Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The problem with learning Hilchos Shemitta

There is a big problem when you learn hilchos shemitta, there is no real mesora of pask. In every other area of halacha there is a mesora of psak going way back. Where I live there are constantly pamphlets circulating which state that this is wrong and that is wrong etc. These are usually just ignored (even if the person has good arguments) because we know that we pasken x. 2 simple examples:
1. The heter for Chadash in Chutz Laaretz is very weak, based on all principles of psak we should be machmir, and yet, the majority of Jews in Chutz Laaretz rely on the heter.
2. The idea that a Reshus Harabim needs 600,000 people has no real source in the Gemara and is a minority opinion in the Rishonim. Yet, just about every eruv relies on this shitta and the majority of the frum population uses eruvin.

These kinds of things are only possible because we have a mesora of psak in these areas.

The truth is, this is being eroded as Dr. Grach in his famous article Rupture and Reconstruction pointed out, there is a big movement back to the sources and away from mesora and a lot of chumras have come into the mainstream because of this.

By hilchos shemitta, there is basically no mesora. Until the 1880's, no one had really encountered these issues since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and therefore it is very difficult to know how to pasken. In the few places that there is a mesora, the psak is clearer, for example, whether fruits grown by a non-Jew have kedushas sheviis we have a clear psak from the Beis Yosef that they do not, which is followed by the Badatz Edah Hachareidit. However, most shemitta related issues have no clear mesora. We have the Mishnayos, gemaras, Yerushalmi, Rambam, but we are missing almost all the intervening Rishonim and Acharonim. When you also add in the technological changes in farming, things become even more difficult.

This makes the task of a posek on hilchos sheviis very very difficult as he has to pasken basically from very early sources. This is part of what leads to the very divergent shittas on how to observe shemitta.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Labor primaries results - unbelievable

The results are:
Ehud Barak - 35.6%
Ami Ayalon - 30.6%
Amir Peretz - 22.6%

Ehud Barak was the clear winner (note: since no one received 40% of the vote there will be a runoff election in 2 weeks) with over 35%. It is hard to believe that 35% of the people would vote for someone who was an absolute disaster as Prime Minister lasting only 14 months. Under his stewardship we ran away from Lebanon and the second intifada started. He has experience, all of it bad.

Even more astounding is that Amir Peretz got 22% of the vote. Not only was he an absolute failure as Defense Minister he failed completely to deliver on his social agenda as well. What were these people thinking? Do they really think he would be a good finance minister?

The bottom line is that although Amir Peretz lost, he also won. He got a lot more votes then was expected and showed that he is still a force in the Labor party. He is now in position to crown the next leader and it is going to cost them dearly.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Disengagement disillusion on the left?

A number of prominent left wingers who supported the disengagement have publicly stated that they were mistaken.

Ilana Dayan (prominent Television Journalist)
למה לא שאלנו את השאלות? למה דובי וייסגלס לא סיפר לנו שיהיה גשם של קסאמים על שדרות? כי זה לא היה פופולרי וכי היה ראש ממשלה חזק שהיתה לו אחיזה איתנה במוקדים הנחשבים תקשורת.
Why didn't we ask questions? Why didn't Dov Weisglass (Sharon's chief advisor) tell us that Kassams would be raining down on Sederot? It wasn't popular because there was a strong Prime Minister who had a very strong hold on influential sectors of the media

Ehud Olmert
צריך לומר שהניסיון שהיה לנו בלבנון ובעזה אינו מעודד. נסוגנו לחלוטין מעזה, וכל יום הם יורים רקטות קסאם על ישראלים.
We need to say that the experience that we have from Lebanon and Gaza is not encouraging. We disengaged completely from Gaza and every day they are shooting Kassam rockets on Israelis

Tzippi Livni (Foreign Minister)
"הורדנו התנחלויות ולא דיברנו איתם. ומה היתה התוצאה? חיזוק הקיצונים ולא המתונים. ככל שאנחנו מוציאים את הצבא מחוץ לשטחים, מתפתחים קיני טרור"
We destroyed settlements without talking with them. And what was the result? The strengthening of the extremists. The more that we take the army out of the territories the more terror cells spring up

Yoel Marcus (Journalist Haaretz)
"למרבה הצער, מתברר עתה שהמתנחלים הקיצונים והפסימיסטים
הם שצדקו"
To my great sorrow, it turns out in retrospect that the extreme and pessimistic settlers were right

Yehoshua Sobol (Israeli playwright)
לא נבנה שם כלום בימים אלה. כלום, כלום, רק פעולות הרס. ההנחה הזאת, שדי בכך שאנו נצא מהשטח כדי שהצד השני יפסיק את התקפלותו, התבדתה
Nothing is being built there. Nothing, nothing, only destructive actions. The idea that it is enough for us to just leave the area for the other side to fold up has been proven false

Yair Lapid (Israeli journalist and talk show host, son of Tommy Lapid)
יצאנו מלבנון וחיזבאללה תוקפים אותנו מלבנון. יצאנו מעזה וארגוני הטרור תוקפים אותנו מעזה. הגזרה השקטה ביותר כרגע היא ביהודה ושומרון. אפילו אצל השמאלנים הכי גדולים מתגנב פתאום הרהור כפירה: אז אולי זה לא הכיבוש?
We pulled out of Lebanon and Hisbullah attacks us from Lebanon. We pulled out from Gaza and the terrorists are attacking us from Gaza. The quietest front today is the West Bank. Even the biggest left wingers are suddenly having heretical thoughts, maybe it isn't the occupation?

Avri Gilad (Israeli Movie Star)
מבחינה פרקטית, פרגמטית וראיית המצב כפי שהוא, הכתומים צדקו
From a practical perspective and looking at the facts as they are now, the "Orange" crowd (e.g. anti-disengagement) was right

Giora Eiland (head of the National Security Council during Sharon's tenure)
לא היתה הסתכלות קדימה. ההתנתקות לא תרמה דבר לפתרון הסכסוך
There was no future vision. The disengagement did not contribute one bit to a solution to the problems

Yaron London (prominent left wing Journalist)
דבר לא נבנה על ההריסות, חוץ מאשר מחנות אימונים למחבלים
Not a single thing was built on the destroyed settlements except for terrorist training camps

Shimon Peres
רעיון ההתנתקות נגמר. לא תהיה ביהודה ושומרון חזרה כפולה ומכופלת על הנסיגה מעזה
The concept of unilateral disengagement is finished. There will not be a unilateral disengagement in the West Bank over and above the one from Gaza.

Could it be that even the left wingers are waking up to reality? Maybe some but certainly not all, Yossi Beilin is just as crazy as always. This morning, he was interviewed on the radio saying how we need to talk to Hamas etc.

These quotes were all taken from a pamphlet published by מועצת יש"ע

Sunday, May 27, 2007

מהדרין vs מחמירים - mehadrin buses

There was a fascinating article in last weeks Mishpacha (Hebrew) about the Mehadrin buses. One of the members of the organization in charge said that the מחמירים are ruining things. People have to know what is a chumra and realize that they can't impose their chumras on others. He said that family seating (in the middle of the bus) is accepted by many and is at best a מדת חסידות (to avoid it), and therefore those who are pushing to deny family seating on mehadrin buses are killing support for the whole mehadrin bus effort.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see this published in the Mishpacha.

I will try to scan the article in and post a link to it.

Here is the scanned in article.

Second chances

The week after Shavuos is a time for second chances. This is the week of תשלומים, when people who could not bring their korbanos on Shavuos could make it up. Right after Shavuos we read parshas נשא which details how the נשיאים brought their korbanos when the mishkan was dedicated. Chazal comment that when the mishkan was being built they held back and said we will donate what ever is left over, it turned out that the Jewish people gave so much that there was no need for anything from the נשיאים. They felt cheated that they had not contributed. In Parshas נשא they get their second chance, when it comes to the dedication they made sure to go first. Next week's parsha echoes this theme as well. A group of people who were טמא and could not bring the korban Pesach come to Moshe Rabenu and complain to him. From their complaint comes the mitzva of Pesach sheni.

The common theme is that a person always has another chance as long as he is alive to correct his mistakes and set things right.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Should Kollel families have a family budget?

Someone wrote the following letter to Hamodia (printed today May 2).

Kollel families receive a certain siyata dishmaya that helps them to make ends meet in a near miraculous manner. If they were to begin to keep track of their income and expenditures, they would realize that theri finances just do not add up, and the husband might feel pressured to leave kollel.

I therefore don't think it's advisable for bnei Torah to adopt Mesila's budgeting practices nor to become Mesila clients. Instead, they should have bitachon that Hashem will provide for them and not look too closely at their finances.

This attitude is a big part of the poverty problem in the Charedi world today. People are just burying their heads in the sand. I was happy to see a long answer was given, which disagrees with the premise of the question. I will just quote the conclusion:

For individuals who are on high levels of bitachon as evidenced by their modest lifestyles ... obviates the need for a budget.

But for the vast majority of Bnei Torah, budgeting is not only appropriate but required. And when perople do wat is required of them, their siyata Dishmaya is not diminished but increased.

Charedi women and driving

In America there is nothing to talk about. Except for Satmar just about all Charedi women drive. However, in Israel, most Charedi women don't drive and there is a certain stigma associated with driving. There is an interesting article on Ynet today discussing this חרדית, מי נתן לך רישיון? which is worth reading.

A few days ago in shul I happened to see a new sefer regarding chinuch of girls,האתגר והשליחות לבת מלכות חלק שני (printed this year in ירושלים). There was a whole section about women and driving and how it is assur. In short, driving is not צנוע. There was a whole list of "issues", including that when stopped at a redlight the driver needs to make eye contact with other drivers and pedestrians which of course in not צנוע. In addition, to drive you need to take lessons, get gas, service the car, call a tow truck if stuck, etc. The people who work in these occupations are generally "low lifes" according to the author of the sefer and not the kind of people a בת מלכות should associate with.

The next Prime Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres?

It is looking more and more like a realistic scenario. If Olmert resigns Peres very well could be the choice of Kadima to replace him for a number of reasons.
1. He can keep the coalition together and avoid elections (if there are elections Kadima will collapse). Shas likes him and Labor likes him and therefore he would be able to keep the coalition together.
2. Given his age he is not a threat for the next election. The would be Prime Minister's in Kadima would have time to get ready for the primaries and next election.

I am very much against this and hope that there are new elections. According to the polls, if there are elections:
Likud - around 30 seats
Kadima - led by Livni or Peres 20
Labor - led by Ami Ayalon or Barak 20

For all his faults Netanyahu would be a much better PM then any of the above (Peres, Livni, Ayalon, Barak).