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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Gay Pride parade in Yerushalayim

After listening to the radio (especially Charedi radio) I am convinced that that this is going to be an all out war. The Charedi leadership has decided to fight this head on and there is unparalleled unity in the religious community as a whole, everyone from the Edah Hacharedit through the whole Dati Leumi community is participating in the fight.

The battle will happen and there will be no compromises. Many people will think back to disengagement and remember similar promises about battles etc., however, there is 1 major difference, here the Charedi population is leading the charge and is fully behind the battle. As I explained a while ago Why is the Dati Leumi population not really fighting the disengagement? there is a big difference between the dati leumi population and the Charedi population. There is not doubt in my mind that the Charedi population will follow through on it's threats.

We can only hope that the police wake up and cancel the parade before it is too late.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The UN and the דור הפלגה

The Ran in his Derashos (Drasha א) has an interesting explanation about the הטא of the דור הפלגה. He explains that really they did no sin and that there was no punishment. He says that they wanted to have 1 world government. This is not an aveira but it is something that Hashem does not want. 1 world government means that there is nowhere to run. If Nimrod had ruled the world Avraham would have had nowhere to go. Therefore Hashem split them up and created nations and languages so that there would always be somewhere for the believers in Hashem to run to. The Ran writes that this has applied throughout history to the Jewish people up to and including his time. We know that from the Ran's time until today the same thing has applied. Whenever we were kicked out of 1 country a different country took us in.

Based on this, we should be concerned about the UN and the push to 1 world government. As the Ran says this is not Hashem wants and is bad for the Jews.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The ז' מצות בני נח

This is really a misnomer as these were actually commanded to אדם הראשון. If so, why are they called the ז' מצות בני נח? The answer is based on the Rambam in Hilchos Melachin 9:1&2. The Rambam writes:

על שישה דברים נצטווה אדם הראשון--על עבודה זרה, ועל ברכת השם, ועל שפיכות דמים, ועל גילוי עריות, ועל הגזל, ועל הדינים.
הוסיף לנוח אבר מן החי, שנאמר אך בשר, בנפשו דמו לא תאכלו

We see from the Rambam that אדם הראשון was only commanded on 6 of the mitzvos, the 7th was only given to Noach. The reason is very simple, אדם הראשון was not allowed to eat meat so therefore the prohibition of אבר מן החי would have made no sense for him. He could not even eat meat that was not אבר מן החי (e.g. meat from a dead animal). Because of that we can't call them the ז' מצות בני אדם because אדם was only commanded on 6. Therefore we call them the ז' מצות בני נח because Noach was the first person to be chayav on all 7.

The Rambam is basing himself on the medrash at the beginning of Parshas Mishpatim.

The Ran (Sanhedrin 56b) points out that the Medrash and Rambam seem to be against the Gemara. The Gemara learns out the prohibition of אבר מן החי from the pasuk מכל עץ הגן אכל תאכל, they were allowed to eat the fruits but not אבר מן החי. From the gemara it sounds like אבר מן החי was given to אדם just like the other 6 mitzvos. The Ran explains that there is no contradiction, the prohibition of אבר מן החי is really learned out from the pasuk in Noach and was not given to אדם at all. However, because the gemara learned out the other 6 from the pesukim in Bereishis it said that אבר מן החי is also from there as well (like an asmachta) even though in truth the issur is really from the pasuk in Noach.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

מרחשון or חשון

Believe it or not I heard on the radio this morning that there is a group working to get the Knesset to pass a bill renaming this month from מרחשון to חשון. It seems that מרחשון is too depressing. With so many problems in Israel this is what the Knesset is wasting it's time on? Amazing. See Cheshvan for more info on what the correct name is.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What did they learn in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 59a tells us that a גוי who learns Torah is חייב מיתה. If so what were they allowed to learn in Shem and Ever's yeshiva?

The Rambam quotes this halacha in Hilchos Melachim Perek 10. The Chasam Sofer points out that the Rambam in the other halachos writes בן נח, by Torah he writes גוי. The Chasam Sofer claims that the Rambam holds that the issur to learn torah only applies to an עובד עבודה זרה, however a בן נוח is allowed to learn torah. If so, this answers the question on Shem and Ever's yeshiva they were not עובד עבודה זרה and were therefore were allowed to learn Torah.

The פשטות is not like the Chasam Sofer and the issur would apply to all non-Jews. However, they are still allowed to learn the ז' מצות בני נח and anything related to them. Therefore we need to say that they learned the ז' מצות בני נח in Shem and Ever's yeshiva and not all of Torah.

The Gemara in Chagiga 13a says that אין מוסרים תורה to a גוי based on the pasuk that we say in davening every day ומשפטים בל ידעום. Tosafos there asks why do we need this pasuk, since a גוי is not allowed to learn torah, I am prohibited from teaching him so what is this pasuk מחדש, see Tosafos's answer. The Maharsha answers that this pasuk teaches us that you can't even teach them lomdus in the ז' מצות בני נח, from the gemara in Sanhedrin I would have thought that was mutar, comes the pasuk here to prohibit it. If so, again, what did they do in Shem and Ever's yeshiva? They were not even allowed to learn the reasons of the ז' מצות בני נח and any lomdus?

The answer would seem to be as follows. The source for the issur for a גוי to learn Torah is based on the pasuk תורה צוה לנו משה מורשה קהילת יעקב, the gemara in Sanhedrin says that either it means it is our inheritance and for a גוי to learn it is stealing, or it means מאורסה, engaged, that the Torah is like our bride. In either case the issur only came into effect after Matan Torah, before matan Torah the Torah did not belong to the Jewish people and was not married to the Jewish people. Therefore, the whole issur for a גוי to learn Torah only started after Matan Torah and consequently Shem and Ever and their yeshiva were allowed to learn all of Torah.

This issur is very relevant nowadays. How can I write this on my blog, after all, a גוי can come and read this and learn Torah? R' Moshe was asked this same question about shiurim on the radio and he answered that since you are teaching Torah to Jews you have no chiyuv to stop just because a גוי can listen in. The same applies to blogs. However, in a one on one situation the issur definately applies. For example, at work, if a גוי starts asking you all kinds of questions about Judaism it is not so simple that you can just answer him. There is a problem of teaching torah to a גוי. The same applies to e-mails from a גוי, you have to be very careful how you answer.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why didn't Hashem accept קין's קרבן?

The ספר העיקרים has an intersting p'shat. He says that קין and הבל had an idealogical dispute. קין held that man was on the same level as animals and therefore man had no right to use animals. Because of this, he was an עובד אדמה and brought produce as his korban and refused to bring an animal korban. הבל on the other hand, held that man was allowed to use animals and therefore he was a shephard and he brought animals as his korban. Hashem accepted הבל's korban because he wanted to show קין that he was wrong, that man is on a different level then animals and is allowed to use the animals for his benefit.

This is an important lesson for our times where there is a growing movement that claims that animals have the same rights as people etc.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Changing the Israeli electoral system

With all the talk these days about Lieberman's proposal for a Presidential system and various other proposals for changing the system, this post The electoral system in Israel is broken ... from 10 months ago is very relevant.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Haaretz on Daas Torah

Haaretz has an interesting article How great are the words of the sages? where in light of Shas's support of Moshe Katzav they look back at some of R' Ovadya's "bad" decisions and wonder how they could be daas torah.

In the summer of 2000, the Knesset chose the president of the state. At the last moment, Shas - upon the instruction of its spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - abandoned its ally Shimon Peres and voted for the candidate Moshe Katsav. They did so out of the desire to elect a religious president and someone of Sephardic descent. It is still too early to determine whether Katsav is guilty of the charges leveled against him. But it already can be stated that, whether he is guilty or not, he did not bring honor to his supporters and he will apparently never "restore the crown [of Sephardic Jewry] to its past glory."
The dispute is with the claim that his views are Torah and his decisions are holy and correct. Rabbi Yosef is an important leader who makes a great many wrong decisions, just like any other political leader.

Knowledge of halakha does not give him an advantage. Perhaps the opposite is true. For some of his erroneous decisions, Shas is paying a heavy price. For some of them, like the election of Moshe Katsav, we all are paying.

They have a point. The track record of the political decisions of the Charedi parties is not exactly stellar. How that fits in with the idea of Daas Torah is a very good question.

Simchas Torah

Simchas Torah is not my favorite holiday. The dancing does little or nothing for me. I am of an intellectual bent and dancing in a circle just does not give me simcha. I know that there are many people like me. I have a friend who when I showed him the Rav's machzor on YK his face lit up with joy. He was genuinely happy to see the new machzor and look at it. The same thing did not happen when he danced on Simchas Torah. People have to realize that not everyone is affected in the same way by certain things and allow for that. I get real simcha when I hear a good shiur on a sugya that I am learning, that affects me much more then any dancing on Simchas Torah.

In most shuls there is a group of people who take control and shlep things out for hours dancing and enjoying while many others just stand around waiting fro the hakafos to end. There are many people who feel like they are being held hostage. People try to make you fell guilty if you take a sefer and learn and you really can't sit down so it is an uncomfortable situation.

The fact is that the length of the hakafos leads to halachic issues:
1. In Israel, Mincha Gedola was around 12:00PM. Therefore, any shul that didn't start mincha before 12:00PM (many many shuls), had a shaila whether to daven mincha first of mussaf first. If you daven mincha first what about geshem, do you say mashiv haruach or not? UPDATE - I forgot to include (and the first commenter pointed this out) that lechatchela you should daven mussaf before the 7th hour which was about 12:40.
2. Where I live many shuls finished after 2PM. Shkia is around 5:15. That means we had 3 hours to go home eat the second seuda, daven mincha and then eat the 3rd seuda. Not very practical if a typical Yom Tov meal takes 2 hours.
3. This year was Shabbos meaning there was a chiyuv to eat a 3rd meal. Given that the second meal didn't end until after 4PM and then we had to daven mincha there was not much time or will to eat a 3rd meal.
4. Bitul Oneg Yom Tov. Even though many shuls have a kiddush during hakafos (to get around the issue of fasting) a few pieces of cake is not exactly satisfying. By the time 2PM rolled around my kids were starving (they didn't want to eat until their father came home from shul).
5. The same thing happens at night, davening ended around 9PM, my younger kids were either sleeping or half a sleep, basically they missed out on the Yom Tov meal.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Some halachic points regarding building a succah

Much of this is taken from last years posts, however, I reworked it and added some additional material.

As now is succah building time I would like to post some common halachic issues that come up when building a succah.

When I was growing up, canvas succahs were very prevalent and in fact, last year when I was in the US for Succos I still saw quite a few. These kinds of Succahs (as well as other non-wood succahs) have a number of halachic problems which I would like to address. For those who aren't familiar, a canvas succah is made of a frame of metal pipes on which canvas is hung to create the walls.

There are 2 issues with this kind of succah:
1. The walls move which may invalidate the wall completely which would invalidate the succah. The gemara, shulchan aruch etc. write that if a wall moves 3 tefachim (about a foot) in the wind then the wall is considered invalid. Every canvas succah that I have seen (including the one I grew up in) has walls that move 3 tefachim in the wind and therefore many poskim are not happy with them.

There is an easy solution to the problem which I used for many years. The solution is based on 2 halachos related to walls.
1. לבוד - this means that if you have 2 objects within 3 tefachim of each other the halacha considers it as if the intervening space is filled in.
2. A wall only needs to be 10 tefachim (40 inches) high. Once it is 10 tefachim high we look on it as if it extends up to the sky.

Given these 2 halachos we can construct walls of string for a canvas succah. What we do is tie string/rope from 1 pole to another. We space the string around 8.5 inches apart so that they are within 3 tefachim of each other. With 5 or 6 strings like this we have a wall of greater then 10 tefachim. It works because starting from the bottom, the bottom string is within 3 tefachim of the ground and therefore the intervening space is considered to be filled in. Each subsequent string is placed less then 3 tefachim above the previous one again using לבוד so that we look upon the space as solid. We repeat this until the top string is above 10 tefachim. We have created a wall that is halachically kosher and in actuality serves as the wall of the succah. We repeat this for all the walls.

There is 1 very big caveat that needs to be mentioned. The acharonim (Magen Avraham סי' תר"ל ס"ק א) say that a wall created just by לבוד one way (e.g. strings across the wall like I suggested) is called a מחיצה גרועה a weak (for lack of a better translation) wall. Therefore they say that if you are creating walls like this you need to have 4 walls even though normally, a succa does not require 4 walls (like for a reshus hayachid on Shabbos), rather it only requires 3, and really only 2 plus a tefach.

This means that if you want to be machshir your canvas succah using string and לבוד you have 2 choices:
1.you must do this on all 4 walls.
2.In addition to the strings across, you put string going up and down less then every 3 tefachim the length of the wall, you end up with a real mechitza. The reason being that the strings go both ways (you end up with squares less then 3 tefachim in length and width, שתי וערב) and there is no big gap of space. Therefore you no longer need 4 walls.

There is 1 other point to keep in mind. the סכך has to be placed after you create the walls of strings, otherwise it is a problem of תעשה ולא מן העשוי. If the סכך was already put down, then you need to move the scach around to avoid this problem.

I did this for years and it worked well.

2. מעמיד הסכך על דבר טמא - the gemara has 1 opinion that you are not allowed to support the סכך on something that cannot be used for סכך. There is a machlokes harishonim whether we pasken like this opinion. The Mishna Berura mentions that l'chatchela a person should try to be machmir and the contemporary poskim also say that a person should try to be machmir. This problem applies to any non-wood succah (canvas, fiberglass, etc.) as well.

To get around this the minhag evolved to place wood poles on top of the metal walls and then rest the סכך on top of the wood poles. This makes the wood the מעמיד of the scach and the metal a מעמיד דמעמיד. There are 2 problems with this approach:

1. If the סכך would not fall without the wood then the wood is not considered a מעמיד. In other words if your succah is 6 feet wide and your סכך is 6.5 feet wide, if you just rest the סכך on wood poles it doesn't help, if you took away the wood the סכך would not fall it would rest on the metal. Therefore the metal is called the מעמיד of the סכך. The way to get around this is to make sure that the סכך would fall if you remove the wood, namely, move the סכך to one side so that it doesn't overlap the other wall (it is just very close). In that case, the סכך is truly being held up by the wood.
2. A number of acharonim point out the following. The wood that is used to hold up the סכך is in and of itself kosher סכך. therefore, why should we consider the wood a מעמיד of the סכך, rather it should just be considered סכך which is resting on the metal. I have not seen a good answer for this claim.

The Chazon Ish has an unbelievable chumra. The Chazon Ish understands (based on the Ramban in the milchamos) that even if you have a wooden succah, if the walls are held up by metal screws, that metal is considered to be a מעמיד of the סכך because if you took that metal out the walls would fall down and so would the סכך. In other words, if you have something that is mekabel tumah holding up any part of your succah such that without this piece the סכך would fall down (e.g. the walls would fall down causing the scach to fall) the Chazon Ish considers this to be מעמיד the סכך with a davar hamekabel tumah and no good. Basically according to the Chazon Ish you cannot use any metal to build your succah.

Almost no one holds like this Chazon Ish, it makes building a succah an absolute nightmare, you need to use wooden screws, etc. I remember in KBY everyone was amazed that the posek held from this Chazon Ish.

The bottom line is that with a wooden succah you avoid almost all of these problems and are yotze the mitzva. It is not difficult to build and therefore I highly recommend it.

The מקראי קדש raises the following issue which is halacha l'maase for me. He quotes an opinion that if you use the wall of a tall building as one of your walls (taller then 20 amos), even if the scach is below 20 amos (supported by something else) the wall is פסול because it is taller then 20 amos. The מקראי קדש diagress and brings a number of sevaros.
1. The fact that the wall continues up is irrelevant, for your purposes you could take it away and your succah will not be affected.
2. The gemara (succa 2a) comments that you can build your succah out of metal (e.g. a permanent structure) even though a succa has to be a דירת עראי. If so why is taller then 20 amos no good? The answer is that taller then 20 amos can only be built as a דירת קבע, the halacha requires that you build the succah in a way that it could be built as a דירת עראי. therefore, the building wall even though it is above 20 amos, since the schach is below is kosher because it could be built as a דירת עראי.

The acharonim point out that you only say דופן עקומה when the wall reaches the scach. However, if the wall does not reach the schach you don't say דופן עקומה and you don't have a wall. This is very relevant especially in the situation I described above, if you are using לבוד to make walls and you have an overhang, you can't use דופן עקומה if the wall doesn't reach the scach and therefore you won't have a wall.