Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shavuos as a Yom Hadin

The Mishna in Rosh Hashana (16a) lists Shavuos as one of the 4 times in the year that we are judged. The gemara in Megilla (31b) takes this very seriously. The gemara there comments that before the Yom Hadin we read the קללות. The gemara says I understand that we read the קללות in כי תבא before Rosh Hashana but what about the קללות in בחוקתי? The gemara answers that they are read before Shavuos.

On Shavuos we are judged for פירות האילן, fruits. The gemara in Rosh Hashana (16a) comments that therefore we bring the שתי הלחם on Shavuos. The obvious question is what do the שתי הלחם have to do with פירות האילן? The שתי הלחם are made with wheat which is not a fruit. Rashi there answers the question by saying that the Gemara is going with R' Yehuda's opinion that the fruit of the עץ הדעת was a חטה (wheat). However, this just shifts the question, after all wheat has not been a fruit for over 5000 years?

R' Goldvicht explained as follows. He said that fruits and wheat represent 2 ways that Hashem can deal with a person.

Fruits grow in a way that requires very little work. You plant the tree once and you forever have fruits. There is very little work in maintenance of the tree, the fruits grow every year, and you can just pick a fruit and eat it.

Wheat (really bread) on the other hand requires a tremendous amount of work. You first have to plow, then plant, then harvest, then do all the other melachos (winnowing, threshing, sifting, grinding, etc.). You can't just pick it and eat it. The next year you have to repeat the whole process.

Fruits represent the way the world was before the חטא, even wheat was a fruit. Food was easily obtained with little or no work and therefore man would have time to fully devote himself to serving Hashem.

Wheat or bread represents the world after the חטא. We live in a world of בזעת אפך תאכל לחם. It is a very difficult process to make that essential staple of life, bread. We have to work hard just to feed ourselves.

On Shavuos we are judged on פירות האילן, meaning we are judged how is Hashem going to relate to us, is he going to relate to us like before the חטא or after the חטא. Is our food going to be easy to obtain or is it going to be difficult. This is why we specifically bring the שתי הלחם, we want to remind Hashem that wheat was once a fruit as well. We hope to return to the days of before the חטא and have our food provided to us so that we can better serve him.

Hopefully we will all be זוכה in the din on פירות האילן this Shavuos and therefore be זוכה to have פרנסה ברוח ולא בצמצום and to be able to focus our energies on עבודת hashem and not on putting bread on the table.

קבלת התורה and קדושת הארץ

See this post from last year which is very relevant to Shavuos as well.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Making early Shabbos this week

This week Friday is Shavuos. Can you and maybe should you make early Shabbos?

There is absolutley no problem with making early Shabbos. In fact, the Mishna Berura in Siman 527 Sif Katan 3 writes that the minhag was to make early Shabbos specifically on this Friday. The reason is as follows.

The Gemara in Pesachim (46a) has a machlokes Rabba and R' Chisda, is there an issur d'oraysa if you cook on Yom Tov for a weekday. Rabba says no and R' Chisda says yes. Rabba says no because of ho'eel, since guests can come and eat the food it falls under the heter of ochel nefesh. R' Chisda disagrees. Rabba asks R' Chisda according to you how do we cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos? R' Chisda answers that tzorchei shabbos naasim, b'ytom tov, that you are allowed to prepare from Shabbos to Yom Tov.

There is a big nafka mina between the 2 opinions. What happens if you finish cooking very late in the day right before Shabbos? According to Rabba you are in trouble, the heter of ho'eel does not apply as there was not time for guests to come and eat the food on Yom Tov while according to R' Chisda there is no problem as you are allowed to prepare from Yom Tov to Shabbos.

It is not clear who we pasken like, Rabba or R' Chisda. Based on this the Mishna Berura writes that we should be choshesh for Rabba's opinion and finish cooking early in the day. Therefore the Mishna Berura writes the minhag was to make early shabbos.

The question is how does the minhag help. There are 2 possibilities:
1. It is a pyschological thing. If you make early shabbos then you will prepare earlier in the day.
2. It is a din.

There is a a big nafka mina, many people will finish their preparation 2 minutes before candle lighting whenever it is, therefore if early shabbos is because of 1 you gain nothing as people will finish cooking 2 minutes before lighting candles for early shabbos.

What is pshat that it is a din? The answer may be as follows. When you make early shabbos, you are turning a day of chol into Shabbos, you are adding kedusha. However, when that day is also Yom Tov, you cannot take away the kedushas Yom Tov, you can only add kedusha. Therefore, that time period of early shabbos has both kedushas. If this is true, if you finish cooking before early shabbos, then there is still time for ho'eel to kick in, until Yom Tov is actually over. Any food eaten before shkia will be a kiyum of simchas Yom Tov as well and therefore the heter of ochel nefesh would apply as well as the sevara of ho'eel.

To sum up, this Friday you should try to finish any cooking early in the day to be yotze Rabba's opinion and it is a good idea to make early Shabbos.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Split between UTJ and Aguda

UTJ wants to join the coalition and accept the 500 shekel a month increase for families with 4+ kids. Aguda disagrees and wants everything restored, otherwise they won't join. Why is there this split? One theory is that the Chassidic Rebbes like the Gerer Rebbe have Chasidim coming to them all the time (every day) and fully understand the dire financial straits their Chasidim are in. They are close to their Chasidim and therefore understand what they are going through. On the other hand, R' Elyashiv and the other Roshei Yeshiva don't really meet with the average Kollel guy and therefore don't feel his pain. People don;t cvome to R' Elyashiv and complain that they can't pay their bills. Therefore, their opinion is a more theoretical one while the Rebbes are responding to their Chasidim.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The extremists win again - Montreal visit cancelled

The planned visit by R' Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe to Montreal has been cancelled due to fears of protests by Satmar, etc. This is being reported all over the press (Haaretz Hasidic protest in Montreal scares off UTJ rabbis' visit, the Jerusalem Post Orthodox in US to protest rabbi's visit, etc.)

What exactly are they protesting?

They are protesting against R' Steinman, a 93 year old Rosh Yeshiva whose whole life is Torah.

His strong support for the Tal Law and the Nahal Haredi [a special army unit for haredi soldiers] made him a lot of enemies," said a source in Degel Hatorah, the Lithuanian faction of United Torah Judaism.

"The zealots express themselves in an unbridled way," added the source. "But their basic argument is accepted by a lot of people in the haredi community."

Unfortunately, the cancellation just gives more power to the extremists. The trip was cancelled to avoid a chillul hashem, however, all this publicity has created a chillul hashem in any case and exposed the huge problem in Charedi society today, no one is willing to take on the extremists. Basically, everyone is cowed by Satmar, Eidah Chareidis, etc. This phenomenon explains why it is so difficult to change anything in Charedi society and how it is so easy to ban books.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another Olmert mistake - a Health Minister who smokes

It is pretty sad that in 2006 a smoker could be appointed Health Minister in Israel, what kind of message does that send?

Olmert has made more mistakes in his first 2 months then anyone could have expected, the smoking Health Minister is just the last of many.

Let us take a look at some of his mistakes.

1. He gave away the store to Amir Peretz. 7 ministers for a party that got just 19 seats is ridiculous.
2. He abolished Deputy Ministers without asking anyone.
3. He caved in to Shas by foregoing the child support cuts when everyone knew that Shas was desperate to get in to the government.
4. He further caved in to UTJ by offering them 400 shekel for the 4th child. Even the pro-disengagement left has started wondering about him. Here is a quote from today's Haaretz (No staying power) written by a left wing journalist who is very pro-disengagement:
But Olmert surrenders easily. He has no principles, he is easily pressured, and he has no staying power.

And if this is the case, how will it be possible to trust him when he conducts the fateful negotiations on the country's borders?

5. He ended up with a government of only 4 parties and 25 ministers
6. He managed to upset almost everyone about the ministry they got and put the wrong people in the different ministries. 2 examples: 1. Shaul Mofaz is pining away for the Defense Ministry when people are being killed on the roads (11 people this week, has anyone heard from Mofaz?) and the infrastructure is crumbling. 2. The Health Minister smokes. What kind of message does that send?
7. The rebellion has already started (i.e. the vote on the budget) and he has done nothing to stop it.

There is no way this government is going to last. The big question will be what will happen to Kadima?

The Gedolim trip - the facts - Updated

A lot has been made in the blogosphere about the trip by R' Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe. I would like to clear up some the misconceptions that people have.

1. They flew first class to London on El Al. It is this flight that they requested that they not be served by female flight attendants.
2. El Al flies mostly 767's to London and therefore the number of first class seats is very limited.
3. The flight to London is relatively short about 4.5 hours.
4. Online, you can get a first class seat from Tel Aviv To London for $3100. If you buy 10 seats you get a pretty big discount and therefore the cost is nowhere near what was speculated.
5. They stopped in London to avoid problems with davening due to the trip to LA.
6. They flew British Air from London to LA. On this flight they did not request that there be no female flight attendants.


Rebbe of Gur and Rabbi Shteineman Cancel Canada Visit

A planned visit to Quebec by the Rebbe of the Gur Chassidic sect, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, and Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteineman, both leading figures in the Hareidi-religious community in Israel, has been cancelled. The reason for the sudden cancellation is reportedly the plans by members of the Satmar Chassidic sect in Montreal to hold public demonstrations against the visiting rabbis.

Satmar Chassidim in Montreal have obtained a police permit for a protest scheduled for the day of the two Israeli rabbis' planned arrival in town. The spark for the Satmar opposition to the two Hareidi-religious rabbis is Rabbi Shteineman's support for the Tal Law and for the IDF's Nachal Hareidi unit, both of which signal formalized integration of Hareidi citizens into larger Israeli society.

The Rebbe of Gur, seeking to avoid the public disgrace of open conflict in the Jewish community, elected to cancel the visit, despite pleas from local rabbis that such a tactic would strengthen the extremist minority in the French Canadian city.

It is very sad that they had to cancel because of Satmar, what is the Jewish world coming to?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Charedi, the Government, and Money

Given the state of coalition negotiations between UTJ and Kadima, this post The Charedi view of the government and money from last year is still very relevant.

R' Elyashiv's הסכמה to the Artscroll Gemaras

Artscroll just came out with a travel version of their Gemaras in hebrew and they are really pushing it here in Israel. They have distributed softcover copies with the haskamos and the first 2 dapim in all the shuls around where I live. This morning, I looked at it and read the haskama that R' Elyashiv gave them. There are 2 interesting points:

1. It was basically a negative הסכמה. He writes that עת לעשות לה' הפרו תורתיך, since translations of the gemara have come out in both English and Hebrew (I assume he is referring to Steinsaltz) that אין רוח חכמים נוחה הימנו, he understands the need to publish one that is based on the "Torah true" mesora. It is clear that he would not have supported such a project לכתחילה
2. Listed as one of the editors is R' Chaim Malinowitz (who I believe is the overall general editor) who not only gave a haskama to R' Slifkins books, but wrote a letter after the controversy broke out reiterating his support (you can see the letter here). Not only that, the Artscroll Gemara in Pesachim quotes the shita of R' Avraham ben Harambam when explaining the Gemaras dealing with astronomy. It is obvious that R' Elyashiv was not מעיין in all the gemaras, but this is something that he called kefira and said that we are not allowed to say.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Missing a day of Sefira

We all know the din that if you miss a day of sefira you can no longer count with a Beracha (this is the shita of the Behag). However, if you remember during the day you count without a beracha and then can continue counting with a beracha. L'halacha the acharonim say we do this because of a s'fek s'feka. However, the Behag himself who held that you are not יוצא during the day said this. The obvious question is that if you are not יוצא (you don't make a beracha) why can you continue the next night with a beracha?

RYBS explained as follows (Mesora volume 3). The Behag said that if you miss a day you can no longer count with a beracha because of a lack of תמימות. What does this mean? RYBS explained that תמימות means continuity. If you are counting you cannot skip a number, you can't count 1,2,3,4,6.

Based on this we can understand why the Behag says to count during the day without a beracha. Although you are not יוצא the mitzva, you did count the day. Therefore, that night when you get up to count you have the continuity of the count.

He brought a number of proofs to this, I will mention 1 of them.

R' Hai Gaon (quoted by the Mishna Berura) says that if you forgot a day, the next night before you count you should first say that yesterday was so and so. The obvious question is why? Yesterday is over, what good does it to to say today that yesterday was 6? The answer is that R' Hai held like the Behag, that counting needs continuity, Therefore if you mention that yesterday was so and so you can then continue to count today, as you have the continuity.

Based on this, a child who becomes Bar Mitzva during sefira would certainly be able to counting as even if we consider that what he did as a minor was not a real מעשה מצוה it doesn't matter, he certainly did count. Therefore, just like someone who counts during the day can continue even though they were not מקיים the mitzva, so too a the Bar Mitzva boy can continue counting with a beracha.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

UTJ and the new government

UTJ is not part of the government today, but everyone seems to think that they will join eventually. In fact, today I heard the following theory (on Radio Kol Chai, a Charedi radio station) which makes a lot of sense. In many ways UTJ is happy about joining the government after it was already created. This gives them an alibi for their voters. When Olmert comes to do the disengagement and people ask UTJ how they can be in the government, or when the voters ask how come the child payments aren't restored, etc., they have an alibi, they didn't create the government, Shas did. They only joined to save what they could after the government existed. Olmert had a government without them anyway so they are not to blame.

Now, Meretz is providing them with another alibi. They will say they joined because it was either them or Meretz so they had no choice but to try to minimize the damage and save what they could.

In short, I would be very surprised if UTJ does not end up in the government.

One last point, there is no way that this government will last more then 2 years at best.

Are you allowed to give a non-religious Jew food to eat?

The issue is as follows. In last week's parsha (קדושים), we have the issur of לפני עור. When you give a non-religious Jew food he is going to eat it without saying a beracha, thereby violating an issur d'rabbanan. Given this, the question comes up, maybe it should be a violation of לפני עור to give him the food.

The gemara in Avoda Zara (6b) learns out from the pasuk of לפני עור that you are not allowed to give a Nazir wine. The gemara concludes that this is only in a case of תרי עברא דנהרא (literally 2 sides of the river), meaning he cannot do the issur without you, but in a case of חד עברא דנהרא (literally 1 side of the river), where he could do the issur without you (he could ask his neighbor for wine) it is permitted. Tosafos paskens like this, that whenever he can do the aveira without you it is permitted and there is no לפני עור. The Ran there comments that although there is no prohibition of לפני עור, it is still prohibited m'drabbanan because of מסייע לעוברי עבירה, you are helping him do an aveira.

The Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah Siman קנ"א paskens like the Ran, that even if he can do the issur without you it is prohibited. The Rama there comments that י"א like Tosafos that it is permitted וכן נוהגים. However, many of the acharonim disagree with the Rama (Magen Avraham, Shach, Gra) and pasken like the Ran because Tosafos in other places assumes that there is an issur d'rabbanan in such a situation.

The Shach as explained by the דגול מרבבה has a very important קולא. The Shach says that there is no machlokes between Tosafos and the Ran. Tosafos is talking about a case where he is doing the aveira במזיד and therefore there is no issur of helping him do an aveira while the Ran is talking about a case of שוגג and therefore there is an issur d'rabbanan to help him.

It comes out according to the Shach that whenever the person is doing the aveira במזיד and/or there is no way for you to stop him, it is mutar to give him the issur if he could do the issur without you.

רעק"א takes a different tack regarding לפני עור. In Yoreh Deah Siman קפ"א סע' ו the Shulchan Aruch writes that it is prohibited for a woman to cut off the payists of a man according to some opinions. רעק"א comments that according to everyone there would be an issur of לפני עור on the woman. He then states the follwing chiddush. If the man could cut his own payists and is going to do it, the woman can cut them for him and will not violate לפני עור. He explains as follows. If the man cuts his own payists, he violates 2 issurim, מקיף and ניקף. If the woman cuts them, he only violates the issur of ניקף and not מקיף. Meaning, that if the woman cuts them she is saving him from an additional aveira and therefore there is no issur לפני עור as her action is saving him from an additional aveira.

It comes out according to רעק"א that if your action reduces the total number or severity of aveiros committed then there is no issur of לפני עור.

R' Moshe (יורה דעה סימן ע"ב) discusses the following case. A religious caterer asked him if he is allowed to cater an affair where there will be mixed dancing. Is there a problem of לפני עור?

R' Moshe answered that it is allowed for 2 reasons:
1. We pasken like the Shach as explained by the דגול מרבבה and therefore in this case where they are doing it במזיד (and they would not listen to you) it would be permitted.
2. This is not לפני עור. The classic case of לפני עור is where you give someone or help someone do an aveira. Here your action is perfectly mutar both for you and the other person. You don't have to worry that he will use it for an aveira. If that was the case then R' Moshe asks how can you sell anything to a non-religious Jew? If you sell him a pot, he will use it for non-kosher food or בשר וחלב. Yet, no one thinks that there is an issur of לפני עור there. The reason is because since your action is perfectly mutar for both you and him there is no לפני עור.

Based on the above we can answer our original question. It is permitted to give a non-religious Jew food for the following reasons:

1. רעק"א - RSZA (Minchas Shlomo Siman ל"ה) was asked this question and was matir for the following reason. He explained that if you don't give him food he will be insulted and he will violate a bigger aveira, לא תשנא את אחיך. Therefore based on רעק"א reasoning (you action saves him from a bigger aveira) it would be permitted.
2. It seems that we pasken like the Shach (at least by issurim d'rabbanan) and therefore here where he is a מזיד it would be mutar. R' Moshe relies on the Shach as does R' Shternbuch.
3. R' Moshe's sevara applies here as well. You are giving him food which he is allowed to eat. You don't have to worry that he will do an aveira with it.

To sum up, there are a number of reasons why the issur of לפני עור would not apply in many of our interctions with non-religious Jews. Each case needs to be looked at individually to see if the reasons apply.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Does the psak of Beis Din affect reality?

The Wolf has a post where he claims that Psak does not affect reality. I commented there and would like to expand on what I wrote.

There is a gemara which is quoted l'halacha which supports the idea that the psak of Beis Din affects reality. The Gemara in Nidda 45a states that a girl under 3 who loses her virginity, the virginity (hymen) will grow back. The Yerushalmi (Kesubos 1:2) comments that even if when she had relations she was over 3 but then the Beis Din made a leap year which in doing so made her at the time that she had relations under 3, it will grow back. The Yerushalmi bases this on a pasuk in Tehilim. The Pnei Moshe explains the Yerushalmi and states: אף הטבע מסכמת עליהן. Even nature agress with the psak. This is explicit that the psak changes reality. Before Beis Din declared a leap year her virginity would not have grown back, now that they declared a leap year it will grow back. This Yerushalmi is quoted l'halacha in the Rama Even Haezer Siman 20 sif 1 (relating to this halacha of a girl under 3, see the Gra there) as well as by the Acharonim in Orach Chaim Siman 55 sif 9 (relating to a boy who becomes Bar Mitzva in a leap year, again see the Gra there). We see clearly that the Beis Din declaring a leap year changes reality. If they hadn't she would not be a virgin (the hymen would not grow back), since they did she is a virgin (it does grow back).

One of the mefarshim on the Yerushalmi (Kesubos 1:2) brings another example that psak affects reality from the Tosefta in Rosh Hashana (1:10). The Tosefta assumes that the מן did not fall on Yom Tov. The Tosefta says that how long the מן that fell on erev Rosh Hashana lasted depended on the psak of Beis Din. If Beis Din made the 30th Rosh Hashana, then the מן lasted 2 days (the 29th and Rosh Hashana). However, if Beis Din made Rosh Hashana on the 31st, then the מן had to last a third day (29,30 because it didn't fall because it could have been Yom Tov, and Rosh Hashana). Again, we see that the psak of Beis Din affected the reality of when the מן rotted away.

The Ran in his Derashos in Derasha 11 seems to disagree with this. The Ran asks why is psak given to חכמים and not נביאים? He gives the following example. What happens if the חכם makes a mistake in pask and he allows you to eat non-kosher food. The Ran states that you will be harmed because non-kosher is poison. Therefore he says, why wasn't psak given to Neviim who would not make mistakes (see the derasha for his answer). We see clearly from the Ran that the psak that the food is kosher does not affect the reality that non-kosher food is poison.

The resolution of the contradiction may be as follows. The Ran is discussing a case where the חכם made a mistake and paskened against reality. The 2 examples above are where the Beis Din paskened correctly and as a result of their psak reality changed. When the psak is in error reality doesn't change.

It comes out that a psak of Beis Din which contradicts reality (and therefore is wrong) does not cause reality to change, however, a correct psak whose outcome is that reality needs to change does change reality.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Satmar succession battle

NY Magazine has a long article about the succession battle in Satmar. The only thing I can say is what a chillul hashem. The reader comes away with terribly negative picture of the leadership, the process and the people.