Volume 65 Number 26 
      Produced: Thu, 13 Jan 22 14:32:17 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Al naharot Bavel 
    [Joel Rich]
First movers? 
    [Joel Rich]
Has Novi God, a secular Russian holiday, a place in Israel?  
    [Michael Mirsky]
Has Reform Judaism failed? 
    [Leah Gordon]
Walder (3)
    [Sammy Finkelman  Sammy Finkelman  Martin Stern]


From: Joel Rich <joelirarich@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 12,2022 at 02:17 AM
Subject: Al naharot Bavel

Mishnah Brurah O"C (3:11) points out that shir hamaalot is said before birchat
hamazon on Shabbat (and non-tachanun days) in place of al naharot bavel. So how
did the replacement become fixed and the original become abandoned?

Joel Rich


From: Joel Rich <joelirarich@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 12,2022 at 02:17 AM
Subject: First movers?

I"ve never really resolved myself how I feel about the concept that the first
people who do something are sinners but if enough of them do it becomes the norm
and acceptable. Thoughts?

Joel Rich


From: Michael Mirsky <mirskym@...>
Date: Mon, Jan 3,2022 at 03:17 PM
Subject: Has Novi God, a secular Russian holiday, a place in Israel? 

Prof. L. Levine wrote (MJ 65#25):

> Haaretz reported:
>> Novy God, the New Year holiday celebrated by immigrants from the former
>> Soviet Union, is casting off its stigma in Israel as second-generation
>> Russian speakers embrace its festive trappings
>> ...
> Now I ask you "Do these celebrations do anything to strengthen the Jewish
> character of the State of Israel?"  I think the answer is clearly, "No." Such
> celebrations IMHO are non-Jewish.
> Keep in mind that it is precisely for these Russians that the government wants
> to change the conversion process so they will be "Jewish." IMHO this is just 
> one more reason why conversion standards should not be relaxed.

I ask of him, there is this non-Jewish festival called "Thanksgiving" that
everyone in the US including many Orthodox Jews  celebrate. Do these
celebrations do anything to strengthen the Jewish character of the United

Both holidays have religious origins but both have morphed into secular
non-religious festivals. Should Jews in America ban Thanksgiving because of
its origin? Poskim in the the US have said no. Same goes for Novi God.

Michael Mirsky
Jerusalem, Israel


From: Leah Gordon <leahgordonmobile@...>
Date: Thu, Dec 30,2021 at 10:17 PM
Subject: Has Reform Judaism failed?

Yitzchok Levine wrote (MJ 65#19):

> The Jewish Reform movement has failed. It is up to the Orthodox to do a
> much better job of bringing back our own.

Before proclaiming the "failure" of Reform Judaism, one needs to define what
"success" would be.  If one defines the success of a religion to be that
people's children join the same shul and attend in the same way and have the
same ritual practices as the parents, for an arbitrary number of generations,
then it may be that Reform Judaism does not meet that standard.

HOWEVER, this is only how we have traditionally defined "success" for a shtetl,
and I don't think Reform Jews define their success thus.

If someone defines spiritual success for their descendents, instead, as:

1. performing tikkun olam (fixing the world, or colloquially, doing good works), or

2. religious self-affiliation (even if some Jews don't accept offspring as
Jewish), or

3. supporting the state of Israel, or

4. seeing that the Reform shul has enough new members, or

5. some other goal that the congregants had for their shul

...then my guess is that the rumors of its death have been, to sort of quote
Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated.

Furthermore, I think this is directly related to something else that Yitzchok
posted recently on (MJ 65#16):

> If these predictions are true,  then this will have huge implications for
> the secular population of Israel. The article refers only to the
> ultra-orthodox, Presumably there will also be many Jews who are observant
> but are not considered ultra-Orthodox.
> Is it possible that Israel will eventually end up a Torah state?

To my surprise, Martin Stern (MJ 65#17) expressed support for this "Torah state"

I suggest that people be extremely cautious when advocating for theocracy at any
time before the coming of the moshiach.  Modern theocracy is only possible with
outrageous violence.  And lest anyone think, "Oh, only the Leah Gordons of this
list (a term which I embrace despite its derisive origin) will have to worry
about flogging or beheading," one should think carefully about whether it's
realistic that only his/her personal definition of "Torah" will be enforced, and
how that might be enforced.

Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Sat, Jan 8,2022 at 07:17 PM
Subject: Walder

There was an article this week in the Jewish Press by a Rabbi Ron Yitzchok
Eisenman that indicates the opposite of trying to rehabilitate Chaim Walder's
image - that in fact there has been quite a bit of distancing from Chaim Walder
in the Haredi community. (Maybe too much, you could speculate, as it might be
motivated by a hope that he (and his works) will be altogether forgotten and
they wouldn't have to say there could be any serious sinners among respected


He indicates that after allegations were printed in *Haaretz*, Rabbis Yehuda
Silman and Sariel Rosenberg of the beis din of Rav Nissim Karelitz issued a
ruling stating it is inappropriate to read his books on the grounds it would be
supporting the type of acts of which he had been accused of doing

And also the Yated Neeman removed his column, his radio show on Kol Chai was
canceled, his stories would no longer appear in the weekly publication of
Hidabrut, "a popular chareidi kiruv organization in Israel", and they were
excised from a religious Zionist childrens magazine, Otiot VYaladim.

In December, Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, after consulting some other Rabbis in Bnei
Brak, convened a beis din (rabbinic court)  headed by himself, (the other two
other judges were Rav Reuvain Maker and Rav Aharon Yarchi) which was part of a
plan to "defrock" Walder..

Walder was summoned to appear and refused (and subsequently committted suicide).

Rabbi Eisenman writes that there are recordings in which Walder says that if he
cannot get out of the charges he will kill himself, and that in those recordings
he did not plead that he is an innocent man.

He says there are twenty-two separate witnesses, covering a span of 25 years,
who laid out what he describes as "a reign of terror directed against boys,
girls, single women and married women" which sounds like it was more than just
initial actions, but it extended also into cover ups involving some sort of
threats to people beyond the initial victims.

I think the question has to be raised whether his books were of any value. If
they were, there is no longer the argument that purchasing them involves helping
a rasha, and there is the principle of learn from everyone. You could have some
people go through his books and see if they can separate out the good from the bad.

I think what could be a good argument for suppressing his books could be that
he, besides everything else, was a liar, and this would not only apply to
anything he said about himself, and it's either not worth it, or impossible, to
separate out, or even to detect what was good in them - and maybe they are
filled through and through with lies and dishonest and faulty arguments.

But if they are, that requires some self examination as to how his writings were
ever treated with any respect.

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Sat, Jan 8,2022 at 08:17 PM
Subject: Walder

It should be noted here that the letter from a victim


linked to by Professor Levine indicates that it is not only Chaim Walder who
committed suicide, but one of his accusers did too, and possibly because
accusations against him were accused of being loshon harah.

She also writes that he got a big funeral - and that the the mayor of Bnei Brak
gave a eulogy, and the chief rabbi of Israel visited the shiva house without
saying anything at all about his misdeeds even, separately, in writing.

And then she objects that an important Rabbi described Walder's crimes merely as
adultery (which, to be fair, in his mind could be the essence of it) and
described the people who attacked Wadter's reputation as being guilty of murder.

And she complains that their news media referred to Walder as A"H or Z"L and
that most of the mainstream Charedi press ignored the whole story for weeks
after it had been published in the secular media (although apparently that
didn't prevent them from purging him)

She says this gives the impression that an image is more important to protect
than a child and statements about this being Lashon Hora, mean your story
shouldn't be shared. (I'll go further than what she said, which is that that is
what they hear) and innocent until proven guilty, means to them you are lying.

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 9,2022 at 01:17 PM
Subject: Walder

In an article on Arutz 7, "The scourge of sexual abuse", Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
analyses the problems that have arisen from the Walder case.


As he writes:
> Sadly, this evil will always exist, but the likelihood of false accusations
> dwindles when there are multiple, unrelated victims.

One has to bear this in mind when balancing the prohibition of lashon hara
against the mitzvah of lo ta'amod al dam rei'echa [acting to save others from
injury]. Perhaps this case highlights the importance of the latter.

> Those who allegedly eulogized the serial abuser as a persecuted tzadik are
> clueless fools, if not worse. (That conclusion is as theologically sound as
> averring that he died for our sins.) Those whose only conclusion from this
> tragic episode is to rail against the sin of lashon hara are disconnected from
> reality and cause detriment to Torah. Surely, lashon hara is a grave sin "so
> is rape and molestation, and so is standing by while lives are being
> endangered.

However there is a tendency to use such tragic cases in order to vilify "the
other", as he writes:

> Nevertheless, we should be accurate and circumspect in judging any group for
> the sins of an individual. Predators exist everywhere, since time immemorial.
> There are Haredi predators, Modern Orthodox, Dati Leumi, Conservative, Reform,
> unaffiliated Jews, atheist and Catholic and Muslim predators. There are
> predators who are priests, rabbis and imams, journalists and politicians,
> doctors and lawyers, teachers and professors, police officers, plumbers and
> piano teachers, producers and directors, actors and actresses, parents and
> step-parents. And at first, and shamefully, each group always rallies around
> its own accused. We do a disservice, and even mislead, when we harp on one
> group as particularly prone to this malevolence. It is a uniquely toxic blend
> of sickness and evil that should be beyond the capability of those who should
> know better and even those who may not know better. And yet it persists.

He then outlines what should be done:

> What might help is parents educating their children properly, developing with
> them a warm and open relationship so children feel comfortable sharing
> anything and parents are acutely sensitive to changes in their childs
> temperament. The authorities must be informed immediately and the victims must
> be encouraged to file charges and testify. The clergy should be supportive of
> the victims and never coddle the accused. The media should report fairly and
> objectively, not assail others while shielding their own degenerates. Society
> should be educated as to the existence of the problem and how it can emerge
> from any individual in any group. We might not end this scourge " but we can
> isolate it and burn this evil from our midst.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 65 Issue 26