Friday, November 21, 2014

A Poem for the Lost

The vicious slayings in Har Nof this week have left me very shaken, as they have many of us. I had a personal connection with Rabbi Kalman Levine, and Rabbi Moshe Twersky was my rebbe's brother. Everything about this tragic incident raises questions and touches nerves in a way that other attacks have not (at least so is the case for me). The way that these men had sacrificed to move to Israel, the fact that among them were tremendous talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars) who were known for their personal and spiritual character. The way they were killed in a shul, while they prayed, and in such barbaric fashion. o.

The image of the arm of one of the murdered, still wrapped in tefillin straps recalls the verse from Isaiah that men say when finishing to wrap their tefillin: n
וארשתיך לי לעולם וארשתיך לי בצדק ובמשפט ובחסד וברחמים וארשתיך לי באמונה וידעת את השם 
In G-d's voice- And I will bind you to me for eternity. And I will bind you to me with justice and order. And I will bind you to me with faith, and you will intimately know G-d. d

To work some of this out for myself, I wrote this poem. Maybe it will resonate with some others, as wello

וילכו להם

וילכו להם בניך

ממולדתם ומבית אביהם הלכו להם
אל הארץ אשר הוֹרַשתָם הלכו להם

בתמימות לפניך הלכו להם
על דרכך אשר שמרו לעשות צדקה ומשפט הלכו להם
ואשר עליו ציווּ את בניהם ואת בֵּיתם אחריהם הלכו להם

וישכמו בבוקר בניך
ויאמרו אל נעריהם ואל נשיהם שבו לכם פה
ואנו נלך עד כה ונשתחוה ונשובה 
אליכם והלכו להם

ואל המקום אשר עמדו שם את פני ה׳
על אחד ההרים הלכו להם
ויקראו בשם ה׳

וישאו בניך את עיניהם ויראו
והנה שני אנשים
נצבים עליהם בפתח האוהל
ויקחו האנשים בידיהם האש והמאכלת
אל בניך

ויעמדו בניך
בּסְבַך בקרניהם
ויפלו על פניהם
ויאמרו אליך
כי יראי א-לקים הם

ולא חשכת את בניך אשר אהבת מהם

וישלחו האנשים את ידיהם
ויקחו את המאכלת
לשחוט את בניך
ויתעלו בניך שם לעולה

וילכו להם

ותֹּאמֶר, “הנני בָנַי“

JewBrain Tinier

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Han'arim: A Song for Our Lost Boys

Only one week ago, last Friday night after our Shabbat meal, I was putting my son to sleep. He was sad about something—I don't remember what—and I was sad, too, thinking about our missing boys and hoping that they would be found alive. I wrote this song there in his room, to comfort us both, and as a prayer for my son, for the boys, and for all of the Jewish people in anguish and despair. Now that our worst fears have been realized and the missing boys, Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar, are dead, I offer the song with the hope that their holy souls be bound with the souls of the ever-living, and that their families and all of us find comfort in the rebuilding of Jerusalem soon and in our days.

JewBrain Tinier

Friday, May 16, 2014

60,000 What??

The JewPsy blog has reached 60,000 hits! But what's so special about 60,000?

Men in hard hats posing in front of a sculpture of the number sixty thousand
This photo has no relevance at all other than the big, red
60,000 with which these fellows are inexplicably posing.
Well, imagine that. You all have visited this blog sixty thousand times! Which doesn't really mean all that much because, to be honest, 60,000 is not a particularly significant number. It's not the flashy 50,000, and it's less than plenty of downright boring numbers (60,001 being just one of infinite examples). But 60,000 is still a nice, round number, and that's a good enough reason for me to allow myself to share a little high-five with you (yes, and you too). While we're at it, though, here's a little 60,000 trivia that you may find, if not
useful, then at least marginally interesting.
60,000 is:

  • The number of Legos it took to build a scale model of Vatican City last week in Summit, NJ. The model, built by the 5th and 6th graders of Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child took up 400 square feet of the school gym. 
  • The number of people who sang Bohemian Rhapsody together while waiting for the start of a Green Day concert in London's Emirates Stadium in June. (I know, right? Green Day still selling out stadiums?) That just shows you the dangers of prolonged exposure to heat, boredom, and claustrophobia. Watch the video after the bump:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Are We Listening?: Women Singing, Orthodox Rabbis, and Israel's Religious-Secular Divide

R' Lichtenstein accepting the Israel Prize

They say it 'aint over til the fat lady sings, but maybe we should lower the curtain before she even starts. This week, on Israel's Memorial and Independence Days, the chief rabbi of Tzfat (Safed), Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein both participated in public ceremonies that involved "kol isha," (lit., a woman's voice), the halakhic term for women singing. Rabbi Eliyahu delivered his opening remarks and then got up and left, while Rabbi Lichtenstein stayed for his entire ceremony, looking honored to be there. Rabbi Amnon Bazak, an outspoken lecturer at Har Etzion, addressed these contrasting approaches in a short but poignant essay today. Below is an English translation followed by the original Hebrew.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Blogging Rabbis and the Unfolding Future of Orthodox Judaism

As rabbis have increased thier web presence, the discourse about halacha and contemporary religious issues has started to move online, too.  Shulem Deen, editor of, discusses the history of Orthodox Rabbi-run blogs, thier impact on Modern Orthodoxy, and the Ultra-Orthodox response: