Sunday, July 29, 2007

RBS B - Majority of residents are opposed to violence and demonstrations

Mishpacha (Hebrew) had an article where they said that the overwhelming majority of the residents of RBS B are opposed to the ongoing violence and demonstrations. If so why don't they make their views known? It is not simple to oppose the "kaanaim" and people are afraid. Below is the article:

The silent majority is posting pashkevilim. Here is one translated from the article:

Breders (Yiddish word, I don't know what it means), is it worth it at any price? Go out in the street and look at our neighborhood, it has been lowered to the dumps, filthy and destroyed. Who are we fighting? Until now we have lived in an beautiful neighborhood, now destruction rules the neighborhood. Our houses are disgusting from the graffiti written on the walls, the sidewalks are destroyed, the streets are full of rocks, the fences are broken, the trees have been uprooted and destroyed. In one fell swoop we have fallen 77 levels backwards so that instead of living in a neat and tidy place we are living in a desolate city and anyone who sees it will not want to step foot in it. Is this how we make our neighborhood beautiful?

With no public transportation because the roads are blocked and rocks are being thrown, righteous women are being forced to walk with their packages and sons on the street.

Is it not enough that the government oppresses us that we need to harm ourselves as well? Are we conducting a holy war by throwing rocks that can kill, on other Jews?

What was actually written on the לוחות, the word זכור or the word שמור?

We know that they were both said at the same time, but what was actually written on the לוחות themselves. It is clear from the gemara that only 1 of them was written as the gemara comments that the ם and the ס were בנס, if both זכור and שמור were somehow written בנס the gemara certainly would have mentioned it.

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky addresses this question (in ואתחנן) and claims that זכור was written but the קרי was שמור. He says this would apply to all the other differences as well (קרי וכתיב).

However, this is very difficult as the end of the דברה of Shabbos is completely different, in יתרו it talks about the 7 days of creation and in ואתחנן it talks about יציאת מצרים. On one word I can see saying קרי וכתיב but not on a whole pasuk.

Has anyone seen any other mefarshim address this issue?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A government of cowards II

A year ago I posted A government of cowards and The pathetic leadership of Israel where I described how pathetic the government was in the handling of the war. Chaim Ramon's testimony to the Winograd commission, released today to the public, drives home this point. If you remember, all of the important votes on the war were unanimous in favor. Ramon in his testimony states that even though he opposed the ground action at the end of the war he voted for it to support the Prime Minister (see רמון לוינוגרד: לא רציתי להצביע נגד אולמרט). Imagine, Chaim Ramon votes for an action that he doesn't believe in and that he knows is going to result in the deaths of a large number of soldiers. Why? Because he wanted to support the PM. What kind of person sends soldiers to their death to show support for their friend the PM? What happened to the good of the nation? Who needs 25 ministers if they are just a rubber stamp for the Prime Minister?

The rest of his testimony is interesting as well as he decries the decision making process of the government as a whole. What is sad is that I don't see him doing anything to change it. In fact, he never even publicly stated any of this. All of this came out only because his testimony which he thought would be kept secret was publicized.

Deja Vu - Israel allows the transfer of 3000 rifles to the PA

Didn't we do this in the past and have it blow up in our faces? Hundreds of people were killed by those rifles that we gave them in the mid 1990's. Everyone knows that in the near future these rifles will be turned against us. How blind can people be?

See הלילה: 3000 רובים הועברו לפלסטינים ביריחו for details on the transfer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Drinking soda at a kiddush

There is a well known halacha in Hilchos Berachos (סימן קע"ד) that wine is פוטר other drinks from a beracha. However there is a fundamental machlokes why this is so.

The Magen Avraham explains that since wine is important and it has it's own beracha therefore it is פוטר other drinks (even if you drink a little). The Chayei Adam, Aruch Hashulchan and R' Akiva Eiger hold that it is the same as the reason for bread, namely that you are קובע your meal on wine.

The Mishna Berura tries to make a פשרה and requires that you drink a shiur. The Mishna Berura is difficult because he is going with neither shita.

What is the din in the following case. You go to a kiddush and you drink a little of the wine from kiddush. You now want to drink soda. Do you make a שהכל or not? According to the M"A no, since you drank a little wine it is פוטר all other drinks. However, according to the Chayei Adam etc. you would be חייב to make a new beracha as you were not קובע your meal on wine. You just drank a little wine for kiddush and that is not a קביעות. To be יוצא a mitzva they write does not create a קביעות, you need to really want to be קובע your meal on wine.

What happens if you are the one making kiddush? Here the Aruch Hashulchan writes that since kiddush has to be במקום סעודה, making kiddush is considered to be a קביעות. R' Akiva Eiger may argue with this as well and may hold that since nowadays we only make kiddush to be יוצא the mitzva and not to be קובע our seuda on wine that even if you made kiddush you would need to make a שהכל.

The best advice in this situation is not to make kiddush and certainly not to drink from the wine of the מקדש. This way you have no safek. If you do make kiddush you should try to find some food to make a שהכל on before you drink anything else.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wearing crocs on Tisha B'Av

מעיקר הדין we pasken that only leather shoes are prohibited. However, nowadays, we have shoes that are not made of leather which are as comfortable or more comfortable then leather shoes. Crocs are a good example, I see people wearing them everywhere. Give this, it may very well be that they are prohibited on Tisha B'Av. Leather is not a הלכה למשה מסיני. Leather is prohibited because that is what shoes used to be made of and people did not walk around with non-leather shoes. Today, where people do wear non-leather shoes all over, the din may change because the facts changed.

In any case, there is no question that wearing the same shoes that you wear all week on Tisha B'Av certainly violates the spirit of the din. Not wearing leather shoes is supposed to be an עינוי, you are supposed to feel uncomfortable. If you wear super comfortable non-leather shoes you have defeated the whole purpose of the din. By Aveilus there is supposed to be a kiyum balev, you are supposed to feel something. If you wear your regular shoes there is certainly no kiyum balev.

Leather shoes on Tisha B'Av

Why are leather shoes of all things prohibited on Tisha B'Av? RSZA has a fascinating answer based on the של"ה.

The Beracha of שעשה לי כל צרכי goes on shoes (in fact according to the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch you make it after putting on your shoes). The obvious question is why? Are shoes your only need? A person who has shoes has no other needs? He has everything? The של"ה explains that leather shoes represent man's dominance/rule over the world. The fact that man can kill an animal and wear it's skin to protect his feet is the ultimate expression of dominance. Therefore leather shoes represent man's dominance over teh world and the fact that the world provides all of man's needs.

Based on this, we can explain why there is an issur to wear shoes on Tisha B'Av, Yom Kippur an Avel, in the Bei Hamikdash. All of these are times/places where man needs to show humility before Hashem and therefore to wear leather shoes the symbol of man's dominance would be inappropriate.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

On Making Money - A Followup

The Mishpacha Magazine (in English) printed a very good letter in response to Jonathan Rosenblum's article (see On Making Money for my response to the article) which appears below:

The letter writer's main point is that the world has changed and while in the past (especially right after WWII) it was possible to succeed with "hondling" ability, today it is very difficult to succeed with no education.

I am very glad to see that Mishpacha printed this letter. For the past few weeks I have bought both the English and Hebrew edition, it is amazing how different they are. The following ad appeared in this past week's English Mishpacha, in the Hebrew Mishpacha forget about such an ad appearing, secular studies are assur.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Please daven

Wearing Shabbos clothes on Shabbos Chazon

The Gra has a famous comment about Shabbos Chazon. The Rama based on the Rishonim paskens that a person should not change their clothes for Shabbos Chazon, but rather wear weekday clothes. The Gra disagrees and says that אבילות בפרהסיה is assur and wearing week day clothes is אבילות בפרהסיה. The minhag nowadays seems to be like the Gra.

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

The same sevara applies to the more modern world in America where many people wear suits all week to work and a similar type suit on Shabbos. Again, very few people would notice if they wore a weekday suit on Shabbos and therefore it would not be אבילות בפרהסיה.

This sevara is brought down by the Aruch Hashulchan where he uses it to explain how the minhag changed.

Summer Advice - How to keep your kids from spiritual disaster

I received the following pamphlet in my mailbox with a bunch of tips/advice for how to keep your kids from spiritual disaster.

I am not going to translate the whole pamphlet, it is too long. I will try to summarize each paragraph.

קייטנות - These are summer camps. You need to check out the other kids and make sure that everything is being run al pi torah

חופים - Beaches
There is a list of kosher separate beaches

בריכות - Pools
Be careful of the following:
1. That the kids don't read newspapers
2. There are no TV's in the area

עיסוק - Keeping busy
Make sure that the kids don't just hang out in the city (who knows what they will see)

קריאה - Reading
A library that has no supervision is a terrible danger. Also dangerous are all the newpapers/weeklies that have no rabbinical supervision.

תקשורת - Communication
Students in seminaries and yeshivas are not allowed to have cellular phones (even kosher ones).

Girls should not answer the phone if they don't know who the caller is (caller id) because the person might offer them a job (baby sitting) or ask them to participate in an opinion poll.

Don't give your children walkie talkies

רדיו ונגונים - Radio and music players
1. Radio is known to be one the biggest destroyers of the chinuch and neshama of children.
2. When buying a tape player you must disable the radio
3. mp4 players have been declared by the Gedolim to be destructive and you are not allowed to have one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

There they go again

The Israeli Supreme Court is once agin overstepping it's boundaries. The Attorney General, after reviewing all the evidence decided to reach a plea bargain with the former President Moshe Katzav. As expected, a whole host of people ran to the Supreme Court to overturn the plea bargain.

This is again, judicial tyranny. There is no legal issue here. It is solely an issue of judgement, is there enough evidence to bring Katzav to trial. The Attorney General is by law allowed to enter into a plea bargain when he believes it is the best outcome. In this case after evaluating all the evidence exhaustively he decided on a plea bargain. What is the legal issue that the Supreme Court will decide here? The Supreme Court is again going to replace the judgment of the official who is designated by law to make this decision, with their own. Why is Dorit Beinish's judgement in this matter better then Mazuz's? He obviously believes that the decision is reasonable, why should we care what the Supreme Court Justices think, that isn't their job. Their job is to interpret the law and Mazuz broke no law.

It may be that Mazuz is wrong in this case, however, it is not the Supreme Court's place to decide.

Let's think about this for a minute. The Supreme Court is now going to force the prosecution to bring an indictment and go to trial. Imagine Katzav appeals to the same Supreme Court after the trial, the same court that indicted him will now hear his appeal? Let's just get rid of the prosecution and let the judges do it all.

Can the גואל הדם kill the רוצח before the גמר דין?

In last week's parsha (מסעי) we had the dinim relating to a רוצח בשוגג. The question comes up can the גואל הדם kill the רוצח before the גמר דין?

At first glance it makes no sense, who says the guy is even guilty? However, the simple reading of the Gemara in Makos (10b) would seem to say yes.

This is actually a machlokes in the later acharonim. R' Shach (Avi Ezri Hilchos Rotzeach 5:9) states as a דבר פשוט that the גואל הדם cannot kill the רוצח before the גמר דין. After all, maybe he is פטור from גלות (e.g. קרוב לאונס). He explains the Gemara as saying that the גואל הדם can kill the רוצח after the גמר דין on the way to the עיר מקלט. The Chazon Ish (Likutim on Choshen Mishpat Siman 23) disagrees based on the Rambam (Hilchos Rotzeach 5:10) who seems to say that he can be killed even before the גמר דין. The Chazon Ish also brings a proof from the Gemara in Sanhedrin 49a (ע"ש). The Meiri also seems to say like this.

The קצות (Chosehn Mishpat Siman 2 Sif Katan 1) discusses a similar situation. He points out that by a רוצח במזיד without התראה or even שוגג קרוב למזיד, there is no psak din and yet the גואל הדם is allowed to kill the רוצח. We see from here that the גואל הדם can kill even without a גמר דין. On the other hand the קצות says that it doesn't make sense to say that he can be killed before the case even comes before בית דין, we haven't even established the facts. The קצות would seem to support the position of R' Shach that in the initial flight of the רוצח the גואל הדם would be prohibited from killing him because the facts have not yet been established. The Chazon Ish (based on the Rambam and Gemara in Sanhedrin) seems to disagree. The
Chazon Ish does not offer any סברה and his position seems very difficult, how can the גואל הדם kill the רוצח before the facts have even been established? Maybe he is not חייב גלות?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Can the רוצח בשוגג leave the עיר מקלט for any reason?

In last week's Parsha (מסעי) we have the dinim of עיר מקלט.

The Gemara in מכות learns out from a Pasuk (in מסעי) that the רוצח בשוגג cannot leave the עיר מקלט even to save the Jewish people. Why not? Some say because he would be putting himself in danger fron the גואל הדם.

Some of the Acharonim (Tiferes Yisroel, Meshech Chochma and others) ask a very simple question on this. Why can't we take away the danger? In other words make sure that the רוצח is not endangered by the גואל הדם. They even offer some concrete suggestions:
1. Make a הוראת שעה that the גואל הדם is not allowed to kill the רוצח and if he (גואל הדם) does he will be killed
2. Lock up the גואל הדם so he can't kill the רוצח

If we do one or both of the above there would then be no danger for the רוצח and he should be able to leave.

The Ohr Sameach (Hilchos רוצח perek 7) deals with suggestion 1 as follows. The Torah specifically allows the גואל הדם to kill the רוצח because כי יחם לבבו. The Torah understands the person and therefore allows him to do this. Therefore we cannot, even as a הוראת שעה, prohibit him from killing the רוצח and/or punish him for doing so as the Torah explicitly permitted it.

The Meshech Chochma (in Masei) has a fascinating solution for the second
suggestion. He suggests that it is not the danger to the רוצח that
we are worried about but rather the danger to the Kohen Gadol. He says
that if we let the רוצח out to save the Jewish people, he may try to
kill the Kohen Gadol in some devious way to free himself from Galus, and
therefore we don't let him leave, because of the danger to the Kohen Gadol.

The Baalei Musar answer the questions as follows. We need to realize that the fate of the Jewish People does not rest on the shoulders of 1 person. As Mordechai said to Esther, רוח והצלה יעמוד ליהודים ממקום אחר, the Jewish People will be saved by someone. Therefore, we don't let the רוצח out of the עיר מקלט to emphasize this point, we should not put our trust in any one person but rather in Hashem.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Not eating meat during the 9 days, how should we feel?

I have seen 2 reactions to no meat during the 9 days. One is to whine about how hard it is and the other is to say how easy it is and it is great as someone once said and best of all, there's always ice cream or cheese cake for desert.

Both of these attitudes completely miss the point of not eating meat during the 9 days. The point of not eating meat is for us to feel sad and feel the aveilus for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. To whine about it shows that you missed the point. You should accept it as a hardship and use the hardship to think about why you are doing this.

Those who feel that it is easy and great and they get to eat ice cream all the time, are also missing the whole point. They may be doing the minhag but by Aveilus there is supposed to be a kiyum balev, you are supposed to feel something. These people feel no aveilus because they are not eating meat, in fact they are happy. This is a perversion of the minhag. The minhagim are supposed to help you feel aveilus, if they don't you should do something else that will help you feel the aveilus as well.

I know it is very hard for us, but during the 9 days a person is supposed to feel very sad about the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, that is the main thing, the minhagim are supposed to help us reach that state.

The war with מדין

In last week's parsha (מטות) we find that Moshe sends בני ישראל out to war against מדין. There are 2 very important points here:

1. The pasuk says that the army should be taken from all of the shevatim, לכל מטות ישראל, Rashi comments on this from the Sifri, לרבות שבט לוי, Shevet Levi also sent out soldiers to fight against מדין.

Everyone always quotes the Rambam that Shevet Levi did not go out to war, however, he we see Rashi based on the Sifri, argues with the Rambam and says explicitly that Shevet Levi did go out to war like all the other shevatim.

2. After the war, the soldiers come back with the women and children as captives. Moshe tells them kill all the adult women and all the male children. According to today's Western morality Moshe was committing war crimes and was doing something deeply immoral. And yet, Moshe did it and the Torah recorded it. It is clear that Moshe Rabbenu, who spoke face to face with Hashem and was בכל ביתי נאמן הוא, did not do anything immoral but did what the Torah required him to do. We see from here that Torah morality and Western morality don't go hand in hand and in fact many times are in conflict.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Charedi Hooligans

Toby Katz on Cross Currents, Charedi Hooligans, writes

Even in the most insular chassidishe communities, little boys didn’t used to throw stones at cars for entertainment. I don’t know when we started having this plague of young hooligans somehow sprouting up from our most charedi communities.

and wants to know why this is happening.

I believe one of the main reasons is that there are no permissible outlets for Chareidi male teenagers and young adults. They aren’t allowed to play ball, read books, etc. only Torah. They can never let loose at all. Teenagers have a lot of energy and need an outlet. Protests, throwing rocks are something that is seen as fun, lets them burn off energy and run wild with the participant feeling that he is doing a mitzva and being a kannoi (zealot) for Hashem.

When you combine this with the us vs. them attitude of the Charedi community, the complete delegitimization of everything non-Charedi, and the feeling that everyone is trying to get them the phenomenon is understandable.

I went to the Morasha Kollel for a number of summers both High School and College. The schedule (College) was as follows:

7:30 - Shacharis
8:15 - 9:00 - Breakfast
9:00 - 12:30 - preparation for shiur
12:30 - 1:30 - Shiur
1:30 - 1:45 - Mincha
1:45 - 2:15 - Lunch
2:15 - 5:00 - free time, most people played ball (basketball, softball, tennis, swimming), some days R' Willig would play with us
5:00 - 6:30 - Bekius seder
6:30 - 7:30 - Dinner
7:30 - 8:30 - Chavrusa with a HS guy
8:30 - 10:00 - Night Seder
10:00 - 10:15 - Maariv
after night seder you were officially free, most people kept learning, I personally had a seder until 12:30.

I was learning over 10 hours a day in the summer. For me and many others, what made it work was the 3 hours in the afternoon that we could play ball. That free ball playing time gave us the ability to sit and learn the rest of the day. Not everyone needs it. There were a few guys who learned during the break as well. But for most of the guys, the free time and the ball playing contributed to their learning by giving them an outlet for their energy etc. and gave them the peace of the mind to sit and learn the rest of the time. This is something that is sorely missed in the Israeli Charedi world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On Making Money

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote an article On Making Money where he writes that he admires businessman more then professionals. The more I think about this article the more it bothers me.

First of all we need to understand the context. The Charedi world is fighting very hard for a Torah only curriculum, no secular studies and certainly no college. Without a secular education the only option is business. There is no doubt that this is one of the (if not the main) motivations for the article.

The main theme of the article is that businessman are better people and have more emuna then professionals.

The obvious implication is that Jewish boys should go into business and not a profession.

I think this is incorrect for a number of reasons and in fact against the Gemara.

The Gemara in Kiddushin (30A-B) writes
חייב אדם ללמד את בנו אומנות
A person is obligated to teach his son a trade

The Gemara has a dispute whether teaching your son business fulfills this obligation. According to R' Yehuda it does not. In other words, according to R' Yehuda it is explicit that being a professional/tradesman is preferable to being a businessman.

The Mishna later (82a) says
ר' מאיר אומר לעולם ילמד אדם את בנו אומנות קלה ונקיה
A person should teach his sons an easy and clean profession

The Gemara gives specific examples of trade not business.

We see clearly that Chazal's preferred occupation was a profession/trade not business.

He quotes the following from a Satmar Chasid
"An education is helpful for earning a living, but it’s irrelevant if you want to make MONEY." He made clear that he preferred the latter.

It seems that he agrees with this statement.

IMHO, this statement is hashkafically wrong for a number of reasons.

A person has a mitzva to support his wife and family (read your כתובה). There is no mitzva to get rich. The person who works to make a living is מקיים a mitzva, the person who works to get rich is not.

We believe that wealth comes from Hashem and therefore, if Hashem wants you to be wealthy you will be wealthy as a professional, and if he wants you to be poor you will be a poor businessman. The statement of the Satmar Chasid stinks of כחי ועוצם ידי, you can't get get rich unless you are in business.

In fact this is an explicit Mishna in Kiddushin (82a). The Mishna states

ר' מאיר אומר לעולם ילמד אדם את בנו אומנות קלה ונקיה ויתפלל למי שעושר והנכסים שלו שאין אומנות שאין בא עשירות ועניות שלא עשירות מן האומנות ולא עניות מן האומנות אלא הכל לפי זכותו
A person should teach his sons an easy and clean profession and daven to the one to whom wealth and property is his (hashem) because there is no profession/trade that doesn't have rich people and poor people, as riches are not base don the profession nor is poverty, rather everything is based on your merits

The Mishna says explicitly that money comes from heaven and whatever profession/trade/business you will get what you deserve.

He claims
Businessmen are far less likely to attribute their success solely to their own abilities.

His view of professionals is very outdated. In my father's generation a person got a job at a big company or the government and was set for life. Today it is just not so. People lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

This personally happened to me. I worked for a large company and was doing quite well. I had a very good relationship with my manager and had good performance ratings. However, in the end none of that helped me. The company was losing money and therefore, decided to close down the product I was working on. One day I came to work and they told all of us in that group that we were laid off. It didn't matter if you were a superstar or a regular employee, everyone was gone. This taught me a tremendous lesson in emuna at least as much as a businessman.

In his praise of businessman he leaves out a few very important points.

For every story of a businessman making it, there are 9 stories of businesses closing down or going bankrupt. 9 out of 10 small businesses fail.

Running a business can be very challenging in terms of keeping halacha and acting ethically. There is a famous story about a shochet who came to R’ Yisrael Salanter and said he doesn’t want to be a shochet anymore the responsibility is too great. Instead he wants to open a store. R’ Yisrael told him that he is making a big mistake. A storekeeper has a much bigger responsibility vis a vis halachic obligations and responsibilities then a shochet.

Running a business is more then a full time job, it can easily take over your life. Many professionals on the other hand are able to devote a few hours a day to learning Torah.

Last but not least, he writes
Perhaps the maxim “buy cheap sell dear” is genetically encoded in many Jews.
That hondling gene ...

If a non-Jew had written these words Rosenblum would be the first one screaming anti-semitism.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hilchos גילוי

Yesterday morning in shul I saw a new sefer that was just printed on hilchos גילוי. You might ask what is hilchos גילוי?

The Gemara in Avoda Zara (and other places) says that you are not allowed to drink from water (and other liquids) left uncovered because we are afraid that a snake may have injected poison into the liquid without your knowledge. This is know as גילוי.

The Rif quotes להלכה. However, the Rishonim starting with R' Tam say that this no longer applies where we live and in fact in יו"ד סימן קט"ז the Shulchan Aruch paskens that nowadays there is no issur of גילוי.

The question can be asked why is this not noheg nowadays? After all דבר שבמנין צריך מנין אחר להתירו. The Gra there on Shulchan Aruch comments that the gezera was only made in places where there was a problem of גילוי, in our time and location there is no problem and therefore the gezera does not apply. Others say that there never was a gezera. Chazal were giving us advice vis a vis a danger but it was never codified as a gezera.

Based on all this, why nowadays is a sefer on גילוי coming out? After all it would seem that the din does not apply now. The answer is that the Gra himself was makpid on גילוי. He held that גילוי was a regular gezera and applies in any time and any place (this is the Gra לשיטתו by many other similar things). The Chazon Ish, Steipler, R' Chaim Kanievsky and others are makpid on גילוי today.

The sefer has the following chakira. When Tosafos said that there was no גילוי in their location what did they mean?
1. They meant Europe as opposed to the Middle East, in Europe there are fewer snakes
2. They meant that in their time there were fewer snakes in the world
3. They meant that their living conditions were such that there was no problem with snakes.

The author rejects possibilities 2 and 3 and goes with the first explanation. Based on that he is bothered how can we (who live in Israel) be סומך on the heter of Tosafos, here there are more snakes?

The answer IMHO is very simple. Whether or not Tosafos said it there is no question that today our living conditions are much different and improved over Chazal and we don't have snakes in our houses, certainly not in our refrigerators. Therefore, the gezera does not apply because there is no problem of גילוי given our modern living conditions.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Could Shlomo Hamelech have invented cars II?

A while back I posted Could Shlomo Hamelech have invented cars?, that many in the Charedi world believe that Shlomo Hamelech or Chazal could have invented anything (cars, computers, etc.) if they had wanted to.

Shlomo Hamelech was the wisest man who ever lived and he knew everything the scientists know and he could have created cars, phones, etc., anything that we have from modern technology. Why didn't he do it? He felt that a simple non-technological lifestyle was better.

Yesterday's Yated repeated this claim about the Rambam and the Rashba.

At the time we heard from R' Leib Ratick zt"l (who I think heard it in the name of the Mashgiach from Kletzk R' Yosef Leib Nandick zt"l), that the reason that the greats of our nation, like the Rambam and the Rashba, and the Goan (the Gra)did not invent with their great minds inventions such as trains, planes, or the telegraph, is because they measured these things against the gain that would come from them, these things that allowed a tremendous growth in the ability to kill and destroy, which was expressed in the terrible wars of the 20th century. As opposed to Torah knowledge which can only produce good things free from any potential bad.

Given the opinion expressed above we can better understand the reaction the Charedi attitude towards science and scientists.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The New Israeli Government

Today Olmert is making a round of ministerial appointments to restart his government. Unfortunately the only criteria that he is using for the appointments is loyalty and quiet. He is appointing either his loyalists (Bar-On and Ramon) or his enemies (Sheetrit) to shut them up. Actual qualifications for the job are irrelevant.

Chaim Ramon is a convicted criminal who is being appointed Vice Premier and Minister without Portfolio. Why a small country like Israel needs Ministers without Portfolio is beyond me, except that he is Olmert's buddy.

Roni Bar-On is the new Finance Minister. He is a criminal lawyer with no background whatsoever in finance and no known socio-economic agenda to speak of. His one and only qualification is that he is loyal to Olmert.

The public knows this, and therefore the people have no faith in the government whatsoever. The Finance Minister in Israel is the second most powerful person in the country in charge of a budget of close to $80 billion. To appoint someone with no financial background is a joke.

It is clear that the current Parliamentary system in Israel has completely and utterly failed. Unfortunately no one in power is going to change things.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

If you don't like Chulent you may not be Jewish

The following article appeared in last week's Mishpacha magazine.

Basically the article describes a Baal Teshuva from Eastern Europe who was a guest for Shabbos at an Avrech's house. When the Avrech saw that the boy hated chulent he recalled the statement of the Baal Hamaor that someone who doesn't eat hot food on Shabbos is a מין. He also noticed that the boy didn't move (shuckle) when he davened. Based on this, the avrech feared that the boy was not Jewish. After investigations could not determine whether the boy was really Jewish he underwent a גירות לחומרא.

My first thought after reading this was that it was some kind of joke. The Baal Hamaor is talking about someone who doesn't eat hot food בשיטה because he holds it is assur to eat hot food. It has no application to someone who just doesn't like chulent. Shuckling is also overrated. R' Moshe Feinstein stood stock still when davening, he felt that this showed much more כבוד then shuckling.

The fast of י"ז בתמוז

This coming Tuesday is י"ז בתמוז so I would like to give a little background to the fast.

I. What is prohibited?

We know that on י"ז בתמוז you are allowed to wear leather shoes, wash etc. and the fast only starts in the morning. Why is that?

The Gemara in Rosh Hashana 18b, brings a pasuk in זכריה that lists 4 fast days. The Gemara to resolve a contradiction in the pasuk states the following rule:
When there is peace (according to most Rishonim the Beis Hamikdash standing) the 4 days are holidays. When there is a גזירת המלכות all 4 fast days are מדברי קבלה and therefore all 4 are like ט' באב, e.g. the fast starts at night and all the 5 עינויים are נוהג. When there is neither a גזירת המלכות nor a Beis Hamikdash then it is רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין, in other words it is voluntary. The gemara then says that ט' באב is different because הוכפלו צרות (there is a machlokes rishonim what this means, does this mean that ט' באב is even today מדברי קבלה, or is ט' באב now also not but we were מקבל to fast with the 5 עינויים anyway) and on ט' באב all the 5 עינויים apply and the fast starts at night.

The Rishonim comment on this that בני ישראל were מקבל these 3 fast days as a חובה (like with maariv) and therefore nowadays you have to fast. However, the קבלה was only partial, it was only to fast during the day and did not include the 5 עינויים.

II. When were the walls of Yerushalayim breached?

Everyone agrees that the walls of Yerushalayim were breached on י"ז בתמוז in the time of the Romans (בית שני). However, there seems to be a machlokes the בבלי and the ירושלמי regarding the בית ראשון. The pasuk in ירמיה says explicitly that the wall was breached on ט' תמוז and this is the way the בבלי assumes. However the ירושלמי makes a startling statement that what is written in the נביא is wrong and the wall was really breached on the 17th. Tosafos in Rosh Hashana states that the נביא knew the correct date but since the people were mistaken as to the date the נביא recorded the incorrect date.

The Minchas Chinuch is bothered by a number of questions.
1. How can there be a machlokes R' Akiva and R' Shimon about what day in Teves was observed (the tenth or the 5th)? Why didn't they just see what people did?
2. According to the Bavli the walls of Yerushalayim in the first Beis Hamikdash were breached on the 9th of Tamuz. If so, why do we fast on the 17th? After all, the pasuk in Navi is clearly talking about what happened during the first Beis Hamikdash and therefore the chiyuv mi divrei sofrim should be on the 9th.

He answers that the Navi never set a specific day for the fast only a month. That is why the pasuk only mentions months. After the churban bayis sheini, chazal decided to set specific days for the fasts.

III. What is the din when there is a gezera?

From the simple reading of the Gemara there is a chiyuv mi divrei kabala for all the 4 fasts and they are all full day fasts with the 5 עינויים. During the holocaust RYBS held that it was a time of gezera and therefore mi dina everyone was chayav to fast a full day. In fact, the שער הציון in סימן תק"נ seems to say this.

However, it is not so simple. The Rambam doesn't make a distinction between a שעת גזירה and other times. He simply writes that there is no chiyuv to fast a full day on the other fast days. The Aruch Hashulchan also writes that nowadays the other fast days are less severe then Tisha B'Av period. It sounds like once there was a period of no gezera the other 3 fast days were בטל and now even if there is a gezera we only fast because of the minhag.