonetheless.

And I need to find a good lead-in joke for a serious class on the Halachah and Ethics of Prisoner Exchanges…

Monday, February 15, 2010

How communal prayer helps community

[This week's Haveil Havalim is here]

Back in Weeks 1-2 we discussed how communal prayer helps prayer. This week (Week 6), our Wednesday night Tzibburology class will look at the ways in which tefillah b'tzibbur [communal prayer] helps to build community. Here is the source sheet we will use:

Community aids prayer, as well as religious practice
1. D. E. Saliers, Liturgy and Ethics: Some New Beginnings, Journal of Religious Ethics (Fall 1979)
Worship both forms and expresses persons in the beliefs, the emotions and the attitudes appropriate to the religious life.

The mitzvah of communal prayer
2. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Tefillah 8:1
תפלת הציבור נשמעת תמיד ואפילו היו בהן חוטאים אין הקב"ה מואס בתפלתן של רבים, לפיכך צריך אדם לשתף עצמו עם הציבור, ולא יתפלל ביחיד כל זמן שיכול להתפלל עם הציבור, ולעולם ישכים אדם ויעריב לבית הכנסת שאין תפלתו נשמעת בכל עת אלא בבית הכנסת, וכל מי שיש לו בית הכנסת בעירו ואינו מתפלל בו עם הציבור נקרא שכן רע.
The prayer of the community is always heard; even if there are sinners among them, Gd does not reject the prayer of the many. Therefore, one must always join himself with the community, and not pray alone so long as he could pray with the community. One must always rise early and go in the evening to the shul, for his prayer will not be heard at all times other than in the shul. One who has a shul in his city and does not pray there with the community is termed a ‘bad neighbor.’

3. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 90:9
ישתדל אדם להתפלל בב"ה עם הציבור, ואם הוא אנוס שאינו יכול לבוא לב"ה, יכוין להתפלל בשעה שהציבור מתפללים, (והוא הדין בני אדם הדרים בישובים ואין להם מנין, מ"מ יתפללו שחרית וערבית בזמן שהציבור מתפללים, סמ"ג).
Mechaber: One should always endeavor to pray in shul with the community. One who is forced such that he cannot go to shul should specifically pray when the community prays. Rama: And people who dwell in outlying areas where there is no minyan should still pray in the morning and evening when the community prays.

4. Midrash, Yalkut Shimoni 871
מעשה באשה אחת שהזקינה הרבה ובאת לפני רבי יוסי בן חלפתא אמרה ליה רבי הזקנתי יותר מדאי ומעכשיו חיים של נוול הם שאיני טועמת לא מאכל ולא משקה ואני מבקשת להפטר מן העולם, א"ל מה מצוה את למודה לעשות בכל יום, א"ל למודה אני אפילו יש לי דבר חביב אני מנחת אותו ומשכמת לבית הכנסת בכל יום, א"ל מנעי עצמך מבית הכנסת שלשה ימים זה אחר זה, הלכה ועשתה כן וביום השלישי חלתה ומתה,
A greatly aged woman came before R’ Yosi ben Chalafta and said, “My master, I have become too old, and my life is now repellent to me. I do not taste food or drink; I wish to leave this world.”
He asked her: What mitzvah do you practice daily? She replied: My practice is that even if I have something beloved to do, I leave it and rise early for shul each day.
He said: Keep yourself from the shul for three consecutive days. She did this, and on the third day she fell ill and died.

5. Mishneh Berurah 687:7
ואפילו היתה ת"ת של חבורה גדולה של ק' אנשים שלומדים באיזה בית אפ"ה צריך לבטל ולילך לקרותה בצבור משום ברב עם הדרת מלך.
Even if there is a great group of 100 men studying in a house, they still must cease and go to read megilah in the community, because of the principle, “The glory of the king is in a great nation.”

6. Talmud, Rosh haShanah 35a
אמר רב אחא בר עוירא אמר רבי שמעון חסידא: פוטר היה רבן גמליאל אפילו עם שבשדות.
Rav Acha bar Avira cited R’ Shimon Chasida, saying that Rabban Gamliel ruled that the chazan [in repeating the amidah] even exempted the masses out in the fields.

Communal prayer is meant to draw people together
7. Bamidbar 10:2
(ב) עשה לך שתי חצוצרת כסף מקשה תעשה אתם והיו לך למקרא העדה ולמסע את המחנות:

8. Esther 4:15-16
ותאמר אסתר להשיב אל מרדכי: לך כנוס את כל היהודים הנמצאים בשושן וצומו עלי ואל תאכלו ואל תשתו שלשת ימים לילה ויום...

9. Talmud, Yoma 12a
והאי תנא סבר ירושלים לא נתחלקה לשבטים דתניא אין משכירין בתים בירושלים לפי שאינה שלהן ר' אלעזר בר שמעון אומר אף לא מטות.
That authority theorized that Yerushalayim was not divided among the tribes, as we learned, “They may not charge rent for homes in Yerushalayim, for it does not belong to them. Rabbi Elazar bar Shimon said: Beds, too.”

10. Netziv, Haameik Davar Vayyikra 7:13
דתכלית התודה שבא על הנס הוא כדי לספר חסדי ה' שגמל עליו, ומטעם זה ריבה הכתוב בלחם ומיעט בזמן אכילת תודה מכל שלמים היינו כדי שיהיה מרבה ריעים לסעודה אחת ביום הקרבה ויהיה סיפור הנס לפני רוב אנשים וארבע חלות לכהנים שהן המה תלמידי חכמים.
The goal of the todah that is brought in response to a miracle is to tell of the great generosity Gd performed for him. Therefore the Torah increased the amount of bread and decreased the time for the todah’s consumption beyond that of any other shelamim, so that he would increase his friends for one meal on the day he brought the korban, and so he would tell of the miracle before many people. Four loaves would go the kohanim, who were the scholars.

11. Tur, Orach Chaim 90
ואין די לו במה שיקבע לו ב"ה להתפלל בה תדיר אלא גם בב"ה שקובע בה צריך שיהיה מקומו קבוע וידוע ולא ישב היום כאן ולמחר במקום אחר דהכי איתמר בירושלמי א"ר תנחום בר חייא צריך אדם לייחד לו מקום בב"ה שנאמר ויהי דוד בא עד הראש אשר ישתחוה שם השתחוה לא נאמר אלא ישתחוה משמע שהיה תדיר משתחוה שם
It is insufficient to establish a shul in which one always prays; even within the shul, one should establish a known place for himself, and not sit here today and there tomorrow. This is what we learned in Yerushalmi, “Rabbi Tanchum bar Chiyya said: One must designate a place in shul for himself, as it is written, ‘And David came to the front where he would bow’ – It does not say ‘bowed,’ but ‘would bow,’ which indicates that he always bowed there.”

12. Maharil (R’ Yaakov ben Moshe Moellin), Minhagim, Hilchot Yom Kippur 11
אין לשנות מנהג המקום בשום ענין אפילו בניגונים שאין מורגלים שם.
One should not change any aspect of local minhag, even to introduce unfamiliar tunes.

13. Mishneh Berurah 619:7
כי עי"ז מבלבל דעת הקהל
Because that would confuse the congregation.

14. Machzor Vitry 190
וזוכר את המתים שרבו תורה ותקנות בישר' ואותם שהניחו שום דבר בקהל ושהניחו אחרים בשבילם.
And we remember the dead, who increased Torah and enactments in Israel, as well as those who left anything to the community, and those for whom others left something.

15. Talmud, Taanit 14a
על אלו מתריעין בשבת: על עיר שהקיפוה גייס או נהר, ועל ספינה המטורפת בים
For the following situations we are matria even on Shabbat: For a city surrounded by soldiers or an overflowing river, and for a boat that is being tossed in the sea.

16. Talmud, Rosh haShanah 34b
תניא, אמרו לו לרבן גמליאל: לדבריך, למה צבור מתפללין? אמר להם: כדי להסדיר שליח צבור תפלתו. אמר להם רבן גמליאל: לדבריכם, למה שליח צבור יורד לפני התיבה? אמרו לו: כדי להוציא את שאינו בקי.
They said to Rabban Gamliel: According to you, why does the community daven? He replied: To give the chazan a chance to order his prayer.
Rabban Gamliel said to them: According to you, why does the chazan descend before the Ark? They replied: To fulfill the mitzvah for those who are not expert.

Secular sociology shows that communal prayer helps community in general ways
17. Sosis and Ruffle, Religious Ritual and Cooperation: Testing for a Relationship on Israeli Religious and Secular Kibbutzim, Current Anthropology 44:5 (2003)
Hypotheses: If religious ritual impacts solidarity and cooperation as many anthropological theories suggest, then we should expect members of religious kibbutzim to exhibit higher levels of cooperation than members of secular kibbutzim. Although there is no agreement on the details, these theories maintain that it is collective ritual that promotes solidarity and cooperation, whereas no theory proposes a similar functional role for privately performed rituals. Private rituals appear to serve a different purpose, such as communicating with oneself (e.g., Rappaport 1999, Sosis 2003). Thus, we also expect that religious males will exhibit higher levels of cooperation than religious females because of their greater participation in collective ritual, especially daily prayer. Lastly, we expect the frequency of participation in collective ritual to affect an individual’s cooperativeness positively. Therefore we predict that men who participate in communal prayer most frequently will exhibit the highest levels of cooperation.

18. Sosis, The Adaptive Value of Religious Ritual, American Scientist 92
Abstract: Why do Hari Krishnas shave their heads? Why do Mormons abstain from coffee, tobacco and alcohol? And why do so many religious groups have strict initiation rites, ranging from bathing in icy water to painful scarification, hair plucking and genital mutilation? In other words, why all the ordeals and sacrifices? Most attempts to explain religious rituals and taboos have focused on the spiritual benefits of these practices, but anthropologist Richard Sosis thinks there's a more fundamental reason. They signal commitment to the group, and prevent those who are uncommitted from gaining the benefits of membership. After all, who but a believer would engage in these costly acts?

Also see: Ruffle and Sosis, Does it pay to pray? Costly Ritual and Cooperation, The Berkeley Electronic Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy 7:1 (2007)

Communal prayer helps community in highly specific ways: Communal Structure
19. R’ Yosef Teumim, Pri Megadim to Orach Chaim 94: Mishbetzot Zahav 2
עיין ט"ז דיעמדו בית הכנסת לא ממש נגד המזרח רק נטוי קצת לצד דרום, ולפי זה מקום הרב בבית הכנסת בצד דרום הארון ואינו צריך להדרים דבלאו הכי כן הוא. ומי שעושה ממש נגד המזרח טוב מקום הרב לצפון ארון הקודש, שידרים, דבדרום נראה כהופך עורף מארון קודש.
See the Taz’s statement that they should establish the shul not precisely opposite the east, but inclined a little to the south. According to this, the place of the rabbi in the shul should be on the south side of the Aron; he would not need to face south, for even without facing that way he would be in the south. One who establishes it precisely opposite the east should then have the rabbi north of the Aron, so that he will face south; if he would be south then he would appear to be turning his back upon the Aron.

20. Talmud, Megilah 32a
ואמר רבי שפטיה אמר רבי יוחנן: עשרה שקראו בתורה - הגדול שבהם גולל ספר תורה.
Rabbi Shefatiah cited Rabbi Yochanan: When ten read from the Torah, the greatest among them rolls the Torah.

Communal prayer helps community in highly specific ways: Teaching children to value community
21. Vivienne Mountain, Prayer is a Positive Activity for Children, International Journal of Children’s Spirituality 10:3 (Dec 2005)
The data displayed a sense of joy in, and appreciation of, aspects of communal worship. The sense of identity connected to communities of faith was part of the prayer experience for about two-thirds of participants. To pray together in the positive sense of praise and worship was perceived as a meaningful activity where children found a sense of identity and belonging. The praying community was also valued in intercessory prayer (prayer for others), where the community of faith was identified as a resource. As care for others was expressed through prayer, children could understand a sense of unity where prayer was also available for them.

Communal prayer helps community in highly specific ways: Coping with death
22. Sinead Donnelly, Folklore Associated with Dying in the west of Ireland, Palliative Medicine (1999)
In their grief, the community was supported by the loose formality of the wake (torramh), funeral procession, keening (caoineadh) and music. In all these, the men and women of the community and its leaders had distinct and respected roles to play.

Communal prayer helps community in highly specific ways: Announcing communal needs
23. Talmud, Bava Metzia 28b
תנו רבנן: בראשונה, כל מי שמצא אבידה - היה מכריז עליה שלשה רגלים, ואחר רגל אחרון שבעת ימים, כדי שילך שלשה ויחזור שלשה ויכריז יום אחד. משחרב בית המקדש, שיבנה במהרה בימנו, התקינו שיהו מכריזים בבתי כנסיות ובבתי מדרשות.
Initially, whoever found a lost item would announce it for three festivals, and for seven days after the third festival, so that he could travel three days, return three days, and announce one day. When the Beit haMikdash was destroyed – it should be rebuilt speedily in our days – they enacted that people should announce in the shuls and study halls.

24. Talmud, Shabbat 150a
ואמר רבי יעקב בר אידי אמר רבי יוחנן: מפקחין פיקוח נפש ופיקוח רבים בשבת, והולכין לבתי כנסיות לפקח על עסקי רבים בשבת.
And R’ Yaakov bar Idi cited R’ Yochanan as saying: They look after lives and they look after the community on Shabbat, and they go to shuls to look out for communal needs on Shabbat.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Four notes about Tefillin

[This week’s Toronto Torah is here!]

Wow, what a trip today. We drove from Toronto to Long Island, 532 miles, with one stop along the way. Great weather, great traffic, kids were great, thank Gd – but still grueling. I don’t plan on doing that drive in one go again, if I can at all avoid it.

Along the way, I decided to write this post on common Tefillin errors; feel free to write in with other mistakes you have noticed:

1. The knots matter
The batim [boxes] are the most eye-catching part of the tefillin. Certainly, they are the “holiest” part in that they contain the parchment sections on which we write the Torah’s Tefillin prescription. Nonetheless, the Torah also says וקשרתם, that you shall tie these boxes to your arm and head, and so the knots are also significant.

Specifically, placement of the knots is significant:

The arm knot is supposed to sit immediately beside the box, closer to the heart (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 27:2). The Aruch haShulchan noted that Ashkenazim, who wrap the tefillin toward themselves, have a difficult time keeping the knot flush with the box; we pull it away from the box as we tug the strap tight. Sofrim often use gidin [sinew] to attach it, but those snap after a while. For years I used a rubber band to hold it to the box; I have now find a way to do the same, but in a cleaner way, with a string.

The head knot is supposed to sit in the middle of the back of one’s head, at the upper part of the soft spot, just below the base of the cranium (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 27:10). People often forget to check that this is centered, focused as they are on the box in front.

2. Lefty/Righty switching
This follows from Item 1. I have heard Lefties say they can use a Righty’s tefillin and just shift the box around. Be careful; make sure the knot is upright, and between the box and the heart.

3. Bandages, rings and watches
People are often very careful about avoiding interruptions between the tefillin and their skin. This is good, but sometimes people go overboard.

The rule is that there may be no interruption between the box and the skin, and we are strict regarding the straps that fasten the box to the skin as well, and regarding the knots (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 27:4; Mishneh Berurah 27:16); make sure your yarmulka is not under the knot of the head tefillin.

However, we do not apply this to the rest of the straps, such as the seven loops around the arm. Certainly, one should not remove bandages on his arm or hand, and potentially dirty the tefillin or, worse, cause infection, in order to keep those straps flush with the skin!

4. Checking tefillin
It is popular to suggest that tefillin should be checked once or twice in seven years. In fact, though, tefillin which are worn regularly and which are kept in moderate temperature and humidity require no checking at all. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 39:10; Mishneh Berurah 39:26).

One should regularly examine the exterior of the tefillin boxes to ensure that they retain their integrity, blackness and shape. One should check the straps to ensure that they retain their blackness. One must never leave tefillin in extreme or cold, or in very humid spaces.

One should have the parchments of his tefillin checked if the tefillin were left in very humid areas or in extreme temperature. I cannot give specific numbers; as the Mishneh Berurah writes, you know it when you see it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Advertising Idiocy

With lots of time in the car these days, I’ve become more sensitive to radio advertising styles. I’ve noticed that in addition to the traditional spokesman model – “I use this product and I’m attractive/smart/succesful/cool, so you should use it too” – there is also a reverse model, and it's all over the place.

It goes: “I don’t use this product and I’m completely un-cool; only an entirely senseless person would fail to use this product.”

• Scotia Bank’s “I-Trade” service features Bill, whose RRSP [retirement account] “died” because he failed to switch to I-Trade;

• A television product features a husband who forgets to record 30 Rock and is miserable ["Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!"], because he didn’t use the auto-recording product;

• Another financial services company features a man who childishly refuses to look at his retirement account statements [“Not gonna look, not gonna look, look, look, look”] and so misses important information;

• A restaurant advertises its “Kids’ Fun Pack” that comes with every kids’ meal, featuring an adult male who throws a tantrum because he really, really wants one [“I want one. I want one! I - want - one!!”];

• Ads for Certified Accountants feature CEOs who make their key business decisions by spinning a Wheel of Fortune or reading a fortune cookie.

Interesting, too, that all of them are males. Wonder what to make of that; is someone afraid of a lawsuit by women's groups?

In any case, I find the model truly annoying.

Although, on the other hand, we do the same thing in Torah. We play up the foolishness of our enemies:

Pharaoh - “Gd swore not to flood the world, therefore He can’t drown us!”;

Bilam - Dumber than his donkey; and

Haman - “Moshe died in Adar, so it must be a bad month for the Jews,” ignoring that Moshe was also born in this month,

are all played for mocking laughs.

This, by the way, is not to be confused with a third advertising method: The Foolish Announcer. As in the Budweiser “Real Men of Genius” ads, and the Subaru commercials with “Completely Biased Car Advice.” [“Rhymes with TOO-bah-roo.”] Those, I enjoy.

[Side note: Had two odd, mixed-feelings “homecomings” yesterday.

First, I went to the US Consulate to renew my passport. Felt like a member of a VIP club, as I was taken to the front of the line, then around another line, then up to an upper floor which looked much nicer than the area below. And as much as I long for aliyah, there was a definite warmth that came with seeing the Stars and Stripes out front.

Second, I went to a funeral for the relative of a friend. I had not been to a funeral in six or seven months, my longest stretch since 1997. Beneath the grief, and beneath feeling bad for the rabbi (two in one day for him; I had that two or three times over the years, and it’s rough), was a lurking feeling of ‘Home.’ Pretty grotesque, huh?

Oh, and an ‘O Canada’ item – Heard a commercial for Casinorama this morning, advertising that “The New Kids on the Block have been around the world, and now they’re coming home” to Toronto. I had no idea I was living in the home of the New Kids on the Block. That would have given me serious reason to think twice before moving here…]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The "Seventy Faces of the Torah" Fallacy

I was surprised to receive no comments on yesterday's Rabbinic Search Committee post, despite well north of 100 visitors. Odd.

Well, today we have a new topic: The "Seventy Faces of Torah" fallacy.

You know what I mean: The argument that our understanding of the Torah's text should not be limited to traditional approaches, but we can (and should) invent our own interpretations.

As I heard it applied the other day: We should be able to ordain women as rabbis today, because although millenia of halachic writing contain only 2 active references to women deciding law, still, we have the right to find more of the Seventy Faces.

Without entering the discussion about women’s ordination here – the topic requires more depth than this post – I believe that this argument stumbles in the “Seventy Faces” fallacy, the idea that there are שבעים פנים, seventy faces, to the Torah.

In itself, the idea of Seventy Faces is robust and well-cited in post-talmudic Judaism, found in the Zohar and cited by Ibn Ezra, Ramban and others in their classic commentaries to the Torah. Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, despite his staunch opposition to Reform, embraced the flexible concept in his introduction to Horeb:

"Because in the sphere of knowledge of the law everything rests on traditional principles peculiar to this sphere, and no individual view on the significance of or reason for a law can have any binding force, a greater measure of freedom has therefore been given to every individual mind to work out and form such views according to the thinker's own will.

"As a result, we possess a collection of the most diverse views of men of the highest gifts from the earliest times down to our own day. Nevertheless, the cautious thinker will find guidance for himself in the legal tradition itself.”

Indeed, Ibn Ezra (in his introduction to Chumash) even applied the idea to the means by which halachah is derived from pesukim.

But the doctrine of “Seventy Faces” is about finding personal messages and meaning in the Torah. The fallacy is in applying "Seventy Faces of Torah" to practical halachah, as in, “You think that driving on Shabbat is prohibited, but there are seventy faces to the Torah.”

Such an approach is fallacious because it logically contradicts the authority of any halachic precedent or system, and so renders the Torah's entire system of courts, adjudication, penalization and redress meaningless.

Imagine the Jew who lights a fire on Shabbat, apparently violating, “You shall not kindle a flame in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath,” but claims that “kindling a flame” refers to creating domestic strife.

Imagine the Jew who grabs someone ‘s wallet and runs away, apparently violating, “You shall not steal,” but claims that “steal” refers specifically to deception.

“Seventy faces of the Torah” is, as Rav Hirsch noted, an attractive concept for explaining the “significance of or reason for a law.” But when it comes to applying the law, or determining the law, then as Rav Hirsch himself noted, our freedom of personal interpretation ends and we are bound not to say anything that contradicts standing law. (See Dayyan Grunfeld translation from the German, 3rd edition, it’s on page clviii)

One who would innovate in halachah, whether to be lenient or to be strict, must find a way to do so that is consistent with the existing halachic canon. Breaking from it, under the banner of personal innovation, renders the halachic system meaningless.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rabbinic Search Committees: A Community Dating Service

I have written elsewhere on the topic of Rabbinic Searches, but in a Shabbat conversation the other day an interesting analogy was floated, and I think it bears analysis.

I had commented on the need for a Rabbinic Search Committee to communicate to the candidate that he is wanted, such as by sending him a bottle of wine after his interview. It is important that the candidate rabbi see the committee and community as people, and not a faceless mob interrogating and exhausting him even before he has taken the job.

The rabbi is going to be your leader and friend, your officiant and your counselor! And Rabbi, these people will be your audience as well as your friends, the city that will challenge you to grow and support you when you reach for greatness! Having an emotional connection from the start enables the growth of that bond later.

To which my friend commented that it sounds somewhat like dating.

In truth, I believe it is like dating, and the Search committee is the Shadchan, and the community and the candidate are the ones doing the dating. [Granted, I did not find my wife through a shadchan, but I think I have a clear enough sense of the process to make that analogy.]

This means the following:

1. The Shadchan’s job begins with finding out what the daters want

The Search Committee is not dating; it is arranging. This means that the Search Committee gets a clear directive from the shul and/or its board, as to what they want in a rabbi. Job Description, Prioritization, who do we want?

And the Search Committee should also get a sense from its candidates: Do they have a realistic view of the community and the job? Is this what they want? Are they suited for it, and will they be happy with it?

2. The Shidduch should be managed transparently

The classic parody of the Shadchan is that (s)he tries to inflate appealing characteristics or hide defects; this cannot happen in a search process. Everything from resume to community feedback should be conducted with planned transparency, the better to inspire trust.

The only elements to hide are the specifics of who said what, just as in a shidduch situation we avoid embarrassing either side.

3. The Shadchan should make sure to communicate clearly the feelings of each side toward the other

This is the “bottle of wine” point from above. It is to each side’s advantage to be seen clearly by the other. The candidate should be seen as a human being, as a warm, breathing and feeling person, and not a resume. The shul’s president, board, search committee etc. should likewise be seen as the human beings they are. This means that relationships should not be couched in technical terms and committeespeak. “We liked this.” “We’re hoping for that.” “The rabbi thought this was good/bad/unusual/interesting.” “We think that this aspect is important.” And so on. And, yes, gestures are important to help with this.

4. The Shadchan’s job is not to decide on whether the couple gets married

It’s true that Search Committees frequently make recommendations to boards or the membership, but their recommendation should not be based upon their own assessment of the community’s needs. Rather, it should come from seeing how the traits of the rabbinic candidate match up with the needs expressed by the community, and how the community responds to the candidate.

I’ve got loads more, but that will have to do for now.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Poll: What makes a great Purim Seudah?

[Haveil Havalim is here]

I have strong feelings about certain aspects of the Purim Seudah (the meal we are instructed to eat on Purim, to celebrate the miracle of our survival).

In particular, as I've written elsewhere, I believe that adults must not drink alcohol to excess [meaning, drinking more than a normal person drinks at a normal meal] with children present, even if those adults are entirely self-controlled.

I define "children" as:
(a) human beings who will not understand why mitzvah-drinking is any different from other drinking and might be inspired to follow suit at inappropriate times, or
(b) human beings who will not understand the health risks involved in drinking and might be inspired to follow suit in an unhealthy manner.

But once we are past that point, what makes for a good Purim Seudah?

By which I mean: What do you find creates an atmosphere in which people feel the meaning of Purim most, while also enjoying the experience?

* Is family better than community? Or how about family at a community Seudah?

* Should people Seudah-hop?

* Should people be in costume? And does this include rabbis?

* Should kids be involved, or is it better to give them something else to do?

* Should the divrei torah be central or part of a longer program of shpiels, games and contests, etc?

* For those who can drink - Wine, Beer, Vodka or Scotch? Or something else entirely?

* Should it be earlier or later in the afternoon? (Especially in a year like this, when non-Shushan Purim is Sunday)

* Should the food be fancy or simple, elaborately prepared or quick-and-easy?

I ask these questions for a few reasons:

1. I would love to hear your answers;

2. This is the first year that I can actually create a Purim Seudah, or attend one elsewhere as a civilian, instead of being Shul Rabbi;

3. I think that we often rush into the Purim Seudah with little preparation, and I'd like to see this more as a planned experience with a cultivated atmosphere, to optimize the mitzvah.

And, of course, please add any questions I've missed...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

R' (or "Know when to walk away")

[This week's Toronto Torah is here!]

Did you ever do something by rote rather than consciously, then have someone pick a fight with you over it so that you find yourself defending your action as though it had been intentional in the first place?

Let me explain:

I have a long-standing habit of shorthanding Rabbi into R’. (See, for example, the flyer here.) It makes sense for flyers – “Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner” is just absurdly long, and it kills readability. It makes sense for addressing rabbis in emails, when speed is of the essence. And it says what I need it to say. So I do it, and I’ve done it for years without thinking twice.

Last week someone I respect picked a fight with me about this R’, saying that diminishing the honorific diminishes the honor due to Rabbis. Where some parts of the Jewish community refer to their rabbis with all manner of aggrandizement – haRav haGaon, Adoneinu Morein v’Rabbeinu, and so on – I am reducing my own status, and the status of others I address in this way.

I know this person; he means well, and he has only my best interest at heart. At the same time, this protest bothers me.

This protest leads me to want to say to him, “I write R’ to make a point, to take a stand against the inflated titles that are all too common and all too silly. I davka write R’, and I’ll write R’ whenever I choose. R' R' R' R' R'.”

This protest leads me to want to transcend the R’ and drop the title altogether, and just write “Mordechai Torczyner” on flyers. The name was good enough for me at birth, it’s good enough for me now; this world of titles is too overblown.

Besides, the correct answer to his protest lies in the standard edition of the gemara itself, where Tannaim are routinely termed ר' instead of רבי. Rabbi Akiva is ר' עקיבא, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is ר' שמעון. For that matter, הרה"ג is more common than הרב הגאון, and אדמו"ר usually takes the place of אדוננו מורנו ורבנו. So I’m not an innovator here.

But I believe the answer to this protest is not to allow myself to get carried away in defense of something that was unconscious in the first place. Being a רודף שלום (pursuer of peace) often means that you walk away from fights like this.

Better to write Rabbi for the sake of peace than to write R’ for the sake of a fight.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Building a Community of Trust

Here are the sources for the fourth week of Tzibburology, which I expect to teach Wednesday night at the BAYT.

We'll be discussing "Building a Community of Trust," looking at the Trust = Social Capital model of James Coleman, Francis Fukuyama and others, and how it is applied in Jewish law in community-building.

We'll look at issues of earning the trusted Chaver status, practicing trust-promoting behaviors, avoiding suspicion of wrongdoing and judging others favorably. Much of the material is traditional, but I have a few surprises in mind, particularly at the end.

The quotes in the beginning are long, but I really like them.

The Role of Trust in Building Society
1. Fukuyama, Social Capital and the Global Economy, Foreign Affairs (September/October 1995)
Conventional maps of the global economy divide the major players into three groups: the United States and its partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement, the European Union (EU), and East Asia, led by Japan but with the four dragons (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore) and the People's Republic of China catching up rapidly. This three-pronged geography is said to correspond to major divisions in the approach to political economy: at one pole lie Japan and the newly industrialized Asian economies, which have relied heavily on state-centered industrial policies to guide their development, while at the other extreme lies the United States, with its commitment to free-market liberalism. Europe, with its extensive social welfare policies, lies somewhere in between.
This familiar map, while not wrong, is today not the most useful way of understanding global economic geography. The most striking difference among capitalist countries is their industrial structure. Germany, Japan, and the United States were quick to adopt the corporate form of organization as they industrialized in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and today their economies are hosts to giant, professionally managed corporations like Siemens, Toyota, Ford, and Motorola. By contrast, the private sectors of France, Italy, and capitalist Chinese societies like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the marketized parts of the People's Republic of China (PRC) are dominated by smaller, family-owned and -managed businesses. These societies have had much greater difficulties institutionalizing large-scale private corporations; their relatively small companies, while dynamic, tend to fall apart after a generation or two, whereupon the state is tempted to step in to make possible large-scale industry.
The reasons for these differences in industrial structure have less to do with level of development than with a key cultural characteristic, what the sociologist James Coleman has labeled social capital—that is, the component of human capital that allows members of a given society to trust one another and cooperate in the formation of new groups and associations... The competitiveness literature of the past decade has it wrong when it describes the United States and Japan as polar opposites with respect to individualism and group orientation. In fact, the strong historical propensity of Americans to form voluntary associations is quite similar to that of the Japanese, and it is no accident that these two societies pioneered the development first of the corporate form of business organization and later the smaller, decentralized network.
Virtually all economic activity, from running a laundry to building the latest-generation microprocessor, is carried out not by individuals but by organizations that require a high degree of social cooperation. As economists argue, the ability to form organizations depends on institutions like property rights, contracts, and a system of commercial law. But it also depends on a prior sense of moral community, that is, an unwritten set of ethical rules or norms that serve as the basis of social trust. Trust can dramatically reduce what economists call transaction costs—costs of negotiation, enforcement, and the like—and makes possible certain efficient forms of economic organization that
otherwise would be encumbered by extensive rules, contracts, litigation, and bureaucracy. Moral communities, as they are lived and experienced by their members, tend to be the product not of rational choice in the economists' sense ofthe term, but of nonrational habit.

2. Fukuyama, The Economics of Trust, National Review (August 14, 1995)
A nation’s well-being, as well as its ability to compete economically, is conditioned by a single, pervasive cultural characteristic: the level of trust inherent in the society.
Consider the following vignettes from twentieth-century economic life: During the oil crisis of the early 1970s, two automakers on opposite sides of the world, Mazda and Daimler-Benz, were both hit with declining sales and the prospect of bankruptcy. They were bailed out by a coalition of companies with which they had traditionally done business, led in each case by a large bank: Sumitomo Trust and the Deutsche Bank. In both cases, immediate profitability was sacrificed to save the institution…

3. Sosis, Does Religion Promote Trust? The Role of Signaling, Reputation and Punishment
[T]he conditions for intra-group trust are often not met in religious communities, especially isolationist and closed communities to which high levels of trust are typically ascribed. Rather, in such communities cooperation is maintained through institutional structures that effectively punish cheaters and enhance the value of an honest reputation. These groups gainfully facilitate collective action by offering a circumscribed social arena in which reputations can be built, evaluated, rewarded, and efficiently punished.
While face to face reciprocal relations obviate the need for trusting behavior within closed religious communities, when social groups are fluid religious practices and symbolic markers are successful at promoting trust among in-group members and anonymous coreligionists who reside in different communities. In addition, these religious badges of identity may be used by non-group members as signals of trustworthiness.

The Role of Trust in building Jewish society: Cases from Tanach
4. Masechet Derech Eretz, Perek Shalom 5
חזקיה אמר גדול הוא השלום, שבכל המסעות כתיב ויסעו ויחנו, נוסעין במחלוקת וחונין במחלוקת, ובזמן שבאו לסיני חנו חנייה אחת, ויחן שם ישראל, אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא הואיל ושנאו ישראל את המחלוקת ואהבו את השלום ונעשו חנייה אחת, עכשיו אתן להם את תורתי.
Chizkiyah said: Peace is great, for with each journey it was written, “And they travelled and they encamped,” traveling with division and camping with division, but when they came to Sinai they camped as one, “And Israel camped [singular].” Gd said: Since Israel hated division and loved peace and became one camp, I will now give them My Torah.

5. Rashi to Bereishit 11:19
וכי אי זו קשה, של דור המבול או של דור הפלגה, אלו לא פשטו יד בעיקר, ואלו פשטו יד בעיקר כביכול להלחם בו, ואלו נשטפו, ואלו לא נאבדו מן העולם. אלא שדור המבול היו גזלנים והיתה מריבה ביניהם לכך נאבדו, ואלו היו נוהגים אהבה וריעות ביניהם, שנאמר שפה אחת ודברים אחדים. למדת ששנוי המחלוקת וגדול השלום:
What is worse, that of the Flood generation or that of the Division generation? These did not reach out against Gd and these did reach out against Gd, as though they could war against Him, and yet these were drowned and these were not eliminated from the world! But the Flood generation were thieves and had quarrels among themselves and so they were eliminated, and these acted with love and friendship among themslves, as the Torah describes, “One tongue and many words.” We learn that division is hated and peace is great.

6. Kohelet 4:9-12
טובים השנים מן האחד אשר יש להם שכר טוב בעמלם: כי אם יפלו האחד יקים את חברו ואילו האחד שיפול ואין שני להקימו: גם אם ישכבו שנים וחם להם ולאחד איך יחם: ואם יתקפו האחד השנים יעמדו נגדו והחוט המשלש לא במהרה ינתק:
Two are better than one, for they have good reward for their struggle. Should they fall, one would pick up the other; if one would fall, he would have no second to pick him up. Also, if two would lie down they would be warm; how would one be warmed? And if one would be overcome in an attack, two would stand against him; and the tripled-corded thread will not quickly break.

The Role of Trust in building Jewish society: Halachah 1: Trusting those who honor Communal Standards
7. Responsa of Rashba 1:430
שאלת מי שהוא חשוד באחת מן העבירות שבתורה אם נאמן באיסורין אם לאו?
תשובה נאמן הוא בשאר האיסורין דהא קיי"ל בפר' קמא דחולין (דף ה') דמומר לדבר אחד לא הוי מומר לכל התורה. זולתי מומר לעבודה זרה ולחלל שבתות בפרהסיא דהוי כמומר לכל התורה.
You asked: May we trust a person who is suspected of a transgression regarding prohibitions, or not?
He is credible regarding other prohibitions, for we learn in Chullin 5a that one who is a mumar for one matter is not considered a mumar for the entire Torah, other than one who is a mumar for idolatry or violating Shabbat in public, who is considered like a mumar for the entire Torah.

8. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Maaser 10:2
ת"ח שמת והניח פירות אפילו כנסם באותו היום הרי הן בחזקת מתוקנין.
If a talmid chacham passes on and leaves behind produce, they may be assumed to have been tithed – even if they were collected only that day.

9. Mishnah, Sheviit 5:9
משאלת אשה לחברתה החשודה על השביעית נפה וכברה ורחיים ותנור אבל לא תבור ולא תטחן עמה אשת חבר... וכולן לא אמרו אלא מפני דרכי שלום ומחזיקין ידי נכרים בשביעית אבל לא ידי ישראל ושואלין בשלומן מפני דרכי שלום:
A woman may lend a sifter, sieve, mill or oven to her friend who is suspected of violating the laws of shemitah, but she may not sift or grind with her… All of this was said only for peaceful practices. One may grasp the hands of non-Jews in shemitah, but not the hands of Jews; one may ask after them, though, for peaceful practices.

10. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 55:11
עבריין שעבר על גזירת הצבור או שעבר עבירה, אם לא נידוהו נמנה למנין עשרה.
A sinner who violated communal decrees or who violated a prohibition may be counted toward a minyan, unless he has been ex-communicated.

The Role of Trust in building Jewish society: Halachah 2: Implementing peaceful practices
11. Mishnah, Gittin 5:8
אלו דברים אמרו מפני דרכי שלום: כהן קורא ראשון ואחריו לוי ואחריו ישראל, מפני דרכי שלום; מערבין בבית ישן, מפני דרכי שלום...
The following are prescribed for the sake of peaceful practices: The Kohen should read first, then a Levi, and then a Yisrael, for peaceful practices. We set up the eruv meal in the established house, for peaceful practices…

12. Talmud, Taanit 14b
חברים אין שאילת שלום ביניהן, עמי הארץ ששואלין - מחזירין להם בשפה רפה ובכובד ראש.
Chaverim do not greet each other [on Tishah b'Av], but if amei ha’aretz greet us then we respond with a soft tongue and with solemnity.

13. Talmud, Gittin 61a
מפרנסים עניי נכרים עם עניי ישראל, ומבקרין חולי נכרים עם חולי ישראל, וקוברין מתי נכרים עם מתי ישראל, מפני דרכי שלום.
We support non-Jewish paupers with Jewish paupers, and we examine non-Jewish ill with Jewish ill, and we bury non-Jewish dead with Jewish dead, because of peaceful practices.

The Role of Trust in building Jewish society: Halachah 3: Avoiding suspicious practices
14. Talmud, Berachot 3a
מפני שלשה דברים אין נכנסין לחורבה: מפני חשד, מפני המפולת ומפני המזיקין.
There are three reasons why we do not enter a ruin: Suspicion, Collapse and Harmful forces.

15. Talmud, Shabbat 64b
אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: כל מקום שאסרו חכמים מפני מראית העין - אפילו בחדרי חדרים אסור.
Rav Yehudah said, citing Rav: Whenever the sages prohibited a practice because of appearances, it is prohibited even in rooms within rooms.

16. Rama to Yoreh Deah 87:3
ונהגו לעשות חלב משקדים ומניחים בה בשר עוף, הואיל ואינו רק מדרבנן. אבל בשר בהמה, יש להניח אצל החלב שקדים, משום מראית העין
People prepare almond milk and place poultry in it, since this would only be a rabbinic prohibition [even were the milk actually dairy]. For beef, though, one should leave nuts next to the milk, because of appearances.

The Role of Trust in building Jewish society: Halachah 4: Judging others favorably
17. Avot d’Rabbi Natan 8:7
מעשה בריבה אחת שנשבית והלכו אחריה שני חסידים לפדותה. נכנס אחד מהם לקובה של זונות כשיצא אמר לחבירו במה חשדתני. אמר שמא לידע בכמה דמים היא מהורהנת. א"ל העבודה כך היה. א"ל כשם שדנתני לכף זכות כך הקב"ה ידין אותך לכף זכות:
Once, a young girl was taken captive and two pious men went to redeem her. One of them entered a hut of zonot, and when he emerged he asked the other, “What did you suspect of me?”
The other replied, “Perhaps you entered to find out how much money they were demanding for her release.”
He said, “By the Avodah, so it was! And just as you judged me for the side of merit, so may Gd judge you for the side of merit.”

18. Yirmiyahu 40:14
ויאמרו אליו הידע תדע כי בעליס מלך בני עמון שלח את ישמעאל בן נתניה להכתך נפש ולא האמין להם גדליהו בן אחיקם:
And he said to him: Do you know that Balis, King of Amon, has sent Yishmael ben Netanyah to kill you?
And Gedaliah ben Achikam did not believe him.

19. Talmud, Niddah 61a
אמר רבא: האי לישנא בישא, אע"פ דלקבולי לא מבעי - מיחש ליה מבעי. הנהו בני גלילא דנפק עלייהו קלא דקטול נפשא, אתו לקמיה דרבי טרפון, אמרו ליה: לטמרינן מר! אמר להו: היכי נעביד? אי לא אטמרינכו - חזו יתייכו, אטמרינכו - הא אמור רבנן האי לישנא בישא, אע"ג דלקבולי לא מבעי - מיחש ליה מבעי, זילו אתון טמרו נפשייכו.
Rava said: Although one may not accept evil speech, one must be concerned for it.
Word spread that certain Galileans had killed someone; they came to R’ Tarfon and asked him, “Master, hide us!” He said to them, “What should I do? If I don’t hide you, they will find you. If I hide you – the sages say that although one may not accept evil speech, one must be concerned for it! Rather, go hide yourselves.”

20. Talmud, Shabbat 97a
אמר ריש לקיש: החושד בכשרים לוקה בגופו, דכתיב והן לא יאמינו לי וגו', וגליא קמי קודשא בריך הוא דמהימני ישראל. אמר לו: הן מאמינים בני מאמינים, ואתה אין סופך להאמין. הן מאמינים - דכתיב ויאמן העם, בני מאמינים והאמין בה'. אתה אין סופך להאמין - שנאמר יען לא האמנתם בי וגו'. ממאי דלקה - דכתיב ויאמר ה' לו עוד הבא נא ידך בחיקך וגו'.
Reish Lakish said: One who suspects the innocent will be physically harmed. It is written, ‘And they will not believe me,’ and Gd knew that the Jews would believe. Gd said to Moshe: They are believers, children of believers - and you, in the end, will not believe!... And how do we know he was harmed? For it is written, ‘And Gd said to him, Put your hand in your chest again…’

More generally: The imperative to proactively create a society of trust
21. Mishnah, Shekalim 3:2
אין התורם נכנס לא בפרגוד חפות ולא במנעל ולא בסנדל ולא בתפילין ולא בקמיע שמא יעני ויאמרו מעון הלשכה העני או שמא יעשיר ויאמרו מתרומת הלשכה העשיר לפי שאדם צריך לצאת ידי הבריות כדרך שצריך לצאת ידי המקום שנאמר (במדבר ל"ב) והייתם נקיים מה' ומישראל ואומר (משלי ג') ומצא חן ושכל טוב בעיני אלקים ואדם:
The tither could not enter with hemmed clothes, shoes, sandals, tefillin or amulets, lest he become poor such that people might say he was impoverished because of sinning with the shekalim or lest he become wealthy such that people might he say he was enriched by the shekalim. One is obligated to satisfy others as he is obligated to satisfy Gd, as it is written (Bamidbar 32), ‘And you shall be clean from Gd and Israel,’ and it is written (Proverbs 3), ‘And you will find favor and [a reputation for] wisdom on the eyes of Gd and Man.’

The relationship between human and Gd
22. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 2:2
ומה היא התשובה הוא שיעזוב החוטא חטאו ויסירו ממחשבתו ויגמור בלבו שלא יעשהו עוד... ויעיד עליו יודע תעלומות שלא ישוב לזה החטא לעולם...
What is repentance? For the sinner to abandon his sin and remove it from his though, and conclude in his heart that he will never commit it again… and the One who knows all hidden things will testify that he will never return to this sin…

23. Hosheia 12:13-14
ויברח יעקב שדה ארם ויעבד ישראל באשה ובאשה שמר: ובנביא העלה יקוק את ישראל ממצרים ובנביא נשמר:
And Yaakov fled to the field of Aram, and Yisrael worked for a woman, and waited for a woman. And with a prophet HaShem brought Yisrael up from Egypt, and with a prophet He waited.

24. Hosheia 2:21-22
וארשתיך לי לעולם וארשתיך לי בצדק ובמשפט ובחסד וברחמים: וארשתיך לי באמונה וידעת את יקוק:
And I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, justice, generosity and mercy, and I will betroth you to Me with trust, and you will know HaShem.