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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Not blogging on Pesach

As many of you may have figured out, I am not blogging on Pesach. I am too busy spending time with my family and enjoying the Yom Tov. I will resume on Sunday May 1.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What kind of American English do you speak?

I thought this was kind of cute What Kind of American English Do You Speak? Here are my results.

Your Linguistic Profile:

60% General American English

35% Yankee

5% Dixie

0% Midwestern

0% Upper Midwestern

A great way to listen to Shiurim in your car

These days, there is a wealth of shiurim available for free, online, in mp3 format. For those of us who drive a lot (like me) it would be great to be able to download these shiruim and listen to them in the car. However, most car stereos these days come with a CD player/radio that does not play mp3's (and many won't even play burned CD R/W's).

After doing a bit of research I found a great solution. Because the IPod became so popular a whole slew of gadgets have sprung up around it. One of them is the Belkin Tunecast (note: you can get it cheaper online at other places like Amazon). This is an ingenious gadget that you plug in to the earphones jack of your mp3 player and it broadcasts whatever the mp3 player is playing using a low power FM transmitter to your car radio. You find an unused FM station and you set it to broadcast on that frequency, you tune your car radio to that frequency and walla, you hear the shiur coming out of your radio. I tried it this morning on my way to work and it worked great. You just need to find an unused FM frequency which in Israel was not difficult (In NYC it might be more difficult) . It will work with any mp3 player, cd player, laptop etc. as it just plugs into the earphones jack. It comes with a power cord that plugs into the lighter so you don't even need to worry about batteries, all for about $30.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A very relevant interpretation of the רשע in the Haggada

The Beis Halevi explains the רשע's question as follows. He says that the רשע is asking why do we need to do the mitzvos nowadays. Who wants to bring an animal sacrifice in 2005? The רשע understands why the Jews in Egypt brought it, but we have grown up, who needs all these anachronistic miztvos? The answer given is "בעבור זה עשה ה לי בצאתי ממצרים". The Beis Halevi asks this is strange answer? I would have expected something like, because hashem took us out of Egypt we do these mitzvos. He explains this as follows. We see from many sources that the Torah preceded the creation of the world. We think in terms of cause and effect. Because we left Egypt we have Pesach and all the mitzvos. However, this is incorrect. The mitzvos existed before the world was created. The events unfolded the way they did because they had to, so that the mitzvos in the torah would make sense. Based on this we understand the answer, "בעבור זה" because of this, the Torah, עשה ה לי, Hashem made the events of יציאת מצרים happen. This answers the רשע, that the mitzvos preceded the events and are not anachronistic at all. The Mitzvos are not based on the events, rather the events are based on the mitzvos, and therefore the mitzvos are timeless.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Shaving on חול המועד

I. Introduction
The Mishna in Moed katan says that a person is not allowed to take a haircut/shave on Chol hamoed. The reason given is so that a person should not come into Yom Tov looking bad. R' Tam holds that of you took a haircut on Erev Yom Tov you can take one on Chol Hamoed, this opinion is not accepted.

II. Nowadays, can someone who shaves everyday shave on חול המועד
There are 3 opinions:
1. It is permitted if needed
2. You are חייב to shave
3. It is prohibited to shave

R' Moshe (אגרות משה או"ח חלק א סימן קס"ג) holds that it is permitted if needed. He says that times have changed, many/most people shave everyday and therefore it is permitted to shave on חול המועד. Even if a person shaved on ערב יום טוב he needs to shave again on חול המועד and everyone knows this. Because there is no way out it is permitted (see the teshuva for all his reasoning).

RYBS takes R' Moshe's position to it's logical conclusion, since you are allowed to shave you are חייב to shave because of כבוד יום טוב of the last day.

Others (see for example shmiras shabbos k'hilchasa volume 2 chapter 53) hold that chazal made a gezera not to cut hair on חול המועד and therefore it applies in any and all cases and the fact that now people shave everyday is irrelevant, just like the prohibition of taking medicine applies on shabbos nowadays even though no one grinds their own medicine.

When I was in R' Willig's shiur as a freshman in YU, this question came up and he answered as follows. he said that the minhag is for yeshiva boys not to shave and he sees no reason to change that. What about כבוד יום טוב? He quoted a line from the Chasam Sofer "ניוולו זהו כבודו" meaning that coming into the last day of יום טוב unshaven is considered כבוד יום טוב because that is the practice. כבוד is a very subjective thing and depends on the time and place. If the minhag is not to shave then that is כבוד.

It comes out that if you hold like the Rav it really depends on where you live. If you live in a place where almost no one shaves (like I do in Israel), then even according to the Rav you could say that you shouldn't shave, it is not כבוד to stand out and be different then everyone else. If you live in a place where everyone shaves then the reverse applies, you wouldn't say ניוולו זהו כבודו and therefore you would be חייב to shave. If you live in a mixed community it would seem that both sevaras apply.

As always ask your Rav what to do.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Being יוצא על המחיה from someone else II

I should have been more careful with what I wrote about this yesterday. The שו"ע in סימן רי"ג brings down this din, that you should not be יוצא על המחיה from someone else. However, the Mishna Berura there comments that nowadays since people are מזלזל in these berachos we can be סומך on one person being מוציא everyone. The Mishna Berura then says that לכתחילה each person should say it word for word.

R' Shachter quotes the Rav in his sefer פניני הרב (page 58), that the Rav was in YU once for Shabbos and saw this being done (one person being מוציא everyone) and was not happy with this and protested.

I remembered the halacha from the Rav and therefore wrote what I wrote yesterday.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Being יוצא על המחיה from someone else

This is a prevalent minhag in camps and other places. After eating mezonos, one person gets up and says על המחיה and everyone else is יוצא by listening and answering אמן.

The problem is that this is against the din. We see in todays daf (Berachos 45) that שנים שאכלו כאחת מצוה לחלק, two people who ate together should split up and each one bench for themselves. We see from the gemara and the rishonim that whenever there is no zimun then each person should bench for themselves and not be יוצא from someone else. Since there is no zimun by על המחיה it is the equivalent of שנים שאכלו כאחת even if it is 100 people and מצוה לחלק, that every person should say the beracha himself.

The best thing to do is have 1 person say על המחיה and have in mind to be מוציא all of those who don't know how to say על המחיה and anyone who has a safek (maybe he didn't eat a shiur), and everyone else should say על המחיה word for word with the person so that they make their own beracha.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Are you satisfied with your job?

According to the gemara (yesterdays daf Berachos 43b) you should be. The gemara states the following:

מלמד שכל אחד ואחד יפה לו הקב"ה אומנתו בפניו

Explains Rashi
ואפילו בורסקי נאה לו אמנותו בעיניו ועשה הקב"ה כן שלא יחסר מהעולם אומנות

The gemara states that hashem created every person with a job in mind, and as Rashi explains even a בורסקי who deals with smelly carcasses all day should get satisfaction from his job because hashem made him that way so that there would be people to do every kind of job.

You see from the gemara that a person should work at a job that he likes and gets satisfaction from. This doesn't mean that a person should be defined by their job, but it does mean that a person should not hate/dislike their job. You see from the gemara that it is not 1 size fits all but that every person is different and therefore every person needs to find the right job for himself.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Mezonos Pizza?

Lately I have seen in a number of pizza stores a sign stating that the bracha on the pizza is mezonos. I would like to explain the issues involved.

I. Background
The gemara in Berachas (32a), which we just learned in Daf Hayomi states that you make a mezonos on פת הבאה בכסנין, however if you are קובע סעודה you make המוציא. What is פת הבאה בכסנין? There is a 3 way dispute in the rishonim. It is either, dough filled with honey or fruit, dough made with honey or fruit juice, or a very thin dough. All 3 opinions are brought down in שו"ע. There is a big dispute in the acharonim whether these opinions disagree lehalacha. Some say that they are just explaining the gemara but in principle they al agree that the gemara is telling you a principle that any bread that is not used as the principle food but rather is used as a desert or something like that is not bread and you make mezonos. Others argue that is these things specifically and only these things and therefore any thing that doesn't meet the specific criteria above is considered bread.

II. Pizza
Pizza today is eaten as the main food of a meal and you are certainly קובע סעודה on it. Therefore, even if the dough technically meets the requirements of פת הבאה בכסנין it doesn't matter you still need to say hamotzi and bench. I don't see how you can say that someone who eats a meal of 2 or 3 slices of pizza doesn't have to bench and therefore these signs would seem to be misleading.

III. Other issues
How do you measure if you are קובע סעודה? Some poskim hold that the shiur of שביעה to be mechayev in benching min hatorah is not just the bread but the whole meal counts as well. Based on this some want to say that if you eat a whole meal and then at the end you have a piece of cake you need to bench because it is all counted and it is like you were קובע סעודה on the cake. In fact R' Moshe seems to hold this way (Orach Chayim chelek 3 siman 32). This is a tremendous chumra nowadays because many times we don't wash and then eat cake at the end of the meal. The Chazon Ish (Sima 34 sif katan 5) argues.

In short, eating cake is very problematic, it is not clear what beracha you need to make.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The delegitimization of opposing views

R' J.J. Shachter has an article about history which illustrates how the Charedi world delegitimizes any viewpoint that it doesn't currently agree with. The quotes below are taken from R' J.J. Schachter's article Facing the Truths of History

"In its 24 Teves 5754 issue, the English edition of the Yated Ne’eman
published a brief biography of Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler by one
of his most devoted disciples
During his childhood years, Rabbi Dessler
was taught at home and, wrote the author of this article, “true to the
principles of his rebbe, R’ Simcha Zissel, the boy’s father included
general studies in the curriculum. Among these were some classics of
world literature in Russian translation. One of them (so Rabbi Dessler
told me) was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The reason for this choice is not far
to seek.”
Three weeks later, in its 16 Shvat 5754 issue, the Yated pub-
lished a letter to the editor which was extremely critical of that newspaper’s
decision to publish this information. Expressing his “amazement
and outrage,” the correspondent noted the enormous responsibility
which rests upon the editorial staff of the Yated to “maintain
a constant vigilance over every sentence and phrase that it publishes,
in order to ensure that emunah, Torah and yiras Shomayim
shall be strengthened by that phrase.” Since, he continued, “you will
surely admit that the references to ‘some classics of world literature in
Russian translation,’ etc. ‘including Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ will not
strengthen emunah, Torah and yiras Shomayim in any one of your
readers,” a grievous error was committed by their having been published."
Then, in conclusion, the author of the letter wrote: “One of the
great features which distinguish the world of Bnei Torah from the
other sections of Orthodox Jewry, is the readiness on our part to be
‘modeh al ha’emess,’ to admit to the truth when we have made an
error, because ‘emess’—the truth, the seal of the Almighty—is our
greatest pride and possession. It should, therefore, be admitted, without
hesitation, that the publication of the aforementioned chapter was
an error, and special care should be taken to insure that such errors
shall not be repeated in the future.”2 In this final argument, the author
of this letter invoked truth as requiring the editors of the Yated to
honestly acknowledge that they had made a mistake."

R' J.J. Schacter then makes the following comment which I believe is right on and is at the heart of the Slifkin controversy as well. Suddenly we are now deciding that the Gedolim of yesteryear's opinions cannot be accepted. Their opinions have suddenly become delegitimized.

"What is problematic here, however, is that it was not R. Reuven
Dov himself, and certainly not “little Elia Laizer,” who decided that
the young boy should study “classics of world literature in Russian
translation.” Rather, by exposing his son to “general studies,” writes
the author of the article, R. Reuven Dov was simply being “true to
the principles of his rebbe, R. Simcha Zissel.” R. Simh. ah Zissel is the
one who wanted him to engage in these studies. Surely this great
gadol and talmid of R. Yisrael Salanter would never have done anything
other than to strengthen “emunah, Torah and yiras Shomayim”
in young yeshiva boys, and yet he obviously felt that such studies
were appropriate. On what authority, then, does the author of this
letter disagree with R. Simh. ah Zissel and maintain that such studies
indeed “will not strengthen emunah, Torah and yiras Shomayim?” It
would have been more appropriate for the author of the letter to
have acknowledged that while R. Simh. ah Zissel had one opinion,
times have changed and, therefore, “you will surely admit that the
references to ‘some classics of world literature . . .’ will no longer
strengthen emunah, Torah and yiras Shomayim. . . .”

This is what happened in the Slifkin affair as well. R' Slifkin did not make any thing up, he has many sources for the approach he takes. Suddenly, his sources are no longer legitimate because they contradict the in vogue thinking.

Haaretz printed an idiotic article about Har Habayit and Halacha

Religious law has been breached on the Mount

This is the author's conclusion
"The breach of the rabbinical decision that forbids entry to the Temple Mount demonstrates that the strict religious law - regarding which we have always been told that not even a single comma in it can be changed - can in fact be updated in accordance with the changing political circumstances."

This is absolutely ridiculous. The writer completely misunderstands what is going on and the halachic process. Application of halacha is based on facts, when the facts change the application of the halacha changes. As RHS said, until now we applied Sif alef, now that the facts changed we need to apply Sif Beis. This is exactly what happened here.

The original prohibition was as the writer states because the Rabbis were not sure what was permissible and what was not and therefore the Rabbis said you can't go up. Since then (in the 38 years since) much research has been done to map out the Temple Mount. Based on this the Rabbis have delineated areas that are clearly permitted.

This is not the halacha changing but the facts and the corresponding application of the halacha changing. When the facts were not known the Rabbis prohibited, now that the facts have been clarified the application of the halacha changes accordingly and therefore you are permitted to go up.

The reasons for the research may be political/idealogical. In other words, in 1967 R' Zvi Yehuda probably thought that Moshiach was around the corner and therefore there was no need to deal with this. Now that everyone has realized that the process is a slow one (it doesn't look like we are any closer to Moshiach then we were in 1966), the need/want to allow people to go up has become much greater and therefore the Rabbanim researched the subject and looked into it. This is perfectly fine, and is not changing the halacha.

I implore everyone to respond to this article in Haaretz by posting comments and writing letters.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Thanks! Over 1000 hits in about a month

I started this blog a little over a month ago and I didn't really know what to expect. I am very gratified that in a little over a month it has already passed the 1000 hit mark. Thanks to everyone who is reading, I hope you continue to enjoy my posts.

A fascinating psak in Berachos 38

The gemara in Berachos 38 states that berachos have to be said in the past tense. the gemara then asks what should the language of the beracha on bread be. The gemara says that everyone agrees that מוציא is past tense, the gemara has a dispute about המוציא, one opinion says it is also past tense and 1 opinion says it is not. The gemara (and this is our practice) paskens המוציא, why? So that the beracha should tell us exactly this point, that המוציא is past tense.

We see an amazing thing here. Even though by saying מוציא we would be יוצא any ספק, the gemara thought that it was more important to say המוציא and teach us something. We learn a very important thing here. Sometimes, it is more important to do something that is under dispute but you hold is permitted then to be מחמיר and be be יוצא any ספק, instead you need to do what you think is permitted to specifically show people that this is the halacha. This is why for example, some Rabanim specifically drink regular milk in the US and not "chalav yisrael" to show that they hold like R' Moshe that regular milk is perfectly ok.

The lesson from here is that we shouldn't always run to be מחמיר and be be יוצא any ספק, sometimes it is more important to show what the halacha really is. The big question is when do we say this and when do we say that you should be מחמיר, for the answer to that you need to ask your Rav.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Non literal interpretation of aggadata

The gemara in Bava Basra 73-74 has some bizarre stories about Rabba bar Bar Chanah. The Gra understood these as parables teaching us important lessons about the yetzer hara. R' Aharon Feldman has a whole book on this The Juggler and the King. Here is 1 story:
Said Rabba barBar Channah: Once I saw a frog that was as big as the city of Hegronia. And how big is the city of Hegronia? Sixty houses. A serperent came and swallowed the frog and then a raven came and swallowed the serpent. It flew up and sat on a tree. Consider how strong that tree was! Said Rav pappa Bar Shmuel: "Had I not been there myself I would never have believed it (Bava Basra 73b).

To understand these stories literally is quite difficult and in fact many (Rashba, Ritva, Maharshal, Maharsha, Gra) understand that these are not to be taken literally. I wonder what the Slifkin banners think about this?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Eating Gebruchts on Pesach

Todays daf (Berachos 38b) states explicitly that you can eat gebruchts on Pesach. The gemara says "יוצאים ברקיק השרוי" says Rashi "במים ידי אכילת מצה של מצוה". You see clearly that there is no problem eating matza that was soaked in water.

The police have closed הר הבית to Jews on Sunday

The group Revava was planning on having 10000 Jews go up to the הר הבית on this Sunday R' Chodesh Nisan, see here. The police have decided to close הר הבית to Jews on that day because they are afraid that the Arabs will riot and that this is a provocative act. This is democracy? This is freedom of religion? Take away the Jews rights because the Arabs may riot? Where are all the left wing human rights organizations? The government is taking away peoples freedom of religion.

Israel today is a dictatorship of the left. Anything goes to further their aims (destruction of the Jewish character of the state and establishment of a Palestinian state). The same people who said that they would blow up bridges if the government tried to transfer Arabs are in the forefront of the disengagement which is transferring Jews from their land. Sharon could be the biggest criminal (e.g. the various bribery and fund raising shenanigans), he can act in anti-democratic ways, he can ignore the referendum in his party, etc. it doesn't matter because he is fulfilling the dream of the left, kicking Jews out of their homes in Gaza.

Clarification/Explanation of R' Shachters view on the Godol Hador

I would like to clarify/explain R' Shachter's remarks about the godol hador because I think people have misunderstood what he meant.

RHS was defining Godol Hador in a pure halachic sense. This is part of the gadlus of RHS (following in the footsteps of the Rav), the ability to take things that are seemingly not halachic and to show that it really is a halachic concept and to explain the system of how it works. For more on this see the first piece in Nefesh Harav. RHS said that based on Tosafos Berachos 31b we see that there is such a halachic concept of godol hador. RHS understood that it is based on the well known halacha of rebbe muvhak and that is how it works. Today the term has been borrowed and is not used in it's pure halachic sense.

There hasn't been a halachic godol hador for well over a thousand years, probably not since the time of R' Akiva. The Rambam was certainly one of the greatest poskim ever and yet even in his lifetime many (if not most) of world jewry did not follow many of his psakim. It has been like this throughout the galus. Every community/country has had it's Gedolim/Poskim who they followed. There hasn't been 1 posek who everyone followed. How many people paskened like the Gra when he was alive? A very very small minority. R' Chaim Ozer represented the Lithuanian/Poland yeshiva world. He didn't represent the Hasidim, they followed their Rebbeim, he didn't represent the Hungarians they had their poskim. As RHS said this is the way it has always been.

Based on the above, it is clear that R' Elyashiv is not the godol hador in the halachic sense, he is the posek for the Lithuanian/Ashkenazi community in Israel and is a tremendous Gadol B'Torah. That however, does not make him "the Godol Hador" in a halachic sense.

I think it is safe to say that there won't be a godol hador in the halachic sense until Moshiach comes, there are too many different approaches to halacha now. You have the chassidish approach, the sefardim, and even among the misnagdim you have those that follow the Mishna Berura's approach (see Dr. Chaim Soloveitchik's article Rupture and reconstruction) and those who follow the Gra/Brisker approach. One posek cannot encompass all of this.

What comes out of all this is that a person needs to have a Rav/Rebbe who is qualified to have an opinion and follow that persons psakim. The fact that there are other poskim who disagree shouldn't bother you. Every posek needs to take things into account, if R' Elyashiv disagrees with their opinion they need to think maybe they are wrong, but if they think things through and believe that they are right then they are obligated to state their opinion and follow it.

Who is the Posek Hador?

Is R' Elyashiv the posek hador? RHS said he thinks not. The reason is very simple. Even in the Haredi world in Israel R' Elyashiv is not accepted by all. The Hassidim listen to their rebbes, the sefardim to R' Ovadya etc. For example MK Litzman accepted a position in the government even after R' Elyashiv had said not to because the Gerrer Rebbe told him to accept it. Sefardim hold from R' Ovadya Yosef and listen to him even when R' Elyashiv (or R' Shach) disagree. In Bnei Brak, R' Nissim Karelitz is 1 of the main poskim. There recently was a dispute about who should be a Rosh Yeshiva in Ponevezh, R' Elyashiv said 1 thing and R' Nissim Karelitz and others disagreed. We see from all this that there is no 1 person whose authority is accepted by all of the religious world.

Therefore just because R' Elyashiv says something doesn't mean the YU/MO world has to listen, he is not their Rebbe/Rav. YU has poskim who can pasken any question and they are the ones who need to be asked by people in that community.

This is not to take away from the kavod or gadlus of R' Elyashiv, it is just that there is no 1 godol hador/posek hador today.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

R' Hershel Shachter on halacha changing and Daas Torah II

The main focus of the shiur on halacha changing was that if the facts change the halacha changes in response. As RHS put it, sif alef used to apply, now that the facts changed sif bet applies. He brought numerous examples (the din of b'chor, yoledes l'shiva, washing the baby with warm water after the mila, etc.) The facts may change for a number of reasons, either nature changed, or science has provided us with new/different facts. When he talked about blood tests he explained the gemara that the blood comes from the mother as an aggadic statement (which we don't really understand) having no halachic significance. He seemed to take the approach of reinterpreting the problematic gemaras. The gemara with the fish with worms growing inside is reinterpreted to mean that the fish swallowed microscopic eggs. Chazal did not know this, they thought that the worms grew inside the fish, the fact that we now know that the fish are swallowing microscopic eggs doesn't change the din.

R' Hershel Shachter on halacha changing and Daas Torah

R' Shachter has a very interesting shiur on how halacha changes here. He clearly states that we need to believe in science. He also has a shiur on Daas Torah here. He starts off the shiur by saying that Hashem wants diversity of ideas, this is why there were 12 shevatim, they were supposed to provide 12 different approaches to Torah. This is the polar opposite of today's UO society where there is only 1 opinion allowed.

If you don't have time to listen to the whole shiur on Daas Torah listen to the last 3 minutes where he talks about the situation today. Basically he says that he doesn't think that R' Elyashiv and others related to the Agudah are considered to be the Gedolei Hador representing the whole nation. They are certainly big talmidei chachamim and gedolei torah but they are not "the Gedolei Hador" representing the nation and therefore there is no chiyuv on any individual to listen to them unless they are that person's rebbe. You need to listen to your Rebbe/Rav.

Early Shabbos primer continued

IV. The meal - The Mishna Berura writes that a person should be machmir and eat a כזית of bread after nightfall because there are opinions that are you not יוצא the mitzva of seudas shabbos in the time of Tosefes Shabbos.

V. When should you recite shma? You finish your meal and it is time to bench and you remember that you need to recite shma again, do you bench first or say shma first? Both are דאורייתא and both would seem to have about the same frequency. It's possible that you can do which ever you want first וצ"ע.

VI. When should you daven mincha on Shabbos? If you were careful to daven mincha before plag on Friday there is room to say that you should daven mincha before plag on shabbos for the following reason. Since you davened maariv early (before sunset) you defined the time between plag and sunset for that day, Shabbos, as night. Therefore on Shabbos you should daven mincha early before plag. This is a chumra and certainly not required but is something to think about.

All in all early shabbos is a very worthwhile experience especially when you have small children, it allows them to participate in the Shabbos meal Friday night, and it allows us to fulfill the mitzva of tosefes shabbos in it's full meaning. We should just keep in mind the points raised above so that we conduct ourselves according to halacha so that it doesn't become יצא שכרה בהפסדה.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Todays daf (Brachos 35) the famous dispute between R' Yishmael and רשב"י

Todays daf has the famous dispute between R' Yishmael and R' Shimon Ben Yochai about whether a person should work (and learn Torah in their non-work time) or just learn Torah. The Gemara states that הרבה עשו כרשב"י ולא עלתה בידם הרבה עשו כר ישמעל ועלתה בידם (many did like R' Shimon ben Yochai and it didn't work out for them many did like R' Yishmael and it did work out for them).

Based on this gemara the Brisker Rav (in the beginning of חיי שרה) says the following. R' Meir in Kiddushin states that חייב אדם ללמד את בנו אומנות, a person is obligated to teach his son a trade so that he will be able to make a living. Yet, the last mishna of Kiddushin quotes ר נהוראי as saying that he would only teach his son Torah. The Brisker Rav asks that the Gemara in Eruvin states that ר נהוראי and R' Meir are the same person so he is contradicting himself? He answers based on the gemara in berachos. The masses need to learn a trade and make a living like R' Yishmael however certain individuals can act like רשב"י, that is why the gemara says many, implying that for some רשב"י is the right path. R' Meir was saying the halacha for the masses when he said that a person is obligated to teach his son a trade, while in the last mishna he was talking about his son who he recognized could be part of the few who do like רשב"י.

This gemara in berachos is quoted in שו"ע in סימן קנ"ו where the שו"ע says that after davening and learning a person should go to work and in his work be honest etc. I remember when R' Willig spoke about YU and Torah Umadda in one of the early Torah Umadda lectures he said that we at YU follow the שו"ע (and the gemara) that the masses need to learn a trade and work and therefore we teach secular studies so that people will be able to get a job.

In the charedi world in Israel they seem to follow ר נהוראי and R' Shimon ben Yochai, there are no secular studies after elementary school and people are expected to sit and learn in kollel. What about the gemara and the שו"ע? The answer usually given is that after the holocaust there was a הוראת שעה that everyone needed to dedicate himself to Torah so that we could rebuild Torah. The problem with this is twofold.

1. The gemara states that the masses who did like R' Shimon Ben Yochai were not successful. Why do we think that the masses today will be more successful? The gemara is clearly stating that Torah study alone is not for the masses, the masses should go out to work and learn Torah in their free time. Anyone who looks at the Charedi world in Israel sees this, there are (large) numbers of people who are not successful in learning sitting in Yeshivas/Kollels because they have no other option, they have no education (they also have a problem with the army) and therefore they can't leave.
2. 60 years after the holocaust we need to reevaluate this הוראת שעה and see if it still should apply. The torah world has been reestablished there are more people learning now then ever before. Maybe it is time to say that we need to get back to normal life where a small minority learns full time and the rest of the people work and learn Torah when they can.

In Israel this is the major issue between the Haredi population and the secular population. The secular population is not interested and is not willing to finance people who are just sitting and learning. I am amazed that they haven't shut the money off yet, but there is no doubt in my mind that in the next few years the funding for Yeshivos and Kollelim will be cut and the Haredi world will have to deal with it.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Rabbi Leff on Daas Torah

I asked R' Leff a question about Daas Torah relating to the Israeli elections before the last elections. Here is part of the question:

"...isn't it possible that the Gedolim are making a mistake? After all the torah has a parsha of Par Helem Davar shel Tzibur and in fact the gemara relates that the later Chachamim thought the R' Yochanan Ben Zacai had made a mistake when he just asked for Yavne, and they quoted a Pasuk "meishiv chachamim achor". In fact, just about all the gedolim in pre-WWII Europe were against people leaving and moving to America. Yet, in hindsight, it is clear that their opinion was wrong, those people who left (like my grandparents) survived and most of those who stayed perished. In short, could we not say that maybe today as well, the Gedolim are making a mistake in their view and a party like Herut, etc. is correct?"

You can listen to his answer here (it is only 3 minutes and a large part of it is reading my question). He says that even when the chachamim make a mistake we need to listen to them, this is hashem's will (this is how he understands "meishiv chachamim achor"). He implies that this is how we should view the Holocaust as well.

If you think about it he is most probably alive because his grandparents disregarded the Daas Torah and left Europe and moved to America. How does that fit in with what was the will of Hashem?

The Pope is dead

I am not going to write about the Pope per se because I can't really evaluate his legacy. However, it has always amazed me that a learned intelligent man like the Pope could really believe in Christianity. Did the Pope really believe that he was infallible? Because Christianity is based on Judaism it is fatally flawed. I once had a long online debate with someone from Jews for Jesus. Every proof that he brought was either a mistranslation (the most famous being עלמה translated as virgin when everyone knows that the biblical word for virgin is בתולה) or something taken completely out of context. I can understand how the average Christian believes, he reads the תנ"ך in translation and therefore it supports their theories. However, anyone who reads the תנ"ך in the original Hebrew and thinks a little will see right away that Christianity can't be.

I would like to quote some choice pieces from my debate with Mr. Jews from Jesus. I believe that everyone should know a little about this topic so that they know how to answer missionaries. It is not difficult to counter them. Be aware that the style is a little different then the one I use here because I was debating someone who knew no Hebrew and didn't believe in תורה שבעל פה.

One of the main issues is how could Jesus have been the messiah if the messiah on one hand needs to be descended from the House of David and on the other hand Jesus was born of a virgin birth. Here is part of the discussion:

[me] One of the fundamental points about the Messiah is that he must be descended from the House of David, and not only from the House of David, but a certain branch of the House of David. This presents great problems for Jesus being the the Messiah as we will see.
Christians believe that Jesus was born of a virgin birth, he had no father. As we all know lineage is paternal we see this clearly in Number 1:2
"Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by families, by fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head" (see also Number 1:18).
Therefore it is hard to see how Jesus could be from the House of David as he has no father. Christians answer that his lineage is through Joseph. Even if somehow we accepted that lineage could travel through
a NON-BIOLIGICAL parent, it wouldn't help as the purported lineage of Joseph is not from the right(Messianic) branch of King David. In Matthew, Joseph's lineage is presented as going through Jeconiah. However Jeremiah clearly states that Jeconiah was cursed and none of his descendents would asend to the throne:
Jeremiah 22:24,28-30
24."Surely as I live," says *GOD*, "You, Jeconiah, the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, even if you were a signet ring upon my right hand, I would cast you off!"
28.Is this man Jeconiah a broken, abominable idol, an object for which no one cares?...
30.Write this man off as if childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days, because no one descended from him shall find success in sitting in the Kingship of David or ruling any more in Judah.
The curse effectively removes Joseph, a direct descendant of Jeconiah, from ever being a claimant to the royal throne. Jesus couldn't possibly inherit the throne from him, even if we ascribe Joseph's lineage to Jesus.
Even more interesting, is that Luke gives a different genealogy where Joseph is descended from Heli. Some Christians try to answer by saying that Luke is describing Mary's lineage. However, there is no support for the notion that it is Mary's line. Besides, it is irrelevant, because lineage is paternal. Luke's genealogy presents a different problem as well, as the lineage goes from David to Nathan (not Solomon). However the Bible clearly states that the Messiah would descend from Solomon:
1 Chron 22:9-10
9.Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of peace, for I will give him peace from all his enemies, for his name shall be Solomon...
10.He shall build the HOUSE for my name, and he shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I WILL establish the throne of HIS kingdom over Israel FOREVER.
Again this lineage (not through Solomon)effectively removes Joseph, from ever being a claimant to the royal throne as God states that he established Solomon and his descendents on the throne forever. Therefore, Jesus couldn't possibly inherit the throne from Joseph, even if we ascribe Joseph's lineage to Jesus.

To sum up, we have the following problems with Jesus being the Messiah:
1) If Jesus had no father(virgin birth) then he is not from the House of David
2) Even if we allow Jesus to use the lineage of Joseph (his non-bioligical father) the lineage in Matthew goes through the cursed branch of Jeconiah and therefore cannot be the Messiah and the lineage in Luke is not through Solomon.
3) The lineages in the NT conflict

[my antagonist]
He's still of the House of David by blood through Mary. Geneology is traced throught the father, but you can still be of a given house through the mother (as illustrated by the fact that the Jews currently trace lineage through the mother due to the holocaust making lineage very difficult to trace, especially throug fathers)

Also, by being the adpoted son of Joseph, he gets the legal rights as well. He avoids the curse of Jeconiah by not beeing of his seed, but still gets the legal lineage to David through Jeseph and the blood relation to David through Mary

These are at best poor answers. Let us examine them.
You wrote: " Geneology is traced throught the father, but you can still be of a given house through the mother (as illustrated by the fact that the Jews currently trace lineage through the mother due to the holocaust making lineage very difficult to trace, especially throug fathers)"

It is a yes or no question, if genealogoy is traced through the father then the mother is out. The OT clearly states that genealogy is based solely on the father.The point about Jews tracing lineage through the mother is incorrect. For someone to be Jewish their mother needs to be Jewish. However, their lineage is through the father only. This is not recent due to the Holocaust, this is the way Judaism has always been (this is recorded in the Talmud). Why this split is a different question it is based on the oral law, however it has no bearing on the discussion here because Christianity denies the oral law and goes solely with the OT (if you really want to know look in the talmud at the end of kiddushin). The fact is, from the OT alone, all you see if that lineage is paternal.

You wrote: "Also, by being the adpoted son of Joseph, he gets the legal rights as well. He avoids the curse of Jeconiah by not beeing of his seed, but still gets the legal lineage to David through Jeseph and the blood relation to David through Mary"

Unfortunately, if you think about it, this makes absolutely no sense. Even ignoring the obvious problem that lineage is only paternal, neither genealogy is fit for the Messiah (Joseph's because of the curse and Mary's because it is not from Solomon) Therefore 0 + 0 = 0. How does it help that Mary's line avoids the curse, Mary's line still can't be the Messiah because it is not descended from Solomon. What you propose to do, take the 1 point that you want from Joseph, namely descended from Solomon and throw away the rest, and take the 1 point from Mary that Nathan was not cursed and throw away the rest is laughable, the bottom line is that Joseph was descended from Jeconiah who was cursed and Mary was not descended from Solomon making neither of them nor their descendents fit to be the Messiah.

I am absolutely amazed. This is not a side issue, this relates to the basis of Christianity, yet, no one can give a clear and reasonable answer how it is even possible for Jesus to be the Messiah based on the lineage given in the NT.
[end of my comment]

Even Christians are bothered by the fact that Jesus did not fulfill any of the Messianic prophesies therefore they invented the second coming. They also claim that Jesus is the messiah because he performed miracles etc.

Again more from my debate:

[my antagonist]
But Jesus did all kinds of miracles, he raised the dead, he was resurrected, doesn't that prove that he was the messiah?

The Bible tells us what the Messiah will do. If we read the clearly Messianic prophesies we see that the prophesies focus on 2 points: 1) World Peace (Because the focus of the OT is primarily on the Jews and on Israel, this idea is often expressed by describing the future peaceful conditions in Israel) 2) Recognition of God. Another subset of the prophesies focus on the Messiah himself(in both of the above contexts). Here is 1 of the prophesies:
Ezekiel 37
24 "My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes.
25 They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children's children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.
26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
Note how in verse 24 it says that even in the Messianic era that they will follow the law.
Another Messianic prophesy is the famous quote "they shall beat their swords into plowshares", meaning there will be world peace. No one can say by any stretch of the imagination that these prophesies have come true. When these come true we will know that person is the true Messiah.

Let us talk about miracles and the Messiah. The OT doesn't say, anywhere that the Messiah will do miracles nor does it say anywhere that we will know someone is the Messiah because he did miracles. Why not? The answer is very simple. We know from the Bible how insignificant miracles are. When Moses went to Egypt, the magicians of Pharaoh were able to duplicate at least three of the ten miraculous plagues. When Aaron changed his staff into a snake, the Egyptians did so as well. Elisha the Prophet brought people back from the dead, was he the Messiah? Elijah brought down fire from heaven was he the Messiah? Daniel was thrown in the lion's pit and survived was he the Messiah? One does not even have to be a legitimate person to be able to perform miracles. Certainly, one need not be the Messiah to perform miracles. In fact, God himself specifically says
Deuteronomy 13
1 "If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder,
2 and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, and let us serve them,'
3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
God specifically says that there will arise false prophets who WILL do miracles, yet, God says don't follow them.
The bottom line is, that the Messiah has nothing to do with miracles, the Messiah will be the descendent of David who brings World Peace and Knowledge of God, as that has not happened the Messiah has not come.

[end of my comment]

An Early Shabbos Primer

Now that we have switched to DST many people are going to start making early shabbos so I would like to discuss some of the relevant halachos relating to early Shabbos.

I. Background
The gemara in Berachos at the beginning of the fourth perek has a dispute between R' Yehuda and the Chachamim whne the time to daven mincha ends. R' Yehuda holds until plag hamincha (10.75) and the Chachamim hold until night (which from now on we will call sunset like the opinion of the Gra). The gemara explains that everyone agrees that the tefilos are related to the korbanos and the dispute is when is the last time that the תמיד של בין הערבים can be offered, the chachamim hold until sunset amd R' Yehuda holds until plag hamincha. Given this, I would not have assumed that there is a machlokes relating to maariv, I would have thought that everyone agrees that maariv is at night. However, we see from the gemara explicitly that this is not so. The gemara states that there is a machlokes as to when the zman of maariv starts as well, the zman of maariv starts when the zman of mincha ends (why this is so is not so clear).

The gemara paskens that דעביד כמר עביד ודעביד כמר עביד, in other words you can do like either one. The rishonim point out that you have to be consistent at least in a single day.

Based on R' Yehuda the gemara states that a person can be מקבל שבת from plag hamincha.

II. When should you daven?
In America you have the ubiqitous 7PM early shabbos minyan. This is problematic for 2 reasons.
1. The latest Plag Hamincha gets in NY is 6:56, this means that if you daven at 7PM you are davening both mincha and maariv in the time between plag and sunset all the time. This is called תרתי דסתרי, meaning a contradiction. By davening mincha after plag you are going like the Chachamim and saying that this time is day, by davening maariv before sunset you are going like R' Yehuda that this time is night, on the same day this is clearly a contradiction. The Mishna Berura paskens that on erev shabbos if this is the only way that you can get a minyan that it is ok, however it is certainly not לכתחילה a good idea.
2. There is a din that you are not allowed to start a meal 1/2 hour before the time of krias shema which is צאת הכוכבים .צאת הכוכבים is approximately a 1/2 hour after sunset, so you cannot start a meal after sunset. During the week most people forget about this halacha and rely upon the fact that they daven maariv with a set minyan every night (e.g. 8 or 9PM), however Friday night this doesn't apply as you already davened maariv early. Let's look at a concrete example.

Sunset is 7:55. Davening takes 40 minutes, you stand around and shmooze for 5 minutes after davening and it takes 5-10 minutes to walk home. By the time you get home it is 7:55 and you aren't allowed to make kiddush and start the meal because it is within a half of hour of the zman of krias shma.

Based on the above, the best thing to do is to daven mincha right before plag and kabalas shabbos maariv right after. Because plag is 1.25 hours (zmaniyos) before sunset you don't have a problem with 2 either.

If everyone wants to have a set time, in NY I would recommend 6:40 instead of 7. For about 2 months in the summer plag is between 6:45 and 6:56 and therefore "by accident" you end up davening mincha before plag.

III When the should the wife light candles?
Candles cannot be lit before plag, if they are they need to be relit. The question that comes up is does the kabbalas shabbos of the husband affect the wife? Can she do melacha after he is mekabel shabbos? R' Moshe has a teshuva about this where he says that she is not affected and she can do melacha, many others agree as well. However, some poskim disagree. Therefore, the best thing to do is to have the wife light within the first 15 minutes after plag to be machmir for this opinion. If the wife cannot finish all the work in that time she clearly has who to rely on to do melacha even after.

to be continued ...