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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Now really the largest government ever

3 years ago I posted The largest government ever in Israel 27+ ministers. Politics moves on and Netanyahu's new government will eclipse Olmert's overblown government.

As I pointed out in that post out of 10 other democracies that I surveyed (most of them Parliamentary democracies) the average number of ministers is 16, Sweden having the smallest with 10 and the UK the largest with 22.

Given the small population and size of Israel in comparison to most of these other countries, we can see that 30 ministers is absolutely ridiculous.

In truth, I don't blame Netanyahu, he is doing what he needs to do to create a government that will be stable. The election system is at fault and needs to be changed. Unfortunately, I don't think there is much chance of that happening.

Are you allowed to sell real Chametz to a גוי?

A number of acharonim say no based on the following.

The Gemara in Shabbos has the following story. There is an issur d'rabbanan to go on a boat on Shabbos. One of the chachamim wanted to get across the river on Shabbos but he didn't want to violate the issur. Therefore he did the following. He got on the boat well before it left and pretended to fall asleep. Then when the boat got to the other side he pretended to wake up and got off. Someone asked his Rebbe how is that permitted? The Rebbe answered that a הערמה is permitted for a talmid chacham to get around an issur d'rabbanan.

These acharonim say that selling your chametz is a הערמה and therefore should only be permitted for chametz d'rabbanan as the Gemara in Shabbos seems to say.

RHS explained why many permit selling real chametz as follows. The Gemara in בכורות says that R' Mari was punished for selling his בכור to a גוי. Yet, Tosafos says that today we do this all the time. Tosafos explains that we have no other choice to save us from the איסור of בכור and therefore it is permitted to do a איסור דאורייתא and sell it to a גוי. You see clearly from the Tosafos and the Gemara in בכורות that a הערמה is permitted even by an issur torah (בכור).

The answer is that הערמה is only prohibited to get you out of doing a mitzva but to save you from violating an aveira a הערמה is always permitted.

What about the Gemara in Shabbos? That is a different case. There the chacham actually violated the issur, he went on the boat on Shabbos. In that situation, he was only allowed to violate an issur d'rabbanan בהערמה.

There is a fundamental distinction. If you are doing the הערמה to prevent you from violating an issur it is always מותר even for an איסור דאורייתא. However, if you are actually violating the issur בהערמה then it is only מותר for an issur d'rabbanan and a talmid chacham.

Since selling real chametz is a הערמה to prevent you from violating the issur it is permitted even for an איסור דאורייתא.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Does מצה need to be yours?

This is a very important question for anyone who goes away. If מצה needs to be yours to be יוצא the mitzva, when you go away for the seder you may not be יוצא.

The Gemara in Pesachim (38a) states that you cannot be יוצא with matza of מעשר שני if מעשר שני is ממון גבוה which is the way that we pasken. The Gemara asks why? We understand why you aren't יוצא with an Esrog of מעשר שני because it isn't yours and by the 4 minim it says לכם, however by matza it doesn't say מצתכם. The gemara answers that it is learned out from חלה that חלה needs to be משלכם.

The simple reading of the Gemara is that there is a דין of לכם by matza as well learned out from חלה and this is the reason why you are not יוצא with matza of מעשר שני. This is how the Rosh paskens.

However, the Rambam paskens that you are not יוצא with matza of מעשר שני, yet when it comes to stolen matzah he says you are not יוצא because of מצוה הבא בעבירה. The obvious questions is why didn't the Rambam say that you are not יוצא because it isn't yours and matzah needs to be yours. The answer would seem to be that the Rambam holds that matzah doesn't need to be yours.

RYBS explained the Rambam as follows. The Gemara learned out מצה from חלה. However, by חלה there really is no din of לכם. You are חייב חלה even if you use your friends dough. The Rambam understood the Gemara as follows. The Gemara rejected the idea that matza has to be yours because it doesn't say מצתכם. The Gemara learns out a different din from חלה. Namely, that you are not יוצא with matza of מעשר שני just like an עיסה of מעשר שני is not חייב in חלה. The reason for this is that מעשר שני is ממון גבוה, however, not because it isn't yours but because you cannot be יוצא with something that is הקדש. In other words, it is a special din by הקדש and not a general din of לכם. Therefore there is no din by matza that it needs to be yours.

The Taz raises this usse in Shulchan Aruch and answers that the person who gives you the food has the intention of being מקנה the food to you and therefore it would be yours. However, this is actually a מחלוקת in Even Haezer. What happenes if Reuven is eating in Shimon's house and is מקדש Rivka with the food that Shimon gave him to eat? There are 2 opinions whether he is married or not, the question being was Shimon מקנה him the food or not. Therefore on pesach night the host should explicitly be מקנה the matza to his guests.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sorry for no posts, I am traveling

I am traveling on business and therefore have very little time to post. I find that when I travel I am usually really tired and when I finish work I have no energy to do anything.

I hope to resume posting later this week.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The El Al boycott coming back?

רבני המהדרין: לא לטוס באל על

Instead of flying on El Al (which has movies) they recommend flying on European airlines with no movies.

Here are the airlines with no movies:

US - (flights in the US) - US Airways
London - BMI
Belgium - Jet Air, Brussels Airlines
France - Nex Axis Airways
Poland - LOT, Aerosvit Airlines
Hungary - Malev
Czechoslavakia - Czech Airlines

Some more interesting facts about the אבנט

There is a machlokes in Yoma whether the אבנט of a regular Kohen was כלאים or not. The Gemara in Erchin 3b assumes that it was. The Gemara there has a ה"א that a Kohen should be פטור from ציצית because maybe you are only chayav in ציצית if you can't wear כלאים, however, Kohanim who wear כלאים (e.g. the אבנט) would be פטורים. The Gemara answers that since they can only wear כלאים while doing avoda they are chayav in ציצית.

The din is that a Kohen is allowed to wear the בגדי כהונה in the Beis Hamikdash while not doing the avoda. However, the Rambam writes that the אבנט, the Kohen must take off as soon as he finishes the avoda since it is כלאים. The only heter that the Kohen has to wear it is עשה דוחה לא תעשה, as soon as he finishes the avoda this no longer applies. The Raavad disagrees and holds that the אבנט is no different then the other בגדים and can be worn even while not doing avoda.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Interesting facts about the אבנט

The אבנט is one of the lesser know of the בגדי כהונה.

Length - It doesn't give a length in the Chumash. The Yerushalmi (Yoma 8:3) states that it was 32 אמה long. An אמה is between 18 and 24 inches making the אבנט a whopping 48-64 feet long.

Where was it worn on the body? - I always thought that the אבנט was a belt. However, the Gemara in זבחים י"ט learns out from a pasuk in נביא that the Kohen wore the אבנט higher then a belt. The gemara states that he wore it right below the heart where the elbows meet the body (if you hold your elbows against your body).

How many times did the Kohen wrap it around? - As we saw above the אבנט was very long. The Shita Mekubetzes (Erchin 16a) states that he wrapped it around 32 times כנגד לב. However this is very difficult. The average waist/chest is at least 36 inches (3 feet). 64 / 3 = 21.3 and therefore I don't see how it would be possible to wrap it 32 times.

What is the אבנט מכפר for? - The Gemara in Erchin (16a) comments that just like Korbanos are מכפר the בגדי כהונה are מכפר. The Gemara explains that the אבנט is מכפר for הרהור הלב (meaning avoda zara where you are חייב for thought). The Yerushalmi has another interpretation that it is מכפר on someone who is not straight. The reason being that the אבנט was not wrapped straight but rather at an angle so that it didn't make such a big lump in the front and back.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The emperor has no clothes, a two state solution has no chance

Finally someone has said it, that someone being former chairman of Israel's National Security Council Giora Eiland, that there is no chance of implementing a 2 state solution. Someone should show this article to Tzippi and Hillary.

No chance for 2 states

Not only is it far from being the single solution, it’s a bad solution, and will likely never be achieved.


The idea of "two states" is based on a series of assumptions: First, the assumption that the primary Palestinian national ambition is statehood. There is no basis to this. The Palestinian ethos is based on values such as justice, victimization, revenge, and above all, the "right of return."


It's true that the Palestinians want to do away with the occupation, but it's wrong to assume that this translates into a desire for an independent state. They would prefer the solution of "no state at all" – that is, the State of Israel will cease to exist and the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River will be divided among Jordan, Syria and Egypt.


The second assumption is that if a Palestinian state is created, it will be ruled by "moderates." There is no basis to this. It is likely that the regime in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will fall within a short time into the hands of Hamas.


The third assumption is that two stable states can exist in the narrow strip that lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. It is easy to prove this is not possible: the Palestinian state will not be able to be independent and Israel will not be able to defend itself.


The fourth assumption is that Israel can implement this agreement; that is, an agreement that entails evacuating 100,000 settlers from Judea and Samaria. Even if we ignore the social and political intricacies of this, such an operation would cost more than $30 billion, not including billions more that will be required to redeploy the army. Is this possible?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Who wrote Megilas Esther?

At first glance the answer seems obvious, Mordechai as it says in the Megilla. In fact Rashi comments on the pasuk, ויכתוב מרדכי - that Mordechai wrote the Megilla as we have it. However, the Gemara in Bava Basra seems to contradict this. The Gemara there details who wrote each one of the 24 sefarim of Tanach. The Gemara says that the Anshei Knesset Hagedola wrote: Yechezkel, Trei Asar, Daniel, and Esther. Rashi explains that all of these happened in chutz laaretz and לא נתנה נבואה ליכתב בחוץ לארץ. Therefore the אנשי כנסת הגדולה wrote them later in Israel.

So who wrote Megilas Esther? Mordechai or the אנשי כנסת הגדולה? In truth, Mordechai was a member of the אנשי כנסת הגדולה however that doesn't help us for 2 reasons:

1. The אנשי כנסת הגדולה did not yet exist at the time of Purim, it was only created after the second beis hamikdash was built
2. Mordechai wrote the Megilla in Shushan and as Rashi explained נבואה cannot be written outside of Israel and the reason why the אנשי כנסת הגדולה wrote these seforim is specifically because the events occured in chu"l and they needed to be written in Israel.

The Brisker Rav has a fascinating answer. The Rambam in Hilchos Megilla leaves out certain dinim (עיבוד לשמה, the way to write the 10 sons of Haman, etc.). On the other hand, the Megilla has other dinim that are the same as a sefer torah. The Brisker Rav explains that there are 2 dinim of Megilla.

1. Megilla as a sefer/letter that was written by Mordechai right after Purim. This did not have the status of being part of Tanach. At that time the Chachamim created a chiyuv to read that sefer that Mordechai wrote
2. Megilla as part of Tanach.

Based on this he explains why the Rambam left out certain dinim and included certain dinim.

What comes out is that according to the Brisker Rav, Megillas Esther was written twice. The first time, in Shushan by Mordechai, it was not part of Tanach and had no kedusha. However, this is the sefer that we are chayav to read on Purim. Later in Israel the Anshei Knesset Hagedola rewrote the sefer and included it as part of Tanach.

What does it mean that the אנשי כנסת הגדולה wrote the sefer in Israel . The simple understanding of the Gemara in Bava Basra is that they actually rewrote the whole sefer ברוח הקדש as Rashi explicitly writes that they wrote the seforim in Israel. What is amazing is that the אנשי כנסת הגדולה wrote ברוח הקדש the exact same thing word for word as what Mordechai wrote in Shushan. The chiyuv to read the Megilla is what Mordechai wrote in Shushan and we only have 1 version.

To summarize, according to the Brisker Rav Megillas Esther was written twice. Firt it was written right after the events in Shushan by Moredechai. This sefer is what we are commanded to read on Purim. Years later, the אנשי כנסת הגדולה convened and rewrote the sefer ברוח הקדש and made it part of Tanach.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

10 Kassams fired yesterday, we are back to where we were before Operation Cast lead

Six weeks ago, Olmert and Barak proudly proclaimed that Operation Cast lead was a great success, had exceeded all goals and restored Israel's deterrence.

At the time I (and many others) predicted that nothing changed and Hamas would go right back to what it was doing. I hate to say it but I told you so.

Here is what I wrote:

Here is what I think is going to happen. Hamas will cease fire long enough for Israel to withdraw from Gaza. As soon as Israel withdraws from Gaza and frees the reserves they will go right back to what they were doing before the war started. They will test Israel's resolve by firing 1 or 2 rockets. How will Israel respond? Many will say that we can't go to war because of 2 rockets. Hamas will fire just enough to keep the people down South edgy but not enough to justify another full scale attack. They will also start smuggling weapons again. There is absolutely no reason to think that Egypt will do any better at stopping the smuggling now.

Last but not least, they will continue holding Gilad Shalit and use him as a bargaining chip.

In short, it looks like we are back to where we were 6 months ago.


My prediction was dead on (it wasn't that difficult). This is exactly what happened.

Even the press has caught on. On the radio this morning, they played clips of OLmert, Barak and Livni at the end of Operation Cast Lead making their triumphant pronouncements. They then played the news bulletins from the past few days reporting Kassams in Ashkelon and in Shaar Hanegev, Sderot etc. They didn't have to say anything, the message was crystal clear.

Can someone explain to me again how Livni managed to get 28 seats 2 weeks ago in the elections?

How thick was the Aron?

The Gemara in Succah comments that the Aron was a טפח thick. The Torah states that the Aron was made of pure gold. However, the Ralbag on Parshas Teruma points out that this can't be. If you add up all the gold mentioned in פקודי it is not enough gold to make the Aron an טפח thick. The Ralbag therefore says that Chazal didn't mean literally a טפח but rather meant that it had some thickness.

Here is what the Ralbag says (my translation):

It is impossible that the thickness of the gold Aronos was a טפח, as Hazal said, because it would be impossible to complete even one of these Aronos with this thickness with all the gold mentioned in Pekudei that was used for the work, and this will be clear to anyone who has studied a little geometry. But, Hazal said this to teach that these Aronos had a perceptible thickness