Thursday, March 31, 2005

Israel switches to daylight savings tonight

This has always been a bone of contention between the religious and the secular. The religious want it to start after the seder on Pesach and end before Yom Kippur, while the secular want it be from the end of March/beginning of April through the end of October like Europe and the US. Finally this year they compromised and passed a law that it starts the first Friday of April and ends the last Saturday night before Yom Kippur.

I believe that the religious parties were mistaken in pursuing this. There are enough real issue to deal with in terms of the religious vs the secular (shabbos, civil marraige, etc.) that to make this an issue when it really doesn't make a difference was short sighted. No one is not going to fast on Yom Kippur because the fast ends an hour later. It would have been smarter not to expend anything on what is really a silly issue.

The Supreme Court in Israel has ruled in favor of non-Orthodox conversions

This is clearly a bad thing. One of the positives about living in Israel for secular Jews was that they didn't intermarry because there was almost no one in Israel to intermarry with. This has changed in the past decade because of an influx of non-Jewish Russian immigrants but is still not so bad. This latest decision muddies the waters even further where there will be now many more non-Jews living in Israel (who consider themselves Jewish).

This decision is not surprising at all for a number of reasons:
1. As the Jerusalem Post writes "Not 'who is a Jew' but 'who is a rabbi'", why should the state give more credence to an Orthodox rabbi as opposed to a Reform rabbi, they are both Rabbis. Once you accept a Reform rabbi as a rabbi then you need to accept his conversions
2. Being Jewish isn't that important to a significant sector of people living in Israel. They consider themselves Israelis more then Jews.

This should not change anyone's mind about living in Israel. In fact, the more religious people who come the more chance there is of establishing a government that is more in tune with Judaism.

In truth, this is not really a significant event for the average religious person who lives in Israel. He/she will marry someone religious and therefore check out the persons background. Worse comes to worse the person can really convert.

A much more worrying development will be civil marriage and especially divorce. Civil divorce will create a whole generation of mamzerim who will be stuck.

Some interesting points from yesterday's daf (B'rachos 30)

I would like to mention 2 interesting points relating to the daf.

1. The gemara comments that if a person is traveling on a donkey and they will have more ישוב הדעת sitting on the donkey and davening then if they stop, get off and daven standing up, they should daven sitting down. This is brought down להלכה. we see a very important principle, that ישוב הדעת trumps standing up to daven. Some modern day poskim bring this in relation to davening on a plane. They say this din would apply. If you can daven better sitting down (it is a small plane, crowded, etc.) then you should daven sitting down with ישוב הדעת rather then be stubborn and daven standing with less ישוב הדעת.

2. The gemara discusses which way a person should face when davening. Outside of Israel you face Israel, in Israel, Jerusalem, In Jerusalem, the Beis Hamikdash, and in the besi Hamikdash, the קדש הקדשים. The question comes up, which way should you face at the kotel. The minhag is that people face forwards, which is towards the mikdash, but is not towards the קדש הקדשים. They justify the minhag by saying that the kotel plaza is part of Jerusalem and not part of the Beis Hamikdash and therefore they are following the gemara.

However, others argue as follows. They say that really a person should always face the קדש הקדשים. However, when you are far away you can't, it has no meaning,you need a bigger target. In NY to say that you are facing the קדש הקדשים is a joke. Even when in Jerusalem you face the mikdash because it is a bigger target. However, when you are right next to the mikdash and you can easily face the קדש הקדשים then you should. This makes a lot of sense and if you look carefully at the kotel you will see a small number of people davening facing at an angle to the left which is towards theקדש הקדשים.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

תפילת הדרך nowadays

The daf yomi is learning the sugya of תפילת הדרך now (yesterday and today berachos 29b and 30a) so I thought I would comment on some issues that come up relating to תפילת הדרך nowadays.

It is clear from the context of the gemara that תפילת הדרך is a תפילה בעת צרה. The gemara mentions תפילת הדרך right after it mentions that a person who is in a dangerous place says a תפילה.

The world has changed a lot since the time of chazal especially related to travel and we need to understand if these changes affect the din of תפילת הדרך. Here are some of the changes that have occurred relating to travel.

1. Most travel is no longer considered unsafe. When I get in my car every morning to drive to work I don't think twice about it
2. The distinction between in the city and out of the city is no longer true. Most people fell much safer driving in the Catskills then driving through Harlem. Driving on a highway from Brooklyn to Queens is in the city but driving in Monsey to the supermarket may be considered out of the city.
3. This is related to 1, people travel all the time. Most people commute some distance to work, this is normal and part of everyday life. In the time of chazal יוצא לדרך was a big deal.

Given the above R' Shachter (in Nefesh Harav) says that R' Soloveitchik did not say תפילת הדרך when he commuted from Boston to NY to give his shiurim. He felt that because it is a תפילה בעת צרה and nowadays there is no perceived danger and it is routine that there was no reason to say it.

The gemara states that you only say תפילת הדרך if the trip is 4 mil outside the city. Is this a measure of time or distance? Chazal use the word mil for both, sometimes distance sometimes time. If it is distance (as I believe the Mishna Berura holds), about 3 miles, then it comes out that if you live in Monsey and drive 5 miles to the supermarket you probably need to say תפילת הדרך (if you don't accept the Rav's opinion above). R' Ovadia Yosef holds that it is a measure of time. However, this is not so simple either. How do you measure the time? Is it how long this trip is going to take, or is it the average time? Imagine the following case. You are driving today from A to B in the rush hour where you estimate it will take 75 to 90 minutes. According to R' Ovadia you would say תפילת הדרך. Tommorrow you take the same trip in the middle of the day and you estimate that it will take only 1 hour. Do you say תפילת הדרך? It could come out that for the same exact trip 1 day you say it and one day you don't. צ"ע

R' Yakov Kamenitsky brings up the following point. It is clear from the Gemara that תפילת הדרך is a תפילה. The minhag seems to be that whenever you go on a trip with other people one person gets up and says תפילת הדרך and is מוציא everyone. This is fine for berachos, but for tefilla, someone else cannot be מוציא you if you are a בקי namely, that you can say the tefilla yourself. Nowadays we are all considered to be בקיאים, and therefore if תפילת הדרך is a תפילה someone else can not be מוציא you and you need to say it yourself. In fact, R' Yakov recommended that everyone should say תפילת הדרך themselves and he was against the common minhag of one person saying it because he felt that there is a real question of whether you are actually יוצא or not if only one person says it and you answer אמן.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Haggada recommendation

I remember when I was in R' Willig's shiur he quoted a number of things from the hagadda of the Nesivos, מעשה ניסים. He highly recommended it. I bought it and was not disappointed. It has a lot of very nice explanations of the hagadda. If you are looking for a new hagadda with a perush in hebrew to use this year, I highly recommend it. When I bought it many years ago it was a softcover, I assume that it still in print and available.

The difference between the political system in Israel and the US

For those of you confused by my post yesterday and who were thinking, but pork plays such a big role in the US, why should it be different in Israel?

The answer is that there is a fundamental difference in the system.

In the US a Congressman or Senator represents a distinct geographical location which contains a set of voters. therefore if the Congressman brings money to his district he helps his voters and it helps him out.

In Israel, an MP represents no one. There are no districts he has no real voters. number 14 on Shinui's list (number 36 on Likud's list etc) is some nobody who most people haven't heard of. He is responsible to no one specifically. The leader of the party is not really responsible to anyone either. The parties voters are spread out all over the country.

Let's take a concrete example. The Federal government offers mass transit funds, they can either go to Boston or NYC. Both cities are Democratic strongholds, and yet, the elected officials will fight like mad to make sure that the money goes to their district. In Israel, there is no reason to fight. No one represents a specific area so to a large extent wherever the money goes is basically the same.

I think the system in Israel is terrible. There is no responsibility. The average citizen has no one really representing them and nowhere to turn.

I believe that Israel needs to go to a system where some percentage (let's say half) of the MP's are elected at large and the other half are elected from districts. It would create a sense of accountability that just doesn't exist today.

Interesting point on yesterday's daf (Brachos 28b)

In yesterday's daf (28b) R' Eliezer was sick and was asked by his talmidim for some advice on how to live their lives. One of the things he told them is מנעו בניכם מן ההגיון. Rashi has 1 pshat that this means don't let them learn so much תנ"ך because it will attract them. Rashi seems to be saying that they will focus to much on תנ"ך and neglect תורה שבע"פ. This is an interesting point, that a person should concentrate on תורה שבע"פ and not תורה שבכתב. This was certainly the approach in the Lithuanian yeshivas of 100 years ago. The question is to what extent? Clearly you need to know תורה שבכתב to some extent in order to learn תורה שבע"פ and Rashi himself wrote a peirush on all of תנ"ך. the question seesm to be how much is enough.

Others (the צל"ח) learn the gemara differently that it is referring to philosophy, this is the Haredi view of the world, philosophy is scary stuff because it could lead to kefira. The Rambam clearly disagreed.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Charedi view of the government and money

I was listening to my favorite charedi radio station again (until I get an mp3 player in my car to listen to shiurim) on my way home from work. they were discussing the winners and losers of Israeli politics over the last few days. The host said that he thinks that Tomi Lapid has to be considered a winner because he got 700 million shekel of government money for his voters. The 2 political analysts disagreed and said that the money was not important to Lapid's voters, but the host could not stop talking about the money and about how the Charedi population would view anyone who got such sums of money.

This made me realize that the Charedi view of the government in Israel is completely different then everyone elses. They view the government as a cash machine, give us money and leave us alone. The budget is a zero sum game, whatever we can save and get for us great whatever doesn't go to us is basically lost. The Charedi population views itself as hardly using any governement services (no, schools, university, roads, police, jails, etc.). They also feel that they have little or no stake in the government, they don't believe in it. In addition, the Charedi population pays less in income taxes because many people don't work, they are poor, and those who do work get a lot of money under the table and therefore when they get money from the government they don't look upon it as their tax money coming back to them. Last but definately not least, the money the Charedi population gets from the government is in many cases the difference between making it through the month or not making it. The governement money is a huge part of their income that they cannot do without. Therefore, when their representatives in the Knesset bring money for Yeshivas etc. it is a big deal and is the way success is measured.

The middle and upper middle class (who vote for Shinui) sees things very differently.
1. They pay the majority of taxes and know that any money in the budget is coming from their pocket, taxes
2. Lapid only got money shifted around, there isn't suddenly an extra 700 million and therefore the cuts will come from somewhere else, like elementary schools, the ministry of environment, infrastructure projects, etc. In other words, because they are engaged in society the cuts elsewhere will affect them and therefore the end result is they are no better off then before.
3. These people are not poor and have money, this money is not going to make the difference to them between making it and not making it.

Therefore they understand that the 700 million shekels is basically meaningless, they would much rather he had said cut taxes by 700 million shekel and give the money to the people. Give the above it is easy to understand why in the secular press he is being branded a failure and getting a lot of flak.

It has always amazed me that the secular majority has not wiped out the money for Charedim yet, I believe that the day is coming and then the Charedi society will be in for a huge shock and adjustment.

Science, Torah, and other questions

The Slifkin controversy got me thinking about the issue of science and Torah and how they relate. Until this came up, I never gave these issues much thought, they were theoretical issues with little or no practical relevancy. In truth there are other issues that bother me more.

For example, the portrayal of certain characters in Tanach. When you read chumash, Yehuda sees a prostitute and sleeps with her, yes the Maharal says he was mekadesh her, others give other explanations but the bottom line is can you imagine whatever gadol (fill in whoever you want, the Chofetz Chaim, R' Shlomo Zalman, R' Moshe, etc.) doing that? I can't and yet Yehuda did. Something has to give here. The same with David, fine he didn't sin, but he clearly did something wrong there. What about Yitzchak and Rivka "m'tzachakim" where Avimelech could see them? Yaakov being attracted to Rachel (beauty) more then Leah? There is no end to these kinds of questions on the characters in Tanach. The Haredi world certainly doesn't deal with these questions, but I grew up in the MO world, went to YU, semicha, and never in my education were these issues dealt with either.

Another example is when we have a machlokes in halacha that is very relevant that seems to either raise questions as to the mesora or is based on a misunderstanding of science. How can we have a machlokes Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam as to what parshiyos go in tefillin. Haven't Jews been wearing tefillin for thousands of years? What were people wearing before Rabbenu Tam? When the gemara in Berachos (22b) talks about takkanos ezra, the Gemara asks why don't we check what exactly Ezra was m'taken. Tosafos points out that because it was a very common everyday occurence it was known to everyone, so too I would think is the mitzva of tefillin.

The machlokes about when tzeis hakochavim is a machlokes where the position of most of the Rishonim is very difficult. As the Gra states "hachuch makchish", well before 72 minutes after sunset it is pitch black out. And yet, most of the Rishonim hold this way, and the shulchan aruch paskens this way.

These questions relate to our every day practice and are not just theoretical and bother me a great deal.

A פסק on the referendum II

Yesterday on my way home from work, I was listening to news and commentary on a Haredi radio station. They had their political correspondent talking about what happened over the weekend and how Eli Yishai (the head of Shas) was going to try to persuade R' Ovadia Yosef to suppport a referendum on disengagement. At that point, the host broke in and said how could that be, he paskened against a referendum, how can he change his opinion based on politics? The host's comment really bothered me because the answer is obvious, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a referendum, the question is whether it is good for the Jews (or Shas) or not. R' Yosef is afraid that this will open a pandora's box of referendums on religious issues which is a legitimate concern. However, it is not a psak in the traditional sense on a halachic issue. The host's comment shows the ignorance of people in these matters.

This is why it is a terrible thing to mischaracterize things and say R' Ovadia paskened against a referendum. If he then changes his mind for political reasons people start thinking, halacha is affected by politics, the Rabbis can pasken anyway they want etc. It confuses both religious people and non-religious people and cheapens the idea of a psak.

I have no problem with asking R' Ovadia his opinion on whether Shas should support a referendum, he is a Gadol B'Torah and therefore we should listen to his opinion. What I do have a problem with is calling it a psak with all the ramifications of the word psak.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Briskers and the Rambam

It has always amazed me how the Briskers (especially the Brisker Rav and his progeny, excluding the Rav) have adopted the Rambam as the centerpiece of their דרך הלימוד and follow many interesting chumras of the Rambam when hashkafically the Rambam is diametrically opposed to their hashkafa. Here are some examples:

1. the Ramabam is vehemently opposed to the practice of people learning in kollel and not working, he writes this both in the Perush Hamishnayos on Avos (4:5), where he has a very lengthy screed against this practice, and in the Mishna Torah (hilcohos talmud torah 3:10)
"אמרו חכמים, כל הנהנה מדברי תורה, נטל חייו מן העולם. ועוד ציוו ואמרו, לא תעשם עטרה להתגדל בהם, ולא קורדום לחפור בהם. ועוד ציוו ואמרו, אהוב את המלאכה, ושנוא את הרבנות. וכל תורה שאין עימה מלאכה, סופה בטילה; וסוף אדם זה, שיהא מלסטס את הברייות.
2. The Rambam learned philosophy and included it in his sefarim. Believe it or not, the Rambam writes in the שמונה פרקים (his introduction to Avos) that his sources are chazal, the geonim, and the philosophers (meaning Aristotle)
3. The Rambam was a doctor
4. The Rambam not only knew the vernacular (Arabic) but he wrote Sefarim (פירוש המשניות) in it
5. The Rambam understands that many things that are written in Chumash and Chazal never happened but are allegories (for example the story with the 3 angels at the beginning of וירא) or dreams. In addition the Rambam holds that chazal can make a mistake in science.

You may ask, why pick on the briskers, after all the above are against the general Charedi hashkafa of today. In short, the Rambam today would be in cherem and his books banned, wait, they did that and we see how well that worked.

The answer is that the Briskers have placed special emphasis on the Rambam and are machmir like the Rambam on many issues even when everyone else disagrees with the Rambam. Therefore, the fact that the Rambam's hashkafa is so diametrically opposed is striking.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Presenting the Gedolim Shas

Are you worried that your talmidim are being exposed to improper ideas (such as sex, improper hashkafas, practices that are against halacha, etc.) in their gemaras? Have no fear. You can now buy the new Gedolim shas which has been vetted by a panel of gedolim and is guaranteed to have none of the above.

The other advantage of this shas is that Daf Yomi can now make a siyum in 1 year instead of 7.

While this sounds like Purim Torah, if we take what R' Leff and others are saying to it's logical conclusion this is where we are headed.

R' Leff on Slifkin

R' Leff on Slifkin
I am amazed and very disturbed by what he says. He agrees that everything that R' Slifkin wrote is Torah and based on the opinions of Rishonim and Acharonim. And yet, he says that since many Rishinim argue and the consensus opinion seems to be like them, it is (and I quote) "presenting the other side is misleading". This is absolutely incredible. R' Slifkin writes in his books that this is 1 approach and that there are other approaches, he doesn't hide thiis fact. And yet, according to R' Leff to present the views of Rishonim is misleading!!! He goes on to say that for many people (I understand the this to mean the Charedi population) this approach is inappropriate and should not be taught. Again, I can't believe my ears. This is Torah!!!! The Rambam said this. Are we now supposed to stop learning minority opinions??? If Chazal had taken this attitude in shas there would be no Beis Shammai in the Mishna. Chazal comment that בית שמאי במקום בית הלל אינו משנה and yet Beis Shammai is mentioned in the Mishna and the Gemara. Chazal did not censor minority opinions, you find all through Shas opinions that now would be considered to be against halacha.

I am very worried about the future if this is what is going on. What happened to intellectual honesty? What about knowing all of Torah?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Starting שמונה עשרה late

The gemara in Brachos 21 states that if you come in late you are not allowed to start שמונה עשרה if you cannot finish by kedusha. I find in my experience that many people either don't know this halacha or ignore it.

There is an interesting dispute relating to this halacha. What should you do if somehow you are in the middle of שמונה עשרה and the ש"ץ reaches kedusha. Rashi in Succa says that you should stop saying שמונה עשרה and listen to the ש"ץ and be יוצא שומע כעונה. Tosafos (in Brachos) has 2 questions on this:
1. If this is true then why aren't you allowed to start שמונה עשרה at any time, you aren't losing anything, you are יוצא קדושה through שומע כעונה anyway?
2. If you are יוצא why isn't it a הפסק ?

Tosafos answers 1 by saying that although you may be יוצא with שומע כעונה it is better to say the words (this needs explanation). Tosafos doesn't answer the second question.

We can explain the dispute based on the following. There are 2 ways to look at שומע כעונה:
1. Take the words literally, the halacha is saying that if you listen the halacha views it as if you said the words
2. You are יוצא with his דיבור meaning that you didn't say the words, however the halacha says that you are יוצא by someone else saying the words.

Tosafos would hold like 1, therefore it would be a הפסק because the halacha views it as if you said the words, so you said kedusha during שמונה עשרה. Rashi however holds like 2 and therefore there is no הפסק, you said nothing you are יוצא with his דיבור so it is ok even in the middle of שמונה עשרה.

This relates to Purim as well. There is a minhag to say the עשרת בני המן in 1 breath and for everyone to say them. the Rogatchover explained this by saying that although the whole megilla you are יוצא with שומע כעונה you can't be יוצא this minhag of saying the names in 1 breath. Why not? It would seem that the Rogatchover holds like Tosafos, and therefore שומע כעונה makes it like you said the words but it can't add anything over and above that, so you said the words but not in 1 breath. However, according to rashi you are יוצא with his דיבור and his דיבור was good (in 1 breath) so just like he is יוצא with his דיבור you are as well.

The same question comes up as well by bircas cohanim. Can 1 kohen make the bracha and all the other cohanim will be יוצא with שומע כעונה? The Beis Halevi said no because bircas cohanim requires קול רם that everyone in the shul needs to hear you. It would seem that the explanation is the same as for the עשרת בני המן that שומע כעונה can't create קול רם.

One final point, we pasken like rashi that a person should stop and listen. There is a machlokes acharonim how should the ש"ץ say kedusha, should he say the verses קדוש קדוש and ברוך כבוד with everyone or after everyone. The Mishna Berura says with everyone because otherwise when he repeats it it is not called בציבור, others say that if he says it with everyone then we miss out on this din of Rashi (because they can't hear the ש"ץ and be יוצא through him as he is drowned out by everyone else and no one else has כונה to be מוציא), therefore they say the ש"ץ should specifically wait until everyone is finished to fulfill this din and they say that it is called בציבור because he is the ש"ץ and saying it in that capacity.

Anyone who davens for the amud should really ask their Rav what to do when saying kedusha, like the Mishna Berura (with everyone) or afterwords (or a compromise to be יוצא both).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

פסקי הלכה on non-halachik issues

I was listening to the radio yesterday on my way home from work and heard an interview with an MK from Shas discussing whether Shas would support a referendum on the disengagement plan. The MK stated that R' Ovadya Yosef paskened against a referendum. We find the same language used with respect to R' Elyashiv on this and similar issues.

I find this very troubling. This is not a halachic issue. The question is political, does a referendum help or hurt Shas, Degel Hatorah etc. A referendum is no different in the eyes of halacha then the Knesset voting on it. The only issue is does a referendum help or hurt their cause. Many Haredim fear that this will open a pandoras box, that once the first referendum happens there will be further referendums on religious issues (like Shabbos, civil marriage, the draft, etc.) which they will lose. Again, this is a legitimate concern, but not a halachic one and can't be paskened. For the life of me I don't see how a psak can be issued about this.

I see nothing wrong with asking the gedolim their opinion on this issue, they are very wise people, but the bottom line is that this fundamentally a political question not a halchic one.

Some thoughts on learning in YU

As some one who learned in YU for many years and was in the kollel I would like to share my thoughts on what I perceive as the weakness of YU.

YU does not give a person an opportunity just to sit and learn after college or semicha. I graduated college and wanted to learn for a few years before going out to work. The only way to do that was to join the Semicha program which I did. Why did I need to that? I did not want or need semicha and I had to do things in the program which were a waste of time for me.

The same thing applies to someone who wants to learn after semicha. The only real option is the kollel elyon which is small and only for 3 years.

This leads us to another point, how much does someone really know when they get semicha from YU. Many of the people who get semicha really started learning in their year in Israel at 18. After 1 or 2 years they came back and went to YU (college) splitting their time bewteen learning and college. Then comes another 3 years of learning in semicha with many people splitting their time and getting a Master's degree in Revel or Azrieli. The 4th year of semicha is spent doing shimush. If we add it all up it doesn't amount to that much. They certainly don't know shas. The semicha itself from YU lists off the areas in Halacha that the person learned and is בקי in. It lists hilchos nidda, eruvin, geirus, etc. What really happened is that the person heard a few shiurim on hilchos eruvin, nidda , etc. and took a test, to call them a בקי is a joke. To be a בקי in hilchos eruvin you have to learn gemara eruvin in depth with the Rishonim and then to learn the ש"וע, a process that takes a tremendous amount of time which no one in the YU semicha program has the time to do.

Let us look at 2 friends of mine, one went to the kollel elyon and then became a Rebbe, and 1 went to the Mir in Yerushalayim and is still learning in kollel 10+ years later. Who do you think had the chance to grow and become a bigger talmid chacham? It is very nice to be a rebbe, but it takes away from your own learning. The friend who learns in kollel at the Mir is a בקי in shas and ש"וע from his years in the Mir. He is now much better prepared to start giving shiurim. He is now starting to give shiurim and you can see his bekius in every shiur that he gives. The extra 10 years learning allowed him to grow tremendously in Torah and fulfill his potential while at YU you are forced to stop learning full time at a much earlier age.

I think that YU goes to 1 extreme and the RW yeshiva world goes to the other. YU doesn't allow anyone to sit and learn in kollel for 10 years even though for top guys this is the way to produce Gedolim. The RW yeshivas on the other hand want everyone to just sit in kollel for 10 years even if they aren't progressing and/or are not cut out for it. It is too bad that we can't find a happy medium.

I do not mean to bash YU here. I am a product of YU have many friends who are Rebbeim and have the greatest respect for the Roshei Yeshiva. I am just tyring to point out what I see as a weakness in the YU system.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Orthodox tackle premarital sex dilemma

Orthodox tackle premarital sex dilemma

"Orthodox lay leaders and rabbis met in Jerusalem Monday night to discuss the growing phenomenon of premarital sexual relations among religious couples."

This is where the modern orthodox have gone completely astray. This is both against halacha and against the spirit of Judaism. This is the western culture of gratification taking over. The answer is not to give in and condone improper behavior but to educate and teach people proper behavior.

R' Shachter has said many times that chazal when they found that people were violating an עבירה or not being careful about something made a גזירה to move people further away from the עבירה, today the modern orthodox answer is the opposite, permit it.

Slifkin affair hits the NY Times

Religion and Natural History Clash Among the Ultra-Orthodox

The article is actually not bad at all. It presents the banners as a small group of fundamentalists. The article points out a growing problem in Haredi circles, a split between those who know only Torah and those who are also involved in the world (work have a college degree, etc.)

Pesach in exotic (or non exotic) locations

I get the weekly edition of Hamodia and I am absolutely amazed by the sheer number of hotels that are offering glatt kosher packages for Pesach. For a community that has money issues this is terrible waste of money. In addition, is that really how we are supposed to spend Pesach, in some hotel in Switzerland, Florida, etc.?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

When to eat the Purim Seuda this year II?

I saw in a number of halacha sefarim that this actually is a recognized minhag, one sefer brings down that this was the minhag in Ger, Piskei Teshuvos brings a Meiri in Kesuvos 7a who says like this. From all of this we see that this is not a wild idea but an idea that has it's backers.

When to eat the Purim Seuda this year?

The משנה ברורה writes that one should eat their Purim Seuda preferrably before noon otherwise it takes away from the כבוד of shabbos. This would seem to mean that you need to finish by noon, if you just start before noon and finish later in the day you will not be hungry for the shabbos meal and this takes away from the כבוד of shabbos.

Nowadays, this is practically impossible given our schedules (megila reading for men then women, giving out משלוח מנות, אבות ובנים, etc.). therefore, many have the minhag to daven mincha at mincha gedola and then have their seuda, however, this is problematic with regards to כבוד Shabbos as well as with regards to the length of the seuda (if you start at 1 and candelighting is 5:15 you can't have a 4 hour seuda).

An interesting alternative suggested by the Rav of my shul is the following. Start your seuda later in the day (a little before Mincha Ketana when it is permissible to start a seuda on erev shabbos) and continue into Shabbos. When candle lighting comes (about 2 hours later), have your wife light candles and you say kaballas shabbos, then make kiddush (without בורא פרי הגפן because you are in the middle of a seuda and you already have made a bracha on the wine) and bring out לחם משנה and give it out. This is the דין found in the gemara pesachim of פורס מפה ומקדש. Then continue the seuda until however late you want. Daven maariv after the seuda (hopefully wth a minyan).

The advantages to this approach are:
1. There is no problem with כבוד שבת because by continuing into shabbos it turns out retroactively that the whole seuda was a seudas shabbos.
2. You are not pressed for time
3. You can tell your kids that this is the weird דין found in פסחים of פורס מפה ומקדש , you get to actually do this.
4. Your wife only has to prepare 1 seuda not 2

In truth point 1 is not so simple, to say that retroactively the whole seuda turns into a seudas shabbos is a חידוש.

In any case it is an interesting situation and should provide food for thought for people.

As always, ask your local Rav before actually doing this.

Understanding Davening: שמע ישראל

The accepted translation is "Hear O Israel". R' Soloveitchik pointed out that based on the gemara in ברכות י"ג this is not correct. The gemara brings down a dispute between Rebbe and the חכמים about what is learned out from the word שמע. According to Rebbe we learn out that you need to hear what you say, but according to the חכמים we learn out that שמע can be said in any language. We pasken like חכמים and therefore שמע doesn't mean "hear" that was rebbe's understanding, however according to the חכמים it should be translated as "understand".

Getting drunk on Purim

The Rav of my shul offered the following explantion for why we get drunk on Purim. The idea of Purim is that we are supposed to see the hand of God in everything. Purim was a נס נסתר, it could easily have been explained away as coincidence etc., yet the Jews realized that it was all from Hashem. A person who has true בטחון is a happy person. he doesn't let things bother him because he knows that everything is from Hashem even what seem to be problems/difficulties. It is like the old story about the guy who is rushing to catch a plane and just misses it, he gets really upset. An hour later he hears that the plane crashed. At that point he realizes that it was for the best that he missed the plane. We are supposed to view everything in life that way. Someone who is drunk isn't bothered by anything and therefore we get drunk on Purim to reach this state (even artificially) of not being bothered by lifes problems.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Why do a majority of Israelis support disengagement?

I believe that the answer is very simple. The mainstream leaders on the right wing have never offered a credible alternative. The right wing was against Oslo is against disengagement now, but in fact has never offered an alternative except for the status quo. Sharon, Netanyahu, Begin, Uzi Landau, Effi Eitam, etc. have never explained how they will deal the millions of Palestinians living in Yesha. As the saying goes you can't beat someone with no one. The majority of people are not willing to give back he Golan even though we have much less of a historical connection to it. The reason for this is because the status quo is perfectly fine. Why should we give it to Syria? However, the situation in Yesha has reached a point where the majority of people have realized that the status is not a solution and can't go on. And therefore they are willing to give any plan a chance.

Meir Kahane was one of the few who had a plan and before he was banned the polls had him winning a lot of seats, because he offered a solution, he didn't just say no.

The problem is that after almost 40 years of mismanaging things I don't know if anyone can come up with a workable plan.

Who is eligible to be on the Sanhedrin?

Last night I saw an interesting sefer about issues relating to the Sanhedrin. Among other things he discusses what are the qualifications needed to be on the Sanhedrin. The gemara in Sanhedrin 17a has a whole list, among them are the need to know חכמה and teh need to know the 70 languages. The Rambam brings these להלכה that they need to some medicine and other wisdom. The Rambam implies that the 70 languages is just לכתחילה however, there needs to be at least 3 members who do speak them.

I find these 2 criteria fascinating, as these 2 disqualify almost all of the Eastern european gedolim from the last 200 years. Most of them only speak Yiddish, they did not even spoke Polish or Russian let alone 70 languages. In addition they had absolutely no secular knowledge to speak of.

It is an interesting question, when Moshiach comes will there be anyone qualified to sit on the Sanhedrin?

Note: according to many 70 languages does not mean 70 languages, it means that they know the languages that are in use in the world at that time.

Davening mincha at work

To continue my previous post we see that our priorities nowadays are messed up. Most of us would never miss mincha with a minyan at work, yet, we are not so careful with our employers time.

Lets take a concrete example. Imagine you are deep in thought working on something, if you stop you will break your train of thought and lose your place. Suddenly it is time to go to daven micha with your minyan. Should you stop and go? It is not so simple. If you stop you are affecting the quality of your work. We see that chazal did not allow workers to daven with a minyan because it stole time from the employer. Nowadays, we assume that the employer is implicitly מוחל since we all have breaks, and lunch (and for example at my office a ping pong table), however if it affects your work this assumption is probably not valid. If you wouldn't get up to play ping pong because you are deep in thought then it is problematic to get up and daven as well.

Note, nothing said here is הלכה למעשה, everyone should ask their Rav what to do in specific circumstances. I am just trying to get people to realize that this is an issue and think about it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Jewish view on employees wasting time

In todays daf (ברכות ט"ז) the Mishna and Gemara record a series of leniencies for workers with regards to davening and shma. They can read shma up in the tree, they can say a short שמונה עשרה, a short benching, etc. all so as not to steal work time from their employer. When you think about this is amazing. I would have thought that Chazal would have done just the reverse, namely legislate that the employer needs to provide his employee sufficent time to daven properly, bench properly, etc. Instead Chazal placed the onus on the employee. The reason would seem to be because it is very easy for an employee to waste time and steal from the employer. By stating that an employee can't even take time to daven properly chazal were trying to emphasize how serious this issue of stealing time from the employer is and how careful we need to be.

This is a serious business and applies today as well.

Transliterations or Hebrew text?

As many of you may have noticed I am inconsistent in my use of Hebrew text here. Sometimes I write things out in Hebrew and sometimes I transliterate it in English.

The explanation for this is very simple. I am a decent typist in English and an awful one in Hebrew (I don't know where the letters are). Therefore, if the transliteration is relatively simple and understandable for my own convenience I will type it in English. If the transliteration will be hard to read and understand I will try to type it in Hebrew. In addition there are times when writing something in hebrew has more impact, and therefore I will try to type in Hebrew. Hopefully, as time goes on and my Hebrew typing improves a little, it won't be so painful for me to type in Hebrew and I will abandon the transliterations completely. Until then please bear with me.

Update: YU degrees and the Ministry of Education

The situation is still not resolved but progress is being made Livnat tells YU of `progress' in diploma recognition, as usual the wheels of bureaucracy in Israel turn very slowly.

Is Hebrew dying?

There is an interesting article on ynet שפה הולכת לאיבוד
about how the Hebrew language is dying.

After living here for a number of years it is definately true. It seems that every other word is either an English word or a Hebrewized version of it. For example politics is פוליטיקה.

I don't know if this is so bad, this is the way the world is going, the Germans and the French are complaining about the same phenomenon.

Only in Israel ...

does your health insurance pay you not to use it. I have private supplemental health insurance from work. The insurance will pay for things like surgery, etc. It turns out that the insurance companies will pay you not to use it. In other words, if someone needs surgery, they can do it through their Kupat Cholim or through their private insurance. The private insurance will pay the surgeon about 5 times more then the Kupat Cholim. Given that, the doctors always want you to use your insurance. To combat this, the insurance comapny will pay you half of what they would have paid the doctor if you don't use the insurance and instead do it through the Kupat Cholim. For example if they would pay the surgeon 4000 shekels for the operation, they will pay you 2000 to do it through the kupat cholim. This way you win and they win, you make 2000 shekels and the insurance company saves 2000 shekels. The only one who loses is the doctor.

Do such games go on anywhere else in the world?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

?ראשית צמיחת גאולתינו

R' Shaar Yashuv Cohen a prominent Religious Zionist figure stated the following זו לא המדינה שלנו
אנשים מתקשים לעכל את המציאות החדשה. כשממשלת ישראל מרימה יד לעקור יישובים יהודיים מארץ ישראל היא מאבדת במו ידיה את כל הטעם לקיום המדינה. אי אפשר להתעלם מכך. המדינה היא מכשיר קדושה ולא קדושה. מכשיר מצווה ולא מצווה. אפילו הרב סולובייצ'יק כתב שהוא לא ייתן את ידו להשתעבדות בלתי מסויגת למדינה. זו עבודה זרה. כשהמדינה נוהגת כמדינת כל יושביה, ולא כמדינת היהודים, היחס שלי אליה משתנה. אני מכבד אותה ככל שלטון אחר אבל היא כבר לא 'ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו'. המשמעות המעשית היא שאולי לא נוכל להמשיך בתפילות ובברכות של יום העצמאות

Is this the end of religious zionism? How many people are not going to celebrate יום העצמאות this year?

Judaism, Morality, and Racism

There is a lengthy discussion going on in Hirhurim about the commandment to wipe out Amalek. Some of the people there are bothered by the fact that the Torah tells us to indiscrimantely kill all Amalekites (men, women and children), what we would call today genocide. Some are bothered by the fact that the Torah seems to be racist, all Amalekites are killed indiscriminately regardless of what they did just because they are a member of Amalek. I would like to lay out what I believe as a frum Jew.

Let's start with some basic principles. The following should be agreeable to any Orthodox Jew:
1. Torah min hashamayim, the Torah is the revealed word of Hashem
2. The Torah is not changing
3. The Torah is the blueprint for the world הסתכל באורייתא וברא עלמא)
4. Hashem is omniscient and perfect

Give the above principles if the Torah tells us to do something it is by definition moral, correct etc. How could it be anything else if it is the word of Hashem? Would Hashem command us to do something immoral or unjust? We are commanded to imitiate Hashem, we are supposed to be merciful because Hashem is merciful (מה הוא רחום אף אתה רחום). Therefore, if the Torah tells us to kill all the Amalekites then we need to accept it as the word of Hashem and not have any moral qualms about it. We may not understand it, like we don't understand many things (צדיק ורע לא רשע וטוב לא) but we need to have faith that what we are doing is the will of Hashem and therefore the correct/moral thing to do.

Hashem commanded Avraham Avinu, the paragon of chessed to kill his only son and offer him as a sacrifice. Was that a moral command? Avraham Avinu is praised and we have the זכות of the עקידה forever specifically because he unhesitingly obeyed the command of Hashem without any qualms.

As soon as we start to inject our own views about what is moral and what is not, everything becomes subjective. For some people, euthanasia of babies with severe birth defects is moral. (see for example Netherlands grapples with euthanasia of babies). From their perspective they are performing a kindness to the child, a mercy killing, others claim that this is outright murder. How are we supposed to decide who is right? Is abortion murder or should it be permitted on demand? These are all moral questions where a thinking person can easily see both sides of the question. Only by adopting the objective Torah viewpoint can we know what is truly moral and what is not.

With regards to the charge of racism, I say that Judaism pleads guilty. Judaism discriminates in many ways solely by birth. Someone who is born as a גוי has less קדושה then a Jew and is discriminated against by the Torah. Someone who is born to an Amalekite is to be killed. Someone born a ממזר is discriminated against because he is a ממזר, he can't marry my daughter, he can be the biggest torah sholar but he can't serve on the Sanhedrin. Someone who is not born a כהן can never do the עבודה. The משיח will only be a descendent of David, in fact, Judaism mandates a hereditary kinsgship. The list goes on.

The mishna in הוריות יג states that regarding charity and freeing of captives a כהן is before a לוי who is before a ישראל who is before a ממזר. The gemara comments that this is if they are equal in torah. In other words, if you have a ממזר and a ישראל in jail and they are equal in torah you free the ישראל first period.

The Torah assigns different roles to different people and discriminates between them. The Torah does not believe in the American dream, not everyone can be the King, work in the Beis Hamikdash, be on the Sanhedrin etc. Women have a different role then men and this is borne out in Halacha. A person's goal in life is to fulfill his task and this is what he is judged on when he dies. When Joe Shmo dies they will not ask him in שמים why weren't you the Vilna Gaon, they will ask him why didn't he fulfill the potential and perform the task of Joe Shmo. If we look at life with that perspective then the fact that the Torah discriminates is irrelevant, that is part of Hashem's plan. You were born who you were (ישראל,כהן,ממזר )with a given task to fulfill given the parameters of your birth. All you need to do is fulfill your task

Clarifiation about Judaism and the Taliban

When I compared Judaism to the Taliban I did not mean to equate them by any stretch of the imagination. What I meant to say is that to a degree from an outsider's perspective they would look the same.

Here is a good example. Someone commented that that Taliban forced women to wear burkas, even Satmar doesn't do that. Let us look at what Satmar and other chassidic groups make their women wear.
1. Shave their head (some Chassidic groups)
2. Wear some kind of head covering (a wig, a kerchief, etc.) in any and all weather (even if it is 100 degrees outside
3. Wear long sleeves
4. Wear only long skirts or dresses (no pants)
5. Wear heavy non opaque stockings with a line down the back
The fact is that even the non-chassidic groups, for example, the wives of many/most (hopefully all) the people reading this wear a variant of the following, head covering (wig, hat, etc.), long sleeves, no pants, stockings, etc. It is not as extreme but only to a degree.

If you look at this from the perspective from a modern western woman, how is this better then the Taliban? A woman is still forced to wear a restrictive set of clothing to cover up her body. The only difference is in the specifics.

The same applies to other areas. In a Halchic state the law would be that someone who does melacha on Shabbos gets the death penalty, etc.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Purim in Israel for Chilonim is like Halloween

People dress up, drink, and party. At my office, the company is sponsoring a big party at a disco for all the employees with alchohol and kosher food. Unfortunately, most of the people have no idea what Purim means. In America, the average non-religious Jew never heard about Purim, let alone celebrates it.

I don't know if this is a good thing or not. On one hand it is good that at least people have some awareness of the Jewish calender and that there is such a holiday as Purim. On the other hand they have completely forgot about what Purim stands for and what it means.

In one respect it is good, it gives the religious and non-religious a common language. They can talk about celebrating Purim (even though the celebrations are radically different) what the kids are going to do dress up as etc.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Hamodia acknowledges YU!!

I couldn't believe it, but the English Hamodia on Thursday had an editorial about YU. They were commenting about the issue that arose over a month ago that the Ministry of Education did not recognize YU degrees because YU accepted credit for a year in Israel. Hamodia was commenting that this still has not been resolved and it shows how anti-religious the government is. YU degrees are accepted by the best graduate schools in America (Harvard, Yale, etc.) but are not good enough for the Israeli government because they give credit for learning Torah. Hamodia's point was that the government didn't recognize YU degrees because they can't believe that Torah is a worthwhile endeavor.

What is amazing is that Hamodia recognized YU's existence (usually they just try to pretend it doesn't exist), praised it, and acknowledged that YU students learn Torah. What is the world coming to?

Today's NY Times Magazine has a puff piece about the Palestinians

The Interregnum

It is very pro-Palestinian, it accepts the Palestinian version of things without question. Not surprising from the NY Times. Of course I am still waiting for the NY Times to admit that the policy of shunning Arafat was correct and that Arafat could have stopped the terror if he had wanted to.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Learning Daf Yomi

This article דפדף, כבוד הרב (in Hebrew) presents a good argument about why Daf Yomi for all it's faults is a very good thing.

Learning Tanach

Every time I learn a Gemara with alot of אגדדתא that quotes psukim from נ"ך I realize how little נ"ך I know. The Jewish educational system in America for boys basically forgets about it. Once you start learning Gemara that is it, you spend most of the day on that. It is sad because נ"ך really can teach us a tremensous amount about Jewish hashkafa and how we should approach things.

In Israel things are a little better, the kids learn more because they know the language so they can go a lot faster. Even so, at a very young age they start learning Gemara and that takes over their time.

I understand the reasons, there is so much to know, and so little time. The answer really is to change the system and to introduce Gemara at a much later stage when the kids have already learned תנ"ך and mishnayos. I believe this is the approach of Zilberman's (בן חמש למקרא בן עשר למשנה). Th problem is that if you go to a Zilberman's elementary school you are stuck, it is very hard to switch out because you haven't learned the same curriculum as everyone else.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The advantages of working in Israel

After living in Israel for a number of years, I would like to explain the advantages of working in Israel vs. working in the US.

1. You can be an Erev Shabbos Jew. R' Soloveitchik once commented that there are many shomer shabbos Jews in America but there are very few erev shabbos Jews in America. Erev shabbos (especially in the afternoon) is supposed to be dedicated to getting ready for Shabbos. According to the Rambam this part of the mitzva of כבוד. In addition, a person should spend enter shabbos with some thought, calm and not in a rush. In the US if you work, this is very difficult to do especially from November through February where most people are lucky if they get home a half an a hour before candlelighting. Getting home from work 20 minutes before candlelighting, rushing into the shower and then running to shul is not conducive to the spirit of shabbos.

On the other hand, in Israel, I work Sunday - Thursday, I spend Friday afternoon getting ready for Shabbos, cleaning the house, giving the kids baths, etc. I go into Shabbos with a whole day of preparation. It makes a big difference to me.

2. You have the Jewish holidays off and not the Christian holidays. This means that you don't have to spend 7-10 of your yearly vacation days just to take off for Yom Tov. In addition, because the schools are closed on Chol Hamoed, the week of Chol Hamoed is like Christmas week in the US, not much work gets done and a lot of people take off. For the past few years I have not worked on Chol Hamoed and I still have had time to take a family vacation. Pesach or Succos is a different holiday when you are home for the whole time with the family something that I was never able to do when I worked in the US.

3. The culture is Jewish. Even the non-religious people say Shabbat Shalom when they leave on Thursday night and everyone knows when Yom Tov is and no one looks at you funny when you don't shave during sefira, the company has a menora and sells it's chametz, etc.

4. Everything is kosher. Where I have worked, all company events are kosher and the company cafeteria is kosher. It makes life a lot simpler.

5. According to many working in Israel is a קיום of the mitzva of ישוב הארץ (see the חתם סופר בסןכה ל"ו) and therefore makes your daily work into a mitzva where as outside of Israel it is just a way to support your family and has no inherent value.

6. You get to pay 50% of your salary to the government :)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

A Halachik state, Saudia Arabia, and the Taliban

What is the common thread between all 3? All 3 would be theocracies where violations of religious laws (such as shabbos, avoda zara, etc.) are penalized with the death penalty. When I put it that way it sounds scary. As Westerners, most of us probably agree with the media that the Taliban were a bunch of crazy fundamentalists. I still remember the uproar when they destroyed some ancient idols. And yet, a Halachik state would have to do the same. R' Shachter writes in Nefesh Harav that someone asked the Rav how can Israel be a member of the UN, some of the states in the UN worship Avoda Zara? The Rav answered that it is good that no one asked us.

The fact is that a Halachik state would be considered in the eyes of the West as something akin to the Taliban or Saudia Arabia. The problem is that most of you reading this post in many ways agree with that. We were all raised on democracy and live and let live, freedom of speech, etc. However, the Torah doesn't agree with that at all. The Torah proscribes a certain way of life which is not compatible with current Western thinking. Someone who is מחלל שבת on purpose gets killed.

You might say so what? The problem is that this colors our thinking and perverts our view and understanding of Torah, we try to view Torah through the prism if western culture when we should really be doing the opposite, viewing Western culture through the prism of Torah. This is where I think the "modern orthodox" have failed.

I close with the following question. Who can you relate to better? Your American middle class colleague at work, who watches the same tv shows as you, roots for the same (or different) sports teams, in short someone who shares the same American culture, or a Reb Arele (Satmar, Belzer, doesn't really matter) chasid who lives in Meah Shearim. In theory we should relate to the Chasid much better, after all we are both Torah observant Jews keeping the same mitzvos learning the same Torah. Yes, we have some hashkafic disputes but these should be relatively minor in the scheme of things. I would venture to say that most of the readers if they are honest would feel closer to the American גוי then the Chasid, you can draw your own conclusions.

The perils of the internet

The internet has been a great thing for the free flow of information and can be very positive. However, there are also a lot of negatives. It is things like this England's EBay for Sex that make me understand the Charedi viewpoint of banning the internet.

In the case of the internet, I believe that the ban will fail, it is something that simply cannot be stopped. There are too much useful things to ban it. However, we need to understand the problems and figure out a way to deal with them intelligently without either ignoring the problem or becoming like the Amish. There is no easy solution, however, we need to keep in mind that while it may be a good thing to be open minded, you can't be so open minded that your brains fall out.

When is צאת הכוכבים?

This question has always bothered me and it came up again as I started learning daf yomi and the first mishna talks about צאת הכוכבים being the זמן for ק"ש.

Everyone should know the famous שיטת ר"ת (which is accepted by the major rishonim) that צאת הכוכבים is 4 מיל (at least 72 minutes) after sunset. Until 3.25 מיל after sunset (at least 58 minutes) it is definately day. The Gra has his famous question that this contradicts reality, 50+ minutes after sunset it is completely dark, how can that be considered day. Yet, this opinion is the opinion of many of the rishonim and is the opinion quoted in the ש"וע and the רמ"א. I have not yet seen a good explanation of how ר"ת fits in with reality and it bothers me a lot that this is the majority opinion of the rishonim when it so clearly is contradicted by reality.

Parade of people Benching Gomel

Where I daven in Israel we always have people traveling back and forth to the US, either people on business, relatives visiting, etc. Therefore, every shabbos there is a parade of people coming up to bench gomel. I believe that this practice is wrong and is a bad thing. The idea of benching gomel is that we want to thank hashem for saving us from a dangerous situation. Nowadays, flying to the US is safer then driving to work. There is little or no danger and therefore most probably no חיוב to make the ברכה. In fact, IMHO this trivializes the whole thing. If you watch the people who make the ברכה you can see that there is no real emotion there, they are not really thanking hashem, this is understandable, nothing happened to them. What this does is desensitizes people to the idea and meaning of ברכת הגומל and makes the whole thing into a bit of a joke.

On a related topic, R' Shachter in נפש הרב says that the Rav did not say תפלת הדרך when he commuted from Boston to NY to say his shiurim because it was completely routine for him. He explained that תפלת הדרך is based on the idea of תפלה בעת צרה and therefore does not apply to a routine commute. This is not the opinion that is normally held, I heard a tape from R' Reisman who claimed that someone traveling from Monsey to Manhattan every day would say תפלת הדרך every day. The Rav's position on תפלת הדרך would seem to support my position above about ברכת הגומל.

The Yeshivish dress code

In today's Yeshiva world the dress code is dark suit, white shirt, black hat, long payists behind the ears, and probably a beard. What is fascinating is that this is a modern phenomenon. If you look at any pictures from the pre-war yeshivas (for example in הרב מבריסק, where you have pictures of various post war Rosh Yeshivas when they were young in Europe) you will see that all the unmarried guys were clean shaven with regular sideburns. In addition they were dressed stylishly in nice looking grey suits and hats. This changed for some reason in the last 40 years. So much for recreating the world of Eastern Europe.

As an aside, this whole long payists behind the ears thing is not על פי דין at all. The shiur of payists is very very short, and in fact because it is a לא תעשה there is probably not even an ענין of הידור מצוה. What is even more interesting is that someone who shaves and has long payists is being silly. There are a number of דעות in ש"וע that פאות הראש extend very far down so by shaving there they are being over an איסור דאורייתא while by growing the hair higher up long they are not מקיים anything על פי דין.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Anti-Charedi sentiment in Israel

There is a huge amount of animosity in Israel to the Charedi public. As someone who could be considered quasi-charedi I understand where it is coming from.

I work in hi tech and make a good salary for Israel. However, every month almost 50% of my salary goes to the government, in addition I pay high property taxes. If I get a bonus, stock options, etc. 50% goes right to the government.

In the past (this is changing) the more kids you had the more money you got in child allowances. For the first 3 kids it was minimal, after that it went up a lot. What this means is that someone who learns in kollel ends up with a nice sum of money every month. A few thousand shekel in child allowance, the stipend from the kollel (let's say $1000) a month, a massive reduction in property taxes and other benefits.

The average chiloni who works with 1 kid sees 50% of his salary going to teh government and what does he get for it. He gets a pittance in child allowances. He sends his kids to public school but then pays a lot of money for chugim etc, (after all the school day ends at 1 PM). He pays a lot of property tax etc. If hew wants to send his kids to university he has to pay.

The picture he sees of Charedim is a bunch of people doing nothing all day getting money from the government.

While I understand the value of limud hatorah, I think that it is a mistake for the government to give money to kollelim, yeshivos etc. If someone wants to sit and learn fine, but they shouldn't expect the government to support them. It creates such hatred of Judaism that it just isn't worth it.

Modern Orthodox Teen Agers

I saw a link to the following bulletin board Lockers.Net and I was absolutely blown away. I went to a co-ed day school and a so called "modern" high school not that long ago and after reading some of the entries would never dream of sending my kids to a school like that.

In truth, I don't understand how anyone can advocate co-ed schools, camps, etc. It creates tremendous problems (just read some of the posts).

The kids in that forum are frum in name only, they have no idea what it means to be frum and no ever taught them, a very scary thought.

Daf Yomi

After many years of being against Daf Yomi I have decided to start. In the past I felt that the pace was too fast and that I wanted to learn on my own and struggle through the Gemara. I have been doing this for a while since I left Yeshiva and started working usually in either some kind of early morning or night kollel. If so, what changed my mind? I realized, that at the pace that I am going (spending a year learning hilchos nidda b'iyun for example) there are parts of Shas that I simply will never learn. I came to the realization that I need to have at least learned all of Shas once. To counter the problems with Daf Yomi I am doing the following.
1. I am going to a shiur of someone I know from Yeshiva who now is a really big Talmid Chacham
2. The shiur is small and almost like learning in a chavrusa
3. I set aside at least a half hour a day to go over the previous daf, look things up etc.

So far so good.