Articles

Religious Jews Leaving Religious Life

“Then you begin to give up the very idea of belonging. Suddenly this thing, this belonging, it seems like some long, dirty lie ... and I begin to believe that birthplaces are accidents, that everything is an accident. But if you believe that, where do you go? What do you do? What does anything matter?”
—Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Going off the derekh is one of the greatest epidemics facing the religious Jewish community today. You would be hard-pressed to find a frum family untouched by this phenomenon, whether it is a child, sibling, spouse, cousin, friend, or schoolmate who has left religion behind. In the wake of the individual leaving is a tempest of emotions—confusion, guilt, anger, hurt, and sadness.

Balancing Halakha, Jewish Peoplehood, and Democracy in Israel

During the last decade, the State of Israel has struggled to refine policies related to conversion to Judaism on multiple levels. There have been a number of conversion annulments, even more attempted annulments, some of which were rejected in Israel’s rabbinical courts. Others were dealt with by Israel’s Supreme Court. There have been hundreds of cases of converts who were unrecognized by local rabbinates, hundreds more who converted overseas and were denied entry into Israel under the Law of Return, and finally, thousands who sought conversion in Israel but were unable to convert through the national system, either because the process was too burdensome, or alternatively, because they were rejected out of hand by the Ministry of Interior.

Removing Obstacles

In what was probably the greatest Yom Kippur sermon ever preached, the prophet Isaiah enjoins us to “make a path,” to “clear the way,” to “remove all obstacles” from the path of the Lord’s people. We read Isaiah’s searing words today because we believe they speak not just to the inhabitants of ancient Israel but to us as well. The prophet’s urgent call to the Jews of his day, and to us, to observe Yom Kippur by clearing away all obstacles to our “fasting” in the way the Lord has chosen – to take decisive action ourselves – is consistent with the emphasis that Judaism has traditionally placed on human agency, an emphasis we will see affirmed later this afternoon when we once again recall the trials of Jonah.

Teaching Mathematics in Yeshivot using RMBM's Hilchot Qiddush Hachodesh

Secular subjects are taught with various approaches in Jewish schools. Some take the approach that they are a necessary evil, and are taught only because they are required to do so by the civil authorities. They believe that only really worthwhile learning is that of limudei qodesh. Others take a more positive attitude toward limudei chol, considering them important at least for purposes of earning a living. Others go even further and consider all knowledge to have some intrinsic value. Scientific truth has sanctity in that it attests to the wisdom of the Creator.

Re-imagining Issachar

Issachar and Zebulun are said to have founded an economic model that has become popular within a segment of Orthodox Jewish society. The model is commonly viewed as follows: Issachar “bore the yoke of Torah,” devoting himself exclusively to study, while Zebulun was a successful global merchant. Recognizing the benefits and deficiencies of their single-track careers, they contracted to share the rewards, if not the burdens, of their respective interests. Each brother received goods produced by the labor of the other. Lacking time for constant study, Zebulun financed his brother’s cerebrally pious lifestyle and, in return, was guaranteed a portion of Issachar’s metaphysical reward. Issachar avoided traditional work but, thanks to Zebulun, he could still put food on the table.

Transforming Israel's Chief Rabbinate

Our Rabbis taught: A certain Heathen once came before Shammai and asked him, “How many Toroth have you?” “Two,” he replied: “the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.” “I believe you with respect to the Written, but not with respect to the Oral Torah; make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the Written Torah [only].” He scolded and repulsed him in anger. When he went before Hillel, he accepted him as a proselyte. On the first day he taught him, Alef, beth, gimmel, daleth; the following day he reversed [them] to him. “But yesterday you did not teach me thus,” he protested. “Must you then not rely upon me? Then rely upon me with respect to the Oral Torah too.”

Purification and/or Morality

Most discussions of the recent gathering at Citi Field have focused on the logistics of the event and the topic – the dangers of the Internet. With such a focus, however, we may very well be missing something of great importance. What struck my attention was the name of the organization staging the event: Ichud HaKehillos Letohar HaMachaneh, or the Union of the Communities for the Purity of the Camp.

It is my understanding that though this is far from the first use of the expression “the Purity of the Camp,” it has risen to prominence only in recent decades. I think it is a telling term, both for what it says and what it leaves unmentioned. And I would suggest that understanding its use might help us make some sense of contemporary dynamics in the Orthodox world.

Diasporic Reunions: Sephardi/Ashkenazi Tensions in Historical Perspective

Ethnic tensions among Jews are a transnational, diachronic phenomenon, amply documented by Jews as well as by outside observers. Tradition prescribes Jews to rescue other Jews from affliction, underscored by the halakhic concept of pidyon shvu’im (redemption of captives) and the talmudic dictum kol Israel arevim ze baZe, which teaches that every Jew is responsible for the other.[1] Yet, when the factor of physical remoteness between two communities was eliminated, these time-honored values frequently dissipated. As one eminent historian quipped, “ahavat Israel is inversely proportionate to distance.” [2]

Halakha and the Fourth Estate

Identifying the Problem

…the player directly responsible for Hapoel losing this critical game was the team's goalkeeper, Haim Cohen. His amateurish blunder in letting the ball slip through his hands gave Maccabi their first goal, and the second was the result of Cohen's poor positioning for the free kick. Nor was this the first game this season in which Hapoel has been let down by Cohen. His tendency to make mistakes under pressure has surely eroded his teammates' confidence in him; Hapoel manager Aryeh Rubin is rumored to be looking for a replacement...

Modern Orthodoxy: Definitions and Insights

Modern Orthodoxy: Definitions and Insights

By: Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen

PART I.

I. Introduction

A popular contemporary rabbinic concern is to seek the essential quality that marks Modern Orthodoxy (MO) as a unique form of Torah Judaism.

In the middle ages theologians analyzed Judaism to assess its essential nature. Their concern was to locate a quality that should it be missing, then Judaism would not exist. A modern example of such an inquiry would be to seek the essential aspect of a car. A car even without air conditioning or radio is still a car. Yet, should a vehicle not have a motor, then it would no longer be deemed a car. What is, therefore, essential to Modern Orthodoxy?