Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Leiberman tells it like is regarding Mubarak

Here is what Lieberman said:

[Ze'evi] would never agree to the self effacing attitude of Israel vis-à-vis Egypt. Time after time we went to see Mubarak in Egypt - he never agreed to come here in an official capacity as president.

Every self-respecting [Israeli] leader, would expect a reciprocal visit when making one on his own. He wants to talk with us? Let him come here; he doesn't want to talk with us - let him go to hell,


Lieberman is absolutely right and tells it like it is. Mubarak has been in power for over 27 years and he has never made an official diplomatic visit to Israel. In addition, the official State run press is viciously anti-Semitic. There has never been more then a very cold peace with Egypt. It really is embarrassing how our leaders grovel before Mubarak who is the dictator of a third world country of little real significance.

Of course our wonderful leaders Peres and Olmert couldn't let this insult stand even for a few hours. They telephoned Mubarak right away to apologize and grovel before his excellency. Where is their self respect?

ז' מצות בני נח

Do these apply today?

The simple reading of the Gemara in Bava Kama 38a seems to say no. The Gemara says:
מה ראה ראה שבע מצות שקיבלו עליהם בני נח ולא קיימום עמד והיתירן

The Gemara then asks how could that be, the sinner is profiting? The Gemara answers that even if they are מקיים them they only get שכר כאינו מצווה ועושה.

Rashi there seems to take the Gemara literally that they are no longer חייבים. Others understand the Gemara that they still are חייבים however, even so, they don't get שכר like a מצווה ועושה.

According to Rashi, if they are not חייבים how can they be punished for not keeping them? The Netziv answers that the ז' מצות בני נח are really mitzvos for the good of society. Without these miztvos society cannot survive. Therefore, if people violate these mitzvos they are not being punished for violating them, rather society will fall apart and they will suffer because of their actions. The Meshech Chochma (beginning of וזאת הברכה) says a similar idea that the ז' מצות בני נח are for societal order. Since Hashem built the world based on the Torah, whenever the ז' מצות בני נח are not observed things don't work well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Peres: Israel is closer to peace than ever before

What planet is he living on? He is really in a dream world.

As Professor Robert Auman said The very act of running crazedly after the longed-for peace is precisely that which distances it from us.

Professor Auman knows what he is talking about as his Nobel Prize was for "enhancing our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis."

He said the following as well, which is well worth reading:

I will allow myself to say a few unpopular, unfashionable words: our panicked longing for peace is working against us. It brings us farther away from peace, and endangers our very existence.
...
Roadmaps, capitulation, gestures, disengagements, convergences, deportations, and so forth do not bring peace. On the contrary, they bring war, just as we saw last summer. These things send a clear signal to our 'cousins' [the Arabs -ed.] that we are tired, that we no longer have spiritual strength, that we have no time, that we are calling for a time-out. They only whet their appetites. It only encourages them to pressure us more, to demand more, and not to give up on anything. These things stem from simple theoretical considerations and also from straight thinking. But it's not just theory: it has been proven and re-proven in the field over thousands of years. I returned today from a trip to India, where we heard about historical stories that illustrate the same. Capitulations bring about war; determination and readiness bring about peace.


Until the Arabs accept Israel as a Jewish state there is nothing to talk about. Nothing that has happened recently has changed in terms of their accepting Israel, rather the tactics have changed. Why is it so hard for the leaders of Israel to see this?

This is why organizations like Peace Now are so misguided. They claim that if Israel really wanted to make peace then peace would happen. Unfortunately, they are sadly mistaken. As Bernard Lewis said, If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed, if the other side doesn't want to make peace then peace will not happen.

Only decisive, unambiguous victory for one side or the other can end a long, bitter conflict. Until Israel learns this there will never be peace. Organizations like Peace Now not only don't bring peace now, but like Neville Chamberlain, actually encourage the other side to continue the battle.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The polls show Kadima with 29-31 seats - unbelievable!!!

I cannot understand how after almost 3 years of a disastrous Kadima government people actually want more. Let's remember that Tzipi Livni's biggest achievement is UN Resolution 1701 which has proven to be an unmitigated fiasco.

Why would anyone vote for Kadima? What do they see? What I see is a party of opportunists that failed miserably at running the country, lost a war and have done nothing. Can anyone think of a single achievement of the current Kadima led government? Why would you want more of Shaul Mofaz, Ruchama Avraham, Eli Aflalo, etc.?

It is clear that the mainstream press greatly prefers Livni and will do everything to help her. I have a feeling that the polls are going to prove just as inaccurate as they were in the Kadima primary with Kadima getting much fewer seats.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The moon and the stars

The Rambam in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah (3:9) writes:

כל הכוכבים והגלגלים, כולם בעלי נפש ודעה והשכל הם; והם חיים ועומדים ומכירים את מי שאמר והיה העולם, כל אחד ואחד לפי גודלו ולפי מעלתו משבחים ומפארים ליוצרם כמו המלאכים. וכשם שמכירים את הקדוש ברוך הוא, כך מכירים את עצמן ומכירים את המלאכים שלמעלה מהן. ודעת הכוכבים והגלגלים, מעוטה מדעת המלאכים וגדולה מדעת בני האדם

The Rambam writes that the stars and the galgalim (which includes the moon) are spiritual beings like angels. This Rambam was proven wrong when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon showing that the moon was a physical entity.

The Rambam (ibid 3:8) also writes:
כל הכוכבים הנראים--יש מהן כוכבים קטנים שהארץ גדולה מאחד מהן, ויש מהן כוכבים שכל אחד מהן גדול מן הארץ כמה פעמים. והארץ גדולה מן הירח כמו ארבעים פעמים, והשמש גדולה מן הארץ כמו מאה ושבעים פעמים; נמצא הירח אחד מששת אלפים ושמונה מאות מן השמש בקירוב. ואין בכל הכוכבים, כוכב גדול מן השמש ולא קטן מכוכב שבגלגל שני.

He states that the Earth is 4 times bigger then the moon and the sun is 170 times bigger then the Earth. These numbers are clearly wrong based on modern astronomy.

Interestingly enough, R' Shach wanted to use this Rambam to show that Torah includes everything. R' Aharon Lichtenstein responded to R' Shach as follows:

R. Aharon Lichtenstein, "Legitimization of Modernity: Classical and Contemporary" in Leaves of Faith (Ktav: 2004), vol. 2:

...Moreover, I freely concede that one's faith in the concept is periodically put to a severe test. As but one instance, the doyen of [then-]current rashei yeshiva, R. [Elazar Mann] Schach, proves the value of Torah as the self-sufficient repository of all knowledge by asking, rhetorically: "Whence did Hazal know that the earth was forty-two times larger than the moon, and that the sun was approximately one-hundred-and-seventy times larger than the earth (as explained in the Rambam, Hilkhot Yesodei Hatorah 3:8), if not from the power of the Torah?"[24] In raising this question, he is wholly oblivious not only to the rudiments of astronomy but also of the fact that the selfsame Rambam explicitly states, with respect to these very issues, that they are beyond the pale of Hazal's authority.

Elections in Israel!!!

Livni failed in creating a coalition. Here are the big winners and losers:

Winners
1. Netanyahu and the Likud - Netanyahu will most probably be the next PM unless he makes a big mistake or something dramatic happens here.
2. Olmert - If Livni had managed to create a coalition today would have been his last day as PM. Now he has another 3-5 months as PM
3. Eli Yishai - He proved that no one can create a government without Shas

Losers
1. Livni - She promised a different politics but what we saw from her over the last month was the same old politics done poorly. Mrs. Clean is no longer Mrs. Clean.She will now go into the elections as Foreign Minister with little ability to do anything to affect her political fortunes. The worst possible scenario for her was for her to negotiate make concessions and not create a government.
2. Barak - His actions and the coalition agreement that he negotiated buried him.

IMHO the Likud should ignore Barak and focus on Livni and Kadima. They can attack her and Kadima on 3 fronts:

1. The war in Lebanon - Kadima was in power and the war was a fiasco. All they need to do is read the relevenat quotes from the Winograd reports
2. UN Resolution 1701 - This is touted as Livni's big achievement. The only problem is that it has been an absolute disaster according to everyone.
3. Leadership ability - the past month has only strengthened the claim that Livni is not a leader.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How could אדם הראשון eat from the עץ הדעת?

After all if אדם הראשון had no יצר הרע how could he do a חטא? We can ask an even more basic question. Did he even have בחירה?

R' Dessler explains based on many sources as follows. Before the חטא he was certainly a בעל בחירה however on a different level. The יצר הרע was outside him. There was no "I need, I want". Instead it was "you need, you want". The Rambam explains that before the חטא everything was אמת or שקר, everything was black and white. To do a חטא was like to walk into a fire, it was crystal clear that it was the wrong thing to do. There was no way to rationalize or justify. After the חטא however, things are now טוב ורע, a much more subjective reality where an עבירה can turn into טוב and we can rationalize our actions.

If so, how could אדם be חוטא? The answer is that he willingly walked into the fire. He felt that his status made things too easy. If everything is crystal clear where is the נסיון? If רע is so clearly false then there is no challenge in staying away from it. He felt that he could create a bigger קידוש השם by eating from the עץ הדעת and having a greater נסיון to follow the commandments from Hashem. He wanted to be able to understand רע and stay away from it. Unfortunately, he miscalculated. He did not understand that eating from the עץ הדעת would bring such confusion on the world. Someone at his level could not fathom the world after the עץ הדעת, he could not fathom the חשך of טוב ורע.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pride goes before a fall

On Simchas Torah I davened vasikin at a different shul then I normally daven in. The בעל קורא who read וזאת הברכה was a well known talmid chochom from the neighborhood who is the best בעל קורא that I have ever heard, someone who knows all of Tanach literally by heart and never makes a mistake. After he read חתן תורה a different person from the shul came over and insisted that he lain בראשית and the haftara. The first בעל קורא did not object. Unfortunately the second בעל קורא is not on the same level. He made many mistakes in the trup as well as a few mistakes in the words. The haftara was similar.

The question is why did he insist on laining? He knows the first בעל קורא and therefore had to know that the first בעל קורא was going to do a better job. The only answer that I can think of is כבוד/pride. However, the fact is that instead of bringing him כבוד his actions made him look foolish.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sitting in the succa in the rain

Generally speaking it doesn't rain in Israel on Succos. However the forecast is for rain late tonight and early tomorrow and therefore we will not be able to sit in the succa.

At first glance, we would say that the פטור of Succah when it is raining is the regular פטור of מצטער. However, if you look at both the Gemara and the Rambam it doesn't seem like that.

The Gemara in Succah on 26a in discussing the din of a חולה and his attendents posits the idea in the name of רבא of מצטער פטור מן הסוכה. However, the Mishna later (28b) discusses rain and gives a completely different reason, it gives a parable of a servant spilling water on his master (or vice versa see the Gemara 29a). The Gemara at no point brings this Mishna (discussing rain) as proof for רבא.

The Rambam also seems to split these 2 up. The Rambam (סוכה ו:ב) writes the halacha of a חולה and a מצטער that both are פטור מן הסוכה in halacha 2. However, he doesn't bring the halacha of rain until halacha 10 unconnected to מצטער. It seems clear from the placement that the 2 are unconnected.

Based on this we could say that the din of rain is an independent din and not based on מצטער. It could be that when it rains the succah loses the din succah because it is not a דירה with rain coming in. It is not related to the person's discomfort but the succah itself.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Buying an Esrog this year

This year buying an Esrog is different then other years because of shemitta. Shemitta raises a number of different problems. Esrogim according to the consensus of poskim have קדושת שביעית. Here are some of the issues:

1. שמור - shemitta fruits need to be made hefker, if they are not they may be assur and may not be able to be used for the mitzva
2. נעבד - you are not allowed to do various melachos related to the esrog tree during שמיטה. Again if these are done the esrog may not be able to be used for the mitzva
3. סחורה - you are not allowed to buy/sell shemitta produce.

To get around all of these issues many people are buying אוצר בית דין esrogim. The אוצר בית דין watched the orchards and made sure that there was no forbidden melacha going on. they also were מפקיר כדין. The esrogim are also sold in sealed boxes so you can't go and pick out a specific esrog.

The big issue is what about סחורה? The answer is that the אוצר בית דין is allowed to charge in order to cover their costs. Therefore when you buy an אוצר בית דין esrog, all you are paying for is the actual cost in producing the esrog, there is no profit to anyone.

There is 1 major problem. All of the אוצר בית דין are selling esrogim in 3 different price ranges:

1. כשר - these sell for 40-60 shekel depending on the אוצר בית דין
2. mehudar - these sell for 80-100 shekel depending on the אוצר בית דין
3. mehudar א - these sell for 130-150 shekel depending on the אוצר בית דין

If as we said all the אוצר בית דין is doing is recovering costs, how can they charge more for a better esrog? The answer given is as follows.

The אוצר בית דין has for arguments sake 1000 esrogim and needs to get back 75,000 shekel for their costs. If they tried to sell every esrog for 75 shekel people would not want to buy, there are always people who want a more mehudar esrog and are willing to pay more and there other people who can't afford to pay 75 shekel for an esrog. Therefore what the אוצר בית דין does is split the cost differently. They still get back only the 75,000 shekel however, the more mehudar esrogim subsidize the less mehudar ones. This enables them to sell the esrogim and get their costs back while enabling the more affluent buyer to spend a little more and the poorer buyer to spend a little less. Since no one is actually picking a specific esrog, you just get a sealed box, it still doesn't look like סחורה.

By the way, I bought 3 sealed אוצר בית דין esrogim this year and ended up with 3 beautiful esrogim that in a regular year I probably could not get.

Some halachos of building a succah

This post (Some halachic points regarding building a succah ) covers a number of the main issues.

Thursday, October 02, 2008