Monday, April 30, 2007

What Do You Want Most?

This is where anonymity comes in handy.
In the past few days, I've asked several people, "What do you want most?"
Everyone has a completely different outlook, a completely different perspective and a completely different answer. I find the answers fascinating.
So I'd like to poll my readers...what do you want most? Note that I'm not asking you what you ought to want most, what you should want most, what you are obligated to desire. I am asking you what you do want the most. Whether it is irrational, evil, or something you could never possess, in fact, something no human could possess, what is it?
Feel free to answer anonymously. It might even be better if you would do that. But do create some interesting names! :D

Sunday, April 29, 2007

JIBS Results and Best Post Voting!

(This post is sticky. Please scroll down for new content.)

Thank you all so much for voting!

According to the preliminary results, I get to advance in the category of Best Student Life Blog!

However, when it comes to Best Small Blog, I lost the second place advancement position to Wolfish Musings by one vote! Now, as I nominated Wolfish Musings, I can't feel too bad about this- in fact, I am amazed that I was that close.

And now come the Best Posts!

Here are the categories in which I am nominated:

Best Jewish Religious Post (mine is Off the Derech)

Overall Best Post (mine is Off the Derech) - however, I'm up against On the Main Line's amazing post and Ben Avuyah's post, both of which I love/nominated. So if you vote for those, that's also good.

Best Live Event Coverage Post (mine are The Rav's Vision: The Lonely Man of Faith, a Documentary and History, Truth and Religious Commitment by Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter)

If you liked any of those posts, please vote for them! Thanks.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

My Friend

This year I have been blessed by God, for I have been able to meet many new people and to make many new friends. But there is one person in particular to whom I would like to introduce you, to paint a portrait, as it were, so that you can know him. For in knowing him you shall meet a truly honorable, worthy and noble individual, someone from whom I have learned and continue still to learn.

I will not name him for I do not wish to use his given name, and any name of my own invention does not suffice. I shall simply tell you of him in an effort to pay tribute to who he is as a person and to the beauty of his soul.

He was kind before I ever met him, for he cautioned me that if I would write freely about my life and my thoughts, it was quite possible that certain Yeshiva University students would figure out who I was. He took it upon himself, therefore, to clarify this to me, in case I was unaware that these students read my blog. He also welcomed me to the university and intimated that if I had any interest in various clubs or organizations, he was more than willing to tell me about them, and simply presented himself as an honest, upfront, helpful individual.

When I did meet him, I realized that he was more than kind. He is handsome, funny, entertaining, rather brilliant, sarcastic, cynical and droll. He possesses a quick wit and a quicker tongue; he grasps concepts as soon as they are presented, analyzes them, and is immediately able to retort. His comebacks are always very sharp, and it's a pleasure to hear them simply because they are so right and demonstrate how well he understands a particular situation. His summations of the caliber of the people in the room are extremely amusing, as is his ability to realize the flaws in a particular approach while simultaneously seeing a solution.

With all these assets at his disposal, it's a wonder that he's not arrogant. In fact, he's quite the opposite. He's extremely considerate of the feelings of others. Upon my changing something due to his suggestion, he was immediately contrite, desperately informing me that I shouldn't "change on account of haters." More importantly, he is able to respond when people are unhappy, sad or otherwise melancholy. I was particularly frustrated by a paper that I had to write on Plato's "Euthyphro." He immediately sent me his own paper on the topic, explaining that he hoped it would "help jar some thoughts loose." Although I was not allowed to look at other student papers before writing my own, the thought was much appreciated.

Another time, I was feeling miserable for no particular reason, and asked that he please tell me something amusing. He responded immediately, telling me a very funny anecdote that had me in gales of laughter. Incidentally, it is not very easy to make me laugh, as I don't respond to most jokes (even though I understand them.)

He is extremely smart. My friend thinks quite a lot and is very persuasive when he argues. He writes with great clarity, cleverly suggesting points and proving them, and sometimes asking questions in order to force you to recognize the truth of his points.

He challenges me, and this is what is most exciting. He doesn't let me get away with sloppy or vague answers to questions. His questions are always very pointed so that one has to give very precise, clear answers.

He is different from me. The most important way in which he differs is his focus. Mine is decidedly individualistic; I go after the special individual, the one who is chosen for a specific purpose, a particular character. He believes it to be his responsibility to help the community on a whole, to act in a manner that gives back, supports and builds a relationship with all Jews. While I often base my views on textual sources, his views are derived through his upbringing and personal experiences. The care he feels toward others impresses me; I admire his firm commitment to the idea that "each individual Jew must be responsible for and take care of the rest of the whole."

But he is most amazing in that he is not afraid of me. He pushes me to be more than I am, and is not afraid of my angry response. I have had teachers who have done this to me before, and it is the most necessary part of my growth, but I have never had a friend who felt comfortable enough (and was adept enough) to do this. To illustrate, let me give you an example.

In twelfth grade, I had an excellent AP English teacher. I had to write a paper on Seamus Heaney. I did not like Seamus Heaney; I did not feel like I understood his poems or his views. I wrote an entire paper about him, but it wasn't the best I could do. My English teacher understood this at once and forced me to rewrite the paper, to delve into the subject and begin entirely anew. I threw a temper-tantrum. I ranted, I raged, I was angry, I decided I hated her. She was unhappy about this, and she offered me an extension, but she stood firm. And that completed, brilliant, utterly different Seamus Heaney paper was one of the best papers I have ever written. I still feel very proud when I look back on it, because it was one of the most difficult papers I ever wrote. But she knew that I had the capacity to do it, and she forced me to do it, and I am the better for having been forced.

This year, I was placed in the same situation. On a day when I was supposed to give my English teacher an outline, I handed her a ten-page paper. She read it, then informed me of something I had already known but refused to admit- that I would have to rewrite the paper. I had deliberately done something I knew was unacceptable- I had treated a character in a very black and white fashion to prove a point, even though I myself knew the point wasn't true. My English teacher wasn't going to let me off so easily. She forced me to write a completely different paper. Again, I cried, I ranted, I raged; I was truly, truly angry. But the end result was brilliant- again, one of my best pieces. And I feel proud of that paper, too, and am glad that my teacher believed in me and forced me to do this.

My friend has the rare ability to push me to go farther than I wish without my deciding he's an utterly worthless human being whom I will never speak to again. In a certain circumstance, when I had knowingly done something but refused to accept the consequences of my action, I resorted to my usual temper-tantrum. I was angry, I cried, I threw a fit- to no avail. When I nastily suggested a way of getting back at him for not giving me what I wanted, he coolly informed me that if I did that, I would be acting like a "jerk." That gave me pause. A jerk? I don't think I have ever had a friend who has called me a jerk before.

But he was right. I looked at what I was doing, why I was complaining, and realized that to some extent what I had done was my own fault. And I would be acting like a jerk if I put my revenge plan into play. He showed me how to act and I learned. He also, in his way, offered me a solution, suggesting a kind of compromise. I didn't fulfill his terms due to the reward he offered, but because I knew that he was right and I was wrong.

Now, lest you think that the way to win my friendship is to refer to me by less than complimentary names, let me explain that I generally do not react well to criticism. My friend happens to have a rare quality which enables him to critique me and for me to understand and appreciate his criticism, even if I do not like it. His casual sarcasm allows him to do this; although initially hurt by one of his remarks, I grew to appreciate and enjoy his very clever, very smart sense of humor. As I said, he's not afraid of me. He'll call me on my behavior or engage in very clever dialogues where he gets the better of me, and I enjoy it immensely because it's such fun.

The only thing I wish is that I could know him better. He's such a unique and rare individual that I wonder who he is, what he is, what matters to him, why he is the way he is. But he is a very private person and he will not share this information freely. That is another way in which we differ- when I write, I reveal myself; he, in contrast, will not necessarily put a name to his opinions. Perhaps it is because he wishes others to consider these opinions on their own merit, and not due simply to his name. As I said, he is very honest.

It constantly amazes me that he doesn't take offense when I bother him (or if he does, he's too polite to show it.) I needle him constantly, after all, because I'm very curious by nature, and I'm especially curious about him.

He is a truly wonderful person- caring, considerate, kind and insightful. I am blessed to have such a friend, and I am going to miss him when it comes time for him to move on to bigger and better things. He makes the world a more beautiful place, and I consider it an honor to know him. I wish him all that is good, and thank him for helping me to grow and to be a better person. I have learned so much from him.

He is one of the best people I know.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

YU Medical Ethics: Are you My Mother? Surrogate Motherhood in Jewish Law

(With thanks to the amazing Michael Teitcher, who gave me a table.)

To download all the sources Rabbi Brander used, and to which he makes reference in this speech, click here for a PDF file including all of them. Go to the top right-hand corner, where it says "Please Enter _____." Insert the letters you see there, and then click Download.


Introduction: Hello and welcome to the YU Medical Ethics society…if this is your first time at one of our events, I welcome you- for those of you who have participated in past functions, thank you for support and encourage you to stay involved- sign up sheets are available- our website, has recordings of all of our prior events. Please check this website in coming weeks for a full day conference on ____ at the beginning of next year. As many of you are aware, the YU MedEthics society is a student-run society…medical issues as relate to Torah issues and halakha- strives to make YU an educational resource for laymen, doctors, Rabbis, etc- surrogate motherhood often overlooked by others- we want to bring it to the fore.

Rabbi Brander received special ordination from Machon Puah in the field of Medical Ethics, etc. Dr. Adrienne Asch- introducing this night’s event- professor of Bioethics at YU’s school- professor at Einstein- following tonight’s lecture will be a question and answer session. Audience should please turn off their cellphones. Thank board of YU MedEthics society. Also thank CJF, student organization of YU and TAC council- also like to thank Yonah Bardos, student president of MedEthics society- without his vision and truly tireless work the YU Medethics society would not be here today. I am proud to congratulate Yonah on his election as the Yeshiva College president.

Dr Adrienne Asch: Thank you to the MedEthics society for inviting me to speak and to Rabbi Brander for encouraging me to speak- he has been a wonderful colleague- my colleague as director of research David Wasserman is also here and I would like to acknowledge him as a very important center for ethics staff- have some brochures I can give out at the end of the evening if you’d like.

What I’m going to do for a very brief time- and someone can tap me on the shoulder as I’m about to exceed my time- about not so much the – there’s no one secular perspective on the topic of surrogate motherhood- there are many different perspectives- people have written on this topic in USA, Europe, Australia- can’t count number of articles and books that have been produced on the topic from many different vantage points- some very supportive of the notion that women should be encouraged if they wish to gestate children for other people- many saying they should be paid for their physical labor- that they should be expected to keep their agreement with the people that they gestate children for- and if during the pregnancy or during the birth of the child they come to regret the decision and want to retain custody of the child, many people say should not be the case.

Twenty years ago, first very well-known case of surrogate motherhood- case of Mary Beth Whitehead in New Jersey- woman decided she didn’t want to relinquish custody of the child- many people said that a contract was a contract and she should give up the child- that’s one perspective and it’s a perspective that features as its hallmarks the notion that women should be free as any other people are to make decisions about their bodies and their lives- that they should not make these contracts without a very clear sense of what is going into them- should only do this with a sense of informed consent- and once the contract is made, they should honor it. A very autonomous notion- notion that says that what women do with their bodies- pregnancy, even if very physically involving work- doesn’t mean that pregnancy means the psychological involvement of wanting to be the mother of the child who results from the pregnancy. A notion that separates physicality of gestation from the emotional commitments of bearing a child.

Other perspectives stress that pregnancy is a very deeply-involving activity – that women can’t undertake it without changing their lives in certain ways to be – to guarantee the health of the fetus that they are carrying- if they drank wine, they stop drinking wine to be careful so that the fetus doesn’t have alcohol or caffeine- many would say that pregnancy and gestation is very involving work- no wonder that women during the course of that gestation might change their minds about how disconnected from the fetus they could be after it’s born- once they see a real, live baby- even if originally they intended to give it to someone else- a very deep connection to the baby, often known as “bonding.” That perspective says this is something that women shouldn’t agree to in advance in a binding way because like in any other relationship you might change your mind- like friendships you make that don’t last- it changes, who knows why? You can’t promise that you will be friends for someone for life- even in marriage, even when you take vows- marital bonds are undertaken with the expectation that they will continue for life; they won’t always. Divorce is not looked on favorably but it is not something that is impossible to happen because human relationships are complicated and don’t always survive. Pregnancy is a kind of human relationship.

This perspective stresses the kind of relationship that goes on- even if only in the mind of the woman. Also says that it is something that a woman should not be paid to do- typically, women are not paid to form relationships- if they want to do this as a voluntary act, perhaps they should. But the payment is not good for the women to do and not good for the child to come- does the child want to find out later that the person who bore it was paid $20,000 dollars to bear it- might not be a very good feeling for that child.

What kind of relationships the women who gestate children should have with the people who are raising children- should they be family member? Some think that family arrangeme4nts- if a sister gestates a child for another sister, that might be a good thing- but there are many situations when those family relationships could be very complicated- someone who gestates a child for her sister may not ultimately feel that the sister is raising the child the way she wants her to. What kinds of family friction could this create? Should it be anonymous? Should you have no relationship? Should the parents tell the child that s/he came from someone who was not their married parents? Some say yes, you should always tell- some say that no, you shouldn’t tell- the people raising the child are the true parents.

More complicated questions- whether the surrogate is using her own egg artificially inseminated with someone else’s sperm or is she using an embryo from the couple- very complicated questions as to universal health insurance as well- without coverage for reproductive services of all sorts (not true in Israel but is true in USA). Wealthy people can get services for surrogate motherhood- but people who are not wealthy may not have the money- this is not supported by government insurance. So should there be government funding?

The reason some would say there should is that it would make surrogacy available to other people who want to be parents and can’t carry children. The people who say they shouldn’t say there are many problems with this and it’s not medically necessary to have children- you might want them, but you don’t NEED them- no reason medical insurance should cover that and not cover all these other things that need to be covered. So what kind of funding should there be for this activity?

That is a view of many different questions that people in the field of bioethics do talk about when they talk about surrogate motherhood- whether autonomy should reign- what kinds of things would resolve custody disputes- whether payment should be done for this service.

Okay, thank you.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander: I too would like to begin my remarks by thanking Aaron for the work he has done and is beginning to do on behalf of undergrad MedEthics society and to thank Yonah for the unbelievable work that he has done. A little more over a year ago making trips back and forth to Boca Raton- was in apartment in Morgenstern 2 years ago? Time flies when you’re having fun. Yonah knocks on my door and says he wants to speak to me for a few minutes and an hour later finished sharing his vision for a Medical Ethics society. He has not only created an appropriate venue for it but he has found many special students who will continue to empower this undergrad Medical Ethics society- thank him for what he has done for YU.

Last time I spoke, I gave a class on PGD. It was in 501. Of course, there was dinner beforehand. About 2 months ago, a student came over to me and said, ‘I get a mazel tov- I got engaged.’ I didn’t really know who the student was but gave him a mazel tov, then asked why he was telling me that he was getting engaged? After all, I don’t really know him. So the person told me he met the person that he was going to marry at the PGD conference, so I’m hoping to get 1000 here, fellows. (Laughter)

Want to thank Dr. Asch not only for her unbelievable, insightful remarks but for the clarity of vision she brings to her ethics. She is a world-class ethicist- nothing that she talked about was secular; everything that she talked about was holy. Her capacity to share those ideals and set them up for us in ways where we can look at them through the prism of Jewish thought is totally kodesh, totally holy and is in no way secular. I want to thank her for the cogent way in which she shared some very important issues in such a way.

I prepared some sources- they are there for you- let’s begin and share some Torah for the next hour.

First page of our handout starts with a very important midrash that I’ve shared with some of you in the past and that is the recognition of the fact that God did not create a perfect world, but in fact created an imperfect world. God wished that we have partners and those partners that God wished is humankind. And while God creates an imperfect world, it’s up to us to perfect that world- we say that every time we daven- we’re here to be involved in tikkun olam.

Clearly medicine- clearly the idea of surrogacy- clearly actualizing the gift of a couple having children- is a celebration of the capacity for us to be partners with God using science.

Idea also highlighted in the Gemara in Bava Batra – a very famous dialogue between Turnis Rufus and Rabbi Akiva- Turnis Rufus was a very famous government and Rabbi Akiva represented the Jewish people before the destruction of the people of Beitar.

Turnis Rufus: The Jewish people are condemned to hell because they help the poor. See, if a king imprisoned a person and said not to give him food and water, and someone gave him food, the king would be upset. So if God makes someone poor, and you give him money, then you are going against God!

Rabbi Akiva: What if the king incarcerated not a subject but his CHILD. And he said no one should give his child food or drink- but someone sneaks in food and drink- wouldn’t the king be happy someone had saved his children? And we are called the children of God.

Rabbi Soloveitchik once explained this by saying that when someone has their fate set out for them- they’re poor, they can’t have children- how are we supposed to look at that.

Turnus Rufus says- you’re supposed to wear the glasses of God- God wants these people to be poor, and you help bring them out of poverty- you’re going to hell. Rabbi Akiva says it’s not our job to wear the glasses of God. It’s our job to be God’s partners and to empower him to help- if we can help get someone out of poverty- if a couple wishes to have children, we should support that dream through the gifts that science has given us- we should not look at this as changing destiny but rather as a celebration of the notion of tikkun olam.

Meiri in Sanhedrin has a very famous comment in his definitions of witchcraft and what is forbidden- he makes a very famous comment in Source #3- one should know that anything that is done through science is not considered magic, even when, as we know from Kabbalistic literature that there will come a time when we will learn how to create human beings WITHOUT having a sexual relationship, it is permitted to do this- because anything that happens through science is not considered magic. Anything that comes through the normal process of medicine is not considered an Amoraite action.

So in my introduction I have indicated that we can help others to have children- but it is not a halakhic mandate, if a couple cannot have children naturally, they do not have to find scientific ways to have children.

There’s a list of question after 120 years and one of them is “Tzipita l’yoshua’ –did you wait for the yeshua, the redemption of human kind? The second is “Asata b’pirya u’rivya?”meaning did you try to have children (not did you have children.) One is not halakhically mandated to use the gifts of science (financial/ psychological challenges) to do this. One sees that idea from a Tosfot in Pesachim- it says there that if a person is uncircumcised and cannot eat from a Paschal sacrifice- he is not obligated to go to an ubnormal degree- “heroic measures” in order to be able to fulfill commandments. That is particularly true by the idea of having children.

However, should one decide to do that, then there are certain issues, and what I would like to do is to share with you and contrast with you the notion of paternity and maternity. It’s very hard to discuss surrogacy without contrasting it to the concept of paternity. So we’ll spend a few minutes on the definition of paternity and then move to the idea of surrogacy.

So turn to source 5- we’ll notice that there’s a pasuk in Esther that says that Esther had no parents “Ki ein la av v’eim” and further, when her father and mother died, her mother died in conception, Mordechai took her as a child. So the Gemara asks- why the need to repeat twice in the same verse that she had no parents?

Gemara answers- source 6- to show that her mother died at childbirth and father died when she the child was conceived. This idea shows that they are parents even when they were not involved in rasing the child.

Source #7 is very important. Greatness of Talmud is that it does not always focus on real life events as much as it does in creating halakhic paradigms so that one can learn principles through which one can build up Jewish approaches.

“A high priest is not allowed to marry anybody that had sexual relations- whether the woman was divorced or widowed. So Ben Zoma was further asked- can a high priest marry a virgin who has become pregnant?”

So there’s a whole give and take- maybe it LOOKS like she didn’t have relations but she really did have relations. Gemara says no- there is the possibility that she never had relations but she conceived in the bath- so there is this idea, and I don’t think the Gemara means this in an exact way- is that one can bifurcate the sexual act and the concept of being pregnant. Trying to show you the difference between the gavra, the relationship, and the status quo of the woman.

So Gemara highlights this idea of woman becoming pregnant without having a relationship.

Source 9- based on this Gemara any single time a woman becomes pregnant without having a sexual relationship, the sperm donor is considered the father for all things. “Me’aviv nishma d’havei b’kol davar”- considered the father simply by having donated the sperm even if there is no sexual act at all.

Turn to next page- the Tashbetz in the 1300s amplifies R’ Shmuel Feivish and says the same thing- the sperm donor, even without a sexual relationship is considered the father- considered genetic donor.

Minchas Yitzchak, who is not known for his leftist tendencies or Modern Orthodox tendencies, but who is one of the greatest poskim of the past generations- speaks about a situation where a person has a limited sperm count and who in order to have children has an IUI- Interuterine Insemination (always uncomfortable speaking about this in front of others here who are well-versed in this) but basically an IUI where instead of sperm having to travel all the way up the fallopian tube, the sperm is put in a syringe, shot into a woman’s womb and placed at the entrance of the fallopian tube. Because, in layman’s tube, when sperm travels up the fallopian tubes, it’s like traveling the FDR- lots of potholes, a lot can die along the way- so the sperm will be destroyed and none might reach the fallopian tube to fertilize the egg. So the IUI is no need to travel on the FDR drive, we’ll create a flyover so that it can get to the fallopian tubes safe.

The Minchas Yitzchak therefore says that in any case of an IUI, “peshita li d’kayim ha’mitzvah”- they’ve definitely fulfilled the mitzvah of having children and the husband has definitely fulfilled the mitzvah, considered father even though there was no sexual act. Only thing is that you want to make sure that there’s certain hashgacha- certain supervision in the labs- so you want to make sure that you don’t fertilize the egg of the woman through IVF (when you harvest the egg of the woman and fertilize it within the lab and 3rd or 4th day afterwards it is returned to the womb of the woman)- won’t know which sperm is used if there’s not proper hashgacha, so you won’t know who the father is. So there has to be some hashgacha within the fertility lab- even though there are strict rule and regulations- the halakha requires stric OU supervision in labs (that’s not a joke- that’s halakha)- Cornell does it, Maimonides does it.

Next source- sperm donor is the father. So much so that R’ Zalman Auerbach says what happens if wife wishes to have children but the husband has no sperm. Where should you get sperm donation from? Since the definition of paternity is the sperm donor, both R’ Moshe and R’ Shlomo Zalman suggest that the sperm donor should be from a non-Jew. Because otherwise Yankel will donate his sperm, child will be born, and the child will go out with someone else Yankel donated sperm to or Yankel’s own child and then you could be marrying halakhicaly your own sister or brother. So R’ Moshe says that you should use non-Jewish sperm so that problem doesn’t arise.

Look at source 12- you’ll see that R’ Shlomo Zalman has a few things. First thing, you can inseminate the wife through IUI even when the woman is a niddah because there is no sexual act, so no concern over those issues. Then number daled- if you have to use sperm (I’m not saying he endorses it with a full embrace, because he has some issues about it) he says you should use a non-Jew.

R’ Moshe also says that you should use a non-Jew. R’ Moseh Feinsteins’ house was actually fire-bombed because of this teshuva by a sect of Orthodox Jewry who was not pleased with this teshuva.

R’ Shlomo Zalman’s house was not fire-bombed. One could ask why. Because R’ Moseh Feinstein’s work are more popular than R’ Shlomo Zalman’s first volume of Noam, which is not as well-known. SOY Sefarim sales all have Igros Moshe- Noam I haven’t found at any of the SOY Sefarim sales.

The most exciting thing about the paternity peace is an unbelievable idea found in the 1700s in the NOdeh b’ Yehudah. R’ Yechezkel Landau asked the following question:

We know that there’s a notion of ______. That when a woman is widowed and childless, she waits 3 months before she gets married again to see if she is pregnant by the first husband. Why do you wait 90 days? You ought to wait 93 days! The Nodeh b’Yehudah says. Because he passed away- it takes 3 days for the sperm to fertilize the egg in the Fallopian tube- so you should wait 3 days for the egg to be fertilized and then 90 days. Most Achronim ask this question and say 90 is a rounded- off answer.

Nodeh b’Yehudah has an unbelievable chiddush. If the woman is inseminated but the husband dies before the time of conception, and she was inseminated before he died, even though she could become pregnant with the sperm of her dead husband, she still goes through the act of chalitzah- because at the moment of death there was no child/ no conception. So you can have a case according to Nodeh b’Yehudah where the woman can be 5 months pregnant, but conception happened posthumously (after husband died.) According to Nodeh B’Yehudah, that woman would go through chalitzah because at the moment of death there is no child.

However, even though the woman goes through the process of chalitzah, this child is still considered the child of the father l’kol davar- if the father was a kohen, the child is a kohen. He says it’s a diyuk in the pasuk. And the point that’s important for us here is the idea of posthumous paternity.

You can have the idea of someone who expresses sperm and freezes it for a hundred years and then that sperm is injected into a spouse or another woman. The man could be dead- he could be a soldier and day. The wife who is a widow can say I want to have a child- and take her husband’s frozen sperm and have a child posthumously- according to the Noreh b’Yehudah- he is that man’s child. Even though that father was not around for conception, let alone his life.

The next page of the source- the Keren ha’Orah- basically disagrees with the Nodeh b’Yehudah- says he agrees with the notion of posthumous paternity- but says that the woman does not go through chalitzah right after husband dies.

Next page, 13C, see that R’ Shaul Yisraeli is furious that in one of the newspapers of HaTzofeh- a group of poskim said that if the person who expressed sperm died and now that sperm is inserted within a woman, the dead person is the father “l’kol davar.” The Rabbanim in Israel paskened that based on this Nodeh B’yehudah and Keren ha’Orah…R’ Shaul Yisraeli disagreed with this because he says the Nodeh b’Yehudah is not a good paradigm because the sperm was already within the woman when the husband died. But in our case, when you have to defrost the sperm (I’m using layterms, not scientific terms)- and then inject into the womb of the woman- that requires too much work to allow that person to become a posthumous father.

The jury is still out on this idea- some disagree with R’ Shaul Yisraeli- the bottom line that I want to show you is that it is clear that the genetic donor when it comes to the definitions of the father is the father- so much so that even in the 1700s that is the case.

Now how does that compare to the notion of paternity? There we have 4 different approaches. The jury is still out. I asked Rabbi Schachter today- he said the jury’s still out, machlokes among poskim.

In the case of a surrogate, in our simplistic definition of that, where the egg is a donation from one woman and the host mother, the one nurturing the fetus, is another woman. One woman donates the genetics- the other hosts the fertilized eggs. So you have a host mother and a genetic mother. Some say there is no mother. Others say that there are 2 mothers. Those are not normative approaches. The normative approaches are that the genetic mother is the mother or the host mother (the one doing all the work, the one who is nurturing, creating that bond)- THAT is the mother. As opposed to the father, where there is only one paradigm, and that is a genetic gift- and therefore the genetic giver is the father- when it comes to the m other if it can be bifurcated, there are those who say that the one who does the nurturing should be considered the mother. So that is the most normative approach. But there are major poskim, including the Eidah Charedis and Rav Goren who both say that they are genetic donors (probably the onoly time that Eidah Charedius and Rav Goren agree on this).

Let’s look at source 14- Targum Yonatan ben Uziel-I normally wouldn’t use this because it is Aggadata, usually don’t use Aggadata to define Halakha, but on the next page someone else used this aggadata for his approach- so I bring it down for intellectual honesty.

This says that when Leah was pregnant with Yosef, Rachel was pregnant with Dinah. (I’m happy that you’re perplexed.) The Targum Yonatan ben Uziel says that initially Leah was pregnant with Yosef, Rachel was pregnant with Dina. Leah realized that she was carrying a male, which meant that Rachel would contribute less to the 12 tribes than anyone else.

So look at source 14 where I have underlined- God heard the prayers of Leah and there was a change within the fetuses from one womb to the other and Yosef was then switched and put into the womb of Rachel, and Dinah was put into the womb of Leah. (I’ve ended your perplexity here.) So we would never hear anyone say that the mother of Yosef was Leah! The mother of Yosef is Rachel! But who donated the genetics for Yosef? It was LEAH who donated it. The host mother was Rachel. This is a proof, says R’ Shaul Yisraeli – this aggadata is the proof that the definition of maternity is the host mother, not the genetic donor.

Source 15- comment by R’ Ahron Soloveichik where he said the following. If you have a choice of defining the mother as host mother or real mother- post 40 days must do it, because pre 40 days the fertilized egg is not even considered a fetus, but only a sac of water. That is why it is permitted in stem cell research and it should be encouraged. So since there is this notion in halakha, therefore the mother that was involved in the development of the fetus in the first 40 days, namely the genetic donor, should not be considered the mother, especially when there is a woman who is involved with the development of the child post 40 days. You should view the genetic mother’s gift as “tozeret Yapan” – made in Japan. Do not in ANY WAY associate the genetic mother with this fetus. That is very important because then it allows the genetic donor not to be a Jew. Because if Judaism defines Jewish identity by the mother- if the genetic giver plays no role in that, then as R’ Ahron Soloveichik says with great clarity in source 16- last few words in the 6th line- count 6 lines from top after 1st word- you should not relate to the genetic gift no different than a synthetic material that says “made in Japan.” Therefore, a child born to a surrogate mother who has a genetic gift from a non-Jewish mother doesn’t need geirus- it’s a waste of time to do this.

This idea of the surrogate mother being the host mother is also found in a much-more complicated approach in a Gemara in Yevamos- found in an article in Techumin, the 5th volume- an exceptionally important volume on the notion of surrogacy- several articles there, very, very complicated that anyone who wants to be holy in these issues must go through, but happily we are blessed with Talmidei Chachamim who we can turn to for guidance.

Source 15- twin brothers who are converts- what’s the halakha? A ger, it’s as if they have been born anew. So if a family decides to convert after the children have been born, halakhically there is a severing of the relationship between parents and children even if they all convert- it’s as though you are reborn. What happens if a woman converts when she’s pregnant? So the mishna says there is some severing between those fetuses and the father. Why is that? Because the minute you go into the mikvah, any relationships that have been fully established have been severed on some level. So since the father’s relationship has already been established- given sperm, established paternity- relationship is severed. But the Gemara says that the relationship between the MOTHER and the fetus is not severed- it remains.

Asks R’ Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg- why is this? Because the father’s relationship with the children is already established by giving gift of genetic sperm- but the mother’s relationship is evolving by the nurturing of fetuses with her womb. So the relationship is not yet established- for that reason, the definition of maternity is not the genetic giver but rather the surrogate mother.

A source I did not bring down- R’ Elyashiv who is not a fan of IVF- but for those who are interested, brought down in Nishmas Avram- if already done, the definition of the mother is the host mother, the surrogate mother. This idea is highlighted by R’ Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg- this is known as the 5th Shulchan Aruch- there are great Jewish thinkers who think that the definition of the mother should be no different than the definition of the father- the “genetic gift.” Other great Jewish thinkers who think that the definition of the father and mother need to be different. Question, though- what if the mother is non-Jewish?

So, according to HIS point of view, you don’t need to convert them. But there’s a whole group of people who think otherwise! So I don’t want to create babies that are only kosher according to one approach- all the sudden you’ll have babies where it’s only kosher according to one rabbi, and non-kosher according to another baby. I don’t want there to be little Jews that are walking around and this one had a Jewish surrogate mother but non-Jewish donor, this one had a non-Jewish surrogate mother, etc.

So even though I believe that the definition of maternity is a host mother, any time the genetic mother is not Jewish, the conversion should be done. And then, because we are on the cutting edge of this issue- in 20 years from now when the child gets married- or 18 years old- I’m not trying to put any pressure on anybody despite my introductory comments- then we’ll decide whether that conversion was necessary or not because there are halakhic ramifications of who you can marry based on this. So R’ Zalman Goldberg is trying to have his cake and have it all. Personally, I always followed R’ Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg in his approach because it makes sense.

We’ve discussed the notion of maternity, paternity- where perhaps that genetic donor can even be a posthumous donor- now we’ve discussed issue of maternity- in case of maternity where genetic donor and host who nurtures fetus, there is a split between focus 4 ways.
1. No mother
2. Two different mothers (have to sit shiva for both)
3. Normative approach- host mother (but recognition that there’s a substantial group who say it’s the genetic mother- so there’s people like R’ Soloveitchik who don’t want to include this and others like R’ Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg who says that you should do a conversion l’chumrah- without blessings.)
4. Genetic mother

Thank you very much.


1. Question for Rabbi Brander- one thing we didn’t speak about are issues of mamzerus- place where the father donates sperm to a surrogate mother and the surrogate mother is both the egg mother and the pregnancy mother, but the surrogate was already married to someone else or in category of zonah or divorced- what about mamzerus?

Rabbi Brander: That’s a very good question. It seems that I actually gave a 2 and ½ hour class on that issue to the Rabbis of Yarchei Kallah. It would seem that if there are no issues of intimacy between the man and the woman, then you do not create mamzerus. Mamzerus requires intimacy- woman is married and you do not use non-Jewish sperm. That’s why R’ Moshe and R’ Shlomo Zalman want you to use non-Jewish sperm- but even if you use Jewish sperm, child is not considered a mamzer because there was not a physical relationship there.

Does everybody agree with that?

Brander: No, not everyone agrees with that. No one ever agrees with everything. It’s the normative approach and even in the summary that I gave to you- R’ Shlomo Zalman is a heavyweight- by the way, I DID bring you the source from R’ Elyashiv and that is on the back page, on page 20. But to give you the source that you asked about- if you look at source 12- you’ll see that in the middle there it says- “Ulam ein hazrah chashuva k’znus”- it’s really not zenus because it is not a sexual, intimate relationship.

One deiah in the Rishonim that says you don’t need it but 99% of poskim don’t use it.

Who would disagree?

Brander: It’s one of the Rishonim, you’ll excuse me if I forget who it is.

2. What I don’t understand is how you can feel that you feel so self-confident over who is a Jew and who is not a Jew. I lived in Israel for 11 years, sold my chametz, thought it was to a non-Jew, ultimately turned out, back in 70s, this person was indeed a Jew. I don’t mean to be offensive but this is basing people’s lives and communities on this- subquestion is that you’re still talking about siblings- doesn’t really matter whether that sibling is biological halakhically- I have found in my own family that there are very serious issues here that are ignored and are upsetting me.

Rabbi Brander: Well, I am sorry about the last bit, am willing to discuss with you- clearly discussing this in 45 minutes does not allow us to dwell on all these issues deeply. Removing the emotional components of this, which are very deep and need to be dealt with- in terms of sensitivity- but halakhically, R’ Moshe Feinstein asks that question about whether the sperm can come from a non-Jew. He says that if the sperm bank is based in a place where the majority of the inhabitants are non-Jewish, then one can consider the sperm non-Jewish. He is willing to discount that issue once you have the notion of “rov.” That particular issue is not seen in the small section of the source that I gave you from R’ Moshe Feinstein but if you look at the source, you’ll see he deals with that issue.

3. You said according to halakha, you are supposed to be “osek” b’pri u’reviyah- what if for example there’s a wealthy person who can finance the surrogacy that would otherwise not happen. Would he be- if he or she- if they didn’t have their own children, would it be considered osek b’pri u’reviyah?

Rabbi Brander: I think they would be- my point is that one is not halakhically obligated to go through- whether wealthy or not- psychological issues are important. Issues of surrogacy is a psychologically draining issue. It’s not a walk in the park. Especially in a case where the couple- the woman has to harvest the appropriate amount of follicles- has to trick the body into ovulating more than one at the same time- halakha does not require one to go through the psychological trauma in order to fulfill the mitzvah using IVF surrogacy. If you wish to, it can celebrate that. My point was that simply through trying to have a child in a natural way, one has fulfilled one’s necessary capacity- one does not need to use these issues- you can, but you don’t need to.

I’m talking about a third party- if a third party financed this pregnancy- would this fulfill his peru u’revu?

Rabbi Brander: That’s a great question- I don’t know the answer- I don’t think so but I don’t know

4. By R’ Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg- what he says- if it’s too feminist for you, then you don’t have to answer it- he says in vav – the word “ben”- what would you say about what he means- is he just using general terminology?

Rabbi Brander: Definitely “ben” or “bat.” Definitely one or the other. Whether you like the Hebrew or not, a lot of times when you speak in general about something, you’ll use one gender more than another- it’s definitely “ben” or “bat.”

Well, yeah, but I was just thinking- he’s being so specific…

Rabbi Brander: Well, this is the challenge of taking a thirty page article and giving you five pages. So if you read most of the article then you’ll see he means both. I’m not into doctoring the language

5. If you have a couple who is getting ready for an IUI or IVF, does halakha place restrictions upon the method of extracting sperm on the husband?

Rabbi Brander: That’s a great question. That is not a topic that I would feel comfortable discussing in this forum like this. Just to let you know, there are protocols discussed- different protocols in Yerushalayim vs Bnei Brak- my training on these issues is Israel-centric, not USA-centric. There are differences; clearly we try to make sure that the sperm is expressed without compromising the integrity of the sperm- so if we can do it in a way where husband can have relations with his wife and still capture the sperm, that would be the best way. Otherwise, protocols. Overarching goal is tzniut- focus on end game- appropriate and as many gametes as possible- in order to be able for the couple to have children.

Thank you very much.

JIB Hackers

After all the work that our volunteer crew of Akiva, Chaim and Ezzie have spent on the JIBs, it is utterly incredible that some pathetic piece of slime sees fit to hack them.

Do we need to tell people to behave like mature adults?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Adam, The Silent Witness (From a Literal Point of View)

Now, this is a very radical reading of the Torah, and I do not know of any commentary who states that it is true (and I have just looked up a lot of them.) Therefore, I regard it as legitimate from a literary approach and a literal reading (that is, Bible as Literature) but not from a religious approach. If such a divide bothers you, you should not read this post.

It is commonly assumed that Adam was not present when Eve faced temptation by the snake. There are even suggestions as to where he was- he had performed his natural functions [a euphemism for intimate relations] and was asleep, or God had taken his hand and was leading him about the world. But if you look at the actual text, you will notice that nowhere does it say that Adam is not there. It is simply that if he is there, the serpent does not address him, and he does not speak.

In fact, an actual reading of the text suggests that Adam is there, but he is a silent witness, simply listening.

ו וַתֵּרֶא הָאִשָּׁה כִּי טוֹב הָעֵץ לְמַאֲכָל וְכִי תַאֲוָה-הוּא לָעֵינַיִם, וְנֶחְמָד הָעֵץ לְהַשְׂכִּיל, וַתִּקַּח מִפִּרְיוֹ, וַתֹּאכַל; וַתִּתֵּן גַּם-לְאִישָׁהּ עִמָּהּ, וַיֹּאכַל.

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, [emph mine] and he did eat.

The problem, of course, is the addition of the word עִמָּהּ , with her. We have all been taught that the Torah does not put in extra words. The verse would have read just as well if it had merely stated "and she gave also unto her husband and he did eat."

So what does it mean that Adam was with her?

A variety of interpretations are given. One commentator explains that Eve was immediately concerned over the fact that she would die, and she desired Adam to be with her at all times, even in death (also, she was jealous- she didn't want Adam to have another wife who would live forever alongside him.) Most interpretations range along those lines- that Eve wanted Adam to be with her forever- in fact, she even gave the animals of the fruit, and all the animals ate it and became mortal, excepting the hol, or phoenix, which is why it is immortal. Aznayim L'Torah has a very interesting statement regarding the fact that all the animals ate of the fruit, as did the humans, but of them all, only the human's eyes were opened to knowledge of good and evil (while animals act on instincts alone.) Aznayim L'Torah then explains that the nature of a human is fundamentally different to begin with- hence, while everyone became mortal from eating of the fruit, only humans could acquire higher knowledge (which then leads to the question as to why the blessing suggests that a rooster can understand the difference between good and evil, but I digress.) Abarbanel, incidentally, claims that Eve simply handed Adam a piece of the fruit, as though she had come back from her foraging mission, and he, thinking there was no need to ask questions, ate of it- and then his eyes were opened, only then did he realize from whence it had come.

Very good. But I think that there is room to suggest, at least from the literal reading of the words, that Adam was with her all along.

And he was silent, passive; he ate of the fruit that his wife gave him.

But no! you cry. After all, if Adam were there, why wouldn't he protest his wife's action? Why wouldn't he correct her when she states that God said not to "touch" the tree by explaining to her that he had added that to the prohibition; God had only said not to "eat" of the fruit? Why would Adam remain silent and acquiesce? And most importantly, wouldn't God rebuke him for this silence, and yet God does not seem to say anything about Adam silently observing the drama played out between his wife and the snake.

Aha! But that is until you look at what God actually says to Adam.

יז וּלְאָדָם אָמַר, כִּי-שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ, וַתֹּאכַל מִן-הָעֵץ, אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לֵאמֹר לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ--אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה, בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ, בְּעִצָּבוֹן תֹּאכְלֶנָּה, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ.

17 And unto Adam He said: 'Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying: Thou shalt not eat of it; cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.

I read this verse a number of times today before realizing that it did not say what I always thought it said, but something quite different.

This verse does not say, "Because thou has hearkened unto the voice of thy wife to eat of the tree."

Instead, it makes two separate points:

1. Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife
2. Because thou hast eaten of the tree

Now, if you look at the text- the literal text, mind you, not the Midrashic interpretation which waxes prosaic about Eve's wiles and how she beguiled Adam to eat the fruit, crying and screaming and bothering him until he acquiesced- you will notice that Eve does not speak when it comes to convincing Adam to eat the fruit.

The verse states, "she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat. "

Adam, too, states that she "gave [emph mine] me of the tree, and I did eat."

Therefore, Adam could not have "hearkened unto the voice" of his wife when it comes to the eating of the fruit (at least literally speaking) because she did not speak, she only gave.

This means that the only place where Adam could have "hearkened unto the voice" of his wife was earlier when she was engaged in the conversation with the serpent.

Which means that yes, God did rebuke him for his part in this little play. "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife"...and didn't stop her, the reader can almost add in. Because you did nothing. Because you were silent. Because you were passive, and did what she wished you to do, because you ate of the fruit when she gave it to you. Because of all this, now you shall be punished.

Incidentally, it is not necessarily surprising that Adam would be passive. If you look at Adam's function throughout, he is a Name-Giver (I think I owe this concept to Elie Wiesel.) If you look at everything Literal Adam does, it has to do with assigning proper names to objects. Whenever he speaks (other than in his conversation with God, where he admits to fear and blames Eve), that is his function.


כ וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁמוֹת, לְכָל-הַבְּהֵמָה וּלְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּלְכֹל, חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה; וּלְאָדָם, לֹא-מָצָא עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ.

20 And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.


כג וַיֹּאמֶר, הָאָדָם, זֹאת הַפַּעַם עֶצֶם מֵעֲצָמַי, וּבָשָׂר מִבְּשָׂרִי; לְזֹאת יִקָּרֵא אִשָּׁה, כִּי מֵאִישׁ לֻקְחָה-זֹּאת.

23 And the man said: 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.


כ וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁם אִשְׁתּוֹ, חַוָּה: כִּי הִוא הָיְתָה, אֵם כָּל-חָי.

20 And the man called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

Adam is very good at assigning names, but once he is involved in an actual dilemma, a problem where someone or something is confronting his reason (in this case, the snake), he is unable to speak up, only listens as his wife converses with the creature. This passivity and inability to act is further echoed in the fact that he and his wife hide from God, unable to directly face the consequences of their actions. In that case, note the order of the words in the verse:

ח וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת-קוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן--לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם; וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ, מִפְּנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, בְּתוֹךְ, עֵץ הַגָּן.

8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden toward the cool of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

Notice who is placed first in that verse. It is the man and his wife who hide from God. The suggestion is that the man hides first, or that it is his idea to hide from God. Again, this suits Adam's nature. He is passive, silent; he listens and obeys. This is his flaw. Incidentally, the flaw is rectified because of Eve's curse, "thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Formerly passive, formerly hearkening to Eve's voice without raising objection, new Adam will be toughened, strengthened. He will work the earth through the sweat of his brow; he will learn that at times he must rule over his wife. These curses serve a purpose; they are "fixing" human beings to make them into who they should have been in order to prevent the awakening in the garden.

JIBS, Campaign Strategies, and Vote for Me!


Welcome, all visitors! Come visit in good cheer.

You are wondering, "Who is this *insert nasal French derogatory and condescending tone* Curious Jew? How does one characterize her blog? How dare she compete against moi? She is a Dark Horse! An unknown candidate!"

Well, perhaps you do not wonder in such an exaggerated and self-centered way, but that is what I would do. Hence the drama, flair, and dazzling lighting effects. (You don't see those lighting effects? Pity. The blog veritably emits radiance. Dark radiance, to make it even more exciting.)

That all having been said: I am an eighteen-year-old student at Yeshiva University. My tastes and topics in learning and writing are somewhat eclectic. I have been known to write about anorexia, Niddah, magic and passion. I have also written about events at YU, Yom Hashoa, various Holocaust books, and movies that affect me. In terms of Torah, I write about what fascinates me, ranging from a portrait of the evil inclination to Egyptian women and the alternative version of Akedas Yitzchak. I do have a sense of humor, contrary to what some believe, which manifests itself in my stories about Thanksgiving escapades, finals, and elevators. I write stories, such as The Bloody Rose and At the Zoo. I am a very curious person, as the name of the blog implies, and I wonder about a lot of things, especially about truth and happiness. My best post to date has been this one, Off the Derech.

I figure that there are two ways to campaign for the JIBs. The first way, of course, is to tear down everybody else, come up with evil slogans and begin a mud-slinging contest. This way does not appeal to me.

The second, of course, is to very respectfully request that if you like this blog, and have enjoyed any of the posts here, you might consider voting for me in the following categories at this time.

Best Student/ Student Life Blog
Best Small Blog

You may vote only once during this week.

Thank you.

YU Israel Club: Yom Hazikaron/ Yom Ha'Atzmaut Tekes


Introduction: To start off, thank you for coming tonight. We’re going to have the presidents of the Student Council and the YU Israel Club carry the flags to begin our evening. Begin.

They called up 7 people who attend YU who formerly served in the IDF to light 7 candles to commemorate the 7 wars they have fought.

Alan Kleinerman: This year Yom Hazikaron carries more potent feelings- all bear witness- soldiers engaged in Lebanon- call upon Elyasaf Schwartz to recited Keil Malei to commemorate all those who lost their lives fighting.

Liz Shelton, Stern Student Council President: It gives me great pleasure to introduce our first speaker, Colonel Elam Kott- served 25 years, first Lebanon war, first and second Intifadas- established Israel ____ (maybe 'Connects')- foreign and logistic services to foreign press services- chosen by -----Agency and Vice President of the Jewish Education Fund – home in Petach Tikvah, resides in United States.

Elam Kott: Shalom and good evening. Today is a special day in Israel- it’s a very Israeli day- it’s very moving day. For me ___ seventh generation in Israel, also a very special day- a day when ___ in Israel, year after year, every year, I used to go to the army, to the cemetery- meet my friends, my army friends, those who I share with them some of my very critical and unique moments- there in the cemetery. I’m going from one grave to the other, giving hugs to the families, looking with sadness on the new graves, the new names and the new families who joined the family in sorrow since last year.

Since I came to my mission in the States 3 years ago, unfortunately not there as I used to be- very difficult for me- as a guy who served twenty-five years in army- these years symbolize whole meaning of being Israeli- joy, freedom, care for each other, a great friendship. For all my years in the army, I choose to tell you one small story from my part in the first Lebanon War.

It all started when one day it was the beginning of June 1982. I believe most of you were not even born yet. This was the day that I took my wife Nurit and we were on our way for a vacation- three days of vacation in city of Israel in Eilat. We were waiting for that for a long, long time. At that time I was a commander of the company, captain, twenty-six years old- served for a long time in Lebanon, for a long time we were doing a mission over the border- getting into Israeli settlements, were killing civilians.

So we put all the peklach on my car and we went down- 200 miles from Petach Tikva (center of Israel) so midst of the road, while we are driving we were talking and listening to music- but I don’t know why, something inside me, seventh sense told me not far from Eilat to change the channel of the radio and to listen to the news- and what I heard was that the Israeli ambassador to England, Shlomo Dov, Z”L was shot and injured. I look at Nurit and she said, “Oh no, not again.” She means that last time when we planned our vacation a year ago- we were almost going out to the car and there was a terror attack- no cell phone at that time, but the phone rang, and I answered it and then I went back to my base.

So she said- let’s go to Eilat, hotel, I’ll call my commander- called him and asked him is there anything new I need to know? He said, no, but do me a favor- don’t get so far from the hotel. We ate a good dinner and went to dance at the nightclub- then the DJ announced, is there a guest by the name of Mr. Kott? I raised my hand and said yes. “Well, you have an urgent phonecall.” It was my commander- in a very cool voice he said, “My friend, you need to get back to the base-“I said “What’s going on?” He said “I can’t tell you- but give a goodbye kiss to your wife because you’re not going to see her for a couple of weeks.” So I took Nurit home, took some stuff, took my rifle, gave her a kiss and headed north. 1:45 PM I was at the base- asked what’s going on.

Well, we’re getting inside- government approved big operation in Lebanon- said tomorrow __ AM is when we’re going in. So I sat with my soldiers- not much time- but sometimes the relationship is very, very close when you’re a commander- I talked with them, tried to explain to everyone what everyone should do, what his job is- check that everyone has the right ammunition. To be a commander in Israel – saw a couple of guys and girls in the army here, you know what it is like- when you [as commander] are in your twenties- you are everything for the soldier- you’re the father, mother, teacher, Rabbi, mentor-you are everything- you have a big responsibility for them and for their parents- huge responsibility- huge commitment. You took them from home healthy and it’s your responsibility to bring them back home healthy and of course, alive.

Rest of the hours- looking at maps and even took a nap for 1 hour. At five AM, I got all the soldiers and talked to them about our mission- talk about National issue- why we are doing this. I told them, “Please turn around- what do you see? You see the Galil- people in Israel, people in the settlement- for those, you are going to fight” and I believe soldiers who hear these words get a lot of strength to go to war. My company – part of the 91st division to provide intelligence information on the enemy for the other forces- so need to be somewhere in the front of the division- move along the shore through the city of Tzor and all the way to the city of Sidon to capture the whole area and to claim it from terrorists.

Jump into ABC- told the driver to move, and he moved- behind us all the soldiers in their ABCs. The adrenaline was very high, I was very sharp in my orders- something I remember, I forgot- forgot to call Nurit so I told a soldier to please tell my wife everything is okay and I’ll be in touch.

At the beginning, everything was smooth- beginning of June, 20 degree Celcius, silent, not like a journey- cross the first Lebanon villages some civilians raise hands and say welcome- some kids were smiling at us. After 10 miles from city of Tzor massive RPG missiles and snipers were shooting on us. As we say in the army, the ceremony has just begun. One of the ABC got hit by a missile- some soldiers were wounded- told doctor and paramedic to move quickly and start taking care of them- paramedic and doctor in Israeli army are really, really something special- they gave morphine to one, put bandages to others. The rest of the company started to shoot and attack ahead- attack like panthers, lions- exactly how we exercised it months and weeks ago.

Imagine- snipers and terrorists shooting at you from unseen places, most of them from buildings and someone can say “Well, it’s very easy- send a missile to one of the buildings” and I agree but maybe in this building are women, children, babies- can’t do that, sorry- we can’t. So we fight, attack, run and we did. After forty minutes battle in this place is over- all my soldiers were there. Asked my doctor to take 3 serious wounded back to hospital.

For most of my soldiers, was the first time they were under real fire (for me, it was 2nd or 3rd time- I was a very young officer in Litanya (Netanya?) operation in 1978- joined just after Yom Kippur War- was very proud of them. Really they did a great, great job. Also now we feel like we have a blood-connection; something a stranger won’t understand unless he was with you in the army- call it “Achi” my brother.

People say after you experience it once, the rest is easier- after the first one, the second one is the same as the first one. The same feeling, the same care for your soldier, the same fear, the same pride when you complete your mission. That’s how I felt- everything is like the first time. I can tell you that everything in life is like the first time. Last time- I’m doing a lot of skydiving- hundreds of them and everytime I jump from 14,000 feet I can tell you that this is the first time. The same is in the battle in the field.

After we captured the city of Tzor- division rushing north- few more fights- on 6th day we complete our mission not far from International Airport of Beirut- one dead soldier, 6 wounded. Then ____ Jamaal was elected president of Lebanon; he was murdered. Three weeks after, if I remember correctly, me and my company were inside Beirut for another couple of months- one very nice anecdote I can tell you- when my grandfather was sent to do some research in Beirut somewhere in the nineteen forty before the world war. And my mother went, of course, with him. So when I was in Beirut I remembered him and said to Mom, where is the name of the neighborhood? So I took a picture of that neighborhood- sent my mother a picture of her place when she was a child in Beirut.

Allow me to jump 24 years to 2nd Lebanon War. We can talk hours about success of Israeli army- we had and we have the best, brave soldiers- soldiers will do anything to break any spirit of any enemy who wants to break us. Twenty two thousand three hundred and five are not statistics. Each of them has a face. Each of them has a name. All of them had ambitions. All of them had dreams. The family’s life will never be the same. Believe me, I know that- I went to visit them- every year- at the beginning they knew me as Elam, their Commander. Then I had my first child, second child, then I celebrate 40s and then 45. And they left with their memories- for them, Gadi and Amos and Neil are still in their twenties- beautiful, brave, young but looking on us from heaven.

So because of the horrible price we paid- we must in every single day make it a better day. Make every day, not to miss any opportunity for better Israel, better life. That’s the fallen legacy. That’s pray that next year we will stand here and the number of the fallen will not increase even in one. The 2nd Lebanon war did not end- because the kidnapped soldiers are still in Lebanon. Just before I came here I spoke to Karnit Goldwasser about how she feels in Yom Ha’atzamut, I mean Yom Hazikaron. She said, “You know, it’s funny- I’m in the middle- I have no sign of life- I can’t do Yom Hazikaron or be a part of Yom Ha’atzmaut.” Let’s pray that very soon- very soon- at least we’ll have a sign of life.

I believe that at this moment Yom Hazikaron ends and this is the moment we do the transition to Yom Haatzmaut. I was asked more than once how it is possible to celebrate Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut right after one another- one saddest day, one happiest. The answer lies in the question- Israel would not have been established without this heavy toll. Even today we need to keep Israel strong- each of you, in every way- donate a thousand dollars, celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut- anything you can do, do, to strengthen Israel.

Thank you very much for letting me share my feelings with you. Oseh Shalom b’mromav hu ya’aseh eilenu…Happy Independence Day.

Rachel Goldstein (Stern Israel Club President): As we now transition from sadness of Yom Hazikaron to Yom Haaztzmaut, must keep in mind those who gave their lives so Israel would exist. Also need to keep in mind our three chayalim who were kidnapped last summer (lists them.) Who are unfotunatley in our enemies hands this Yom Ha’atzamut. In our devar torah, R’ Nachum Leibtag comments on proximity of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut- “even though doesn’t seem fair to either day, independence gives us strength to cope with Yom Hazikaron at the same time terrible price shows us how to channel our thoughts.

[Now we see a short movie on Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Hazikaron to mark this transition.]

The six-day war was barely two-days old, Egyptian army disintegrating…Israeli advance showed no sign of letting up. By Friday June 9th, Egyptians had been driven back across Suez Canal- Israel captured West Bank and Suez Canal after 2 days of fighting. By Saturday June 10th, Israelis had taken Golan Heights- they hit concealed artillery positions- extraordinary story of Eli Cohen, Isaeli’s most famous spy. Agent 008 was known in Syria as Khalam…

He was given free hand in access everywhere- he had all the detailed plans. He was able to pose for this photograph- all the while gathering valuable information- then caught sending coded transmission from house in Damascus- he was tortured and executed. What did he achieve?

He made a strong suggestion to Syrians- plant trees by every artillery site so as to protect our boys from the sun, nothing too good for our boys in the field- and Israelis watched these trees grow up seeing where ever artillery placement was.

Now call upon the SOY President Josh Vogel to raise the flag of Israel.

Josh Vogel: The Jewish State is at the center of our hearts. Tonight the Torah of Yeshiva University and the Torah of Israeli join together. R’ Goldwicht, with his bright, insightful divrei Torah and his cheerful smile- confident that R’ Goldwicht will take us around the world, back here and back again with his annual Yom Ha’atzmaut derasha. Enjoy.

[Now, for the very simple reason that Rav Goldwicht spoke in Hebrew, I don't type Hebrew and therefore had to attempt to translate his thoughts into English and write them down, I'm not going to include his speech here. It wouldn't be at all accurate and would in fact do him an injustice.]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

YU Israel Club: Yom Hazikaron


If you are able to correct me with regard to spelling, names and/or fill in gaps, that would be most appreciated.

(The room is absolutely packed with people. Not enough room- people sit on the floor, are standing, are in the hallway.)

Introduction: Just two weeks ago on Pesach we read an excerpt from Yechezkel- chillingly appropriate for Yom Hazikaron- God comforts the Jews- “through your blood you shall live”- all the people who died defending Israel since 1960- thankful for 59 years of Independence- those who fell in their innocence because this was their dream- before we begin our program we’d like to thank everyone who helped (Avi and I want to thank) Phil Blumenfeld, parents of Michael Levin, Shoshana Fruchter, etc…may the story here tonight show us how ______.

(stood up- Keil Malei Rachamim)

Lit 7 candles for seven wars Israel has fought and survived.


The movie “A Hero in Heaven” was now shown- it is the story of Michael Levin, z”l.

Michael Levin- joined the IDF, lone soldier, killed in action, “A Hero in Heaven”

They say there is a land/ A land drenched in sun/ Where is that land?/ Where is that sun? (they are singing in Hebrew)

Dearest Harriet, Mark, Lisa and Dara- write this letter to salute the parents of the greatest hero I have ever known- who admire and look up to your son and brother as the great Jewish hero he was. My precious Dara- I am at a loss for words, you have been on my mind and in my prayers- being Michael’s twin has to be the hardest for you- heart is broken for you

Michael’s Mother: One of thousands of cards and letters we received from people- to many people Michael is a role model/ hero, to us, our family, he was just our Michael- February 17, 1984 not only blessed, doubly blessed, birth of Michael and Dara- beautiful family with Elisa and older sister – wonderful family life here and considered ourselves very closely- very close-knit family- rarity where you find a picture of him where he’s not having fun and he’s not smiling. (Where was I before the day/ that I first saw your lovely face song) We celebrated all those wonderful milestones that families share together- bar and bat mitzvah together, big highschool prom, graduation from highschool, all those wonderful moments that makes life so special, people always ask me where did Michael get this devotion, this great love of Israel- great deal came from my parents, both Holocaust survivors- hearing stories from my father/ about my father contributed to Michael’s desire to have a homeland/ etc

Michael’s Father: My father was a decorated combat veteran in 2nd world war and Michael was named after him (Melech was Hebrew name- means Hebrew) He was so humble, felt uncomfortable being called Melech the King

Took tremendous pride in our family history- would always sign in his name, Love, Michael Levin- never left the Levin out, didn’t matter who he was writing to (family or friends) Became more religious and by the time he reached highschool, was looking in one direction and one direction alone. Michael was like a brother to me- grew up on same street, Camp Ramah together, went to Israel for first time together.

One of the biggest influences was when he started to attend Camp Ramah- like all of the contemporary things the kids liked but Jewishly and live a Jewish life- went to Israel with several friends during high school- learned with Jesse Katz- was in love with the land and in love with the people- experience of the lifetime for Michael- it changed his life forever.

For right now in my classroom in Alexander ____ highschool in Israel- here that Michael and I met for the first time when cam to my program in February- look around at the walls you see heroes/ heroines who gave us 4000 years of Jewish history- already in class back then he was soaking it up

David Keren: Came on Netiv in a very difficult year- midst of Intifada- remember first day of the year he comes up to me and says, "The reason I came- after the year on Netiv, I’m going to join the Israeli army.” For someone to come the first day of the program and make this statement was really an exceptional thing.

Parents: Went to New York, took care of his papers, said he was making aliyah to Israel- I’m leaving.

Was always very funny, always full of pranks, always being silly- other end of the spectrum when it had to do with the security of Israel and all that stuff, he was so serious- but that’s Mike- wool hat and baseball and hockey

Benjamin Steward (Israeli Paratrooper): Really just never seen someone just thrive and love Israel like he did- he had such a passion for it- no matter what was going on had nothing bad to say about Israel- which was amazing because it’s very hard to be a new immigrant, you know everyone complains…he’d have a smile and say, “you know, this and this happened, but this is how it is”

Admissions Officer: “Hello, I’m Michael Levin, and people say that if you want to go to the army, you’re the man,” he said to me. I spoke to all the young kids at the Ulpan and met a young fellow, with kippah on his head, small, all the time smiling- “Mike, go eat some chicken, go ahead” (because Michael was so small). He said “It’s okay, I’m strong, I will prove it to you”- because Michael was physically small in size people made the mistake of underestimating him and that was a big mistake.

Michael’s Father: How he gained admission to the army-he had waited for a very long time for his papers and they hadn’t come, so decided to take matters into his own hands. He went down to the admissions building, stopped by 2 armed guards, they said “Papers” he said I don’t have any, I need to get in to get papers! So he left and saw he had to be more creative to make this happen so walked to back of the building- everything barred- but on 2nd floor saw window open- found a dumpster and pushed it against the building, climbed on the dumpster, climbed up the bars, got to 2nd floor, tumbled into mens’ room, found appropriate office, sat down- so walked in, person said “Papers!” and he said, “Don’t have any papers,” so man said “You can’t get through the front door of this building without any papers” and Michael said, “What makes you think I came through the front door?”

So man was very impressed- Michael breaking in to get INTO the army; other young men try to get OUT of the army.

Benjamin Steward: (Paratrooper talking about first time you put on uniform)- feel so proud, amount of pride that you have inside when you’re walking down the street, whether it’s Israelis who are looking at your uniform or tourists who are staring at you- feel like you’re something more now, feel like you’re part of the country, come here to be something, have come hear to volunteer

On his back 40 kilo- and he’s little- if you believe, it’s okay; if you don’t believe, it’s very hard- I believed, so it’s not hard for me. First jump he only weighed 118 pounds so drifted off course- 2nd jump, they put weights on him.

Got our red berets together on Ammunition Hill- so much history on Israel there- 90 mile march and get there and standing on same spot where these people fought- this belongs to us; this is our right; I choose to be here and to defend this land.

Michael became very close friends with Gilad, his commander in basic training- incredible bond between the 2 of them-

“Hamefaked” Gilad: “Standing on the side was an American guy whose Hebrew wasn’t so good. At one point the very large group was ivided into smaller groups, platoons. And this guy, Michael came up to me- said “Nice to meet you, I’m Michael.” So he said Hamefaked, called me Hamefaked, Hamefaked Gilad- So he said what to do, what’s going on?

He said everyone else here is children- I’ll be 21 soon; they’re only 18! So I told him this is how it goes, so I did my thing as a commander and turned around and started laughing really hard- laughed at his accent and everything that was Michael.

Always just had this giant smile on his face.

Michael was inducted into the Israeli army- Mark and I flew over to be there for him and I think it was one of the proudest moments of his entire life- “He’s a good one, I saw in training- working very, very hard.” Since time he was a little boy wanted to go to Israel and fight in the army- that was his dream, always. “God gave him this desire, this neshama.”

Everytime we spoke, I saw the fire he had in his eyes when he spoke about State of Israel, how important it was.

“That’s the truth, man, no pain, no gain- you don’t take the pain, not going to get into the best unit.”- Michael

“Smile would drive me crazy- in a good way.”

Last time Michael came home for a close friend’s daughter’s wedding- took him to a Broadway show, took him to a Phillies game- that’s when everything started, he cut his vacation and came to Israel- had to get back, that’s where he wanted to be.

So they told him- go to Chevron or stay where you are- extremely hard for him to accept the fact that he was still on the outside and would have to wait a little longer before he could join us- so he called me and saying how they’re asking me to look after the stuff here and I want you to call up and influence them to let me go (Tziki Aud) This time- I’m not calling anyone.

Hamefaked said Michael told him “I’m always in the front line- I’m so upset with my officers; I want to go, take me with your soldiers” so I said, “Michael, take care of yourself- just stay, take care of yourself. Typical Israeli reassurance, it’ll be okay.”

Mike pushed all the time to go into Lebanon- the capture of the Israeli soldiers that started this war affected him deeply- it was as though they’d taken his best friends.

Shlomie Singer (IDF Medic): We were on the bus and I asked somebody who was religious if I could borrow his kipah to say shma yisrael so Micael took his off his head and kippah was huge, bigger than his head- gave it to me, so I said shema yisrael- gave it back to him, put it on his head.

[back to white text]

While Michael’s unit was on the move, they were attacked from the buildings and in the open space- his unit managed to take over a building- sadly, a barrage of shots out of a terrorist’s automatic weapon got in through one of the buildings- hit Michael and wounded 2 soldiers next to him.

Shlomie Singer: Both me and the medic were both totally exhausted- thought we were going to pass out- ____ gave the medic a big hug and told god to take care of Michael. (fadeout)

Though injured from shrapnel and in a state of shock, Shlomie Singer carried Michael on his back to a designated safe house. Out of respect for Michael, the body was ___.

Michael’s unit was rescued/ Michael’s body moved to a house of nearby platoon- another unit to take his body back to Israel.

“Hamefaked” Gilad: I had told myself since I had the honor of removing this dead soldier- pay my respects- took people- four people carrying the structure- decided that I was going to do this all the way- it was this feeling, don’t know how to explain it- was going to complete this to the end even though I didn’t know who I was carrying (Hamefaked). We must reach the border- moving under severe fire- wasn’t easy at all, got to border, wounded were transferred- everyone was pleased that the mission was accomplished- as I was going to go up a big hill into the base across the border the section commander came up to me and said, “You know, Gilad, that stretcher was really light- that body didn’t weigh anything at all” so I agree and he said, “That Michael was a really light thing” I said, “What? Who did you say?” He said “Michael. What, you didn’t know you were carrying Michael?” Then I went into shock. Simply didn’t know what to say. “Are you really serious? That was Michael?” I couldn’t hold back just like I can’t now- I started to cry so I was pulled aside- I understood that I had carried Michael all night. It was so hard to comprehend what happened. Very difficult.

Within hours of the battle, the worldwide Jewish community learned that a lone soldier from the USA, Michael Levin was killed in battle- first paratrooper and only Israeli/ American to fall in this war- buried at Jerusalem’s Mount Hertzl Military Cemetary- honored request of their son.

“We are only concerned we may not have a minyan in Israel. No one knows us in Israel”- Michael’s parents (then they show pictures of masses of people there)

"Hamefaked" Gilad: In my opinion, Mount Herzl, the final resting place for Michael is the place for heroes. That’s the place where laid to rest are all the people who sacrificed for the State of Israel. Former Prime Ministers, great commanders and Michael Levin. I see no difference. It symbolizes sacrifice and truth. There is nowhere else Michael should rest in peace. It symbolizes everything he was. The sacrifice, the great sense of mission that he had by making Aliyah and volunteering. It says it all.

Michael’s Father: When we pulled up to the cemetery, our first reaction was disappointment, because saw hundreds of people OUTSIDE the cemetery in cars and taxis- and thought there must be five, ten, fifteen funerals going on at one time- it’s going to be crazy in there- little did we know that everyone, everyone that was there was there for my… The crowd was huge. Could have been in the thousands. That’s- there were trucks with loudspeakers that went through the streets of Jerusalem that day- America- soldier in the IDF has fallen in battle. People came from all over the country- secular, reform, Orthodox, black-hatters; there was a fast day in Israel- completely religious- Shabbat (or did he say Tisha 'av here?)- people walked for hours and hours and fasted all day- walked halfway across the city just to be there. For some reason, Michael’s story- the ideals that he stood for- sacrifice captured the hearts and minds of people all over the country and all be there ___ till that day.

Today, Tisha b’Av in Yerushalayim…place where hearts have been breaking throughout Jewish history- hearts breaking again- devastated by Michael’s loss- but profoundly proud of his courage and dedication to serve the IDF with every fiber of his being.

Dear Michael- great fighter- heavenly advocate for Am Yisrael at this time- I, who served 30 years in the Israeli Defense Forces, salute to you.

Shlomie Singer: Went back to base after the funeral, going through Michael’s stuff- looking through one of the sidepockets and in there was an Israeli flag.

Every eye can see/ Your sorrow has no name/ Your pride is overwhelming/ (song in Hebrew)

Michael’s Mother: Every mother wants to keep her child close to her. Michael told me before he went back to Israel that if anything should happen he wanted to be buried in Har Herzl. Was a difficult decision but not for very long- how could we not honor his last wishes and that’s where he belonged- that’s where his heart and soul was- that was home to Michael- that had to be his final resting place. This kipah (she’s caressing a kipah) this is what he wore into battle when he fell- this is like having a part of Michael- I’m holding him.

“Hamefaked” Gilad: I believe you can read a person by their eyes. Only by reading a person’s eyes you can see if they mean what they say- that’s something I’ll never forget about him- everytime I stood in front of him, whether I was shouting at him or laughing at him his eyes would open wide with a spark in them. “Commander” Gilad. It’s not easy. Not easy. Beyond saying how proud I am for what you’ve done, I’ve learned so much from you. Just like I always told him- He was a friend, like a brother, like family. You sleep by my side- at home and in the army. Always.

Michael’s Mother: People come up to me all the time and ask me about the wings that I’m wearing because I have them on all the time- people came up to me after the funeral and gave us hugs/ kisses- one soldier, wish I remember who, gave me his wings and said we were part of the paratrooper family now.

Wanted to help lone soldiers like him, to help contribute emotionally, materially, physically to make it easier for them- ideals he stood for- this fund will help make it a little bit easier. Yonatan Natanyahu- soldier he admired the most.

“He (Michael) wanted to have his convictions and his actions tally with one another. There is no Jewish people without the state of Israel; there is no State of Israel without people willing to defend it- to die for it. This is ultimately the term is that we’re here- if we had no people like Michael- we wouldn’t’ be here.”

Michael’s Father: Michael was a Religious Zionist who believed in prophets- believed events would play out in Israel- believed in protecting from radical terrorists- considered it an honor to serve in the army.

Dara got a phone message from him the day before but didn’t get to listen to it till the day after he died.

“Hey Dara what’s up- it’s your brother- anayways I’m just calling because I’ in the middle of the war and it’s crazy as hell and want you to know that I do love you and if anything should happen to me…I love you, miss you, wish you all the best and will hopefully talk to you later…*kiss* bye.”

Michael may have only lived 22 years but in his 22 years he did more than most of us do in an entire lifetime. Doing exactly what he wanted to do where he wanted to be- honor his memory by seeing what he lived for, not how he died.

Protected me, protected my baby- protected everyone who was there.

Shaul Chernokovsky- great Zionist poets- poetry touched so many with passion and love of Israel- say that there is a land- couple of lines that touch me because I believe that they were talking about Michael.

“Shalom lecha Akiva/ Shalom lecha Rabi”
Peace to you Rabbi Akiva
Peace to you Rabbi
Where are the saints?
Where is the Macabee?
Answers him Akiva
Answers him Rabbi
All of Israel is sainted
You are the Maccabee

History made by people like Michael- Michael wanted to be a Macabee and in the end he died becoming that hero.

Michael’s Father: They say there is a land- a land drenched in sun- where is that land? Where is that sun? Where is that sun? Where is my son? My son is a hero in heaven.

An American Oleh whose love for God and Israel was Eternal (on the matzevah).

You can’t fulfill your dreams unless you dare to risk it all- Michael Levin

The Jewish National Fund has announced a permanent memorial will be elected to honor Michael on Ammunition Hill.


Israel Club President: Um- before we begin the program, we’re going to ask if some people can move to the front so some people can get into the room who are still waiting outside.

(say tefillah l’shalom hamedinah)


Phil Blumenfeld:

Good evening- my name is Philip Blumenfeld- I served in Golani 51 and tonight I’m going to speak to you about my friend Amichai who was killed in the Lebanon war this past summer.

At around 9 AM local time at about 12…rocket near coast and near village of Zarif as well as some Israeli towns such as…at same time Hizbullah contingent across the border captured Gilad and Eldad, killing 3 and injuring 2. 5 more soldiers killed while

Operation TruthBolt Promise? After Hassan Nasrallah’s promise to capture Israeli soldiers. Israeli Prime Minister described this as an act of war, saying Lebanon would bear the consequences of its actions- Israel fought in what is now known as 2nd Lebanon War- over 350,000 Israeli citizens spent days in bomb shelters. 43 Israeli citizens were killed- today we remember those individuals. 117 Israeli soldiers gave their lives to fight against Hizbullah, to fight for their country- today we remember these soldiers.

Each soldier is worthy to speak of- but want to speak about one individual- one soldier who was very close to me, Amichai Merchavia.

Yaakov Shimshon Amichai- roshei teivos Yesha- son of ___ and Tova- brought up in Yishuv Eli- brother to Emunah, Shira, Yigal, Orit, Yair, Avraham, Bracha (and more, I missed) As small kid loved Israel- loved the land and loved to do tiyulim throughout the country. After high school like many religious Israeli boys, decided to study in Hesder Yeshiva- main priority to find a yeshiva that suited his Torah- Torah of Eretz Yisrael- Merkaz HaRav- Yeshiva of Rabbi Kook. Decided that his time had to be combined with ma’asim tovim and volunteered his time to organizations like ____. His best friend was killed during his studies.

After untimely death of his friend, Amichai wrote and published a book about Ein Genim- wrote history of Jews who lived in Jenin (spelling?) to show that his friend hadn’t died for nothing. We discussed ideas to get the book more recognized in United States and Israel – today I understand that feeling. Wanted his friend Shmuel to be recognized.

Amichai saw everyone as his friend, even our commanders, which sometimes got him into a little children- specifically one story which I’ve mentioned before when I’ve spoken at YU about him- epitomizes who Amichai was-

First week at training camp- officer said we must learn what it means to sacrifice for one another. Two people must volunteer to stay on the base for Shabbat while everyone else went home- a few minutes to draw lots or to volunteer our own- first Shabbat home we al wanted to go home, show off uniform, new gun, some of mother’s good coming. Amichai, before anyone else could say anything, said “Ani mitnaded”- I volunteer. Needless to say, after that the second volunteer was easily found.

Amichai always took the jobs nobody wanted- Amichai would take the bad guard duty, but after a while we said, “No, we’ll do it” and someone else would gladly volunteer- wasn’t because we felt guilty but because we all learned from Amichai that you don’t sacrifice for people when it’s easy for you but when things are tough- when you’ve been yelled at, hungry, tired- that you look beyond yourself and help your friend.

First year in Golani- went to all these places- Amichai was clearly an expert in each place we went to; looked to him to tell us what tourguides couldn’t tell us. Loved to educate us- see in his face that every step he took in the land was a zechut and a blessing. One of our last visits was to Har Herzl- commanders speak about their friends whom they had lost. They spoke about many heroic acts.

Today, chills run down my spine- thinking on that day I looked at my friends and thought, “Will I be here one day?”

Amichai received Golani’s Excellent Soldier- no one’s surprise. Amichai was a natural born leader. After our short time together in Krov on the field, Amichai was accepted into Commander School- became a katzin, and then he felt he had the power to speak and his voice could be heard- wrote a letter to the Ramat Kal- wrote him telling him how he felt about the Gaza Withdrawal and in a respectful manner told him that the disengagement was wrong.

Thought he could meet with Ramat Kal- sit with him with a cup of coffee. Ramat Kal had other ideas and wanted to strip Amichai of his honors- all he had worked for. But Amichai, thanks to intervention of others, was only placed on three week probation- even promoted before his final battle.

Story going around about Amichai and 2 of his close friends-

Roey Klein also came from the Yishuv Eili- warning came out, they were sitting on Lebanon Border- Amichai’s term to go take his unit to do a stakeout- told they had to be there for 24 hours and 24 hours passed by and everything was great but they got onto the kesher and the warning is still on and you have to sit here for another 48 hours. So Alex, who was another lieutenant with Amichai, bought all the new supplies- water, food- Amichai had one special request- requested that Alex would bring for him his tefillin. Now Alex was Chiloni- secular Jew- said sure, whatever, fine with me, but when they came to his meeting point, Alex said, “Oh, don’t have the tefillin.” So Amichai was upset and set why not? Why didn’t you bring it? So Alex said Roey told me not to bring the tefillin. So Amichai gave a whole long lecture by the importance of tefillin so Alex was so moved by this lecture that he decided that night to go back to base and come back later that evening to bring Amichai his tefillin.

Few weeks later- Amichai and Roey were traveling back to yishuv. So says to Roey, “You really told him not to bring my tefillin?” So he said “Yes.” So Amichai asked, “What do you mean, you’re a halakhic-following Jew?” So Roey answered “Halakha is on a ma’arav- sitting and sleeping in same place –actually prohibited to put on your tefillin.”

Incredible, strong friendship within these 3 officers- bring their mesorah- mesorah of the Jewish people onto the battlefield. July 25th fought in battle of beit-shavil? (spelling) Began at approximately 5 AM when two Israeli companies began advancing down- both Hizbullah and IDF were unaware of each other, one of the IDF soldiers saw them first- but Hizbullah were in higher stories and had a higher view of IDF- initial firefight, 30 members of the Gimmel Company (Amichai’s company) were hit. Major Roey Klein saw that Hizbullah forces had thrown a grenade onto the unit- Roey plunged onto the grenade, sacrificing himself.

The soldiers say that the moment that he jumped, he screamed out “Shema Yisrael.”

Alex was also killed in the exchange of gunfire as he was trying to help his wounded soldiers. 2 additional Golani companies were rushed to help in the evacuation. Asael was one of them- Asael was also an officer with us. Told me about rescue mission- immediately started to pull out dead bodies and wounded- pulling out dead body, fell on his knees in disbelief- was holding our dear friend Amichai.

At his funeral, Moshe Merchavia, Amichai’s father said “Amichai- your grandfather fought for the establishment of Israel. In your merit- in merit of you and those who fight for the land of Israel, we continue to live and prosper in land of Israel.”

(picture in slideshow- hat)

That hat was given to Shmuel Weiss’ brother after Shmuel was killed- given to him by Amichai. And at that moment Shmuel Weiss’ brother placed that hat onto Amichai’s grave- returning it to him.

Here we have Ben-Chalutz- reading Amichai’s book.

Today we remember Roey Klein, Amichai Merchavia, Shimon _____, Idan _____, and more who were killed in fierce fighting on July 25th. Today we remember all soldiers and civilians who were killed in 2nd Lebanon War. Today we remember all heroic soldiers killed in war. Today we remember Professor Libresco- Isareli Holocaust survivor who sacrificed his life to save his students.

Asked father of Amichai if he had a message for YU student body—“Please tell them that we are waiting for them here in Israel. Tell them that this is what Amichai fought for.”

(Everyone sings HaTikvah. Most of us were crying.)


I don't think I have ever been prouder to belong to this school.