Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column

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The central theme of Kaddish is magnification and sanctification of G-d's name

The term "Kaddish" is often used to refer specifically to "The Mourner's Kaddish", said as part of the mourning rituals in Judaism in all prayer services that are done three times daily, as well as at funerals and memorials, and for 11 months after the death of a close relative. When mention is made of "saying Kaddish", this unambiguously refers to the rituals of mourning. Mourners say Kaddish to show that despite the loss of their loved one they still praise G-d, who is the one true G-d.

The opening words of this prayer are inspired by Ezekiel 38:23 a vision of G-d becoming great in the eyes of all the nations. The central line of the Kaddish in Jewish tradition is the congregation's response: יְהֵא שְׁמֵהּ רַבָּא מְבָרַךְ לְעָלַם וּלְעָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָּא (Yǝhē šmēh rabbā mǝvārakh lǝʿālam u-lʿalmē ʿālmayyā, "May His great name be blessed forever, and to all eternity"), a public declaration of God's greatness and eternality.

This response is an Aramaic translation of the  Hebrew words "ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד" (Blessed be His name, whose glorious kingdom is forever), which is to be found in the (בריך שום יקריה לעלמי עלמין, Genesis 49:2 and Deuteronomy 6:4), and is similar to the wording of Daniel 2;20.

The Mourners, Complete Kaddish end with a supplication for peace ("Oseh Shalom..."), which is in Hebrew, and is somewhat similar to the  Job 25:2

Along with the two other important prayers  Shema Yisrael and the Amidah, the Kaddish is one of the most important and central elements in the Jewish liturgy. The difference between this prayer and the two other important prayers is that Kaddish cannot be recited alone. Along with reading from the Torah itself, it can only be recited with a minyan of ten Halachicly Jewish Men.

In the Talmud in Tractate Sotah (pages 48a and 49a) The sages say: From the day G-d destroyed the Holy Temple, there is no day without a curse. Each new day the curse is greater than of the day before.

If everything is deteriorating, why does the world continue to exist? By the sanctification that is said in the order, [sidrah] and by the response: Let His great name [y'hay shmay rabah] be blessed, etc., which is recited after the study of  Talmud. As it is stated: “A land of thick darkness, as darkness itself; a land of the shadow of death, without any order” (Job 10:22). Therefore, if there are orders of prayer and study, the land shall appear from amidst the darkness.

In Orthodox Judaism, the Talmud is considered Holy and part of the Oral Torah, which is at the same level of the written Torah, for understanding G-d's ways. It is therefore considered the most important part of the Jewish practice of Jewish men to attend minion every day, in order to bless G-d and declare his greatness.

For thousands of years, Jews would give up their very lives to attend the Beit HaKenesset (the synagogue) in order to be part of the minion, to say the Kaddish and other prayers.

So, now because of the Coronavirus, the Chief Rabbi has closed all the synagogues.  What was permitted were small outdoor minions with everybody more than six feet apart. This worked for a few days, but then the regulations were not be being followed in Bnei Brak, and large minions with people pressed up against either were still going on. Many attended the midnight funeral of Rabbi Tzvi Shenkar in the Tel Aviv suburb, amid worries that reluctance to adhere to social distancing rules in the Haredi community could lead to swiftly spreading and deadly outbreaks of the novel coronavirus..

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a prominent leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community in Bnei Brak, on Sunday called on his followers to perform their prayers individually and not in quorums of ten, as permitted by the Health Ministry. 

Kanievsky cited pikuah nefesh, the Jewish imperative to save lives, as praying in groups could endanger people’s health.

The ruling marked a reversal for Kanievsky, who two weeks ago pushed back on government orders to shutter schools and yeshivas to curb the spread of the virus, insisting that Torah study continue uninterrupted.

Israel allows up to 20 people to attend religious events such as a funeral or wedding, provided they maintain a distance of at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) between each other.

Since we believe the Torah and the Talmud to be true, without some doing minions, so that Kaddish can be said, will the world survive?

Love Yehuda Lave

Maybe we need a fresh start like Benjamin in this story:

A Fresh Start

Benjamin goes to see Rabbi Levy. "Rabbi," he says, "my life is in ruins. My Judith has left me and she's taken our children and our dog with her. She has also taken all my money and my car and as a result, my business is in ruins. Please help me, Rabbi, I don't know what to do."

After a few minutes thinking about the problem, Rabbi Levy replies, "Okay Benjamin, here is what you should do. Go home and open up your Bible to any page. Point randomly anywhere on that page and whatever it says, you must do. Do you understand?"

"Yes Rabbi," replies Benjamin, "I'll try."

So Benjamin goes home, takes his Bible from his bookcase, sits down with it, opens it to a random page, points and reads.

Six months later, Benjamin goes to see Rabbi Levy again. "Rabbi," he says, "since I saw you last, I've become a new man. I've remarried and become very successful in my business. I've even got a new dog and called it Levy after you. So I want to thank you, Rabbi, for the advice you gave me. It changed my life."

"If you don't mind me asking," says Rabbi Levy, "I've got a bad memory. What did I suggest you do that helped you so much?"

"Well Rabbi, you told me six months ago to open my Bible to any page, point, and to do what it says."

"So what did it say?" asks Rabbi Levy.

"Chapter 11," replies Benjamin.

Ideas, that help explain how the world works

Google Scholar Effect: Scientific research depends on citing other research, and the research that gets cited the most is whatever shows up in the top results of Google Scholar searches, regardless of its contribution to the field.

Yom Ha'atzmaut 2020 in Israel will begin in the evening of Tuesday , 28 April and ends in the evening of Wednesday , 29 April

Independence Day (Hebrew: יום העצמאות‎ Yom Ha'atzmaut, lit. "Day of Independence") is the national day of Israel, commemorating the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. The day is marked by official and unofficial ceremonies and observances.

Because Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, which corresponded with the Hebrew date 5 Iyar in that year, Yom Ha'atzmaut was originally celebrated on that date. However, to avoid Sabbath desecration, it may be commemorated one or two days before or after the 5th of Iyar if it falls too close to the Jewish Sabbath. Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day is always scheduled for the day preceding Independence Day.

In the Hebrew calendar, days begin in the evening.[The next occurrence of Yom Haatzmaut will take place on 28–29 April 2020.


Independence Day is founded on the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel by the Jewish leadership headed by future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on 14 May 1948. The mood outside of Ben-Gurion's home just prior to the declaration was joyous:

The Jews of Palestine ... were dancing because they were about to realize what was one of the most remarkable and inspiring achievements in human history: A people which had been exiled from its homeland two thousand years before, which had endured countless pogroms, expulsions, and persecutions, but which had refused to relinquish its identity—which had, on the contrary, substantially strengthened that identity; a people which only a few years before had been the victim of mankind’s largest single act of mass murder, killing a third of the world’s Jews, that people was returning home as sovereign citizens in their own independent state.

Independence was declared eight hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, which was due to finish on 15 May 1948.

Declaration of the State of Israel

The operative paragraph of the Declaration of the Establishment of State of Israel of 14 May 1948[5] expresses the declaration to be by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the basis of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. The operative paragraph concludes with the words of Ben-Gurion, where he thereby declares the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.

The new state was quickly recognized by the United States de facto, the Soviet Union, and many other countries, but not by the surrounding Arab states, which marched with their troops into the area of the former British Mandate.

The Memorial Day, or Yom Hazikaron, ends at sunset, and is immediately followed by the onset of Independence Day, given that in the Hebrew calendar system, days end and begin at sunset.

An official ceremony is held every year on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem on the evening of Independence Day. The ceremony includes a speech by the speaker of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), artistic performances, a Flag of Israel, forming elaborate structures (such as a Menorah, Magen David) and the ceremonial lighting of twelve torches, one for each of the Tribes of Israel. Every year a dozen Israeli citizens, who made a significant social contribution in a selected area, are invited to light the torches. Many cities hold outdoor performances in cities' squares featuring leading Israeli singers and fireworks displays. Streets around the squares are closed to cars, allowing people to sing and dance in the streets.

From 1948 to 1973 the Israel Defense Forces parade was held on this day.

Israeli families traditionally celebrate with picnics and barbecues. Balconies are decorated with Israeli flags, and small flags are attached to car windows. Some leave the flags hoisted until after Yom Yerushalayim. Israeli Television channels air the official events live, and classic cult Israeli movies and skits are shown.

Religious customs Hallel recited at the Day to Praise Israel Independence Day event in Jerusalem, 23 April 2015

In response to widespread public feeling, the Chief Rabbinate in Israel decided during 1950–51 that Independence Day should be given the status of a minor Jewish holiday on which Hallel be recited. Their decision that it be recited (without a blessing) gave rise to a bitter public dispute, with Agudath Israel rejecting the notion of imbuing the day with any religious significance whatsoever, and religious Zionists believing the blessing should be obligatory. The Rabbinate also ruled that they were "unable to sanction instrumental music and dances on this day which occurs during the sephirah period." The recitation of the blessing over Hallel was introduced in 1973 by Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren. The innovation was strongly denounced by his Sephardic counterpart, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef[18] and by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, leader of Modern Orthodox Judaism in America.

The Religious Zionist movement created a liturgy for the holiday which sometimes includes the recitation of some psalms and the reading of the haftarah of Isaiah 10:32–12:6, which is also read on the last day of Pesach in the Diaspora, on the holiday morning. Other changes to the daily prayers include reciting Hallel, saying the expanded Pesukei D'Zimrah of Shabbat (the same practice that is observed almost universally on Hoshanah Rabbah), and/or blowing the Shofar. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik questioned the Halachic imperative in canonizing these changes (it is not clear what his personal practice was regarding the recital of Hallel). In any case, the majority of his students recite Hallel without the blessings. A number of authorities have promoted the inclusion of a version of Al Hanisim (for the miracles...) in the Amidah prayer. In 2015 Koren Publishers Jerusalem published a machzor dedicated to observance of Independence Day, in addition to Jerusalem Day.

Most Haredim make no changes in their daily prayers. People affiliated to the Edah HaChareidis mourn the establishment of Israel on Independence Day, claiming that the establishment of a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah is a sin and heresy. Some even fast on this day and recite prayers for fast days.

The Conservative Movement read the Torah portion of Deuteronomy 7:12–8:18, and include a version of Al Hanisim. The Reform Movement suggests the inclusion of Ya'aleh V'yavo in the Amidah prayer.

In 2015, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat founded Day to Praise, a global initiative which calls on Christians around the world to join in reciting the Hallel (Psalms 113–118), with the Jewish people, on Israel's Independence Day.

Independence Day is designated to be on the 5th day of Iyar (ה' באייר) in the Hebrew calendar, the anniversary of the day on which Israeli independence was proclaimed, when David Ben-Gurion publicly read the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The corresponding Gregorian date was 14 May 1948.

However, nowadays Independence Day is rarely celebrated on the 5th of Iyar itself, and on most years is moved forward or backwards by one or two days. According to the rules of the Jewish calendar explained in Days of week on Hebrew calendar, the 5th of Iyar can fall on a Monday, a Wednesday, a Friday, or a Saturday. To avoid Sabbath desecration, it was decided in 1951 that if the 5th of Iyar falls on a Friday or Saturday, the celebrations would be moved up to the preceding Thursday (3 or 4 of Iyar). Additionally, since 2004, if the 5th of Iyar is on a Monday, the festival is postponed to Tuesday (6 of Iyar). Monday is avoided in order to avoid potential violation of Sabbath laws by preparing for Yom Hazikaron (which one day before Independence Day) on a Shabbat. As a result, Independence Day falls between 3 and 6 of Iyar, and can be on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. It will only actually be on the 5th of Iyar when this date happens to be a Wednesday.[27]

Gregorian dates for Independence Day recent and upcoming:

  • Sunset, 1 May 2017 – nightfall, 2 May 2017[1]
  • Sunset, 18 April 2018 – nightfall, 19 April 2018
  • Sunset, 8 May 2019 – nightfall, 9 May 2019
  • Sunset, 28 April 2020 – nightfall, 29 April 2020
  • Sunset, 14 April 2021 – nightfall, 15 April 2021
  • Sunset, 4 May 2022 – nightfall, 5 May 2022
  • Sunset, 25 April 2023 – nightfall, 26 April 2023
  • Sunset, 13 May 2024 – nightfall, 14 May 2024

Short Memory of 300 Years vs. Long Memory of Over 3,000 years

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Jewish families to limit the celebratory Pesach seders from extended families and friends to minimal, one-household affairs.


But the pandemic has not cut the connection that we, as people, from different backgrounds, feel to one of our calendar’s most important holidays.


Actually, for many of us, the global crisis has deepened the meaning of this holiday.


When we recite from the Haggadah:


הָשַׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל
הָשַׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין


‘This year we are enslaved – next year we will be free,’ this aspiration is very real this year!  


Remembering our common roots and history can help us stay united and strong and overcome these challenging times.


Below is an excerpt from the speech David Ben Gurion made in front of the Peel Commission in 1936 that demonstrates his perception of the nature of Jewish people.


For background, the Peel Commission occurred during the British Mandate over Palestine. After a series of Arab attacks against the Jews, the British attempted to extricate themselves from this nutcracker of Arab violence and Jewish pressure by establishing a commission to study the problem, appointing Lord Peel as its chairman.


Under the shadow of Hitler’s rise in Germany, England floated a trial balloon in the form of a partition plan. The proposed Jewish section would have consisted of tiny, barely visible slivers and could never become a viable national entity.


But while the Jews were displeased by the Peel Commission Report, the Arabs were even more outraged, and violence again spread throughout the country.


Ben Gurion’s speech was given in the midst of the commission, well before its conclusions: 


“300 years ago, there came to the New World a boat, and its name was the Mayflower. The Mayflower’s landing on Plymouth Rock was one of the significant historical events in the history of England and in the history of America.


But I would like to ask any Englishman sitting here on the commission:

  • What day did the Mayflower leave port?
  • What date was it?
  • I’d like to ask the Americans: do they know what date the Mayflower left port in England?
  • How many people were on the boat?
  • Who were their leaders?
  • What kind of food did they eat on the boat? 


“More than 3300 years ago, long before the Mayflower, our people left Egypt, and every Jew in the world, wherever he is, knows what day they left.

  • And he knows what food they ate.
  • And we still eat that food every anniversary.
  • And we know who our leader was.
  • And we sit down and tell the story to our children and grandchildren in order to guarantee that it will never be forgotten.
  • And we say our two slogans: ‘Now we may be enslaved, but next year, we’ll be a free people.’ 


“. . . Now we are behind the Soviet Union and their prison. Now, we’re in Germany where Hitler is destroying us. Now we’re scattered throughout the world, but next year, we’ll be in Jerusalem. There’ll come a day that we’ll come home to Zion, to the Land of Israel. That is the nature of the Jewish people.”


This is how Ben Gurion saw the nature of our nation.


Our Sages stated that one of the reasons for the redemption from Egypt was that we did not change “our tongue” and continued to communicate in Hebrew.


Hebrew is the broadest common denominator of our people:

It is above any affiliation, denomination, political or religious association, Zionism, etc.…


It “speaks” for itself.

A 50,000-year-old piece of string hints at Neanderthal intelligence, scientists say

A tiny fragment adds to growing evidence that humanity's early cousins were smarter than previously thought.

By Tom Metcalfe

What may be the world’s oldest piece of string, made by Neanderthal humans from bark about 50,000 years ago, has been unearthed in a rock shelter in France.

It’s a tiny fragment — just over two-tenths of an inch long — but its discoverers say it shows Neanderthals had extensive knowledge of the trees it was made from, and enough practical ability to make a string that would hold fast under tension.

Analysis of the discovery was first released Thursday in the science journal Scientific Reports.

It’s the first time that a string or a cord attributed to Neanderthals has been found – and it suggests they used other ancient technologies that have since rotted away, from basketry to clothing to fishing gear.

It also suggests that Neanderthals – the archetypal crude cavemen – were smarter than some people give them credit for.

A photograph of the cord fragment taken by digital microscopy. The fragment is just over two-tenths of an inch long and about as thick as five sheets of paper.C2RMF

“This is just another piece of the puzzle that shows they really weren't very different from us,” said palaeoanthropologist Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, who was part of the team that discovered the string.

Hardy spotted the string fragment attached to a small stone tool found at the Abri du Maras rock shelter in southeastern France, which was occupied by Neanderthals – Homo sapiens neanderthalensis – until about 40,000 years ago.

Before this, what’s thought to be the oldest string was found in Israel, and made by early modern humans – Homo sapiens– about 19,000 years ago.

The tool from France was a sharp-edged flint used for cutting, and the string could have tied it to a handle, Hardy said.

Only the fragment of the string was left – but enough to be looked at with an electron microscope: “This is the oldest direct evidence of string that we have,” he said.

Twisted bark fibers have been found before, but they weren’t enough to show conclusively that Neanderthals used string.

Extreme detail of the cord fragment showing the twisted bark fibers, which were examined with a scanning electron microscope.MNHN

But the latest fibers were first twisted counterclockwise into single strands, and three strands were then twisted clockwise to form a string that wouldn’t unravel.

“This is the first time we found a piece with multiple fibers and two layers of twistings that tells us we have string,” Hardy said.

The fibers are thought to come from the inner bark of a conifer tree, which implies the string’s makers had a detailed knowledge of trees. “You can’t just get any old tree and get fiber from it, nor can you take the right kind of tree and get it at any time of year," he said.

The three-ply structure also suggests the Neanderthals who made it had basic numeracy skills.

“They are showing a knowledge of pairs and sets of numbers,” Hardy said. “You have to understand these elements in order to create the structure – without that, you wouldn’t get a cord.”

The discovery of the string fragment hints at a range of objects used by Neanderthals, such as wooden items, animal skins, fabrics and ropes.

The fragment was found attached to a flint tool excavated from a Neanderthal level of the Neanderthal rock shelter at Abri du Maras in south-eastern France.M-H. Moncel

Hardy hopes analysis of other Neanderthal finds will reveal fragments of more perishable technologies, such as basketry and weaving.

Not all scientists are convinced that the latest find shows conclusively that Neanderthals made string, however.

Andrew Sorensen, a Paleolithic archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, notes the fragment is extremely fine – about as thick as five sheets of paper – and may have been too thin to be useful.

Instead, the twisted bark fibers could result from rubbing them together to make tinder for a fire, or from scraping bark off the stone tool, he said.

“I'm a fan of Neanderthals being quite intelligent and being able to do a lot of kinds of things that [early modern humans] do,” he said. “I just don't know if this is a home-run demonstrating this activity.”

Tom Metcalfe

Tom Metcalfe writes about science and space for NBC News.

Oscar Hammerstein II/Quotes

Oscar Hammerstein II/Quotes
If you don't have a dream, how are you going to make a dream come true?
Do you love me because I'm beautiful, or am I am beautiful because you love me?
The dearest things I know are what you are.
If you become a teacher, by your pupils you'll be taught.
The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay. I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café.
The number of people who will not go to a show they do not want to see is unlimited.
Fish got to swim, birds got to fly, I got to love one man till I die— Can't help lovin' dat man of mine.
There is nothin' like a dame!... There is nothin' you can name That is anythin' like a dame!
You've got to be taught to hate and fear.
A bell's not a bell 'til you ring it, A song's not a song 'til you sing it, Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay, Love isn't love 'til you give it away!

“Do I love you because you're beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?” ― Richard Rodgers, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella
“The sweetest sounds I'll ever hear are still inside my head.” ― Richard Rodgers, No Strings
“Whenever I feel afraid I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune.”
“Walk on, walk on With hope in your heart And you’ll never walk alone” ― Richard Rodgers
Richard Rodgers
Richard Charles Rodgers was born on Long Island, New York. He was musical from childhood, playing the piano by ear at an early age, and composing music for amateur productions by the time he was fifteen.
He met his first collaborator, Lorenz Hart, while a freshman in college. Though they didn’t have the success Rodgers would have later with his second collaborator, they did compose memorable melodies, such as “Manhattan,” “Blue Moon,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Isn’t it Romantic?”
Rodgers teamed up with Oscar Hammerstein II, and their careers took off. The two were responsible for such hits as Oklahoma, Carousel, The King and I, The Sound of Music, and South Pacific.

The ‘Who Is A Jew?’ Question By Saul Jay Singer

The singular nature of Israel as a Jewish state vests certain rights in every Jew. Israel’s Declaration of Independence proclaims that Israel is “open to Jews from all countries of their Diaspora,” and Israel’s Law of Return codifies the natural right of every Jew to be a citizen of Israel. Passed unanimously by the Knesset on July 5, 1950 – the date was purposely chosen to coincide with the anniversary of Herzl’s death – the Law of Return states: “Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh [immigrant].”

In a beautiful and memorable declaration, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion said the Law of Return did not confer a new right but, rather, merely codified a fundamental right that Jews already held:

This law does not provide for the state to bestow the right to settle upon the Jew living abroad; it affirms that this right is inherent in him from the very fact of being a Jew; the state does not grant the right of return to the Jews of the diaspora. This right preceded the state; this right build the state; its source is to be found in the historic and never broken connection between the Jewish people and their homeland.

In The Death of The Hired Man, poet Robert Frost famously writes, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” When Ben-Gurion drafted the Law of Return in the shadow of the Holocaust – during which six million Jews were exterminated because they had no Jewish home – he intended Israel to be the place for Jews where “they have to take you in.”

In the early years of the new Jewish state, it seemed unimaginable that anyone but a Jew would claim to be a Jew. When the Knesset proved unable to agree on a definition of the term “Jew” under the Law of Return, it ducked the issue, expecting the question to resolve itself over time. However, through this inaction, an ambiguity in statutory interpretation of the law was created that has raised significant problems that plague the state to this day.

Two years later, the Knesset adopted complementary legislation: The Nationality Law of 1952, which provided that Jews and non-Jews could obtain citizenship in four distinct ways: (1) by automatic citizenship under the Law of Return; (2) through residence within Israel; (3) by birth; or (4) by naturalization. Through this Nationality Law, non-Jews could also become full citizens of the Jewish state.

The first major challenge arising out of the “Who is a Jew?” question was the case of Shmuel Oswald Rufeisen (1922-98), born to a Jewish Polish family near Auschwitz. Rufeisen was active in a religious Zionist youth movement and helped save hundreds of Jews in the town of Mir from deportation to concentration camps. After escaping Nazi imprisonment and hiding in a convent, however, he was baptized.

After WWII, he joined the Carmelite Order – deliberately chosen because it had a chapter in Eretz Yisrael – became a friar and, later, a Catholic priest and took the name “Father Daniel.” Having survived the Holocaust, and disgusted by the continuing anti-Semitism of the Polish government, he immigrated to Israel, where he sought registration as a Jew under the Law of Return.

Pursuant to an internal administration order that it had issued for its own purposes, the Israeli Immigration Authority defined a Jew as “any person who professes to be one and who has not embraced any other religion.” As such, it denied citizenship to Father Daniel. He appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court, citing the Talmud (Sanhedrin 44a – “A Jew, even if he has sinned, is still a Jew”), arguing that, even under the strictest Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law, he was a Jew as the descendant of Jews.

However, in a 4-1 decision in Rufeisen v Minister of the Interior (1962), the court upheld the government’s decision to deny him citizenship under the Law of Return. Writing for the Court, Justice Moshe Silberg beautifully stated:

From the extreme Orthodox to complete freethinkers, there is one thing common to all people who dwell in Zion: we do not sever ourselves from the historic past and we do not deny the heritage of our forefathers… The lowest common denominator is that no one can regard an apostate as belonging to the Jewish people.

Justice Cohen, the lone dissenter, argued that when the Knesset enacted the Law of Return, it meant to extend rights to any person declaring himself to be a Jew. All five justices, however, agreed to define “Jew” according to secular standards.

Anti-Semitic critics, including, conspicuously, the Palestinian Authority and the UN, continue to perpetrate the lie that the Law of Return is the ultimate in undemocratic, institutionalized ethnic discrimination and institutionalizes “offensive demographic engineering.” However, it is beyond dispute that Israel’s citizenship laws for non-Jews are equivalent to those of other liberal democracies, and are wholly consistent with the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, pursuant to which a nation may enact laws that extend preferential immigration treatment to some groups. Thus, for example, Germany, France, Japan, China, and Ireland all provide immigration privileges for their respective diasporas.

Ironically, it may be Father Daniel who best made this point. After the Israeli High Court ruled against him, he stated that “my rights as a future subject of Israel [pursuant to Israel’s non-Jewish naturalization laws] have not been affected in the least by the outcome of the case, and to exploit the occasion for vilifying the State of Israel is unwarranted.”

In fact, Father Daniel immigrated to Israel and acquired Israeli citizenship through naturalization, as per the Nationality Law of 1952, and he lived the rest of his life at the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery in Haifa.

On January 23, 1970, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that children born in Israel to Lt. Commander Benjamin Shalit and his non-Jewish wife could be registered as Jewish in Israel’s Population Registry. Soon after, an amendment to the Law of Return, passed overwhelmingly by the Knesset (the vote was 51-14), formally defined a Jew for the first time: “a person born of a Jewish mother or having converted to Judaism, not being a person affiliated with some other religion.” The Population Registry Law was also amended. It now stated:

The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh under the Nationality Law, as well as the rights of an oleh under any other enactment, are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his/her religion.

The 1970 enactments empowered the Minister of Interior to deny Israeli citizenship to, among others, applicants who pose a threat to the security of Israel; have a past criminal record involving a serious crime and pose a danger to the well-being of Israel; may pose a serious public health risk to Israelis; or actively engaged in any campaign that vociferously attacks the Jewish people and undermines their cause.

There were several explanations advanced for these changes in the law. First, many secularists, egged on by the non-Orthodox rabbinical leadership, argued that just as the infamous Nuremberg Laws did not employ a halachic definition of “Jew,” the Law of Return should not either. In other words, if a person was “Jewish enough” to be executed as a Jew, then he or she is sufficiently Jewish to live in Israel as a Jew.

Second, in response to an anti-Semitic campaign by the Polish government, a large wave of Polish Jews left for Israel, including many assimilated Jews accompanied by non-Jewish family members. Splitting up families by denying entry to people fleeing anti-Semitism who weren’t “Jewish enough” would have created a monumental public relations nightmare.

Third, many secularists argued that a broadened definition was necessary to increase immigration levels to offset the growing demographic threat presented by the growing Arab population.

For obvious reasons, the controversial 1970 amendment particularly upset Orthodox Jews, including worldwide rabbinic leadership. Observant Jews were deeply troubled by the law’s deliberate failure to define conversion as “giyur k’halacha” (halachic conversion). Moreover, they understood that the true purpose of the change in the law was to address an entirely different “growing demographic threat”: the disproportionate growth of the Orthodox Jewish population in Israel, whom Ben-Gurion once predicted would die out within a generation or two after the birth of the state.

In the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh fears the Jews “being fruitful, increasing abundantly, multiplying, growing exceedingly and greatly and filling the land.” In Israel, an overwhelmingly secular leadership feared a demographic takeover by observant Jews. (This concern is even greater today as the Orthodox Jewish birthrate is dwarfing that of secular and non-observant Jews.)

Rav Moshe Feinstein, president of the Agudas Horabonim, famously urged all Jews who care about the continuity and survival of the Jewish people to “scream out” to the Israeli government to unambiguously define a Jew as a person born of a Jewish mother or who converted in accordance with halacha, which mandates the full acceptance by the prospective convert of the entire Torah and all its commandments. In the historic correspondence exhibited here, Rav Feinstein addresses the “disgraceful law of the State of Israel concerning the matter of who is a Jew”:

For a long time now, ultra-Orthodox Jewry in general and the Rabbinical Assembly in particular have been waging a difficult battle against the infamous law of the State of Israel concerning the matter of “who is a Jew.” Our society has invested much effort in this struggle, and its time, its powers and its actions, knowing that this law undermines the essence of the foundations of Judaism. As is known, this status has not changed and this disgraceful law has not been repealed.

Therefore we are calling a large gathering of rabbis in town on Tuesday, the 22nd of Shevat, may it come upon us for good. In this assembly will be heard the unified voices of the rabbanim and leaders from all over the Jewish world against the above-mentioned law that destroys the sanctity of the family in particular and the fundamentals of religion in general and endangers Torah observance and our people.

We hereby invite you to come and participate in the assembly. Your presence at this gathering is very necessary. There is a holy obligation for you to expend the effort necessary to come and participate actively in this gathering.

Please advise us immediately if you will participate, so that we may be able to make the necessary arrangement for you.

Let us hope that, with God’s help, we will be able to nullify the law discussed above.

Rav Feinstein (1895-1986), of course, was one of the greatest adjudicators in the post-Holocaust era and was widely regarded as the gadol hador (greatest rabbinic leader of his generation). Known for his series of responsa sefarim, Igrot Moshe, “Reb Moshe” served as president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, chair of Agudat Yisrael’s Council of Torah Sages in the United States, and rosh yeshiva of Mesivta Tifereth Yerushalayim in New York. On a personal note, he was my cousin and served as the mesader kiddushin at my parents’ wedding.

In response to Rav Feinstein’s call, thousands of Orthodox Jews, among them heads of yeshivot, leaders of the Agudath Israel, Mizrachi, and Lubavitch movements, conducted a mass protest against Israel’s handling of the “Who is a Jew?” issue.

However, Israeli law to date has not been kind to halacha in this regard. Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that anyone who converted to Judaism in a non-Orthodox conversion outside the State of Israel is included in the Law of Return (1989); that a “Messianic Jew” (the ultimate oxymoron) is eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return if he can claim Jewish ancestry (2008), thereby ignoring its own ruling in the Father Daniel case that “the terms Jew and Christian are mutually exclusive”; and granted citizenship to the Catholic male spouse of a Jewish gay man (2011).

Earlier this year, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics announced that, for the first time, non-Jewish olim outnumbered Jewish immigrants. Consequently, any Jew concerned about the Jewish status of someone – particularly a prospective spouse – should not rely on the Israeli government’s determination of the question.


See you tomorrow bli neder WE need Moshiach Now

Happy Independence day -May it be meaningful


Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

PO Box 7335, Rehavia Jerusalem 9107202


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