Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Viznitz tail doctrine. If this is not a cult what is?

R. Mendelle Vizhnitzer proclaims the tail doctrine. The doctrine urges his followers to think of themselves as tails with respect to their rebbe: just as the tail follows the body and cannot sever itself from it, nor control it –so ought a hosid follow his rebbe without any digressions, vacillation, or doubt. He even said the following:
Even if it seems that the Rebbe is transgressing a clear halokhoh from the mishneh beruroh, does not pray in public or not at all, or even if he does things that our forefathers did not do such as igniting a cigar in public or in the midst of a holy discourse –he [the hosid] remains clinging to his holy and pure rebbe… with a fealty of heart and soul, to him and to his pure path.
 Believe it or not, in the recent Tail Doctrine campaign R. Mendelle taught his hasidim a new song to be sung before reciting the Psalms and after evening toroh lessons:
“we believe in the holy opinion of the holy Yeshuos Moshe (viz. his father, so named after a book that he composed), namely shvantzonus (the practice of being a tail; tail-ism)”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Another segula time?

Kupat Hair has once again managed to find another obscure source that they purport to say means that a certain date coming up is מסוגל for tefilos and therefore you should give them money to daven for you. Does anyone really believe this? Does it still work as a fundraiser? A few years ago I posted (Some of the segula type ads that I have seen in the past) a sampling of some of the ads that I had seen, this is just the latest in the series. After seeing an ad like this almost every week how can a person not be cynical?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Positive Aliya and Israel Experiences!

In these hard times, it is sometimes difficult to remember that along with the difficulties of living in Israel come so many wonderful and positive things.  Pesach is putting together an uplifting Israel experience resource. Even if you have already shared your story on your own blog, please take  two minutes out of your busy schedule to add your best tips and experiences here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Litvisher father tries to explain Chanuka to his son

The following made up dialog regarding Chanuka sounds very funny but actually points to a very big problem in today's society (translated from אבא ליטאי: המכבים היו ציונים):

(S is the son and F is the father) 

S - Daddy, how did we defeat the Greeks?
F - With Hashems help
S- So what did the Maccabim do?
F- They were just soldiers. Hashed helped them and with Hashem's help they won
S- The Maccabim were soldiers?
F - Uh ... they were soldiers of Hashem, Hashem's army
S- So the Maccabim where Lubavitchers?
F - No, no, heaven forbid, they were Litvaks
S - Did Yehuda Hamaccabi have weapons?
F - Yes
S - So Yehuda Hamaccabi was a chiloni or a non-Jew?
F - Of course not, why would you think that?
S - But only chilonim and non-Jews serve in the army
F - In those days religious people also served in the army
S - Why did the Maccabim go to the army and we don't?
F - Because our Torah learning protects us
S - And their Torah learning didn't protect them?
F - Maybe you should go learn Mishnayes with Moishe
S - The Maccabim learned Mishnayes?
F - They learned Torah a lot of Torah
S - Did they not work?
F - Chas V' Shalom
S- Did Antiochus give them money?
F - No, they worked 
S - What did they do?
F - Matisyahu was a farmer
S - Matisyahu was a Thai?
F - Of course not why would you think he was a Thai?
S - Because all of the farm workers are Thai
S - How did he work in the fields with a white shirt?
F - How do you know he wore a white shirt?
S - Because Moishe said that a real Jew only wears white shirts
S - What did the Maccabim want?
F - They wanted a Jewish state that would be independent
S - Is that we want?
F - Yes but we can't say it, we are not Zionists
S - But daddy, I want to be a Maccabi, Zionist and a soldier
F - Gevald, what happened to you!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Questions on Toldos

For me, Toldos is one of the most difficult parshiyos in the Torah.  So many strange and difficult things happen that are realy hard to understand. Here are some of the difficulties:

Was Esav a Rasha in the Womb?

Rashi quoting Chazal seems to say that Esav was a Rasha already in the womb. On the pasuk ויתרוצצו הבנים בקרבה Rashi quotes the famous Medrash that when Rivka passed by a House of worship for Avoda Zara, Esav tried to get out to try to join them. We see clearly that already in the womb Esav wanted to worship Avoda Zara. Where did this desire come from? The Gemara in Sanhedrin (91b) states that the Yetzer Hara only enters a person at birth. If so why did Esav want to worship Avoda Zara in the womb? Similarly, Rashi comments on the pasuk ממעיך יפרדו that already in the womb זה לרשעו וזה לתומו. The mefarshim on Rashi struggle with the question but I haven't seen a good answer. It seems that Esav was a Rasha in the womb.

How did Esav turn out so bad?

Esav was born from 2 צדיקים, Yitzchak and Rivka and in addition Avraham Avinu was around. With all of these great role models around how did Esav become a  כופר בעיקר, a murderer and an adulterer? R' Hirsch in a famous comment, says that Rivka and Yitzchak made a mistake in Esav's chinuch. Instead of realizing that Esav was very different then Yaakov they gave him the exact same education as Yaakov which was not suitable for Esav and therefore led him off the derech. (Unfortunately, the Charedi word is repeating this mistake today). R' Hirschs answer is difficult for the following reason. How can he say that the Avos made such a major mistake? We generally assume that the Avos were on a much much higher level then us, if so how could they make such a major mistake?

Why didn't Rivka tell Yitzchak what she knew about Yaakov and Esav?

Rivka clearly understood that Yaakov should get the berachos, why didn't she say anything to Yitzchak? In fact, Rashi comments that ותלך לדרש את ה that she went to Shem to ask him what was going on. However, why didn't she ask Yitzchak or Avraham, they were presumably greater then Shem? Additionally, after getting an answer from Shem why didn't she tell Yitzchak? Even at the end of the Parsha after the Berachos, Rivka still doesn't tell Yitzchak the real reason for sending Yaakov away. Why not? What kind of relationship did Yitzchak and Rivka have that Rivka couldn't tell Yitzchak the truth about their son Esav?

Why did Yitzchak want to give the Berachos to Esav?

How could Yitzchak be fooled by Esav? What does that say about Yitzchak?

How can a Beracha be obtained under false pretenses work?

Yaakov abtained the berachos under false pretenses, why would that work? In fact, what exactly is the idea of the berachos? Is it magic? Yaakov was clearly the successor to Yitzchak and Avraham, if he had not gotten the berachos would that have changed? Why?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shaved heads and Sheitels

Interestingly enough yesterday's (Shabbos) daf (נזיר כ"ח) discussed both women shaving their heads and wearing sheitels.

There is a din that a husband can annul his wife's vows including a vow of נזירות. The Mishna discuses until what point can he annul the vow and has a dispute between R' Meir (or Rebbi depending on the girsa) whether he can annul the vow after she brings her korbanos but before she shaves her head (a נזיר after he completes his נזירות has to bring a set of korbanos and then has to shave his head). R' Meir says that the husband can annul the vow even after she has brought the korbanos because he can say that he doesn't want his wife to have a shaved head (because he doesn't like it). The Gemara explains that the Tanna Kama disagrees with R' Meir because the wife can wear a wig (פאה נכרית) and the מפרש explains and that it looks like her head isn't shaved and therefore the husband has nothing to object to. R' Meir says that the husband can object to a wig that he doesn't like it.

Form this Gemara we see a number of very important points regarding both shaved heads and sheitels:

Shaved Heads

1. It is clear that married women didn't shave their heads, otherwise the husband would have nothing to object to.
2. The Gemara assumes that a woman with a shaved head does not look good and is not pleasing to her husband.

Based on the above I don't see any way to claim that a married woman must shave her head as many Chassidic groups require. In fact, we see just the opposite, that at the time of Chazal married women did not shave their heads and a woman with a shaved head was considered not attractive to her husband.


The Gemara allows a married woman to wear a shaitel and in fact according to the Tanna Kama the shaitel was relatively realistic and looked good. This would seem to support those Rishonim and Acharonim who permit shaitels.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

How does פרוזבול work?

As we approach the end of Shemitta now is the time to write a פרוזבול so that any loans that you made don't become cancelled by Shemitta.  To many people a פרוזבול seems like magic, you sign a document and poof your loans don't become cancelled. However, this is not the case. פרוזבול works within the halachic system and uses well established halachic principles.

The gemara in Gittin 36a states:
הלל התקין פרוסבול וכו': תנן התם פרוסבול אינו משמט זה אחד מן הדברים שהתקין הלל הזקן שראה את העם שנמנעו מלהלוות זה את זה ועברו על מה שכתוב בתורה (דברים טו) השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל וגו' עמד והתקין פרוסבול

Hillel saw that people were not lending money and therefore created פרוסבול so that the loans would not be canceled by shemitta.

The gemara asks on Hillel
ומי איכא מידי דמדאורייתא משמטא שביעית והתקין הלל דלא משמטא

How could Hillel be מתקן פרוסבול when the torah says that the loan is canceled?
The gemara answers:
אמר אביי בשביעית בזמן הזה ורבי היא

Abaye answers that פרוסבול only works if shemitta is d'rabbanan. The gemara then asks the reverse question:
ומי איכא מידי דמדאורייתא לא משמטא שביעית ותקינו רבנן דתשמט

How could the chachamim make shemitta derabbanan, min hatorah he has to pay back the loan? The gemara answers
רבא אמר הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר

Beis Din has the power min hatorah to take away your money.

The simple reading of the gemara is that פרוסבול only works if shemitta is d'rabbanan. In other words, the Rabbis don't have the power to what they want, if shemitta is min hatorah they can't do anything. In fact, this is how the Rambam (הלכות שמיטה ויובל פרק ט) paskens ואין הפרוזבול מועיל אלא בשמיטת כספים בזמן הזה, שהיא מדברי סופרים; אבל שמיטה של תורה, אין הפרוזבול מועיל בה

The Raavad there argues on the Rambam and has a different interpretation of the gemara, Rashi also learns like the Raavad.

They explain the gemara as follows. Rava's answer of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר answers the original question as well. What is the machlokes the Rambam and the Raavad? Here are 2 possible explanations:
1. There is a famous machlokes what is the power of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר min hatorah? Is it A) the simple translation of the words that beis din can declare your property ownerless or is it more then that, B) they can take your property and give it to someone else.

One case where this comes up is where a man is mekadesh a woman with a kinyan d'rabban, is she married min hatorah? Kinyanim d'rabban work based on הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר if we hold like A, then a kinyan d'rabbana only works m'drabbanan, min hatorah the woman has not yet received the money and therefore min hatorah is not yet married. However, according to B, a kinyan d'rabbana works min hatorah and she is married min hatorah.

Based on this we can understand the machlokes the Rambam and the Raavad. The Raavad holds like B, that Beis Din can take from a and give to b, that is how a פרוזבול works, Beis Din takes the money from the borrower and gives it to the lender before shemitta, therefore there is no loan for shemitta to cancel. the Rambam on the other hand holds like A, Beis Din min hatorah can only take away your money but they cannot give it to me and therefore it doesn't help for shemitta, by shemitta they need to give you the money and they can't, and therefore shemitta cancels the loan.

The gemara there brings 2 sources from where הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is learned out. דאמר ר' יצחק מנין שהפקר ב"ד היה הפקר שנאמ' (עזרא י) וכל אשר לא יבוא לשלשת הימים כעצת השרים והזקנים יחרם כל רכושו והוא יבדל מקהל הגולה רבי אליעזר אמר מהכא (יהושוע יט) אלה הנחלות

The Rashba seems to say that the above machlokes depends on what the source is. The pasuk in Ezra is like A, Beis Din can take away your money, while the pasuk by nachala is like B (they took from 1 and gave to another). The Rambam when he brings down the din of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר quotes the pasuk in Ezra as the source, the Rambam lshitaso that הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is like A, and doesn't work for shemitta min hatorah.

2. How does shemitta cancel a loan? A) Does it cancel the monetary aspects of the loan or B) does it NOT affect the monetary aspects, rather it prohibits the lender from collecting. The Rambam holds like B, it is an issur, therefore הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is not relevant it can't be matir issurim, the Raavad on the other hand holds like B, and therefore הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר can restore the monetary aspects.

The gemara later on daf ל"ז has the following strange din
המחזיר חוב לחבירו בשביעית צריך שיאמר לו משמט אני ואם אמר לו אע"פ כן יקבל הימנו שנאמר (דברים טו) וזה דבר השמטה אמר רבה ותלי לי' עד דאמר הכי

If the borrower wants to return the money after shemitta anyway, he can, but the lender must first refuse. Raba says that ותלי לי the borrower can do this to the lender until he says that he wants to pay back. What does ותלי לי mean? Rashi explains the gemara literally, the lender can string the borrower up on a tree and force him to say that he wants to pay back the money. The Rosh asks how could that be? This destroys the whole din of shmitta. We can explain the machlokes like 2 above. Rashi holds that shemitta doesn't cancel the loan, the borrower is still obligated, however, the lender cannot go and collect the loan. Therefore, he can force the borrower to pay as the gemara says. The Rosh holds that the loan is cancelled and therefore how can he force the borrower?

To conclude, we see that פרוסבול is an example of chachamim working within the halachic system and not just waving their magic wand. In the area of money the chachamim have more powerful tools to work with and may be able to do more, but in the end, they need to work with the halachic tools available.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Parnassah knife - what have we come to?

The following ad was in this past weeks Mishpacha magazine

This is most probably an issur d'oraysa but they have no problem printing this ad, but a chas v'shalom to print a picture of a woman. This really makes me sick.