Monday, April 30, 2007

The Winograd report is in ...

and it is harsher then expected. Here are some quotes from the report:

we determine that there are very serious failings in these decisions and the way they were made. We impose the primary responsibility for these failures on the Prime Minister, the minister of defense and the (outgoing) Chief of Staff. All three made a decisive personal contribution to these decisions and the way in which they were made.
The support in the cabinet for this move was gained in part through ambiguity in the presentation of goals and modes of operation, so that ministers with different or even contradictory attitudes could support it. The ministers voted for a vague decision, without understanding and knowing its nature and implications. They authorized to commence a military campaign without considering how to exit it.
The Prime Minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one. Also, his decision was made without close study of the complex features of the Lebanon front and of the military, political and diplomatic options available to Israel. He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs. In addition, he did not adequately consider political and professional reservations presented to him before the fateful decisions of July 12th.

c. The Prime Minister is responsible for the fact that the goals of the campaign were not set out clearly and carefully, and that there was no serious discussion of the relationships between these goals and the authorized modes of military action. He made a personal contribution to the fact that the declared goals were over-ambitious and not feasible.

d. The Prime Minister did not adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel's actions were not realistic and were not materializing.

e. All of these add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence.
The Minister of Defense did not have knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters. He also did not have good knowledge of the basic principles of using military force to achieve political goals.

b. Despite these serious gaps, he made his decisions during this period without systemic consultations with experienced political and professional experts, including outside the security establishment. In addition, he did not give adequate weight to reservations expressed in the meetings he attended.

c. The Minister of Defense did not act within a strategic conception of the systems he oversaw. He did not ask for the IDF's operational plans and did not examine them; he did not check the preparedness and fitness of IDF; and did not examine the fit between the goals set and the modes of action presented and authorized for achieving them. His influence on the decisions made was mainly pointillist and operational. He did not put on the table - and did not demand presentation - of serious strategic options for discussion with the Prime Minister and the IDF.

The failure is so great it is hard to describe.

One thing that seems to be missing (I didn't read all the hundreds of pages so maybe it is buried somewhere) is the role of the rest of the government. All the major decisions of the war were practically unanimous or at worst a few ministers abstained. None of the ministers had the guts to stand up and say no. The ministers were basically a rubber stamp. It is for this reason that not only does the Prime Minister need to resign but we need new elections and a completely new government.

What is going to happen next? No one knows, Olmert may even survive. The Charedi parties may hold the key here.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Kosher shavers

This past week's Mishpacha newspaper had an article which stated that a group of Rabbanim in EY, with the approval of R' Elyashiv, have started talking to a major European shaver manufacturer (I assume Phillips) about building "kosher shavers". They will build a shaver that is kosher לכל הדעות. The big question will be how well could such a shaver work?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

פאות הראש

This is a repeat of a previous post with some small additions.
In this coming weeks Parsha, Kedoshim, the Torah has the din of פאות הראש. The main sugya relating to these dinim is in מכות כ. I would like to discuss some of the halachos:

I. Where do the פאות הראש end?
Rashi on the mishna in מכות כ comments that the head is divided into 2 parts, the hair and the face. The dividing line is the bone on the side of the ear. In other words, פאות הראש are up until the middle of the ear. Rashi says this on the gemara as well and in Shavuos (6a) also. The Tur paskens this way. However the Beis Yosef found another Rashi on the mishna, where Rashi writes that פאות הזקן start below the ear and anything above that is פאות הראש. The Shulchan Aruch in סימן קפ"א is machmir like this opinion.

However, many acharonim disagree and point out that the the Shulchan Aruch is like none of the rishonim. The ארץ הצבי brings an interesting proof. He points out that people whose beard is a different color then their hair, the changeover occurs in the middle of the ear and therefore we see clearly that the middle of the ear is the dividing line. This seems to be the accepted minhag.

II. How much hair needs to be cut off?
There is a machlokes the Rambam and the Semag from one end of the spectrum to the other. The semag based on a Tosefta in מכות פרק ד says that if you cut off even 2 hairs in the area of פאות הראש you are chayav. The Rambam seems to hold as follows. Min Hatorah, you only violate the issur if you cut off all the hair, if you leave even 2 hairs you are not chayav. M'drabbanan you need to leave either 4 or 40 hairs. Rashi sounds like he agrees with the Rambam

III. How can you cut the hair?
Again a machlokes, the Rosh and the Rambam. The Rambam holds that it is just like פאות הזקן, you are only chayav with a razor. The Rosh holds that you are chayav even with מספרים כעין תער.

IV. What is the shiur for each hair?
According to the Rosh that you are chayav for מספרים כעין תער how long does each hair have to be? The poskim point out that the shiur of hair in general is to bend back the hair on itself, about a half a centimeter. In other words, ע"פ דין, there is absolutely no source for long payists. Each hair has to a 1/2 centimeter long, that is it. There is no chiyuv whatsoever to grow each hair long.

Some want to say that growing each hair long is a hidur mitzva, however this is very difficult. פאות הראש is a לאו, by a לאו it is difficult to say there is such a thing as hidur mitzva. Either you violated the din or you didn't. If you didn't violate the din what exactly is a hidur going to do. Others explain that it is done as a סימן, especially for little kids.

Is a man allowed to dye his hair?

The Gemara in Makos (20b) says that a man is prohibited from pulling out white hairs. The Rishonim explain that the issur is based on לא ילבש גבר שמלת אשה, this is a feminine thing to do. This is brought down l'halacha in Yoreh Deah סימן קפ"ב סע' ו where the Shulchan Aruch paskens that a man cannot pull out white hairs and likewise he is not allowed to dye his hair. In the same סעיף the Shulchan Aruch paskens that a man is not allowed to look in the mirror.

The Ran in Avoda Zara comments that if the minhag is for men to look in the mirror then it is no longer a feminine activity and it is permitted. This Ran is the basis of the practice today that men use mirrors.

R' Moshe(יו"ד חלק ב סימן ס"א)addresses the issue of a man dyeing his hair for work reasons. He paskens that if a man dyes his hair solely to get a job (he thinks that if he comes with grey hair they will reject him as too old), then he is permitted as it is not done to beautify himself. The שרידי אש the לבוש מרדכי and R' Ovadya Yosef are also lenient in this case.

It would seem to me that nowadays dyeing hair has become like looking in the mirror. it is no longer an exclusively feminine activity and therefore in 2007 just like it is mutar to look in the mirror it may be mutar for a man to dye his hair.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

בה"ב and Yom Haatzmaut

This year the first day of בה"ב falls out next Monday which also happens to be ה' אייר, which I thought was Yom Haatzmaut. I was wondering as to what people who usually observe both (e.g. say selichos on בה"ב and say Hallel on Yom Haatzmaut) would do Monday when the 2 clash.

However, I have been informed that according to the present position of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, when ה' אייר falls on a Monday, Yom Haatzmaut is pushed off until Tuesday. The same applies if it falls out on Friday or Shabbos (it is pushed back to Thursday). ה' אייר is the same day as the seventh day of Pesach. Therefore ה' אייר can only fall out on Friday, Shabbos, Monday or Wednesday. On Friday, Shabbos, and Monday, Yom Haatzmaut is not observed on that day but pushed off, meaning that in reality most of the time it is not celebrated on ה' אייר. This is quite interesting and leads to some strange results, in America many people will celebrate Yom Haatzmaut on Monday ה' אייר while in israel it is officially celebrated on Tuesday.

How this works out with Hallel is a good question.

Even more on Early Shabbos

Lately I have seen that some people have started doing the following. Mekabel Shabbos right after plag, then going home and eating the meal, and then later (around 9PM) coming back to shul to daven maariv. The advantage of this is that you get to be יוצא krias shema in maariv with a minyan, as well as count sefira at the proper time.

However, there is a downside to this as well. The Gra in the מעשה רב says that you should not eat the first meal of Shabbos beofre you daven maariv.

RYBS also held like this and he explained his reasoning as follows (see Nefesh Harav and Beis Yitzhak 1992 p. 60). The kedushas hayom of Shabbos is not mechayev you in simcha and therefore oneg shabbos is a side mitzva and not part of the identity of the day. Shabbos is supposed to be a day dedicated to Hashem. Therefore he said, to eat the meal on Shabbos you need a matir, the tefila. Because of this each meal is preceded by a tefila. He pointed out that it is mashma like this from the Rambam as well. The Rambam writes (Hilchos Shabbos 30:10)
יתפלל אדם בשבת שחרית ומוסף בבית הכנסת, ויבוא לביתו ויסעוד סעודה שנייה, וילך לבית המדרש יקרא וישמע עד המנחה, ויתפלל מנחה; ואחר כך יקבע סעודה שלישית על היין, ויאכל וישתה עד מוצאי שבת
The Rambam describes how first you daven and then you eat, this seems to be the correct way of doing things.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Early Shabbos primer

With the advent of DST and many people again making early Shabbos, these posts from 2 years ago are very relevant.

An Early Shabbos Primer
Early Shabbos primer continued

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Quarter of a million dollar Seder night

Wealthy Satmar Chasidim spent a quarter of a million dollars for the Seder of the Satmar Rebbe R' Zalman Leib. The new Rebbe could not use his father's (the previous Rebbe's) things because of the dispute between him and his brother. Therefore his Chasidim bought all new stuff. Here is a partial list of what was bought:

Kos Shel Eliyahu - $80,000. The cup weighs 70kg (154 lb) and holds 26 liters (6.8 gallons). Below is a picture of the cup

Kiddush Cup - $30,000
A bed for leaning - $25,000, made out of gold, silver, and silk
Matzah Cover - $6000
Kapotah - a few thousand dollars, made from white silk and pure gold

All in all $250,000.

The headline, picture and all the amounts are from this past week's Mishpacha magazine.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Observations from America

We are in America for Pesach and therefore I would like to share some observations.

"Kosher" Circus
This could only happen in America. In Israel this would never get off the ground for a number of reasons including the fact that i was mixed seating (even though it was a very Charedi crowd)

General Affluence
People in America know how to spend money. The circus for example, the cheapest seats were $25, so a family of 6 (and there were a lot of them) paid at least $150 for seats and then had to pay for transportation (parking etc.). We went to other attractions and they are also very expensive especially for large families.

Before Pesach we went out to eat, the nice restaurants ($150 and up a meal) were all full and many of the people were not first time customers.

Shabbos/Yom Tov Atmosphere
We live in a religious neighborhood and therefore don't see cars etc.on Shabbos Yom Tov and basically life shuts down. My kids did not understand why everything around was going as usual (cars/ buses/ trucks) and it just did not feel the same.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Chol Hamoed

There is a tremendous זלזול in Chol Hamoed especially in America where many people work. In Israel many places of work are closed and even those that are open ex[ect that many people take off.

Unfortunately, many people only see the Chol and not the Moed. In reality, Chol Hamoed is almost the same as Yom Tov, there is an issur melacha and it has a kedushas hayom. The issur melacha happens to have more heterim then Yom Tov but it is there. Chol Hamoed should not just be another day. You should dress nicely and not work. The only melacha permitted is לצורך המועד and דבר האבד.