Sunday, December 31, 2006

Not just El Al, the railroad is next

Below is a picture of a pamphlet being given out decrying the chillul shabbos of the railroad in Israel.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Is there a חיוב כיבוד אב ואם for Grandparents?

See this post Is there a חיוב כיבוד אב ואם for Grandparents? from last year for a fascinating discussion about this issue based on a Rashi in this weeks parsha.

אני יוסף העוד אבי חי What was the תוכחה?

Rashi quotes the medrash that this was a great תוכחה. What exactly was the תוכחה? Last year I posted the Beis Halevi's very relevant pshat ( What was Yosef asking?").

This week I heard a different pshat in the name of the Chofetz Chaim. He explained that the simple fact that Yosef revealed himself was the Tochacha. As soon as the brothers saw Yosef as the King they realized without Yosef saying or doing anything that their whole outlook had been wrong and mistaken. The same thing applies to us when we go up to heaven. The simple fact that we see that Hashem really exists will be the greatest Tochacha. The only way a person can do an aveira is to deny the existence of Hashem on some level. If they really felt Hashem's presence there would be no way to do an aveira. Therefore the simple act of revealing himself will be the tochacha.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How to stop Charedim from burning garbage bins

I read in one of the free newspapers, a novel idea of how to stop the garbage bin burnings in Charedi neighborhoods. Put pesukim with the shem of Hashem on the bins, because no one would chas v'shalom commit the aveira of destroying Hashem's name.

This is so laughable it is pathetic. Burning the bins is clearly an issur of gezela (stealing) yet for some reason that doesn't stop the burners. And yet, the issur of destroying the shem Hashem will deter people, it shows how badly out of whack our priorities are.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The laining on Chanuka in chu"l and EY

I have lived in EY for a number of years and to my embarrassment until this year had not even realized that the laining here on Chanuka in EY is different then in chutz laaretz.

On Chanuka we read the parsha of the נשיאים, every day the נשיא for that day. Each נשיא is 6 pesukim and we have 3 aliyas. That means we are 3 pesukim short. There is a machlokes the Mechaber and the Rama how we remedy the situation. The Mechaber writes that we simply read over that day. In other words, tomorrow morning Kohen will read the first 3 pesukim of the 4th נשיא, Levi will read the next 3, and the third aliya simply repeats all 6 pesukim of the 4th נשיא. The Rama on the other hand says, that for the third aliya you simply read the next day. In other words, tomorrow morning Kohen will read the first 3 pesukim of the 4th נשיא, Levi will read the next 3, and the third aliya reads the 5th נשיא. In chu"l the minhag is like the Rama and in EY the minhag is like the mechaber.

The Gra points out that this לשיטתם by chol hamoed succos. On chol hamoed succos the problem is greater, each day is only 3 pesukim and there are 4 aliyos. According to the Mechaber in chu"l kohen and levi read the 2 days of sefeka d'yoma and then the next 2 aliyas simply repeat them. The Rama writes that שלישי reads the next day and רביעי goes back on the first 2 days. In EY the macheaber writes that we simply repeat the same thing 4 times. Here also the minhag in EY is like the mechaber.

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

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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

When to daven mincha this Friday?

What is different about this Friday? This Friday we will light the first candle of Chanuka. Usually on Friday, most people light Shabbos candles and then they go to daven Mincha. The minhag on Shabbos Chanuka is that we light Chanuka candles before Shabbos candles (this needs a post by itself to explain why). Davening mincha after lighting Chanuka candles is problematic for 2 reasons:
1. The Chida writes that since Chanuka candles are זכר למקדש, they should be lit after Mincha because in the Beis Hamikdash the menora was lit only after the תמיד של בין הערבים. Nowadays, Mincha is instead of the תמיד.
2. There is a machlokes what is the nature of the mitzvah of lighting candles on Chanuka? Is it a mitzva of לילה? Or is it a mitzva of פרסומי ניסא? According to some Rishonim (the Rashba and others) it is a mitzva of night (see What is the nature of the mitzvah of lighting candles on Chanukka? for a lengthy explanation of the machlokes). Based on this, when we light before sunset on Friday night, it is the regular din that you can do mitzva's of night starting from plag hamincha. If so, when we light we are designating the time from plag hamincha until shkia, night and therefore it is inappropriate to daven mincha then (this is similar to the early Shabbos problem of davening Mincha and Maariv between plag and shkia).

Based on these 2 reasons, the minhag in many places has become to daven Mincha this Friday early (mincha gedola time) so that Chanuka candles will be lit after mincha.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

בחירה חפשית: Can I kill an innocent person?

Imagine 2 people Reuven and Shimon. Last Rosh Hashana Shimon was granted life for the year. Now Reuven and Shimon get into an argument and Reuven wants to kill Shimon. Can he kill him? On one hand we have the idea of בחירה חפשית on the other the idea of hashgocha pratis. In this week's parsha (וישב) a number of mefarshim address this question.

When the brothers are planning on killing Yosef, Reuven saves him by suggesting throwing him into the pit. The mefarshim ask what did Reuven accomplish, the pit was very dangerous (full of snakes, etc.), even life threatening. The אור החיים and the אלשיך both answer as follows. A person has בחירה חפשית and therefore the brothers could kill Yosef even if he was not supposed to die. However, animals since they have no בחירה חפשית cannot kill someone if he is not supposed to die. In other words, בחירה חפשית trumps hashgocha pratis. The Netziv gives this answer as well, however he qualifies it by saying that this only applies to someone who is not a צדיק גמור, but a צדיק גמור cannot be harmed even through בחירה חפשית.

The truth is that this should not be surprising. Most (if not all) the Rishonim limit Hashgacha Pratis. The Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 169, writes:

There are sects among mankind who maintain that Divine providence controls all the matters of this world… that when a leaf falls from a tree, He decreed that it would fall…. This approach is far-removed from the intellect.

Both the Rambam and the Ramban based hashgacha pratis on a person's closeness to hashem.

Meshech Chochma( Shemos 13:9)writes:

Divine Providence is manifest for each Jew according to his spiritual level as the Rambam explains in Moreh Nevuchim (3:18): Divine Providence is not equal for everyone but rather is proportional to their spiritual level. Consequently the Divine Providence for the prophets is extremely powerful each according to their level of prophecy. The Divine Providence for the pious and saintly is according to their level of perfection. In contrast the fools and the rebels lacking spirituality are in essence in the same category as animals... This concept that Divine Providence is proportional to spiritual level is one of foundations of Judaism...

Today, this idea (that the Chinuch explicitly rejects) of hashgacha pratis on everything has taken hold. There is no question that it is a very calming thought. You don't have to worry about chance occurrences affecting you, everything is directly from Hashem. However, this was not the view of the overwhelming majority of teh Rishonim.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Neturei Karta now Holocaust deniers as well?

Neturei Karta members showed up in Teheran at Iran's holocaust denial conference. Here is their excus for being there ("Neturei Karta: Iranians making logical claim)":
Neturei Karta's justification for attending the Holocaust denial conference is that they feel the need and the right "to declare on every Jewish stage that the Zionists don't represent the Jewish people, don't belong to the Jewish people, and don't belong to the Holy Land at all."
Neturei Karta's justification for attending the Holocaust denial conference is that they feel the need and the right "to declare on every Jewish stage that the Zionists don't represent the Jewish people, don't belong to the Jewish people, and don't belong to the Holy Land at all."

Rav Lau a Holocaust survivor expressed his outrage in a sentiment I think that we can all agree with:
According to Lau, "This is something not tolerated by the intellect, something that is complete insanity, truly chaos. If it could be that any Jew, for whatever reason, who is capable of shaking the hand of a Holocaust denier in a generation when there are still people with numbers tattooed on their arms among us – this is insanity that not only has no justification, but also no explanation."

As a Holocaust survivor, Lau wants to remind people: "What is the meaning of the number on the arm? The meaning is that the Nazis and their collaborators erased the humanity in people and turned us into numbers. I, for instance, wasn't Israel Lau, not even Lulek, my Polish nickname. I was Buchenwald prisoner number 117030, while I was still 7 and a half years old."

How the Neturei Karta can associate with people who deny the Holocaust is beyond me.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Why did the בני יעקב ask the people of שכם to convert?

I saw an amazingly relevant פשט on this. The brothers realized that if they killed a whole city of גוים the rest of the world would be outraged and would not leave them alone. However, they realized that if the people of שכם converted they could then kill them with impunity as they would be killing Jews and no in the world cares when Jews are killed.

When I first heard this I thought that it was a modern pshetl, but then I saw it is said in the name of R' Yonason Eyebeshutz. It is amazing that this basic truth has not changed in the past 250 years.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What does אחרון mean in Biblical Hebrew? Updated 12/10

In modern hebrew it means last. Does it also mean last in Biblical Hebrew?

RHS mentioned the following. Someone once asked the Tosfos Yom Tov how do we believe that there is going to be a third Beis Hamikdash, after all the pasuk in חגי talking about the Second Beis Hamikdash states: גדול יהיה כבוד הבית הזה האחרון מן הראשון, the pasuk states that the second Beis Hamikdash is the אחרון, the last one?

He answered based on a pasuk on this week's parsha (וישלח). The pasuk says: וישם את השפחות ואת ילדיהן ראשונה ואת לאה וילדיה אחרונים ואת רחל ואת יוסף אחרונים

Leah and her children were second in line followed by Rachel and yet the pasuk says with regards to Leah and her children, אחרונים and then the pasuk says Rachel and Yosef אחרונים. We see clearly that אחרון does not mean last but rather just means after. Therefore the Tosfos Yom Tov said, that is what the pasuk in חגי means as well, אחרון does not mean last but rather means the one after the first.


The Torah Temima quotes the Tosfos Yom Tov (דמאי ז:ג) on that pasuk. The Tosfos Yom Tov is explaining the use of the word אחרון in Mishnaic Hebrew, there also it means after and not last.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

עם לבן גרתי ותרי"ג מצות שמרתי

Rashi comments based on the medrash that גרתי = תרי"ג and therefore Yaakov was saying to Esav, even though I lived in Lavan's house I kept all 613 mitzvos.

However, there is an obvious question here. No one can actually keep all 613 mitzvos. Some mitzvos are just for Cohanim, some are just for the Cohen Gadol, some just for the King, some just in Israel, etc. Therefore, how could Yaakov say he kept all 613 mitzvos? Additionally he clearly didn't keep all 613 mitzvos because he married 2 sisters.

There are a number of answers I will mention 2.

1. Yaakov was referring to those mitzvos that are שקולה כנגד כל המצות, like talmud torah, tzitzis, etc. He meant that he kept those mitzvos and therefore it was as if he had kept all 613.
2. By the ברית בין הבתרים Avraham asks Hashem based on what will his children be זוכה? Hashem answered בזכות הקרבנות. Avraham then asked, what about when there is no Beis Hamikdash and no קרבנות? Hashem answered that if we say (learn) the קרבנות it is considered as if we were מקריב them. This is why we daven musaf on Shabbos and Yom Tov and mention the Musafim, ונשלמה פרים שפתינו.

As an aside, based on this RHS says that if you come late to shul it is better to say all of קרבנות and skip in פסוקי דזמרא, then skip קרבנות because קרבנות is a קיום דאורייתא while פסוקי דזמרא is just a nice thing.

Some acharonim say that this is not just a din by קרבנות but it applies to other parts of Torah as well. Whatever mitzva you personally cannot fulfill, if you learn the dinim of the mitzva it is as if you fulfilled the mitzva. Based on this, Yaakov was telling Esav that whatever mitzvos he could keep he kept, all the rest he learned the dinim and it was as if he kept them as well.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Charedi boycott of El Al and the Chiloni response

Because of the strike last week in Israel, El Al had a number of flights that flew on shabbos. Because of this the Charedi world is threatening a boycott.

I support this. El Al is a business and if they want the Charedi public's money they have to take care of them as customers. El Al understood the consequences of flying on Shabbos and now they have to deal with it. This is a perfectly legitimate consumer decision and has nothing to do with religious coercion.

Ynet published an article about this and the talkbacks to the article are very scary for their absolute hatred of the Charedi public, and complete ignorance and stupidity. Here are some of their silly claims:
1. Continental, Lufthansa, etc. fly on shabbos so how are they different from El Al? Somehow they can't understand that a goy is allowed to work on Shabbos and a Jew is not.
2. On Continental, Lufthansa, etc. the charedim will have no food to eat.
The chilonim haven't figured out that on just about any airline in the world I can get kosher food.
3. All the chilonim are now going to fly on El Al.
This is so ridiculous it is funny. The chiloni public will forget about this tomorrow and will fly on whatever airline gives them the best price.
4. This is religious coercion
Not at all. This is a group of consumers telling a company that they will only do business with them on their terms, take it or leave it. This is market economics at it's best.
5. No other airline wants the Charedi public
Given that the Charedi public makes up a large percentage of the traffic between Tel Aviv and NY there will be plenty of airlines who will try to accomodate the Charedi population to capture this market. Israir is already talking about signing an agreement not to fly on Shabbos.

There is 1 common thread on most of the talkbacks, hate for the Charedi public, especially the way they are perceived to act while flying. The impression that the chiloni public gets from the Charedi traveler on El Al is a very negative one. People are constantly walking around blocking the aisles and making noise, the minyan blocks the aisles and the bathrooms etc. While this also may be biased, there is definitely some truth to this and the Charedi public needs to realize when traveling, that to the average chiloni they represent Torah Judaism and therefore they need to act in a fashion that creates a kiddush hashem and not a chillul hashem.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The interesting story of Dina and Yosef

In last week's parsha (ויצא) we have the story of the birth of Dina. Rashi there comments (based on the Medrash) that Leah understood that she was pregnant with a boy and if she had another boy then Rachel would only have 1 of the shevatim, therefore she davened and Hashem made a miracle and turned the baby into a girl, Dina.

There are a number of problems with this Rashi as well as with the whole story of Dina.

In Parshas ויגש, the Torah writes when it lists the descendents of Yaakov, ואת דינה בתו. Rashi comments (based on the Gemara in Nidda) that we see that the Torah calls Dina the daughter of Yaakov to show us that the father is responsible for having a daughter. The Maharsha there asks, what is the proof from Dina, after all Dina started off as a boy (per the medrash in ויצא) and therefore how can any proof be brought from Dina?

Another problem that comes up in Parshas Vayigash is that Rashi comments (based on the medrash) on the pasuk ושאול בן הכנענית, that after what happened with Shechem, Dina made Shimon promise to marry her. The obvious question is how could Shimon marry Dina, his full sister? Even though there is a machlokes whether the shevatim had the status of klal yisrael and had to keep all the mitzvos, they certaionly had to keep the 7 mitzvos of בני נח, and one of those is arayos which prohibits them to marry their sister from their mother.

Both the Tur and the Maharsha answer based on the תרגום יונתן in ויצא. The תרגום יונתן explains the birth of Dina as follows. Both Leah and Rachel were pregnant, Leah was pregnant with Yosef and Rachel with Dina and miraculously the fetuses were switched. Therefore, Dina was always a girl and the proof from the pasuk (that the man is responsible for girls) is fine because Yaakov caused Dina to be a girl. Also, since Yosef and Dina were switched, על פי הלכה Leah was not Dina's mother, rather Rachel was and a בן נח is allowed to marry his sister from his father.

This Tur however, raises another question, what about Yosef? Who על פי הלכה is considered to be his mother? If it is Leah, then what good was the נס? Rachel still ended up with only 1 of the shevatim. Therefore we need to differentiate and say that both Dina and Yosef were Rachel's children.

When we consider how the halacha determines who the the mother of a baby is there are 3 possible alternatives:
1. Whoever conceives the child
2. Wherever the fetus is 40 days after conception (as until then it is considered מיא בעלמא and for example you are allowed to daven for the sex of the child)
3. Whoever gives birth

We see that the Tur cannot hold from 1 because even though Yosef was conceived by Leah he is considered Rachel's son. The Tur cannot hold from 3 either as the Tur holds that Dina was considered Rachel's daughter even though Leah gave birth to her. It would seem that the Tur holds like option 2.

With this we can say the following about Yosef. Leah was pregnant with Yosef but it was before 40 days while Rachel was pregnant with Dina and it was after 40 days. Therefore when they switched Yosef was less then 40 days so he was considered Rachel's son as on day 40 he was in Rachel's womb, while Dina had already passed day 40 in Rachel's womb so she was considered Rachel's daughter even though Leah gave birth to her.

It turns out according to the Tur that Rachel was the mother of both Dina and Yosef.

This Tur clearly has ramifications l'halacha with regards to surrogate mothers etc.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yaakov kissing Rachel

In this weeks parsha the first thing Yaakov does when he meets Rachel is kiss her and start to cry. This has always bothered me. Why did Yaakov kiss Rachel? What is the Torah trying to teach us? How could he do that?

Here is what I found in the Mefrashim on Chumash, and quite frankly these interpretations raise more questions then they answer.

The Medrash Rabba writes that Yaakov cried because the people around suspected him of pritzus for kissing Rachel. The seforno quotes this medrash and adds that this is the reason why Yaakov right away told Rachel that he was related to her so that she too wouldn't be choshed him of pritzus. The Netziv says a similar pshat on his own, he says that Yaakov cried to show Rachel that the kiss was because she was his relative and was not for lustful purposes. The question still remains why did he do it when it was an act that could clearly be badly misinterpreted?

Rabbenu Bachya offers 2 explanations, either Rachel was under 3 or that he kissed her hand or forehead and not her lips. This is clearly against the medrash which states that his action was misinterpreted as one of pritzus. In any case, where does R' Bachya get this idea that she was under 3?

What is most interesting is that in today's Charedi society this could never happen. Men and women mingling and talking at the well??? There would be a mehadrin well with different times for men and women or 2 separate mehadrin wells 1 for men and 1 for women so that they chas v'shalom shouldn't mingle.

Any suggestions are appreciated.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Halutz: Gov't did not consult IDF sufficiently on truce decision

This headline in Haaretz says it all. The government decided on a ceasefire without taking into account many of the security aspects. The Prime Minister on a whim made this important decision. Of course this shouldn't surprise anyone because the disengagement plan was done in the same way. Sharon and Dov Weisglass dreamed up the plan and it was basically presented as a fait accompli to the army.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Olmert is negotiating with himself ...

you can only lose doing that. It is amazing but the leaders of Israel have never learned the most fundamental tactic of negotiation, never negotiate against yourself (just google never negotiate against yourself and you will see what I mean). When you negotiate against yourself you put yourself in a weak position and make concessions without getting anything in return. Olmert's speech today was a classic case of this. He made all kinds of concessions getting nothing in return. Olmert's concession today are now the starting point for any negotiation where Olmert will have to make more concessions.

וירא ה' כי שנואה לאה

Could it be that Yaakov Avinu hated Leah? R' Baruch Simon quoted from the Rebbe R' Simcha Bunim the following explanation which is very relevant today. Leah hated herself. She thought that she was not worthy to be married to Yaakov. The pasuk is describing her feelings not the way Yaakov felt about her. Hashem gave her children to help her improve her self esteem.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hezbollah rearmed

Olmert and Tzipi Livni listed as one of the main accomplishments of the war that the international community in the form of UNIFIL was going to stop Hezbollah from rearming. Olmert said "A strong international organizing to... assist in stopping the Hezbullah."

The facts on the ground today say otherwise. Time magazine is reporting that Hizbullah has re-armed to pre-war levels. The magazine confirmed numerous media reports since the United Nations Security Council ceasefire resolution last August that Iran and Syria have been re-rearming Hizbullah. So much for the major accomplishment of the war.

In other words, the situation is worse then it was before the war, Hezbollah has the same number of rockets, the French are threatening to fire on the IAF over Lebanon, and the political situation in Lebanon is going from bad to worse. But, remember according to Olmert, Peretz, Livni and Halutz, we won the war.

Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me

I guess no one in the Israeli government has ever heard this famous saying. The latest "ceasefire agreement" with the PA has already entered Charlie Brown territory. Since Oslo how many times have we heard the same thing, a ceasefire, this time it is going to work. It is pathetic how people are willing to jump at anything.

It is clear that the Palestinians called for the ceasefire for 1 reason, to gain time to arm themselves for the next phase. They saw what happened in Lebanon and they want to do the same thing in Gaza. They understand that it was the 6 years of quiet that enabled Hezbollah to prepare for the war, they are going to do the same. Does anyone really believe that the arms smuggling is going to stop? Who is going to enforce it? It is patently clear that the Palestinians will use this time to arm and organize themselves for the next round.

The current government is latching on to this because the alternative, reconquering Gaza means admitting that the disengagement was a huge mistake and an utter failure. The current so called "leadership" unfortunately, does not have the courage to admit their mistakes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Avos and their children

See this post from last year which tries to explain why both Avraham and Yitzchak had children who were not their spiritual heirs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Missing or extra letters in the Sefer Torah

Rashi in this week's parsha (Chayei Sarah) comments on the pasuk (25,6) ולבני הפילגשם that פילגשים is written חסר and therefore we learn out that Avraham only had 1 pilegesh Hagar. The only problem is that in our sifrei torah it is actually written ולבני הפילגשים with the extra י (and therefore the drasha does not work). In other words either our sifrei torah have an extra letter or Rashi's is missing one.

This is one of a number places where our sifrei torah differ for either statements of Chazal or Rishonim. R' Akiva Eiger (Shabbos 55a) collects over 20 cases from all over Shas, medrashim, etc. where our mesora differs from either Chazal's or the Rishonim.

The acharonim (see for example Minchas Chinuch on the mitzva of writing a sefer torah, Shaagas Aryeh siman 36, etc.) are very bothered by this and wonder how we can make a beracha nowadays on krias hatorah.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The story of the מערת המכפלה

Why does the Torah make such a big story about Avraham Avinu buying the Meoros Hamachpela? Rabenu Yona explains that this was the last of the 10 nisyonos of Avraham Avinu. Hashem promised him all of EY and yet, he didn't even have where to bury his wife. The Torah tells us the whole story about the sale to bring home this point.

R' Baruch Simon offered a similar pshat. He said based on the Malbim that the nisayon was in Avraham making such an effort to bury Sarah at all. For a non-believer after a person dies that is it, it's all over and the body decomposes and goes away. Therefore where and how they are buried is not important (witness all the cremations today). For a believer the story is much different. We believe in the eternity of the neshama and techiyas hameisim, after death things aren't over, the neshama lives on and will be one day reunited with the body. Therefore how and where a person is buried takes on much more significance. Avraham's nisayon was to see how hard he would push to get a suitable burial place for Sarah, would he show that he truly believed in these ikkarim of the eternity of the neshama and techiyas hameisim.

The Gra makes a fascinating diyuk. He points out that it says some combination of the words (in some form) קבר and מת seven times at the beginning of the parsha. 6 times קבר comes first and once מת comes first. The Gra explains that the 6 times refers to the 6 Avos and Imahos that are buried there. The word קבר comes first to signify that צדיקים even in death are considered alive. The 7th time is for עשו whose head was buried there. For עשו the rasha it says מת first because רשעים even when alive are considered dead.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

When was the ברית בין הבתרים?

If you just read parshas לך לך you get the impression that first Hashem told Avraham to go to Eretz Yisroel, then came the story with לוט etc. However, if we take a closer look at the chronology we see that this is not true.

Hashem tells Avraham by the ברית בין הבתרים that his descendents will be in golus 400 years. Rashi points out that we were only in Egypt 210 years and therefore explains based on the medrashim that the 400 years started with the birth of Yitzchak. The Torah says in Parshas Bo that we were in Egypt 430 years. Rashi there explains (again based on medrashim) that the extra 30 years is from the ברית בין הבתרים, in other words the ברית בין הבתרים was 30 years before Yitzchak was born. We know that Yitzchak was born when Avraham was 100 years old which means that ברית בין הבתרים had to be 30 years earlier when Avraham was 70. However, at the beginning of parshas לך לך the Torah tells us that Avraham was 75 years old when he left Charan. This means that לך לך was actually 5 years after the ברית בין הבתרים. Tosafos in Shabbos 10b says this. Tosfasos says that Avraham came to EY when he was 70 and went through the ברית בין הבתרים, and then he returned to Charan for 5 years until Hashem told him לך לך.

The question we have now is why is the Torah written this way? What is the lesson we are supposed to learn from the way the Torah ordered things? Tosafos points out the discrepancy but doesn't explain why.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Judicial Tyranny in Israel

Today in Israel the true power is the Supreme Court, not the Knesset and the not the Prime Minister. A perfect example is the Court's actions in the case of the President. The supreme court gave President Moshe Katsav one week to explain why he has not stepped aside as he faces a possible rape indictment. The only problem is that the law explicitly states that the President is not answerable to the courts and in fact, the law provides him full immunity. Here is the text of the law:

לא ייתן נשיא המדינה את הדין לפני כל בית משפט בשל דבר הקשור בתפקידיו או בסמכויותיו, ויהיה חסין בפני כל פעולה משפטית בשל דבר כזה

The President will not appear before the courts on any matter that is related to the fulfillment of his office or duties and he will have full immunity from any legal action relating to this (my translation).

The law could not be clearer that the Courts have no power over the President. Does that bother the Supreme Court? Clearly not, they still ordered him to respond why he didn't resign. In any other country the court would have thrown this out. The following quote is a perfect example of the attitude of the Supreme Court (Legal Analysis / Digging in, not relinquishing):

the High Court can express its moral-ethical position on the matter at hand, even if it rules that the president has immunity against any order whatsoever.

Who appointed the Supreme Court the moral and ethical arbiters of society? What makes them any more qualified to offer moral and ethical opinions then anyone else? Based on what do they offer their moral and ethical opinions and why should they be binding on anyone?

The Supreme Court should have 1 and only 1 purpose, to decide matters of law.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Gay Pride parade in Yerushalayim

After listening to the radio (especially Charedi radio) I am convinced that that this is going to be an all out war. The Charedi leadership has decided to fight this head on and there is unparalleled unity in the religious community as a whole, everyone from the Edah Hacharedit through the whole Dati Leumi community is participating in the fight.

The battle will happen and there will be no compromises. Many people will think back to disengagement and remember similar promises about battles etc., however, there is 1 major difference, here the Charedi population is leading the charge and is fully behind the battle. As I explained a while ago Why is the Dati Leumi population not really fighting the disengagement? there is a big difference between the dati leumi population and the Charedi population. There is not doubt in my mind that the Charedi population will follow through on it's threats.

We can only hope that the police wake up and cancel the parade before it is too late.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The UN and the דור הפלגה

The Ran in his Derashos (Drasha א) has an interesting explanation about the הטא of the דור הפלגה. He explains that really they did no sin and that there was no punishment. He says that they wanted to have 1 world government. This is not an aveira but it is something that Hashem does not want. 1 world government means that there is nowhere to run. If Nimrod had ruled the world Avraham would have had nowhere to go. Therefore Hashem split them up and created nations and languages so that there would always be somewhere for the believers in Hashem to run to. The Ran writes that this has applied throughout history to the Jewish people up to and including his time. We know that from the Ran's time until today the same thing has applied. Whenever we were kicked out of 1 country a different country took us in.

Based on this, we should be concerned about the UN and the push to 1 world government. As the Ran says this is not Hashem wants and is bad for the Jews.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The ז' מצות בני נח

This is really a misnomer as these were actually commanded to אדם הראשון. If so, why are they called the ז' מצות בני נח? The answer is based on the Rambam in Hilchos Melachin 9:1&2. The Rambam writes:

על שישה דברים נצטווה אדם הראשון--על עבודה זרה, ועל ברכת השם, ועל שפיכות דמים, ועל גילוי עריות, ועל הגזל, ועל הדינים.
הוסיף לנוח אבר מן החי, שנאמר אך בשר, בנפשו דמו לא תאכלו

We see from the Rambam that אדם הראשון was only commanded on 6 of the mitzvos, the 7th was only given to Noach. The reason is very simple, אדם הראשון was not allowed to eat meat so therefore the prohibition of אבר מן החי would have made no sense for him. He could not even eat meat that was not אבר מן החי (e.g. meat from a dead animal). Because of that we can't call them the ז' מצות בני אדם because אדם was only commanded on 6. Therefore we call them the ז' מצות בני נח because Noach was the first person to be chayav on all 7.

The Rambam is basing himself on the medrash at the beginning of Parshas Mishpatim.

The Ran (Sanhedrin 56b) points out that the Medrash and Rambam seem to be against the Gemara. The Gemara learns out the prohibition of אבר מן החי from the pasuk מכל עץ הגן אכל תאכל, they were allowed to eat the fruits but not אבר מן החי. From the gemara it sounds like אבר מן החי was given to אדם just like the other 6 mitzvos. The Ran explains that there is no contradiction, the prohibition of אבר מן החי is really learned out from the pasuk in Noach and was not given to אדם at all. However, because the gemara learned out the other 6 from the pesukim in Bereishis it said that אבר מן החי is also from there as well (like an asmachta) even though in truth the issur is really from the pasuk in Noach.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

מרחשון or חשון

Believe it or not I heard on the radio this morning that there is a group working to get the Knesset to pass a bill renaming this month from מרחשון to חשון. It seems that מרחשון is too depressing. With so many problems in Israel this is what the Knesset is wasting it's time on? Amazing. See Cheshvan for more info on what the correct name is.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What did they learn in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 59a tells us that a גוי who learns Torah is חייב מיתה. If so what were they allowed to learn in Shem and Ever's yeshiva?

The Rambam quotes this halacha in Hilchos Melachim Perek 10. The Chasam Sofer points out that the Rambam in the other halachos writes בן נח, by Torah he writes גוי. The Chasam Sofer claims that the Rambam holds that the issur to learn torah only applies to an עובד עבודה זרה, however a בן נוח is allowed to learn torah. If so, this answers the question on Shem and Ever's yeshiva they were not עובד עבודה זרה and were therefore were allowed to learn Torah.

The פשטות is not like the Chasam Sofer and the issur would apply to all non-Jews. However, they are still allowed to learn the ז' מצות בני נח and anything related to them. Therefore we need to say that they learned the ז' מצות בני נח in Shem and Ever's yeshiva and not all of Torah.

The Gemara in Chagiga 13a says that אין מוסרים תורה to a גוי based on the pasuk that we say in davening every day ומשפטים בל ידעום. Tosafos there asks why do we need this pasuk, since a גוי is not allowed to learn torah, I am prohibited from teaching him so what is this pasuk מחדש, see Tosafos's answer. The Maharsha answers that this pasuk teaches us that you can't even teach them lomdus in the ז' מצות בני נח, from the gemara in Sanhedrin I would have thought that was mutar, comes the pasuk here to prohibit it. If so, again, what did they do in Shem and Ever's yeshiva? They were not even allowed to learn the reasons of the ז' מצות בני נח and any lomdus?

The answer would seem to be as follows. The source for the issur for a גוי to learn Torah is based on the pasuk תורה צוה לנו משה מורשה קהילת יעקב, the gemara in Sanhedrin says that either it means it is our inheritance and for a גוי to learn it is stealing, or it means מאורסה, engaged, that the Torah is like our bride. In either case the issur only came into effect after Matan Torah, before matan Torah the Torah did not belong to the Jewish people and was not married to the Jewish people. Therefore, the whole issur for a גוי to learn Torah only started after Matan Torah and consequently Shem and Ever and their yeshiva were allowed to learn all of Torah.

This issur is very relevant nowadays. How can I write this on my blog, after all, a גוי can come and read this and learn Torah? R' Moshe was asked this same question about shiurim on the radio and he answered that since you are teaching Torah to Jews you have no chiyuv to stop just because a גוי can listen in. The same applies to blogs. However, in a one on one situation the issur definately applies. For example, at work, if a גוי starts asking you all kinds of questions about Judaism it is not so simple that you can just answer him. There is a problem of teaching torah to a גוי. The same applies to e-mails from a גוי, you have to be very careful how you answer.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why didn't Hashem accept קין's קרבן?

The ספר העיקרים has an intersting p'shat. He says that קין and הבל had an idealogical dispute. קין held that man was on the same level as animals and therefore man had no right to use animals. Because of this, he was an עובד אדמה and brought produce as his korban and refused to bring an animal korban. הבל on the other hand, held that man was allowed to use animals and therefore he was a shephard and he brought animals as his korban. Hashem accepted הבל's korban because he wanted to show קין that he was wrong, that man is on a different level then animals and is allowed to use the animals for his benefit.

This is an important lesson for our times where there is a growing movement that claims that animals have the same rights as people etc.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Changing the Israeli electoral system

With all the talk these days about Lieberman's proposal for a Presidential system and various other proposals for changing the system, this post The electoral system in Israel is broken ... from 10 months ago is very relevant.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Haaretz on Daas Torah

Haaretz has an interesting article How great are the words of the sages? where in light of Shas's support of Moshe Katzav they look back at some of R' Ovadya's "bad" decisions and wonder how they could be daas torah.

In the summer of 2000, the Knesset chose the president of the state. At the last moment, Shas - upon the instruction of its spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - abandoned its ally Shimon Peres and voted for the candidate Moshe Katsav. They did so out of the desire to elect a religious president and someone of Sephardic descent. It is still too early to determine whether Katsav is guilty of the charges leveled against him. But it already can be stated that, whether he is guilty or not, he did not bring honor to his supporters and he will apparently never "restore the crown [of Sephardic Jewry] to its past glory."
The dispute is with the claim that his views are Torah and his decisions are holy and correct. Rabbi Yosef is an important leader who makes a great many wrong decisions, just like any other political leader.

Knowledge of halakha does not give him an advantage. Perhaps the opposite is true. For some of his erroneous decisions, Shas is paying a heavy price. For some of them, like the election of Moshe Katsav, we all are paying.

They have a point. The track record of the political decisions of the Charedi parties is not exactly stellar. How that fits in with the idea of Daas Torah is a very good question.

Simchas Torah

Simchas Torah is not my favorite holiday. The dancing does little or nothing for me. I am of an intellectual bent and dancing in a circle just does not give me simcha. I know that there are many people like me. I have a friend who when I showed him the Rav's machzor on YK his face lit up with joy. He was genuinely happy to see the new machzor and look at it. The same thing did not happen when he danced on Simchas Torah. People have to realize that not everyone is affected in the same way by certain things and allow for that. I get real simcha when I hear a good shiur on a sugya that I am learning, that affects me much more then any dancing on Simchas Torah.

In most shuls there is a group of people who take control and shlep things out for hours dancing and enjoying while many others just stand around waiting fro the hakafos to end. There are many people who feel like they are being held hostage. People try to make you fell guilty if you take a sefer and learn and you really can't sit down so it is an uncomfortable situation.

The fact is that the length of the hakafos leads to halachic issues:
1. In Israel, Mincha Gedola was around 12:00PM. Therefore, any shul that didn't start mincha before 12:00PM (many many shuls), had a shaila whether to daven mincha first of mussaf first. If you daven mincha first what about geshem, do you say mashiv haruach or not? UPDATE - I forgot to include (and the first commenter pointed this out) that lechatchela you should daven mussaf before the 7th hour which was about 12:40.
2. Where I live many shuls finished after 2PM. Shkia is around 5:15. That means we had 3 hours to go home eat the second seuda, daven mincha and then eat the 3rd seuda. Not very practical if a typical Yom Tov meal takes 2 hours.
3. This year was Shabbos meaning there was a chiyuv to eat a 3rd meal. Given that the second meal didn't end until after 4PM and then we had to daven mincha there was not much time or will to eat a 3rd meal.
4. Bitul Oneg Yom Tov. Even though many shuls have a kiddush during hakafos (to get around the issue of fasting) a few pieces of cake is not exactly satisfying. By the time 2PM rolled around my kids were starving (they didn't want to eat until their father came home from shul).
5. The same thing happens at night, davening ended around 9PM, my younger kids were either sleeping or half a sleep, basically they missed out on the Yom Tov meal.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Some halachic points regarding building a succah

Much of this is taken from last years posts, however, I reworked it and added some additional material.

As now is succah building time I would like to post some common halachic issues that come up when building a succah.

When I was growing up, canvas succahs were very prevalent and in fact, last year when I was in the US for Succos I still saw quite a few. These kinds of Succahs (as well as other non-wood succahs) have a number of halachic problems which I would like to address. For those who aren't familiar, a canvas succah is made of a frame of metal pipes on which canvas is hung to create the walls.

There are 2 issues with this kind of succah:
1. The walls move which may invalidate the wall completely which would invalidate the succah. The gemara, shulchan aruch etc. write that if a wall moves 3 tefachim (about a foot) in the wind then the wall is considered invalid. Every canvas succah that I have seen (including the one I grew up in) has walls that move 3 tefachim in the wind and therefore many poskim are not happy with them.

There is an easy solution to the problem which I used for many years. The solution is based on 2 halachos related to walls.
1. לבוד - this means that if you have 2 objects within 3 tefachim of each other the halacha considers it as if the intervening space is filled in.
2. A wall only needs to be 10 tefachim (40 inches) high. Once it is 10 tefachim high we look on it as if it extends up to the sky.

Given these 2 halachos we can construct walls of string for a canvas succah. What we do is tie string/rope from 1 pole to another. We space the string around 8.5 inches apart so that they are within 3 tefachim of each other. With 5 or 6 strings like this we have a wall of greater then 10 tefachim. It works because starting from the bottom, the bottom string is within 3 tefachim of the ground and therefore the intervening space is considered to be filled in. Each subsequent string is placed less then 3 tefachim above the previous one again using לבוד so that we look upon the space as solid. We repeat this until the top string is above 10 tefachim. We have created a wall that is halachically kosher and in actuality serves as the wall of the succah. We repeat this for all the walls.

There is 1 very big caveat that needs to be mentioned. The acharonim (Magen Avraham סי' תר"ל ס"ק א) say that a wall created just by לבוד one way (e.g. strings across the wall like I suggested) is called a מחיצה גרועה a weak (for lack of a better translation) wall. Therefore they say that if you are creating walls like this you need to have 4 walls even though normally, a succa does not require 4 walls (like for a reshus hayachid on Shabbos), rather it only requires 3, and really only 2 plus a tefach.

This means that if you want to be machshir your canvas succah using string and לבוד you have 2 choices: must do this on all 4 walls.
2.In addition to the strings across, you put string going up and down less then every 3 tefachim the length of the wall, you end up with a real mechitza. The reason being that the strings go both ways (you end up with squares less then 3 tefachim in length and width, שתי וערב) and there is no big gap of space. Therefore you no longer need 4 walls.

There is 1 other point to keep in mind. the סכך has to be placed after you create the walls of strings, otherwise it is a problem of תעשה ולא מן העשוי. If the סכך was already put down, then you need to move the scach around to avoid this problem.

I did this for years and it worked well.

2. מעמיד הסכך על דבר טמא - the gemara has 1 opinion that you are not allowed to support the סכך on something that cannot be used for סכך. There is a machlokes harishonim whether we pasken like this opinion. The Mishna Berura mentions that l'chatchela a person should try to be machmir and the contemporary poskim also say that a person should try to be machmir. This problem applies to any non-wood succah (canvas, fiberglass, etc.) as well.

To get around this the minhag evolved to place wood poles on top of the metal walls and then rest the סכך on top of the wood poles. This makes the wood the מעמיד of the scach and the metal a מעמיד דמעמיד. There are 2 problems with this approach:

1. If the סכך would not fall without the wood then the wood is not considered a מעמיד. In other words if your succah is 6 feet wide and your סכך is 6.5 feet wide, if you just rest the סכך on wood poles it doesn't help, if you took away the wood the סכך would not fall it would rest on the metal. Therefore the metal is called the מעמיד of the סכך. The way to get around this is to make sure that the סכך would fall if you remove the wood, namely, move the סכך to one side so that it doesn't overlap the other wall (it is just very close). In that case, the סכך is truly being held up by the wood.
2. A number of acharonim point out the following. The wood that is used to hold up the סכך is in and of itself kosher סכך. therefore, why should we consider the wood a מעמיד of the סכך, rather it should just be considered סכך which is resting on the metal. I have not seen a good answer for this claim.

The Chazon Ish has an unbelievable chumra. The Chazon Ish understands (based on the Ramban in the milchamos) that even if you have a wooden succah, if the walls are held up by metal screws, that metal is considered to be a מעמיד of the סכך because if you took that metal out the walls would fall down and so would the סכך. In other words, if you have something that is mekabel tumah holding up any part of your succah such that without this piece the סכך would fall down (e.g. the walls would fall down causing the scach to fall) the Chazon Ish considers this to be מעמיד the סכך with a davar hamekabel tumah and no good. Basically according to the Chazon Ish you cannot use any metal to build your succah.

Almost no one holds like this Chazon Ish, it makes building a succah an absolute nightmare, you need to use wooden screws, etc. I remember in KBY everyone was amazed that the posek held from this Chazon Ish.

The bottom line is that with a wooden succah you avoid almost all of these problems and are yotze the mitzva. It is not difficult to build and therefore I highly recommend it.

The מקראי קדש raises the following issue which is halacha l'maase for me. He quotes an opinion that if you use the wall of a tall building as one of your walls (taller then 20 amos), even if the scach is below 20 amos (supported by something else) the wall is פסול because it is taller then 20 amos. The מקראי קדש diagress and brings a number of sevaros.
1. The fact that the wall continues up is irrelevant, for your purposes you could take it away and your succah will not be affected.
2. The gemara (succa 2a) comments that you can build your succah out of metal (e.g. a permanent structure) even though a succa has to be a דירת עראי. If so why is taller then 20 amos no good? The answer is that taller then 20 amos can only be built as a דירת קבע, the halacha requires that you build the succah in a way that it could be built as a דירת עראי. therefore, the building wall even though it is above 20 amos, since the schach is below is kosher because it could be built as a דירת עראי.

The acharonim point out that you only say דופן עקומה when the wall reaches the scach. However, if the wall does not reach the schach you don't say דופן עקומה and you don't have a wall. This is very relevant especially in the situation I described above, if you are using לבוד to make walls and you have an overhang, you can't use דופן עקומה if the wall doesn't reach the scach and therefore you won't have a wall.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The mitzva of eating on Erev Yom Kippur

The gemara learns out from the pesukim that there is a mitzva to eat on Erev Yom Kippur. What is the nature of the mitzva?

Rashi and The Rosh in Yoma both learn that it is to prepare for the fast. Other Rishonim learn that it is an independent mitzva to eat, independent of the fast. There are a number of nafka mina's brought down in the acharonim:

1. Are women חייבות in this mitzva? If it is to prepare for the fast then yes, just like they are obligated to fast they would be obligated to prepare. However, if it is an independent mitzva then it is a מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא and therefore they would not be obligated.
2. Is there a mitzva to eat the night before? If it is preparing for the fast no, eating the night before is not preparation. If it is an independent mitzva then yes.

The Gra brings an interesting proof that there is no mitzva at night from a gemara in Kesuvos 5a. The gemara there discusses why it would be prohibited to get married on מוצאי שבת. One reason offered is that since you are going to have a seuda Saturday night we are worried that you will inadvertantly be mechallel shabbos and prepare for the seuda on Shabbos. The gemara asks if so how do we allow Yom kippur to fall out on Monday? We should have the same concern about the seuda (that you will prepare it on Shabbos). The gemara answers that on Erev Yom Kippur יש לו רוחה, he has time. Rashi explains because the seuda is only the next day during the day. We see from here that there is no chiyuv to eat at night.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wearing non-leather shoes on Yom Kippur

There is a dispute in the Gemara in Yoma and Yevamos what is the definition of a shoe. The Shulchan Aruch paskens in Siman תרי"ד that only leather (or leather covered) shoes are prohibited on Yom Kippur. However the Mishan Berura there writes that טוב להחמיר not to wear non-leather shoes.

R' Shternbuch (Moadim U'Zmanim 6:28) writes that today this chumra of the MB may be מעיקר הדין. He makes the following 2 points.
1. Today non-leather shoes/sneakers are as comfortable or more comfortable then leather shoes. The Rambam writes that the reason why non-leather shoes are permitted is because שהרי קושי הארץ מגיע לרגליו, ומרגיש שהוא יחף he feels the hard ground and he feels like he is barefoot, nowadays this no longer applies.
2. Non leather shoes/sneakers are worn outside the house as shoes. This may give them the status of shoes since they have the shape of a shoe.

R' Shternbuch recommends wearing house slippers or wearing just socks to get around this problem.

The minhag seems to be to be מיקל (and R' Shternbuch hinself says יש על מה לסמוך and you shouldn't be look askance at anyone who is מיקל and wears non-leather shoes) however, IMHO, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, where we are asking for mechila and kappara for our sins, it would not be a bad idea to be machmir here on something that is relatively easy to do.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Review of the Rav's Yom Kippur Machzor

I bought the Machzor on erev Rosh Hashana and looked through it briefly on Rosh Hashana, my review is in no way comprehensive.

The Machzor is an adaptation of the Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor. The translation and the instructions are from Artscroll.

The Machzor adds (or replaces) the following to the regular Machzor:
1. A nice introduction by R' Shachter and R' Genack
2. A very extensive section on the hanhagos of the Rav, although I had seen many of these printed already (Nefesh Harav, MiPninei Harav, Mesora, etc.), there were hanhagos that I had never seen before. In any case, it is very nice to have all the Rav's hanhagos relating to tefilla and Yom Kippur in one place.
3. The commentary on the bottom of the Machzor is taken from the Rav's shiurim, articles etc. The commentary in many places is extensive. A lot of work was taken in preparing the commentary from all the sources.

The Machzor works as follows. On the top is the regular Artscroll Hebrew and English text, including the directions of what to do. Under that is a section where the Rav's hanhagos relating to the specific tefillos (of that page) are noted (there is an indication in the Machzor text that refer's to the Rav's hanhaga). On the bottom is the commentary culled from the Rav's writing's and shiurim.

The use of the Artscroll Machzor as a base is understandable. It has become the defacto Machzor used by people who want an English translation. In addition, to translate and typeset from scratch the Yom Kippur Machzor is a tremendous amount of work. However, in this case it is a bit problematic and takes away from things. In many cases, the text at the top and the instructions say one thing while the Rav's hanhaga (printed below) says something else entirely. The Rav changed the nusach of certain things, but in the text above, the Rav's change doesn't even appear as a variant reading. In fact, by the Avoda, the Artscroll machzor prints the regular nusach ashkenaz Avoda. The hanhaga on the bottom says that the Rav had problems with this version of the avoda because it contradicted the gemara and therefore he said the nusach sefard version of the Avoda. In other cases the instructions say one thing while the Rav's hanhaga says the opposite. It would have been much better if the text of the machzor followed the Rav with a variant reading of the common custom (like you see in the siddor of the Gra etc.).

Notwithstanding the above, if you consider yourself a student of the Rav or one of his Talmidim (e.g. R' Shachter etc.) it is worthwhile to get the Machzor. It does a very good job of pulling together both the Rav's hanhagos and the Rav's thoughts on the Yom Kippur davening from a whole host of sources and putting them into the proper place.

One final note, the Machzor at least in Israel is quite expensive, 193 shekel, about $45, I believe that even so it is a worthwhile investment.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shofar on Shabbos

The gemara in Rosh Hashana 29b,asks why don't we blow shofar on Shabbos and answers as follows. The pasuk says יום תרועה and it also says זכרון תרועה. The first is when RH falls out during the week the second is when it falls out on Shabbos. The gemara then asks, if so why in the Beis Hamikdash do we blow on Shabbos? Also, what is the problem with blowing on Shabbos it is not a melacha? The gemara therefore rejects the first answer and answers in the name of Rava that it is a גזירה tha maybe you will carry the shofar.

The Yerushalmi however, sticks with the Bavli's hava amina. It doesn't ask the Bavli's questions and doesn't offer the גזירה reason. According to the Yerushalmi, it comes out min hatorah there is no chiyuv to blow shofar on Shabbos.

There is a big nafka mina between the 2. R' Zvi Pesach Frank has the following question. There was a machlokes in his day whether you should to blow shofar in Yerushalayimn on Shabbos (ואכמ"ל why). R' Shlesinger held that it was allowed and therefore he blew shofar on Shabbos. R' Frank asked whether other people should go and listen and be יוצא the mitzva. The whole question only is relevant according to the Bavli, according to the Yerushalmi there is nothing to talk about as there is no chiyuv on Shabbos.

He points out that according to the Bavli (that it is only a גזירה) it is related to a machlokes Tosafos and the Ran by Succa. When the chachamim say not to do a mitzva and you do it, are you mekyame the mitzva? Tosafos Succa 3a sys no, the Ran there argues and says you are mekayem the din doraysa. The same here by shofar. According to Tosafos since לשיטתך R' Shlesinger is violating the din d'rabbanan he and you are not יוצא even the mitzva d'oraysa.

The process of din on Rosh Hashana

This post The process of din on Rosh Hashana from last year, tries to explain what we are judged for on Rosh Hashana and how the process works.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What does המלך הקדוש mean?

Friday night we are all going to start saying המלך הקדוש, what does it really mean? I refer you to a post from last year What does המלך הקדוש mean? which addresses this issue.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Why is Rosh Hashana before Yom Kippur?

I am reposting this (with some minor corrections/additions) from last year as I believe that this is a very important point to think about as we approach Rosh Hashana.

If you think about it logically Yom Kippur should come first. First we should do teshuva say viduy, fast, etc (all the things we do on YK), be forgiven for our sins, and then we would be prepared to be judged, namely Rosh Hashana. Instead we do things in what seems to be a backwards way. First we are judged and only after we were already judged do we have Yom Kippur which is a day set aside for teshuva and kappara.

The answer is as follows. For a person to do teshuva they need to understand that they did an aveira and that there is someone who cares, Hashem, and that Hashem can forgive them. Until a person comes to that realization it is futile to attempt to do teshuva. Until you realize that there is a King of the World who cares what happens and is involved in the world, you cannot do teshuva. You need to accept the authority/kingship of Hashem so that you understand that you did something wrong and that you need to do teshuva. Therefore Rosh Hashana comes first. The theme of RH is that Hashem is King of the world. We go on about how Hashem rules the world and judges people. Once we accept that Hashem can judge us for our aveiros and punish us, then we are ready to do teshuva. Once we have accepted his authority/kingship we can then understand the severity of our Aveiros and realize that Hashem is there to forgive us if we do teshuva. This can only happen after we accept the din of Rosh Hashana and therefore Yom Kippur can only come after the din of Rosh Hashana.

I hope that we all accept Hashem's kingship on RH and are in the process of doing teshuva so that we have a kesiva vchasima tova.

Women covering their hair in halacha

I recently learned the sugya in כתובות ע"ב (which is the sugya that discusses this issue) and would therefore like to explore the issues based on the gemara.

A little background. The Mishna in כתובות is discussing aveiros that the wife does that cause her to lose her כתובה. The Mishna firsts lists dinim d'oraysa (the Mishna calls them דת משה) and then dinim d'rabbanan (the mishna calls them דת יהודית). One of the things that the Mishna lists as דת יהודית is יוצאת וראשה פרוע, meaning she gets out with her head uncovered.

Belows is the gemara that discusses יוצאת וראשה פרוע:

Here is my rough translation (including some basic comments) of the gemara.
The gemara asks, isn't יוצאת וראשה פרוע (going out with her head uncovered) d'oraysa? We learn out from the pasuk (by Sotah) ופרע את ראש האשה, that we expose the head of the women, that from here is a warning that Jewish women should not go around וראשה פרוע , with their heads uncovered. The gemara answers, min hatorah קלתה (there is a machlokes how to translate this so I will leave it for now) is enough, דת יהודית adds on that קלתה is not enough. R' Asi says in the name of R' Yochanan that קלתה is not considered ראשה פרוע, her head uncovered. R' Zeira asks what is the case? If it is in the market then she is violating דת יהודית, and if it is in a חצר (private courtyard), no woman will be able to stay married. Abaye or some say R' Kahane answered, R' Yochanan was talking about the case where she is going from private courtyard to an other private courtyard through a מבוי (which is semi-private)

Now I would like to analyze the Gemara.

1. We need to understand what does the Gemara mean when it says that יוצאת וראשה פרוע (going out with her head uncovered) is d'oraysa. Is this to be taken literally? This is actually a machlokes harishonim. The Meiri writes that this is a real din d'oraysa. However, the Terumas Hadeshen writes that this is only an asmachta. The language the Gemara uses is sometimes used by dinim d'rabbanan. The overhwelming majority of modern day poskim hold that it is d'oraysa. Here is a partial list: Mishna Berura Siman 75, Yechavah Daat 5:62, Tzitz Eliezer 7:48:3, Iggrot Moshe EH 1:53, Seredai Aish 3:30
2. Who does this halacha apply to? The Rambam איסורי ביאה כ"א,י"ז seems to apply this to unmarried women as well. The Shulchan Aruch in Even Haezer Siman 21 also seems to apply this to unmarried women. The Gra' there comments that the source is that the Gemara states אזהרה לבנות ישראל the term bnos yirael implies all Jewish girls/women. If it had been just married women it should have said אזהרה לאשת איש instead. However, the mefarshim on the Shulchan Aruch point out that in אורח חיים סימן ע"ה the Shulchan Aruch does distinguish (with regards to saying Kris Shma next to uncovered hair) between married and unmarried women. Therefore they suggest that in Even Haezer the Shulchan Aruch is referring to divorcees and/or widows, but never been married girls do not need to cover their hair.
3. What does קלתה mean? Rashi, Tosafos, Ritva and others understand it as follows. It is a head covering like a basket which has holes in it and you can see some of her hair through the holes. According to this what is the דת משה and what is the דת יהודית? The דת משה is to cover a majority of her hair (see Igros Moshe Even Haezer siman 58 for the derivation), the דת יהודית is to cover all of the hair.
4. What was R' Zeira's question? According to many Rishonim (Rashi, Tosafos, Ritva, Ran), the question was as follows. How can we require any head covering whatsoever in a חצר, it is too much for the women to handle. The Gemara's answer was you are right, in a חצר there is no chiyuv whatsoever to cover her hair. When she is going from one to another through a מבוי then she needs to cover a majority of her hair.

When we say that in a חצר there is no chiyuv to cover her hair, what is the reason? Does this apply even if there are other people around? Both Rashi and the Ritva understand the heter of חצר as follows. Since it is a private place no one will see her. Based on this, if there are other people around she would need to cover her hair. However, the שרידי אש assumes that the heter of חצר applies even if other people are around. It would seem that he learns that the heter is based on the place. In a private place the woman is allowed to act in a more informal manner. This שרידי אש is the basis for those women who cover their hair out of their house but not in their house. The overwhelming majority of poskim reject the שרידי אש and hold that the heter of חצר only applies if no one is there. Furthermore, they quote the gemara in Yoma 47a which has a midas chassidus that a woman should always cover her hair even in private.

The Rambam has a different understanding of the Gemara. The Rambam holds that קלתה means 1 covering like a kerchief. In other words, דת משה is to wear 1 covering which covers all her hair, דת יהודית is to wear a second covering. This is the source of the minhag among certain chassidic groups to wear a shaitel and on top a hat.


The דת משה (which may or may not be d'oraysa) is to cover a majority of her hair when she is in public. The דת יהודית adds on that in public she needs to cover all of her hair. In private (חצר or house), if no one else is around there is no chiyuv at all according to many Rishonim, if others are around, according to most poskim there would be a chiyuv to cover all her hair, according to a minority opinion there would be no chiyuv.

I have seen a piece written by Rabbi Broyde where he claims that דת יהודית depends on the time and place and therefore it would change based on society. Based on this he claims that in a society where women do not cover their hair it may be permitted for Jewish women as well (he writes this as a limud zechus).

I don't understand however, what he does with the din d'oraysa (or asmachta) that the Gemara learns out from Sotah? This din which is learned out from a pasuk (even if it is an asmachta) is not going to change based on the minhag. The Gemara clearly states that יוצאת וראשה פרוע is learned out from a pasuk. While there may be a machlokes what exactly this means the bottom line is that there is some form of head covering that is required by ths limud from the pasuk. This will not change based on society and therefore I don't see what the basis for the heter to not cover hair at all is.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Israeli Supreme Court

Today Supreme Court President Aharon Barak is retiring to accolades and his successor Dorit Beinish is being sworn in. As someone who grew up in the US I have a number of major problems with the Supreme Court in Israel:

1. Israel as opposed to the US has no Constitution and therefore it is absurd for the judges to annul laws as unconstitutional. Barak, bases himself on a set of "Basic Laws" which he gives the status of a constitution. The problem is that the Basic Laws were not intended as a Constitution and were not subject to national debate or passed by a referendum or other democratic process which would give them widespread legitimacy. In fact, they were passed in committee by a fraction of the Knesset. In addition unlike other constitutional documents, a simple majority has the right to amend these "Basic Laws" as opposed a super majority or referendum as standard practice in other countries. In 1992 the Knesset passed the first two Basic Laws which related to rights; the basis of the Supreme Court's recently declared powers of Judicial Review. These were passed by votes of 32-21 and 23-0, respectively. Imagine, a grand total of 23 MK's passed a law which suddenly has the status of a Constitution.

2. The Supreme Court has nominated itself as the moral arbiter for Israel. Imagine this. The Prime Minister wants to appoint someone as an advisor on terrorism. The man has never been convicted of a crime but was involved in an incident in which captured terrorists were killed. The Supreme Court disallowed his appointment because he was not morally fit. Did the PM break a law? No, and therefore who gave the SC the right to nix appointments. Where is the legal issue? Why should the Supreme Court decide what is moral or what is not. In anothe rincident then Air Force commander Dan Halutz made a statement about how he feels when innocent civilians were killed. He was hauled in front of the SC to explain his statement. What law did he break? What right did the SC have to judge him? Why should they decide if he is moral?

3. The Supreme Court is a self selecting body. The panel that appoints judges has a majority of SC justices on it and therefore they can veto any candidates they don't like. Ruth Gavison, a brillian legal scholar was vetoed by the Barak and cronies because she disagrees with his legal philosophy. What this means is that the Supreme Court never changes or gets new ideas.

4. Everything is adjudicable. This has created a dictatorship of the courts. The SC gets involved in every issue and is the ultimate arbiter. Issues that have no relation to law are decided based on the justices (left wing) world view. Again, no one where else in the world is this so. Given that Israel has no constitution this is even more striking.

5. The system for picking the President is ridiculous. The most senior sitting justice becomes President whether he/she is the most qualified candidate or not. Why don't we pick the PM like that? The answer is very simple. Longevity does not mean that a person will be a good President.

6. Everyone has standing. In Israel any Joe Shmo can appeal anything he wants to the Supreme Court. I can go to the Supreme Court tomorrow and appeal that a certain person not be allowed to be a minister. In every other country there are strict rules of standing. The situation in israel creates chaos, where all kinds of organizations are constantly appelaing to the SC.

When is the proper time to say selichos?

With selichos starting this Saturday night, I would like to refer the readers to a very relevant post from last year on this topic. When is the proper time to say selichos?

Referencing old posts

Last year I posted a lot of material about Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succos. Since the index for this blog is hopelessly out of date, I am going to post references to posts that I think are worth looking at from last year.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Rashi in last week's parsha (כי תבא) quotes a gemara that seems to contradict the whole idea of gilgulim. The pasuk states ברוך אתה בבואך ברוך אתה בצאתך. The Gemara in Bava Metziah (107a) comments on this pasuk that it is teaching us that just like a person enters the world without sin he should leave the world without sin. The רש"ש there comments that this contradicts giglulim. The reason being, that the premise of a gilgul is that a nefesh that already sinned comes into the world to be מתקן that sin. However, the gemara states explicitly that a person comes into the world without sin.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Do you need to do teshuva for violating an issur d'rabbanan b'shogeg?

The answer to this question can be found in a Meshech Chochma in Parshas Shoftim.

There is a well known machlokes between the Rambam and the Ramban (Sefer Hamitzvos Shoresh 1) about the nature of dinim d'rabbanan. The Rambam holds that all dinim d'rabbanan are based on lo tasur. In other words there is a chiyuv d'oraysa to listen to them. The Ramban asks an obvious question, if so why do we say safek d'rabbanan lekula? After all, if you violate a d'rabbanan you are violating the issur d'oraysa of lo tasur?

The Meshech Chochma (Devarim 17:11) explains the Rambam as follows. He says that every din d'rabbanan is not necessarily a fulfillment of the will of Hashem. The proof is that the Rambam paskens based on the Gemara that a later greater Beis Din can be mevatel a takana of an earlier Beis Din. If every takana was the will of Hashem how could that be? Therefore, he explains that by dinim d'rabbanan what is not important is the actual mitzva act, but the fact that you listened to the Chachamim and did not rebel against their words. The issur of lo tasur is an issur to rebel against the Chahamim, to not listen to them. Given that, we understand why sefeka d'rabbanan lekula because the act of doing the mitzva is not the main point, the point is listening to the chachamim, once it is a safek, there is no need to do the act because it is not so important (contrast that to a mitzva d'oraysa where the act is clearly an unequivocally the ratzon hashem).

Based on the above, it is clear that there is no need for teshuva on an issur d'rabbanan b'shogeg. If the whole idea of dinim d'rabbanan is to listen the chachamim and not rebel against them as the Meshech Chocham explains, then by definition an aveira d'rabbanan b'shogeg is not a problem, you did not rebel, you did not know that you were doing an issur and therefore there is no need for teshuva.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Where will the 3rd Beis Hamikdash be built?

This sounds like a stupid question, the answer is obvious, in ירושלים on הר הבית.

However, the מלבי"ם and the רש"ש point out that the simple reading of the pesukim in יחזקאל פרק מ"ח is not that way.

The מלבי"ם in his commentary (יחזקאל מ"ג,ז) states that we see from the pesukim in פרק מ"ח that the Beis Hamikdash will be 25 mil from ירושלים on a different mountain. The רש"ש makes a similar comment (בבא בתרא קכ"ב). The Gemara there is discussing the חלוקת הארץ that will be when moshiach comes. The רש"ש points put out דרך אגב, that the simple reading of the pesukim in יחזקאל פרק מ"ח is that the Beis Hamikdash will be on a different mountain 25 mil from ירושלים and that this understanding can explain additional Pesukim in other places in נ"ך as well.

This opinion is clearly against the Rambam and I don't know of any earlier source who says like them.

The Rambam in (הלכות בית הבחירה (א,ג writes:
כיון שנבנה המקדש בירושלים--נאסרו כל המקומות כולן לבנות בהן בית לה', ולהקריב בהן קרבן; ואין שם בית לדורי הדורות אלא בירושלים בלבד, ובהר המורייה שבה--שנאמר "ויאמר דויד--זה הוא, בית ה' האלוהים; וזה מזבח לעולה, לישראל" (דברי הימים א כב,א), ואומר "זאת מנוחתי, עדי עד"

Once the Beis Hamikdash was built in Yerushalayim, it was prohibited to build a house for Hashem anywhere else and to bring sacrifices anywhere else. The only eternal house of Hashem is in Yerushalayim and on Har Hamoriah ...

Hopefully we will merit to see the resolution of this question very soon when Moshiach arrives.

Friday, August 25, 2006

European airline crews won't stay overnight in Israel

I just flew back to Israel from Europe on a European airline and we wasted an hour and a half in Cyprus changing crews. It seems that the crews are to afraid to stay overnight in Tel Aviv.

This is so silly it is laughable. These same airlines fly to places like Kinshasa, Entebbe, Lagos, Johannesburg etc. (I picked these places at random from their African route map) not exactly paragons of peace and stability (and in fact all places where you can't drink the water and need anti-malarial drugs).

Here are some interesting facts about these places.

The Economist writes the following about Lagos

Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, has a reputation as one of the world's most uninviting cities.

Bribery is most visible at police checkpoints (usually at big junctions), where armed police may demand “a little something for the weekend”.
Street crime in Lagos is high and those who can afford to do so live behind walled compounds protected by barbed wire, with iron bars at the windows.

The US State Department writes about Congo and Kinshasa

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in light of recent unrest following the first round of the presidential elections. On August 21-22, there was sustained gunfire in the Gombe neighborhood of Kinshasa where many expatriates reside.

South Africa in general and Johannesburg in particular are facing an incredible crime wave. A serious crime is committed every 17 seconds in South Africa and Johannesburg is the epicentre of the crisis.

Yet, the crews have no problem staying overnight in these wonderful inviting places, only in Tel Aviv are they so terrified. Just amazing.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What is the role of the King in the Torah?

The Ran in his derashos (derasha 11) addresses this point directly. The Ran writes that the King's role is תיקון מדיני, we would translate this as civil law. The Ran writes about the Torah laws אין ענינם תיקון מדיני כלל. The purpose of Torah laws has no relation to תיקון מדיני (although it may accomplish that as well). Rather, the purpose of Torah laws is לחול השפע האלוקי, to bring down the heavenly influence.

The Ran's postion can be summed up by this quote:
ומפני זה אפשר שימצא בקצת משפטי ודיני האומות מה שהוא יותר קרוב לתקון מדיני ממה שימצא בקצת משפטי התורה ואין אנו תסרים בזה דבר כי כל מה שיחסר מהתיקון היה משלימו המלך
Because of this we might find that some of the gentiles laws are closer to perfection in civil law then what we find i sone of teh Torah's laws, however we are not missing anything because of that because what ever is missing from the Torah the King completes.

This Ran clearly conflicts with the current Charedi hashkafa about Torah. The Ran clearly and unequivocally states that Torah is not complete (the purpose of the King is to complete things) and that the laws of the gentiles may be better/more complete then the Torah laws.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The second Lebanon war has not changed anything

This is not just me this is Haaretz. ANALYSIS: The second Lebanon war has not changed anything

In practice, it has been ordered not to confront Hezbollah and not to collect arms - neither from individuals nor from storage sites.

The directives came following negotiations conducted by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Beri with Hassan Nasrallah: The three agreed that the issue of Hezbollah's disarmament would be debated at a later, undetermined date during confidential discussions between the government factions.

The sides in Lebanon are thus upholding only a small portion of Siniora's seven-point plan, and even a smaller portion of UN Security Council Resolution 1701: Siniora's commitment to a single army will have to wait; and Hezbollah's dismantling will take place, if ever, voluntarily and not by force.

At this stage, Hezbollah is prepared to promise that southern Lebanon will be free of military activity, but not devoid of its arms.
At this stage, and in this regard, Hezbollah will continue to call the shots - for the Lebanese government too. As such, the pre-war situation remains in place: Despite its mandate to defend the country, the Lebanese Army will still not be able to respond to an Israeli breach of the cease-fire agreement.

The question is what will the Israeli government do? My guess is nothing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A challenge to all the Left Wing Peaceniks

What would you have advocated in 1941-42 with regards to Germany (and Japan)? Would you have advocated peace? After all, according to you, war solves nothing, at the end of the day you need to sit down and negotiate. Would you have rallied for Peace Now in 1941? Would you have pressed for a cease fire and negotiated settlement? Would you have agreed to unconditional surrender?

If you would not have negotiated with Germany and/or Japan, and agree that unconditional surrender was the correct approach, please explain why and how the situation today with the Palestinians (Hamas, Jihad, etc.), Hezbollah, Iran, etc. is different. All of these groups are publicly calling for the destruction of the State of Israel. All of them believe that all the territory from the Jordan river to the Mediteranean is Arab/Muslim territory and that there is no room for a Jewish state.

Should the US negotiate with Osama Bin Laden for the same reasons? If not why not?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What world is Amir Peretz living in?

Today he declared Peretz: Negotiations with Syria may be possible

The conflict with Hizbullah may have created a new opportunity for renewed dialogue with the Palestinians, and potentially also with Syria, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking at a bar mitzva party, Peretz said that he believes every war generates the possibility to further the greater diplomatic process, and that in this case that could mean conducting negotiations with Lebanon and creating the conditions for negotiations with Syria.

Did he somehow miss Assad's speech today? Assad all but declared war on Israel and said that he believes he can get the Golan heights back by force.

Avigdor Lieberman said the following in response.

"It is just this kind of obliviousness to reality that brought the country to the present conflict," Lieberman said.

"After Assad announced that the Golan Heights would be liberated by Syrian soldiers and that Hizbullah won the conflict, Peretz's call for negotiations with Syria will be received as a weakness and an invitation for another attack," he said. "It is preferable that the defense minister focus on preparing the army for the next unavoidable conflict rather than unrealistic wishful thinking."

Lieberman is absolutely right. It is amazing how blind the Left is. They are so full of themselves they forget that there is someone on the other side.

The slogan "Peace Now" is a very stupid slogan. It assumes that we (Israel) can make peace now no matter what. It fails to take into account that to make peace you need someone on the other side who wants to make peace as well. Unfortunately, that someone is not there on the Palestinian side, on the Lebanese side, on the Iranian side, etc. They do not want to make peace with Israel, period.

I am sure that if the Israeli leftists had been around in 1941 they would have called for negotiations with Hitler. Unconditional surrender? Of course not. Violence never solves anything. You make peace with enemies not friends. When we apply all the vacuous slogans of the Left to Hitler we see how ridiculous they are. They are just as ridiculous when applied to the Palestinians, Hezbollah, Iran, etc.

The Israeli leadership: Simply an embarrassment

The Police recommended today that the Justice Minister, Chaim Ramon, be indicted for sexual harrassment.

On the day the war broke out, 3 hours after the kidnapping, the Chief of Staff, Dan Chalutz, found the time to sell his whole stock portfolio, it would seem in anticipation that war would break out and the stock market would fall.

Avigdor Yitzchaki the head of the coalition, and previously head of the Prime Minister's office (Kadima MK) is under investigation for tax fraud.

Tzachi Hangebi a high ranking Kadima MK, (head of the prestigious, Foreign Affairs committee) has been indicted for political corruption. Let us not forget that this is the same Hanegbi who after authorizing the emergency callup of reservists in the middle of the war went to the US on vacation.

Let us not forget that the architect of Kadima, Omri Sharon is sitting in jail for the crimes he committed for his father.

Last but not least are Olmert and Peretz who while doing nothing illegal, made every possible mistake in the war and over the past month showed their absolute incompetence for the positions that they hold.

As the saying goes, the people get the leaders that they deserve. We must be pretty underserving to get this pathetic cast of leaders.

The Lebanese government is openly violating the ceasefire agreement

What will Olmert do now? Will he stand up and try to make sure the agreement is upheld or will he less then a week after the war fold? Will he admit that the war achieved none of it's goals and that the UN Resolution isn't worth the paper it is written on?

I have a feeling that he is going to say well, the weapons will be hidden, not used, the Lebanese army is there, this is not cause for war and let things slide. Of course, as soon as you let that slide, Hezbollah will understand that the Israeli governement has no backbone and try something else. They will continue with salami tactics, each step only they take will not be a cause for war, and in a short time we will be back to where we were July 12, 2006.

Lebanon government compromise would allow Hezbollah to keep hidden weapons in south

A compromise agreement now being hammered out between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government would allow the Shi'ite guerillas to keep hidden weapons in south Lebanon, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday.

While Hezbollah would need to keep the weapons it possesses south of the Litani River hidden, an agreement for areas north of the river would be "left to a long term solution," the paper reported.

If the proposed compromise is accepted Tuesday by the Lebanese government, it would violate the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 ending the war in Lebanon. The resolution rules that the Lebanese army and UNIFIL may be the only armed forces in the territory between the Litani River south to the Israeli border.

Some very encouraging poll numbers in Israel

It is clear from the numbers that the public has rejected the Olmert's government spin on the war and knows exactly who to blame for the war's failure.

52% feel that the Army failed in it's objectives
Only 3% are buying Olmert's spin that we won
60% of Labor and Kadima voters would not vote for them again
62% gave Olmert a failing grade for his handling of the war
65% gave Peretz a failing grade for his handling of the war
49% gave Chalutz a failing grade for his handling of the war

A direct consequence of Israel's defeat in Lebanon: Syria is threatening war

Assad: Chances of peace with Israel low, Syria will 'liberate' Golan

Syrian President Bashar Assad has said that the chance of achieving a lasting peace with Israel is low, adding that Syria planned to "liberate" the Golan Heights, which the Israel Defense Forces captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Syria seeing how poorly the civilian and military leadership of Israel performed is starting to think that they can retake the Golan Heights by force.

Monday, August 14, 2006

How the ceasefire may play out

This is one scenario of what may happen.

Nasrallah will stop shooting Katyushas into Israel, however, Hezbollah will not disarm and will not stop attacking Israeli soldiers. Nasrallah will claim that he is fighting to liberate Lebanon from the occupiers. What will happen is the following:
  1. Hezbollah will refuse to disarm and the Lebanese government will do nothing

  2. Hezbollah will attack Israeli troops who are in static positions and cause a few casualties a day. Analysis The IDF must leave Lebanon at once

    Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's position is clear: He will comply with that element of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 only after the Israel Defense Forces withdraws from south Lebanon and the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL take its place. Until then, he is willing to accept only the 1996 Operation Grapes of Wrath understandings, under which both sides will keep fighting, but will not target each other's civilians. In other words, Hezbollah will not fire rockets at Israel if Israel does not bomb Lebanon, but the ground war in south Lebanon will continue and if Israel's bombing continues, so will Hezbollah's Katyushas.

  3. Israeli troops will defend themselves but not break the ceasefire with massive attacks

  4. The UN forces will not deploy to South Lebanon because there is still fighting

  5. After a period of time, the 4 mothers will get up again and say why are we sitting in Lebanon? I was too optimistic, already today Israeli troops are starting to withdraw, and within the week most of the troops will be out of Lebanon. It goes without saying, that this means that the IDF will not be conducting searches for Hezbollah fighters or arms caches in the areas that it has captured over the last few days, which the army defined as "the heart of the operational campaign" against Hezbollah. How fast things change.

  6. The pressure will cause Israel to withdraw unilaterally with assurance that after the withdrawal the UN and the Lebanese army will move South This is already happening.

  7. The UN and Lebanese army may actually move South but Hezbollah is already there armed and ready and neither force has the stomach to fight Hezbollah

  8. The situation in Southern Lebanon is basically back to where it is on July 12th

A depressing scenario, but unfortunately a very realistic one. Number 1 has already happened, Nasrallah has announced that 2 is going to happen, the rest follow logically.

The questions about the ceasefire have already started. What will Israel do if Syria starts rearming Hezbollah? Will the government have the courage to break the ceasefire?

IDF to uphold 'fragile' cease-fire

But the question of will Israel do if Syria sends weapon convoys into Lebanon to help rehabilitate Hizbullah remains unanswered. "This is a serious question that requires a decision by the diplomatic echelon," the officer said. "We need to prevent the Hizbullah from rebuilding itself. The question is how far are we willing to go to do that."

Further ceasefire concessions???

The ink on the ceasefire has not yet dried but according to some on the Left, Israel already need to make further concessions to help the "weak" Lebanese government (where have we heard this before).

Although the UN Resolution explicitly calls for the Lebanese Army and UN troops to deploy before the IDF leaves, Haaretz is already writing the following:

Analysis The IDF must leave Lebanon at once

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's position is clear: He will comply with that element of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 only after the Israel Defense Forces withdraws from south Lebanon and the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL take its place. Until then, he is willing to accept only the 1996 Operation Grapes of Wrath understandings, under which both sides will keep fighting, but will not target each other's civilians. In other words, Hezbollah will not fire rockets at Israel if Israel does not bomb Lebanon, but the ground war in south Lebanon will continue and if Israel's bombing continues, so will Hezbollah's Katyushas.

In Hezbollah's view, there is no point in discussing disarmament now, because it believes it currently has the only force capable of expelling the IDF and protecting Lebanon's citizens. And the Lebanese government has trouble rejecting this view, because it knows that its army cannot deploy until the fighting stops. Otherwise, it is likely to become embroiled in a fight with the IDF itself. Therefore, the cabinet decided to defer discussion of Hezbollah's disarmament until it becomes clear how the cease-fire takes shape on the ground.
Therefore, it is vital that the IDF leave Lebanon quickly. The fate of Resolution 1701 depends on it.

In other words, because the Lebanese government doesn't have the courage and/or strength to deploy it's troops to South Lebanon when the IDF is there, let's just run away again and hope for the best. Just like Oslo, just like the Hitnatkut, let's ignore reality and live in our fantasy world that the Arab world will love us if we just "stop the occupation".

Of course this will just allow Hezbollah to return to their previous positions and turn the clock back to July 12th, but Olmert doesn't care, he already declared victory.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Is the ceasefire DOA?

The Lebanese cabinet meeting which was supposed to discuss the implementation of the cease-fire was postponed indefinately (Lebanese Cabinet meeting indefinitely postponed). This means that the Lebanese army is not going to be deploying in South Lebanon any time soon.

Debka is reporting that Lebanon is backing away from their acceptance.

After Israel`s government approves ceasefire, the Beirut government begins to backtrack from its acceptance - pulled back by Syrian and Iranian warnings

Iran is now demanding assurances from the Siniora government that the Hizballah will not be disarmed after Lebanese troops and 15,000 peacemakers are deployed, calling the step “illogical.”

This makes a lot of sense. They can have their cake and eat it too. Israel has already accepted the ceasefire which means that it will be very hard for the government to back out now. This means that Israel will stop it's attacks and withdraw, while Hezbollah will not be disarmed and will in fact be rearmed.

In Israel the political infighting has begun. Shaul Mofaz the only minister not to vote for the cease fire had fierce critiscism for the ceasefire agreement (השר מופז, שנמנע היום בהצבעת הממשלה, ביקר בחריפות את ההחלטה 'שצידה היישומי לא ברור' (Hebrew only)

His basic point which is absolutely correct is that Israel is getting a worthless piece of paper. The agreement does not address the following 2 crucial points:
1. Who is going to disarm Hezbollah?
2. What about the 2 kidnapped soldiers?


Debka is reporting the following:

Hamadi information minister, a Druze, said Sunday night that Nasrallah had broken his word to order Hizballah fighters south of the Litani to hand in their weapons to allow Lebanese army troops to be deployed there. DEBKAfile reports: Amid heavy fighting across the entire Lebanese front, Israeli field commanders await directives for Monday 0800 hours when the ceasefire deadline goes into force.
DEBKAfile has learned that Tehran has meanwhile ordered Nasrallah to keep Israel engaged in combat for another 3 to 4. As a result of which he suddenly backed away from his pledges to France and the Siniora government Saturday to accept a ceasefire and a UNIFIL force in south Lebanon.

Nasrallah said he would wait a month to see how Israel’s retreat from the disputed Shabaa Farms was progressing.

At five minutes notice, the thunderstruck Lebanese ministers called off their meeting to discuss the deployment of their forces in the south and the disarming of Hizballah

A government of cowards

The vote for the ceasefire today was 24-0. Not a single minister voted against it. Only 1 minister, Mofaz, abstained. After reading his fierce criticism (that the agreement is a worthless piece of paper, השר מופז, שנמנע היום בהצבעת הממשלה, ביקר בחריפות את ההחלטה 'שצידה היישומי לא ברור' (Hebrew only)), I don't understand how could he only abstain, how could he not vote against? You would think with one of the largest governments in history (25 ministers) at least 1 would have the courage to say the emperor has no clothes and vote no. Who needs 25 ministers if they are just a rubber stamp for the Prime Minister?

This tidbit from Debka, shows the depth of the spinelessness of the ministers.

DEBKAfile’s Jerusalem sources reveal that Friday night, when the prime minister accepted the ceasefire resolution, none of his key ministers were willing to second the decision. Olmert ran solo with the announcement without consulting his cabinet or the high military command.

No one was willing to even second the decision 2 days ago and yet today it is accepted 24-0.

Olmert and Peretz are sacrificing soldiers to save themselves

This is a very serious charge but I see no other explanation for why Friday night they authorized a massive ground attack after the Security Council had already accepted a ceasefire resolution. This is clearly an attempt (as even the NY Times wrote: to conclude the conflict with something that could be called a victory for an Israeli government under domestic pressure.), to try to fool the public into believing that we won the war.

Just last Wednesday after the "dramatic" cabinet meeting in which the offensive was approved, the government ministers said that the offensive was on hold to give the political process a chance. They said, why should we endanger our soldiers if there is a political solution. Does it make sense that now that there is a political solution (after all the Israeli government has accepted the ceasefire proposal) that we should suddenly start a massive ground offensive for only 60 hours? Why then was the offensive put on hold on Wednesday if it is going on anyway after there is a political solution?

This insane race with a strict deadline is no doubt causing more casualties as the army tries to beat the deadline.

Ironically, the offensive seems to be working, yesterday only about 60 katyushas fell instead of 150 It looks like I was too optimistic given the limited amount of time. Of course, this begs the question, why didn't this offensive happen weeks ago? If it had started 3-4 weeks ago, we might have actually already won the war and stopped most of the katyushas.