Showing posts from December, 2014

"I Asked My Rabbi" - Trump Card or Joker?

In a recent case of alleged sexual abuse of students by a senior member of staff in a school, other staff who appear to have known about these abusive practices, but failed to protect the students - have reportedly defended their behavior by claiming they "asked a rabbi".

The Rabbi allegedly told the staff to ignore the students' complaints, and take no protective actions.

In the orthodox system, asking "daas torah", a rabbinical authority, is a central tenet of the structure of religious and communal existence. Orthodox Jews are taught, from the cradle to the grave, that personal and ritual questions and dilemmas are to be referred to a qualified orthodox rabbi. The Mishna in Pirke Avot, "Oseh Lecha Rav" - is generally understood as an obligation on every individual to chose a rabbi, and then follow his teaching and instruction.

The extent of this rabbinical control over their followers & communities depends upon social sub-groupings and lifesty…

Cliffhangers in the Parsha

Last shabbat (Miketz) in shul, as the sefer torah was being carried from the Ark to the bimah, I whispered to my 21 year old son Yonatan - "He's done for! Yosef's been rotting in prison for years - and now the butler has forgotten all about him. He doesn't stand a chance. The eleven brothers will be the 11 tribes of Israel."

Yonatan gave me a quizzical look.

One could make a similar remark this week, at the turn of the parshiot (Miketz/Vayigash).

"Yehuda's has entered a guilty plea to Binyamin stealing the Prime Minister's cup. He's offered that all the brother's will be slaves to the PM - and been rejected. Yehuda is told to forget it, and that Binyamin stays while the brothers go home. Game over. They'll all go back to Canaan. They'll explain to Yaakov how they tried to save Binyamin, and failed. Yakov will die from grief. The Sons of Leah will take over Israel..."

Whoever split up the five books of Moses into weekly parshiot …

INTERPOL & Israel Police 'Crimes Against Children' Chief Speaking in Beit Shemesh

Superintendent Uri Sadeh, Head of Crimes against Children Investigations at the Cyber Crime Division, Israel National Police and formerly Coordinator of INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children Unit in Lyon, France will speak on Motsei Shabbat 27th December in Beit Shemesh about “The Globalization of Pedophilia”.

SP Sadeh will present dramatic examples of how INTERPOL has successfully tracked down international child predators. The Magen fundraiser event is hosted in the home of Orit & Jan Wimpfheimer in Beit Shemesh, and will also feature David Morris, CEO of Magen, who will present for the first time in public Magen's “Project Four” Abuse Perpetrator Investigations & Liaison Unit.
Soups & dessert will be served, generously sponsored by BeSimcha Catering. 
Due to space limitations, preregistration is required. Donations for Magen will be solicited at the event. The organizers note that this event is not suitable for children.

When Should My Pet Dog Be Put-Down/Killed?

Over fifteen years ago, my kids found an abandoned litter of eight delightful puppies near some dustbins.

We took them in, and gradually found homes for seven of them, leaving us with a white, friendly and feisty puppy, we called Sheleg ("snow" in Hebrew). The vet reckoned he's a mix of Labrador and an Israeli breed, Canaani (Canaanite Shepherd).

Sheleg has been the family dog ever since, and has been our companion at home, on hikes and even on an occasional vacation. Sheleg is part of our family. In addition, Sheleg is very much MY dog - I'm responsible for him, take him out for walks every day, spend time with him, etc...

Sheleg is now about 15.5 years old, which by popular accounting (x7) equals 108.5 human-years!

His health has been dicey for the past two or three years, and on a few occasions we've taken him to the vet, all teared up, not expecting him to make a return journey. And we have been happily surprised each time, as Sheleg has fully recovered.

At …
Rabbi Ephraim Kestenbaum, 87, my father-in-law, lights 1st Night candle at Aish Kodesh, Ramat Beit Shemesh, together with the Piaseczna Rebbe, Rabbi Kalman Menachem Shapira. 
Chanuka Sameach!!

David Morris' Speech at Lema'an Achai Dinner

Last week, I was honoured at the Lema'an Achai Annual Dinner, to celebrate 15 years since the foundation of Lema'an Achai.

My speech was pre-recorded, which saved me some butterflies on the night!

There was also a tremendous new movie about Lema'an Achai itself, marking 15 years of service to the community:

If you would like to add your support to Lema'an Achai, you are warmly invited to donate online, by check (details here) or by phone 24/6: 02-99999.33

Favoritism - Vayeshev

"Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than all his children,,,and when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him..." (Gen 37; 3-4).

Whether the core problem here was favoritism by Jacob, or jealousy by Joseph's brothers, or arrogance of Joseph in flaunting his favoured status - or all three - the results were exile, catastrophe and centuries of bitter slavery in Egypt.

Many biblical commentators take Jacob to task for practicing favouritism. Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, for example, writes, regarding Jacob's gift of the multicoloured coat to Joseph:

"That all this was not judicious or wise...that favouritism shown to one child had and has only harmful effects in the history of our forefathers and in the history of any home - these are made abundantly clear by the bitter consequences that ensue in this story. They are weaknesses that can easily recur in anyone's life, but are nonetheless weaknesses." (The Hir…

Herzog + Livni = Jokes


Shoshana's Story: Smart Chesed Success

The story of "Shoshana" is a touching presentation of how Lema'an Achai applies its holistic "smart chesed" solutions-oriented approach to helping families in crisis.  Sarit Brown does a great job in the role of Shoshana's daughter.

New Developments in Meisels Scandal

After a lull of three months in the public sphere, regarding the Elimelech Meisels seminaries scandal, three important publications have taken place, in rapid succession.

1st December, 2014 - Haaretz published an article by Alona Ferber, which uses the reported settlement of a civil suit to provide considerable background on the Meisels seminaries scandal.  The civil suit by parents of girls who had registered at the seminaries, and whose tuition fees had been held by the schools, was apparently settled with payments by the seminaries to the parents.

The article also publishes information about a process of continuing investigation by the two Batei Din involved, the Chicago Beit Din (CBD) and an Israeli Beit Din (IBD).

"According to sources close to developments, last month students gave testimony regarding the allegations of assault against Meisels in a teleconference between rabbis from the rabbinical courts in Israel and the U.S. that have been involved in the case, and represe…