Monday, November 19, 2012

Is the Torah Really for Terror Victims?

It's a pretty reliable phenomenon. As soon as the rockets start flying, emails begin flooding our mail asking for donations. Sometimes the emails are relevant, like the OU email asking for donations to help flood victims. But sometimes they seem at best only tangentially related to crisis itself.
For example, this morning I received an email titled, "Please help write a Sefer Torah," which stated that,
With the missiles falling in the South, over 1 million of our brethren have come under this blanket of terror. Please join with me in a project that was started before the current 'rain' of terror, but is dedicated to Victims of Terror.
I really wanted to be fair about the email and appeal, which bothered me - and still does, so I sent a letter to the originator of the email, (Hillel Levin - hillel at israelchesed dot com) that said:

Dear Hillel,
I'm really sorry, but is this really the time to be raising money for a Sefer Torah? If people want to send money, perhaps they can do so to alleviate the suffering of the people in Sderot, the families of those killed in Kiryat Malachi, or the many other causes actually related to the rockets themselves. Where is this Sefer Torah even going to be housed? How is it helpful, other than in some kind of pseudo-mystical way that no one can really understand?
I could even accept sponsoring additional learning of some kind during this challenging time.
This really smacks of tzedaka opportunism, and leaves me with a very bad taste in my mouth. I was going to post this on my blog, but felt that you should have the opportunity to respond. If you want to raise money for chesed, that's great! But use it for chesed.
Reuven Spolter

I'm sharing his prompt answer with you in full with his permission:
Dear Rabbi Spolter,
I appreciate your questions and the opportunity to respond.
First, I think that you should know that I made Aliyah 6 years ago and spent 4 of those years working for an amuta which connected Jews all over the world to both Chayalim and to families/children in Sderot. So I am sensitive to the needs of those groups.
The motivation behind this particular Sefer Torah is to honor the neshamot of terrorist victims. It was started about 3 months ago by an amuta: Ahavat Chinam, which provides services: education, dormitory, counseling etc to girls at risk and girls coming back from relationships with arabs, drugs, lack of observance etc. These problems exist before, during and after the current escalation of this 64 year ongoing war with the world around us.
While the project was started 3 months ago, the efforts have only resulted in a handful of complete Parshaot being sponsored. I was asked to assist in the effort 2 weeks ago.
Timing is such, but one can sponsor a psuk in the merit of our chayalim.
This is a time for us to do t’shuva, t’filla and tzedakah. Out right, this is a tzedakah opportunity, they have received p’sak that funds for this Sefer Torah can come from one’s Ma’aser Funds. In addition, since part of the funds will go to the amuta to assist these girls in their personal t’suva process and one of the things that these girls do is t’filla, supporting the writing of this Sefer Torah is a means to support all 3 things that we need to do every day, but especially during this particular Matzav.
One of the things that I have seen some Rabbis say is that we need to continue life as much to normal as we can as a means to show HKBH that we have emmunah and bitachon in Him and our enemy so that he sees that we trust in HKBH.
I know that Yad Binyamin is a lot closer to the missiles then Shiloh is, but travel to Shiloh has always been under attack and while, not missiles, the rocks and boulders that are thrown and the fire bombs that are tossed have increased in frequency on the roads to and from Jerusalem.
At the same time that we here in Israel are under rocket assault, our brethren in the Eastern US are pumping and digging out of Storm Sandy. So they also have a tremendous need for funds, even if only for a temporary fix as they all pack up and make Aliyah. Is it insensitive to ask them for help in writing this Sefer Torah? They need a connection with HKBH also. They lack both the walking, breathing and living in Eretz Yisroel as a z’scut as well as being outside of HKBH umbrella of protection, where He neither slumbers nor sleeps.
This particular Sefer Torah will be housed at the Kotel, the center of the world and the place that the survivors of Terror turn in their prayers. It is also a global fund raising effort, so for both these reasons, I believe that this is an appropriate location for this Sefer Torah.
Rabbi Spolter, we are not a lot of money for participation in this Sefer Torah only US$ 18 or 72 NIS, so one can participate in this project and other chesed projects as well.
One of my correspondents, on Moshav Shokeda, which is a lot closer to Aza then Yad Binyamin has asked for assistance to purchase a migunit-shelter which runs 70-80,000 NIS. Here is another opportunity to do Chesed: how much can you and your ‘community’ (local and on-line) raise for this project?
If you are going to post to your blog, please share this.
Hillel Levin

Of course it's nice to sponsor a sefer torah. But, first of all, does the Kotel really need more Sifrei Torah? More importantly, the money really isn't for the Torah. Rather, it's to raise money for an organization doing other wonderful work - but the Sefer Torah is the means, not the end. Why not just ask for money for the organization? Probably because that hasn't worked so well. Finally, while the charity is wonderful, it really has very little to do with the current situation. The money raised goes to help girls at risk - an important cause, but one that has no connection whatsoever to terror victims. Intimating that it does seems questionable, at best.
Perhaps I'm over-reacting, but I don't think so.


  1. Dear Rabbi Spolter,

    I appreciate your posting my response in full. I am sorry that you make the conclusions you make.

    I see that the missiles coming from Aza and the girls struggling with the proper path are different battles in the same war.

    For 64 years we have had a government that has tried in many different ways to negate the influence that Torah has in our lives and those of our fellow Jews.

    In our effort to be a 'democracy' we have removed the Jewish aspect of connection to living in Eretz Yisroel from the text books.

    Rather then following a Torah path and having non-Jews treated as sojourners without voting rights, we have allowed these non-Jews to make laws in our 'Jewish' country, sit as judges in our courts, teach Nakbaa in our schools.

    It is this effort to homogenize Israel that has lead to the large numbers of girls, usually from poor families to find the arab boys alluring. They are taken in by the 'largess' that these young men, who don't have 3 years from 18-21 occupied with IDF service. These young men have gone to the same public schools as our Jewish daughters. AND these young men are active participants in the distructive process that the arabs pursue to destroy Jews and Israel, through the 'capture' and conversion of these impressionable young Jewish women, who very often didn't grow up with Yehadut in their homes because the Israeli govt has worked hard at secularizing the Jewish people.

    Currently, you and your neighbors in the Gaza belt are under missile and rocket attack by arabs who also want to destroy Jews and Israel.

    I don't see much difference.

    I live in the Shomron so 'my' arabs are Fatach. 'Your' arabs are Hamas.

    Do you know the difference between Hamas and Fatach? Fatach wants to steal everything first; our daughters, our orchards, our land and then kill us. Hamas wants to kill us first and then take everything.

    How does this relate to the Sefer Torah project?

    We as a people have lost sight to the centrality the Torah, actually seeing it as the instruction manual that HKBH has given to our people and our religion.

    By writing a Sefer Torah, dedicated to the martyrs of all these victims of terror, maybe we can raise the combined consciousness of Klal Yisroel to that very Torah.

    Chodesh Tov and may HKBH protect you and all of Klal Yisroel.

    Hillel Levin

    1. Dear Rabbi Spolter, i think there are more important things to write about when klal yisrael are in tzaros (like some words of chizuk and inspiration)rather than bashing a project (which in my opinion seems like a great opportunity for zchuyot and chesed, which is exactly what we need right now)this article that you wrote may be "motzi shem rah" how in depth did you do research before you stated such blunt assumptions?

  2. My Uncle, Zvi Friedman, who runs the Jewel Women's learning program at Aish, sent me the following comment that I'm posting in full.

    All of us who work for Israeli programs are hurting and looking for innovative ways to make money. Some of us are getting hurt because our donor base are now homeless or helping their own neighbors who are homeless or who have lost a lot and others have decreased enrollment because of bombs flying in Israel. This forces us to make decisions on how we will raise money. People who are honest reach out and say - we have an important project and we need you to help us and we need those not effected by these "floods or wars" to help more. Others grab onto the latest crisis and try and use it for their own benefit. If the war goes on much longer we will be inundated with "send a Pizza to a soldier in Gaza" and "send candy to a soldier in Gaza". When are we going to see "send a bullet-proof vest" to a soldier in Gaza or "send thick and warm socks to a soldier in the north". No - bamba feels better and it leaves more money to pay the salaries of the people asking you for the money.

    Does it make you feel warm and comfortable or do you think of these people as slimy. I received two emails from organizations who I believe "did it right". Tzion LaRina is a school for Russian boys and they sent out an email with pictures of two of their boys in full battle gear which read pray for our boys who are out there defending Israel. Nahal Haredi sent out a letter saying that their boys are on the border up north defending us all from an invasion on that front. That's all it said and they gave a link to donate but never asked for money. I may not have sent money but I was impressed and felt good and not like I needed a shower after reading their email.


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