Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What is the מצוה of שופר?

At first glance there are 2 possibilities, שמיעה or ,תקיעה. The mitzva is either to hear the shofar or blow it.

This seems to be a machlokes harishonim. The Rambam and others emphasize that the mitzva is שמיעה and therefore the beracha is לשמוע קול שופר. The Rosh on the other hand quotes Rabbenu Tam that the beracha is על תקיעת שופר strongly implying that the mitzva is the תקיעה.

The acharonim point out that both opinions are quite difficult.

The acharonim ask a number of questions on each opinion. If the mitzva is שמיעה then why does the תוקע have to be מכון to be מוציא you? After all, you heard the shofar, who cares what the blower's kavana was. On the other hand if the mitzva is the תקיעה then how can somene else blow for you? We know that by a מצוה שבגופו you can't appoint a שליח. For example, someone else cannot put on tefillin for you or sit in the succah for you or shake a lulav for you. If so, how can they blow shofar for you? Also, according to R' Tam why does the mishna say that if you blow in a בר and you hear an echo you are not יוצא, why not? After all you blew the shofar.

Based on the above and more the acharonim say that shofar is a hybrid, both the תקיעה and the שמיעה are part of the mitzva. Therefore, you need both aspects to be יוצא.

We are left with 1 question how can someone blow for you it is a מצוה שבגופו?

The answer may be as follows. Sofar is considered by the gemara to be avodas pnim and is considered to be tefila. The Gemara says that we say מלכויות to crown hashem, זכרונות so that he remembers ובמה בשופר. The shofar is a vehicle of tefilla and therefore maybe just like I can be מוציא you in tefilla through שומע כעונה, so too I can be מוציא you in תקיעת שופר because it is tefilla.

The machlokes about the beracha would then seem to be which of the 2 parts of the mitzva is the עיקר , more important. Although both are needed, the beracha needs to focus on one and the machlokes is which one should we pick.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cremation in Israel

The only crematorium in Israel went up in flames last night sparking a debate about cremation. Shas is introducing legislation which will ban cremation completely.

IMHO this is a very bad idea. Religious coercion doesn't work in Israel in fact many times it hurts more then it helps. We need to pick our battles and I don't see how cremation is that big of an issue. It is an issur but so is shaving with a razor. It is not an issue that has ramifications for the Jewish people at large and in fact, the estimate is that a few hundred people a most would be cremated a year. These kinds of laws just antagonize the non-religious population and don't contribute anything.

יפת תאר and כהנים

In this week's parsha we have the din of יפת תאר. The Rambam writes in Hilchos Melachim (8:4)

הכוהן מותר ביפת תואר בביאה ראשונה, שלא דיברה תורה אלא כנגד היצר; אבל אינו יכול לישא
אותה אחר כן, לפי שהיא גיורת.

A Kohen is permitted to have relations with a יפת תאר because the Torah only permitted it to appease the evil inclination, but he can not marry her because she is a convert

We see from here that the din of יפת תאר applies to a כהן. This is very interesting because the din of יפת תאר only applies to soldiers fighting in a war. The clear implication is that Kohanim fought in the army.

In fact, the Rambam earlier implies this as well. In פרק ז where he discusses who leaves the army, he writes the following:

המחזיר את גרושתו, והמארס אישה האסורה לו, כגון אלמנה לכוהן גדול, גרושה וחלוצה לכוהן הדיוט ...

Someone who remarries hios divorced wife or someone who marries a woman he is prohibited from marrying such as a Kohen Gadol and an widow a regular Kohen and a divorcee ...

Again the Rambam discusses Kohanim in the context of the army.

This seems to contradict that Rambam at the end of hilchos shemita where he seems to exempt Shevet Levi.

I looked in the Frankel Rambam and to my great surprise none of the standard commentaries on the Rambam discuss this issue. The only references were to sefarim I never heard of and have no access to.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What is the nature of דינים דרבנן?

In last week's parsha שופטים, we have the din of לא תסור.

There is a well known מחלקת between the Rambam and the Ramban (ספר המצות שורש א) about the nature of דינים דרבנן. The Rambam holds that all דינים דרבנן are based on לא תסור. In other words there is a חיוב דאורייתא to listen to them. The Ramban asks an obvious question, if so why do we say ספק דרבנן לקולא? After all, if you violate a דרבנן you are violating the איסור דאורייתא of לא תסור?

The Meshech Chochma (Devarim 17:11) explains the Rambam as follows. He says that every דין דרבנן 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 מבטל a תקנה of an earlier Beis Din. If every תקנה was the will of Hashem how could that be? Therefore, he explains that by דינים דרבנן what is not important is the actual mitzva act, but the fact that you listened to the חכמים and did not rebel against their words. The איסור of לא תסור is an איסור to rebel against the חכמים, to not listen to them. Given that, we understand why ספק דרבנן לקולא because the act of doing the mitzva is not the main point, the point is listening to the חכמים, once it is a ספק, there is no need to do the act because it is not so important (contrast that to a מצוה דאורייתא where the act is clearly an unequivocally the רצון השם).

Based on the above, we can answer another question, do you need to do teshuva for violating an איסור דרבנן. Based on the Mehsech Chochma's understanding of the Rambam the answer would be no. Since the whole idea of דינים דרבנן is to listen the חכמים and not rebel against them as the Meshech Chocham explains, then by definition an עבירה דרבנן בשוגג 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.

The Nesivos סימן רלד סעיף ג also holds that an aveira b'shogeg doesn't need כפרה it would seem for the same reason, that there is no מעשה עבירה.

This idea may also explain those שיטות that hold that a פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה is permitted by an איסור דרבנן. Since the whole idea of דינים דרבנן is to listen the חכמים and not rebel against them, a פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליה is not called rebelling against them, you are not directly doing the action that is prohibited, in fact you don't want it to happen. Therefore, even though it will definitely happen, since you are not doing it directly, it is not an act of rebellion against the חכמים and therefore permitted.

How many people are learning full time in Israel?

According to last week's Mishpacha magazine the numbers are as follows (approximations):
Yeshiva Ketana (high school age) - 21,000
Yeshiva Gedola - 31,000
Kollelim - 56,000

These numbers are unbelievable. The big question is how much longer can this last.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What does a מלאך look like?

The Gemara in Rosh Hashana 24b and Avoda Zara 43b learns out from the pasuk לא תעשון אתי that we are not allowed to make representations of many things including מלאכים. This halacha is brought down in Shulchan Aruch in יו"ד סימן קמ"א. Since there is an issur to create a representation of a מלאך we need to know what it looks like so we know what not to do. Interestingly enough none of the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch on the page explain what a מלאך looks like. However, the Ran in Avoda Zara comments that a representation of a מלאך is a human being with wings because this is how a מלאך is perceived by a נביא.

It comes out that this Ran would seem to be the source for the depictions of מלאכים with wings.

I addressed this gemara in a different context relating to a 7 branched menora in a previous post A 7 branch Menora

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Whatever happened to giving צדקה simply because it's a mitzva?

These days every ad that I see in Yated Neeman for צדקה is pushing how the צדקה will help you the giver. Talmidei Chachamim will daven for you, it will help your children in their learning, help you have children, help your parnasa, etc. What ever happened to giving צדקה simply because it is a mitzva? Why does the benefit to the giver need to be promoted so?

Below are all the ads that appeared for צדקה in today's Yated Neeman. You can see that every single one touts the benefits for the giver.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rap in Yiddish

Some Charedi musicians/singers took some popular rap songs and transformed them into Yiddish. It has of course been banned in Israel. You can listen to a sampling of some the songs here סערה בעולם החרדי: פיפטי סנט ומדונה ביידיש

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The collapse of Heftziba

Everyone in Israel has been talking about the collapse of the construction company Hetziba especially the Charedi world as Heftziba did a lot of construction for the Charedi world.

This past weeks Mishpacha had 2 opinion pieces about the situation, one by a former MK who is not involved and one by a Kannoi who has a regular column (for example he wrote vehemently against participating in the Israeli elections) who bought an apartment from Heftziba for his children and could very well have lost hundreds of thousands of shekels.

The contrast is startling. The former MK writes about how time after time the Charedi population tries to save/make money and ends up losing everything. He doesn't understand why the Charedi population is so gullible and easily cheated.

The Kannoi on the other hand writes an angry bitter article demanding that someone do something so that he gets his money back. While I understand his pain I would like to make a few comments.

Basically, he brought this on himself. Here are some of the things he did that created the situation.

1. The government passed a law about 15 years ago requiring that buyers of new apartments receive bank guarantees on their payments to cover exactly what happened with Heftziba. If the contractor goes bankrupt the buyer gets all his money back. Heftziba, offered discounts to Charedim if they would forgo the bank guarantees. R' Kannoi writes proudly in the article that he opted to take a discount instead of the bank guarantees. In essence, he wants to have his cake and eat it. He opted to forgo the bank guarantees to save money but now wants the protection of those same bank guarantees.
2. He signed a contract without a lawyer. Many in the Israeli Charedi world don't trust lawyers and after all, a lawyer charges 1.5% of the price. As he himself admitted he doesn't know anything about real estate and has no idea what he actually signed.
3. He bought on paper. While there is nothing wrong with buying on paper, however, he paid 80% of the total price in advance (without bank guarantees). By law, you are not allowed to pay more then 15% in this situation. In addition, it is simply not a very smart thing to do especially without bank guarantees. Why did he do this? Again, for a discount.

What is most interesting is that he expects the government and the Charedi parties/MK's to bail him out. Even though he is vehemently opposed to participating in the elections, he wants the Charedi MK's/political parties to use their clout to get him his money back. Of course, the only reason they have any clout/power is because they did participate in the elections and according to him are violating an aveira of sitting with reshaim. I guess money talks.

Last but not least, I was disappointed by a lack of emuna. When it comes to money people seem to lose their emuna. After all הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים and כל מזונותיו של אדם קצובים לו מראש השנה. Whatever happened was a גזירה משמים, he was meant to lose this money, if so, why such anger, frustration and pain? Why didn't instead he write a column about this explaining the lesson he should learn from this?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Israeli Supreme Court is at it again

Naomi Blumenthal was convicted of bribery and was sentenced to a few months in jail. She appealed to the president for clemency because of her personal situation (her husband died etc.) and the President agreed and canceled her jail term. The organization for good government petitioned the Supreme Court to cancel the clemency.

The law (a Basic law) specifically gives the President the power to grant clemency with no reservations. In other words, there is no absolutely no room for the court's intervention. The law give the President the power of clemency with no reservations. The fact that the court even agreed to hear the case is a travesty.

Bill Clinton before he left office pardoned a whole bunch of people including Marc Rich. There was a lot of criticism but no one would have dreamed of appealing to the Supreme Court and if someone would have they would have been throw it. There is simply no legal issue. The President has the absolute right to pardon who he wants, the same thing applies in Israel. The fact that the court is even hearing the case highlights the judicial tyranny of the Supreme Court in Israel.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Arabs, Jews to be subject to same airport security check

Mofaz: Arabs, Jews to be subject to same airport security check

This is so stupid it would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. The system here has worked for 60 years but let's throw it out the window because it is not politically correct. The bottom line is that Israeli Jews are not terrorists and are not trying to blow up planes while Arabs are. No amount of skating around the issue can change this fundamental fact. Given that, it makes perfect sense to subject Arabs to more stringent security checks.

I have a great idea for Mofaz, let's bring in the TSA.

This cartoon sums up Olmert nicely

From today's (8/7/2007) Jerusalem Post.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Are R' Chaim Soloveitchik's analyses of the Rambam historically true?

When R' Chaim (or any other Rosh Yeshiva) explains the Rambam with a Brisker lomdus is that really what the Rambam meant?

The שרידי אש in both a teshuva and a published letter says no. He writes that it is clear that the Rambam's derech was not R' Chaim's. All you have to do is look at the Teshuvos Harambam where he deals with some of the issues/contradictions. The Rambam never gives any lomdus to explain his psak, rather he gives what we would call Baal Habatish answers. He had a different girsa in the Gemara, their copy of the Mishne Torah was wrong, he made a mistake, etc. Not once does he employ anything close to Brisker lomdus.

What does this mean for us? Does it matter?

The answer would seem to be it doesn't. This is the way that Torah works. The Mishen Torah as a sefer has been accepted and meaning can be found in it even if that was not the Rambam's intent. Call it whatever you want (רוח הקדש, סייעתא דשמיא), the great sefarim take on a life and meaning of their own.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Mishpacha Magazine discusses the internet

The Mishpacha magazine (in English) has a fascinating article on the internet. Here are some important quotes:

“A blanket ban on home computers is as foolish as a blanket ban on electric saws. But it is just as foolish to leave an electric saw plugged in, out in your living room here there are children. Chinuch is all about teaching our children how to use life’s tools" — Rabbi Leib Kelemen
A prominent rabbi and thinker consulted by Mishpacha feels that "there is no force stopping the Internet from being global — it is far too useful a device. It is one of the greatest discoveries in the history of mankind. Although there are those in klal Yisrael who think that they will be able to keep the Internet out of their homes and lives, they must realize that it will never go away. A person must learn to adapt. The way to win the war of the Internet is not getting rid of the Internet itself. How can we?" He goes on to state: "The initiative to ban the Internet outright is crumbling, because people are beginning to understand how incredibly useful it is. The Internet can be compared to a light bulb. While light bulbs have infinite positive uses, the light they provide can also make it easier for a thief to steal. Is that potential robbery enough of a reason to outlaw the light bulb?" According to this rav, the mass rallies against home Internet usage won’t stop the trend.

The article advocates filters and careful parental supervision and states that there is no foolproof solution.

It is very heartening to see the magazine address the issue in a realistic way.

Daas Torah - Concerts are Assur II

This weeks Mishpacha in Hebrew has more information. It is crystal clear that this is not an old issur being resuscitated but a new issur.

The article asks R' Mordechai Bloy what is so bad about these concerts?

According to people who work in the field, 60-80% of kids who leave the derech start the process by going to a concert.

Below is the article in Hebrew.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Daas Torah - Concerts are Assur

Even if they are separate seating.

For those of you who don't believe this is authentic, here it is on the front page of today's (August 1, 2007) Yated Neeman.

When these kinds of activities are assur it is no wonder that you hear stories like this, Party On… Dude!


Here is an article in today's (August 2, 2007) English Hamodia about this as well. It is clear that there is no misunderstanding here as some want to claim.

Update II

Now the Gedolim are calling on young people to avoid hikes if at all possible. What is left to do during Bein Hazmanim?

The Supreme Court and democracy

Former Justice Minister Dan Meridor made an incredible statement today (Ret. justice Cheshin to Friedmann: Quit).

We want a democracy of the type the Supreme Court has designed

That is democracy? Unelected leftist judges basically making the laws and deciding how they are enforced is democracy? Meridor seems to have forgotten that the basic task of the judiciary is to interpret the law not create it. Why should unelected judges "design a democracy"? With opinions like Meridor's it is no wonder Israel has a dictatorship of judges.

The ending of Harry Potter, Christian?

Spoilers for Harry Potter 7

After thinking about the ending of Book 7 it seems very Christian to me. Harry needs to die to save the world. His sacrifice will protect everyone else. Harry accepts his fate/mission to save the world out of a sense of love, his sacrifice protects his folowers from Voldemort, and then he is "resurrected" (according to Dumbledore he didn't actually die, but it is close enough) from the dead and returns and slays Voldemort.

What do you think?