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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Why did Yaakov say Shema when he met Yosef?

It seems really strange that after 20+ years of not seeing Yosef, when he finally sees him he says Shema.

I saw 2 very different approaches in the mefarshim.

The Maharal explains that Yaakov felt a tremendous outpouring of love and wanted to direct it towards Hashem. He felt tremendous gratitude and love to Hashem for returning his son alive and therefore wanted to show it by being מקבל עול מלכות שמים.

The Netziv has a very different explanation. He explains as follows based on the Targum Yonasan. The Targum explains that Yosef wanted to fulfill his dream (that his father would bow down to him) and therefore he came to his father dressed in his royal garb so that his father would not recognize him and bow down to him. Yosef's plan worked, however, Yaakov was annoyed with Yosef for forcing the dream to come true in that way and making him bow down. Therefore to stifle his annoyance he said Shema. Yosef, realized that he had made a mistake in making his father bow to him and therefore cried on Yaakov's shoulders.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yosef's revelation to his brothers

When Yosef reveals himself, he asks אני יוסף העוד אבי חי. It is a very strange question. After all Yehuda just finished telling Yosef the whole story including that his father is alive, so what exactly was Yosef's question? Did Yosef think that Yehuda suddenly got a nevua that Yaakov died? In addition, Rashi quotes the medrash that this was a great תוכחה. What exactly was the תוכחה?

The Beis Halevi explains as follows. Yosef was asking a rhetorical question. Yosef told his brothers you claim that you are so concerned about your fathers health, yet, I am Yosef is my father still alive? Meaning, he asked them if you really cared for your father how could you put him through the pain of of my disappearance. He exposed the hypocrisy of Yehuda's claim that they were concerned about their father's well being through Yehuda's own actions.

Now we can also understand why this is called a תוכחה as well. This is exactly what will happen when a person goes up to שמים after 120. Whatever excuses he gives for not doing mitzvos or doing aveiros will be shown to be hypocritical by his own actions.

In previous generations it may have been hard to imagine playing back your life after you die to see what you did wrong. However, for us this should be easy to believe. After all, we see how modern technology can record every action and play it back in color with sound. We see it happening all the time when people get caught on video or on audio doing things they shouldn't be doing and the embarrassment and damage that it does (e.g. Tiger Woods, Tropper etc.). Therefore, we should understand that everything is being recorded and will be played back at the appropriate time and there will be no excuses.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is R' Shteinman one of the Gedolim?

R' Shteinman recently met with the Rav Yoel Cohen, the Chozer, a prominent Chabadnik who was very close to the Rebbe. Because of this 2 pashkevilim were circulated late last week. One was a 4 page screed about how we need to be pure in hashkafa etc. and which basically said that R' Shteinman is not a Gadol. The second was 2 pages with a list of quotations from various "Gedolim" against the Lubavitcher Rebbe.




This reminds me of a story that I read about the Brisker Rav. A number of kannoim came to him to get his support for a protest against something. They said that he was the Gadol Hador and they wanted his approval. He answered, you only call me the Gadol Hador because you think I support your position. As soon as I say something you don't like I will no longer be the Gadol Hador.

The same or worse applies today and is exactly what happened to R' Shteinman. Yonasan Rosenblum (Kollel is not always forever) said it best:

There is another reason that there will be no such public statements. Any such statement would be met with vicious attacks by the “kenaim,” who would say about the gadol in question precisely what KollelGuy asks me: Who are you? The Chazon Ish did not say what you are saying; Rav Shach did not say it.” Perhaps KollelGuy remembers the attacks on one of the Sages he mentions for his tacit support of Nahal Chareidi. (Even Rav Shach used to say that he was afraid of the stone-throwers.) One of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the United States told me recently that the gedolim cannot even discuss questions surrounding poverty because if they did the “street” would just label them fake gedolim.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

R' Herschel Shachter is on the front cover of the Mishpacha magazine - Updated



There is a very long positive article about R' Shachter, RYBS and YU. They actually call YU a "fortress of Torah" and R' Shachter is described as "average height but colossal stature".

R' Belsky who works with R' Shachter at the OU said the following about R' Shachter:

he is a gadol in Torah, Yiras Shamayim and Midos, and I couldn't do this without him.

Very high praise indeed.

For anyone who learned at YU this article is a must read.

I have to say I am stunned that a Charedi magazine would publish such a positive article about a YU Rosh Yeshiva. I can't wait to see the letters in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Different laining in חו"ל and ארץ ישראל on Chanuka?

Believe it or not the answer is yes. Most people don't notice because the difference is not that great, but there is a difference.

On Chanuka we read the parsha of the נשיאים, every day the נשיא for that day. Each נשיא is 6 pesukim and we have 3 aliyas. The miniumum number of pesukim for an aliya is 3. therefore we are 3 pesukim short. From where do we get the extra 3 pesukim? This is a machlokes the Mechaber and the Rama. The Mechaber writes that we simply read over that day. In other words, tomorrow morning Kohen will read the first 3 pesukim of the 5th נשיא, Levi will read the next 3, and the third aliya simply repeats all 6 pesukim of the 5th נשיא. The Rama on the other hand says, that for the third aliya you simply read the next day. In other words, tomorrow morning Kohen will read the first 3 pesukim of the 5th נשיא, Levi will read the next 3, and the third aliya reads the 6th נשיא. In חו"ל the minhag is like the Rama and in EY the minhag is like the mechaber.

The Gra points out that this is לשיטתם by chol hamoed succos. On chol hamoed succos the problem is greater, each day is only 3 pesukim and there are 4 aliyos. According to the Mechaber in חו"ל kohen and levi read the 2 days of sefeka d'yoma and then the next 2 aliyas simply repeat them. The Rama writes that שלישי reads the next day, meaning if today is the first day of Chol Hamoed, the first 2 aliyas read days 2 and 3 and the third aliya reads day 4, even though it is clearly not day 4 even with the sefeka d'yoma, and רביעי goes back on the first 2 days. In EY the machaber writes that we simply repeat the same thing 4 times. Here also the minhag in EY is like the mechaber.

The machlokes would seem to be does the next day have any connection to today and does it make sense to read it.

Interestingly enough the Ashkenazim in EY are noheg like the Mechaber both on Succos and on Chanuka.

Monday, December 14, 2009

If I break your window do I need to pay?

At first glance the answer is of course, I damaged you and therefore I have to pay. However, R' Sternbuch and others point out that it is not so simple.

The Gemara in Bava Kama (48b) learns out from a pasuk that if my animal eats fruits that are growing in your field I don't pay for the actual fruits that were eaten, rather I pay for the devaluation of the field. Lets take a simple example. You have a field that is worth $1000 which has orange trees. My animal comes and eats 50 oranges and each orange is worth $1. The damage I caused you is $50, however, I don't pay you $50. Instead, I pay how much the field is devalued by the fact that my animal ate 50 oranges. Lets say that the field was originally worth $1000 including all of the oranges and now that my animal ate 50, the field is only worth $990. Since the value of the field has only gone down $10 all Ii have to pay is $10 (not $50). The Gemara says that the same din applies if I do the damage myself (I eat the oranges or I uproot the tree).

Based on this it is quote din the name of R' Chaim, the Chafetz Chaim and others, that the same din should apply if I break the window of your house. I don't pay for the damage I caused, rather, I need to pay the amount that your house has been devalued. The fact is that price for a house that has 1 broken window is the same as the price of the house with no broken windows. If I am asking for $300,000 for my house, the extra $50-100 for a broken window is simply not taken into account. The buyer is not going to change his offer to $299,900 because there is now a broken window. Therefore, the person who broke the window doesn't need to pay me anything because there is no damage the way the Gemara says to figure it, the value of the house is still $300,000.

The Chazon Ish (Bava Kama siman 6 sif 3) argues and says that you have to pay the replacement value. The Chazon Ish says that a house is more similar to מטלטלים. Everyone agrees that if instead of breaking the window of my house you broke my car window, you would have to pay for the damage. Damage to non-property is figured based on the actual damage and therefore if it costs $50 to replace the window that is what you owe me. The Chazon Ish thinks that the same din would apply to a house window and you would need to pay for the actual damage.

הלכה למעשה you have a machlokes haposkim. R' Sternbuch paskens like R' Chaim etc. that the damager doesn't have to pay and others pasken like the Chazon ish, it depends on the Beis Din.

I have to say this machlokes really surprised me in a number of ways. First of all, none of the Rishonim or early Acharonim discuss this question. It is only in the last 100 years that this question is being discussed. Second of all, the Gemara in Bava Kama says that we don't want to be hard or easy on the מזיק. In this situation it seems we are being way too lenient on the מזיק by allowing him to get off scot free. Intuitively, the Chazon Ish's approach seems right, why should the guy get off scot free, yet the Chazon Ish is against the simple reading of the Gemara.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Some questions for Kollel only supporters

These are not my questions, rather Yonasan Rosenblum asked them of the Kollel only crowd.

(1) Do you think there are any differences of kind, not just magnitude, between the homogeneous group of idealists who rallied to the Chazon Ish’s banner and today’s chareidi community of three-quarters of a million nefashos?
(2) Do you have any idea of the degree of poverty in the chareidi world, including among avreichim? Do you see the chareidi world today as vulnerable? What, for instance, would happen if the Israeli Supreme Court ruled definitively that the state cannot fund schools that do not teach a common curriculum? Israeli welfare payments have grown twice as fast as gross family income over the last two decades. What do you think the impact would be if the Israeli government decided that disparity is unsustainable and imposed another dramatic cut in welfare payments, like the cut in child care allowances under Prime Minister Sharon (with Netanyahu as Finance Minister)?
(3) Do you see any cost to traditional Torah family structure from the assumption that the wife will be both the primary breadwinner and primary caregiver to very large families? Do you think most women are capable of sustaining both roles?
(4) Do you think the Gemara knew what it was talking about when it said that the primary source of marital strife is the lack of money? Do you see poverty having an impact on shalom bayis in the Torah community?
(5) What do you think happens to a eleven-year-old who is already struggling and falling behind in cheder when he asks his father what he is going to be when he grows up and his father tells him his only option is to be an avreich?
(6) Is there any point at which the communal cost in terms of drop-outs and broken families is too great to be sustained without being addressed at its core?


I have been asking many of these same questions (and others) myself and the answer is clear that kollel only is not the solution for everyone.

Must read article by Yonasan Rosenblum

In response to the comment that I quoted here Different messages for different people, Yonasan Rosenblum wrote a long response, Kollel is Not Always Forever. He said things that I have not heard anyone in the Charedi world explicitly say.

...In a similar vein, the Chazon Ish is also widely reported to have said that two generations of full-time learning were necessary to rebuild from the ashes of Europe. Those two generations have now come and gone.

And if KollelGuy asks, so why no announcements in Yated Ne’eman, I suspect he already knows the answer, or should. Ori, a non-Orthodox Jew in Austin, Texas, knows it: The last thing the gedolei HaTorah want to do is destroy the striving for greatness in Torah learning that characterizes the Israeli chareidi community. And any such public announcement would be interpreted as a statement that everything we did, everything we have built over the last sixty years was a mistake. (I emphasized in “Living with Complexity” that just the opposite is the case.) In other words, it would lead to an overreaction more dangerous than the situation it sought to cure.
There is another reason that there will be no such public statements. Any such statement would be met with vicious attacks by the “kenaim,” who would say about the gadol in question precisely what KollelGuy asks me: Who are you? The Chazon Ish did not say what you are saying; Rav Shach did not say it.” Perhaps KollelGuy remembers the attacks on one of the Sages he mentions for his tacit support of Nahal Chareidi. (Even Rav Shach used to say that he was afraid of the stone-throwers.) One of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the United States told me recently that the gedolim cannot even discuss questions surrounding poverty because if they did the “street” would just label them fake gedolim.
...
especially when one remembers that there are no historical precedents for a Torah society built around the ideal of full-time learning for every man forever – an entire society of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai’s. (The number of those learning full-time in Eretz Yisrael dwarfs by many times the numbers of those doing so in pre-war Europe.) The denigration of “working” that one sometimes hears in the Torah community in Eretz Yisrael has scant support in the Torah, and countless sources refuting it
...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

When should we daven Mincha this Friday?

See this post from 3 years ago for a halachic analysis.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Satmar Rebbe: Children should not be sent for music lessons

The Satmar Rebbe at his yearly gathering (כ"א כסלו) announced to the Chasidim that children should not be sent for music lessons. He also prohibited any kinds of videos at public events such as dinners.

The music ban is very surprising as music has always been considered a worthy endeavor and in fact the Leviim played musical instruments in the Beis Hamikdash.

The question we can ask is what is left for Satmar children to do? For some kids music is a lifeline. Some people are blessed with musical talent (I am not). Why would Hashem give a person musical talents if he isn't supposed to use them?

Source: הרבי אמר: אסור לילדים ללמוד נגינה

Monday, December 07, 2009

Different messages for different people - Updated 12/7

Yonasan Rosenblum's latest column Living with the Tension, was published in 3 different venues, Cross Currents, Englinsh Mishpacha, Hebrew Mishpacha, and in each one it was changed to fit the venue.

On Cross Currents he writes

Let us take one contemporary example.
...
As the original small flock of dedicated idealists who rallied to the banner of Reb Aharon and the Chazon Ish has miraculously swelled today to an entire community of hundreds of thousands, encompassing a wide range of abilities and spiritual levels, the pendulum has begun to swing in the other direction in search of a new equilibrium.


However, in the English Mishpacha this paragraph was changed to be more nuanced. It says instead:

Let us take one contemporary example.
...
the original small flock of dedicated idealists who rallied to the banner of Reb Aharon and the Chazon Ish has miraculously swelled today to an entire community of hundreds of thousands of dedicated Bein Torah. Yet there can be no certainty that rules applied to a smaller less diverse flock can apply forever to a vastly larger public encompassing a wide range of abilities and spiritual levels.


Instead of writing that the pendulum has begun to swing he writes there can be no certainty that the rules ...

He understands that anyone reading Cross Currents knows that the shift has already started. However, the audience of the English Mishpacha is more conservative and therefore since the Gedolim haven't said that the pendulum has shifted he can't say it. Instead he needs to resort to a much more nuanced expression of "no certainty" that the system may not fit everyone. It is clear that he means the same thing but just can't say it as bluntly in the Mishpacha as he can on Cross Currents.

What is most telling is that this whole paragraph of the contemporary example is simply omitted in the Hebrew version. There simply is no example given, it just skips right to the final paragraph. It seems that in Israel you can't even suggest that Kollel only was a reaction to the Holocaust and is not simply the ideal system.

I made this point (regarding the omission in Hebrew) on Cross Currents, it will be interesting to see if he comments on it.

Update


This comment on Cross Currents shows exactly why this wasn't printed in the Hebrew edition:

Do you have backing of the Gedolei uManhigei Yisroel on your side? Did you consult with RYSE? RAYLS? RMYL? RCK? RNK? Anyone of stature?

Truth is, you can think what you want… but how can Mishpacha claim to be a chareidi magazine and print a baalebos’ opinion on a communal level without consulting with gedolim?

Shocked.

Comment by kollelguyinEY


The above commenter is an American living in Israel (who read the column in the English Mishpacha), you can just imagine what native born Israeli Charedis would say.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Kollel for everyone was a reaction to the Holocaust

and a swing of the pendulum in one direction.

These are not my words these are Yonasan Rosenblum's words in his latest column.
Living with the Tension

After every catastrophic event that destroys the previous equilibrium, there is a pendulum swings until a new equilibrium is found. Let us take one contemporary example. The period between the beginning of World War I and end of World War II completely destroyed a European Jewish civilization built over nearly two millennia. In order to rebuild the entire world of Torah learning destroyed by the Nazis, Rabbi Aharon Kotler in the United States and the Chazon Ish in Eretz Yisrael declared a societal ideal of long-term Torah study for all males that had few precedents in Jewish history. The pendulum swung in one direction, as part of the rebuilding.

As the original small flock of dedicated idealists who rallied to the banner of Reb Aharon and the Chazon Ish has miraculously swelled today to an entire community of hundreds of thousands, encompassing a wide range of abilities and spiritual levels, the pendulum has begun to swing in the other direction in search of a new equilibrium.


It is heartening to read that he understands that Kollel only is not a sustainable model and that the pendulum is starting to swing back in search of equilibrium.

What is absolutely fascinating is that this piece was published in 3 different places, Cross Currents, English Mishpacha, Hebrew Mishpacha, and each one it was changed to fit the venue. For an analysis of this see my post Different messages for different people.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Santa Coke

It seems that Coke bottles in the US have a picture of Santa on them (see below).



Matzav.com is all worked up about this:

...Did you also know that the affect of this tumah will cause you and your prodigy to learn Torah improperly and could, G-d forbid, influence your offspring to go off the derech!?

How do I know this to be true?

Anything that takes you close to Hashem is emes while anything that takes you away is sheker! There is nothing in the world but emes and sheker. There’s no neutral zone! Does that make sense to you?

Please ask that your yeshiva not distribute this drink to your kinderlach. Please also ask the frum stores not to sell this stumbling block. Consider that when a non-Jew sees this product in your shopping cart, they see this, even in a minutia way, as your participation in their holiday and this causes a chillul Hashem.


Do you think that this is an issue? Or do you think this is another overreaction to something harmless?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The West Bank Palestinians doing pretty well

This article details how the Palestinians in the West Bank are doing very well now and have no real interest in having their own state. Right now they have the best of both worlds.

...As I sat in the plush office of Ahmad Aweidah, the suave British-educated banker who heads the Palestinian Securities Exchange, he told me that the Nablus stock market was the second best-performing in the world so far in 2009, after Shanghai. (Aweidah's office looks directly across from the palatial residence of Palestinian billionaire Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest man in the West Bank.)

Later I met Bashir al-Shakah, director of Nablus's gleaming new cinema, where four of the latest Hollywood hits were playing that day. Most movies were sold out, he noted, proudly adding that the venue had already hosted a film festival since it opened in June.
...
Palestinian economic growth so far this year—in a year dominated by economic crisis elsewhere—has been an impressive 7% according to the IMF, though Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, himself a former World Bank and IMF employee, says it is in fact 11%, partly helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.
...
Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Are גמ"ח's a bad thing II?

This weeks Mishpacha magazine in English published a letter which drives home the point about how גמ"ח's can destroy people.

...When I began marrying off children, I saw no way over the fence except to take out gemach loans.
...
I knew that the only way I could keep going was to continue to juggle loans. I"ve married off five children and have another six to go. I"m currently juggling about 45 gemachim. My days and nights are consumed with paybck schedules deadlines and possibilities for other loan sources. For me it's to late to get out of the web. But it's not too late for others to not get sucked in.

Juggled to Death Jerusalem


It is not a typo, he is juggling 45 gemach loans. I know that he is not alone and the situation is clearly out of control.

Below is the actual printed letter: