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Inbox: Issue 1011

Not only is that statement entirely untrue on a factual level, it is also elitist and highly insensitive, not to mention rather presumptuous
Don’t Whitewash the Nazi Horror [Impressions / Issue 1010]

The article “One Fate,” about the October 7 massacre, in which the author favorably contrasted the Nazi atrocities to the ones that happened on Simchas Torah, left me very disturbed.

I know that proximity bias makes the horror of an event recently and closely felt resonate with more trauma. And as someone with one degree of separation from multiple October 7 victims, hostages, and first responders, who has heard too many eyewitness accounts of the horrors, I understand how hard it is to put the breathtaking devastation into words that do not exist.

All that being said, I must protest that any sentence that begins with the words “Even the Nazis didn’t…” is wrong on the facts, usually catastrophically so. Whether it’s torture, humiliation, religious bigotry, degradation, or proud documentation of their crimes, the Nazis did it, and they did it in unimaginable numbers with malicious forethought. Any sentence that begins with the words, “The Nazis just tried to destroy Jewish bodies, but [insert villain] is trying to take our souls…” is likewise wrong and minimizes both the physical horror of the Holocaust and its intent and impact on the destruction of so many souls.

The Nazis were not more humane, less concerned with destroying Yiddishkeit, or in any way better than the enemies that have risen up against us in every generation. The Nazis were animalistically obsessed with the torture and humiliation of rabbanim, shochtim, and pregnant Jewish women. They burned shuls, with and without entire kehillos inside them. They banned any form of essential communal Jewish life in the early stages of the ever- growing cycle of hatred and genocide.

I’ve recently been reading through Yizkor books while researching for a family video. The Yizkor book of my grandmother’s shtetl in the Lublin district records an eyewitness testimony of my great-grandfather’s murder. He was the shochet of the town and was tortured as such. Nothing about this one murder, out of millions, was humane. Nothing about the murder of the rest of the people in that shtetl, from fire bombing and strafing by the Luftwaffe, to forced labor, mass burnings in the shul, murders and tortures and gas chambers at Majdanek and Belzec, was humane.

I was especially surprised at the way that the horrors of mass shooting and the unimaginable time and resources it took to transport people to be tortured slowly to death in the gas chambers worked as a point in the Nazis’ and Himmler’s favor in the article. The same books and resources that describe the physical repulsion that the Order Police yemach shemam felt when they opted in to mass shootings, also describe the absolute inhumanity and the sickening horror of what the victims endured over days of slow dying. These resources also describe the close contact so many Nazis had in the compartments near the cattle cars where many Jews slowly and audibly died over days of starvation and exposure on their way to their final death destination. Why would a frum magazine allow the Nazis the lie of an aloof and detached, better version of murder? How is this not a grotesque minimization of what the Holocaust was and how it was experienced by millions of victims?

There are ways to speak of the horrors of the Gulag, of the Chmielnicki, Czarist, and Nebi Musa pogroms, and of course of what happened on October 7, without pretending that the Nazis were the good guys, comparatively.

Nechama Friedman



Insensitive Elitism [Impressions / Issue 1010]

I would like to request that the writer of the article “One Fate” try to show more sensitivity in the future.

I was astounded and outraged at his claim: “It’s no secret that the gezeirah this time was cast primarily upon Jews who are not Torah observant.”

Not only is that statement entirely untrue on a factual level, it is also elitist and highly insensitive, not to mention rather presumptuous. It brings me back to early Covid times, when various advertisements in weekly magazines such as this one proclaimed that the pandemic was happening because of women who wear lace-front sheitels.

Even if this statement about October 7 were actually factually accurate (which isn’t the case), the writer seems to be forgetting an important facet of Judaism: “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh.” We are all responsible for one another. If one Jew is in pain, we are all in pain. A gezeirah on a single Jew is a gezeirah on all Jews — not just the “irreligious ones.”

Statements like these cause chillul Hashem, and reinforce the belief of many non-religious Jews that religious Jews look down on them. A black hat does not make you better or more worthy than someone without one.

From the beginning of this war, so many have been boasting proudly about the achdus that has come about from this horrible tragedy. Maybe it would be wise to put that into practice, instead of stubbornly perpetuating an entirely inaccurate and unncessary “us versus them” mindset.

We are all equally affected by this. We are all Jews. And that is all that should matter.

Chayala Nachum

Brooklyn, NY


He Never Stopped Teaching  [The One Hundred Percenter / Issue 1010]

Volumes can be written about the Torah and mussar teachings of our rosh yeshivah, Rav Yechiel Yitzchok Perr ztz”l of Yeshiva Derech Ayson of Far Rockaway. Many times, I was asked why I (a daughter of the good things of the South) chose to live in Far Rockaway, New York. My answer: My husband was married to the yeshivah before he was married to me.

Decades ago, as a young mother of three young children, I was hastily preparing to fly to Memphis for my mother’s funeral. At some point I noticed the Rosh Yeshivah in my living room, and then he was gone. Shortly after that, Rebbetzin Shoshana Perr, his wonderful wife and ezer k’negdo in every way (she should continue to be well), appeared. She said, “The Rosh Yeshivah said that I should come… you need a hug.”

The Rosh Yeshivah never stopped teaching us lessons in humility and humanity.

Dawn Posner Goldstein

Far Rockaway, NY


Only Through His Hands [Flashback to Captivity / Issue 1009]

Your article about the Entebbe rescue was impressive. There was, however, a grave misconception that was included, namely the contrast between the nature of the authorities who handled the Entebbe rescue and those in power today.

Had the Entebbe hostages been freed though the power of mankind, it would be a sensible contrast; in reality, though, then and now, there is no power other than Hashem (and this was exceptionally evident during the Entebbe rescue). The only factor that we should be focusing on therefore, is the contrast between Hashem’s decisions then and now; this is the sole aspect that deserves our attention.



Make the Relationship Real [Inbox / Issue 1009]

I’d like to respond to the letter writer who questioned Rabbi Sklare’s perspective on focusing on Hashem’s love, saying it undermined basic Torah principles.

I understand that it’s very hard to be exposed to an entirely new perspective when you have (seemingly) been comfortable your entire life looking at the world through a more black-and-white lens. I highly recommend Dr. Julie Menanno’s book that explains the four types of attachment. Understanding healthy attachment is the basis for every single relationship, especially our relationship with Hashem. It seems to me that you may have avoidant attachment, and therefore emotions bring about a feeling of shame within you. This is very common. You probably feel much better seeing the world through the mathematical, cause-and-effect perspective.

There are many pesukim that would support this type of “yirah” relationship with Hashem, and that’s completely fine. But the ahavah has to be the foundation for the yirah, otherwise it’s not a real and deep relationship; it’s just a very immature and petty way to view Hashem.

Of course there is sechar v’onesh, but we also believe that Hashem is understanding of our personalities, of our challenges, and of our shortcomings. We believe in sheva yipol tzaddik v’kam. We believe that the word “Yisrael” means to fight. A Jew is someone who keeps trying and fighting, not someone who is perfect.

Do you jump up and down with exhilaration on Simchas Torah? Do you cry during the parts of davening you find meaningful? Do you scream to Hashem when life becomes unbearable? If not, it’s time to explore the ahavah part of your relationship with Hashem. It will be a journey filled with excitement, discomfort, and growth, but it will be worth it!

Additionally, the American way to translate yirah — fear — does not do justice to the word at all. A more accurate definition would encompass the root of “re’eh, to see.” When we “see” the greatness of Hashem we are filled with awe and wonder and respect.

Let’s remember that Avinu comes before Malkeinu. Many people in these times lack meaningful love toward Hashem as a Father, which is why there is such a focus on that aspect.

Every person needs to create his own raw, real, and evolving relationship with Hashem. Avraham Avinu, for example, emulated Hashem’s chesed. Yitzchak emulated Hashem’s gevurah/din, and Yaakov combined both to emulate emes, a beautiful marriage of both of these traits.

Let’s live up to our legacy as Bnei Yaakov and enrich our connection to Hashem with a balance of the many types of middos that He created to help us become close to Him.

One of the three main questions that Hashem will ask each person after 120 is: “Did you enjoy the fruits of My world?” What will your answer be?

Sora (Thav) Heimlich

Cleveland Heights


First a Father, Then a King [Inbox / Issue 1009]

I’d like to respond to last week’s inbox letter regarding burning “kol haTorah kulah” in order to reconceptualize HaKadosh Baruch Hu as a celestial teddy bear.”

I believe you misunderstood Rabbi Sklare’s article.

We address Hashem as both our Father and our King. This dual relationship is one of love and fear.

Conceptually, when the King just so happens to also be your Father, He is first and foremost your Father. It is true that fear of punishment is a facet of our relationship with Hashem. However, bottom line, the underlying spirit of the relationship is one of love. The reason is simple. Hashem is your Father first.

So instead of burning kol haTorah kulah, perhaps review kol haTorah kulah instead. When you do, you’ll have the correct pshat.

Eliezer Shulman, LCSW-C

Ramat Beit Shemesh


If We Only Felt the Love [Inbox / Issue 1009]

In regard to Rabbi Sklare’s column, a letter writer from Ramat Beit Shemesh took issue with Rabbi Sklare’s approach, as if the good rabbi does not believe that Hashem punishes us when we fail to do what’s right.

I think the letter writer is missing the point. Of course there are consequences for wrongdoings. However, don’t make the Ribbono shel Olam into a big bad monster Who can’t wait to catch you, and relishes punishing you. Chas v’shalom! He loves us, He also created us with flaws, and we need to improve. But by dwelling on the negative, you are just pushing people further away from serving Hashem.

After World War II, the Ponevezher Rav was in the airport in Rome waiting for a connecting flight, along with an irreligious Israeli professor. He approached the Rav, who got up and hugged him.

“If you knew how much I sin, you wouldn’t hug me,” the startled professor said.

“If you knew how much Hashem loves you, you wouldn’t sin so much,” the Rav responded.

I believe Rabbi Sklare is absolutely right, and I hope he continues his avodas hakodesh to bring out the best in us.

Shmuel Kramer


The Shmuel/Yiftach Paradox [Perspective / Issue 1008]

In his article entitled “Just Plain Chutzpah,” Rav Ginzberg makes several points about the indispensable role of gedolei Yisrael and their unique and inviolable position to decide klal policy. His criticism of those who opine on matters far beyond their pay grade is compelling and resonant.

However, I came away from the article confused by what seem to be conflicting principles when it comes to the ability of our current gedolim to lead us in a dynamic and responsive way.

On one hand, Rav Ginzberg writes at length how today’s tzaddikim and chachamim are supremely qualified to guide this generation, with their decision making and leadership every bit as wise and reliable as the gedolim of the past. Yiftach b’doro k’Shmuel b’doro.

On the other hand, as he recounts in the story of his question to Rav Shach about the possible expiration of the Chazon Ish’s 50 years of “Torah only,” it seems that later gedolim — with their generationally diminished chochmah u’minyan — view themselves as bound to the status quo and are unwilling to rule differently on some of society’s most pressing issues.

This leads me to wonder: What is, in fact, the role of present-day gedolim if they decline to rule on current challenges and changing circumstances, in favor of subjugating themselves to the rulings of their great predecessors?

This matter seems paradoxical and I would be grateful for Rav Ginzberg’s elaboration and clarification.


Dovid Sukenik

Chicago, IL

Rav Ginzberg responds:

Dear Reb Dovid,

Thank you for your insightful letter in response to my article. While others have reached out to me as well with the same question, yours was the most eloquent of all.

What my understanding is and what I tried to convey to the readers (but obviously fell short in clarifying) is the following:

The gadol hador of each generation is the only one qualified, as well as the only one authorized, to effectuate a change in the accepted mesorah of previous generations. However, the change in society has to be significant enough to warrant making that change.

What I understood from how Rav Shach ztz”l answered me is that the societal change in his day was not great enough to warrant a change in the path that the Chazon Ish ztz”l had laid out the generation prior. And that is why he felt strongly that we (he) could not change the status quo.

However, years later, his replacement at the head of the Torah world, Rav Aharon Leib Steinman ztz”l felt that a change was in order. He supported the formation of the Nachal Chareidi (despite the strong opposition to that view from others who felt the status quo must be maintained).

If the gadol hador of today’s generation feels that the entire army deferment for every yeshivah bochur is not sustainable in today’s world, when the IDF is facing an impossible situation on multiple fronts all at the same time, then he (they) can indeed effectuate that change, despite the mesorah that we have lived by these last 75 years.

The point of my article, however, was that the decision to make a change to this existential issue is the sole purview and responsibility of the gadol hador and not of the general tzibbur, even those with a comprehensive understanding of today’s societal dilemmas.

I hope this provides some clarity to those who have reached out about the article.

May we be zocheh to the coming of Mashiach, who will answer all our most difficult questions upon his arrival. May it happen speedily in our day.


Stunning View [In Totality / Issue 1008]

I’d like to applaud Gitty Edelstein for the article on the solar eclipse. I was unsure of how it would be presented, especially right after the event. The article, which featured reports from different communities and the halachic implications from various sources was a beautiful show of how Am Yisrael approached this rare event. Gitty put together a world-class collaboration and it was refreshing to see all the hard work that must have been put in.

K. Inish

Gem under Wraps [Hidden in Plain Sight / Issue 1008]

Yosef Herz’s article about the Forest Man was superb. His portrayal of the tzaddik, and how Breinin would not let go of this precious soul, was riveting.

I was awestruck by this story. Who would look twice at someone at a hobo, let alone strike up a conversation with him? Yet the Forest Man had a message that resonated deep within the souls of others.

When Rabbi Klugman says, “I am a simple Jew,” his modesty shadows his vibrant spirit.

This was a fascinating story related in a most sensitive way.

Michael Goldstein

Karmiel, Israel


Just Keep Going  [Word on the Street / Issue 1008]

The article featured a line saying, “It’s not the daf, it’s the yomi.” I think you got it wrong, though. If you happen to miss a day, just get back on and pick up with the next day’s daf. Eventually, you’ll find the time to get back what you missed.


Monsey, NY


Roll with the Punches [Money Talks — Double Take / Issue 1008]

After reading this past Double Take, I felt very bad for Benny. I don’t believe it was right for Tzivia or her sisters to have acted with such insensitivity toward their brother, who did nothing wrong. The reality of her parents’ age and circumstances made it very difficult for them to host this year, and Benny lifted a huge weight off their shoulders by offering to host. He and his wife worked happily to make it as pleasant as possible for everyone. Imagine how they must have felt about having received no gratitude from his sisters, and instead actually receiving the cold shoulder.

I fully understand that Tzivia had a hard time with the unexpected change of plans; her disappointment is completely valid and normal. However, in life it’s important to learn how to react to such cases, as they’re out of one’s control. Instead of blaming others, Tzivia should work on accepting her feelings of disappointment and let herself calm down. She should then try to let go of her original vision of how her Pesach was going to look like and just enjoy the way things ended up turning out, as there’s nothing she could have done to change it.

Benny did nothing wrong, and Tzivia should not have blamed him or acted the way she did toward him and his family.

Name Withheld


Torah Is Life [Inbox / Issue 1008]

I am writing in response to “Bucking Trends,” the letter written by the out-of-town, never-attended-seminary woman, who questioned the purpose of seminary and the need to follow trends, even if they aren’t necessary.

I am not here to discuss the pros and cons of seminary. Everyone is entitled to their view and can live their lives according to the values they find important.

But there was one line in her letter that I feel compelled to address. The letter writer asks, “Why are we spending a whole year learning more Chumash and Navi?”

I reread that line twice, not believing that such a letter could be printed in a Torah publication.

We can debate whether the money spent on seminary is worthwhile. We can discuss how a girl can grow best after she graduates high school.

But the foundation of our entire lifestyle, the messages we transmit to our children, the values we hold dear, are rooted in the words of Chumash and Navi. Our “hashkafah classes” are sourced in the Torah hakedoshah, and we cannot and should not make light of the value of learning Chumash and Navi.

Sarah Schenirer’s Bais Yaakov, and the Yavneh system in Lita, were rooted in teaching our girls the beauty of our mesorah through the words of Chumash and Navi. Every ounce of learning is helping our girls build a strong edifice for the “erliche home” you observed.

Rebbetzin David a”h used to exhort, “Your Chumash notes should not be next to your science and math notes.” Or even near “financial literacy” classes you claim are so necessary for girls to establish a Torah home. They should represent to you an entirely different plane and are of infinite value.

You can debate the value of seminary without downplaying the value of teaching Chumash and Navi. Torah is our lifeblood, and every bit learned holds inherent value in guiding our lives.

Chani S.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1011)

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