Sunday, June 14, 2015

Kollel to Work: The Transition

Binah magazine this past week had a cover story about couples transitioning from the husband being in kollel to the husband going out to work and the difficulties in this transition. There was 1 particular part that really caught my eye where a wife talked about the sacrifices that they are having to make while her husband works and that it is a much bigger sacrifice to work then be in kollel. My comments are in [brackets]:

I was always taught to feel like it's something special to sacrifice for Torah. Well, you leave kollel and you realise that almost EVERYONE has to make sacrifices for life. It is a fact of life that the world is set up for hard work, its the way God made it, but somehow in the kollel mentality you forget that [that is part of the whole educational system which teaches to look down at working men].
One might even start to look with cynicism at the yeshiva families who are so proud of their sacrifices, now that you realise that they actually have it pretty good. ... compared to the life of the person working up from the bottom tier, kollel life is nice [this applies to people who are not in the bottom tier as well].
Of course the objective is that after a few years of clawing our way through college and entry level, we will end up in a more relaxed life, please God [unfortunately this is a complete fallacy see my note 1 below]. My husband will still be working full time hours with none of the sweet family schedule stuff [this is a bigger deal then she realises see note 2 below], but hopefully money will be less tight [see note 1]...    

Note 1: Unfortunately money does not become less tight as time goes on, if anything it becomes more tight as I will explain. Lets take a typical example, 28 year old married 5 years with 2 kids and a third on the way leaves kollel. He gets an entry level job paying $30k. Money is definitely tight but his expenses are pretty low, minimal tuition ( pre-school) and only 2 kids. Fast forward 10-12 years later and he is very successful and more then tripled his salary to $100k. Sounds great, however, not only did his income triple but so did his family and now he has 6+ plus kids many/most in Yeshivas. Tuition + summer camp is easily $10k per school age kid and taxes are higher. Living in a high tax state like NJ or NY 1/3 goes to taxes, that leaves about $70k, if $50k goes to tuition then you have basically have no money left. This is all without the regular kids expenses such as clothing (weekday and shabbos), shoes (weekday and shabbos), food, etc. all for 6 kids. Additionally, health insurance for a large family can be very expensive even if your employer provides coverage. The fact is, being a middle class frum Jew is the worst of both worlds, the government and the schools classify you as rich because you make a nice salary but you pay so much in tuition that you are really poor. The kollel families benefit from all kinds of government programs (health insurance, food stamps, section 8 housing, etc.) while you are considered rich so you get nothing from the government. In America it is very difficult to make ends meet working with a large family unless you make a whole lot of money.

Note 2: The Kollel schedule is so much easier then a work schedule it is not even comparable. The average employee in corporate America starts out with 10 days of vacation and if they are lucky can get up to 15 days after a few years. However, in America, Yom Tov is 7-12 days that you must take off. Then you have Purim and Tisha B'Av which to experience the spirit of the day you must take off, and then you have 5-7 days of Chol Hamoed. That leaves basically no days off to take a real family vacation or even to take off on Chol Hamoed (depending on the year). Contrast this to the kollel schedule. 1 month off for Nisan, 3 weeks off after Tisha B'Av and 3 weeks off after Yom Kippur. Add in short Fridays where for 2 months you need to leave work at 2:30 to get home for Shabbos, there is no comparison.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hamodia and the Hubble Space Telescope - Cognitive Dissonance

Hamodia published an interesting feature in this weeks English newspaper about the Hubble space telescope. Of course they emphasised the "wonders of Hashem" and talked about far off galaxies and nebulas and how they show the greatness of Hashem's creation.

However, those same far off galaxies and nebulas also "prove" another fact, that the universe and the world is billions of years old which is something that much of today's Charedi world does not accept and calls kefira. It is fascinating how they can use and praise science when it fits their agenda but suddenly when science contradicts their agenda (e.g. Chazal got their science from Sinai and never made a mistake in Sinai) suddenly the scientists don't know anything etc. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Only in Israel can the Attorney General say that from a legal standpoint Deri can be a Minister but he will have a hard time defending it

What on earth does that mean? If legally Aryeh Deri can be appointed a minister (he fulfils all of the criteria set out in the law), what is there to defend? It is an open and shut case. The answer is that the Supreme Court in Israel has decided that it has the last word on judgement, and therefore if in the Supreme Court's judgement he is not "worthy" to be a Minister, then he can't be appointed.

There is no way to describe this except as judicial dictatorship. The elected government makes a decision based on their judgment of what is best and comes the Supreme Court and substitutes it's judgment and says that the decision was unreasonable. Why should the opinion of unelected judges hold more weight then the man elected and charged with the responsibility?

One of the fundamentals of representative democracy is that the people elect representatives who are supposed to use their judgment in running the government. Basically what the petitioners are saying is that based on our judgment we think he is a bad candidate and we would not have appointed him. The problem is that Netanyhau was elected to apply his judgment as to what is best, not you, and not the Supreme Court, if you don't like it run for the Knesset.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Yated takes the money for the ads but assumes no responsibility


Basically what it says is that while Yated Neeman publishes advertisements for various investment/real estate schemes they takes no responsibility for the trustworthiness of the people involved nor do they take any responsibility for the issurim of taking interest etc. that may be violated. The responsibility rests on the investors to investigate.

Imagine what would happen if Yated would take such an approach to restaurants or food products, or women's clothing. Imagine if they said the restaurants that advertise here may be treif, it is up to the consumer to check them out. There would be such an outcry that they would be forced to stop taking such ads until they checked them out. Yet in monetary matters, no one cares.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Have you ever wondered how all of the money change places make a living?

I have and this weeks Mishpacha magazine answered my question. Mishpacha interviewed 2 businessmen who lost everything due to the change places and the article explained how they worked. Changing money is a very low profit business with a margin of maybe 1.5%. This means that if you change $1 million a month you only make $15,000 gross and then you need to pay rent, workers, other expenses, etc. Given that, how can the change places in Charedi neighbourhoods, where there are 3,4,5 or more within blocks possibly all make a living? It is hard to imagine that so many millions of dollars are being changed very month. The answer that the Mishpacha magazine gave was loan sharking. The change places have become de-facto banks giving out loans to people who are desperate for money at ridiculously high rates. The businessmen who were interviewed spoke of taking a 20,000 shekel loan for a week at an interest rate of 5% for the week. Over a year that comes out to over 200% interest. Of course when after a week you can't pay back, they roll it over for another week taking another 5% interest etc. You end up using up all your money just to try to pay the interest.

Of course, these kinds of loans are both illegal under Israeli law as well as under halacha but it doesn't stop anyone. Unfortunately, many in the Charedi world are desperate for money and get sucked in.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The electoral system is even more broken

All you have to do is look at the difficulties Netanyahu is having making a coalition and the deals he has to make to do it. These deals are a disaster for the country. My post from 9 years ago The electoral system in Israel is broken ... is unfortunately more relevant then ever.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Local Charedi newspaper makes a pathetic and childish attack on former MK Dov Lipman

A local newspaper in Bet Shemesh printed the following article about Dov Lipman:


It is difficult to part from you!

In the context of the political upheavals that happened this week, the Knesset parted ways with the first MK from Bet Shemesh, Dov Lipman from Yesh Atid who was placed number 16 on the list and did not succeed to return to the Knesset and who will join the long list of former MKs. Here are a variety of pictures from Dov Lipmans important and plentiful work as a testimonial to the man and his work.    

This is a really childish and pathetic attack on Dov Lipman. While you can certainly disagree with his methods and actions, no one can deny that he worked hard in the Knesset, showed up to all of the meetings, and tried to get things done. Pretending that the pictures shown above represent what his Knesset service was about is very low blow.

Charedi newspaper בקהילה: Don't help poor families that didn't vote for a Charedi party

NRG quotes an editorial from בקהילה that the Charedi tzedaka organisations shouldn't give any money/help to families that didn't vote for a Charedi party in the elections. Below is my translation of the article and then some commentary:

Don't Help Needy Families that didn't vote for Charedim

The editor in chief of the the weekly Charedi newspaper בקהילה, Dov Greenbaum, wrote in an editorial that in his opinion "the support organisations in the Charedi population should investigate very thoroughly those that voted with their feet against enhancing Charedi power. They should reject and throw out the ingrates in our camp who out of laziness didn't go and fulfil their duty [to vote]".

The elections are behind us but the tension is still in the air - and now the time for revenge has come. The editor of the the weekly Charedi newspaper בקהילה, Avraham Dov Greenbaum, called on the Charedi charity organisations to not help help families where the parents did not vote for a Charedi party, either because they voted for a different party or didn't vote at all.

It would be good if the heads of "Yad Lamishpacha" and other support organisations in the Charedi world would investigate and reject those who this past week voted with their feet against enhancing Charedi power, writes Greenbaum in his weekly column. "Throw out those ingrates in our camp who in their laziness did not go out and fulfil their duty [to vote]. Remove and cut off the individuals who sanctified a war against the Charedi leadership".

Greenbaum does not specify exactly who he is referring to, but hinted that he is also referring to those who voted for the right wing-Charedi party of Eli Yishai or didn't vote. "2 sides to the coin he explained, those who are pushing nationalism that is not lacking in the Charedi world and those that are pushing zealousness that is growing in our streets. The zealots and nationalists don't get along with their Rebbe all year long, what does he understand?"

"Nationalism we saw in Eli Yishai's stillborn party" writes Greenbaum, "They are trying to make a revolution on their way to the Knesset. To hurt/attack Litzman, Gafni, Deri. The last time they attacked Yishai as well. That is how it is. Attack the establishment. Why not? They get the great dividends of the Charedi world and every other benefit, but when asked to give of themselves once every 4 years, 1 vote for Charedi Judaism, they turn their back".

In a conversation with NRG, Greenbaum explained that he was not referring to those who based on the order of their Rebbe voted for Eli Yishai or didn't vote, rather, only those who made their own decisions. " Charedi Judaism is suffering from the syndrome of 'I also have an opinion'. This is expressed by those who vote against the orders of their Rebbe among other things. Either because of their spreading nationalism or because of learned zealotry. The 2 together 'take revenge' on the Charedi population as a whole and the reduction in seats that the Charedim received is to their credit. He added: "Whoever doesn't eat [maror] bitter herbs with us won't sit with us for the meal". 

Regaring his call not to give them any help, even though among them there are needy families, Greenbaum justified his position by saying: "There is no need to say a lot regarding the fact that they are not justified in taking part in the Charedi consensus whether for good or bad. Whoever separates himself from the group in a time of trouble, Chazal taught us that he cannot be included with us in a time of joy. He even added and said "There is no choice but to not give to those who are not a part of us what we work hard to get with little power". 

IMHO this is a very dangerous tack for the Charedi world to take.  If we take his words to their logical conclusion then the government should provide no support to the Charedi world at all. Why should the government provide security to Charedi neighbourhoods when Charedim are not willing to participate and give their share (e.g. serve in the Army and security forces)? Why should the government provide money to Charedi schools when Charedim are not willing to teach their kids secular studies? Etc. The Charedi world is trying to have it's cake and eat it too. On one hand they participate in the elections, elect MKs and get all kinds of government money, while on the other hand refusing to give anything back to the state and in fact being anti the state. As I wrote here  at least the Satmar are honest about what they are doing. 

There is a very big question. How can they make a demonstration [against the Israeli government] in front of the non-Jews when they themselves are part of the government and taking money from the government? Why should the non-Jew understand? The Charedi is benefiting from government budgets, is part of the government and has MKs in the government, why should he be any different then a chiloni? This is exactly what the government is asking from the Charedim, to share the burden. The non-Jew can understand that those God fearing Jews who don't participate and have nothing to do with the government and get no government money have a right to not be drafted as well and therefore a demonstration is worthwhile.

Now, you can disagree with his point regarding those who don't take government money, but his point regarding those who do take money is very hard to refute. If you participate in the government and take money then you also need to contribute, the government is not simply a cash machine.

There is another important point to make here. These same organisations that Greenbaum is saying should not help needy families who didn't vote for the right party, have no problem collecting money from those same type of people. They have no problem collecting money from people who voted for other parties, people who served in the army and people who are not listening to the Gedolim but rather think for themselves. Lets see him put his money where his mouth is and do the same kind of checking before accepting money as he is advocating before giving out money, I guarantee you that won't happen.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Election analysis 2015 Israeli Elections - Updated Results

Now that the elections are behind us here is an analysis of the results.

Results

Likud - 30
Machane Hatziyoni (Herzog and Livni) - 24
United Arab List - 14 13
Yesh Atid (Lapid) - 11
Kulanu (Kachlon) - 10
Habayit Hayehudi (Bennet) - 8
Shas - 7
Yahadut Hatorah - 6
Yisrael Beitenu (Lieberman) - 6
Meretz - 4 5
Yachad (Eli Yishai) - 0

Winners

Big Winner

Netanyahu and the Likud. He greatly outperformed all expectations and got between 5 and 10 more seats then the polls gave him.  His 30 seats combined with the fact that the next largest party in the government will be only 10 seats will give him tremendous power. He should be able to make a pretty stable coalition.

Other Winners

  1. Kachlon - His party will be the second largest in the coalition and he will most probably be the Finance Minister
  2. Deri and Shas - Eli Yishai's party failed to reach the threshold 

Losers

Big Loser

Eli Yishai is the big loser of these elections. He gambled that he could get enough votes (4 seats) and get into the Knesset and he lost. He fell short by 10-15,000 votes. This loss probably finishes him in politics.

Other Losers

  1. Herzog - The polls had him leading and he ended up losing by a big margin. He will be stuck in the opposition
  2. Lapid - He went down to 11 seats and will be in the opposition
  3. Bennett - Fell all the way down to 8 seats.
  4. Lieberman - fell all the way to 6 seats, will probably disappear in the next election.

What will the next government look like?

There is really only one realistic coalition based on the results, however, there are 2 other remote possibilities that could happen if for some reasons the negotiations go south.

Probable Coalition

Likud - 30
Kulanu (Kachlon) - 10
Habayit Hayehudi (Bennett) - 8
Shas - 7
Yahadut Hatorah - 6
Yisrael Beitenu (Lieberman) - 6

Total: 67

Probable Ministers

Here are the major ministries and who will probably be the minister:

Prime Minister - Netanyahu
Finance Minister - Kachlon 
Foreign Minister - Likud (Erdan or Steinitz)
Defense Minister - Likud - Yaalon
Justice Minister - Likud
Education Minister - ?
Health Minister - Yahadut Hatorah (Litzman)
Interior Minister - Shas (Deri)
Internal Security Minister - Lieberman?

I would hope that the government doesn't change the law and sticks to 18 ministers.

Other Possible Coalitions

There are 2 other possible coalitions:
1. Yesh Atid replaces the Charedi parties, that would create a coalition of 65. I don't see this happening because I believe that Netanyahu has no interest in dealing with Lapid. The Charedi parties will be a lot easier to satisfy, throw them a little money and they will be happy.
2. Unity government with the Machane Hatziyoni, the 2 parties together have 54 seats they could then add other parties (Kachlon) as needed. I don't see this happening either as the idealogical divide between the 2 parties is quite wide.

The Charedi Perspective

I think that even though the Charedi parties lost seats, they came out winners in that they will be a necessary part of Netanyahu's government and therefore will be able to reverse some of the budget cuts. The bottom line with the Charedi parties is money, and since they will be in the government they will get to feed at the government trough.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Interesting points about the Luchos

In last weeks parsha (כי תשא) we read about the luchos (both the first and the second). There are a lot of questions and interesting issues that come up in relation to the luchos.

I. Did the first and second Luchos have the same text

From the pesukim it sounds like they did, the pasuk states:
וכתבתי על הלוחות את הדברים אשר היו על הלוחות הראשונים אשר שברת
However, there are a number of sources that say that the 2 sets of luchos had different text.

Gemara בבא קמא נד - נה

The Gemara has the following story:
R' Chanina ben Agil asked R' Chiya bar Abba why in the first dibros it doesn't say טוב and in  the second dibros it does? R' Chiya answered, you ask why it says טוב  I don't even know if it does say טוב and he sent him to ask R' Tanchum who explained that since the first luchos were broken they didn't say טוב.

Many acharonim ask the obvious question, how could R' Chiya not know if it says טוב in the dibros? A number of Acharonim (Pnei Yehoshua, Rif, on the Eyn Yaakov and others) explain the Gemara as follows. The discussion between the 2 was about the luchos (as we see from the Gemaras answer). R' Chanina assumed that what was written on the first luchos corresponded to the first dibros and what was written on the second luchos corresponded to the second dibros. R' Chiya answered him, I don't know what was written on the luchos, go ask R' Tanchum. R' Tanchum validated R' Chanina's assumption and explained the difference in the luchos explaining that since the first luchos were broken טוב was not written on them. Now we can understand R' Chiya, of course he knew the pesukim in Chumash, but he didn't know what exactly was written on the luchos.

We see according to these acharonim that the maskana of the Gemara was that טוב was written on the second luchos but not the first.

Ramban 

Shamor and zakhor were both on the first luchos, and only zakhor on the second luchos

Beis Halevi

The Beis Halevi (דרוש י"ח) explains that the first luchos had all of תורה שבכתב and all of תורה שבעל פה written on them. However, the second luchos had only the 10 dibros. 

נצי"ב

The Netziv in Haamek Davar, states explicitly that the first luchos had the text written in Yisro and the additional text from Vaeschanan was Torah She Baal Peh, and then the second luchos included the
additions from Vaeschanan, and were therefore in some respects greater.

II. In what כתב were the luchos written?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (21b) has a machlokes between R' Yosi and Rebbi whether the Torah (e.g. the luchos) was given in כתב עברי or כתב אשורי. R' Yosi says כתב עברי and Rebbi says כתב אשורי. 

Geonim

The Geonim and Rashi understand R' Yosi literally, that כתב אשורי was not used until עזרא came and changed the כתב. In other words, the writing on the luchos and every other sefer torah, tefillin, mezozus was in כתב עברי until עזרא came and changed the כתב. 

Ritva

The Ritva is bother by a number of questions:
1. There are so many halachos/derashos related to כתב אשורי how could it be that it was not given at Har Sinai?
2. The Gemara in Shabbos says that the ם and ס of the luchos were a נס. That only works in כתב אשורי

Therefore, the Ritva claims that the luchos were given in כתב אשורי, however, כתב אשורי was considered to be too holy and therefore all oner seforim etc. were written in כתב עברי. Then, עזרא came and changed the כתב so that all seforim would be written in כתב אשורי.

Radvaz

The Radvaz has a fascinating yeshiva about this issue. He starts off assuming like the Rtva. However, he then finds a Yerushalmi in Megila that states that according to the opinion that the luchos were given in כתב עברי the ע was the letter that was בנס in the luchos.

Based on this Yerushalmi, the Radvaz explains the following. The first luchos were given in כתב אשורי, but the second luchos were given in כתב עברי and that is what the Yerushalmi is talking about.

Brisker Rav

The Brisker Rav in Menuchos (29b) has a fascinating pshat in the Gemara. The Gemara there has the famous aggaddta where Moshe sees Hashem putting the כתרים on the letters and Hashem explains to Moshe that R' Akiva is going to darshen these. The Gemara then says that Moshe asked Hashem מי מעכב. The Brisker Rav is bothered by the לשון of מי מעכב. He explains the Gemara as follows. The Gemara is going like R' Yosi that the Torah was given in כתב עברי and like the Geonim, that even the luchos were in כתב עברי. We know that כתב עברי doesn't have כתרים, so Moshe was asking, מי מעכב, what is stopping you from giving the Torah in כתב אשורי so we could already have the כתרים. 

We see a number of fascinating things from this Brisker Rav:
  1. The Gemara in Menachos is going like R' Yosi
  2. He understands R' Yosi like the Geonim 
  3. The derashos of the כתרים only came into existence at the time of עזרא

III. Who wrote the second luchos?

While most assume that Hashem wrote the second luchos as well, there is a Medrash Raba in Shemos  (http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14385&st=&pgnum=370&hilite=) which states explicitly that Moshe wrote the second luchos.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Can a modern state be run based on Halacha?

According to the Bostoner Rebbe the answer is no. At a news conference (http://www.nrg.co.il/online/11/ART2/680/325.html?hp=11&cat=1102&loc=8), the Bostoner Rebbe said that "he is afraid of a halachic state".

Here is the full context of his statement:
אני מפחד מהיום שיהיו 61 חברי כנסת, כי אני לא יודע איך ניתן לנהל מדינה עם האחריות של שמירת התורה. לדוגמה, לסגור את שדה התעופה בשבת, בעולם המודרני אני לא יודע איך אפשר לעשות את זה". ובכנות הוסיף ש"ברוך השם שלא באים לשאול אותי שאלות כאלה".

I am afraid of the day when we have 61 MKs because I don't know how you can run a state with the responsibilities of keeping the Torah. For example, shutting down the airport on Shabbos, in the modern world I don't see how you can do that. And in a moment of candour he added "Thank God that no one comes to ask me these types questions"

Unfortunately, this is emblematic of the modern Charedi leadership,  don't deal with the modern world, rather withdraw from it. Don't engage with the world, rather have everyone sit and learn.

The problem is that it puts Torah in a very bad light. The Torah is supposed to be a blueprint for society, and yet the Charedi leadership says that we can't run a modern society based on Torah because we don't have answers. What does that say about the נצחיות of Torah?

This was not always the case, R' Waldenberg (שו"ת ציץ אליעזר) wrote a whole sefer about these issues as well as many teshuvas and R' Sholmo Zalman Auerbach was already available to address these issues.

It's very interesting that the Bostoner Rebbe pointed to closing the airport on Shabbos as a big problem. IMHO, that is the least of our problems. Power generation, police and army activity on Shabbos are much bigger problems. How do you deal with industries (for example Intel's chip factories) which can't be shut down once a week? How would you create a workable justice system given the Torah's rules of evidence? The list goes on and on.

Additionally, there are very serious economic issues to be dealt with. Modern economies are based on credit and interest, for example, every modern state sells government bonds which pay interest. What about the prohibition of ריבית? How do you square advertising with the prohibitions of אונאת דברים?

To their credit the RZ Rabbis are trying to deal with these issues. To their credit they are publishing seforim which focus on halacha in the modern world, dealing with issues like the army, police, economic issues, etc.