Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Back from America

The trip was great but the flight back is very tough. We are all exhausted. I hope to post something substantive tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Shabbos atmosphere in America

In Israel we live in a religious neighborhood. On Shabbos there are no cars in the street. This past Shabbos we were in NYC. Walking home from Friday night dinner my little 6 year old told me it didn't feel like Shabbos. Why not, I asked? She answered, because look at all the cars, buses and trucks driving. I grew up in America so I hardly noticed, but my kids who grew up in Israel notice the difference. After thinking about it I realized that it was a tremendous thing. My kids know that on Shabbos everything stops, there are no cars, buses etc., they really experience Shabbos.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Standing up for the Aseres Hadibros

The common minhag is for the whole congregation to stand up when the Aseres Hadibros are read in shul. However, the Rambam was very against this minhag and thought it should be abolished. The Rambam writes in a teshuva that the Aseres Hadibros used to be part of Davening, however the gemara in Berachos comments that Chazal abolished this so that people would not think that the Aseres Hadibros are more important then other parts of Torah. Therefore, the Rambam writes that standing up for the Aseres Hadibros should also not be done, as it promotes this idea that the Aseres Hadibros are more important then other pesukim.

RYBS explained the minhag as follows. He pointed out that the Rambam does not mention the Taam Haelyon (which is how we read the Aseres Hadibros). What is the difference between the Taam Haelyon and Taam Hatachton? The Taam Hatachton (the regular trup) splits up the dibros into pesukim. Some dibros are a few pesukim, and some pesukim contain a few dibros. The Taam Haelyon on the other hand, treats each dibra as 1 unit (as 1 pasuk). We can ask how is this allowed? After all, kol pesuka d'lo paska moshe anan lo paskinan (we are only allowed to read the Torah broken up in the original pesukim, we can not put 2 pesukim together or split a pasuk apart)? The Taam Haelyon wouild seem to violate this halacha.

RYBS answered that 1 question answers the other. He explained that when we read the Aseres Hadibros we are not reading it as Krias Hatorah, rather, we are trying to recreate Har Sinai. Therefore we read the Aseres Hadibros in the Taam Haelyon because that is how Hashem said it. Therefore, we also stand up, as we received the Torah at Har Sinai standing up. Since we are trying to recreate Har Sinai we are allowed to stand and split up the Pesukim differently, we are just recreating what happened. The Rambam on the other hand, since he did not have the Taam Haelyon, held that the reading of the Aseres Hadibros is just regular Krias Hatorah. Therefore it is inapropriate to stand up for them as they are no more important then any other pesukim and therefore he was against the minhag of standing up.

Abbas credits the suicide bombers with the withdrawal from Gaza

So much for Mr. Moderate Abbas. He continued, tomorrow, Jenin, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Does anyone still think this is going to bring peace? See this article Abbas credits 'martyrs' with Israel's Gaza withdrawal and this אבו מאזן: "הנסיגה הושגה בדמם של השאהידים". The English articles whitewash his language, he used the word "shahidim" which refers to the suicide bombers.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Updated: Now that disengagement is taking place ...

What about all those rabbinic pronouncements that it wasn't going to take place? A while back I wrote Putting your head in the sand about disengagement

I was talking to a friend of mine who is Dati Leumi, and he told me that various prominent Rabbis made pronouncements that the disengagement won't take place. I was very disturbed. How can they make such pronouncements? A person has an obligation to be realistic, אין סומכים על הנס. We certainly need to fight and protest the disengagement and daven to hashem to stop it, but we can't rely on a נס to happen that will stop it. We need to be realistic and think about the day after as well. These rabbinic pronouncements will just make things worse if and when disengagement does take place.

Now that disengagement is happening what will these Rabbanim say? Even more importantly what is going to happen to the people who believed them and are now homeless? How many people will lose faith because of this?


Ynet has an article (in Hebrew) YNET Article about exactly this point, how people are now questioning their faith because the disengagment happened.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

We made it to America

The flight to America is interminable especially with a bunch of little kids.

R' Shmuel Birnbaum (the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir Brooklyn) was on the plane. For much of the flight he was in his seat in the back giving shiur to some talmidim. It was a beautiful sight. These guys spent a large part of the flight either listening to the shiur or discussing it. It was an inspiring sight to see the hasmada of these guys (it didn't look like they disturbed anyone). This is what the Charedim do best, they revere limud hatorah.

NY is NY. It is always weird to be back in the US from Israel. The first thing I notice is the Gashmius. Everything is huge. The cars are huge, the houses are huge, etc.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

As I am about to leave for the airport ...

For the first time, I am having very mixed feelings going to America. I am happy to be going to see my family but at the same time am very sad at what is going on here in Israel and feel a tremendous connection to the land. I really feel like this is my home and that I shouldn't abandon it at this time.

I'm going to America for 2 weeks

To visit family. This means that I will probably be posting at a slower rate if at all.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I am happy to go see my family (and we planned this trip 6 months ago), on the other hand it is a crucial moment in EY. In truth it may be better not to be here, it is too depressing to listen to the radio etc. at least in Amercia I will be a bit removed.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Another Tisha B'Av gone by

I really try every year to connect to the Churban Habayis and to feel the aveilus but I can't do it. I am not moved to tears by the kinos describing the destruction. Intellectually I understand but emotionally it is just not there for me and I would guess most of us. We have lived so long without a Beis Hamikdash that we have no clue what it really means.

Someone in my shul put it best, we should cry because we can't cry about the churban.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Torah view of war

The Torah does not view war the same way the Western world does. The Torah has it's own morality that is very different then 20th Western morality. Unfortunately, there are many Jews who are very affected by Western culture and have adopted Western morality over Torah morality. Below I outline the Torah's view on war. I am sure there will be many liberals and יפה נפש who will be horrified by this and call me a barbarian. However, this is what the Torah says. We need to follow the Torah's morality not Western morality.

I. כיבוש מלחמה

The Torah states that territory acquired through conquest is yours both for Jews and non-Jews. See the gemara in Gittin 38a. In other words territory that Israel conquered in 1967 is ours al pi torah based on the din of kibush milchama.

II. Innocent Civilians

The Torah does not recognize the concept of innocent civilians. The Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (6:5, 6:6) writes:

ואם לא השלימו, או שהשלימו ולא קיבלו שבע מצוות--עושין עימהם מלחמה, והורגין כל הזכרים הגדולים, ובוזזין כל ממונם וטפם; ואין הורגין אישה ולא קטן--שנאמר "והנשים והטף" (ראה דברים כ,יד; וראה דברים ב,לד), זה טף של זכרים.

ו,ו במה דברים אמורים, במלחמת הרשות, שהיא עם שאר האומות. אבל שבעה עממין ועמלק שלא השלימו, אין מניחין מהם נשמה: שנאמר "כן תעשה לכל הערים . . . רק, מערי העמים . . . לא תחייה, כל נשמה" (דברים כ,טו-טז), וכן הוא אומר בעמלק "תמחה את זכר עמלק" (דברים כה,יט).

If they do not make peace and do not accept he 7 mitzvos we make war and we kill all the adult males ...this is in a voluntary war but with the 7 nations and Amalek we kill everyone

We see that we kill all the adult males even if they are civilians.

III. Collective Punishment

The Maharal writes in Gur Aryeh (Parshas Vayishlach perek 34 pasuk 13)
Although the Torah reads ... you shall greet them peacefully, this speaks of a city that did not harm us. But as regards those who attack the Jews even if only one of their members was responsible for this act revenge may be exacted on the entire nation because he is one of them.

The Maharal writes explicitly that the Torah allows for collective punishment (this is how he explains how Shimon and Levi were allowed to kill the whole city of Shechem) if someon attacks you.

IV. Genocide

The Torah commands us to wipe out Amalek copmpletely men, women and children.

V. פיקוח נפש

There is no din of פיקוח נפש in war. The Minchas Chinuch mitzva 424 makes this point, otherwise the Jewish people could never go to war. The Netziv writes this as well (Kiddushin 45a) as well as the Brisker Rav on teh Haftara of Parshas Beshalach as well as other acharonim.

It is very clear that today the Palestinians are at war with the Jewish people as RHS states and as R' Yaakov Kamenetsky paskened and therefore we do not need to be ashamed at what has been done to the Palestinians, rather we need to say why are we risking Jewish lives to save Palestinians.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

R' Mayer Schiller on Torah im Derech Eretz and MO

R' Mayer Schiller is a fascinating individual who is Charedi but has taught for 25 years at MO high schools, and in many ways has a very MO hashkafa. Here is a very interesting essay about Torah im Derech Eretz and MO (I am quoting 1 very small piece here, it is worthwhile to read the whole thing).

The average lad in yeshiva/Hassidic world is clearly committed to halacha and resonably knowledgeable in Torah. The average Modern Orthodox boy lags far behind. There is simply no comparison between the 2 worlds when measured by any objective standard of Torah and mitzvos.

I know this is a painful truth. I wish it were not so as it argues strongly against the feasibility of Torah im Derech Eretz
I cannot escape the sense that a shitah that which assents to and embraces all of God's creation will produce a better talmid of greater shleimus in his service of Hashem.

This is the bottom line. MO while theoretically great (even superior as R' Schiller states) doesn't seem to really work for the masses. No one has found the formula to teach Torah im Derech Eretz while still maintaining that commitment that the UO have to Torah and mitzvos.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

ערב ט' באב שחל בשבת when to take off your shoes?

The Shulchan Aruch and Rama are pretty clear, after Borchu you take your shoes off. This is the minhag that I remember from years past as well.

However, recently a new minhag which makes a lot of sense has evolved. People go home after mincha, eat, and then at Tzeis Hakochavim say boruch hamavdil, take off their shoes, change their clothes and then go to shul to daven maariv. This seems to work better then the old minhag of taking off your shoes in shul. The question is, why didn't the Rama advocate this minhag? One answer is that in the days of the Rishonim and Acharonim it was hard to get people to come out to shul at night and therefore if people had gone home they wouldn't return for maariv.

Where I daven, the Rabbi announced that everyone should do what I outlined above (take your shoes off at home etc.)

I am interested to hear what the readers will be doing.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Interesting article about Lakewood

Only in America

This is a very intersting article. Having never learned or even visited Lakewood I can't say how accurate it is, so don't take everything written there as the gospel truth.

משנכנס אב ממעטין בשמחה

The gemara in Taanis 29a states
כשם משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה כך משנכנס אב ממעטין בשמחה
Just like when Adar comes we are joyous so too when Av comes we are sad

What is the connection between Adar and Av, the simcha in adar and the aveilus in Av seem to have no connection?

The answer may be as follows. The medrash quoted by Rashi in Parshas Shelach states on the pasuk ויבכו העם בלילה ההוא that it was the night of Tisha B'av and Hashem said that you cried for no reason, I will give you a reson to cry on the future. In other words, the חטא of the meraglim is the source of the Aveilus of Tisha B'av. Now we need to understand how does the חטא of the meraglim relate to the punishment? Where is the midda kneged midda?

What was the חטא of the meraglim?

One approach is as follows. The leaders made the following calculation. Things were good in the midbar. They had a spiritual life with no effort. Manna came down from heaven every morning. If they had a question they asked Moshe who asked Hashem. In short, spirituality was handed to them on a silver platter. On the other hand they realized that in Israel life would change radically. They would not live a life of nissim, manna would not fall from heaven. They would have to work hard to retain their spiritually. If they had a question in Torah they would have to figure out the answer.

Based on the above, the meraglim decided life was better in the midbar and therefore did what they did.

What was their sin? They didn't want to work hard at their spirituality. They wanted everything handed to them on a silver platter.

Given that we can understand the midda kneged midda. They wanted to have a life of miracles and easy spiritually. Hashem said, I am going to destroy the Beis Hamikdash on this day and go into hester panim. In other words, just the reverse of what the meraglim wanted. To be spiritual in Golus without the Beis Hamikdash takes even harder work. The Beis Hamikdash was a mini midbar. People could come and be spiritually recharged by the Nisim and the giluy hashechina in the Beis Hamikdash. Therefore Hashem says I am going to take even that away and send you into Golus so that you can fix the Aveira.

This also explains our original question. Purim is a holiday where we celebrate a Nes Nistar. They saw the Yad Hashem even though it was hidden. On Purim the Jewish people went even further. The gemara in Shabbos comments that Hashem held the mountain over the Jewish people's head and forced them to accept the Torah. The obvious question is that they said נעשה ונשמע. The acharonim point out that the medrash in Noach asks this question and answers that they said נעשה ונשמע on תורה שבכתב but they had to be forced to accept תורה שבעל פה because it is infinite and hard to master. It was only at the time of Purim where the Jews were mekabel תורה שבעל פה out of their own free will (קימו וקיבלו) and this is why the flowering of the תורה שבעל פה only came about in the time of the second beis hamikdash. We see that at the time of Purim Klal Yisrael did teshuva on this aveira by both recognizing the yad hashem of the nes nistar and being mekabel תורה שבעל פה out of their own free will (קימו וקיבלו). Therefore, the Gemara equates the simcha in Adar with the aveilus in Av because they stem from the same source.

Unfortunately the aveira of the meraglim is still with us nowadays in the executive summary/fast food society of ours. No one has time to work hard on something, everyone wants everything to come easy. No one wants to sit and sweat over pshat in a gemara, they want it spoon fed to them. This is one of the reasons why there is such a proliferation of (kitzur)handbook sefarim, people are not willing to put in the effort to learn the sources. this is why the Artscroll gemaras have become so popular, they make learning gemara easy.

We should take this lesson to heart during the 9 days and hopefully do teshuva and not have to fast this Tisha B'Av.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Is non-kosher food objectively harmful?


If a person eats non-kosher b'heter (e.g. a nursing baby or a person who eats it for health reasons), will the food harm them spiritually?

The Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah Siman 81 paskens that a Jewish baby is allowed to have a non-Jewish wet nurse, however the Shulchan Aruch says that you shouldn't do it because the non-kosher food will harm the baby spiritually. Likewise the Rama there states that a Jewish woman who needs to eat non-kosher food for health reasons should not nurse her baby because the non-kosher will harm him. The Gra comments that 1 of the sources of this din is the Medrash in Parshas Shemos. The pasuk says they brought a nursing woman from the Jews, the Medrash brought down by Rashi comments that Moshe refused to nurse from an Egyptian woman because he was going to grow up and be a Navi so how could he eat non-kosher food. In other words, the non-kosher food would have affected his soul and made it impossible for him to be the Navi that he became.

We see from the above, that non-kosher is intrinsically harmful for a person's soul even if they eat it b'heter.

The Ran in his Drashos says this explicitly. In the 11th drasha he discusses why Halacha is decided by Chachamim and not Neviim. He asks the following question. He says that if a Chacham makes a mistake and permits a forbidden food it is like a doctor who makes a mistake and gives a patient poison instead of medicine. In both cases the person is harmed. If so, why don't we have Neviim decide halacha with nevua and there would be no mistakes? He answers that nevua is not always available (see the drasha for more details). He then explains that even though eating non-kosher food is harmful the mitzva of listening to Chachamim may counterbalance the harmful effects. In any case, we see clearly from the Ran that non-kosher is objectively poison and harmful even if you eat it b'heter.

The Abarbanel (Devarim 17,4) disagress with the Ran. He holds that a person is never harmed by following the Chachamim. If it is mutar then it cannot be harmful. It would seem that the Abarbanel holds that non-kosher is not objectively harmful, rather it is harmful because it is prohibited. If for you there is no prohibition then it is not harmful.

Rashi in Chullin(5a) seems to agree with the Abarbanel. The gemara there is discussing whether a mumar l'avoda zara can do shechita. The gemara tries to bring a proof from Eliyahu Hanavi. At 1 point Hashem tells Eliyahu to go live by himself and the Orvim (birds) brought him meat to eat from Achav's place and (almost)everyone in Achav's palace worshipped Avoda Zara. How could Eliyahu eat the meat if meat slaughtered by a mumar is not kosher? It must be that a mumar is allowed to slaughter. The Gemara answers that על פי דיבור שאני. Rashi explains that Hashem permitted him to eat non-kosher meat (a Navi is allowed to violate the Torah based on his nevua). The obvious question is how could Eliyahu Hanavi eat non-kosher food if it is spiritually harmful? It didn't seem to affect him as he continued being a Navi. The answer would seem to be like the Abarbanel that because he ate it b'heter it was not spiritually harmful.

In fact, the Ritva in Chullin as well as the Maharsha understand the gemara's answer differently. They understand that the Gemara answered that Eliyahu Hanavi knew b'nevua that the meat was kosher, that it had been slaughtered by Ovadia who did not worship Avoda Zara. According to them, Eliyahu Hanavi did not end up eating non-kosher food.

To sum up, we have a major dispute whether non-kosher food is objectively harmful to a person (even if he eats it b'heter like a nursing baby) or not.

R' Moshe (Orach Chaim 2:88) quotes a teshuva of the Chasam Sofer where he discusses a handicapped girl in the following situation. If she stayed at home she would never develop and remain an ayno bar daas. However, if the parents sent her to a special school they claimed that she would reach the potential of a 13-14 year old. However, the school was in a non-Jewish area and there was no possibility of providing kosher food. The Chassam Sofer said that al pi din it is muttar, however he recommends against sending her for the following reason. If they send her she will become a bar daas and be chayav in mitzvos. However, the non-kosher food will affect her lev and she will probably violate torah and mitzvos and therefore it is better for her to remain an ayno bar daas.

We see clearly that this idea that any non-kosher food is metamtem halev, even if eaten b'heter (the girl was a ketan and an ayno bar daas so there was no issur), is brought down l'halacha.

Charedim and Disengagement

Marvin Schick asks Do the Charedim Care About the Dati Leumi?

Although my affiliation is essentially in the charedi sector, notably the yeshiva world, I have long regarded the Dati Leumi people with whom I have contact as individuals blessed with the highest ideals and values, people who exemplify true Torah modesty and who are extraordinarily sincere and careful in their devotion to mitzvos.

It seems to me that the charedi world, at least in Israel, is uncaring about the open wounds being experienced by many Dati Leumi. Is this deliberate? Or perhaps, it is simply that charedim have other interests and problems.

This is a very inportant question that needs to be answered by the Charedi community.


Jonathan Rosenblum has written an article More on Disengagement about this as well.

Agudath Israel of America published last week “A Call to Share the Pain of Acheinu Bais Yisrael,” which called on all Jews “to pause and share in the pain of our Jewish brethren in Gaza.” The statement went on to describe those about to be evicted from Gaza as “idealistic, dedicated Jews, [who] are being forced by circumstances entirely beyond their control to give up their homes, their yeshivos, their shuls and their cemeteries, to be relocated abruptly to new surroundings.”
But it must also be admitted that there is apathy as well. It is hard to imagine that there would not be more concern if a much smaller number of chareidi families were being evicted from their homes in a similar fashion.

A good friend visiting from the States last week confided to me that he “went ballistic” when one of his daughters complained that she did not know where she would now get bug-free vegetables. He asked her to imagine how she would feel if Lakewood decided to use its power of eminent domain (under the recent Supreme Court decision on the subject) to raze Lakewood Yeshiva and all the houses of yeshivaleit nearby, in order to build a huge shopping mall and upscale apartment buildings. Would her primary concern then be the quality of her lettuce?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

ערב ט' באב שחל בשבת

The gemara in Taanis 29b comments that you are allowed to eat meat and wine at your seuda shlishis (even though it is ever tisha b'av). Rashi comments there that there is no seuda hamafsekes on shabbos. RYBS explains that Rashi holds that the seuda hamafsekes is a din in the fast (taanis) and the dinim of the fast don't apply on shabbos. In other words, the fast is mechayev a person to be mafsik. Therefore on Shabbos there is no seuda hamafsekes. The MA in Siman תקנ"ב comments that a person should not eat the seuda with friends and should be sad. There are 2 ways to understand this.

1. He agrees with Rashi's principle that there is no seuda hamafsekes, however, this din of friends is based on the regular din of aveilus on erev tisha b'av
2. He disagrees with rashi and holds that the seuda hamafsekes is a din in the aveilus and therefore applies on Shabbos as well.

The Gra has a famous comment about shabbos Chazon. The shulchan aruch baed on the Rishonim paskens that a person should not change their clothes for shabbos chazon, but rather wear weekday clothes. The Gra disagrees and says that Aveilus B'pharhesya is assur and wearing week day clothes is aveilus b'pharhesya. The minhag nowadays seems to be like the Gra.

Recently, I heard that a number of Charedi rabbanim are going back to the psak of shulchan aruch for the following reason. Anyone who knows the (non-Chassidish) Charedi worlds knows that there is very little difference between weekday clothes and Shabbos clothes, especially for Rabbanim, Roshei Yeshiva, etc. They wear a dark suit and a hat all the time. When I see the Rabbanim in my neighborhood I can never tell the difference between weekday clothes and shabbos, many of them wear a long black frock 7 days a week, and those who don't wear dark suits. Therefore, for them, it is not aveilus b'pharhesya to wear week day clothes, very few people if anyone will be able to tell the difference.

The same sevara applies to the more modern world in America where many people wear suits all week to work.

The problem with the decision to disengage from a non-religious point of view

While clearly religious views play a big role in the oppostion to the disengagement, I would like to lay out the problems with the way the decision was made, from a non-religious point of view.

Israel is a list based party system. You do not elect a Prime Minister, you vote for a party list. The Likud party, which Ariel Sharon leads, platform in the last election was NO to unilateral disengagement from Gaza. The Labor party, led by Mitzna, platform was unilateral disengagement from Gaza. The results of the election were clear, Labor was trounced (40-19 in terms of seats). In other words the will of the people as expressed in the last election was NO to disengagment.

Furthermore, Sharon put the question to a referendum in his party, he lost. Given that there are no direct elections, the honorable thing to do would have been to resign. The party rejected his vision, therefore he should have bowed to the wishes of the party, after all, it was the party that was elected not Sharon. He refused to do that and he did not honor the results of the referendum.

In the Israeli system the Prime Minister is not sovereign, the government is (unlike in the US where the President has clearly delineated powers). The government would have voted against disengagement, Sharon had to fire ministers to pass the plan in the government. While that may have been strictly legal, it was certainly against the spirit of the system.

To top it all off, a number of left wing journalist published a book whose thesis is that Sharon cooked up disengagemnt to save himself from being indicted. The former Chief of Staff of teh Army testified in the knesset that he found about the plan from the press. This raises very troubling questions.

All in all, what Sharon did was stricly legal, but was certainly not democratic in the broader meaning of the word. Anyone with a shred of dignity and honor would have called new elections and said, I am running on the platform of disenagement. If as he and the left claims that a majority supports disengagement then he would have been re-elected with a clear mandate. This would have been much much healthier for the country. The right wing would understand that they lost a democratic election and the level of protest would be much lower. No one would be able to claim that the decision was illegitimate. Now, the right wing has a feeling that the decision was stolen and is illegitimate.

Disengagement is not a regular everyday government decision. It is a decision that affects everyone who lives in Israel, affects our right to the land, affects everyones future. It is only fair to give the people the right to decide on such a critical issue either with a referendum or even better, with new elections.