Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sincere Regret

(Click on letter above for a larger view)

After the pointer to the article in COL yesterday saying not to attend the video presentation (which was held last night in Melbourne) I was just now advised of a new article on COL. This article publishes apologies from Rabbi Orlofsky and the Chofetz Chayim Foundation.

In the spirit of Tisha B'Av I felt it only right to publicise these apologies and not to comment any more about this.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More on Mosdos

The Vaad Ruchni has just issued a statement regarding the establishment of mosdos. No doubt this was precipitated by the letter in the preceding post originally publicised in Emmanuel's email.


Given the (generally commendable) desire to open new Moisdos (institutions e.g. a Shule, Minyan or Chabad House etc.) for the purpose of strengthening and spreading Yiddishkeit, we would like to draw the community’s attention to guidelines stated by the Rebbe in this connection. In the Sichoh of Shabbos Mevorchim Adar 5748-1988, which was edited and corrected by the Rebbe himself, two issues are raised for consideration:-

1. The question of unnecessary duplication i.e. an evaluation of whether it might not be preferable to invest efforts etc in the establishment of a Moisad which is at present completely absent rather than merely duplicating something which already exists.
2. The more important (Halachic) question of Hasogas G’vul (encroaching on someone else’s territory) which is, in many cases forbidden by the Torah.

With regard to the second issue, the Rebbe directs all those who wish to establish a Mosad, to first consult a Rov in order to ascertain that the opening of such a Moisad does not constitute any form of Hasogas G’vul. The Rov should be locally based, in order that he be fully conversant with the circumstances and details of the proposal, and should also be a Posek i.e. one who is regularly consulted and gives rulings in other areas of Halacha. It is also desirable that he give his decision in writing, in order to avoid further complications in the event of another party wishing to later establish a similar Moisad.

We are sure that everyone will appreciate that adherence to the above recommendations is in the best interests, not only of existing Moisdos, but also of any new Moisad, whose success is ultimately dependent on its being based on firm foundations, i.e. the will of Hashem as expressed in His Torah.

With blessings that we merit the immediate and complete Geulah through Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

There is a lot one say about this statement. On the surface it is quite reasonable and just common sense but when one takes into account personalities and egos it is not so clear cut.

Just the issue of Hasogas G’vul, for one, is not simple. I remember a communal shiur by Rabbi Chaim Gutnick where he said that one may open up, for example, a jewelry store next to another jewelry store with the argument that each is aimed at a different clientele and has different stock etc. I am sure that the learned ones will argue with this but to a simple person like me it makes perfect sense. If I have a business, shul or whatever and cannot offer a product that appeals to my customers then that is my problem. If someone with a better or more attractive product opens nearby I need to pick up my game and not cry about it.

Another issue is that many rabbis of established shuls and Chabad Houses are hoping that their children will move into their area and are against other Chabad Houses opening nearby (nepotism anyone?). It is understandable that they would want this but it is not necessarily morally correct.

There are other issues but the bottom line is - are we wanting to open mosdos to benefit the Jewish community and Jews in general or are our Chabad Houses just functioning as businesses. I believe that we, and more importantly our communual leaders, have to step back and think about what Chabad is and what the Rebbe wanted in terms of hafotza. Maybe then we will be more open to doing what will benefit the "people" rather than the "leaders".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Head Shluchim?

Click on letter for a more readable size

Emmanuel has sent out this letter from Rabbi Y Krinsky, Chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, officially appointing Rabbi Yossel Gutnick and Reb Arel Serebryanski as "Head Shluchim" of their various Chabad Houses.

What does this mean?

Both these gentlemen have either established or supported Chabad Houses over the past few years. Reb Yossel has and is being more active with this and, I assume, financially supporting his children in their establishment of various Chabad Houses in Melbourne and beyond. Reb Arel most notably lent his backing (sometimes with the financial support coming from his friends) to various shluchim who did not have the backing of the established Chabad House Rabbis for whatever reason. I don't see that this official recognition from Merkos actually changes anything. Both Reb Arel and Reb Yossel are secure enough to have never needed official backing for any of their ventures. In any case I wish them Mazal Tov on this "appointment" and hatzlocho in continuing their good work.

As Emmanuel points out in his email there is still no overall "Head Shaliach" in Melbourne. Rabbi Groner was always the official Head Shaliach with Rabbi Shimshon Yurkowicz as the de-facto head of the Shluchim "board of Rabbis". I have no idea what that group is called but, from my observations, it is an exclusive, self-appointed board. In essence I think it is a good idea that there is an place where Shluchim can brainstorm issues and work together. My issue is that this group of Rabbis, many of who established their own Chabad Houses with little consultation with anyone else, has decided that only they have to the right to approve of who can be called a Shaliach. I know of good, talented and dedicated people who have been given an extremely difficult time by this group when they wanted to establish a new Chabad House. Fortunately there are people like Reb Arel around who will back new shluchim in their ventures.

So the bottom line appears that everyone will continue and do their own thing. The more established Chabad Rabbis will still oppose the opening of new Chabad Houses (except by family members) and those rejected will have recourse to Reb Arel and Reb Yossel.

The main thing is that the Rebbe's work be continued in a positive way without egos getting in the way. Now that the "Head Shaliach" role is decentralised this should lead to positive outcomes.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Cure for the Internet

The story I heard on the radio this morning seems to be the cure for all of you out there who keep reading these inane blogs! The Linyi Fourth People's Hospital in China has been forced to stop using electric shock therapy to treat young people addicted to internet use according to the ABC news report here. My own internet addiction led me to other stories such as the one on Reuters and The Age and many other news outlets who essentially report the same thing.

Maybe this is something the Va'ad Ruchni can thing about.

But seriously, the Univerity of Tasmania is taking the issue of people spending a lot of time on the internet seriously and has commenced studies into "internet addiction" as reported here. Maybe it is about time we thought of how we can temper our usage. A good sefer or book is always an option.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Not Funny

"On a more serious front, I sincerely hope that when the president goes in for his annual check-up, the doctors at Bethesda will do a brain scan. Surely something must be terribly wrong with a man who seems to be far more concerned with a Jew building a house in Israel than with Muslims building a nuclear bomb in Iran."
--columnist Burt Prelutsky


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Merkos Rabbi at La Trobe

Yankel Rapp with La Trobe Vice Chancellor Prof Paul Johnson

The AJN reported last week about anti Israel (aka anti Semitic) protests by certain student groups at La Trobe University. These leftists hassle Jewish students and have even enterered lecture theaters to spew their hatred. The Jewish students are understandably upset by this and no doubt do not feel safe on campus.

This week the paper that everyone loves to hate, the Australian Jewish News, has a report that Yankel Rapp, as a campus rabbi, has met with the chancellor of La Trobe. From the report it sounds like the Uni administration is taking this issue seriously. Time will tell whether this is just lip service or changes actually occur. In any case it is good to see that some action is being taken.