Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

Sandy, Honi Hama’agel, and Me

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm

One sounds the alarm for every threat to the community, save for excessive rains…

So says the Mishna in Ta’anit, after which the renowned Honi HaMa’agel taunts God into making it rain exactly in accord with his request.  Honi does his job so well that people must evacuate their homes because of the flooding. The people plead for him to shut off the faucet. Honi demurs, and from that refusal, a rabbinic edict follows. Pray for rain to come, but don’t pray for it to stop.

When I was traveling with my family cross country in August, I vividly recall the parched corn fields of Illinois and Missouri. After so many weeks of relentless heat, I wonder if the heartlanders would have welcomed a hurricane that brought the promise of thirty-six hours of blessed rain. Rain that would undoubtedly ravage crops, but fill the “cisterns and reservoirs”.  Maybe it takes a drought to see the blessing of wind swept  rain that inspires awe but brings darkness to the city.

For some inexplicable reason, the strong winds have yet to extinguish the electric sparks of hearth and home. We lose power so often here that this welcome reprieve seems more than fortuitous. The wind is loud, and constant. My New Zealand wife scoffs at this weather, and declares that in Wellington this would be considered merely a windy day. No worry for flying debris in NZ, everything that wasn’t nailed down blew away years ago.

Torah is like water. It nurtures, and it runs to the low places where it is received by the modest and humble. The wind never stops, but sometimes it needs to remind us that it is here, and that it matters. Torah can make peace, but often brings fury like a hurricane. It is possible to care too much, and only after everything dies down does one reflect on what may have been destroyed. Such is the price of passion.

It is nearly one o’clock in the morning. The gleeful meteorologists celebrate these storms like Purim savoring the nuances of low pressure systems. I gratefully write accompanied by Edison’s miracle with nature’s fury in the background.

I’m at peace. .


Why Doesn’t the Israeli Center and Left Care About Anat Hoffman?

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2012 at 9:22 am

For more than twenty years, Anat and her mighty band of “Women at the Wall” have been respectfully exercising their right to worship on Rosh Chodesh. This latest outrage has predictably provoked vocal protests from primarily non-Orthodox diaspora Jews from North America. Let’s face it, the group Anat was leading were tourists.

The Kotel and Jerusalem itself have long been conceded to the Ultra-Orthodox. Secular and even Modern Orthodox Jews have been fleeing Jerusalem for the last decade. Over half of first grade children in Jerusalem are haredi, and the numbers are climbing. The tax base of Jerusalem is less than the development town of Ma’alot because of the hundreds of thousands of Kollel students feeding off the public trough.

What does all this mean? Most secular Israelis who are not openly hostile to religion, consider themselves non, or lightly practicing Orthodox Jews and just as they are not breaking down the doors to enter Conservative or Reform synagogues, they are not going to get their knickers in a twist about the praying rights of women at the Kotel. Add to this, the little known statistic that the vast majority of Israelis have never even visited Jerusalem, and you will understand why this issue has gained so little traction in the past two decades. The only thing thing that concerns the Israeli government about the Kotel is whether the paratroopers can have their swearing in ceremony there. Other than that, it’s considered a place of archaeological curiosity. As long as the tourists are allowed to peruse the antiquities, let the dossim have a free hand.

Back in the eighties when “Who Is a Jew” was the hot button issue, Rabbi Alexander Shindler had come from the States to lobby the Knesset, and held a press conference. At the time, I was studying in a yeshiva by day, and working as a stringer for a wire service by night. I also was an unofficial translator for much of the foreign press corps. (Talk about a schizo existence.) Often, members of the foreign press would ask for background concerning religious issues, since I was usually the only observant person they knew. At one time, I wanted to change my name to be “Religious Sources” since that was how my information was often referenced. A correspondent of a Chicago paper was curious about the issue, and couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been resolved after millennia of discussion. He also wondered what the argument was all about, and if Israel was a primarily secular country, where was the public outrage?

Of course, the answer then was that religious parties were essential for a coalition government, and these were relatively easy concessions for the majority party to make. If, however, there were say sixty or seventy thousand non-Orthodox religious Jews who cared enough to give the Labor party three more seats, then the coalition would no longer need the religious parties but until that happens, don’t expect to see much change.

The same is true in this case. Either a bunch of serious Reform and Conservative Jews are going to have to pack their bags and move to Israel, or one hundred thousand Israelis are going to have to find God in pews without a mechitza. I think we have a better chance of seeing the Messiah come before that dream is realized, but given the current US unemployment stats, I could be mistaken.