Tuesday, February 25, 2014

#212 - Kosher RABBI

When Rabbi Shmuley Boteach came out with his book Kosher Jesus a couple of years ago, there were many who were with an uproar about the title of his latest book.  Regardless of what this rabbi himself thinks about the false Christian god who was the cause of millions of Jews being murdered in his name in the last nearly 2,000 years, no doubt that he thought of this title as a good advertising gimick to make more sales, especially among Christians.  But whatever I personally think of Rabbi Boteach, two things that I will note off the bat is that Jesus was not kosher in terms of Jewish observance - including encouraging his followers to eat ham, and certainly, he was not a rabbi.

The truth is, regardless of how the dictionary may define the word rabbi, aside from whether it may coincide with the Torah definition of it or not, not everyone has the same way of defining who a rabbi is.  You see, a rabbi in the literal sense is one who teaches Torah to others.  However, it is clear that when we say an ordained rabbi, even though it may at first sound redundant, it makes it clear that one was actually ordanined as a rabbi, which is usually confirmed with a certificate, which in Hebrew is called Semicha, based on the wording used when Moses ordained Joshua, which was not done in writing, but rather, Moses LEANED his hands on Joshua; the word in caps which means Samach in Hebrew

You see, these days, there are all kinds of religious looking Jews who pose as rabbis, which begins usually with some sort of black attire, in order to collect money and/or receive fame, honor, and power. Technically, anyone who wants to be listed in the phonebook as a rabbi, at least in the States, can just inform the phone company before its next edition of the book list of residences and businesses, that they have the title of rabbi, and no one at the phone company will even question it.

Today, many have the title of rabbi that they rightfully earned, but don't practice a rabbinical position usually because they make a living some other way.   However, there was a time in Jewish history when the title of rabbi was worth a lot more.  You see, at one time, you had to know the teachings of the entire Talmud and Jewish laws to legally qualify for the title; otherwise, you were just a student in training.  But at one point, mastering the entire Talmud was either not attainable at a relatively young age, or making a living somehow couldn't wait forever until one could quality as a rabbi since one already had several mouths to feed as most in those days got married at a relatively young age.  And so today, even without knowing all the Talmud and all, one who is learning in Yeshiva for so many years can qualify for the title by studying a particular part of the Talmud and Jewish laws, mostly in the laws of Kashrut (kosher food and related laws), which is the basic level of the title of rabbi, which is dubbed with the title Yoreh Yoreh.  And then, there are advanced rabbinical degrees, such as the laws of courts, judging, etc. which qualifies one to be a rabbinical judge, which is dubbed with the title Yadin Yadin.  And nowadays in Israel, there is the Semicha what is known as the Rabbanut Reishit which involves learning like half the Talmud and half the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) to qualify for this title, which allows one to be paid well as a rabbi of a synagogue, neighborhood, city, etc. who is appointed by the Israeli government.

And in more recent times, there are what are called private Semichot (plural for Semicha) which are given by rabbis who may or may not necessarily be the rabbi of a synagogue or Yeshiva, but the ones who typically receive this Semicha, which is the same basic Yoreh Yoreh one, are quite often those who already have either left Yeshiva, never had the chance to learn in Yeshiva, or is presently working for a living   Personally, I received Semicha from such a rabbi, Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, Shlita, who is a very talented rabbi by the way, but if you or someone you know might consider studying to be an ordained rabbi,  you can check out details on his Semicha program, or contact him via his website at http://www.vaadharabbonim.com/

In any case, one who has Semicha does not necessarily become more holy because of it.  If anything, one who has this title has to be ever more careful with how he behaves, or he will G-d forbid profane himself, and most certainly, Hashem's name.  But typically, I think it's safe to say that many if not most who have rabbinic ordination are those with fine characters, as Torah learning does have a positive influence on people who study Torah for the right reasons, or those who study it day and night, since after all, part of the Torah relates to both how we relate in our interpersonal relationships, as well as our character or behavior traits.  However, one thing that is certain is that rabbinic ordination is no guarantee as to how an individual will behave.

And this is where I come in.  Yes, there are some rabbis who aren't exactly the nicest people in the world, but then again, most of us have our days when we wake on the wrong side of the bed.  But in other ways, there are those who have gotten into trouble with the law - which can be either with the Torah Law and/or the legal system, which can vary from money fraud to inappropriate sexual advances.  Now mind you, while there have been quite a few rabbis with rabbinical positions who have been in trouble with law enforcement and/or fired by the institution that they worked for; one needs to know that not all of them were necessarily who are labeled as Orthodox (title for Jews who observe Shabbat, Kosher, and laws of family purity), but some who were Conservative or Reform (who are rather lax in some of the main laws of the Torah).  In fact, there was a Reform rabbi who was the very first one featured in a television program in which sexual predators are caught meeting with whom they think is a minor following chatting online, which has had hundreds since coming for the same purpose, and mind you, he came to meet with whom he thought was a boy, showing himself to also be homosexual, or wishing to have a homosexual relationship.  Oh yes, there is even an ordained Orthodox rabbi who is public about being homosexual, and believe it or not, he even went to far as to officiate at a Jewish gay "marriage ceremony".  What fifty years ago would have been at least shameful for an Orthodox rabbi to be public of such matters, is today being public about this without shame of openly violating one of the 613 Commandments of the Torah, which is the prohibition of a male having sex with another male.

Now, the part that bothers me more is not necessarily the rabbi who is the crook or predator himself, but rather at times, the ones protecting him, such as his comrades or school in which he works.  Regardless of the particular rabbi's accomplishments in terms of good deeds, some of his victim children down the road either leave the fold of Judaism or commit suicide as a result of feeling their whole life shattered, which is thanks due in part to the ones protecting the rabbi in question.  While some may feel that it will be a greater Chilul Hashem (desecration of Hashem's name) with everyone knowing that a particular rabbi did certain crimes that will either have people look down at Jews or increase anti-Semitism, or that it is forbidden by Jewish law to report these type of crimes to the police without first speaking to a rabbi, nothing could be further from the truth.  For in fact, these childrens' lives were greatly endangered - physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually; and ultimately, if these predators aren't reported, chances are (which is virtually 100%, pending strength of age) is that they will continue wrecking the lives of more Jewish children, which has already been agreed upon by some notable rabbis.

Now, there are other types of rabbis, while they may not necessarily be crooks or predators, preach teachings that go clearly against the Torah, which is especially felt in Israel, though there are also sentiments of Modern Orthodox rabbis in the States whose words are nothing short of politics in the guise of some Torah teaching.  You see, the Torah does tell us about us being kind and nice not just to Jews, but even at times with non-Jews, at least for the reason of "ways of peace", such as greeting him in the street even before the non-Jew greets us, as one rabbi in the Talmud did, or providing non-Jewish poor people with money at the same time as we provide our own poor Jewish brethren.  However, in a national situation in which non-Jews are clearly out to get at us, or steal parts of our Holy Land, that is another story.

And neither is everything a black or white issue, or at least on the surface.  You see, you have the teachings of Rabbis Meir and Binyamin Kahane, HY'D,  may Hashem avenge their blood, who clearly show from the Torah that we have to throw out the non-Jewish elements (excepting non-Jews who accept certain laws on themselves and agree to pay taxes) from the Holy Land, or "they will be snares in your eyes"; and no government, run by Jews or non-Jews, are to be listened to when it gives orders violating what the Torah says.  And then, you have other rabbis on the other end of the spectrum who, while they won't necessarily deny what the Torah says, but somehow, they want to convince everyone that we are forbidden to disobey orders from the Israeli government, even if it seems that these orders contradict the Torah.  Now, please bear in mind that typically, the rabbis who do say these things are politically motivated, because after all, if they are being paid by the government, then what are chances that they will speak against it?  And while when the Torah states that bribery "blinds the eyes of the wise, and twists the words of the righteous" is a scenario that seems to be referring to the judge, it is quite logical to say that one receiving money from a source that is providing his income will most likely feel indebted to that source, and find ways to at least not criticize, if not openly praise it.

To be sure, Rabbi Meir Kahane was a member of the Knesset at one time.  And while such a position gets him or her to be paid by the government, Kahane was never swayed by blood money; for after all, his interest was for the people who voted him into power to begin with to intercede and help pass legislation on their behalf; while in stark contrast, most politicians "forget" their promises they made to the public who voted them into office begin with, since some of their promises are simply not politically correct, showing that they used, or rather misused, the votes of the people to get themselves to be above them, and then pretend that they are doing something that will benefit the people, when quite the opposite is happening.  And also, unlike Kahane who wasn't afraid to say the Torah truth even on pain of imprisonment, being locked away from family, these other government paid rabbis have no such worries, if not paid a bonus from the Israeli government allowing it to continue its pro-Arab/anti-Jewish stances.

And then, there is what is called, or so called, a gray area here.  You see, there are many rabbis who are thought of being right-wing.  However, if these older rabbis have had no connections with Rabbi Kahane at a time that he needed rabbinical support, especially in Israel, then chances are, these rabbis, including some in the "settlement" movement, wanted nothing to do with someone who was branded a fanatic or racist. Sooner or later, the truth comes out from these rabbis.  A classic example of this just happened recently, when over a 100 Zionist rabbis signed a letter criticizing Jews who supposedly sought revenge against Arabs in the form of what is called "price tags", or a similar letter several years ago after the Jews were thrown out of Gush Katif, that settlers shouldn't use violence against soldiers or police if something similar happens again.  Now, after seeing how the Jews from Gush Katif suffering immensely from lack of care, including housing and employment, from the government, where is the mercy for Jews suffering from this tragedy, or from similar tragedies in the future, that these rabbis go out of their way to defend the rights of a dictatorship who are clearly against the Torah?  And what is perhaps most ironic here is that for the most part, it is the Arabs who pretended to make it look like that we Jews did these price tags attacks by burning trees, and even doing the grafetti thing writing the words "price tag" in Hebrew.  However, this was totally ignored by these rabbis, ever so afraid of looking like they have some connection with a few fanatic Jews who may have done such things. Yes, they may technically be rabbis, but they are certainly not righteous people to say the least, who are more concerned that their pockets don't dry out of tainted government money.

How fortunate was it that Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, Shlita, who was a paratrooper in the Six Day War who had the great merit of taking part in making the holiest spot in the world, which includes the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, be available to Jews once again, who criticized the above rabbis pertaining to the price tag incidents, when at the same time, discussions from the government are being made about dividing Jerusalem to give parts of it away to other nations, which these rabbis were not criticizing.  This is stark contrast to another rabbi-paratrooper in the Six Day War, who declared a Jew who killed an Arab on the Temple Mount as being no longer considered a part of the Jewish people for doing such a shameful thing.  O.K., let us say for a moment that this was not the proper manner of asserting our rights and ownership of our holiest piece of real estate in Israel.  But if a lone Jew does such a thing that can cost him his freedom or life, at worst scenario, this rabbi could have at least given him the benefit of the doubt, as the Torah mandates, of having some kind of mental condition, which would not brand such a person as someone "who no longer belongs to the Jewish people".  However, what about Jews who murder other Jews - why aren't they considered as such in the same category - because this didn't arouse Arab or world anger?  So as almost anyone can see, there are quite a few double standards employed by these political rabbis.

The truth is that this is nothing new.  We see in the Talmud (Shabbat 33a) that there were a few rabbis who were having a discussion about the Romans, the leading rulers of the Jews following the destruction of the Temple by this nation, of the day.  One rabbi praised the Romans' physical contributions, another rabbi who didn't say anything, and then a third - who openly criticized the Romans, stating that whatever they accomplished was only for their own selves, or do sins with them.  In short, after the Roman government was informed of the details of this conversation, the first rabbi got a speaking engagement promotion with a rule that he was supposed to be the first to speak among other rabbis, the second rabbi was exiled for keeping his mouth shut from similarly praising them, and the third rabbi - well, he was on Rome's Most Wanted.  This led to this rabbi and his son hiding in a cave for some 12-13 years until it was safe to be out in the world again.

O.K., I will let you know in a minute who this third rabbi is.  But first, in case you were wondering what this post has to do with Gematriot, the Hebrew word for rabbi - Rebbe, the subject of this post, has the same letters as the Hebrew number for 212, the number of this post.  Now, there is another famous Hebrew word that has the same Gematria - the word Zohar, which literally means brightness, but is usually used within the context naming the secrets of the Torah which is the collection of teachings of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, also known as Rashbi (acronym of his name) who is the third rabbi in the above story of the Talmud, who obviously wasn't afraid of stating the Torah truth about these evil Romans.  Indeed, we see a connection here, that the one who wasn't afraid to reveal the Torah truth, even taking a chance of being imprisoned or killed by the ruling enemy nation, was the very rabbi to merit to learn and reveal these Kabbalistic secrets of the Torah, whose Yahrzeit on Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer, is celebrated by observant Jews worldwide as a day of happiness as per this rabbi's last wishes, even by the ones who don't learn the Zohar. In fact, I have heard that the grounds of Rashbi's gravesite is the second most visited place in Israel, being topped only the place of the Temple Mount/Western Wall.  And by the way, it has been pointed out that the about story about Rashbi, who passed away on the 33rd day of the Omer, is on Daf 33 of Tractate Shabbat of the Talmud.  Moreover, there is a rule that whenever it states Rabbi Shimon in the Mishna, without mentioning the father's name or titles, refers to Rashbi, who was one of the main students of Rabbi Akiva, who in turn was among the greatest scholars of all time.

And in the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the letters of the word Rebbe - Reish, Beit, Yud - can begin two phrases that are diametrically opposite to one another.  The one that refers to Tzadikim (righteous people) are the words Rosh Bnei Yisrael (Head of the Children of Israel), this phrase taken from the beginning of Parshat Ki Tisa, where it states Ki Tisa Et Rosh Bnei Yisrael "When you will take a census of the heads of the Jewish people..." which by the way, will be read this coming Shabbat Shekalim as the special Maftir about donating coins to the Sanctuary which was typically done in the month of Adar before Nissan (Note: This year, being that there are two months of Adar, it is for the second Adar that this is read for).  Now, for the phrase that refers to Reshaim (wicked people), it states Reshaim BaChoshech Yedamu "the wicked are stilled in darkness",  which seems to hint to the fact that those who pretend to be righteous as a rabbi, but say or do things against the Torah, will eventually be silenced forevermore, for Hashem doesn't want his Torah to be misrepresented, especially by those who are perceived or supposed to be perceived by others as being a good example or need to be a good example in the position that he is in. (See Likutei Moharan I:111)

Now, the following may seem to be an interruption of thought here, but in a minute, you will see the connection with the theme of this post.  We are presently up to the 21st Sephira combination - Malchut She'B'Tiferert (Kingship within Beauty).  Now, in our present Jewish calendar, this falls out on the 6th of Iyar, which is the Yahrzeit of a dear rabbi-friend of mine, as he was to thousands, especially in the South Florida area - Rabbi Dovid Bryn, ZT'L of blessed memory,  Despite an illness that he had for the latter half of his 40 year life, it was precisely during these years that he worked with outreach, having had a most positive effect on thousands of Jews, many who came closer to Judaism as a result.  The truth is that originally, he had in mind to do only outreach, but circumstances led to him founding a synagogue in an area which needed one, and a good spiritual leader such as himself.  Fortunately, he met his wife after many years of being single due to his illness, being married for the last two and a half years of his life, though leaving this world without physical children.  However, he has left here hundreds, if not thousands, of spiritual children, whose lives will never be the same without this special rabbi.  Indeed, he was meant to live in this world for only so long, and accomplished far more in this short time, despite the weakness of his illness, than most rabbis do in their long, comfortable lifetime - at least in the area of outreach to other Jews.

And as per the Sephira combination of the day of his passing, Rabbi Bryn treated Jews - regardless of religious, financial, or cultural standing - as kings or princesses, aside from the fact that he had the same Hebrew name as King David who especially represents the Sephira of Malchut (Kingship), bearing in mind the statement of Rabbi Shimon (who is Rashbi) at the end of the 14th chapter of the Tractate Shabbat of the Mishna (bearing in mind that the Hebrew name David is the Gematria of 14) that "all Jews are the sons of kings (princes)" stating his opinion on a halachic issue pertaining to the laws of Shabbat.  And even though in this case, the Halacha does not follow Rabbi Shimon, his statement about Jews is certainly not for naught, for indeed, we are all considered sons of the King of kings as His chosen nation.  And so, Rabbi Bryn's mission in life was to relate to Jews in a kingly manner, bringing out the best from them, showing them their good points in encouraging them to come closer to Judaism, or in other words, showing them their Jewish beauty (Tiferet) and presenting to them the beauty of Judaism - indeed, Malchut She'B'Tiferet, Kingship within Beauty.  For more information on the life of this most special rabbi - HaRav Chayim Dovid ben HaRav Nachman - whose love for Jews was unconditional, untainted by money or politics, please check out this following website www.rabbidovidbryn.org

Now, relating the Sephirot combinations to the weeks of the Jewish calendar beginning from Rosh Hashana, the corresponding week to the 21st Sephira of Tiferet She'B'Malchut is approximately the week that includes the date of 7 Adar, the birthday and Yahrzeit of the first rabbi - Moshe Rabbeinu, who is called Moses our Rebbe/Teacher, being that he wasn't the teacher of just his immediate generation, but of all future generations.

And so, it isn't enough to be a rabbi to declare food kosher or not, the typical type of cases that rabbis in the times of Jews living in Europe received, when a chicken which may have had a problem with its body that could possibly disqualify it from being kosher to eat was brought to him for inspection.  Most importantly, a rabbi needs to make sure that his words are all kosher talk, without twisting the words of the Torah.  And as we ask Hashem in our daily morning prayers (in the blessing immediately preceding the Shema) "Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, and attach our hearts to Your Commandments, and unite our hearts to love and fear Your name, so that we won't be ashamed forever. For we have trusted in Your holy, great, awesome Name, may we be glad and rejoice in Your salvation." Amen!

26 Adar I, 5774

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