From historian Marc B. Shapiro’s new blog post:
“Maimonides famously spoke of the sense of touch as being a “disgrace to us.” The Gaon actually had the same opinion in that he regarded sex as something to be loathed and a necessary evil.”
“R. Solomon of Karlin, Shema Shelomo (Jerusalem, 1956), p. 96 (sippurim no. 59), in which we see how an unnamed hasidic figure said that he needed sex every day, a statement that shocked his bride to be.”
“Unfortunately, in our day we have seen haredi Judaism in Israel descend to a level unimaginable even ten years ago. Harsh rhetoric, which on occasion has led to real violence, is now routine, and the rabbis who use the harsh, and often hateful, speech are never called to account for their actions. It is only a matter of time before we see a religiously motivated murder, and we have already had close calls, including a stabbing at Ponovezh.”
“Most disappointing in this matter is R. Chaim Kanievsky who seems to think that Torah Judaism has the equivalent of a papacy, and he can thus declare that all are obligated to follow R. Steinman, meaning that there is only one Torah path. This approach first surfaced when R. Elyashiv was ill and R. Kanievsky declared that the torch of leadership had passed to R. Steinman whose word was now law. See here. Have we ever had such a thing in the Lithuanian Torah world where a sage’s unquestioned leadership is formally proclaimed in this manner, as if he were a hasidic rebbe taking over for his deceased father? In the non-hasidic world the people have always chosen their spiritual leaders, as the Sages tell us: עשה לך רב. Never have they been imposed on us from above.”
How the Gaon of Vilna related to his children. “His children divulge that Elijah never once wrote a letter to any of them. Nor when he saw them, once every year or two, did he ever ask about their work or their well-being.”
Here is how the Chafetz Hayyim is described by his son: “Father had no personal friendships with anyone all the days of his life.”
“I thought nothing could surprise me anymore, but this book certainly did. It is a large two volume set, and the first half of volume one deals with the halakhot relevant to one who is serving time in prison (or as I told a friend, “the halakhot of being in jail”). The rest of the book contains words of inspiration, stories, prayers, etc. all of importance for the prisoner. As the author explains in his introduction, the book is needed because of the increase of haredim in the prisons.
התרבתה, לדאבונינו, האוכלוסייה החרדית בבית הסוהר, וגדלה פי כמה.
It really is incredible when one thinks about this, since not too long ago it would have been simply unimaginable that such a sefer would have been needed.”