Friday, April 12, 2013

Question: May someone who desecrates the Sabbath lead the services if he has yahrzeit? If yes, may he replace someone else who has yahrzeit?

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  Rabbi Lau on Holocaust Day: Focus on Life
by Maayana Miskin Rabbi Lau on Holocaust Day: Focus on Life

On Holocaust Memorial Day Israel should think not only of how European Jews died, but of how they lived, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said in a special interview with Kol B'Rama. Rabbi Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, survived the Holocaust as a child.

Speaking of educating Israelis regarding the Holocaust, Rabbi Lau said, "It was very important that they knew not only how Jews died in consecration of G-d's name. It was even more important that they know how those Jews lived to honor the divine name, until they arose to heaven."

"To learn about the lives of those communities, about their leaders… How Jews' lives looked before the Holocaust, their faith, their faith in the rabbis, their good and honesty, Torah and good deeds. There is so much to learn from them," he continued.

"Another message is to know and to appreciate the fact that we have a home of our own," he said. "With all the difficulties and disagreements and internal wars, this is our home, and we have to hang on to it because we have no other home."

Finally, he said, "There in Buchenwald were Jews from Poland and Hungary, from Russia and from Lithuania, from Germany and from Thessaloniki and Bulgaria. We always knew how to die together. The time has come for us to know how to live together, too."

Report: Sharp Rise in 2012 Anti-Semitic Incidents
by Arutz Sheva staff Report: Sharp Rise in 2012 Anti-Semitic Incidents

A report released by Tel Aviv University on Sunday has noted a 30 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide in 2012.

The report, issued as the Jewish nation commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day, states that 686 anti-Semitic attacks, ranging from physical violence to vandalism against synagogues and cemeteries, were recorded in 34 countries, compared with 526 in 2011. This sharp increase followed a two-year decline.

The report links the March 2012 shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, where a Muslim gunman killed four, to a series of copycat attacks, particularly in France, where physical assaults on Jews almost doubled.

In Greece, Hungary and the Ukraine, economic hardships ushered in the rise of extreme right-wing parties that espouse anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric, and that have campaigned on anti-foreigner platforms as part of their agendas.

This political change has also encouraged anti-Semitic attacks, the report noted.
50 Alleged Auschwitz Guards Face Accountability in Germany?
by Arutz Sheva staff 50 Alleged Auschwitz Guards Face Accountability?

Sixty-eight years after the end of World War II, fifty men who allegedly served as guards at the infamous Auschwitz Nazi death camp may face prison terms in Germany, local media reported.

The Zentrale Stelle, a federal law enforcement body investigating Nazi crimes, has demanded that the suspects be charged with accessory to murder, the newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reported late Friday.

The crackdown was enabled by the precedent case of John Demjanjuk, convicted over similar charges in Germany in 2011.

Zentrale Stelle's investigation lacks direct witnesses, but the agency has maintained that available written records would suffice in court, as was the case with Demjanjuk, said the probe's leader, Kurt Schrimm, according to RIA Novosti.

Demjanjuk, a native of Ukraine, was a guard at Sobibor concentration camp. He lived in the United States after the war, but was stripped of citizenship and deported to Germany, where he was convicted of accessory to murder of all 27,900 people who died at Sobibor, though his direct involvement in any of the deaths was never proven. He died last year before the ruling came into effect.

The 50 Auschwitz guards came from all over Germany, Schrimm said.

He did not specify their present whereabouts, but said some possibly immigrated to South America with the help of the Catholic Church.

The Zentrale Stelle, or the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, has tracked down more than 7,000 Nazi criminals since its establishment in 1958.

(Part IX)

Published: April 4th, 2013
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Question: May someone who desecrates the Sabbath lead the services if he has yahrzeit? If yes, may he replace someone else who has yahrzeit?
Hayim Grosz
(Via E-Mail)
Answer: Exodus 31:16-17 is the source for our Sabbath observance. The verses explain that Shabbat serves as a sign between G-d and the Jewish people of our uniqueness before G-d. In parshat Bereishit we see that Shabbat bears testimony to the creation since G-d abstained from creating the world on that day.
Many Jews throughout the generations have exhibited tremendous self-sacrifice to observe Shabbat. While today there are many laws to protect Sabbath observers, this was not the case generations ago. Therefore, it became de rigueur for Jews to refer to themselves with the appellation "shomer Shabbat" as opposed to, for example, "shomer Torah u'mitzvot." Although the observance of Shabbat is just one aspect of Judaism, it is one that clearly identifies the Jew and is an unmistakable indicator of his or her level of commitment.
We examined the qualifications of a shliach tzibbur, who must be able to pronounce each letter and vowel correctly. The Mishnah Berurah explains that a shliach tzibbur must be a tzaddik ben tzaddik. However, even if one is not from a distinguished family, one may serve as a shliach tzibbur as long as he is not a tzaddik ben rasha.
We also discussed whether a Sabbath desecrator can lead prayer services. The Shulchan Aruch writes that saying a blessing over a stolen pair of tefillin is forbidden. Thus, a Sabbath desecrator leading services is not blessing G-d but blaspheming Him. We thus might classify such a tefillah as a mitzvah haba'ah be'averah.
Rabbi Yitzhak Yaakov Weiss (Minchat Yitzhak III 26:4) suggests a more lenient approach, differentiating between various categories of mechallelei Shabbat. Authorities differ on when a hidden desecrator is considered an apostate, and when he is still considered a Jew in good standing. Ultimately, different circumstances create different rulings.
Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Hodakov, zt"l, allowed Sabbath desecrators to lead services in extenuating circumstances, such as where there are few available candidates "because at that moment, when [the mechallel Shabbat] leads the congregation, is he desecrating Shabbos?"
It follows that we cannot compare a Sabbath desecrator leading prayer services with a "mitzvah haba'ah be'averah" – e.g., saying a blessing over stolen tefillin – for when a shliach tzibbur leads services, he is not desecrating the Sabbath.
We also examined the Gemara which discusses freeing one's slave – a prohibition – in order to make up a minyan. We compared that act to including a Sabbath desecrator in a minyan. If a slave can make up a minyan, surely a Sabbath desecrator, who is obligated in mitzvot (unlike a slave) and who is doing nothing wrong at the moment, can be part of a minyan and lead the services.
Last week, we discussed the order of precedence for mourners reciting kaddish and leading services.
* * * * *
We seem to have established that there is room for leniency when it comes to a Sabbath desecrator leading services since, at that moment (when he serves as chazzan), he is not desecrating the Sabbath. Accordingly, it would seem that a mourner who desecrates the Sabbath has the same rights as any other Jew when it comes to reciting kaddish and leading the services.
If he has yahrzeit on the same day as someone else (who does observe the Sabbath), there are two factors to consider. First, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 74a) relates that an individual came before Rabbah with the following query: "The gentile officer of my city has ordered me to kill a certain individual. If I don't do it, I will be killed. [What should do?]" Rabbah answered, "Let yourself be killed [rather than commit murder], for who knows if your blood is redder than his; perhaps his is redder than yours."
We see that one should always – even if one's life is threatened – give great consideration to one's fellow. The Gemara's case concerns killing. But let think about our situation. Two people have yahrzeit. One observes the Sabbath, one doesn't. It is very possible that the soul of the Sabbath desecrator's parent craves that kaddish and merit of his or her son leading the services on his or her behalf more than the soul of the Sabbath observer's parent whose child is a walking example on this earth of the fine Jewish upbringing his parent gave him. Therefore, it follows that the Sabbath desecrator should lead the services. (Of course, this assumes that the Sabbath desecrator strongly requested this honor.)
In truth, it would be best if the two individuals who have yahrzeit come to some sort of compromise between themselves. They can perhaps share the tefillah (as we discussed last week) or perhaps agree that one will lead Ma'ariv while the other will lead Shacharit.
Who knows (and this is the second factor to consider)? Perhaps by means of such a respectful and peaceful compromise, the Sabbath desecrator will see the beauty of Yiddishkeit and repent of his ways. Indeed, often it is precisely the loss of a loved one and the obligation to come to shul on a daily basis to say kaddish that has led to many a ba'al teshuvah.
(To be continued)

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K'hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at

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