‘Tears: Man’s, G-d’s & The Angel’s’

“All professions strive to maximize the range of their legitimate authority.” (Allan V. Horwitz)

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Unknown)

Rabbi Holland grew up in Lakewood and moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s. He became the principal of Bais Yaakov. Around 1988, he became a teacher at YULA. He served on the Beit Din for conversions at the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC) with Rabbi Avraham Union and Rabbi Gershon Bess. Then he shifted away from working with children and went to Israel for a year around 1996. He then became a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Kollel and moved back to Lakewood to work with at risk youth. One thing that is interesting about him is the depth of his support among certain rich Orthodox Jews in Fairfax-La Brea. Another thing that is interesting about Rabbi Holland is the depth of feeling about him in many different directions. To know Rabbi Holland is to lose the capacity for indifference.

I grew up in stiff upper-lip Anglo culture in Australia. Judaism’s emotional intensity has been a welcome new direction for me. I have Jewish friends who tell me that they’ve been the only people crying at goyisha funerals.

Normal Judaism creates intense ties among people. Abnormal Judaism create abnormal ties among people. Criminal expressions of Judaism creates criminal ties among people. Atheist expressions of Jewish identity can create religious-like ties among people. Jewish life is intense and constantly surprising. I notice that Torah tends to strengthen people in any direction they want to go.

Working for Lakewood or YULA is like working for the Mafia or the Vatican. You’re protected (until you’re whacked). Rabbi Aron Tendler taught at YULA girls school for years in the 1980s and carried on affairs with his students. This was widely known in the community but the only thing that was done about it was to eventually shift him to the boys school and then to the largest Orthodox shul in the San Fernando Valley. Why would powerful rabbis at the RCC protect someone like Rabbi Aron Tendler? The explanation that makes the most sense is that they have mutually assured destruction on each other.

I knew this Orthodox rabbi who served time in prison for possession of child porn. He couldn’t stop himself from sharing words of Torah wherever he went. Most people would be ashamed to teach Torah after a conviction for child porn, but this rabbi was a Torah Energizer bunny.

Have you watched the TV series Dr. Death? Doctors don’t like informing on doctors who are supported by money and power just like rabbis don’t like removing rabbis supported by money and power.

When I watched Dr. Death, I felt like I was watching an allegory about how powerful rabbis in the RCC protect each other. Dr. Death killed people through bad back surgeries, just like a minority of RCC rabbis killed people through bad soul surgeries.

You want to be careful about who you allow to operate on you. You can’t just trust your body to your doctor and your soul to your rebbe.

I am not objective about the RCC nor am I writing from a position of clean hands and a pure heart. As the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles published Aug. 3, 2007:

But his notoriety as an adult-industry blogger complicated Ford’s search for a spiritual home in Los Angeles’ Orthodox community. The first shul to give him the boot was Aish HaTorah in 1995 for being too antagonistic and again in 1998 when Rabbi Moshe Cohen discovered Ford’s double life as a porn journalist.

“He was one of the Torah weirdos,” said Rabbi Aryeh Markman, the shul’s executive director. “You get all sorts of people showing up in shul and we bust them. ‘I’m happy you’re looking for a place to daven. But this isn’t one of them.’ And you throw them out. … The antithesis of Torah is porn.”

Ford journeyed down Pico Boulevard and created a new life for himself at Young Israel of Century City, going by his Hebrew name Levi Ben Avraham. He remained there for three years before being ousted.

About the same time, he was tossed from the Rabbinical Council of California’s conversion program for “deceit and deception,” administrator Rabbi Avrohom Union said. “Don’t take anything he says at face value.”

As the son of a Seventh-Day Adventist preacher, I have rebellious feelings about authority that include a kneejerk antipathy for clergy who abuse their position. I became a journalist, in part, to protect myself and others from this abuse. I remember when I was a nobody trying to convert to Judaism, my weakness invited contempt, but when I developed a widely-read blog, nobody abused me any more (particularly after this happened in 2009).

Some people think it is in bad taste for a rebbe to have a mistress. That this somehow makes him inappropriate to run a shul or a yeshiva or a Beit Din that oversees conversions. But hey, it’s the 1980s! It was a different time. Sure, the Torah’s moral standards are eternal, but when you’re living in Los Angeles, you can’t help but be corrupted by the wider culture.

Some people think it is inappropriate for a teacher at an Orthodox day school to send gifts of lingerie to his female students… Some people think it is inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi to have extra-marital affairs… Some people think it is inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi to have affairs with his under-age students… Some people are outraged when the recipients of the rabbi’s affections have nervous breakdowns and die of drug overdoses, but one thing we can all agree on is that these things must be hushed up lest the goyim find out.

Gaby Wenig writes in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles March 7, 2002:

When, as a young woman, Rebbetzin Yehudis Fasman met Chaim, her husband-to-be, he laid out his life plan and made sure that she agreed with it. His plan was not to become a millionaire or to spend hours in the office shooting up the corporate ladder. Nor did he want to become a pulpit rabbi of a large congregation. Instead, his ambition was to simply sit and study. He wanted to devote at least five or six years of his life after marriage to full-time Torah learning in kollel (an institution that supports married men who want to spend their lives studying Torah fulltime) and after that to work in avodas hakodesh (holy work) on behalf of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Chaim Fasman now holds the position of rosh kollel (head) of Kollel Los Angeles Bais Avrohom, the largest of six kollels in Los Angeles, with 15 full-time learners…

“The people that chose to learn in kollel see Torah as the main and perhaps only objective of their life,” said Rabbi Shlomo Holland, the director of development at Bais Avrohom. “That means they are going to dedicate their life to learning and studying and to conduct their life according to this Torah. The more they are steeped in this knowledge and the more they have a grasp of its true meaning, the more they are able to live this type of truthful life. It is a dedication — not to a profession, but a way of life.”

…”Most people [learning in kollel] have been through the day school system and have gone through a yeshiva high school and have spent a number of years learning in the [post-high school] yeshiva beit midrash [house of study]. Learning in Kollel, is in a sense, the final step in the world of being able to learn full-time,” Holland said.

…”One has to struggle financially, and one has to learn a contentment on a much simpler level of having physical goods and possessions,” Holland said. “But I see this as less of a strain and more as a unifying factor in the marriage. The wife wants this [lifestyle] as much as the husband does, and this creates a tremendous united effort.”

From the 1977 B’nai Brith Messenger in Los Angeles:

From Matzav.com Oct. 31, 2010:

At about 3 p.m., the new Sefer Torah was danced down Cabinfield Circle and out of Village Park to the nearby Chavrei Hakollel building at 911 Somerset Avenue. Just minutes after the crowd entered the bais medrash and began dancing with gusto, the beams beneath the floor gave way. The men immediately scrambled toward the exit of the bais medrash and, boruch Hashem, there were no injuries of any sort, as the floor did not completely fall through.

Rav Shlomo Holland, following the dancing outside, told the large crowd, “One thing to learn from this is that floors don’t hold up Torah, Torah holds up floors!”

Tamar Frankiel writes on the spiritual dynamics of prayer: “I learned much from a particular teacher, Rabbi Shlomo Holland, who used to speak of the “worlds” of prayer. He would speak of the “world of the Shema,” the “world of Hallel,” and the like. At first I thought this was just colorful language, on the verge of being enticingly kabbalistic, but then I began to understand. It was at once more mundane and more wondrous than the systems of kabbalah. Every prayer is an entry point into a world of feeling, of consciousness, that one can inhabit, just like the world that you and your family and friends create in your home, or the “workaday world” as we call it.”

EnglishTorahTapes.com has tapes of Rabbi Holland’s Torah for sale, including #113, my personal favorite, “Tears: Man’s, G-d’s & The Angel’s”:

Self Induced Tests Of Avrohom & Yitzchok
Emes- Truth
Our Actions Come Before Our Thoughts
The Theme Of Rosh Hashana
Lessons On Chinuch- (From Mishlei)
Man In Search Of His Soul
The Wholeness Of Hashem
Bitachon & Hishtadus
What Is An Angel?
The Mitzvah Of Fearing Hashem
The High Holidays (Yomim Noraim)
Creation Of One’s Self
The Spark Of The Neshama In Our Hearts
Anger Management
Judging One Favorably
Birchas Hatorah- Blessings On The Torah
Our Role Of Bechirah -Choice
The Longest Journey From Sinai To Israel
How To Love Hashem
The Mitzvah Of Not Turning After Your Hearts
A Journey Into The World Of Tefilah
The Secret Of Tefilah
Making Your Tefilah Better
The Purpose Of Tefilah
Insights Into Tehillim (Chapter 23)
Mesilas Yesharim- The Path Of The Just
The Proper Way Of Speech
What Does Hashem Want?
The Search For Individuality
Inner Peace
What Is the Real World?
The Convergence Of Derech Eretz
Kedusha: You Shall Be A Holy Nation
What Is Torah?
The Purpose Of Life
In Whom Do You Trust?
What Is Existence?
Bechira & Destiny (Part #1) (see also tape #60)
Love & Klal Yisroel
How To Educate Oneself
Our Mesorah
Hashem, Torah & The Jews
Colliding Worlds Of Truth & Falsehood
Coping With Adversity
The Eternal Phenomenon
The Highway Of Life
Appreciating Hashem
The Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem
The Bond Of Love Between G-d & Man
Being Truthful
What To Aspire For
Why Bad Things Happen To Good People
Proper Speech
The 6th Day Of Creation
The Final Geulah
58) Insights Into Tehilim Chapters #1& #2
59) Torah: The State Of The Jewish Nation
60) Bechira & Destiny (Part #2) (see also tape #40)
61) Proper Parenting
62) Purpose Of The Journey From Egypt To Mount Sinai
63) Giving The Torah- The Eternal Phenomenon
64) What It Means Naaseh V’nishmah?
65) An Appointment With Hashem
66) The Fire Of Geulah Consumes The Fire Of Galus (Tisha B`av)
67) Kedusha: Spirituality Verses Fluff
68) Matan Torah- Shovous
69) Where To Look For Hashem?
70) How Much “Me” Is Important?
71) Are We Responsible For The Thoughts Of Our Hearts
72) Taking the Lessons From Yom Tovim Into The Year
73) How to Cultivate True Love
74) Man’s Birth & Rebirth (Rosh Hashanah)
75) Techias Hameisim
76) In The Absence Of Torah Values
77) How One Creates Relationships
78) Is The Bais Hamikdosh Still Burning Today?
79- 86) 13 Principles Of The Rambam (Parts #1-7)
87) Elul
88) Selichos
89) Shovous: Matan Torah
90) Lag B`omer
91) The Dignity & Divinity Of Man
92) Achdus- The End Of The Journey
93) Shovous: Your Own Kabbalas Hatorah
94) Shovous Of The Mind
95) Shovous: Rus- Mother Of Malchus
96) Sefiras Haomer
97) Purim
98) Jealous Of & Jealous For
99) Chanukah Thoughts: Flames That Burn Eternally
100) Tisha B’av
101) Pesach Insights
102) Pesach- The Ten Makkos Of Mitzraim
103) The Avodah Of Ellul
104) The Ten Days Of Teshuvah
105) Sukkos
106) How To Act Like G-d
107) The Meaning Of Ezer K’negdo
108) The Ego- Less Self
109) Pesach: Retaining Jewish Identity In The Diaspora
110) Redemption: The Season Of Freedom
111) Perspectives On The Rabin Assassination
112) Ahavas Hashem Through Hakaras Hatov
113) Tears: Man’s, G-d’s & The Angel’s

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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