Avodah Mailing List

Volume 04 : Number 296

Sunday, January 16 2000

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 10:07 +0200
From: BACKON@vms.huji.ac.il
Re: Internet ban

My 8 agorot :-) (2 cents): I always use LYNX which is a text-based web
browser. Ergo: you'll never see pictures.


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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 05:37:46 -0600
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: Charedi vs. MO (was Re: How is Rav Soleveitchik ztzl considered modern Orthodox?)

Almost as bad - but not quite. The derogatory labelling is not manifest in
that case.

But I am happy to avoid that division as well. It is also patently
inaccurate, for many of us are RW on some issues and LW on others.

For example, I am what would be called RW on many issues, but LW, so to
speak, on the peace process.

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL 60659
http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila    ygb@aishdas.org

----- Original Message -----
From: Akiva Atwood <atwood@netvision.net.il>
To: <avodah@aishdas.org>
Sent: Sunday, January 16, 2000 1:01 AM
Subject: RE: Charedi vs. MO (was Re: How is Rav Soleveitchik ztzl considered
modern Orthodox?)

> >
> > I would be most grateful if we do not divide Avodah into Charedi and
> > non-Charedi camps.
> But RW/LW is OK? I don't see what the difference is.
> Akiva
> A reality check a day keeps
> the delusions at bay (Gila Atwood)
> ===========================
> Akiva Atwood, POB 27515
> Jerusalem, Israel 91274

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 12:42:57 +0000
From: David Herskovic <crucible@talk21.com>
Internet ban

Although the internet issur is apparently for this or that lav or
gezeyre it is only ostensibly so.

The greatest fear of chareidim is the collapse of their system. This may
be common to many organisations and groupings yet few are so paranoid
about the risks and even fewer feel so vulnerable. This fear is what
stops them from considering any faults to their way of life and makes
them so resistant to change.  And though there are changes to the
chareidi system few are consciously adopted making change slow and
always late. This enables many chareidim to believe and their leaders to
propound that theirs is the way of God as practised since the ovoys.

This resistance to change and preserving or tightening of the system is
of course always ostensibly in the name of God and yidishkayt. And
although, arguably, the aims may coincide most of the time, where the
system and God do clash it is always the system that wins. This is why
ten drug runners are tolerated rather than a single drug rehabilitation
program; ten unhappy marriages to one shiduch based on -informed-
choice; many useless and sometimes brutal melamdim to a properly trained
profession; domestic violence to wife drivers (where lady drivers is an
issue); pedophiles hushed up to professional child counsellors; an
education system that produces so many observant Jews who sing borukh
keyl elyoyn at shabbos lunch but, relative to its numbers, so few
talmidei khakhomim. And so on and so forth.

With this in mind the danger of television and videos is not of this or
that lav or issur or gezeyre; it is of the culture that is disseminated
on television and videos that frightens the leaders. With television
being primarily for entertainment and entertainment being a dirty word
in chareidi circles the system won and television was kept at bay.

Now comes the internet. The internet started out and still is a
revolution of information and communication rather than a medium
primarily for entertainment. This results in more potential subscribers
among chareidim. But the main danger for the chareidim is that the
internet allows the chareidi not merely to absorb alien cultures as the
viewer of television and films does but it allows the chareidi to reach
out to the outside world. Now that is dangerous.

It means that bringing up this bochur or yungerman in a sealed system
convincing him that the epicentre of the world is at his rebe's tish or
at the mashgiekh's shmus, dressing him up and not teaching him social
manners so that leaving the fold makes it difficult for him to adapt to
different cultures as well as a sitting duck for the mishmeres hatsnius,
all this comes to nil if sitting at his computer he can liaise with all
the wicked people in the dangerous dark woods anonymously with zero
chance of being caught. If this trend is allowed it marks the gravest
danger the chareidi system has ever faced.

I am not excusing the issur, but looking at it from their point of view
the fears are entirely justified and it warrants not only an issur but a
lot worse. It is no use arguing about freedom of choice/will or that it
is no different to riding the train and so on. Besides the comparisons
being weak and the entire chareidi system based on denying choice and
free will to its communities the arguments entirely miss the point. It
is not the issurim that are at issue but the openness, the anonymity and
the interaction that matters. If it was only pornography but without the
chat lines, newsgroups, mailing lists and, yes, even lists like Avodah
the fuss would not have been as great. It is the hearing and talking to
the outside world in a social context that sends chills down their

Dovid Herskovic

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 12:14:48 +0000
From: David Herskovic <crucible@talk21.com>
use of chareidi on Avodah

RYGB wrote:
> At best it is
> divisive, at worst derisive,

True but... It is mostly derisive when used by non-chareidim but
divisive when used by chareidim themselves. It is chareidim who almost
always use the term to describe themselves so you can't blame others for
using it.

retsoynoy shel odom zehu kvoydoy.

Dovid Herskovic

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 08:36:33 -0500
From: Eric Simon <erics@radix.net>
Tefillin Rashi vs Rabbeinu Tam

On Thu, Jan 13, 2000 at 08:29:51PM -0600, Saul Weinreb wrote:
: I just wanted to start a new thread on the inyan of the machlokes
: Rashi/Rabbeinu Tam regarding the seder haparshiyos of tefillin.

"Coincidentally" enough, while studying Bo, I came across a short summary
in Elie Munk's "Call to Torah".

He first notes the four passages: 1. "Kadosh" (Shmos 13:1-10); 2. "V'Haya"
(Shmos 13:11-16); 3. Sh'ma (D'varim 6:4-9); 4. "V'Haya" (Dvarim 11:13-21)

He writes (paraphrazing): "The sequence of the four passages follows the
order recorded in the Torah, and according to Rashi.  But R. Tam (Tosafos
to Menachos 84b) stipulates that the passages are arranged so that the two
sections beginning with V'Haya are placed next to each other.

"According to the Zohar (to Sidrah Pinchas) the order described by R. Tam
will prevail in the Messianic era.  Indeed, at that time evil will be
destroyed, and the words "hisham'ru lachem" (watch yourselves), which
appear in the 4th section and refer to evil and its consequences, will no
longer exist.  Hence it would not be fitting to conclude the teffilin
passages with that portion.  Rather the portion of Sh'ma ... will be more
appropriate (see Aruch HaShulchan 34)."

Caveat: I am nowhere near knowlegable enough to form even a 1/10th opinion
on this, I'm just passing along what I read, in the hope that the original
questioner finds it useful.

-- Eric

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 14:17:07 GMT
From: "Sholem Berger" <sholemberger@hotmail.com>
Eliezer Ben Yehuda: a one-man movement?

>2) Eliezer Ben Yehduda pretty much was a one-man movement to restore 
> >hebrew as a
>spoken language.

I don't think this is true. Remember that Hebraists in interwar Europe were 
a sizeable subgroup within the Zionists. Some of them made aliyah, providing 
the foundation for Ben-Yehudah to build on. (Some historians say, however, 
that his contribution was exaggerated: I remember one article with the quote 
"If Ben-Yehudah didn't exist the Zionists would have had to invent him.")

Sorry, no references at hand -- I could provide them on request.

Sholem Berger

Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 09:33:28 EST
From: Pawshas@aol.com
Re: Talking in Shul - another issue

Regarding the issue of talking in shul - I wonder whether there isn't a 
contributing factor which has little to do with the shul, and more to do with 
the people involved.

As someone who spent 24 years in various shuls on Long Island (and New Jersey 
for a year) I have seen plenty of talking in Shul. For the last 2 1/2 years 
in Rhode Island, though, I have seen comparatively little.

At the same time, I have also noticed that people outside of the New York 
area have less of a tendency to interrupt others in mid-sentence, and even 
less of a tendency toward slanderous gossip. As a matter of fact, people 
speak less, in general.

I don't mean, Chas veShalom, to say that all New Yorkers are rude or mean. 
That's a tired, and fairly incorrect, cliche. All I mean is that there seems 
to be less of an emphasis on reining in one's speech in "the city that never 
sleeps," as a general rule. This also seems to fit the testimony of other 
posters regarding some "beyond New York" shuls, such as Beth Jacob in Atlanta.

If this is correct, then it might pay to focus more on the self-control 
issues than on the shul-specific issues. Less of a focus on "This is HaShem's 
House, how could I talk" and more on "Do I pause to think before I speak, in 

I hope I am not insulting anyone; it is an observation I have been building 
over time, and it seems correct lan"d.

Mordechai Torczyner
Cong. Ohave Shalom, YI of Pawtucket, RI http://members.tripod.com/~ohave
HaMakor! http://www.aishdas.org/hamakor Mareh Mekomos Reference Library
WEBSHAS! http://www.aishdas.org/webshas Indexing the Talmud, Daf by Daf

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 10:13:03 EST
From: DFinchPC@aol.com
Re: Charedi vs. MO (was Re: How is Rav Soleveitchik ztzl consideredmodern Or...

In a message dated 1/16/00 2:05:36 AM US Central Standard Time, 
atwood@netvision.net.il writes:

<< I assume you mean derech eretz in the Hirschian sense?
 If so, I assume you think most Israeli charedim don't work, correct? >>

No, I mean it in the Melting-Pot sense. How else do you think R'Harry Maryles 
learned to speak Black Ghettoese?

David Finch

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 09:07:54 -0500
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
RE: MO vs RW

Richard Walpoe gives 4 criteria

1) Pro secular education and worldy culture
2) Liberal wrt mixing of genders at social events 
3) Pro-Zionism, Pro-Medinah   
4) Liberal wrt dialogue with Non-Orthodox institutions - at least wrt 
non-theological matters.

But eg
--everybody needs a secular education to dealwith Shabbos issues,
Parnasah etc
--everybody supports the state in some form (eg they wouldn't want it
destroyed with all its pople)

--everybody eg supports democracy to the extent tha it gives us freedom

It seems that all that is left on this list is mix seating (at affairs)

Perhaps Richard wanted to have sharper criteria. Personally I never use
distinctions because the variety is so great
Juno now offers FREE Internet Access!
Try it today - there's no risk!  For your FREE software, visit:

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 09:25:19 -0500
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
RE: Matbayah Tefilah (Ans. to JRosenbaum)

1) The Rambam makes it clear (Shma Chap 1 middle) 
that anybody changing the Matbayah Bracoth is not
yotzay (that applies to everything)

2) The issue with tefillah is whether they are 
Chayaav Doraiitha. Since all doubts on Biblical
status are judged stringently that means they ARE
liable to pray and by (1) above they must pray in
the nusach of the prayer.

3)RE: Janets other tefiloth--of course, far be it
from me to stop anyone from praying...but too often
I have seen people DEFINE their obligations broadly
and then not even have time to do the minimal obligation

So it should be made clear that women need 3 five minute
periods a day to say Tefilah--and that is it (five 
minute periods are not hard to find)

(In passing, I always ONLY say the BLESSING for sefirah
and nothing else.(except the count)..if I start in with 
all the other paragraphs I may delay saying it or not
say it).

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA Math Towson
Juno now offers FREE Internet Access!
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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 09:32:32 -0500
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
RE: Women's closeness to God(Ans to SBoulbail)

Of course, traditionally (and halichically) the way
women come close to God is thru CHESED. Let me go
thur the issues Rebetzin Boulbail raises

---women give chesed to their children by caring
for them 30 hours a day (The halachah simply didn't
OBLIGATE anyone to reproduce if they weren't in the
market place--hence no liability for pru urvu...but
the chesed done is doraiitha)

---women give chesed to their husbands by taking care
of household affairs and (emotionally) supporting their
long hours of torah research(as I wrote in Torah forum 
a while back you need not say that women are 'flippant'
as is commonly believed...rather...they do not have
available LONG HOURS of connnected time for research)

----women give chesed to their children by checkin up
on their chinuch and helping out. For example I am 
a member for life of AMIT women....they are officially
recognized by the government of Israel as being the 
mainstay of a religious network of schools

In summary to Respond to Shoshana....the issue here is 
not HOW women get close to God but rather HOW it is

Hope this answers the question

Russell Hendel; Math Towson University
Juno now offers FREE Internet Access!
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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 10:04:35 -0500
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
Article on TOANOTH (Summary)

AMIT VOlume 72 Number 1 winter 2000
Nva Bak, Yedida Goldman Shira Hecht
I attach a brief summary in bulletted

1) All marriage cases in Israel are done
by Rabbinical courts

2) Therefore people need RCAs (Rabbinical
Court advocates) to help present their

3) Therefore these RCAs must be cognizant
of halahcah

4) Rabbi Riskin observed that 90% of cases
are divorce (and of course 50% of litigants
are women) Since topics are sensitive why
not allow women RCAs

5) Israeli law was amended to allow this

NOTE: The above shows that TOANOT was a 
reaction to the specific structure of the
Israeli system

6) To help female RCAs the TOANOT program
was developed--its sole purpose is to
help people before courts.

7) The Rabbinate was relunctant to have
more Toanot and this went to the Supreme
court.Testimony there emphasized that
their sole purpose was to help women before

8) Alot of personal testimonies are presented
in the article. Here are a few captions

9) Levmore (a Toenet) represented both husbands
and wives before the Beit din. Levmore stressed that
before proceeding with a divorce toanot always attempt
to help reestablish shalom bayit She has been 
repeatedly thanked for her warm care

10) A Toenet tells of a case in which the male plaintiff
refused to relate to her or even look at her during the
trial. He carefully held his hat in front of his face
thoughout and carefully avoided eye contact. AFter the
trial he approached the advocate and asked her "Are you
observant of the laws of the orah and the Commandments"
The advocate answered "I try to be". They struck up a 
conversation and developed a dialogue Much of the 
husbands animosity was soon dispelled and the advocate
was able to persuade him to agree to favorable divorce

Hope this casts a more positive light on this sensitive

Russell Hendel; Math Towson University
Moderator Rashi Is Simple
Juno now offers FREE Internet Access!
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Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 19:19:01 +0200
From: Eli Turkel <turkel@post.tau.ac.il>
Hebrew Calendar

In Israel it is legal to use the Hebrew Calendar in writing checks
and other legal documents. This in fact done by many people but
creates problems for bank clerks who have know idea what they mean.

It was pointed out in our shul (concerning hachodesh lecham ...)
that if a Sanhedrin existed today it would be very difficult to use
the Hebrew calendar in many cases.

For example if one were to write a postdated check for 3 Nissan it
would be unclear when it could be cashed as it would depend on when
the Sanhedrin declared rosh chodesh. It would be even worse if an
extra adar were intercalculated (as happens this year).
This would make life miserable for many businesses and individuals
who make future commitments but don't know when their loans are due etc.

Eli Turkel

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 11:18:45 -0500 (EST)
From: jjbaker@panix.com
Intrinsic value: kashrus vs. orlah

To Micha & Mrs. Atwood:

Why are you all running in circles over this, trying to apply odd principles
of eino metzuveh, and spiritual levels, when it is a painfully obvious (to
me, anyway) application of basic mitzvot?

Given:  Avraham Avinu kept kol hatorah kullah through his tremendous
self-awareness of how each mitzvah fed each of the 248 limbs and 365
organs of his body, per R' Chaim Vilozhiner and the Kedushas Levi.

Given: milah is a mitzva, but not commanded until late in his life.

What is milah?  A self-inflicted wound.  Once the infant is mal, he
is in the category of a choleh, for whom one can heat water on Shabbat,

Now, we are warned against self-inflicted wounding: venishmartem m'od
et nafshoteichiem.

So, until there was a tzivui to override intentional wounding, the
Torah principle against self-infliction of wounds prevented Avraham
from doing milah.  It was so strong (a biological imperative?) that 
the medrash tells us he couldn't do the act himself, and God had
to send a scorpion to do it to him.

And you all are surprised that Avraham didn't mal himself before God
told him to?

As for kashrus, once God permitted animals to be killed for food, after
Noach, what does it matter whether Avraham kills cows or pigs?  There's
no overriding principle that would mitigate against killing cows for
food, so with the instinctive need for kosher food, he kept kosher.

    Jonathan Baker      |  Mabye Shevat should be a month of Sundays, i.e.  
    jjbaker@panix.com   |  rest. As in, uvayom hashvi'i Shevat vayinafash.      
   New web page, featuring Rambam Resources: <http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker> 

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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 10:33:19 -0600
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Conservatives and Rav Berkovits

On Sat, Jan 15, 2000 at 11:33:41PM -0500, j e rosenbaum wrote:
: Whether or not something is true has no bearing on it being lashon hara; 
: here we have a purpose as this is pertinent information, though perhaps
: this entire discussion is l"h.  

BTW, your first sentence is false. If it's not true, it's not lashon hara,
it's motzi shem ra. Which was exactly the point you were trying to make:
lashon hara is false, even though it's true.

: I am, however, uncomfortable with this discussion being on the web archive.
: Micha, can this part of the thread be edited out?

It could. But not from the MajorDomo archive -- I don't own the Majordomo
server (we share it with other customers). The question should really be
asked before typing. If you don't want it on record, maybe you shouldn't be
saying it in public.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 16-Jan-00: Cohen, Beshalach
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H 
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 100a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-II 13

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Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 22:05:22 EST
From: ShShbsNY@aol.com
Pentacostal Lay Pastor Becomes Orthodox Jew

Pentacostal Lay Pastor Becomes Orthodox Jew
NOW A FRUM [ORTHODOX] JEW by Paul Deckelman, November 1999
Pg 76-81, Country Yossi Magazine, 1310 48th Street, Brooklyn NY 11219

Sports fans may remember January 30, 1983, for the Super 
Bowl battle between the Washington Redskins and the Miami
Dolphins for the championship of pro football, but Akiva
Smith's most vivid memory is of a traffic jam in front of
a Washington church. That traffic jam did not exactly start
Smith -- a born and then twice born-again Christian -- 
down the road to his ultimate destination, the life of a
frum [Orthodox] Jew. He was already travelling along that
highway but just did not know it at the time. You could
say, however, that all of those cars sitting there, going
nowhere, put him into what would become the express lane
to Yiddishkeit [Orthodox Judaism].

Sheldon Christopher Smith (this, he jokes is his "slave
name," inspired by his parents' fondness for comedian
Shelly Berman; the Akiva part came much, much later)
was, at the time, a lay minister and youth leader for
the local "Assemblies of G-d" Church. Born in Fort
Lauderdale, Florida, Smith had been a regular worshipper
and participant in church activities from his youth,
especially after his parents divorced and his devout
mother granted custody of the boy to his non-religious
father on one condition -- that he see to it that the
child receive religious instruction and went to church
every Sunday. 

Young [Sheldon Christopher] Smith took to it enthusiastically,
from the day and night services which occupied most of
Sunday to the Wednesday night choir practice and Thursday
night Bible study sessions. "The church became my home
away from home," he says.

From the relatively liberal and mainstream Methodist
Church of his youth, Smith, after dropping out of college
and joining the army, drifted first to the Southern
Baptists, with their insistence that he could not be
"saved" until he underwent a full immersion -- dunking
under water, rather than just the "sprinkling" of his
original Methodist Baptism. Later he moved to the
"Assemblies of G-d", a denomination [of Christianity]
known in Protestant circles as the Pentacostal church,
or one which places great emphasis on its members being
"moved" by a "holy spirit," with a feeling of personal

By now stationed in Washington, D.C., Smith threw himself
into church activities during what free time his army
duties allowed him. Because of his previous background
of fairly intense study of our Bible [Tanach] as well as
the Christian "New Testament," both during his Methodist
youth and later as a Southern Baptist, Smith, in his 
words, "was singled out and told that I had a calling," 
and was given formal training in church doctrines and 
how to explain it to the people.

Always having had the gift of being able to establish
a rapport with kids, he taught Sunday School and became
a leader in the AOG's Boy Scout-like "Royal Rangers"
organization, and he was trained as a lay minister,
assisting the ordained pastor of the congregation.

But ironically, his added responsibilities in the church
led Smith into a period of soul-searching and questioning,
which ultimately led him to reach the conclusion that
the entire Christian religion was "just a house of cards"
 -- pull out one card from the bottom and the whole
thing collapses under its own weight.

Some of the questions and contradictions Smith wrestled
with dated back as far as his childhood. Take the simplistic
"New Testament" story of the supposedly triumphant entrance
of J---- into Jerusalem, with everyone said to have been
waving palm branches in his honor. This is quickly followed
by his arrest, trial, execution and alleged resurrection.
Indeed, the Christian holiday of Palm Sunday occurs just
five days before Good Friday, which commemorates the
execution of J----, followed three days later by Easter
Sunday, the day of the supposed resurrection.

But something doesn't add up here. By the time Smith was
just 10 or 11 years old, he had already read enough of
what the Christians erroneously term the "Old Testament"
 -- i.e., the Tanach -- to know that the Jewish Yom Tov
[holiday] of Sukkos, during which the lulav, or palm
branch, is carried and waved about in a procession during
the morning shacharis [prayer] services on all days except
Shabbos [the Sabbath], occurs every fall. The boy [Smith]
correctly deduced that this must have been whay the people
of Jerusalem were carrying and waving palms --  not because
J---- was entering the city, as the "New Testament" would
have us believe.

It's six months from Sukkos to Pesach [Passover], when
the rest of the story takes place, not just a week, as
the "New Testament" tale implies. (Christian tradition
says that J----'s "last supper" was a Passover seder,
and Passover and Easter occur at the same time of the
year.) Smith asks, "What happened to this six months of 
[J----'s] life?" If the Romans, fearing this man who they 
considered to be, chas veshalom, "the king of Jews," had
him arrested him upon his supposedly triumphant entry
into Jerusalem but didn't kill him until Passover time,
then "he was in jail for six months of his life and his
following dissapeared," Smith says, in answer to his own
question. "Here's the doctrine of the church, on faith,
but if you can't believe what's written [in the 'New
Testament'], you have to say, 'Hey, what else have they
lied to me about?'"

Whenever the young Smith would give some serious thought
to these contradictions and inconsistencies, and would
question his minister, he says the clergyman would say,
"Oh don't worry about it" and then would try to lay a
guilt trip on the lad for even daring to raise such a
question, by telling him, "You're not strong enough in
your faith."

"They would sweep it under the rug and would not want to
deal with those issues," Smith says, "and I would let it go."

Besides being perplexed by the inability of his supposed
spiritual leaders to explain the very real contradictions
in Christianity with anything other than this sort of
"emperor's new clothes" kind of logic, Smith as an adult
was increasingly troubled by the hypocrisy he was seeing
all around him on the part of so many of is fellow church
members. "So many Christians think, 'I'll go to church on
Sunday and talk to G-d, and on Monday, I'll be back to
normal, and He will forgive me and I'll start all over
again.' But come Monday, they haven't changed their
behavior and there is no forgiveness," Smith says.

When he was leading a troop of AOG's Royal Rangers,
Smith would go to the boys' homes to pick them up for
the weekly Wednesday night meetings, and he often saw
battered women and other kinds of family abuse, and he 
was dismayed. "I just couldn't buy that a person could
profess to be a good [Christian] and meanwhile, behind
everybody's back, be a wife-beater, and alcoholic, be 
a cheater in the office, don't pay your taxes, etc."

He also noted the vast gulf between the Christian doctrine
of tithing to support the church and what actually went
on. "Jews may have the stereotype of being penny-pinchers,
be we give good tzedakah [charity] compared to the Christians.
I've heard horror stories of people who make six-figure
incomes and then just give a couple of hundred dollas in
charity each year. It just didn't settle -- when you put
it on the scales, the actions did not match the words."

Smith says that when he was "just a parishioner, just a
guy going to church, I didn't have to think about those
heavy subjects. But once you started to teach them, you
said, 'Wait a second. I've got to put up or shut up.' Then 
I'd look around me and say, "Well, gee, nobody else is.'"

Which leads to Super Bowl Sunday, 1983. Smith was assisting
the minister of his Washington church, as he did at services
each Sunday morning -- but this day, something was definitely
different. At the point in the service where the minister
would normally deliver a sermon, Smith says, "The minister
stands up and says that there's not going to be a sermon
today because he wants to get home to watch the Super Bowl.
As a matter of fact, he says we're not even going to have
the Processional (the hymn after the sermon), and he starts
marching down the aisle of the church to leave. What was
normally an hour-and-10-minute service turned out to be
about 20 minutes that day."

Smith hurried to the back of the church to shake the 
parishioner's hands as they were leaving ad to "try to
mollify" anybody wheo was miffed at the was the service
had been arbitrarily been shortened. Within a few minutes,
he heard horns honking and all kinds of commotion outside
the church. Looking outside he realized that with the church 
having unexpectedly ended so early, the police officer who
would normally direct traffic there when services [normally]
ended hadn't gotten to his post yet, and there was a massive
traffic jam outside.

And sitting right in the middle of the traffic jam, his car 
window rolled down, cursing and bellowing at the top of his 
lungs at the other drivers, many of them parishioners from
that church, was none other than the minister -- loudly
demanding that everybody get out of his way so he could drive 
home and not miss the opening kick-off of the football game!

Smith's jaw dropped in amazement -- and he decided right then
and there that he had enough of what he called the "rampant"
hypocrisy he had seen around him. "That was it for me," he
says. "How was I going to try to bring peace to the community
(as a lay pastor) when the leader was causing this ruckus?"
It was, he said, "the straw that broke the camel's back."

Disheartened, Smith, who was allowed by the army to live
off-base, walked to the apartment he shared with a roommate
and poured out his sense of dismay, frustration, betrayal
and dissapointment with Christianity to his friend. The
other man, as it turned out, happened to be a Reform Jew,
who suggested that Smith try attending his nearby temple.

Smith went a few times and found it [Reform Judaism] 
"interesting, but there was no meat to it" -- at least not 
the way Judaism had been presented there. The Rabbi 
told him, though, that there were "other avenues" he 
could pursue if he were really interested in Judaism, 
and he decided to try travelling them.

Smith knew a rabbi who was the head chaplain at the Walter
Reade Army Medical Facility, where he happened to be stationed
in Washington. He spoke to him about his dilemma. The chaplain
recommended that he read "To Be A Jew," Rabbi Haym HaLevi 
Donin's concise guide to understanding Judaism. Smith read the 
book and was highly impressed and determined to learn more.

There was a Conservative synagogue not far from where Smith
was stationed, and he went by and found it more to his liking
than the Reform temple had been. Not only was there more "meat
and potatoes" to the Judaism which he found there, but the
rabbi, he says, was "more savvy" in dealing with baalei teshuva
and potential converts. Smith began studying Hebrew with the
rabbi and went to services there for about two years. At the
end of that time, he asked the rabbi about a conversion -- and
was surprised, though impressed, at the man's answer.

"I would be more than happy to put a beis din together and
convert you, but you don't want to convert with me," the rabbi 
told Smith. "I'm a Conservative rabbi, and many people are not 
going to accept your conversion. You've really got to have an 
Orthodox conversion, because I know that you mean it and you
really want to do this right."

"I give the guy a lot of credit," Smith says. "I still would
have learned, and I still would have pursued my life and I 
still would have come to the point where I am." But because
the rabbi was honest enough to tell him that he wouldn't be
doing himself any good by taking halfway measures, "it gave
me the drive to want to do it right."

Even so, Smith still did attend a four-month-long Conservative
conversion course sponsored by the Washington Board of Rabbis,
but the result only reinforced what the synagogue rabbi had
said and what Smith knew in his heart to be true. 

He was dismayed when, at the end of the course, he looked at 
the test he was to take on the materiel and felt exactly nothing.
"This test didn't tell me anything, didn't say that I learned
anything. I would just be regurgitating the stuff I learned
in the class. None of the questions asked me to think about
the tenets of Judaism." It seemed to be the cut-and-dried
stuff intended for someone who just wanted to go through the
motions of a pro-forma conversion in order to get married to
a Jewish partner without anybody getting guilt feelings about
it being an intermarriage. He handed the test back, untouched,
to the rabbi running the course and walked out.

As it happened, the army suggested that he attend night 
computer training courses at the nearby University of 
Maryland, just a short bus ride away from where he was 
living. While at the college, he sought out the campus 
Hillel House and made the acquaintance of the young 
Lubavich rabbi there, and he began learning with him. 
"I found someone," he says, "who could really teach me 
some Torah."

It was at this time that Smith experienced some of the 
most intense feelings of his life, regarding his newly 
chosen path. There was the time, for instance, when he 
watched as the Chabad rabbi carefully unrolled a Torah 
scroll and proceeded to make the necessary minor repairs 
to keep the scroll kosher rather than letting it remain 
posul [unusable]. "He took the time to explain exactly 
what he was doing and why. It was the first time that 
I had really felt connected, really felt a part of the 
Jewish people," even though Smith had not yet formally 

After that exhilarating experience, the young man had a 
profoundly distressing and dissapointing occurence that
very weekend, when he went to a service at an Orthodox
minyan and found that there were only nine Jewish men 
there, plus himself, and one of them had to say kaddish. 
Smith was sad that he could not help out, but he knew that
as he was not yat an actual convert and could not, in good
conscience, pretend otherwise, he could not be counted.
The "minyan" dispersed without kaddish having been said.

After Smith had been studying with the Chabad rabbi, their
talk finally turned to conversion. The Hillel House rebbe
felt that he was too young and inexperienced as a rabbi
to do a proper conversion, so he offered to line up Smith
with someone in Baltimore with whom he could study and
undergo an Orthodox conversion. But for Smith, still
living in Washington and not having a car, it would be
a difficult shlep [journey] to get to Baltimore. The rabbi
suggested that he [Smith] move, and Smith decided to do
so -- but not to Baltimore.

"If I was going to move, I figured I might as well go 
all the way," Smith says, so after his separation from 
the army -- when he felt it was time to leave anyway, 
since he was now getting flak for wanting to wear a 
kippa [head covering] while on duty -- Smith moved to 
New Jersey, taking up residence in Highland Park and 
attending evening shiurim [Torah lessons] at the Lubavich 
Yeshiva in Morristown. He was also learning [Torah] one 
evening a week at his local shul.

Smith was by this time well on his way to conversion,
but was still not officially there yet, so he lived as
a righteous gentile under the seven Noahide Laws, kept
kosher and essentially kept Shabbos. But since he knew
there was an issur [Torah prohibition] against a non-Jew
totally observing shabbos, he made sure to openly violate
Shabbos in some way, acting as the Shabbos goy, turning
on the lights in the synagogue to he that he was aware
of the prohibition.

An odd incident happened during this time, which temporarily
threw Smith for a loop and set him back -- but which also
convinced him even more than ever that he was doing the
right thing. He began going out [on dates] with a girl from a 
Reform [Jewish] family. He was invited to the family's Pesach 
seder, and after they had gone through the seder ritual, it 
was time for the main course to be served -- lobster.

The incongruity of a Jewish family going through the 
prescribed Seder ritual and then sitting down to eat 
something so blatantly forbidden was absolutely 
breathtaking. Smith can laugh about it now, but at 
the time, he was more steamed than the lobster had 
been. "I hit the ceiling," he says, and he absolutely 
refused to eat a single morsel of the creepy crustacean. 
The romance quickly went downhill from that point
and fizzled out. Smith was so preturbed that he went 
into a tailspin and temporarily stopped learning, for 
about two months.

He got back on the beam, though, after meeting another 
Jewish young lady -- but this time, it was someone who 
respected the concept of kashrus. He happened to overhear 
her discussing a point about kashrus with a friend, and 
he entered into the conversation. She fixed the blond-
haired and not especially Jewish-looking Smith with a 
withering stare and demanded, "What do you know about it?" 
He answered her that he had studied kashrus with Lubavich 
rabbis and so knew at least a bit about the subject.

Sounds like an inauspicious beginning of a relationship, 
but a beginning it definitely was, and as Smith marvels, 
"Everything fell right into place. It was the right time,
the right place. I had the knowledge and the education now
and knew what I was doing. It was just all HaShem's doing."

It turned out that the young lady was a ba'alas teshuvah
who had been inspired to become observant after attending
a kiruv seminar at NYU tought by Manhattan Rabbi Barry
Freundel. She introduced Smith to the rabbi. Smith resumed
his conversion studies, and when the time was right, he 
says, Rabbi Fruendel set up an Orthodox beis din. Smith, 
finally, was formally converted al pi halacha [according 
to Jewish Law] between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur of 
1987, with the noted mohel Rabbi Pesach Krohn performing 
the bris [circmcision].

Akiva Smith, as he was now called, became engaged to his
ba'alas teshuvah basherte and the two were married in
January 1988. "From the dissapointing crash of my world
to its rebirth was five years," Akiva says.

In the nearly 12 years since then, the newly-minted ger
tzedek [convert to Judaism] groom and his ba'alas teshuvah
bride have built a wonderful family with two children, a
boy and a girl. Among Akiva's own relatives, oddly, his
natural mother -- devoutly Christian churchgoer though
she was -- was very supportive of his decision to change
his faith. Her mother, Akiva's natural grandmother, even
made him his first knit kippa. But his father's second
wife, Akiva's stepmother, was vehemently opposed.

At the same time that Akiva and his wife have been building
a fine young family, they have also grown steadily in their
mitzvos and their Yiddishkeit. Akiva is a confirmed daily
minyan goer at the Young Israel synagogue in Riverdale --
now that he can officially be counted in the quorum --
and was honored this past Simchas Torah by being chosen
to read the Haftorah. He is active in the Chevra Kadisha
[Jewish burial society] in Westchester county and helps
his son's school with its computers, using his professional
skills as a computer programmer. His wife, a librarian
at the yeshiva, also helps the Chevra Kadisha by arranging
taharos. We've come a long way," he says.

Even when he was a Christian, Akiva says, "I was a good
Christian," who prayed to HaShem (albeit incorrectly) 
and tried to do good deeds, such as devoting time to 
working with church youth groups -- even though the 
Christian doctrine which he ultimately left behind tells 
the congregant that he or she can not be justified, or
"saved", though "works," i.e. good deeds, but only by 
faith in J---. That is in stark contrast to classic
Jewish haskhafah, which stresses the constant performance
of mitzvos as a way of getting closer to HaShem, by
emulating His middos [character traits].

Akiva says, "many people say that you are born with a
Jewish neshamah and it will eventually surface one way
or another. The more I worked with learned men, the more
I got in touch with that part of my soul that said I
believe in G-d and believe in doing good works and that
doing mitzvos makes me a better person.

"Changing from Christianity to Judaism was not a big
deal. It's staying Jewish that's the big deal," Akiva
says, "What drives me is the feeling that I've done
something right, that by changing, I did the right
thing and I'm doing the right thing now, because by
being Jewish, this was what I was meant to be."


"Rabbi Levi said: If all Jews would keep one Sabbath 
properly, the messiah would come immediately." -- 
(Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Taanis, Page 3B).

"Whoever is careful with Shabbath observance will
be forgiven all his sins, even idolatry." -- Babylonian 
Talmud, (Shabbath 118B)

"If your children accept the observance of the 
Shabbath they will merit entering the land of Israel"
(Bereishis Rabbah 46:7).

"Whoever studies Torah Law ("halacha") every day is
guaranteed to go to heaven." -- (Tanna DeBei Eliyahu).

He who publicly desecrates the Sabbath [by working]
is considered to be like an idol worshipper. (Chullin 5A).


"Everyone who shows love for G-d's creatures is himself 
shown love" (Talmud, Shabbat 151B).

"Pledges to charity must be redeemed immediately, 
because the poor are standing and waiting" (Rosh 
HaShanah, Page 6A).

"It is better jump into a flaming furnace than to embarass 
somebody" (Berachos, Page 43B).

"One should not tell a child, 'I will give you something' 
and then not give it, because this teaches the child to 
lie." (Succah, Page 46B).

"We [customarily] begin to study the laws of Passover 
30 days before Passover." (Rosh HaShanah, Page 7A).


We are obligated to love our neighbors. "VeAhavta 
LeReacha Kamocha" -- "Love your neighbor as yourself, 
I am G-d." (Vayikra ("Leviticus") Chapter 19 verse 18).

This mitzvah (the biblical commandment of "love your 
neighbor as yourself") means that you should reach 
out to someone in a positive way when you see that 
he is troubled. (Ahavas Chesed, Chapter 3, verse 5).

If you see someone suffering, this mitzvah (the biblical
commandment of "love your neighbor as yourself") is 
asking you to save that person from further suffering. 
Moreover, even before a person suffers, if you are able
to prevent him from future suffering, you are obligated 
to do so. (Choshen Mishpot, Chapter 272 verse 13).

The Baal Shem Tov used to say "Love your fellow 
man as yourself. You know that you have many 
faults, nevertheless, you still love yourself. That 
is how you should feel towards your friend. Despite 
his faults, love him." (Likutei Avraham, page 221).


Programs in many cities around the USA to prepare 
for Jewish holidays. 485 Fifth Avenue, Suite 701, 
New York, NY 10017  FAX (212) 986-7476 
E-mail: info@njop.org


Jewish kids, call (800) SOS-NCSY toll-free to hear a 
FREE daily two minute Torah message. ncsy@ou.org
Jewish kids, contact the local NCSY near you:

Atlantic Seaboard NCSY (410) 358-6279

Canada NCSY (905) 761-6279

Central East NCSY (248) 557-6279

Cleveland NCSY (216) 382-9650

Denver NCSY (303) 336-3125

Midwest NCSY (847) 677-6279

Long Island New York NCSY (516) 371-0500

New England NCSY (617) 278-6279

Connecticut NCSY (860) 236-6279

New Jersey NCSY (201) 862-0250

New York NCSY (718) 461-1200

Southern USA NCSY (305) 653-1138

Dallas (972) NCSY 980-0917

Upper New York NCSY (718) 548-6561

West Coast NCSY (310) 777-0297


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