Saturday, April 21, 2012

Petition for Increased Achdus at the Siyum Hashas

As the siyum hashas approaches, I would like to make an appeal for achdus and for the righting of a wrong that has occurred at the previous siyumim.
The main siyum hashas celebration that is set to take place at Metlife Stadium will be a celebration of learning that will be attended by all sorts of Torah Jews. Yet one great Jewish leader, who has done much to spread Torah among Jewry, will be excluded from the celebrations.  Hence I am starting a petition that the siyum hashas allow Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneerson on the dais.
To be clear, I am not a chabad chassid. But I often daven in the chabad shul near my house and I have heard many inspiring stories about this great leader. Just the week before Pesach I attended a birthday celebration for the Rebbe (as he is called by chabad Chassidim) at Yad Eliyahu Stadium in South Tel Aviv. In the live feed video from 770 the Rebbe spoke clearly and passionately about the importance and Troah learning. (Minor mistakes, such as calling the current Prime Minister of Israel Yizchak Shamir could be forgiven for a man celebrating his 110th birthday).
I have asked a number of chabad chassidim  why the Rebbe is not invited to the siyum (not even on the secondary dais for second rate rabbis) and have received a number of answers . Some claim that the Rebbe’s teaching that one should do a perek of Rambam a day causes friction with the Bavli loyalists in the Daf Yomi circles. Others point to the publication of the Chitas, whose daily learning cycle contains chumash, tehillim, and Tanya, yet no gemara. Whatever the reason, I find it inexcusable. One of the greatest contemporary Jewish leaders should not be excluded from such an event.   
Having the Rebbe speak a Metlife stadium  would be a  “home run” and not a “strike out”  and it is not much of a “sacrifice” so don’t hit a “foul” and “steal” mitzvos from the suttun and don’t “balk” at the opportunity.            
So sign the petition today.       

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What a Dog Won't Eat: An Exclusive Interview with the Head Mashgiach of the Eidah Chareidis

I pleased to report that Rav Ozer Zorgenman Shlita, the head mashgiach of the Badatz Eidah Chariedis, agreed to sit down with me for a few questions. I have transcribed the interview below- Yonoson Swift.

YS: Gut moed. I would like to thank the Rav for taking time out his busy schedule to talk to me.
ROZ: You’re welcome.
YS: Let us begin with issues related to Pesach. A lot of people have voiced complaints that the badatz has given hashgacha to products to that do not really need one.
ROZ:  I have heard this claim before. What these people do not understand is that we represent a certain tzibbur and we do our best to serve their needs. There may be certain products that the general public does not need a hashgacha on because they use it in a certain way, but our tzibbur uses it differently and hence needs a hashgacha.
YS: I don’t understand. Take bleach. Nobody ingests bleach. Why does it need a hashgacha for pesach?
ROZ: That is a perfect example. If one only uses bleach for cleaning bathrooms or washing clothes, I can see why one would say it does not need hashgacha. In our tzibbur, however, bleach is primarily used to throw on women who dressed not tznius. Now let’s say the thrower’s aim is a little off and the bleach hits the woman in the mouth. If there is chometz in the bleach the thrower could be in violation the issur of lifnei iver by causing this prutza to eat chometz. Our tzibbur throws bleach to minimize issurim, not to increase them, chas v’shalom.
YS: I see. What about shoe polish?
ROZ: Same thing.
YS: Contact lens solution?
ROZ: What is that?
YS: I understand that some brands of toilet paper include starch. But who eats toilet paper?
ROZ: Obviously you’ve never craved a midnight snack on Nittel Nacht.
YS: Another pesach question. There are other areas where many people feel the badatz is overly machmir, such as not giving hashgacha to canola oil. It is an oil that is derived from a flower. Why is this assur?
ROZ: Do you know what else canola oil is called? Rapeseed! We cannot have such words on our Pesach table. The last thing we want is children to start asking questions about these things.
 YS: Let us move away from kashrus. Many have expressed anger that the eidah does not condemn acts of violence against non-chareidim, such as the attacks on the girls of the Orot Banot school in Beit Shemesh.
ROZ: We cannot condemn everything in the world. A panel of rabbonim have met and delineated very clear criteria on which acts we are to condemn and which ones we do not.
YS: What is that criteria?
ROZ: We only condemn acts that we disagree with.
YS: Any parting words?
ROZ: We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to making the phrase badatz eidah chareidus synonymous with kashrus in Eretz Yisrael. Anyone who buys kosher products in this land supports not only our mashgichim, but our educational and youth programming as well.  
YS: Thank you.