Monday, December 31, 2007

Living in dangerous places

The Acharaonim discuss whether a person is allowed to put himself in a ספק סכנה to help the רבים. One of the sources they bring is the Mishna in Makos 9b which states that the killer is not allowed to leave the עיר מקלט even if the Jewish People need him even if he is the greatest General around. The Tiferes Yisrael on that Mishna asks why not? Pikuach Nefesh is דוחה everything except the big 3 aveiros, he leaves the question בצ"ע. From here the אור שמח extrapolates that a person is not chayav to put himself in a ספק סכנה to help others. The Tiferes Yisrael (and many other Acharonim) clearly argue.

The Aruch Hashulchan discusses whether he is allowed to volunteer and thinks that he can. In other words while there may be no חיוב for him to put himself in a dangerous situation he can certainly volunteer.

The Minchas Chinuch discusses the case of soldiers and war and states that since soldiers are killed in war on one hand and Hashem commanded us to fight wars on the other hand, by definition war must be exempt from the general rules of pikuach nefesh and therefore these rules don't apply.

RHS holds that we have been in a state of war with the Arabs since 1948 and therefore in EY today the situation is one of wartime and therefore we need to apply the position of the Minchas Chinuch and Pikuach Nefesh does not necessarily apply. R' Yaakov Kaminetsky made a similar comment about people living in Gush Katif (see this post More Charedi censorship):

The settlers in Gush Katif asked R' Yaakov Kamenetsky if they are allowed to live there, maybe they should move because of Pikuach Nefesh? He answered that it is a milchemes miztva (and therefore there is no halacha of pikuach nefesh like the Minchas Chinuch, my interpretation).

Based on the above, there are a number of reasons why a person can live in a dangerous place in EY.

1. According to RHS and RYK we are in the middle of a war and therefore the rules of pikuach nefesh don't apply.
2. According to many Acharonim a person is allowed to put himself in a ספק סכנה to help the רבים
3. According to the Aruch Hashulchan a person can volunteer to put himself in a ספק סכנה to help the רבים

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Jonathan Rosenblum on Chareidim and Poverty

Thsi article Money Matters really surprised me. It is great that the Mishpacha magazine is delaing with this really important issue.

Here are some interesting excerpts
While the Israeli chareidi community has been largely untouched by the social pathologies associated with welfare recipients around the world, a certain “culture of dependency” – the sapping of individual initiative that accompanies long-term dependence on welfare – has not entirely passed us by.

More than twenty years ago, while returning from the levaya of the Steipler Gaon, zt”l, I asked my rosh yeshiva, why the Chazon Ish had chosen to live in Bnei Brak, rather than in the “old yishuv” of Jerusalem. He replied that the Chazon Ish felt that more than 200 years of the “chaluka” system (contributions from Jewish communities abroad) had deprived the “old yishuv” of its vitality, and he hoped to build something entirely new in the “new yishuv.” And that was before there were any government social benefits to speak of.

We tell ourselves that poverty in the chareidi world is a function of our commitment to Torah learning. And to a large extent that is true. But there are large pockets of endemic poverty in our world that have little to do with Torah learning. The majority of those who descend on every affluent Torah community abroad are not in full-time learning nor do their efforts allow them much time for Torah study.
A disconnect between effort and family income, which is one effect of government benefits, creates a sense of entitlement to even those things that would have been considered unimaginable luxuries one or two generations ago, including an apartment for every newlywed couple. Even in families struggling to make basic ends meet, it is not uncommon to find a number of children with their own cell phone and family cell phone bills of a thousand shekels or more per month. In supermarkets catering to the cost-conscious chareidi consumer, one still sees shopping carts piled high with soft drinks and junk food that are not only unhealthy but costly.

Poverty is exacting a terrible toll on the Israeli chareidi community. The government has an important role to play in reducing the deepening despair. But so do we as individuals and as a community.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Living with people who are a little different

Here is a really good article about how people should live with people who are a little different from them. Like-minded neighbors

Monday, December 24, 2007

Learning Torah tonight (eve of Dec 25th) - Nittel Nacht

Many Chasidim have a Minhag not to learn Torah tonight (Nittel Nacht). It is pretty clear that the real reason for this was that it was very dangerous for Jews to leave their house that night for fear of being attacked. Therefore, they could not go to the Beis Medrash to learn. Until very recently Seforim were very expensive and most people did not have private seforim available in their house to learn from. Therefore, the minhag evolved not to learn Torah. Today this would seem to be a Minhag Shtus, there is no real reason for a person to refrain from learning Torah. All the other rationalizations that I have seen are to be blunt very weak:
  • The Torah learned should not serve as a merit for Jesus's soul

  • As a sign of Aveilus

  • There is a tremendous כח הטומאה that night

  • ...

I will be learning tonight like every other night.