So much of Jewish life revolves around the Jewish community.

Wherever Jews happen to live, whatever language they happen to speak, whatever Jewish traditions, customs and laws they happen to keep (or not…) being part of a community will often figure as a very major part of Jewish life.

No two communities are the same, each is a unique blend of the history, personalities, beliefs and customs that have molded it over the generations. While so many of the different community customs have been lost over the years, many Jews are still striving to maintain their cultural heritage, and to apply to Jewish life in the modern world, in the face of a growing number of issues, challenges and changes.

In this category, we’ll take a look at a bunch of topics including:

  • Jewish Communal Events – what’s really shaping modern Jewish life
  • Jewish News – the information that we really need to know about living as a Jew today
  • The importance of Jewish communal life
  • History of Jewish community – in all sorts of different places around the globe
  • Day-to-day relationships – both intramural and extramural, with other peoples and faiths
  • Modern values in kehillas – and how they are changing, sometimes unrecognisably, from traditional Torah values
  • Jewish community issues and challenges – both within Israel, and abroad
  • Community leaders, rabbis, and personalities.

Is the United States of America really the ‘good’ side of Edom?

After going into Yom Kippur in Israel with newspapers blaring headlines that Trump had given permission to Turkey to ‘invade’ Syria (!), I thought it was timely to try to track down what the Gemara says about the ‘good side’ of Edom.

I know there’s an idea being floated around that America is somehow the ‘good’ side of Edom, and that Trump is somehow akin to the Roman Emperor Antoninus, who had a very close relationship with Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi around 1800 years ago.

As things continue to get more and more ‘interesting’ in the international arena, I thought it was time to actually track down the sources in the Gemara that talk about Antoninus, most of which I found in Avoda Zara 10a and b. We can learn a lot from seeing what the Sages actually said about ‘Edom’ and its rulers, and how that maps on to modern-day America, and its rulers.

====

The discussion begins in 10a, where the Sages are discussing idolatrous holidays and festivals.

They start talking about something called the ‘Ginusya day of their emperors’, and Rav Yehuda explains:

This is the day on which idolaters inaugurate their emperor.

The Gemara then asks:

But do [the Romans] appoint the son of a king as a king?

The Artscroll notes then state:

“The Emperors of Rome did not reign by hereditary right, but were selected by the previous ruler, or by the Senate.”

Does this sound familiar?

The Gemara then goes on to quote a verse from the prophecy of Ovadiah – which is very interesting in its own right, not least because of the following quotes from it:

“Even if you raise [your nest] like an eagle of if you place your nest amongst the stars, I will bring you down from there…..

“[T]he house of Yaakov will inherit those who had dispossessed them. The house of Yaakov will be fire, the house of Yosef a flame, and the house of Esav for straw. And they will ignite them and devour them. There will be no survivor to the house of Esav, for Hashem has spoken.”

====

The allusions to Edom being America seem obvious. The bald-headed eagle is the American emblem – and appears on the logo of the CIA, amongst other things – and ‘the stars’ are also prominently linked to the USA, in just about every sense of the word, beginning with their flag, moving through the space exploration program, and ending with Hollywood.

Let’s continue.

American white supremacism

====

Rashi explains in his commentary on Genesis 36:43 that Edom is the ‘ancestor’ of Rome.

The Gemara continues to explains that Rome is ‘inferior among nations’ (quoting Ovadiah) because they:

“Do not appoint the son of a king as king.”

Clearly, the Sages aren’t impressed with the idea of ‘democracy’. The Gemara continues that Edom / Rome is “very despised”:

“Because they do not have their own writings or language.”

These descriptions also ‘fits’ the USA perfectly.

====

The Gemara now introduces us to the Roman Emperor Antoninus, who had a close relationship with Rebbi, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. The discussion begins with how the Roman Authorities – aka the Senate – are ‘persecuting’ Antoninus, and how Rebbe advises him to kill them off one at a time, and “to not contend with all of them at once.”

Rebbe is scared to state this openly, because he’s wary of being bugged. The Gemara says:

“One can never be sure that a private conversation will remain secret.”

Admittedly, this does sound a little Trump-like. Let’s continue. The Gemara next explains about how Antoninus has a daughter who is acting in a way that could cause her father to become embroiled in a public scandal, and again Rebbe advises him on what to do with her.

Next, the Gemara describes how Antoninus is secretly sending Rebbi sacks full of crushed gold disguised as wheat, so that Rebbi will have money to pay the greedy Romans who will come after Antoninus. Then, the scene switches to the secret visits Antoninus would make to Rebbe’s house, where he’d kill the servants who accompanied him.

The Gemara says:

“Every day, he would wait upon Rebbi. He would serve him food and serve him drink. When Rebbi wished to climb onto his bed he would bend down before the bed and say [to Rebbi]: “Climb up on me to your bed.”

==

Before we get into the next, really interesting part, I feel the urge to state the obvious, namely that Trump isn’t doing this for any Jewish sage, last I heard. He’s not sending Rabbi Berland sacks of gold, he’s not letting Rav Kanievsky use him as a footstool, he’s not asking the Biala Rebbe questions about how to keep Ivanka in line…

For sure, Trump has a problem with his ‘Deep State’ trying to take him out of action, same as Antontinus did, but without any of Antoninus’ corresponding personal piety. Let’s continue.

The Gemara now gets into a very interesting discussion that has reverberations for us, and our generation, and our confusion of how best to handle, and relate to ‘Edom’ / America. Antoninus asks Rebbi if he’s going to enter the World to Come, and Rebbi tells him yes. Antoninus then starts quoting the prophet Ovadiah at him, and says:

But it is written ‘and there will be no remnant to the house of Esav’, which implies that the descendants of Esav (Edomites / Romans) will not enter the World to Come. Rebbi responded: “That verse speaks only of one who acts in the manner of Esav.”

“This was also taught in a Baraisa: And there will be no remnant to the House of Esav. It could have been thought that this applies to all Edomites. To dispel this notion, [the Torah] states: To the House of Esav. By naming Esav, it teaches that only where the Edomite acts in the manner of Esav is he condemned; otherwise, he may enter the World to Come.”

All this is a direct quote from the Gemara.

====

In the Artscroll notes it states:

“Edomites are barred from the World to Come only if they act like Esav (a barbarian who scorned God, committed murder and violated women.)….[A]ny gentile (even if he is not a ger toshav, who formally accepts the seven Noahide laws) has a portion in the World to Come, provided he does not emulate the barbaric Esav.”

====

American white supremacism

Before we get into a discussion of whether the USA has a history of acting like the arch-hypocrite Esav, pretending to be good, pure and holy while actually rampaging around the world slaughtering anyone who stands in the way of its economic goals and other materialistic desires, let’s just return to the Gemara in Avoda Zara 10b.

Antoninus is still having difficulties believing Rebbi’s assertion that he will make it into the World to Come, and tells him:

But it is written: “There (in Gehinnom) is Edom, her kings and all her presidents.” Apparently, all the leaders of Edom are assigned to Gehinnom!

Rebbi replies that the verse isn’t talking about all Edom’s kings, just most of them; and that the verse states:

All her presidents, and not all her ministers.

The Artscroll notes explain:

“A president is a ruler of Rome who is not a king, but serves at the behest of the Senate (see Tosfos). A minister is a royal adviser (presumably a senator) – Raavad.”

====

In other words, every single president of Edom / Rome / America is going to gehinnom, but here and there, there may be some Edomite royal heads of state, and also the odd Senator and Congressman who may actually escape the rampant moral corruption enough to make it into the World to Come.

The Gemara continues with more discussions about the relationship between Antoninus and Rebbe, and the Artscroll notes trace this back to the prophecy that Rebecca is told when she was carrying Esav (Edom) and Yaakov (Israel) back in Genesis, 25:23. I.e. the two babies are two nations, and when one is up, the other will be down.

“Two nations are in your womb…the elder shall serve the younger.”

The Artscroll notes then quote Rabbi Gedalyah Schorr, author of Or Gedalyah who explains that:

“Ideally, Yaakov-Israel and Esav-Edom were meant to enjoy a harmonious and complimentary partnership. Esav…was supposed to defeat evil, while Yaakov…was to promote good. Had Esav fulfilled his role, he would have been equal to Yaakov.”

This view is based on the midrash that states that six tribes should have descended from Esav and six from Yaakov, but this didn’t happen as Esav went bad, failed to live up to his spiritual job, and so Yaakov married Leah instead (who was Esav’s intended bride) and the whole course of Jewish history changed.

Again, Rav Schorr believes that the ‘perfect partnership’ between Edom and Israel did actually occur – uniquely – for one brief interlude in history, when Antoninus was (secretly…) subservient to Rebbe.

====

From what I can tell, this passage in the midrash appears to be the basis of the idea that Trump is some sort of Edomite ‘good guy’, but there is absolutely no discussion here of any sort of ‘Edomite’ aspect of Moshiach and there is also a very large distinction made in these sources between EDOM and ESAV.

Parts of the former can make teshuva and get some share in the world to come. But Esav can’t. This is a very important distinction to make, if you’ve been reading articles like this.

Assuming Trump is a retread of Antoninus, the most that would mean is that he’s sneaking Rav Kanievsky sacks of gold and asking Rav Berland coded messages about what to do with Ivanka. Even Antoninus couldn’t and didn’t free Israel from Roman rule, nor give permission for the Jews to rebuild the temple.

And even making that equivalence between Trump and Antoninus seems to be stretching us past reality.  As we already mentioned, Trump is not sneaking billions to any Jewish sage, nor waiting hand and foot on any rabbi. If I’m wrong about this, please do let me know, as clearly that would change things.

Which bring is to the last part of this discussion, which is this:

====

Is it realistic to assume that America is the ‘good’ part of Edom, and not actually the bad, unfixable, ‘Esav’ part of Edom?

And that’s where the conversation is going to get a little sticky, because once you move all the brainwashing about apple pie and Uncle Sam out the way, you’ll find that American history is just one, big list of atrocities, genocidal actions and wars. Sure, they were always dressed up as being ‘good’ and holy, but really, they boil down to America using its military might to bully the rest of the world into doing what suited it best, economically.

(Btw, the UK preceded the US, and is also totally corrupt and the ‘Esav’ part of Edom. Anglo Saxon culture also included the Nazis, who were clearly also really bad. However, we’re focusing on the US, because that’s who is still empire-building, and controlling the State of Israel, in 2019.)

====

The United States committed the first ever genocide, when it brutally killed off millions of its native Americans over the course of a few decades, as I wrote about HERE.

For 250 years, it built its economy off the back of black slaves who were initially brought to America against their will, and then bred by their slave masters like so much chattel. No-one really knows how many blacks lost their lives amidst brutal conditions, worked to death by their pious, white American owners. No-one knows how many black women slaves were assaulted by their white masters. Blacks didn’t count as real people in America until well into the 1960s and the time of Martin Luther King Jr – and probably well beyond.

Then, we have all the European Jews that were barred from entering the US before and during World War II, even though Roosevelt knew they were being slaughtered by the millions. America held off from really joining the WW2 effort in Europe until the last possible minute, waiting for Stalin to have millions of his soldiers killed by the Nazis, and for the UK to be brought to its knees as an Imperial power.

And then, the US decides they are going to drop not just one nuclear bomb on Japan, but two. And not just on a smallish city of 10,000 people but on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where they killed almost a quarter of a million people, half of them in under a minute. This from Wikipedia:

Over the next two to four months, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day.

This was totally cruel, totally murderous behavior. You want to try out your nuke? Pick a small target! Keep bombing in increments, until the Japanese gave up! Why bomb two such big cities like that, chik chak, with such terrible loss of life?

To this day, the United States of America is the only country to have actually used its nuclear weapons to destroy tens of thousands of people.

American white supremacism

Post WW2, the Dulles brothers and Eisenhower decided to secretly ship 1,600 hardcore Nazi scientists over to the US, as part of Operation Paperclip.

That Nazi science has morally corrupted the US in a million different ways, particularly in the realms of medicine,  biology and economics and industry, which most people still are blissfully unaware of. (Btw, I think that number is way too low. If you include intelligence assets that were ‘taken over’ by the CIA and the British, the number of former Nazis working for the West bounds into the thousands.)

The US has spent decades since WW2 rampaging around the world, starting wars whenever its economic interests are threatened, that have totally devastated whole countries and left tens of millions of people dead, homeless or totally impoverished and with nothing to look forward to.

Of course, American actions are always dressed up as ‘good’ and ‘holy’ and above reproach ‘, but really?

America is acting exactly like Esav.

====

Is everyone in the US acting like Esav? No, clearly not. There are many good noahides / non-Jews in the US – and also in other parts of the Edomite Western world – and these people will be the parts of Edom who will make it to the World to Come, as described in the Gemara, above.

But America’s politicians? America’s presidents? America’s generals? America’s elites?

There is absolutely no basis in fact or Jewish sources for believing that these people are even close to being the ‘good’ part of Edom.

==

What the sources do seem to clearly show, however is that the USA = Esav, mamash.

Right down to its ‘presidents’, senators, eagle emblem and stars and stripes flag. Here and there, there might be a good politician, but the Gemara is clear:

[A]ll the leaders of Edom are assigned to Gehinnom.

The LEADERS of Edom are all the politicians, heads of states and European royalty.

But America itself is obviously acting like ‘Esav’, pretending to be 100% kosher, but really just a pig.

And the sources are clear that:

[T]here will be no remnant to the House of Esav.

American white supremacism

Which is why I find statements like this to be extremely puzzling:

“When Esau is seen helping Israel, it is a sign Moshiach is right around the corner,” Rabbi Kessin said.

In explanation, Rabbi Kessin quoted the Bible concerning the prophesied fate of Jacob and Esau told to their mother, Rivka.

And Hashem answered her, “Two nations are in your womb, Two separate peoples shall issue from your body; One people shall be mightier than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23

The rabbi noted an ambiguity in the Hebrew text that had vastly different import.

“Due to the absence of pronunciation markings, the wording of the Torah text can be read either as ‘va’ya’avod’, meaning he shall serve, or ‘va’ya’aved’,  he shall enslave,” the rabbi explained. “Esau will help Jacob by either serving him or by causing him to suffer since suffering is a way to bring God back into the world.”

====

So, is Trump a possible reincarnation of Antoninus?

It’s possible, especially if you take into account Trump’s pronounced ‘anti war’ stances, but unlikely, especially if you look at recent tweets like this:

“President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world…and the Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God… But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore.”

Does this sound like the kind of guy who’d be sending Rav Berland secret sacks of gold, or letting Rav Kanievsky use him as a footstool?….

If you look through the history books, there are other Roman leaders who sound far, far more like Trump than Antoninus Pius. And we’ll take a look at that side of things in the next post, BH.

====

You might also like this article:

====

Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

“Whoever finds fault, finds his own fault” – Tractate Kiddushin 70a

With a couple of days to go before the Yom HaDin, Rosh Hashana 5780, I thought that we’d take a look at a passage in the Gemara, Kiddushin 70a, which is where the ‘mirror principle’ is first stated by Chazal.

In case you don’t know what the ‘mirror principle’ is, it’s a statement by the Baal Shem Tov that the whole world is a just a mirror, and that whatever ‘bad’ we see peeking out at us in others is somehow just a reflection of our own ‘bad’.

But that’s not just a tenet of chassidut, it’s actually brought down in the Gemara. And if we look at the context of that statement, we can learn some truly remarkable things. Let’s begin this post over in Chapter Four of Tractate Kiddushin, where the Sages are discussing the genealogical laws, and describing the different categories of Jews who ascended to Israel, from Babylonia, before the Second Temple was built.

====

The Gemara tells us:

Ten genealogical classes went up from Bablyonia to Eretz Yisrael: Kohanim, Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim (disqualified Kohanim), converts, freed Caananite slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim.

While all of these classes were considered to be 100% Jewish, there were restrictions on who was allowed to marry each other. The Gemara sets out the basic rules:

Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim – can marry each other.

Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim, converts and freed slaves – can marry each other.

Converts, freed slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim – can marry each other.

====

Before we continue, let’s just explain some of the more unfamiliar terms:

Mamzer – Refers to someone who is 100% Jewish, halachically, but who was born as a result of a union that is forbidden by the Torah. This doesn’t apply to someone who was born out of wedlock, but whose biological parents could still have stood under an orthodox chuppah. It also doesn’t apply to the Jewish child of a ‘mixed marriage’ where the father is not Jewish. But it DOES apply to adulterous extra-marital relationships, and also to children born of incest, amongst other things.

Nesin – This refers to a group of Canaanites called the Gibeonites, who tricked Joshua into converting them to become Jews, so that he wouldn’t kill them when he was conquering Eretz Yisrael. Even though their conversion was considered valid, Joshua forbid the other Jews from marrying them as long as the temple stood. Then later, King David saw how cruel and barbaric they were, and permanently forbid them from marrying into the mainstream Jewish community.

Shetuk – According to the Gemara:

“These are shetukim, anyone who knows the identify of his mother, but does not know the identity of his father.”

Asuf – According to the Gemara:

“Anyone who is gathered in from the street and does not know the identity of either his father or his mother.”

====

The Gemara then gets into a very interesting discussion about how Ezra the Scribe basically forced all these ‘genealogically unfit’ categories of Jews to ascend with him to come and rebuild Eretz Yisrael.

He was worried that if he left them behind in Babylonia, the rabbis there wouldn’t know how to keep them properly contained.

(It’s an interesting aside, but the Babylonian Talmud asserts that because Ezra took all the ‘unfit’ Jews with him to Israel, he left Babylonian Jewry “like fine, sifted flour.” So they state that Babylonia at that time was the most genealogically ‘fit’ Jewish community, followed by Eretz Yisrael, then followed by the rest of the diaspora (!) I’m willing to bet the Talmud Yerushalmi has a different view, but I don’t have a copy to compare….)

====

The Gemara then gets into a whole big discussion about what a big, genealogical mess the whole thing is already (1800 years ago…).

There were so many Kohanim who’d married goyim and ‘forbidden’ women without anyone knowing; and there were so many slaves who didn’t follow the proper procedure for being freed (which would render them as halachically Jewish converts) before marrying a Jew; and there were mamzerim walking around all over the place, due to adulterous affairs.

The Gemara then states this:

A Tanna taught…Elijah [the Prophet] writes, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, signs: Woe to him who disqualifies his children and who taints his family, and who marries a woman who is not fit for him. Elijah ties him, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, whips him. And whoever declares others to be genealogically unfit is himself genealogically unfit. And he (i.e someone who is genealogically unfit] never speaks in praise of others.

Let’s just pause for a moment, and digest this, as it’s a statement with huge implications.

In the Artscroll footnotes, they note that Rashi comments that:

[A]nyone who regularly demeans the genealogical status of other families reveals himself to be genealogically blemished.

In other words, we are back to the mirror principle, big time. The Gemara continues:

And Shmuel said: The Baraisa means: He declares them unfit with his own blemish.

I.e., whatever he’s accusing others of being, he’s actually just describing himself.

The Gemara then tells the following story, to underline this point:

====

There was a certain man from Nehardea who went into a butcher shop in Pumbedita[1]. He said to them: “Give me meat.” They said to him: “Wait until the attendant of Rav Yehudah bar Yechezkel[2], who is standing here, takes his meat, and then we will give you yours.”

He said: “Who is Yehuda bar Sheviskel that he should precede me and take before me!” They went and told Rav Yehuda what this man had said. [Rav Yehuda] placed a ban upon him. They told Rav Yehuda: “He habitually calls people slaves.” [Rav Yehuda] issued a proclamation that he [i.e. the Nehardean] was a slave himself.”

====

What happens next is that the aggressive, brazen, disrespectful Nehardean than sues Rav Yehuda in the rabbinical court of Rav Nachman, the leader of the Nehardean community.

The story continues:

“Rav Nachman began the questioning: He said to [Rav Yehuda]: ‘Why did master place a ban upon that man?’

Rav Yehuda responded: ‘Because he harassed an agent of the Rabbis.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Then master should have given him lashes…Why did you excommunicate[3] him?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘As a penalty. I dealt with him even more stringently than that.’

Rav Nachman: ‘Why did master proclaim that he was a slave?’

Rav Yehuda: ‘Because he frequently calls people ‘slaves’. And a Tanna has taught in a Baraisa: Anyone who declares others… unfit, is himself unfit. And he never speaks in praise of others. And Shmuel said….’It is with his own blemish that he declares other unfit.’

(Try this: swap out the word ‘slave’ for ‘Erev Rav’…)

====

Now, the Nehardean gets all bolshy, and starts shouting down Rav Yehuda, who is one of the Gedolei HaDor of Babylonian Jewry:

“Me you call a slave, when in fact I am descended from the royal family of Hasmoneans!”

Rav Yehuda says to him:

“Thus said Shmuel: ‘Whoever says, ‘I am descended from the family of the Hasmoneans is in truth a slave!”

Rav Nachman gets into a small discussion about whether Rav Yehuda is just making up quotes to try to bolster his case, and Rav Yehuda says no, Rav Masnah also heard this teaching. Rav Masnah hadn’t appeared in Nehardea in 13 years, but whaddya know? As they’re having this conversation, Rav Masnah happens to show up, and he confirms Rav Yehuda’s statement.

The Gemara continues:

“[Rav Nachman] subsequently proclaimed that the plaintiff was indeed a slave. That day, many ketubot were ripped up in Nehardea” – because Jewish men now suspected they were married to ‘slave’ women who they’d mistakenly believed to be Jewish.

Now, Rav Yehuda leaves town, and the people of Nehardea follow him, because they want to stone him to death, for all the trouble he’s making. Rav Yehuda gets them to quiet down by telling them that if they doesn’t leave him alone, he’s going to reveal right there the big secret that Shmuel taught him about the Jewish community in Nehardea, namely:

“There are two families in Nehardea: One is called the family of Yonah [i.e. the kosher dove] and one is called the family of Orvasi [i.e. the non-kosher and cruel oreiv, or raven. Perhaps another hint to the ‘Erev Rav’ problem.]… The family named after an impure bird is impure, and the family named after a pure bird is pure.”

The townspeople dropped their stones and ran away, before Rav Yehuda could disclose which family was which.

====

Now, the Gemara goes through a whole bunch of proclamations the Sages of Babylonia made about all these ‘impure’ and ‘disqualified’ people in the Jewish community.

This problem is even in Eretz Yisrael, and when Rabbi Pinchas’ students start investigating the families in the Land of Israel, they realise they have to stop. Rashi explains why:

“Their research led them to discover the disqualification of certain powerful families who would kill them [if their impurities were revealed.”

Which brings us on to a VERY important point, about how Chazal decided to deal with this situation, and how they said it would ultimately get fixed (we’re now in Kiddushin 71a):

(R’ Yitzhak said):

“Once a genealogically tainted family is mixed with Israel, it is mixed. One should not isolate such a family and clarify which of its members are pure and which are impure. Rather, one should leave it, and in the Messianic era all of its members will be deemed pure.”

The Gemara continues, and makes a distinction between ‘genealogically impure’ families who forced their way into the Jewish community (i.e. like Herod the Great, for example), and tainted families where it all kind of just happened:

(Abaye explains):

“Families… whose impurities are publically known and who became mixed with Israel only through force, will be dealt with by Elijah the Prophet. But a tainted family that became mixed with Israel because people were unaware of its status, Elijah will allow to remain mixed.”

====

Let’s finish with one more story from the Gemara, in Kiddushin 71b, then we’ll sum up what we just learnt together.

Rav Ulla comes to visit Rav Yehuda in Pumbedita, and he sees that his son, Rav Yitzhak, is still unmarried, so he asks Rav Yehuda:

“What’s going on? Why haven’t you married your son off?”

Rav Yehuda replies: “Who knows where I can find a genealogically fit wife for him?!”

Rav Ulla says to him: “Do we know where we come from?”

And then starts listing a whole bunch of verses stating how idolaters ravished Jewish women in the town of Judea in Biblical times; and talking about Jews who ‘defile their couches’, which R’ Abahu explains as referring to wife-swapping.

“Since our predecessors engaged in this type of adulterous activity, no-one can assume that he is genealogically fit!” says R’ Ulla. So then, Rav Yehuda asks him, “So what do we do?” Ulla answered him: “Go after silence, i.e. seek a family whose members are quiet and peaceable…[In Eretz Yisrael] they use the following method to investigate someone’s lineage:

“When two people would quarrel with each other, they would see which one is the first to quiet down, and then they would say, ‘that person is genealogically purer than the other.”

====

LET’S SUM THIS UP:

It’s a great, eye-opening piece of Gemara, isn’t it? Can you imagine what might start to happen if more of our rabbis and commentators would actually learn some Gemara?

So, here’s the main takeaway points from Kiddushin 70a-72b:

  • Whenever we find fault in other Jews, we are really just identifying our own faults.
  • That particularly applies to finding fault with other people’s ‘genealogy’, like for example, going around calling other people ‘Erev Rav’, etc.
  • Even 1800 years ago, there were so many forbidden and / or adulterous unions going on in the Jewish community, that even the head of the Torah Academy in Pumbedita was having trouble finding a ‘genealogically fit’ wife for his son.
  • Adulterous affairs and immoral behavior have been going on for so long, not even the most illustrious Jew today can be 100% sure that some ancestor of theirs didn’t put a massive spanner in their genealogical works. So it behooves us all to act with a little humility, and to stop pointing fingers at other Jews.
  • When Moshiach shows up, he will declare everyone pure.
  • The exception to this is those people who pushed their way into the Jewish community ‘by force’, i.e. they never intended to convert sincerely, or to serve Hashem, they just wanted the status, money or other perks of technically being part of the Jewish community. Elijah the Prophet will push these people away.
  • The way you can tell how ‘genealogically pure’ someone is, is by checking their middot and temperament. If they are angry, argumentative, brazen, obsessed with their own honor, always have to be right, and can never back down, make peace and apologise – then they probably aren’t so ‘fit’, Jewishly-speaking. The more calm, conciliatory, peaceable and kind a person is, the more genealogically ‘fit’ they probably are.

====

On that note, let me end by apologizing to any of my readers or email correspondents who I may well have upset or irked this year.

I’m a flawed human being, and I don’t always act and react appropriately, so please forgive me!

And I unconditionally forgive all the psychos, weirdos, and holier-than-thou pseudo-prophets who continue to make my life interesting, too.

May we ALL be blessed with a peaceful, productive, happy, healthy and sweet 5780.

====

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Pumbedita was the main centre of Torah learning in Babylonia, but Nehardea also had a significant, and learned Jewish population.

[2] This is the ‘Rav Yehuda’ of the Babylonian Talmud, who was head of the Torah academy in Pumbedita.

[3] By designating this man a ‘slave’, Rav Yehuda effectively removed his communal status as a Jew.

====

Photo by Daniela Holzer on Unsplash

You might also like these articles:

The State of Israel is meant to be a ‘home’ for every Jew. That’s not exactly what’s happening.

Following on from my posts about the quagmire relating to conversions in Latin America (which I still have way more to write about, in due course), I received the following interesting email from a reader.

I don’t agree with everything she says (especially about secular politicians providing some sort of ‘solution’) – but I think her insight and the information she is sharing is a very valuable contribution to the discussion on what is really going on with orthodox converts, on today’s State of Israel.

So with her permission (and removing any identifying details), I’m sharing it with you below.

====

I am a giyoret (charedi) from Latin America, and sadly (yes) I know more or less the conversion system.

You probably already know, but to explain why I wasn’t simply able to vote for the religious parties I first have to explain how the conversion system works in Israel.

In Israel you have two options, you either go to a private court (many of those are charedi) or you go to the State conversion system.

For a citizen of Israel, this is a non-issue, but for non-citizens it’s about choosing to have automatic political rights (i.e. the ability to make aliyah) or not. 

You could say, “then everyone should just do the process via the Rabbanut” but sadly, to get into the system you need approval from the Exceptions Committee, which is a joint committee (Rabbanut and the Interior Ministry). 

And passing the approval process in a reasonable amount of time is almost impossible if you are from a third world country, and even more difficult if you are from a third world country and charedi. Many of those cases end up without a solution and end up being deported from Israel or leaving voluntarily.

====

To give you more perspective, I know girls that have been trying for more than three years to convert with the Rabbanut (they are already giyorot (converts) because usually, you finish the private, charedi conversion process first).

Three years, without a work permit or something similar (they usually have to work as cleaners).

It’s physical and psychological torture (I went through something similar, but I was luckier), and sadly, seeing this continue (even up until today) marked me forever.

You probably know about Karen Jemima Mosquera.

(Ed. Note: I didn’t, but now I’m looking into it.)

Well, I know her mother and sister, and her rabbi, who are all tzadikim, especially her rabbi who no matter what, helps people). Sadly, I couldn’t meet her, but when I learned the real story (that right-wing newspapers never told) I was shocked by the amount of cruelty this woman had to go through. Not only from the State (and particularly, the Interior Ministry) but also from religious institutions.

In the moment of her death, Jemima was not Jewish according to the State of Israel. I mean, she was clearly Jewish (she had a mehadrin conversion) but she was not politically Jewish. The fact that she could be buried on the Mount of Olives was a political miracle.

I personally think she died for a reason, and it was to call the frum community’s attention to the existence of people like her.

But nothing changed.

====

Now, like many charedim, I was told that Lapid is a rasha (evildoer) (don’t get me wrong, I didn’t vote for them either), that if he gets the power then we are done.

I don’t think he is a rasha, he is just a massive fool. And I don’t think he is so important as the religious leadership wants us to believe.

We as frum people tend to think that since we’re extra careful about certain things (Shabbat, kashrut, arayot (modest behavior) that our permanence in this land depends on keeping those prohibitions.

As far as I know, Hashem has never exiled us for breaking those things.

Hashem has exiled us for violating mitzvot ben adam le chavero (the mitzvahs between a man and his fellow man.)

For oppressing the widow, the stranger, and the orphan.

And this is because He has a special sympathy for the stranger, the widow, and the orphan. Hashem cares for the weary.

Shabbat, Kashrut, and Arayot are of course important but are not the ikkar (main thing).

====

And forgive me for what I’m saying, the religious parties are complicit in this suffering.

Who is the Interior Minister? Aryeh Machlouf Dery, a “charedi” guy. He’s the one who is is behind the suffering of those gerim (converts).

(This comes from the Ministry of Interior website:)

The Population Administration deals with the personal, formal, and legal status of residents of Israel, in accordance with Government policy on citizenship, immigration, and entry to and exit from the country. It provides documentation and registration services and monitors movements and changes such as births, deaths, changes of address, entry to and exit from the country. It issues passports; conducts border checks; and manages the population registry, passport, and border check databases, which are a primary source of information for the Population Administration offices and, through them, for other government agencies.

Laws determining personal status and modalities for entering and leaving Israel include the Law of Return 5710-1950; the Entry to Israel Law 5712-1952; the Citizenship Law 5712-1952; the Passports Law 5712-1952; the Names Law 5716-1956; the Population Registry Law 5725-1965; the Possession and Presentation of Identity Cards Law 5743-1982; and the Emergency Regulations (Exit from the Country) 5708-1948.

====

I was heavily conflicted, and this dirty trick of using the Gadol Hador (who is probably clueless about this situation) to push the tzibbur (community) to vote for gimmel because it was in our interests.

(Ed. Note: this isn’t my understanding of why they said to vote to Gimmel.)

I was heavily considering voting for gimmel because even if their political allies (Shas) hurt me and my friends, I truly wanted to be loyal.

But something happened.

In my seminary, there are currently 4 girls trying to make aliyah with a charedi private conversion (the State of Israel’s Supreme Court gave them this right).

Three of them are stuck (no answer).

One of them (a sixty-year-old lady), got a B1 visa meanwhile, while they decide her fate (she must reapply in a year).

She spent 9000 NIS to get this.

(From the Nefesh B’Nefesh website🙂 Work (B-1): Granted to those who qualify under the Law of Return and who do not hold prior Israeli citizenship. This visa allows you to legally work in Israel. The visa is for a three year period. You can apply to extend it for another two years, but you cannot exceed a period of five years in total. At the end of this time period, you can either apply for Aliyah or apply for an A-5 visa, which can be extended every 2 years. (Scroll down for an update on this – apparently Nefesh B’Nefesh have this wrong.)

====

B1 visas are working visas for foreign workers (non-Jews) and goyish girlfriends, its known as the “girlfriend visa.”

With this visa, you don’t have right to have a teudat zehut (national ID number) (as opposed to a A5 visa) or to bituach leumi (National Insurance), or health care.

I was also a victim of this tactic, but I got a better arrangement while my fate was decided (I got a humanitarian visa and the right to hold a teudat zehut). I got this based on a liberal conversion I made in the diaspora (my lawyer told me “don’t disclose that you’re a charedi convert ” – she was right, It could have hurt me).

I was in the seminary, and this woman came and asked me “do you think that when I come back, they will give me a teudat zehut?” She said it in such a tone that it broke my heart. I couldn’t tell her “yes”.

I know of cases where the Rabbanut said yes, but the Interior Ministry said no.

The head of the Exceptions Committee is, naturally, a Shasnik.

(Ed. Note: I haven’t checked this out yet.)

Then I realized I couldn’t simply vote for these people or their enablers (and this includes Gafni and Litzman).

I can forgive what they did to me, but I couldn’t forgive what they are doing to others.

I know you may think that I’m wrong, that Lapid is worse, and I would understand that.

But I simply couldn’t.

====

In a second email, my correspondent added the following:

I forgot to tell you that this is not the fault of the Rabbanut.

They make it seem as if it’s the Rabbanut, but the Rabbanut is basically strangled by the secular authority (the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Religious Affairs).

Inside the Rabbanut, there is also a certain school of thought that rejects any non-State sanctioned conversion (they would accept army conversions over a charedi private conversion), but many there are innocent and good people that have very good intentions.

I suspect that’s why Shas would like to take control of the ministry of aliyah and integration and change the Law of Return.

The excuse is always the Reform and the Russian non-Jews, but given that they already attempted to exclude converts in general from the right of return, I wouldn’t be surprised that they would try to do that again.

(Ed. Note: I haven’t heard that they have been trying to exclude converts, generally, from the right to move to Israel, and BH I will be looking into this.)

Remember last week’s parsha?

אָרוּר, מַטֶּה מִשְׁפַּט גֵּר-יָתוֹם–וְאַלְמָנָה; וְאָמַר כָּל-הָעָם, אָמֵן.

====

Not everyone wants to advance those weird agendas.

Particularly, we know that the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi is trying to fix much stuff inside.

Also inside the Interior Ministry, there are very nice people without power who are willing to help (they can’t usually)

I also used to be too judgy regarding the Rabbanut but I learned that inside it, there are many Rabbanim who do believe that the ultimate criteria of acceptance is not politics/economic situation but halacha.

They just do what they think is right.

I honestly think this is hurting the religious community (attempting to tell the chilonim (secular Jews) who they should marry and stuff proved to work against us).

I may be paranoid, but now I get why Ben Gurion offered us the status quo. There is famous Israeli religious university professor who used to say that Ben Gurion himself told him that he didn’t want to have religion and state separated, because that way he would have the power to control religion.

I think army conversions (which from what I know, makes many Rabbanut rabbis feel uncomfortable) are a proof of that.

The Rabbanut cannot even decide how many time a ulpan giur should last. (Ulpan giur is the conversion process). For citizens, it will always last 10 months (everyone has to finish the process in 10 months) – but no Beit Din in the world has such a restriction.

Keep up the good work Rivka, and pray for us.

====

Lots to think about, isn’t there?

I will start looking into all this stuff with the Interior Ministry, and we’ll see what fantastic can of worms is about to open up over there, too.

The one thing that I just want to note, is that I don’t think the Gadolei haDor like Rav Berland and Rav Kanievsky told us to vote ‘gimmel’ from a political perspective, odd as that sounds. No true gadol gives a stuff about the Knesset at this point in time, they have their eye on the geula process, and just making the transition from where we are right now to that stage as easy as possible.

Voting ‘gimmel’ was just part of the heavenly plan to totally hamstring the secular, totally corrupt, political apparatus in Israel, while we’re waiting for the last bit of the geula process to unfold.

No truly God-fearing party could ever head a government in the State of Israel, and be complicit in all the murders, crime, and vice that is happening every single day. We are still not even uncovering the tip of the iceberg, but soon, all the awful corruption will start to come out.

What’s clear is that ‘politics’ is not the answer to what’s going on here.

(Hopefully, more of the ‘religious’ people out there are starting to realise that.)

What’s required is to tear all this old, corrupt stuff down, and to rebuild it anew, with justice, morality and Torah at its base.

And that’s exactly what Moshiach is going to do.

The main question for us at this stage, is how does God want us to respond to what’s going on with the  State-sponsored abuse of sincere, orthodox converts while we’re waiting for that to happen?

TBC

====

UPDATE:

I just got this over email:

Please change your description of the B1 visa (you don’t have to be Jewish according the law of return to get it, that’s the A1 visa).
Looks like what I posted up from the Nefesh B’Nefesh website is wrong. Just goes to show how much confusion is reigning on this subject, if even they can’t keep their visa information straight.
====

You might also like these articles:

Photo by Sergio Rodriguez – Portugues del Olmo on Unsplash

I’m probably in a minority here, but I have to say I am totally thrilled by the latest election results in Israel.

My oldest daughter was explaining how all the votes finally stacked up, and this is what she told me:

Blue and White:                33

Likud:                                    31

Joint (Arab) List:                13

Shas:                                     9

Yisrael Beitenu:                 8

Agudat Yisrael:                  8

Yamina:                                7

Labour-Gesher:                6

Democratic Union:          5

Meretz got totally wiped out (yippee!!), and none of this other lot can form a government because they all hate each other way too much, and / or stand for totally opposite things.

I just can’t see a government containing Yisrael Beitenu and the Joint List lasting too long…. I just can’t see a government containing Lapid and ANYONE ELSE lasting too long…. I just can’t see a government containing Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak lasting too long…. I just can’t see a government containing Netanyahu and Gantz lasting too long….

You get the idea.

====

Hashem is a total genius.

If the lefties hadn’t been trying so hard to get rid of Netanyahu (who I don’t like, don’t get me wrong), then he wouldn’t have passed legislation protecting a sitting PM from being indicted. But that legislation ONLY applies to the prime minister, not to a regular government minister, which is why Netanyahu cannot concede that Gantz should be the ‘first’ PM in any rotation, because if he does, he’ll end up in the slammer.

And Gantz for his part is way too full of arrogance to let Netanyahu continue to be PM for a stint when his party technically ‘won’ the election…

I’m telling you, it’s pure genius.

And as for the state of the country – my trash is still being collected. The lights are still working. The supermarket is still stocked with food, the kids are still in school.

All that’s ‘different’ is that there aren’t a bunch of yucky people trying to pass bills designed to punish half the country for being religious, or to give away half the country for some nebulous political puffery.

Who needs a government?! We’re doing just fine without them! This situation can continue for years, and we’d all be way better off!

====

But, my daughter wanted to know, what if a war breaks out. What then?

What then?

Good question. If there are no politicians pretending that they are in charge, and pretending that they run the world and controlling the outcome of Israel’s wars, maybe more of us will put our faith where it really belongs, namely in Hashem.

The Steipler famously remarked that it was a good thing when so many of Israel’s doctors went on strike a few decades ago, because now fewer people would die.

I feel the same way about this election. With the politicians effectively emasculated for the foreseeable future, we can all breathe a sigh of relief in the meantime, until Moshiach shows up to permanently relieve them from duty.

For what it’s worth, I think one of two things will happen next:

  • We can’t get a government together, and we’ll soon have election #3 followed shortly by Moshiach and obvious geula.

OR

  • We can get a government together, but it won’t last long because they are all egotistical monsters with terrible middot and no patience or tolerance for other people, and other people’s beliefs and ideas. Which means the coalition will fall even faster than it was cobbled together, and we’ll soon have election #3 followed shortly by Moshiach and obvious geula.

Of course, it’s possible that the army will try to pull off a peaceful coup if all that starts to happen, and especially if a war does kick off in the meantime, which is when things will definitely get even more interesting. If that happens, it will also be followed shortly by Moshiach and obvious geula.

Hey, life is looking up!

I’m looking forward to 5780.

====

You might also like these articles:

What was really the disagreement, between the Vilna Gaon and the early leaders of chassidut?

If we’ve learnt anything at all about the fight between the followers of the Baal Shem Tov and chassidut, and the followers of the Lithuanian path of mitnagdim, as exemplified by the Vilna Gaon and his followers, this is probably what we believe:

The Vilna Gaon and the mitnagdim became ‘anti’ the chassidim and the followers of the Baal Shem Tov, because they were worried about ‘false messiahs’ in the wake of the Shabtai Tzvi affair.

Right?

That’s what we think the whole disagreement was about? That the Baal Shem Tov started this new ‘Tzaddik-centric’ approach to Judaism, and all the Litvak rabbis decided to excommunicate the people practicing chassidut because they were worried that another ‘false religion’ would spring up.

Guess what…that’s not really what happened. Or at least, not at the beginning of this whole story, back in the 1700s. As I started to set out in THIS POST, geula-fever was alive and well in the 18th century, fueled by kabbalistic speculation that the time for ‘the End’ had come, and geula was about to happen.

As I covered in that post, there were a few key dates that the kabbalists had pegged for the final coming of Moshiach, all based on the gematria of the word ‘dawn’, and allusions to that word in the Zohar and in the book of Daniel.

These years were:

1748 – which was proceeded by an ‘elite aliya’ of the Jewish world’s leading kabbalists to Israel, including the Ohr HaChaim from Morocco, the RaMCHaL from Italy, and many kabbalists and mystics from the Ashkenazi world too, including Rabbi Gershon of Kutow, the BESHT’s brother-in-law.

1753 – when three huge kabbalists in Israel including the CHIDA, Rabbi Shalom Sharabi (the Rashash), and Rabbi Chaim de la Roza tried to ‘force’ the end of days via kabbalistic uses of Hashem’s mystical names. Heaven forced them to stop, and the CHIDA had to go into exile for 5 years.

1781 – which was again proceeded by a ‘chassidic’ aliya from the Ashkenazi world, which was led by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk.

(The last official ‘date’ as the last possible date for the ‘in its time’ redemption, was 1840, but we’ll leave that alone for this post.)

====

Between 1748 and 1781, so many of our leading rabbis believed that the geula was imminent, and the Vilna Gaon and the Lithuanian rabbis were counted firmly amongst them.

In fact, pretty much the only leading rabbi at that time who was saying that geula was NOT going to happen imminently was the Baal Shem Tov. I know I quoted this in the previous post, but let’s bring his letter written to Rabbi Gershon in 1747 again here, to keep all the pieces together in one place. The BESHT wrote:

“I asked the Messiah when he would be coming. “This is how you will know,” he replied. “When your teachings become public and revealed to the world, and your wellsprings of my teachings, which you will have mastered, overflow to the outside, so that [others], too, will be able to perform mystical unifications and ascents of the soul like you. Then all the klipot will be eradicated and a time of [Divine] desire and salvation will come.”

The Baal Shem Tov continues:

“[This reply] left me puzzled and severely troubled. Such a long time! When can it possibly come to pass?”

The Baal Shem Tov was explaining to Reb Gershon that the Moshiach is going to come, and the end of days is going to happen, only when the Jews start to really connect to God, and experience ‘ascents of the soul’, and to really learn and understand Torah on the deep level of chassidut.

Moshiach wasn’t just going to show up, regardless of the spiritual state of the Jews, and regardless of all their bad middot and lack of emuna. He was only going to come when the Jews got real, learned some humility, and started talking to God sincerely every single day, and including Him in every aspect of their life.

====

So now, the question is:

Why did the mitnagdim fall out so badly with the chassidim, if everyone at that time was eagerly anticipating Moshiach and geula, and the Lithuanian rabbis were pressing for aliya and for ‘the end’ to come just as much as the chassidim?

The answer lies in the different approaches the Vilna Gaon and the chassidim were trying to take, to bring the geula.

We can set it out like this:

1747 – The Baal Shem Tov writes a letter explaining that Moshiach is only going to come when the Jews make teshuva, and approach their yiddishkeit in a more ‘chassidic’ way.

The BESHT’s leading student, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, sat on that letter for over 30 years, but then published it in 1780, when it started to become obvious that Moshiach was not coming imminently, after all.

In the meantime, the Vilna Gaon had spent years trying to resolve all the kooshiot, or difficulties in the Torah, using just his superb logical abilities and ‘cleverness’. According to documents found by researcher Arie Morgenstern which quotes the Vilna Gaon’s students and sons, as brought in his book The Gaon of Vilna and his Messianic Vision, the Vilna Gaon believed he could bring the Moshiach:

“[B]y force of his supreme halachic authority. [T]he Gaon proposed to move to Eretz Yisrael and write the final halacha there, in order to hasten the redemption. As Joseph Karo[1] had done, so would the Gaon of Vilna do. He wished to be the final arbiter, not in order to write the halacha for its own sake, but rather to hasten the redemption and conclude the ‘sorting’ (birur) process that would usher in the Messiah.”

Here’s what the Vilna Gaon himself wrote, about his aspirations[2]:

“Every unresolved issue is a klipah, and emanates from the Erev Rav that intermingled with the Israelites…This is how unresolved issues insinuated themselves into the halacha. The answer to the unresolved issues is the repair of the klipah.

Elsewhere, he wrote[3]:

“At the end of the galut, in the footsteps of the Moshiach, the tree of life, the Law of Moses will be revealed.”

One of the Vilna Gaon’s senior students, Rabbi Israel of Shklov, explained[4] that his mentor had managed to resolve all the issues in the whole Torah (!) except for in two passages in the Zohar. The Rabbi of Shklov says:

“Had the Gaon resolved these issues, he would have brought the birur (‘sorting process’) to its end, and the path to the Messiah’s arrival would have been readied for use.”

As it was – he didn’t, and it wasn’t.

====

The Vilna Gaon set out for Israel in 1778.

But first travelled to Amsterdam, where he hoped to track down copies of the books and manuscripts that would help him resolve his two last remaining ‘issues’, before he made aliya, wrote a new ‘perfect’ Shulchan Aruch in Israel, and ushered in the redemption.

But God didn’t let him do that, his mission to Amsterdam was a failure, and the Gaon returned home to Vilna, without attempting the trip to Israel.

Once home, he decided to take a different tack, and for the first time in his scholarly career, he decided to teach an elite group of students his approach to learning Torah, with a particular emphasis on these students moving to Israel, and helping to lay the practical foundations for the Jews to return to their land.

====

In the meantime, nearly all the Chassidic rebbes dealt with the ‘moshiach let-down’ of 1781 by starting to put the emphasis on personal redemption, as opposed to national redemption, and taking the emphasis off of moving to Israel.

Everyone, that is, except Rabbenu and Breslov chassidut.

Rebbe Nachman continued to stress the importance of living in Eretz Yisrael, as well as the importance of working on the ‘inner dimension’ and developing the good middot that would enable each person to achieve their ‘personal redemption’, too.

====

1781 approaches, the make-or-break date for ‘geula in its time’, and the Vilna Gaon realizes that his approach of trying to ‘perfect’ Torah, and engage in ‘perfect’ mitzvah observance is out of reach, and that he can’t bring Moshiach this way. Instead, he looks to kick-start redemption by placing ‘boots on the ground’ in Eretz Yisrael, and directs a group of his elite students to make aliya after his death.

Meanwhile, after 1781, the different Chassidic leaders put much more focus on the idea that redemption is internal, not necessarily land-based.

Israel is out of reach, so turn inwards and work on your personal and communal redemption instead, wherever you live!

Only Breslov chassidut actually combined these two, very different approaches, continuing to stress the practical aspects of aliya to the real Eretz Yisrael, together with emphasizing the inner work and importance of being connected to the True Tzaddik and praying for redemption.

But there was so much opposition to Rebbe Nachman, and then to Breslov, that this message was muted back then, and really has only begun to flourish in our days.

====

So now, what happened with the excommunication of the chassidim by the Lithuanian rabbis, headed by the Vilna Gaon?

As usual, it’s a sordid tale of petty politics and ego-mania.

In the years leading up to the first ‘excommunication’ of the chassidim, in 1772, The Vilna ‘kahal’, or community leaders had been locked in a vicious struggle with the town’s chief rabbi and rabbinical judge, a fellow by the name of Shmuel ben Avigdor.

Shmuel ben Avigdor had been ‘bought’ his position – as was the custom of the time then, and in many ways still is today – by his wealthy father-in-law. The kahal leaders felt that Shmuel ben Avigdor was throwing his weight around, was out of his depth when it came to making halachically-binding decisions, and – most crucially of all – was impinging on their income by trying to butt into communal affairs that they felt he should play no part in.

So, the kahal went to war against their very wealthy, very connected chief rabbi, to try to get him ousted. His father-in-law had bought him the rabbinate ‘for life’, so the kahal leaders could only get him out of the way if they could prove his was guilty of gross, ‘anti-Torah’ misconduct. So that’s what they set about trying to show.

According to Arie Morgenstern[5]:

“The methods used were illegitimate:…false testimonies, silencing of witnesses, preventing the presentation of exculpatory evidence about the defendants under threat of excommunication, forbidding the lodging of complaints with the rabbinical court by the same means, and even forbidding the rabbinical judges to listen to cries of protest against the abuse being committed.”

Plus ca change.

And having waged war against their town rabbi by dirty means, the kahal then just applied their ‘abilities’ against the chassidim in their midst, too.

====

Why did the Vilna kahal turn against the chassidim?

Some researchers claim they were egged on by the Vilna Gaon (more on that in a moment), while others claim that the kahal leadership were worried that people flocking to chassidut would diminish their clout in the Jewish community, and their own legal status vis-à-vis their non-Jewish rulers. (Which in turn, would diminish their ability to levy taxes on the Jewish community….)

In the meantime, the horrible, dirty machloket between the Vilna kahal leaders and their chief rabbi Shmuel ben Avigdor raged almost without let up for approximately 30 years (!) It was so poisonous, Vilna’s Jewish residents were frequently arguing on street corners, and fights would regularly break out in public, even between the women.

That only stopped when the community was hit by a terrible tragedy.

In 1771, an outbreak of plague killed hundreds of small children in Vilna’s Jewish community. It was clear to the kahal leaders that this was some ‘punishment from Heaven’, but rather than accept that their own machloket against the Chief Rabbi could be the cause, they searched around for a scapegoat – and found one, in the nascent movement of chassidim.

According to the mitnaged Maggid of Makow, the reclusive Vilna Gaon was totally unaware of any problem with the chassidim, until the kahal leaders – who were giving the Vilna Gaon a salary of 1400 guilders a year and a rent-free home, even though the Vilna Gaon fulfilled no public duties as rabbi – brought a bunch of false witnesses to slander the chassidim as a ‘deviant cult’.

Rabbi David the Maggid writes:

“Due to his devotion to the Torah and his perseverance, the holy Pious One [the Vilna Gaon] was oblivious to all these matters, until the righteous and honest learners cried out… Then he became their enemy, fighting them and pronouncing the great excommunication of all their rabbis and students… The excommunication went into effect in 1772, after Pesach.”

But none of the other four major Jewish communities in Lithuania, including Horodno, Brisk, Slutsk and Pinsk, joined in with the excommunication of 1772, because they understood that the Vilna kahal was trying to deflect the spiritual heat off its own bad behavior, by using the chassidim as scapegoats. Very quickly, the excommunication died away, and the Lithuanian communities happily sent money to support the Chassidic aliya that began in 1777 – ahead of the ‘end of times’ date of 1781.

====

THE SECOND EXCOMMUNICATION

But then, there was a second excommunication of the chassidim that happened in 1781 – and that one stuck, and widened out into a veritable war against chassidut.

What triggered this second attack against chassidut? A few different things:

  • More and more people were flocking to the ranks of chassidut.
  • Chassidut became increasingly organized as a communal force within the Jewish community, and so appeared to be more of a threat to the existing leaders’ status, influence, and ability to use their communal position to make money.
  • The Baal Shem Tov’s students started to print and disseminate some of their ideas and teachings – notably Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, who published Toledot Yaakov Yosef in 1780.
  • May 1781 came and went without Moshiach showing up, and a wave of frustration overtook the Jewish community and led to a whole bunch of internecine fighting.

====

The chassidim were not totally blameless, for the war erupting.

By this point, many of them were openly mocking the Lithuanian rabbis for being out of touch with their communities and overly hung-up on pietism and asceticism, instead of serving God joyfully, with their hearts. There were also some Chassidic leaders who were publically complaining about the behavior of other Chassidic leaders, and that might also have fueled external criticism of the movement.

Meanwhile, the mitnagdim communities and their rabbis were having to deal with all these ‘miracle stories’ that started circulating about the Baal Shem Tov – including his infamous ‘conversation’ with Moshiach, in 1747 – after Rabbi Yaakov Yosef’s books came out. To put it bluntly, it was hard for the Lithuanian rabbis to compete, when there was a Tzaddik of the caliber of the Baal Shem Tov wooing their congregants away with his supernatural abilities and awesome, soul-inspiring advice.

In other words: they got jealous.

Plus ca change

====

There’s one last thing I want to add here, because clearly what I’m describing above has continued to play itself out in our day and time, too.

At its highest level, there was a dispute for the sake of heaven going on, between the Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov, about the way to bring Moshiach and geula.

The BESHT said:

Geula will only come when all the Jews make teshuva, and start to serve God sincerely, and not just to pay ‘lip service’ to the external commandments and mitzvoth. And God will wait as long as it takes, for that to happen.

The Vilna Gaon said:

Geula will come ‘in its time’, once we fix the halacha perfectly. And whoever is not on that level of perfection at that time, won’t make it through to the world-to-come.

(I should mention here, that the Vilna Gaon was kind of obsessed with the Erev Rav, and that he and his students both talked and wrote about them a great deal.)

This mirrored the debate that took place in Sanhedrin 97b, between Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol, and Rabbi Yehoshua, that you can read about HERE.

And we are still having that debate today in the Jewish world.

====

On the one hand, there are the people saying geula is ready to come NOW!!! Today!!! And that the world is full of evil erev rav types that just can’t change, and won’t make it through, and that millions of people are going to die before Moshiach is revealed, because they just aren’t on the level to make it.

This is the ‘Rabbi Yehoshua’ approach.

On the other hand, we can see with our own eyes that each of these ‘end times’ keeps coming and going; and that the predicted wars keep fading away. And, that the whole ‘erev rav’ approach is basically unworkable in practice (as I cover in my book), and that with daily hitbodedut, regular visits to Uman, and a strong connection to our True Tzaddikim, people can and do transform into better Jews in some fantastic ways.

This is the ‘Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol’ approach.

====

The note from Rav Kook, describing Rabbi Berland as a'spark' of Eliezer HaGadolA few years’ ago, Rabbi Dov Kook of Tiveria famously wrote a note where he stated that Rabbi Eliezer Berland is a spark, or reincarnation, of that selfsame Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol.

God is waiting for us all to open our eyes, and see what’s right in front of them.

After 200 years of trying the ‘Rabbi Yehoshua’ approach – which has clearly not worked to bring Moshiach and redemption – God is waiting for more of us to adopt the ‘Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol’ approach of sincere teshuva, talking to God, and connecting to our True Tzaddikim, instead.

And when we get that message, geula will finally happen.

====

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The author of the Shulchan Aruch.

[2] Vilna Gaon’s commentary on Ra’aya Mehemana, Konigsberg, 1858, 28a.

[3] Yahel Or, Commentaries on the Zohar, Parshat Mishpatim 114b (Vilna, 1882).

[4] In his preface to the book: Pe’at Ha’Shulchan.

[5] Page 237, The Gaon of Vilna and his Messianic Vision

====

You might also like these articles:

I’m usually totally a-political on this blog (or even ‘anti’ political).

However, after the last election in Jerusalem, when we nearly had a radical, anti-religious, Meretz-backed mayor come into office, I realised that it’s important to vote after all. Not so much because I’m voting for someone, but more because I’m voting against someone else.

Until Moshiach shows up, this is the corrupt system we’re stuck with, and we have to deal with it the best we can.

After I read THIS, over on the ravberland.com site, and also after I read Rav Kanievsky’s message exhorting people to vote ‘gimmel’, I’m going to vote gimmel – Agudat Israel.

Here’s some of what I read:

This Sunday, an election rally held by the two factions that make up UTJ – Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah – will take place on the streets of Jerusalem. It is to see the attendance of rabbinical leaders of both parties.

“The fact that the ‘Minister of Torah’ is troubling himself to embark, despite his extraordinary age, on hundreds of kilometers of travel around the country requires everyone to take extra effort and add more and more supporters to the party that sanctifies Heaven and stands in the face of those seeking to threaten Israel’s Torah,” the preparatory committee said.

====

And this, from the ravberland.com website, quoting remarks made by Rabbi Berland last week:

“Now, Lapid announced that they are closing all the yeshivas. There won’t be any yeshivas, there won’t be any budget [from the State to help pay for them]. And there won’t be any places where there will allow ‘separation’ [between men and women]. They will abolish all the mechitzot (partitions used to divide between men and women’s sections at public gatherings including weddings, etc.), as they cancelled the ‘separation’ in Afula and Haifa.

They want to have here a State that is more abominable than even the countries of the goyim, and they are more awful than even the goyim.

And they want to destroy everything here, the whole Jewish religion, and to destroy Shabbat. They will force cars into chareidi areas (on Shabbat) and they will not permit anyone to put up any ‘fences’ (gederot).[1]

They have already announced everything, this is their platform for the elections.

This is a situation of pikuach nefesh (saving a life). We need to know that this is like a war, now, and whoever doesn’t go to vote simply doesn’t understand the severity of the situation.

Gantz, Lapid and Yisrael Beitanu – Lieberman – want to annihilate all of Judaism.

Within two years, there won’t be a religious Jew here, we will need to flee to Egypt, or to Jordan, or to move to New York or Miami.

We already opened a yeshiva in Miami, the Breslov Center, someone donated everything – they donated a mikva for $300,000. We are already preparing everything in Miami. If a war breaks out here, everyone is going to Miami.

There, we will begin Yiddishkeit from anew, the whole of Miami will make teshuva.

In one second, everyone will make teshuva today, all the goyim (non-Jews) will make teshuva. We will invite the mayor [of Miami] we will invite Trump to the chanukat habayit.

And this will be known next week. Next week, we will find out if Gantz will win, together with Lapid and Lieberman. They want to do it together, they will even accept the Arabs [the Arab parties]. The ikker (whole thing) is that they will have 61 [seats]. Here, we talk about 61. 61 is the magic number.

Whoever brings 61, he will be the king.

====

When Rabbi Berland made comments about the whole of Shuvu Banim upping sticks and moving to Africa a few years ago, everyone thought he was joking. So, I really am not sure what to make of all this. We also know that the Rav said a few months’ back that if the decrees weren’t sweetened with more of us making teshuva and sticking close to the true Tzaddikim, he’d have to take another, even worse ‘exile’ on himself again.

But since then, the prayers have come out, and they seem to be sweetening things tremendously, as we can see by all the wars that haven’t (yet…) happened.

So…. who knows what’s about to happen?

But today, I’m voting gimmel.

The Israeli elections seem be a choice between Mr Evil, Mr Eviller, and Mr Evillest

Three weeks ago, my husband snapped his Achilles tendon whilst playing tennis. Baruch Hashem, it’s on the mend, but in the meantime I’m ferrying him backwards and forwards in the car to his workplace, close to Jerusalem’s central bus station.

What that means (amongst other things….) is that I’m getting to see all the massive, ginormous, monstrous billboards of yucky-looking politicians that are currently springing up like poisonous mushrooms all around the entrance to Jerusalem, in preparation for next week’s elections.

I can tell you this:

Whoever you vote for, it’s going to be a vote for Mr Evil.

Some of these super-sized pictures are so disturbing I’m amazed they’ve been approved for public consumption. What these politicians don’t seem to realise is that when their faces are blown up to building-size proportions, it makes it much harder to hide their true characters. You see it in the eyes, you grasp it by the beetling brows, and the cunning, calculating expression that even the greasiest smile can’t hide.

====

Where to start, on which one of these posters bothers me the most?

For a while, Ehud Barak’s lot were definitely in the lead, with a cast straight out of Dr No. There’s the beautiful, red-haired woman that looks like a secret assassin. The angry-looking, grey-haired rogue scientist is on the left of the picture. And then ‘Mr Evil’ himself, with his dyed-black hair and shifty expression, is right in the middle of all that.

After the whole Epstein affair, how can anyone, much less a woman, much less a party that claims to stand for ‘human rights’ have anything to do with this guy!

So he was in the lead for a while.

But then, Netanyahu’s lot stuck up a bunch of MASSIVE posters of him shaking hands with Donald Trump, bearing the slogan: Netanyahu: a different league.

I almost crashed a few times coming round the corner of the Jerusalem Gateway, because I couldn’t take my eyes off how plain evil Netanyahu looked on that billboard, and how totally crazy Trump appeared.

So for two days, that was in pole position.

Then yesterday, Benny Gantz of Blue and White got stuck up on the other side of the Prima Park Hotel, in a poster that looked like a cross between Men In Black and the Terminator.

Oooo, look how thick his neck is!!! Look how menacingly grey his skin is!!! Notice how totally unemotional and devoid of any human kindness his cruel blue eyes appear!!!

He looked like a ‘Class A’ psycho, and clearly that’s the effect that all these politicians are trying to achieve.

Vote for me, I’m a total psycho! If anyone even so much sneezes in my direction, I’ll nuke them! Israel is in safe hands!

====

But then today, the Labor / Gesher Party decided to remove its poster of Amir Peretz looking like Stalin, and replace them with Amir Peretz looking like a character out of Goodfellas instead. Last week, Peretz shaved off his trade-mark moustache, I don’t know why.

But personally, I think it was a mistake.

For as long as the moustache was pulling the eye, you didn’t notice how strangely menacing the guy underneath it was. Now, with Mr Fluffy gone, Amir Peretz looks like he could get a job with Iran’s Revolutionary Guide.

Vote for me! I can break a man into pieces in five seconds flat!!!

Now, you might be wondering where all the women are in this election. That’s what one of the graffiti artists clearly had in mind when she spray-painted the Amir-Peretz-As-Stalin poster with: “I’m a woman and I can also vote.”

Ayelet Shaked’s party decided to put a few massive posters of just her perfect, Barbie-like face across various bridges on the Begin Highway, and after studying them all week (yes, it’s a miracle I haven’t crashed the car) – I can tell you they are airbrushed.

The woman is 42 and has a very stressful job, and yet she has the flawless complexion of a 20 year old supermodel. It’s an open miracle.

Vote for me! I don’t have any wrinkles!!!

This morning, someone had punched two massive holes in the middle of both her faces, and it took some really careful planning to pull that off in the middle of Jerusalem’s busiest and fasted road.

I think it was the Shabak.

Orly Levy-Abecassis (or whatever her name is…) also popped up on a poster looking really miserable, but with great hair, next to Goodfella Peretz, and some other man who I don’t know the name of, but who also looks like a shark in a suit.

Vote for me! I have the best hairdresser in all of Israel!!!

====

Sigh.

Whichever way you turn, there’s evil, evil and more evil.

Driving my husband to work has become a Kafkaesque nightmare, a cross between a bad Bond movie and the Oscars.

Although yesterday, I did see a poster of someone that I’d half consider voting for.

He was a cute Saba advertising a new flavor of milkshake.

So, a vote for Mr Evil – for political gangsters and their molls – or for Mr Milkshake, for PM?

I think the answer is obvious.

====

You might also like these articles:

What’s really behind the Takana against accepting new converts in Latin America? The answer will shock you.

Two days ago, I had a phone call from one of my contacts in Latin America, who tipped me off that I should look a little more closely into the reasons why the Jewish communities of Latin America instituted a total ban on ‘outsiders’ being accepted, married and buried in their midst.

My source told me that it was because in the 1920s, when the takana was first instituted, there was an enormous problem with non-Jewish p*ostitutes being brought into these communities by a large underworld organization of Jewish p*mps. (Words are starred to avoid my site being banned by filters and to try to maintain our sensitivity.)

These ladies then wanted to convert to join the Jewish community, and the Jewish community was up in arms about this, and so they instituted a very severe ban on any conversions being performed, or any converts being allowed to join the community. I was given the name of a book to try to track down with more details, called Diber Shaul, and that was that.

Whaddya know?

The next day, I turned on the pc to start looking for that book, and immediately came across THIS article, which was written the same day I’d been speaking to my contact. There are no coincidences. God clearly wants this information to get out there, and it’s clearly still very relevant to things that are happening today.

Very quickly, I started to learn some amazing things about the genesis of the Jewish communities in South America at the turn of the 20th century, which have had an enormous impact on understanding why this takana came about in the first place.

====

Before we continue, let’s just remind ourselves about what this takana actually is, and the problems it’s causing many thousands of Bnei Anousim, and also other people of Jewish descent, known as the Bnei Conversos, who are being prevented from having their Jewish roots, or orthodox Jewish conversions recognized by the communities they live in.

Here’s the starting point:

====

Latin American countries have had a takana, or agreement in place since the 1920s which was first introduced by the expat Syrian community in Argentina, that they won’t accept any new converts until ‘the End of Days’, whatever that is supposed to mean. This is making it very hard for potential converts to meet the requirement set out by the Israeli Rabbinate, that they have to have spent at least 9 months living in an active, orthodox Jewish. Their local communities are totally shunning them, so even though their conversion may be halachically valid, they can’t meet the requirements to have their conversion recognized by State of Israel.

The current position with the State of Israel’s Rabbinate is that they will not accept any orthodox conversion done in Latin America. The convert will either have to move for a year to the US and convert there, or try to move to Israel for a year and convert here. If you don’t have money and connections, clearly neither of these routes are really so viable.

Practically speaking, the poor Bnei Anousim and Bnei Conversos are being banned from entering communal institutions like synagogues, mikvas and schools, and are being refused burial in Jewish cemeteries, even if they’ve had an impeccable orthodox conversion and are observing mitzvoth 100%.

====

Dear reader, we’re about to hop down a massive bunny hole here, so prepare yourselves mentally.

Here’s a precis of the shocking things I’ve discovered about why this takana really came about in South America.

At the turn of the 20th century, Argentina was actually the 10th richest economy in the world. Its economy was booming, its ports were bustling, and many immigrants from Europe – mostly men – were arriving on its shores every day, to try to seek their fortune in the ‘New World’.

Of course, there were also many Jewish immigrants amongst them, and this is where the tale quickly becomes sordid.

At this point in time, historians estimated that there was as many as 10 men for every woman in South America’s big cities, so trafficking young girls and women from the Old Country to come and work in b*othels in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro became a very lucrative business. Jewish mobsters from Eastern Europe quickly spotted an opportunity to make some massive money – and so, the slave trade in young JEWISH women from impoverished shtetls in Poland began.

The first ship bearing these ‘Polacas’, as they came to be known, (which is Portuguese for ‘Polish Women’) landed in Brazil in 1867, and very quickly, the Jewish mobsters behind the trafficking of young Jewish p*rostitutes to the New World built up an international business worth some $50 million a year, in the 1890s.

====

By 1913, this human trafficking network was running 431 b*othels in Rio de Janeiro alone, with other operations in the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo, Salvador, Santos and Recife, plus a further 2,000 brothels in Argentina.

The Jewish mobsters had also expanded their operations to big cities in the US, including New York, and other countries including South Africa, China and India.

Not all of the girls they trafficked were Jewish, but at the height of their operations, they had between 15,000 and 30,000 Jewish women ‘working’ for them in their establishments, mostly from poor Polish shtetls.

So now, we get to the next part of the story: How did these gangsters, or ruffianos, to give them their Spanish names (and avoid filter problems….) manage to get these young women from observant Jewish homes into this most sordid of professions, in a distant land?

====

The most ‘successful’ and pernicious forms of evil always operates as much under the radar as possible, and likes to dress itself up in the cloak of ‘goodness’.

These Yiddish-speaking Jewish mobsters knew how desperately poor so many of the Jews in the Pale of Settlement were in Russia and Poland. Also, these communities had been under attack without via violent pogroms, and under attack within via the maskilim, or atheist-minded reforming Jews, for many decades.

At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, so many Jews were trying to flee to the New World in order to escape the violence, poverty and misery of the old. So, these mobsters set up a front called the “Warsaw Jewish Mutual Aid Society”, and used this ‘charitable foundation’ as a respectable front for their illegal human trafficking activities.

Plus ca change.

Isabel Vincent wrote a book about three of these Jewish womenNot only that, they sent their expensively-dressed ruffianos to case the shtetls and recruit unsuspecting girls as ‘servants’ or in many instances, as wives. These girls were young, typically aged between 13-16, and they and their families were totally blown away by the opulent, sophisticated young men appearing in their midst who promised the young women a sparkling future in the New World.

The ruffianos also took out matrimonial ads in the Jewish papers, as part of their twisted recruitment strategies, and they also worked with unscrupulous matchmakers who were keen to get their cut of what was becoming a very lucrative market.

In one story I read, a Yiddish-speaking ruffiano ‘married’ as many as 30 girls on one recruitment trip, and the ‘wives’ only found out about it once they were onboard the ship taking them to their new lives – but by that point, it was too late. Their ‘husbands’ would inform the girls that they were destined to work in b*othels, and the ones who refused were treated brutally, assaulted, starved and locked-up in cages until they changed their minds.

Once they were in their ‘New World’, these young girls were totally shunned by the rest of the Jewish community, who were either part of the problem, or scandalized by what was going on and trying to shut the operation down, or (probably the majority) just trying to ignore it and pretend it wasn’t happening, as the ruffianos had a lot of money… and gave lavish donations to Jewish institutions… and supported Jewish theatrical productions and other communal events.

In other words, the new life these young women discovered was totally and utterly hellish. I read one account of one very young Jewish woman being forced to service well over 200 men, in her first two weeks in NYC … Once again, it was JEWISH gangsters who created this situation.

Plus ca change.

====

Here and there, some people did try to stand up to these Eastern European Jewish mobsters and ruffianos.

There were calls for the Jewish community to stop leasing them premises, and to stop calling them up for aliyot in shul (!), and efforts were made to bar them from attending the Jewish theatres in Buenos Aires, where they would often show up with a different young girl on their arm each night, to ‘showcase’ their products.

And finally, the ruffianos and the women who worked for them were barred from being buried in Jewish cemeteries.

All these actions against the ruffianos and their slave-‘workers’ form the basis of the takana that was instituted in Latin America, which today is still being applied to Bnei Anousim, Bnei Conversos, and other sincere people who want to convert to Judaism.

====

In the meantime, the takana barely made a dent in the mobsters’ operations, beyond forcing them to change the name of their organisation, and to buy up land to build their own synagogues and cemeteries. In 1906, the Polish ambassador to Argentina made a formal complaint requesting that the “Warsaw Jewish Mutual Aid Society”, be forced to drop the ‘Warsaw’, as Poland wanted to be totally disassociated from its activities.

So, on May 7, 1906, the mobsters formally renamed their organization the ‘Zwi Migdal Association’, after one of its leaders, Luis Zvi Migdal. A little later on, Zwi Migdal split, and another of the leading mobsters named Simon Rubinstein renamed his part of the organization ‘Ashkenazum’. Once they received formal recognition as Jewish ‘charitable’ organisations, they both built Jewish cemeteries on the outskirts of Argentina, which by that point contained a Jewish community of around half a million souls.

====

Zwi Migdal’s human trafficking operation continued to grow and grow, reaching its peak in the 1920s.

It was untouchable, because so many of their customers were notable policemen, judges, politicians and businessmen, and almost everyone else was easily bought off with large bribes.

Plus ca change.

The woman who brought Zwi Migdal down was named Rachel Liberman, from Lodz, in Poland. She arrived in Buenos Aires at the age of 22, with her two small sons, planning to reunite with her husband who had moved there earlier. Rachel’s husband died within two months of her arriving in Argentina, leaving the young widow penniless, and without family in a foreign country.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. Some suggest she answered a fake ‘matrimonial ad’, others that she thought she was taking a job as a seamstress, others that she was tricked into p*ostitution by someone she believed she married as her second husband, but either way, Rachel ended up in the clutches of the Zwi Migdal mobsters.

She worked for them for 4 years, and managed to save enough money to set herself up in the furniture business and leave. But the Zwi Migdal gangsters didn’t want her setting an example for the rest of the Polacas, so they threatened and intimidated her until she returned.

So Rachel searched for a different route to freedom, and eventually, she ended up in the office of one of Buenos Aires’ few honest policemen, a man named Superintendent Julio Elsogray. Her testimony led to the arrest of over 350 ruffianos and mobsters, and then a trial which was presided over by one of Buenos Aires’ few remaining honest judges, named Dr. Rodriguez Ocampo.

When she was asked if she was willing to stand by her testimony, in the face of death threats from the mobsters, Rachel replied: “I can only die once. I’m standing by my testimony.” Clearly, a very brave woman.

====

4 Zwi Migdal gangstersThe trial ended in September 1930, with 108 men sentenced to prison.

Barely a year later, the Zwi Migdal gangsters had called in enough favors from the corrupt politicians and judiciary to see all but 3 of the sentences quashed, and the p*mps freed to set up a new life, and go back to their old, disgusting ways, in Brazil, Uruguay and other locations.

The outbreak of the war in 1939 effectively put an end to the Zwi Midgal organization as we know it….

…. But I can’t help but wonder what really became of all those gangsters, and who took over from Luis Migdal, Simon Rubinstein, and all the others.

====

But let’s get back to what all this means for the Bnei Anousim, and the takana in Latin America, which was basically instituted as a protest against the tens of thousands of Jewish women who had been brought to Argentina, Brazil, and other places to be forced to work in the oldest profession in the world.

The takana was first introduced by the Syrian Sephardi Jewish community in Argentina, as a way of keeping their Jewish community ‘pure’ against this influx of the worse immorality from the secular Ashkenazi world.

The trouble is, the origins of the takana have been forgotten because over the last few decades, the Jewish communities in both Argentina and Brazil have been doing an excellent job of whitewashing the human trafficking activities of the Zwi Migdal organization.

Many of the graves containing the Polaca women have had the names scrubbed off, at the behest of the Jewish community itself. You can kind of understand that – who wants to admit that their grandmother or great-grandmother worked in a b*othel? No-one.

But what disturbs me far, far more is that the evil, immoral criminals who profited from the human trafficking via their roles as ruffianos, madams and the gangster bosses also seem to have been totally whitewashed out of the history books.

Those people didn’t drop dead (sadly, at least not immediately…) They took their money, and they set up shop in other countries, and other Jewish communities all over the world. People like that don’t just retire, they keep engaging in human suffering and immorality until the very bitter end.

And if we knew more of their names, we could trace them, and their activities, and their descendants, and probably discover a lot of very interesting things about exactly why so many parts of the Jewish world looks as yucky as it does, today.

====

To sum up: the whole subject of the takana needs airing out and properly discussing, despite the ongoing sensitivities in the Latin American Jewish communities.

Hopefully, if more people start to understand the historical circumstances that brought it into being back in the 1920s, this conversation can start to move forward, and a way can be found to dismantle it, and enable more of the Jews in Latin America to be accepted by the official Jewish community.

And I hope that shocking as this story is, telling it over will play some small part in getting the whole subject of the takana in Latin America to be revisited, and reconsidered.

====

UPDATE:

After doing some more research, and in response to a comment, I found this. The plot thickens:

In reply to yaak.Thanks Yaak.

According to this PhD thesis by Victor Mirelman (link below), the Takana was first in Buenos Aires in 1927, instituted by the Chakham David Dabbah Shaul Setton, the rabbi of the Syrian community in Buenos Aires – and pretty much the only orthodox rabbi in Latin America at that time, who had a congregation still pious enough to listen to him. This Takana was then adopted throughout Latin America, as the state of the Jewish world was in complete disarray, with the Ashkenazi community’s main ‘rabbi’ in Buenos Aires being one Henry Joseph, who himself had married out and only did a ‘quickie’ conversion of his wife when he started acting as the defacto rabbi of the community. His own children married goyim in a church ceremony.

This meticulously sourced document brings a lot of eye-witness accounts of what was going on in Buenos Aires at the time, including Jews taking two of their friends as ‘witnesses’ to ‘convert’ non-Jewish women, then marry them – in a total mockery of the conversion process. This is also why Rav Kook in Israel, and other rabbis, supported this first Takana in Latin America, and why it spread to other communities there, beyond the Syrian community.

Then seperately in 1935. Rabbi Kassin instituted a similar Takana for the Syrian community in Brooklyn, which didn’t spread, wasn’t approved of other rabbis outside the community, and remains very controversial even today.

Here’s the link, check it out for yourself: https://digital.library.wayne.edu/item/wayne:WayneStateUniversityPress4448

====

You might also like these articles:

Rebbe Nachman points up some interesting similarities between ‘spies’ and demons.

Last week, I was re-reading Rebbe Nachman’s story of The Cripple, when I suddenly started to see some interesting connections between Rebbe Nachman’s description of demons, and what’s going on today with the ‘deep state’.

(You can get an English translation PDF of it HERE).

I suddenly got the idea into my head that Jeffery Epstein could be the ‘son of the demons’ in Rebbe Nachman’s story, who was imprisoned and tortured, sparking off a war between the different factions of ‘Deep State’ demons that eventually leads to geula happening. So, I’m bringing it here, to see what you think, too.

FIRST, A QUICK RECAP OF THE RELATIVE BITS OF THE STORY OF THE CRIPPLE

The Cripple hears the Sun and Moon talking, and the Moon is complaining that there is a place of two thousand mountains, where a whole bunch of demons live, and these ‘demons’ are taking all the power from her feet.

Feet is an allusion to emuna, and true faith and trust in Hashem.

The Moon is often used as an allegory for the Jewish people.

The Cripple decides to visit this place called the ‘Two Thousand Mountains’, here’s what Rebbe Nachman says about that:

“When he got there, he stood at a distance from the two thousand mountains. He saw thousands and myriads of demon families. They have children just like human beings and are therefore very numerous.

“He saw their leadership sitting on a throne. No human being ever sat on such a throne. He also saw them ‘joking’ – one of them was ‘joking’ about the child he’d hurt, another about injuring someone’s hand, and another about injuring someone’s foot. They also joked in other ways.”

====

I read this, and I immediately thought:

Mafia, crime families, ‘untouchable’ criminals and bent politicians sitting on pedestals where no-one can get near them, billionaires who are ‘worshipped’ for their wealth, child trafficking, child abduction and child abuse.

Before we continue, I also went to look up ‘Two Thousand Mountains’, to see where it’s located. Whaddya now? The only place I could find with that name is right next to Forth Worth, Dallas, Texas. Forth Worth was the last place JFK gave a speech, before he was shot dead by the mafia, under contract to the CIA.

(The former head of CIA, Allan Dulles, had a score to settle with Kennedy after the latter refused to bail out the CIA’s attempted ‘regime change’ in Cuba, as part of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Kennedy had a strong dislike of the FBI and CIA, and their abuses of power, and was on record stating that he wanted to splinter the CIA into a 1,000 parts and scatter them to the wind, before he was assassinated.)

The links between the mafia and the spy agencies are well-documented. The former FBI head J. Edgar Hoover was part of a massive corruption racket that basically blurred the lines between criminals and law enforcement, with the mafia simply acting in the illegal sphere, while the spy agencies ‘pretended’ to act within the law. Robert Kennedy was knocked off because he had a sincere wish to tackle the mafia and organized crime – against Hoover’s wishes.

They look like you and me, they have children, they have families, but really – Rebbe Nachman tells us – they are demons!

====

The story then switches to a pair of ‘demon’ parents who are very upset, because their son got kidnapped and tortured by a sorcerer who was working for a King who’d been ‘hurt’ by this demon-son, and his friend.

Back to Rebbe Nachman:

“We had an island in the sea, which we made our base. The king who owned this island decided to build it up, and began to lay the foundations. [The demon-son] said to me, “Let’s hurt him!” With that, we went and took away the king’s strength.”

In the footnotes to Aryeh Kaplan’s translation of this story, we find the following:

This ‘Island King’ wished to repent. This act on his part ultimately led to the downfall of the demons…. ‘Foundations’ is yesod in Hebrew. This usually refers to the se*ual organ. Thus the king wanted to begin by rectifying himself se*ually.

Let’s switch out ‘King’ for ‘President’, from here on it, to give it a more contemporary feel.

And before we continue, let’s also remind ourselves that over in US, the Feds are currently exploring Epstein’s ‘pedo Island’, our in the American Virgin Islands. Man, the clues are coming thick and fast, here.

The demon parents go to the Demon King with this story, and he orders that the President should be given back his ‘strength’. It’s not so easy to do that, because the demon who took the President’s strength has now become a cloud on a particular city.

[We’re going to skip the middle part of the story, which involves an old Jewish sage taking on the ruling atheists and the demons, and continue with the story of the demon-son and the President.]

“The Demon King ordered that the cloud’s strength be taken and given back to the President, and it was done. The demon-son was then able to return to his parents. He came back worn out and in great pain…since he had been tortured very much there. He was very angry at the sorcerer who had tortured him so much, and he left orders to his sons and their families, that they should always lie in wait, to entrap the sorcerer.”

====

When Rebbe Nachman is talking about ‘families’, could he really be referring to clannish crime families and spy organisations here?

Let’s continue.

“The talkers amongst the demons told the sorcerer to watch himself, since [the family] were lying in wait for him. The sorcerer made use of his devices to protect himself from them, and also asked other sorcerers to help him, who knew other [crime] families.

“The demon-son and his family were really furious at the talkers for revealing their secret to the sorcerer. Once, this son’s family and some talkers were going to serve a term of duty for the President. The family fabricated a false accusation against the talkers, and the President killed them.

“The surviving talkers were very angry, and they incited rebellion against all the kings. The demons were stricken with hunger, weakness, sword and plague. There were wars among all the kings, and this caused earthquakes. The ditches fell in and the tree was completely watered. All the [demons] were then destroyed, and nothing remained of them. Amen.”

Note: ‘the tree’ refers to the Tzaddik, aka Moshiach, and the demons spend their whole trying to keep people away from the Torah and mitzvos that will ‘water’ this Tree, and enable it to take it’s true place in the world.

====

Lots to unpack… let’s continue.

I don’t watch TV, thank God, but someone told me I should look at THIS post on the Tomer Devorah website. I went, and it’s talking about a new documentary about THE FAMILY, a bunch of power-obsessed evangelicals who apparently rule Washington DC by co-operating with other evil groups like the Vatican, and all the usual suspect spy agencies / mafiosos.

====

Because they are all connected to each other, and they all coordinate their activities with each other, just they operate as different crime ‘families’ or syndicates.

So now, let’s take that piece of information, and plug in THE FAMILY for every mention of ‘family’ in Rebbe Nachman’s tale, and see what other insights that starts to spark off in your head.

====

THE GEMARA EXPLAINS WHO THESE ‘DEMONS’ ARE

In Makkot 6b, in the middle of a long discussion about false witnesses and criminals being given ‘prior warning’ of imminent punishment by a ‘Demon’, the Gemara says the following:

“The one giving the warning…may even be [the victim] himself, and even a demon. The warning necessary to convict the offender need not come from one of the witnesses, but is acceptable from any source.”

Ramban in the footnote explains that: ‘demon’ refers to “any voice whose source cannot be observed.”

In Brachot 3b, we get the following statement:

“The Rabbis taught in a baraisa, that one should not enter a ruin for the following three reasons: 1) Because of suspicion, i.e. because people may suspect one of entering there to meet a harlot, 2) Because of the danger of collapse, 3) and because of the danger of demons, who lurk in deserted areas and ruins.”

The footnotes state:

Demons will not attack two people together. Separately, it also states: [W]here men of low moral character are concerned, even ten men are not trusted to be alone with a woman.

In Brachot 43b:

“To one person [a demon] appears and does harm; to two people it appears but does no harm; to three people it does not appear altogether.”

The footnote states: The demon will not take action to harm him, but the person will suffer the effects of having seen a demon (i.e. they get ‘warned off’ and they threatened if they start digging too much into what the demons are doing, or saying too much about their activities. But they only actually get assassinated if they are alone, with no witnesses.)

But Chagigah 16a is really the kicker:

“There are six characteristics that were said regarding demons: Three like ministering angels and three like human beings. These are the three characteristics in which demons are like ministering angels:

  • Demons have wings like ministering angels

  • And [demons] fly from one end of the world to the other end [of the world] like ministering angels

  • And [demons] know what is destined to be in the future like ministering angels.

The Gemara interrupts the Baraisa to clarify this last point:

“Can it enter your mind that they know the future on their own?… Rather, the Baraisa means that [demons] hear what is announced from behind the Partition, like ministering angels.”

Doesn’t this excerpt from the Gemara conjure up visions of spies with recording devices, who fly all over the place in their personal jets and unmarked planes?

And here’s how demons are like humans, from that same Gemara:

  • Demons eat and drink like human beings
  • Demons are fruitful and multiply like human beings
  • And demons die like human beings.

====

I haven’t made an exhaustive survey of every instance of where demons are mentioned in the Gemara, but one other notable place, in Niddah 24b, places demons bang in the middle of a discussion about aborted fetuses.

All this, when taken together, suggests quite a lot, doesn’t it?

To recap the main message:

before Moshiach actually is revealed (aka ‘the Tree’ gets watered), all these crime families and spy agencies start to turn on each other, and take each other out. And the demonic forces who are leading these activities are the talkers. Talkers could refer to journalists, spies, bloggers, social media ‘manipulators’ and also movies and Hollywood (the original home of the ‘talkies’.)

Demons look like human beings, but really aren’t.

They have zero real emuna and faith in Hashem (the ‘chicken feet’ = atheists), and they are organized as crime families and syndicates. You’ll find demons in the middle of abortions…. And in the middle of hurting children and other people… And in locations where men are lured to be ‘entrapped’ with harlots…. And demons love ‘devices’ and can listen in on people’s conversations, fly all over the world and appear to be totally untouchable.

The last thing to tell you about demons is probably the most important.

In Rebbe Nachman’s tale, he explains that the human beings who are with the Jewish Sage who stands up to the King Demon, and who are within his ‘circle’, are safe from the harm demons can do.

Rebbe Nachman tells us:

“The demons approached, but they could not come near [the humans] because of the circle [that the wise man had made] around them. [The King Demon] sent other messengers, but they also failed.”

====

We need to stay close to the Tzaddik HaDor, and to stay far, far away from the places where these ‘demons’ hang out. When Moshiach comes, they will all disappear. But for now, they are still all over the place, and still causing a lot of harm, wars and ‘earthquakes’.

====

You might also like these articles:

It’s time to draw a line in the sand, and to stop excusing and flattering evil.

The last few years, we’ve all just sat here and watch the politically-correct brigade demolish one fortification in the wall of personal holiness and morality after another.

They encouraged men and women (or let’s be honest, teenage boys and girls and even younger, lo alenu) to have intimate relationships that were totally divorced from any idea of marriage, or bringing new life into the world. They encouraged promiscuous behavior at every turn. They threw all notions of self-discipline and personal holiness out the window, and mocked the people who tried to stand up to them as ‘bigots’.

The internet accelerated the process of moral disintegration, beaming its smut straight into our homes, phones and neshamas. All of a sudden, there was no getting away from it, all that politically-correct programming, that told us we all just had to sit here and say nothing, as these people assaulted the foundations of holiness.

They hold all the cards, that’s how it seems.

They have all the money. They have the expensive lawyers. They have the politicians stitched up, and the judges in their back pockets.

What can small people like you and me do, to really protest all this, and to stand up for personal holiness, and what is objectively right, as defined by God and His Torah?

Not much, that’s the truth. I am regularly censoring myself on my blog with every third word, worried that the thought police who have taken over the internet will find some way of ‘de-platforming’ me, too – even though the only platform I really have is my blog.

Google has gone after so many ‘alternative’ voices the last few months, and totally buried them with algorythms designed to only give ‘the official’ version of events, as decided by the immoral, anti-God and anti-holiness people who are running Google.

So, I measure my words carefully, and try to tell you what’s going on without naming names, or sailing too close to the wind. Because also here in Israel, these same forces for immorality – all those Jewish billionaires based in the States, but who have been warping the sanctity of the Holy Land with millions of dollars from their ‘charitable foundations’ – are operating here, too.

These people, and their front men, were the ones who were really pulling the strings behind the investigations into Rabbi Berland and Rabbi Pinto, and the late Rabbi Yoram Abergel, zt’l. It was part of a stated aim to take down the so-called ‘kabbalah rabbis’ who were so revered by so many Jews in Israel, and to break their power.

But that’s only a small part of the spiritual and moral corruption that has so many Jews at its heart, and which seems to have spread around the globe.

And which is on the cusp of finally being exposed, even though the mainstream media is still trying to divert the public’s attention away from the real stories and facts that are unfolding. 

(Clue: go and Google ‘Epstein and Mossad’ and see what you find.)

====

The reason the MSM doesn’t report on all of this stuff, or reports this stuff with a ‘fake news’ spin is very simple: The MSM is owned by a small group of immoral billionaires who are up to their necks in vice and criminality. And sadly, a large percentage of these people are Jews.

There is a growing band of independent journalists who are bravely putting the facts together and putting them out there on the internet. Even though the corrupt establishment is trying to stop them, the trickle is building to a flood, as more and more people are realizing that so many of the people who are in the top positions in our societies are actually evil, in the truest sense of the world.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

====

Three weeks ago, I got an email asking me if I wanted to review the latest book by a very well known ‘defender of the State of Israel’. This guy had recently been in the press for very successfully defending billionaire child abuser Jeffery Epstein, 10 years ago. Thanks to this guy’s legal smarts, Epstein literally got away with murder.

When I got the request, I started pondering on all this. Here’s a little of how that conversation went:

The guy is defending Israel. He must be good, no?

The guy defended a known pedophile. He must be bad, no?

Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, until finally, the brainwashing dissolved and I got some clarity:

This guy is awful!!! He’s spiritually corrupt!!! How can anyone sleep soundly in their beds at night, knowing that they are regularly abetting the scum of society to escape justice, just because these evildoers have the money to pay their outrageous legal fees?!

So what, that this guy is famous? So what, that he’s got money, or a lot of connections? So what, that he publically defends the State of Israel. He’s totally immoral. He sold his soul for some dollar bills.

Instead of placing these people on a pedestal, more of us need to start calling these greedy, immoral bullies out, and to stop flattering evil.

====

At this stage, every Jewish organization and charity and individual that accepted cash from Epstein, and from all the other immoral Jewish billionaires that are closely associated with the awful things currently being investigated in New York, are morally suspect in the profoundest of ways.

How can I state that so directly? Because like attracts like. It’s an iron-clad rule, and even our Sages taught that: show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you really are.

And in the meantime, I had another penny drop about how I can and probably should be reacting to the tsunami of evil engulfing the Jewish world, in my personal dalet amot, too. And it comes down to this:

BH, I want to start putting way more emphasis on my own personal holiness again.

====

I already told my teens that I can’t hear their soul-destroying secular music being blasted through the house any more. I went out today and bought longer socks, to replace my ankle socks. And I have decided that I am going to start standing up for kedusha and holiness again, and to stop flattering evil.

What does that mean, exactly?

I’m still figuring it out, but one thing it for sure means is that I am no longer giving the benefit of the doubt to people who are going against the Torah, or railing against a mitzvah-observant lifestyle, and especially those people who are going against holy people like Rabbi Berland.

Without naming names, I went to check the social media of a big-mouth commentator who has made a huge deal about being pro-human rights, and being pro-women’s rights, and who publically left orthodox Judaism because of all the ‘terrible’ things he was seeing happening in his community.

Now, this guy is openly pushing immorality like it’s the biggest mitzvah in the world, and of course, he was one of the main guys writing negative stuff about Rabbi Berland a few years’ ago.

What did that bastion of justice, morality and human rights have to say about Epstein, a secular New York Jew with connections to a whole bunch of other New York Jews, who is guilty of some of the most mind-boggling human rights abuses in modern times?

Nothing.

The silence is deafening.

(I went to double-check after I wrote that, and this lone tweet is all I found. Compare and contrast.)

The guy is a total hypocrite (at best), and the ‘orthodox’ people who are continuing to buddy-up to him, and to defend and excuse his spiritual corruption and immorality, are 100% guilty of flattering evil.

====

Let’s try to define the term a bit more carefully.

Flattering evil is where you know someone else is saying or doing evil or immoral things (as defined by God, in His Torah), but you still hang out with them and suck up to them because of their wealth and connections; or because they can do favors for you; or because they are a ‘minor celebrity’; or because it just suits you better to turn a blind eye to their bad behavior and immoral lifestyle choices.

That is flattering evil.

And so very many of us are guilty of it.

When I sent back my reply to the famous author’s publicist, I made sure to tell her why I’m saying no to reviewing his book:

In all good conscience, I can’t promote something written by someone who thinks its ok to defend known pedophiles.

And I felt pleased with this minute step towards trying to tip the balance towards God and good again. If I’d have said ‘yes’, that would mean that I’m effectively also condoning that pedophile’s awful, immoral behavior, and enabling it to continue, God forbid a million times over, and saying its ok to hang out with these people, and to keep pretending like there’s nothing wrong with them, and their world-destroying ideas and actions.

I can’t protest everything, I can’t stand up to every sin, and every evil person out there, but whatever God gives me to do, I’m going to do it.

I’m drawing a line in the sand.

From here on in, no more flattering evil, just because someone is well-known, or gives a lot of charity, or defends Israel, or has a lot of ‘backing’ from their community, or is a ‘king’ of political-correctness, or because I’m scared of them.

And I’d be thrilled if you’d consider joining me.

====

You might also like these articles: