Grapevine: Considerable curiosity

PM Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: REUTERS)
PM Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
What was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doing in the Ezrat Torah neighborhood last week? He and several other ministers, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, had been invited to the apartment of Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman – not for the purpose of engaging in a private think tank on how to solve the problems of the Hadassah University Medical Center but for a sheva brachot in celebration of the wedding of Litzman’s grandson. It wasn’t just a matter of chit-chat and the consumption of food and alcoholic beverages.
There was also entertainment provided by singers Hona Deitch, Srulik Klachkin and singer-guitarist Pini Einhorn. The prime minister’s wife, Sara, was in an adjoining room with the women.
Several hours later, there was another sheva brachot ceremony at a nearby seminary, which was largely attended by well-known Torah scholars and widely esteemed rabbis from whom many came to receive a blessing. Also present at the latter celebration were President Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog, plus hospital directors and heads of health funds.
The presence in the neighborhood of dignitaries that most of the locals know only from reading newspapers and listening to the radio aroused considerable curiosity.
Currently in Israel to mark the anniversary of the death of his father, Rabbi Yitzhok Dovid Groner, is Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner. His father died in Melbourne, Australia, after serving for 50 years as the chief Chabad emissary and is buried with other family members on the Mount of Olives. Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner is now part of a trio of chief Chabad emissaries in Australia.
In the same week, Groner joined in nationwide Chabad celebrations marking the 90th anniversary of the freeing from prison of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson and also in paying tribute to the memory of the seventh and last rebbe in the Chabad dynasty, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, on the 23rd anniversary of his death.
Speaking at a kiddush on Saturday at Chabad House in Rehavia, Groner said that when Chabad first began its outreach activities, it was severely criticized in many Orthodox quarters for accepting non-observant Jews who had violated many of the sacred precepts of Judaism. The Chabad attitude is to judge people not by what they do wrong but rather by what they do right. Since the early days of Chabad outreach, a lot of things have changed.
“They criticized us for outreach, and now everyone’s on the outreach bandwagon,” said Groner.
Hazvi Yisrael congregation in Talbiyeh has been searching for a rabbi to succeed Rabbi Avigdor Burstein, who is retiring. The search committee narrowed down the field to a short list of three potential successors, one of whom, Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, a Zohar rabbi, participated in Shabbat services last weekend. In a lesson that he gave after the service on Saturday, Neuwirth started with a joke about a new rabbi who came to a congregation in which there was a dispute as to whether congregants should sit or stand during the reciting of Shema. “What is your custom?” asked the rabbi. Some congregants insisted it was sitting, while others insisted it was standing. The only solution that the rabbi could think of was to go to the most veteran congregant and ask. Here again, his answer led to a dispute. “But we can’t go on like this because we’ll just continue arguing about it,” protested the rabbi. To which both sides of the dispute replied, “That’s our custom.” Disagreement, it would seem, is the secret of Jewish survival.
Now that he’s no longer US ambassador, Dan Shapiro – who has opted to remain in Israel for at least another year – can come to Jerusalem more frequently and on matters that are not part of his job. But he still continues to talk about subjects that are related to American policy.
On Sunday, he will be speaking at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, where he will review the possibility that President Donald Trump may yet succeed in making the ultimate peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. On Wednesday, Shapiro will launch the Pardes weekly summer lecture series and will discuss the past, present and future of America-Israel relations.