Monday, January 21, 2013

The Sephardic Spring


In the 19th century, Ashkenazi and Sephardic versions of Judaism were very different. As I mentioned in my monograph "The Novelty of Orthodoxy," some historians attribute this to long-standing differences between the two, while others attribute it to the different environments. Ashkenazi Orthodoxy developed as a response to developments in Christian Europe, for better or for worse; Sephardic Jewry, which was not faced with such developments, did not change in that way.

But in the late twentieth century, when Ashkenazim and Sephardim came together in Israel, the differences began to fade away. Not in a good sense; there was and is still plenty of discrimination. But many Sephardim adopted the Ashkenazi Lithuanian Charedi approach to Judaism, in which things are extreme and reactionary, and young men are encouraged to learn in kollel rather than serve in the army and work to support their families.

Enter Rav Chaim Amsalem. He is an amazing Rav who is seeking to return the Sephardic world to its more moderate roots - you won't hear any screaming tirades from him about how his opponents are goyim! But his work is important for Ashkenazim too. He has launched the new political movement Am Shalem, which seeks to unify Israel around an equal, normal Jewish and Israeli way of life, involving serving in the IDF and enabling everyone to work for a living. It also seeks to rescue the rabbinate from the charedi takeover. You can learn more about Rav Amsalem and Am Shalem at its website, AmShalem.org.

The other day, I mentioned that I was nervous about voting for Am Shalem, because I was unsure if they would pass the voting threshold. However, the polls are unclear; it is certainly at least on the border, and some polls predict that they could gain as many as three seats. This may well be a historic opportunity for change. I will leave you with the following comment that someone wrote to my blog post, which provides much food for thought:
I have heard your argument from so many that Am Shalem makes the most sense and would be their first choice, but...... (mainly passing the minimum number of votes).
If one tenth of such people would vote Am Shalem he will get in. I will sacrifice my otherwise traditional Mafdal/Bayit Yehudi vote (of 30 years) and vote Am Shalem. The difference between 14 and 15 Bayit Yehudi seats is meaningless, but having Rav Amsalem in the Knesset is (maybe) priceless.
(See too this article in The Jerusalem Post)

27 comments:

  1. I think he might surprise - I've spoken to a number of secular voters who are considering him just because they are unhappy with other parties.

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  2. What exactly do you mean when you say he is returning Israel to "a normal Jewish way of life"
    Isnt being "normal" relative?
    Surely the way the Zulus spend their day would be considered by us folk as pretty abnormal yet they are confident within themselves that they are normal.
    So your 100% right, from a non jewish western approach it is normal to serve in the army and work for your living yet can you not be just a bit broad minded and appreciate that some jews feel it is perfectly normal for a jew to bring home a wage packet of $800 through his intense study of our culture and its laws?

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  3. How does studying bring home wages?

    And what happens when his family grows large, and he needs to marry off his kids, and $800 a month doesn't cover it?

    Furthermore, working for one's living is not only normal from a non-Jewish Western approach. It's normal from a traditional Jewish Chazal-based approach. It is a tragedy that you don't realize that.

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  4. NS- Their are different issues involved. 1) Working
    2) joining the army.

    These are different issues.
    About joining the army. What needs to be asked, What army? What is the army for and why should Jews join an army that has as its head anti-religious characters that have been trying to destroy Judaism and/or Jewish homes? Why should the orders or Pipi Nahasyaho or Ehud Bardak be listened to? Why? Because of "deMOCKracy"? Why? If the claim is "Milhemit Misswah" then why not support people making militias and independent attacks against the enemies of Am Yisrael without the IDF?
    Why the obsession with the "Haredim" when a situation of a nuclear holocuast is looming over Israel's head. The "Haredim" make the best scapegoats.

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  5. While Rav Amsalem is certainly very courageous and shows great promise as a level-headed leader of integrity, I am unable to forget his 'primal sin.'
    He was chosen to the Knesset as a member of Shas. In Israel in general, and regarding Shas specifically, elections are not individual elections, rather partisan. Someone voting for Shas voted for a party run by Rav Ovadyah Yosef. Whether the MKs are Moshe and Yaakov or Eli and Ariel, it doesn't really matter, 'cause they will vote as Rav Ovadyah tells them.
    When Rav Amsalem decided to exercise his independent thought and no longer toe the party line, the correct, honest step would have been to resign from Shas and the Knesset where he served solely owing to have been a member of the Shas list. He did not do this, rather he abducted the seat Shas earned and took it for himself.
    Indeed, the law allows for a MK to break away and form his own party etc. but this in no way mitigates the reality of his election and membership to the Knesset solely as another face in Shas.
    Pity that he seems to have painted it as if people actually voted for him and/or his views in any way.

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  6. @Moshe:The reason one should join the army is that the army protects the land that you live in (for those that live there at least).
    Regardless of how many ad-hominem arguments (which are utterly false, I might add)you make against the PM or the government (Barak isn't even an MK anymore)it doesn't change the fact that the army has and is protecting all the inhabitants of Israel so it isn't fair that hundreds of thousands should get an exemption (regardless of what they may be doing)
    As for militias, I don't think you need an explanation as to why that is a bad idea, although even if it where a theoretically sound idea it wouldn't change the fact that no such militias exist while the IDF does.
    Your last argument is another ad-hominem argument because even if there was an obsession with Haredim it wouldn't change the fact that they are shirking their responsibilities towards the state thay live in.
    Either way nobody said that we shouldn't worry about Iran- that issue is a given.
    The point of Am-Shalem, as a small party, would be to focus on issues that other parties may not.

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  7. The True Story (response to Sholem)January 22, 2013 at 7:21 AM

    Sholem, Rav Amsalem was included in Shas as the representative of his rabbi, Rav Mazouz; he was expected to bring in votes from the segment, and to represent them, and he did just that. He justified his seat both before and after he left Shas.

    Rav Amsalem did not stop following the party line. On the contrary, the party line was and still is to stand up for the rights of Sephardim. So when Shas failed to fight blatant discrimination against Sephardim in Emanuel, he decided to remain loyal to what his party has promised its voters, unlike the rest of Shas which betrayed their own voters.

    The Shas party line is also to follow the halakhic rulings of Rav Ovadia Yosef. But when the party abandoned their own rabbi's approach to conversion in order to curry favor with the Ashkenazic Haredim, it is Rav Amsalem by himself who remained the champion of Rav Ovadia Yosef's positions on conversion to Judaism. It is because they know this very well that they prevented Rav Amsalem from meeting personally with Rav Ovadia, and instead created a forum to excommunicate him in abstentia.

    The "primal sin" belongs to those who remained inside the Shas party, and cynically manipulate a great 92 year old Torah scholar.

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  8. "'cause they will vote as Rav Ovadyah tells them.
    When Rav Amsalem decided to exercise his independent thought and no longer toe the party line"

    Rav Ovadiah has explicitly paskened that the elite should sit and learn, while the rest should work for a living. Rav Amsalem has followed Rav Ovadia's psak. Shas has not.

    See here: http://www.halachayomit.co.il/displayRead.asp?readID=414

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  9. Its a bit earlier to know if Rav Amsalem represents anything real. We'll know better tomorrow, and more importantly who actually voted for him

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  10. Ephraim & The True Story:
    Whatever the history and/or justification and/or manipulation behind the scenes it doesn't change the fact that what Rav Ovadyah says goes. If today he says X and tomorrow Y, the MKs need to do X today and Y tomorrow.
    That is Shas. Rav Amsalem knew this going in.

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  11. You seem so obsessed with some charedim receiving charity (that it even influences whom you vote for) from philanthropists who volantarily give away their money, as they obviously understand the importantce for less than 1% of the Jewish nation studying the jewish law and its writings.
    When i say obsessed i mean it literally, as when one reads the commentators in secular newspapers like The Times/Telegraph they dont go on about the same subject every week which you seem to be doing.
    In all honesty Rabbi could it be that the hatred you feel towards Bnei Torah is perhaps not coming from the usual strong rational part of yourself but rather from an emotional angle.
    Relax rabbi, they dont harm you, they are not forcing your children into that way of life, the poverty they experience is not effecting you so why get so heated up?

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  12. You seem so obsessed with some charedim receiving charity (that it even influences whom you vote for) from philanthropists who volantarily give away their money, as they obviously understand the importantce for less than 1% of the Jewish nation studying the jewish law and its writings.
    When i say obsessed i mean it literally, as when one reads the commentators in secular newspapers like The Times/Telegraph they dont go on about the same subject every week which you seem to be doing.
    In all honesty Rabbi could it be that the hatred you feel towards Bnei Torah is perhaps not coming from the usual strong rational part of yourself but rather from an emotional angle.
    Relax rabbi, they dont harm you, they are not forcing your children into that way of life, the poverty they experience is not effecting you so why get so heated up?

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  13. Of course it harms and affects me! In all kinds of ways.

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  14. RNS you have some serious explaining to do, i have just crossed over to Dr Betechs site and read his response to you including some interesting links.
    Please Rabbi, it is vital you check your facts on such complicated issues - once i read his piece i see its far from simple to say the Talmud made errors (not that i am against saying it) but the evidence does not neccasarily support that anymore.
    Rabbi, i support you in just seeking the truth but it is absoloutely vital you seek out ALL the evidence before forming a position

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  15. Winston/Warren - I did my research very carefully, and I don't have any explaining to do. Find a rabbi, ANY rabbi, and ask them if Betech is representing (a) the traditional understanding of the Gemara and (b) the correct understanding.

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  16. The reason i was so tough on you in my comment how you are obsessed with bnei torah was because ever since you posted my original post of "level headed buisnessmen" you have avoided the issue which is ironically what you always accuse other charedi rabbis of doing.
    When you answered in your post that we philathropists have been "indocrinated" not only was it a feeble answer it put you in a bad light as it revealed you had nothing else to say....
    Look, i am that bit older than you, and until you can come up with a solid approach why i should stop my monthly direct debit of $1000 to the Mir i will continue to proudly support less than 1% of the jewish nation studying its culture and laws.
    R Natan, for your own good it may be more wise in future to admit you dont have an answer rather than coming up with silly ideas in saying that thousands of Torah supporters like myself are lacking intellegence.

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  17. I haven't avoided anything. I've explained all my reasons in detail. If you choose not to agree with them, and to support people who are going against Chazal and tradition, well, that's up to you. Personally, I think that if you want to give $1000 a month to support Torah - which is great! - then you should give to Torah organizations which are learning and teaching Torah in the way envisaged by Chazal and done throughout Jewish history until very recently.

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  18. Also, I never said that you were lacking intelligence. I said that you have been indoctrinated with incorrect ideas about Torah study.

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  19. Here's a great kollel to support:

    http://www.torahmitzion.org/eng/aboutus/

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  20. to Warren:
    "Relax rabbi, they dont harm you, they are not forcing your children into that way of life, the poverty they experience is not effecting you so why get so heated up?"

    You really don't get it at all!
    I live in Israel. Because the haredim do not work, I have to pay higher government taxes and higher city taxes to support them. Because the Haredim do not serve in the army my sons have to do 3 years army service not 2. How can you possible say they do not harm me or affect me?? The Haredi lifestyle affects every single Israeli.

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  21. 60:60. Congrats to all Amsalems voters. I guess this is what it means to mature politically...

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  22. To Winston:

    all the links and all the concocted explanations on this topic are irrelevant. Even if you showed me another page of Gemorrah that stated that 99.9% of the ammoraim knew that lice produce (procreative) eggs, it does not change the fact that the author of these 1/2 dozen lines on Shab 107b, clearly and unambiguously implied that HE believed that lice do NOT produce eggs.

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  23. B"H
    To Winston

    I continued this discussion with Elemir at:
    http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.mx/2013/01/lice-response-to-ns.html?showComment=1359045064427#c7816476342429007127

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  24. ...and by "continued the discussion", he means "continued to write lots of words without actually saying anything or addressing the points that people make..."

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  25. a rightwing rationalist JewFebruary 1, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    I think he should have joined together with Rav Amnon Yitzhak, and they would have made it in.

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  26. If winston is a real person (and not Betech himself or one of Betech's rabbi helpers/fellow blogger slifkin bashers), he didn't contribute anything in this thread except to promote betech. Notice he says nothing substantive. He only talks of his "conversion" to betech's side and betech's supposedly "winning arguments" and how slifkin must have been uninformed after he saw all the wonderful eye opening statements of betech. If winston was functioning here as anything more than a troll, all that advertisement and promotion (self promotion?) would be unnecessary. "Winston" could simply pick any argument, any statement of betech that he thought to be worthwhile, anything he likes, and post it here. That's what real discussion is- asking for rabbi slifkin's input on point xyz. Challenging him directly on a topic of interest. Even quote betech or attribute the source, go right ahead. Ahh but that exposes the so called argument to scrutiny and gives Rabbi Slifkin an opportunity to refute it, explain why its irrelevant, a non sequitor, factually incorrect, illogical and so on. And direct scrutiny of the ill-conceived notions is the last thing they want. Rather than subject "the greatest arguments in the world" to scrutiny and unfiltered discussion by Slifkin and his readers, a troll's job is to promote betech and slander slifkin with absurd accusations while at the same time with vague generalizations professing his betech chassidus: "I would have been off the derech if not for seeing betech's argument why its wrong to say Talmud was mistaken!" So instead of discussion we get completely useless posts which build up someone's ego and attempt to tear down rabbi slifkin. Sorry, we readers here are not falling for these sick games dr winston.

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  27. Student V, it's amazing how your comment is perfectly equally applicable to the currently-unfolding thread on the post about pandas and penguins and rabbits.

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