Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The war was lost before it started

All the talk about a ceasefire yesterday just confirms this.

It pains me to say this but the war had no chance to succeed for a very simple reason. The government does not want to win. Again, the government has no clear objective for the war. They have stated explicitly that they have no intention of reconquering Gaza or deposing Hamas. A lot of damage will be done, a lot of Palestinians will be killed, but, whenever the war ends Hamas will still be in charge of Gaza and the day after, they will be back smuggling more rockets back into Gaza.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Shaul Mofaz - Another wasted year as Transport Minister

YNET has an article which details how public transportation went nowhere in 2008 and all of the promises (train line to Eilat, bus competition, etc.) have not been fulfilled.

Why is this very important? The answer is that the Transport Minister is none other then Shaul Mofaz who wants to be Prime Minister and is currently number 2 in Kadima. He has been Transport Minister for 3 years and he has absolutely nothing to show for it. In fact, just recently the FAA downgraded Ben Gurion Airport to category 2. This put us in the elite company of countries like Honduras, Indonesia, Ukraine, Haiti and Bulgaria. Given his track record of no accomplishment as Transport Minister why would anyone want him as Prime Minister?

This emphasizes again the problem with the Israeli system of government where the ministers are appointed for political/coalition reasons. You end up with ministers who have no interest and know nothing about their ministry.

The left is calling for a ceasefire

I am actually surprised it took so long, but today all of the leftist icons (Amos Oz, AB Yehoshua, David Grossman, Shulamit Aloni) called for a ceasefire.

A ceasefire now would be a colossal mistake. Hamas would declare victory and in a very short period of time would start firing rockets again. Nothing will have been gained except the feeling in Hamas that Israel is a paper tiger afraid of real war.

Here is David Grossman's idiotic suggestion:

We should in no way strike them so violently, even if Hamas, for years, has made life intolerably miserable for the people of southern Israel, and even if their leaders have refused every Israeli and Egyptian attempt to reach a compromise to prevent this lastest flare-up.

What these people don't understand is that peace cannot be one sided. You can't make peace with yourself.

I am positive that in 1941 all of these idiots would have been calling for a ceasefire with Hitler, after all war solves nothing and you make peace with enemies. Luckily, the world was saner then and the Allies pressed on for unconditional surrender. Israel needs to take a similar tack here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Degel and Aguda are running together

Last weeks Charedi newspapers were very pessimistic and predicted that they would run separately. However, yesterday in marathon negotiations they came to agreement and are running together.

It will be interesting to see how things play out as Litzman is again number 1 one on the list and he is a very controversial figure in the non-Ger world. Porush is number 3 on the list another controversial figure who many blame for running for Mayor of Yerushalayim and losing. Many people may find it hard to vote for such a list and we may see some Haredim voting for other parties.

So far so good, but how will it end?

So far Israel has landed some big blows on Hamas. However, the question is what is next and how will it end? The second Lebanon war started out fine also but the governments indecision and failure to apply overwhelming force led to disaster. The big question is will history repeat itself?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ehud Barak is Crazy Eddie - His prices are insane

80 rockets buys the Palestinians 40 trucks with "humanitarian aid".

This really is just insane. There is no other way to describe this. No sane leader would allow this situation to continue let alone aid and abet those who are firing the rockets.

Is Kadima in the opposition?

If you were out of touch for the past 3 years and just returning to Israel, after listening to Kasima leaders like Tzipi Livni, Chaim Ramon, Mofaz, etc. you would be sure that Kadima is in the opposition. They get on the radio every day and say the situation is unbearable, we need to take action, the ceasefire with Hamas was a mistake, etc. without ever acknowledging that they are responsible for the situation because of their past actions and they are in charge of the government that is doing nothing. The fact is that the situation is unbearable because of them. They were the ones who executed the disengagement, they were the ones who voted for the ceasefire, they are the ones running the government now.

What is amazing (or maybe not so amazing) is that no one and I mean no one in the press calls them on this. The Likud needs to keep hammering away with this. I heard Benny Begin on the radio this morning make exactly these points and the host tried to shut him up and move on.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

הוציאוה ותשרף

All of the mefarshim are bothered by this, why was Tamar chayav שריפה? Rashi says that she was the daughter of שם and therefore a בת כהן (against the Gemara in סוטה), but in any case even so the din of שריפה should not apply.

The בעל הטורים quotes a fascinating pshat in the name of R' Yehuda Hachassid. He says that they were not going to kill her, rather they were going to burn a mark on her forehead to mark her as a prostitute.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Primaries in Israel, a big joke

Today is the Kadmia primary and last week was the Likud's. To call these democratic primaries is in IMHO a big joke. What is amazing to me is how the press here in Israel thinks this a wonderful democratic process when in truth it is anything but.

The way the system works is that every voter has to pick a list of candidates that they want to serve in the Knesset. For example in Kadima voters have to pick between 18 and 22 names. There are a number of glaring problems with the system:

1. There is no ranking. Everyone you pick is equal. Imagine you have a few candidates you think are really worthy so you vote for them. Now you have to vote for another bunch of candidates just so your ballot is valid. In other words, your vote for some Joe Shmo as your 18th pick who you know nothing about counts as much as your number 1 pick.
2. You end up voting for people that you never heard of and know nothing about. What ends up happening is that various groups make up lists of recommended candidates and that is who people vote for. For example, in the Likud, Feiglin put out a list of candidates to vote for. Most people had no clue who many of the names on the list were who they were voting for.
3. There are all kinds of crazy deals and revenge lists. The system lends itself to manipulation by organized groups.

It is clear that the only solution is a district based system where every MK is elected from a district and then you can have district based primaries.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

יש תורה אין קמח

This was the headline of last week's Mishpacha in Hebrew. Some yeshivos have cut out meat meals, others are literally serving only bread and water, and yet other yeshivos have had their electricity cut off.

The kollelim are not doing any better and in fact have no money to pay the Avreichim.

In short, the Yeshiva world in Israel is on the verge of collapse with no salvation in sight.

In fact, Lakewood has been affected as well. Recently they closed the dining hall for the Avreichim and stopped serving lunch. They have also installed special monitors to save electricity because of the financial difficulties.

One idea suggested to deal with the crisis is that every Charedi household in America should contribute $180 per year to a special fund which will pay the Avreichim in Israel.

The reality is that these are all bandaids for a much larger problem. The kollel society that has been created since the end of WWII is simply unsustainable.

I am still voting Likud

Even after Netanyahu's machinations to push Feiglin down to number 36. Here are some of the reasons:

1. There is no alternative. The other right wing parties simply have little or no influence.
2. Number 36 is not unrealistic. If everyone who would have voted for the Likud with Feiglin at number 20 votes for the Likud with Feiglin at number 36, there is a good chance that he will get in. Once he is in the Knesset there is absolutely no difference what number he was on the list.
3. For all his flaws, Netanyahu is still the best candidate for PM. It would e a disaster of Kadima ended up with more seats then the Likud.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Livni: "We can't bring back everyone"

Tzipi Livni mad an unbelievable statement today regarding Gilad Shalit. She said "We can't bring back everyone".

This is a terrible statement that undermines everything the army stands for. What motivation is there to serve in a combat unit if the government won't do everything to bring you back if you are captured?

Gestures to the Palestinians abound, releasing prisoners, giving them 100 million shekel etc. all for free. What has the government done to bring Shalit back? Absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Moshe Feiglin has caused hysteria in the media

Yesterday on the radio they kept playing the same clip over and over again, "Moshe Feiglin number 19". The press has gone wild about him just because he is number 19. The truth is number 19 has little or no influence. Who is number 19 in Kadima today? Labor? I don't know and I doubt very many people know. It is clear that the press is doing this because they want the Likud to lose the election. The press has jumped on this like crazy.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

ויהי בבקר והנה היא לאה

Aside from the practical issues of how could Yaakov have not realized who he was sleeping with there is a halachic issue here. The Gemara in Nedarim (20b) has a list of פגומים (who the Gemara calls rebellious), one of them is בני תמורה, which the Rishonim explain to mean that he has 2 wives and thinks he is having relations with 1 and is actually having relations with the other. This would seem to be exactly the case of Yaakov and Leah, he thought that he was sleeping with Rachel not Leah and Chazal state that Reuven was born from Yaakov's first emission (ראשית אוני). it is very hard to believe that ראובן one of the שבטים, would be considered פגום.

The Raavad is bothered with this and answers that Yaakov was before Matan Torah and was not מקפיד on this (clearly very difficult). He offers another answer that Leah did not get pregnant that night. However, this contradicts the Chazal about Reuven being from Yaakov's first emission. See the Magen Avraham ( סי ר"מ סעיף ט) for another difficult answer.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

At least in India ministers take responsibility

Top Indian Security Official Resigns as Toll Eclipses 180

India’s highest-ranking security official resigned on Sunday, as the government began to reckon with the fallout from a three-day standoff with militants that raised troubling questions about India’s vulnerability to terrorism.

The response may not have been great but at least those in charge have the courage to take responsibility and resign. In Israel we know what would have happened, just look at what happened after the Second Lebanon war. The politicians in Israel could learn something from the politicians in India.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

קופת העיר is off on another trip

This time to the graves of the Chasam Sofer and the Maharsha. Just to remind everyone, in August they had a "historic trip" to Vilna.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

R' Hirsch on the lessons we can learn from Yaakov and Esav

The following is from RSRH's essay "Lessons From
Jacob and Esau" that appears on pages 319 - 331
of his Collected Writing VII. This volume deals
with his thoughts on Jewish Education.

Down to our present day we have been able to
observe the disastrous consequences of a
one-sided approach to the unique task of being a
Jew. Many a son of a pious talmid chacham has
been totally lost to Judaism because his father
insisted on training him to become a talmid
chacham without considering whether his
personality and inclinations truly lay in that
direction. Thus he is exposed to Jewish life in
only one context: that of a quiet existence of
study and meditation for which he has neither
talent nor desire. What attracts him instead is
the busy, colorful life of the world outside. But
as a result of the narrow view of life in which
he has been trained he gets the impression that
in order to participate in the active, variegated
life for which he yearns, he must give up his
mission as a Jew. He consequently abandons his
Judaism in order to fling himself into the
maelstrom of excitement and temptations offered by the world outside.

The story of such an individual might end quite
differently if only, instead of forcing him into
the mold of a talmid chacham, his father would
raise him from the very beginning to become a man
of the world who, at the same time, is faithful
to his duties as a Jew; if only that father would
teach this son that the activities of the world
outside, too, have their place in God's plan,
that it is possible to preserve and to
demonstrate one's complete loyalty to Judaism
even as a sophisticated man of the world. He
should make his son understand that, as a matter
of fact, many, if not perhaps the most important,
aspects of Jewish living are intended primarily
to be practiced amidst the conditions and
aspirations of everyday life, in the midst of the
world and not in isolation from it. He should
make his son understand that the Taryag
Mitzvos are not meant to be observed in the
klaus [Judeo-German equivalent for a small
synagogue. (Ed.)] or in the beth hamidrash but
precisely in the practical life of the farmer or
the public-spirited citizen. If only that father
would make it clear to his son that the spirit
and the happiness of Judaism are just as
accessible to a Zevulun "in the world outside" as
they are to an Issachar "in the tents,"?who knows
whether that son might not stand by his father's
deathbed and gently close his father's eyes as a loyal, pious Jew?

Why can't the Charedi world today understand this? Why do they insist that Torah only is for everyone when it clearly isn't?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tzipi Livni throws a fit on an El Al flight?

The NY Post is reporting the following:

ISRAELI foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who could become prime minister after February's general elections, threw a temper tantrum aboard a recent El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Newark after she was seated in business class instead of first. "She really went berserk over the fact that there were kids near her," says a fellow passenger.

I wonder why this wasn't reported in the Israeli press?

How old was Rivka when she married Yitzchak?

Everyone know the medrash quoted by Rashi that she was 3 years old. However, the Gemara in יבמות and the Sifri in וזאת הברכה disagree.

The Gemara in יבמות ס"א discusses who a Kohen Gadol can marry. The Torah says בתולה, the gemara says that a בתולה means a נערה, a girl who is between 12 and and 12.5. The Gemara says that we know this from the pasuk by Rivka which calls her a בתולה. We see clearly that the Gemara assumes that she was older then 3 (at least 12).

In fact, all of the Rishonim point this out (that the Gemara argues on the medrash that Rashi quotes) and say that it is a machlokes hamidrashim. The Rishonim also point out the gemara later on ס"ד. The Mishna has the din that if a couple is married for 10 years with no children they should divorce. The Gemara asks why isn't it 20 years as Yitzchak married at the age of 40 and didn't have kids until 60. According to Rashi that Rivka was 3 there is no question, for the first 10 years she couldn't have kids. You see clearly from the Gemara that the assumption is that Rivka was old enough to have children at the time of the marraige.

The Sifri in וזאת הברכה says that Rivka lived 133 years. If you work backwards from her death she got married at the age of 14 (see Tosafos in יבמות ס"א for the exact calculation).

Why did Rashi pick the medrash that she was 3 against the gemara? It would seem that Rashi thought that was the simpler pshat in the pesukim. It all seems to hinge on when the akeida was. The following facts are mentioned in the Chumash itself.

1. Yitzchak was 37 when Sara died (she was 90 when he was born and died at 127).
2. Yitzchak was 40 when he married Rivka
3. Rivka was born around the time of the Akeida (see the end of וירא).

If the Akeida was when Yitzchak was 37 then Rivka was only 3 when she married. On the other hand if the akeida was 10 years earlier then she was around 14.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Valis was sentenced to 6 years in prison yesterday

For those who don't remember, 2 years ago, Yisrael Valis, a 19-year-old father was accused of violently killing his infant son. At the time there were riots in Yerushalayim and proclamations by the Gedolim that he was innocent (see this post, Psak in the name of R' Elyashiv: Valis is innocent ). Yesterday he was sentenced to 6 years in prison (see here for more details). I don't hear anyone proclaiming his innocence any more.

What does this say about the original reaction?

ועשית ככל אשר יורוך

This is the new slogan in the Charedi world to mean listen to דעת תורה.

Lately it is being used to mean that everyone needs to listen to R' Elyashiv whatever he says. Here is a good example:

The implication of the poster is that everyone needs to now stop wearing sheitels because R' Elyashiv said so.

The problem is that for the past 2000 years halacha hasn't worked that way. Once there is no בית דין הגדול there is no final psak. Throughout the generations we find disputes in halacha and we don't always pasken like the "posek hador". R' Moshe Feinstein was certainly the posek in America after WWII and yet many of his psakim were not accepted. The same goes for the Chazon Ish and every other great posek. Therefore, for these people to say that we always pasken like R' Elyashiv is a perversion of the halachic process and was never the case. The fact is that R' Elyashiv has shitas on many issues that no one paskens like, they just aren't publicized.

A good example of this is the shita of the Chazon Ish by מעמיד of a succa. The Chazon Ish holds that you cannot use metal anywhere in your succa even screws becuase it is considered מעמיד בדבר המקבל טומאה. There is no question that in his day the Chazon Ish was the "posek" in Israel. Yet, very few people followed this shita of the Chazon Ish. The answer is simple. As great as the Chazon Ish was we don't pasken like him on every issue. The same applies to R' Elyashiv and therefore every person needs to consult their Rabbanim about every issue.

Unfortunately there is a trend in the Charedi world taht says everyone has to be exactly the same. There is no room for different psakim, different minhagim, etc. Everyone has to follow a specific shita and that is it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why is gas so expensive in Israel?

The answer is very simple, TAXES.

The current price of NIS 5.49 for 1 liter of 95 octane gasoline, is composed of the following:

Price of the actual gas per liter: NIS 1.66
Marketing costs (gas station profits): NIS 0.68
Excise tax: NIS 2.42
VAT tax: NIS 0.73

In other words the real cost is NIS 2.34, the other NIS 3.15 is taxes. In percentage terms taxes are a whopping 57% of the total price.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Is the Cherem on Shefa Shuk slowly disappearing?

I heard a fascinating story on the radio last night. It seems that Hamodia (run by Gerrer Chasidim) and Ger in general were behind the cherem on Shefa Shuk. After the elections in Yerushalayim where Gerrer Chasidim voted for Nir Barkat a chiloni and not Meir Porush, many have come to the conclusion that Ger is acting in their own interest and not לשם שמים. They are saying that if they can vote for a chiloni because of a fight over Chinuch Atzmai, land etc. then why should we believe them about Shefa Shuk. Therefore, they have decided to start shopping in Shefa Shuk again. In addition, many people have canceled their subscription to Hamodia.

It is going to be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next few months. This could really hurt UTJ in the upcoming elections. Many Chareidim will have a very difficult time voting for UTJ if Litzman is number 1 on the list.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Biased Media

We always think of the mainstream media as biased against Israel, Jews etc. What is fascinating is that the Charedi press has it's own biases.

I get both the weekly Hamodia in English as well as Mishpacha in Hebrew and it is always interesting to see what news is in one and not the other and vice versa.

This week the difference is dramatic. Mishpacha devotes a huge number of articles to the municipal elections focusing on Porush's loss in Yerushalayim. Hamodia on the other hand almost completely ignores the elections. They have one small article and that is it. Why the big difference?

The answer is simple. Hamodia is run by Gerrer Chasidim and Ger right now is feuding with much of the Charedi world. Ger refused to support Porush in Yerushalayim and in fact, may have actually told some of their Chasidim to vote for a chiloni candidate. Similarly in Bet Shemesh, Ger did not endorse the Charedi candidate from Shas supported by Degel Hatorah, rather they supported Shalom Lerner who is religious but not Charedi.

Here is a fascinating article from VosIzNeias

Meanwhile, the rebbe of Ger, Ya'acov Aryeh Alter, aware of the threat that Porush presents, has called on his hassidim not to vote for him, even though he's the city's only haredi candidate. Ger enjoys the support of the Boyan Hassidic sect, which is still angry at Porush for bucking its authority in the Betar municipal elections.

In Friday's Hamodia, a weekly controlled by the hassidic sect, Alter placed a front page notice calling to vote for Agudath Yisrael. Conspicuously absent was the rebbe's electoral command regarding the mayoral race. Porush's name simply was not mentioned.

The rebbe's omission was particularly striking since it was accompanied by an ad publicizing the opinions of a list of leading haredi rabbis who specifically called to vote not only for Agudath Yisrael and for Porush.

Here is another interesting article from VosIzNeias

Outside a polling place in Jerusalem's Geula neighborhood yesterday, young Hasidic followers of mayoral candidate Meir Porush gathered. On the other side of the street, youngsters in the distinctive dress of the Gerrer Hasidic community set up their own post. The tension between the two camps was palpable.

After a few minutes, the Gerrers crossed the street and entered the station. On the orders of their rebbe, due to a longstanding grievance between their group and Porush's camp, they were threatening to vote for secular candidate Nir Barkat. All eyes were now on the Gerrer voters to see whether they would indeed "betray" the ultra-Orthodox sector by voting for Barkat.

A young Gerrer walked into the station slowly with his grandfather and assisted the old man in inserting his ballot into the box. On leaving, he encountered an acquaintance from his community and the two began a lively discussion, from which it emerged that both voted for Barkat. "Like everyone," he told his friend jokingly.

Was his hand shaking, his friend asked. "No way," was the response. "The rebbe said so, and so we're happy to vote for Barkat." Hearing the tale, Moshe Friedman, the head of Porush's campaign, let out a sigh, saying, "it breaks your heart."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What should we make of the success of Tov in Bet Shemesh?

Tov in Bet Shemesh, despite being attacked non-stop by the local Rabbonim, who even brought R' Shteinman to RBS to speak, got over 1200 votes and a seat on the city council.

I think that a lot of the rank and file Charedim feel like the guy quoted below. When you couple that with the fact that the Torah world is broke this might be a serious change.

Israel - Haredi Voting Signals Weakening of Sector's Political Establishment

The 2008 municipal elections will go down in history as a watershed event for haredi politics that will likely have far-reaching implications on the national level.

For the first time in Israeli political history, the normally obedient haredi voters showed signs of rebellion.

In two haredi centers - Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh - there is a significant haredi contingent that has come out openly against the haredi political establishment.
Many have begun to question their obligations to a rabbinic leadership that rejects them and offers them no future. Many also are being to question rabbinic opinion on mundane matters such municipal elections.

As one haredi put it, "What do rabbis know about politics? Do I ask a rabbi what kind of floor cleaner I should use? We need a separation between religion and politics. I don't want rabbis to tell me what kind of cellular phone to use or where to sit on the bus.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Municipal elections in Israel today

Today is election day for all of the local elections, mayor and city council.

I would like to focus on 1 city, Bet Shemesh, that is not getting much attention from the national press but is actually very important.

One of the candidates running for mayor is Moshe Abutbul from Shas. Abutbul made deals with a number of non-religious parties and from his ads in the secular press you would never know that he is Charedi or from Shas. Every ad has him surrounded by his bare headed coalition partners who are featured prominently. There is only 1 party that he made a deal with, that does not feature in any of his ads at all, UTJ. The reason is obvious, he is trying to to run as the stealth Charedi candidate.

This is a very important race for Shas and the Charedi world as a whole. For Shas, if Abutbul wins he would be this would be the first mayor ever elected from Shas. For the Charedi world as a whole this race is very important. The Charedi world looks at Bet Shemesh as the next big Charedi city and a place that can alleviate the housing issues.

Another interesting development in Bet Shemesh is the party Tov. Tov is a party started by Charedi baal habatim who feel that UTJ doesn't really represent them. UTJ has ran a very nasty campaign against Tov and has basically tried everything possible to get them to withdraw. They even sponsored an assembly in one of the shuls in which the focus how they (Tov) are going against the gedolim, and how people who vote for TOV cannot be called frum etc.

What UTJ hasn't done is explain why someone should vote for them, aside from the fact that the gedolim say so. This is part of the reason for Tov's success.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Barack Hussein Obama, the next President of America

Now that the election is over I would like to make a few comments.

I. Who is Barack Obama?

No one really knows. After 2 years of campaigning there are still huge holes in his life story. It is hard to know what he really stands for and who he really trusts.

In any case he is by far the least experienced President ever. He has been in the Senate for a grand total of 2 years 4 years. His biggest job before the campaign was as a community activist.

II. The press was completely biased in favor of Obama

In Israel we like to complain about how the press is left wing and how the press protected Sharon when he decided on the disengagement and how the press loves Livni and is in favor of her. However, believe it or not, the American press was as bad or worse in the last election. How is it that we still don't know where Obama was born? How is it that the LA Times refuses to release a video of Obama with a Palestinian radical? Last January, in an interview to the San Francisco Chronicle Obama said that he would bankrupt the coal industry. This statement only came out this past Sunday too late to effect anything. The list could go on for a long time. Basically the press gave Obama a free pass.

III. Obama is the clear winner

The American system produces winners and losers. Obama won Mcain lost. Listening to the radio in Israel this morning, they were talking about how Obama won by 5 points (52% - 47%) and how that is a big victory. Lets shift gears a second and think about the election in Israel. Imagine Netanyahu and Likud win 5% more votes then Livni and Kadima. Will the press think that it is a big victory? I think not. 5% of the vote is 6 seats. In other words if the Likud would win 35 seats Kadima would win 29. It would not be a decisive victory at all.

The difference is that the US has a winner take all system. Someone wins and someone loses. Here everyone wins. Because of that, there are so many parties and it is impossible to govern.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Only in Israel: A transitional government can't appoint Judges but can negotiate to give away the Golan

The Attorney General was asked if it is legal for Olmert to negotiate with Syria even though he has resigned and is running a transitional government. The answer, yes. However, the Justice Minister wants to have a meeting of the committee to appoint judges and appoint new Supreme Court justices but the President of the Supreme Court (who herself was appointed by a transitional government) has refused claiming that a transitional government has no authority to appoint new judges.

Think of how absurd this is. The transitional government can negotiate away the country, that is not important, but it can't appoint Supremem Court justices, that is too important for a transitional government. Does this make any sense???

Of course given the Judicial Dictatorship we live in Beinish may be right. Appointing Supreme Court justices is the most important thing because in the end they rule the country.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Leiberman tells it like is regarding Mubarak

Here is what Lieberman said:

[Ze'evi] would never agree to the self effacing attitude of Israel vis-à-vis Egypt. Time after time we went to see Mubarak in Egypt - he never agreed to come here in an official capacity as president.

Every self-respecting [Israeli] leader, would expect a reciprocal visit when making one on his own. He wants to talk with us? Let him come here; he doesn't want to talk with us - let him go to hell,

Lieberman is absolutely right and tells it like it is. Mubarak has been in power for over 27 years and he has never made an official diplomatic visit to Israel. In addition, the official State run press is viciously anti-Semitic. There has never been more then a very cold peace with Egypt. It really is embarrassing how our leaders grovel before Mubarak who is the dictator of a third world country of little real significance.

Of course our wonderful leaders Peres and Olmert couldn't let this insult stand even for a few hours. They telephoned Mubarak right away to apologize and grovel before his excellency. Where is their self respect?

ז' מצות בני נח

Do these apply today?

The simple reading of the Gemara in Bava Kama 38a seems to say no. The Gemara says:
מה ראה ראה שבע מצות שקיבלו עליהם בני נח ולא קיימום עמד והיתירן

The Gemara then asks how could that be, the sinner is profiting? The Gemara answers that even if they are מקיים them they only get שכר כאינו מצווה ועושה.

Rashi there seems to take the Gemara literally that they are no longer חייבים. Others understand the Gemara that they still are חייבים however, even so, they don't get שכר like a מצווה ועושה.

According to Rashi, if they are not חייבים how can they be punished for not keeping them? The Netziv answers that the ז' מצות בני נח are really mitzvos for the good of society. Without these miztvos society cannot survive. Therefore, if people violate these mitzvos they are not being punished for violating them, rather society will fall apart and they will suffer because of their actions. The Meshech Chochma (beginning of וזאת הברכה) says a similar idea that the ז' מצות בני נח are for societal order. Since Hashem built the world based on the Torah, whenever the ז' מצות בני נח are not observed things don't work well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Peres: Israel is closer to peace than ever before

What planet is he living on? He is really in a dream world.

As Professor Robert Auman said The very act of running crazedly after the longed-for peace is precisely that which distances it from us.

Professor Auman knows what he is talking about as his Nobel Prize was for "enhancing our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis."

He said the following as well, which is well worth reading:

I will allow myself to say a few unpopular, unfashionable words: our panicked longing for peace is working against us. It brings us farther away from peace, and endangers our very existence.
Roadmaps, capitulation, gestures, disengagements, convergences, deportations, and so forth do not bring peace. On the contrary, they bring war, just as we saw last summer. These things send a clear signal to our 'cousins' [the Arabs -ed.] that we are tired, that we no longer have spiritual strength, that we have no time, that we are calling for a time-out. They only whet their appetites. It only encourages them to pressure us more, to demand more, and not to give up on anything. These things stem from simple theoretical considerations and also from straight thinking. But it's not just theory: it has been proven and re-proven in the field over thousands of years. I returned today from a trip to India, where we heard about historical stories that illustrate the same. Capitulations bring about war; determination and readiness bring about peace.

Until the Arabs accept Israel as a Jewish state there is nothing to talk about. Nothing that has happened recently has changed in terms of their accepting Israel, rather the tactics have changed. Why is it so hard for the leaders of Israel to see this?

This is why organizations like Peace Now are so misguided. They claim that if Israel really wanted to make peace then peace would happen. Unfortunately, they are sadly mistaken. As Bernard Lewis said, If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed, if the other side doesn't want to make peace then peace will not happen.

Only decisive, unambiguous victory for one side or the other can end a long, bitter conflict. Until Israel learns this there will never be peace. Organizations like Peace Now not only don't bring peace now, but like Neville Chamberlain, actually encourage the other side to continue the battle.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The polls show Kadima with 29-31 seats - unbelievable!!!

I cannot understand how after almost 3 years of a disastrous Kadima government people actually want more. Let's remember that Tzipi Livni's biggest achievement is UN Resolution 1701 which has proven to be an unmitigated fiasco.

Why would anyone vote for Kadima? What do they see? What I see is a party of opportunists that failed miserably at running the country, lost a war and have done nothing. Can anyone think of a single achievement of the current Kadima led government? Why would you want more of Shaul Mofaz, Ruchama Avraham, Eli Aflalo, etc.?

It is clear that the mainstream press greatly prefers Livni and will do everything to help her. I have a feeling that the polls are going to prove just as inaccurate as they were in the Kadima primary with Kadima getting much fewer seats.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The moon and the stars

The Rambam in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah (3:9) writes:

כל הכוכבים והגלגלים, כולם בעלי נפש ודעה והשכל הם; והם חיים ועומדים ומכירים את מי שאמר והיה העולם, כל אחד ואחד לפי גודלו ולפי מעלתו משבחים ומפארים ליוצרם כמו המלאכים. וכשם שמכירים את הקדוש ברוך הוא, כך מכירים את עצמן ומכירים את המלאכים שלמעלה מהן. ודעת הכוכבים והגלגלים, מעוטה מדעת המלאכים וגדולה מדעת בני האדם

The Rambam writes that the stars and the galgalim (which includes the moon) are spiritual beings like angels. This Rambam was proven wrong when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon showing that the moon was a physical entity.

The Rambam (ibid 3:8) also writes:
כל הכוכבים הנראים--יש מהן כוכבים קטנים שהארץ גדולה מאחד מהן, ויש מהן כוכבים שכל אחד מהן גדול מן הארץ כמה פעמים. והארץ גדולה מן הירח כמו ארבעים פעמים, והשמש גדולה מן הארץ כמו מאה ושבעים פעמים; נמצא הירח אחד מששת אלפים ושמונה מאות מן השמש בקירוב. ואין בכל הכוכבים, כוכב גדול מן השמש ולא קטן מכוכב שבגלגל שני.

He states that the Earth is 4 times bigger then the moon and the sun is 170 times bigger then the Earth. These numbers are clearly wrong based on modern astronomy.

Interestingly enough, R' Shach wanted to use this Rambam to show that Torah includes everything. R' Aharon Lichtenstein responded to R' Shach as follows:

R. Aharon Lichtenstein, "Legitimization of Modernity: Classical and Contemporary" in Leaves of Faith (Ktav: 2004), vol. 2:

...Moreover, I freely concede that one's faith in the concept is periodically put to a severe test. As but one instance, the doyen of [then-]current rashei yeshiva, R. [Elazar Mann] Schach, proves the value of Torah as the self-sufficient repository of all knowledge by asking, rhetorically: "Whence did Hazal know that the earth was forty-two times larger than the moon, and that the sun was approximately one-hundred-and-seventy times larger than the earth (as explained in the Rambam, Hilkhot Yesodei Hatorah 3:8), if not from the power of the Torah?"[24] In raising this question, he is wholly oblivious not only to the rudiments of astronomy but also of the fact that the selfsame Rambam explicitly states, with respect to these very issues, that they are beyond the pale of Hazal's authority.

Elections in Israel!!!

Livni failed in creating a coalition. Here are the big winners and losers:

1. Netanyahu and the Likud - Netanyahu will most probably be the next PM unless he makes a big mistake or something dramatic happens here.
2. Olmert - If Livni had managed to create a coalition today would have been his last day as PM. Now he has another 3-5 months as PM
3. Eli Yishai - He proved that no one can create a government without Shas

1. Livni - She promised a different politics but what we saw from her over the last month was the same old politics done poorly. Mrs. Clean is no longer Mrs. Clean.She will now go into the elections as Foreign Minister with little ability to do anything to affect her political fortunes. The worst possible scenario for her was for her to negotiate make concessions and not create a government.
2. Barak - His actions and the coalition agreement that he negotiated buried him.

IMHO the Likud should ignore Barak and focus on Livni and Kadima. They can attack her and Kadima on 3 fronts:

1. The war in Lebanon - Kadima was in power and the war was a fiasco. All they need to do is read the relevenat quotes from the Winograd reports
2. UN Resolution 1701 - This is touted as Livni's big achievement. The only problem is that it has been an absolute disaster according to everyone.
3. Leadership ability - the past month has only strengthened the claim that Livni is not a leader.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How could אדם הראשון eat from the עץ הדעת?

After all if אדם הראשון had no יצר הרע how could he do a חטא? We can ask an even more basic question. Did he even have בחירה?

R' Dessler explains based on many sources as follows. Before the חטא he was certainly a בעל בחירה however on a different level. The יצר הרע was outside him. There was no "I need, I want". Instead it was "you need, you want". The Rambam explains that before the חטא everything was אמת or שקר, everything was black and white. To do a חטא was like to walk into a fire, it was crystal clear that it was the wrong thing to do. There was no way to rationalize or justify. After the חטא however, things are now טוב ורע, a much more subjective reality where an עבירה can turn into טוב and we can rationalize our actions.

If so, how could אדם be חוטא? The answer is that he willingly walked into the fire. He felt that his status made things too easy. If everything is crystal clear where is the נסיון? If רע is so clearly false then there is no challenge in staying away from it. He felt that he could create a bigger קידוש השם by eating from the עץ הדעת and having a greater נסיון to follow the commandments from Hashem. He wanted to be able to understand רע and stay away from it. Unfortunately, he miscalculated. He did not understand that eating from the עץ הדעת would bring such confusion on the world. Someone at his level could not fathom the world after the עץ הדעת, he could not fathom the חשך of טוב ורע.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pride goes before a fall

On Simchas Torah I davened vasikin at a different shul then I normally daven in. The בעל קורא who read וזאת הברכה was a well known talmid chochom from the neighborhood who is the best בעל קורא that I have ever heard, someone who knows all of Tanach literally by heart and never makes a mistake. After he read חתן תורה a different person from the shul came over and insisted that he lain בראשית and the haftara. The first בעל קורא did not object. Unfortunately the second בעל קורא is not on the same level. He made many mistakes in the trup as well as a few mistakes in the words. The haftara was similar.

The question is why did he insist on laining? He knows the first בעל קורא and therefore had to know that the first בעל קורא was going to do a better job. The only answer that I can think of is כבוד/pride. However, the fact is that instead of bringing him כבוד his actions made him look foolish.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sitting in the succa in the rain

Generally speaking it doesn't rain in Israel on Succos. However the forecast is for rain late tonight and early tomorrow and therefore we will not be able to sit in the succa.

At first glance, we would say that the פטור of Succah when it is raining is the regular פטור of מצטער. However, if you look at both the Gemara and the Rambam it doesn't seem like that.

The Gemara in Succah on 26a in discussing the din of a חולה and his attendents posits the idea in the name of רבא of מצטער פטור מן הסוכה. However, the Mishna later (28b) discusses rain and gives a completely different reason, it gives a parable of a servant spilling water on his master (or vice versa see the Gemara 29a). The Gemara at no point brings this Mishna (discussing rain) as proof for רבא.

The Rambam also seems to split these 2 up. The Rambam (סוכה ו:ב) writes the halacha of a חולה and a מצטער that both are פטור מן הסוכה in halacha 2. However, he doesn't bring the halacha of rain until halacha 10 unconnected to מצטער. It seems clear from the placement that the 2 are unconnected.

Based on this we could say that the din of rain is an independent din and not based on מצטער. It could be that when it rains the succah loses the din succah because it is not a דירה with rain coming in. It is not related to the person's discomfort but the succah itself.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Buying an Esrog this year

This year buying an Esrog is different then other years because of shemitta. Shemitta raises a number of different problems. Esrogim according to the consensus of poskim have קדושת שביעית. Here are some of the issues:

1. שמור - shemitta fruits need to be made hefker, if they are not they may be assur and may not be able to be used for the mitzva
2. נעבד - you are not allowed to do various melachos related to the esrog tree during שמיטה. Again if these are done the esrog may not be able to be used for the mitzva
3. סחורה - you are not allowed to buy/sell shemitta produce.

To get around all of these issues many people are buying אוצר בית דין esrogim. The אוצר בית דין watched the orchards and made sure that there was no forbidden melacha going on. they also were מפקיר כדין. The esrogim are also sold in sealed boxes so you can't go and pick out a specific esrog.

The big issue is what about סחורה? The answer is that the אוצר בית דין is allowed to charge in order to cover their costs. Therefore when you buy an אוצר בית דין esrog, all you are paying for is the actual cost in producing the esrog, there is no profit to anyone.

There is 1 major problem. All of the אוצר בית דין are selling esrogim in 3 different price ranges:

1. כשר - these sell for 40-60 shekel depending on the אוצר בית דין
2. mehudar - these sell for 80-100 shekel depending on the אוצר בית דין
3. mehudar א - these sell for 130-150 shekel depending on the אוצר בית דין

If as we said all the אוצר בית דין is doing is recovering costs, how can they charge more for a better esrog? The answer given is as follows.

The אוצר בית דין has for arguments sake 1000 esrogim and needs to get back 75,000 shekel for their costs. If they tried to sell every esrog for 75 shekel people would not want to buy, there are always people who want a more mehudar esrog and are willing to pay more and there other people who can't afford to pay 75 shekel for an esrog. Therefore what the אוצר בית דין does is split the cost differently. They still get back only the 75,000 shekel however, the more mehudar esrogim subsidize the less mehudar ones. This enables them to sell the esrogim and get their costs back while enabling the more affluent buyer to spend a little more and the poorer buyer to spend a little less. Since no one is actually picking a specific esrog, you just get a sealed box, it still doesn't look like סחורה.

By the way, I bought 3 sealed אוצר בית דין esrogim this year and ended up with 3 beautiful esrogim that in a regular year I probably could not get.

Some halachos of building a succah

This post (Some halachic points regarding building a succah ) covers a number of the main issues.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

בענין קולות השופר

The mitzva of shofar seems pretty simple, blow a few קולות and that is it. However, there are a number of very fundamental disputes relating to the קולות, that I would like to discuss.

I. What is the שיעור of a תרועה?

The Mishna in Rosh Hashana(33b) states that the שיעור of a תרועה is שלש יבבות. Rashi understand this to mean three very short sounds. Tosafos disagrees with Rashi and holds that each יבבה is 3 short sounds meaning that a תרועה is 9 short sounds.

II. What is the שיעור of a תקיעה?

The Gemara states that שיעור תקיעה כתרועה. The simple understanding is that a תקיעה has to be the same length as a תרועה. Therefore the מחלוקת Rashi and Tosafos about תרועה applies to תקיעה as well. According to Rashi a תקיעה is very short, the length of 3 short sounds. According to Tosafos it is 3 times as long the length of 9 small sounds.

The Rambam has a unique שיטה. The Rambam understands that when the Gemara said that שיעור תקיעה כתרועה it meant both the תקיעות that relate to a תרועה as every תקיעה has a תרועה before and a תרועה after. Therefore the שיעור of a תקיעה is half a תרועה.

III. שברים

Tosafos points out that according to Rashi each שבר of a שברים has to be the length of 2 and only 2 short sounds. Tosafos has the following simple calculation.
1. Each sound of a תרועה is 1, therefore each שבר needs to be longer otherwise it will be a תרועה and not a שברים
2. A תקיעה is the length of 3 sounds so therefore each שבר must be shorter then that otherwise it will be considered a תקיעה and not a שברים
3. Therefore each שבר must be 2.

Tosafos has less of a problem because according to them the minimum תקיעה is 9 so a שברים just needs to be less then 9.

IV. שברים תרועה

The Rishonim have a major מחלוקת how you blow it, בנשימה אחת or שתי נשימות?
The Machlokes is based on a Gemara in Succah(53b). The Gemara there discusses the תקיעות in the מקדש. R' Yehuda holds that תקיעה תרועה תקיעה is 1 מצוה and therefore אין בין תקיעה לתרועה ולא כלום.

The Ritva, Ramban and others learn as follows. They read the Gemara literally that according to R' Yehuda there is absolutely no הפסק between the 3 קולות because they are 1 mitzva. Therefore they say even though we don't paskin like R' Yehuda, his din applies to שברים תרועה. Everyone agrees that שברים תרועה is 1 mitzva and therefore you cannot be מפסיק and שברים תרועה is בנשימה אחת.

Rashi and Tosafos in Succah learn that אין בין תקיעה לתרועה ולא כלום means you can't be מפסיק more then a נשימה. However, since these are separate קולות you are מפסיק a נשימה between them, which means that they hold שברים תרועה is בשתי נשימות.

There also is a מחלוקת what does בנשימה אחת and שתי נשימות mean. The Mishna Berura writes that נשימה אחת is if you were מפסיק less then a נשימה. The חזו"א disagrees and says that נשימה אחת is no הפסק whatsoever (and this is what the Rishonim seem to say). By שתי נשימות you have a similar dispute. The חזו"א holds that it means a הפסק but not an actual breath and may others (Shulchan Aruch Harav, מקראי קדש, etc.) hold you should specifically take a breath.

What sound is a שברים? From Tosafos it is clear that a שברים is a very short תקיעה as according to Tosafos if you make a שבר too long it becomes a תקיעה. The Ramban however, writes that a שברים should be a broken sound as well. Many have a minhag to blow both types of שברים.

R' Chaim Kanievsky and tzedaka organizations

R' Chaim Kanievsky is probably the biggest בקי of this generation and is כולו תורה. Unfortunately the various tzedaka organizations seem to be using his name for all kinds of dubious campaigns that it is not clear that he would really approve of.

Some tzedaka organizations are turning him into a Chassidish Rebbe. According to them he is now accepting kvitels.

The Kupat Hair Bnei Brak has ads in Yated Neeman and sends out brochures all over the place with pictures of R' Chaim Kanievsky and promises that giving money to them will bring a ישועה.

However, R' Chaim's grandson published a letter from him where he quotes his own sefer (דרך אמונה) the הלכה פשוטה that עניי עירך קודמים.

You have to wonder then how can Kupat Hair Bnei Brak continue with their ads and brochures and mislead people into giving them money as opposed to their local kupa?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mofaz Foreign or Finance Minister???

The fact that anyone would even think about appointing him highlights one of the biggest problems in the Israeli political system. The problem is that ministers are appointed based on politics with no check on qualifications whatsoever. How can you appoint someone with no diplomatic experience as Foreign Minister? How can you appoint someone who knows nothing about finance, Finance Minister?

The one thing that Olmert did right is appoint Friedman as Justice Minister. Whether you agree with him or not (I happen to agree with him), he is a professional who understands the legal system and can actually make things happen. In addition, because he is not a politician he can actually do things without worrying whether it will affect him politically.

The reason why nothing changes in Israel is because the Ministers are almost always completely unqualified and therefore are yes men to the ministry bureaucrats. Take Mofaz as Transport Minister. What does he know about transportation? Nothing. When is the last time he actually took public transportation or drove his own car? He has no ideas, no ideology and therefore did nothing for 2 years. The few ministers who manage to make changes are those like Friedman and like Netanyahu (as Finance Minister) who are actually qualified and have ideas and a direction that they would like to push.

Only in Israel could somene like Mofaz be in power

After losing in the Kadmima primary last week Shaul Mofaz announced that he was taking a break from politics to decide what his next steps would be, a childish reaction to a defeat in the primaries. Let us not forget that he wanted all the Kadima candidates to pledge to stay if they lost. It was no big surprise that he went back on his word. Now he has gone back on his word again, he is coming back to politics and his "vacation" will end on October 2nd. The events of the past few days should surprise no one. After all Mofaz has done this in the past on a bigger scale. 3 years ago right after Kadima had been formed the Likud had primaries and Mofaz was running against Netanyahu. At the time, there were all kinds of rumors about Mofaz leaving for Kadima. To quash those rumors he sent out a letter to every Likud voter saying the Likud is my home and "בית לא עוזבים", you don't abandon your home. Believe it or not in the time it took to deliver the letters (2- 3 days) he abandoned his home, the Likud, and jumped to Kadima.

What is even harder to believe is that Livni is proposing making him the Foreign Minister or even the Finance Minister. What makes anyone think that he is qualified for either post? What does he know about diplomacy or finance? Does he even speak English well? The answer is no. What were his accomplishments as Transport Minister? None that anyone knows of. What were his accomplishments as Chief of Staff and Defense Minister from 1999-2006? The emasculation of the Army leading to the awful results in the Lebanon War. Let us not forget that he, as Defense Minister, chose Dan Chalutz as Chief of Staff.

In short, there is nothing in Mofaz's background to suggest that he is qualified for any ministerial position.

What is hardest to believe is that he has supporters who believe in him and want him to come back. Can't they see that every move he makes is motivated solely by self interest? Can't they see that he has no credibility? Why on earth would they believe a word that he says?

Monday, September 22, 2008

New commentaries on Shas, end of an era

It is amazing, but there are now actual multiple commentaries in Hebrew on the Gemara that have come out recently. You have Artscroll (in Hebrew as well as English), Oz V'Hadar just came out with a commentary, Meoros came out with a commentary as well, and I believe there are more.

What is fascinating is that these are written by a team of people and claim to be just explaining the Gemara based on Rashi, other Rishonim, and Acharonim. There is no claim to any original Chiddushim here.

We see from this (and other things), that the era of the Acharonim is over and we have clearly started a new period in Jewish history. The last Acharonim will probably be labeled as those gedolim who grew up pre-war (Chazon Ish, Steipler, R' Moshe, RSZA, RYBS, RAK, RYK, etc.).

The Mishna Berura is now playing the role of the Shulchan Aruch. Oz V'Hadar has recently come out with a commentary explaining the Mishna Berura, and I believe this will be a popular trend.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Speeches in shul that are too long

Last night was the first night of selichos and in Israel חצות was about 12:30 so many shuls started selichos at 12:30. Many shuls have a minhag where the Rav talks for a few minutes before selichos to inspire the people. This is a very fine minhag, however, the Rav should realize that it is very late and that people want to start selichos on time and go home and go to sleep. Sunday in Israel is a regular workday and people cannot sleep late. For the Rav to plan to speak for 15 minutes and then speak for an extra 10 minutes is really not right. To start selichos 10 minutes late at such a late hour is a tremendous טרחא דציבורא.

There is a famous saying that to speak for 10 minutes is much harder then to speak for an hour. When you have a short time you need to really hone your message and measure your words. When you have an hour you have much more leeway. Unfortunately, there are some people who can never fit what they want to say in the allotted time. If you give them ten minutes they speak for 20-25. If you give them an hour they will have enough material for an hour and a half.

This really bothers me. Many times it points to a lack of discipline and preparation. I speak publicly every so often, and when I do so, I go over exactly what I am going to say a number of times before I actually speak and time myself. If I have 10 minutes to speak then I will make sure that I have enough to say for 10 minutes and not more. The same goes for 40 minutes or an hour. I don't understand how you can prepare a speech that is allotted 15 minutes and take 25 minutes. That is almost double the time.

Last but not least, I think it is counterproductive for a Rav to speak for 30-40 minutes on Shabbos morning. It is simply too long. Most people on Shabbos morning are tired and simply cannot concentrate for that long. After 10 minutes people simply lose it. There is no reason why the Rav cannot say over idea that he is saying in 30 minutes in 10. It means that he will have to work very hard to refine and hone his message and cut out a lot of extraneous stuff. However, in the end people will be much more attentive and may actually get the message he is trying to convey as opposed to listening for 10-15 minutes without hearing the main message and then tuning out.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The most influential person in Israel is ...

Attorney General Meni Mazuz, following hot on his heels in 3rd place is Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish. Number 2 is a quartet of the state comptroller, state prosecutor, chief police investigator, and commander of the Lahav special investigations unit. The only politician in the top 100 is PM Olmert who is number 100.

When the most influential person in the country is the Attorney General, number 2 is the state prosecutor and number 3 is the President of the Supreme Court, it is a clear reflection of the fact that Israel is a Judicial dictatorship where the real power lies in the hands of the Justice system. Amazingly enough not a single minister (Defense, Finance, Justice, Foreign) made the list. The reason is simple, they have no real power. The real power lies in the judicial system which can arbitrarily quash appointments (see for example this post More judicial tyranny), and interfere in foreign and defense policy at will (for example the security fence, cutting off power to Gaza, etc.).

List courtesy of Haaretz

Kosher Shavers

I saw this poster today promoting a "kosher" shaver.

What is really interesting is that this is being made by Epilady, a company that makes hair removal products for women. I could not find this product on their website,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hamodia completely ignores Deri

I get the Hamodia weekly edition in English and it is always fascinating to see what news they leave out.

This week the biggest story in the Charedi world, and in fact a very big story in the secular world as well, was the announcement on Tuesday by Aryeh Deri that he would run for Mayor of Jerusalem. All of the secular newspapers had extensive coverage and it was discussed extensively on the secular radio stations. In the Charedi world, Radio Kol Chai (a religious/Charedi station) basically had wall to wall coverage on their nightly news programs Tuesday and Wednesday night. The Mishpacha newspaper had a huge headline about Deri. And yet, Hamodia, (to the best of my knowledge, I did not read every page) completely ignored the story. I assume that they ignored it, because Aguda has it's own candidate for mayor, Meir Porush.

This is not the first time that Hamodia has done this, they do it all the time. The question is does this work? I am pretty sure that just about everyone who reads Hamodia has heard that Deri is running. What do they think they will accomplish by censoring this? All it does is make them seem less trustworthy.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Friedman and the Supreme Court

In the waning days of the Olmert government, Justice Minister Friedman has proposed curtailing the Supreme Courts power to overturn legislation. As expected the left and the press went ballistic and accused him of all kinds of terrible things.

My opinion on this issue is clear as I posted here. The country today is ruled by a judicial dictatorship that has completely overstepped all boundaries, this post has one of many examples.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Can we talk seriously about poverty? A response

The following letter was printed in this past week's Mishpacha magazine in response to Jonathan Rosenblum's article about Charedi poverty. Here are some excerpts:

Jonathan Rosenblum is so close to solving the problem of poverty in the frum community. He mentioned 3 common solutions to this crisis: greater government support from taxpayers: who WORK, increased contributions from abroad (meaning us rich Americans who are up to our own eyeballs in debt and sinking fast but who WORK) and a simpler lifestyle. Are you getting a hint of the answer? If you need more money and Hashem is not handing it to you perhaps you need to go out and WORK.

Not working but expecting money to come in is like not cooking and expecting dinner to be ready that evening.
Instead of making bochurim who choose to work feel like failures, we need to promote a balance of working and learning
My husband Akiva had a friend Reb Ephraim on the Monsey bus to Manhattan. One day, Reb Ephraim did not appear on the bus. Six weeks later, Reb Ephraim returned appearing pale and gaunt. Akiva asked how he was and what happened. Reb Ephraim said that he had had a heart attack but b"h recovered and was returning to work. Something about the answer didn't seem right so Akiva asked, "You are certainly past retirement age and you are obviously not completely recovered. Why don't you retire and go home to guard your health?" Reb Ephraim replied , "I would love to but I am supporting my married children and must continue to work."

Some months later Akiva returned from work head hanging low. Reb Ephraim was niftar from a second heart attack. Akiva with tears shining in his eyes said: " I want to go the shiva house and tell the children they are murderers for doing this to their father. This is kibud av v'eim?"

It will be interesting to see if anyone in Mishpacha (or letters) responds to this letter.

Dr. Berish Rubin: This man may save your child's life

This is one of the captions on the cover of this week's Mishpacha magazine in English. The magazine has a very positive article about Dr. Rubin a molecular biologist who is doing research about genetic diseases that affect Ashkenazi Jews.

Dr. Rubin is Charedi from birth (see below) and went to Torah Vodaas for high school and Beis Medrash.

After reading the article I have a number of questions:

1. From a Charedi Torah only perspective, did Dr. Rubin make the right decision to leave the Beis Medrash and become a scientist?
2. Given the de-emphasis on secular education in Charedi yeshiva high schools and the almost complete prohibition of college, where is the next Dr. Rubin going to come from?
3. How could his parents let him read treif science books which are full of kefira (evolution, the age of the world)? If they hadn't, would he have succeeded and become the scientist that he did?

The Charedi world can't have it both ways. On one hand basically ban all secular studies while one the other hand expecting to produce people like Dr. Rubin.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Who will be the next mayor of Jerusalem?

Things are heating up. As of now there are 3 declared candidates, Gaidamak, Nir Barkat (Chiloni), and Meir Porush (Aguda).

However, it looks like Aryeh Deri (former leader of Shas) may run, and that changes everything.

A little background. In the Ashkenazi Charedi world there are 2 parties, Aguda and Degel Hatorah. Aguda is Chassidic and Degel represents the Yeshivish community. Aguda and Degel generally have rotation agreements for mayor. One term Aguda one term Degel. This is what happened in Bnei Brak, Beitar and other places. This arrangement has come under fire recently as it forces highly successful mayors to abandon the job after 1 term for possibly inferior people.

In Jerusalem, before the last election Degel and Aguda signed an agreement and Lupoliansky from Degel was elected with the agreement that Aguda would put up the candidate in this election. The Aguda candidate is Meir Porush. However, Porush is not well liked by many groups in the Charedi world (especialy Degel) including many Chassidim (especially Ger). Therefore, Degel and parts of Aguda are not happy with his candidacy. Recently polls have show Nir Barkat, a chiloni candidate as trouncing Porush.

Based on the above Deri is thinking of running. he will certainly have the support of Shas and may get the support of Degel. If no one candidate gets 40% of the vote there will be a runoff. Deri believes that with 2 Haredi candidates (and the Charedi population about 40%) there is little chance of anyone getting 40% and all he would need to do is beat Porush. Then in a runoff, he would get the Charedi support by default to keep the chiloni out of office.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Latest Charedi censorship target: Music

Haredim move to eradicate 'foreign' pop

Musicians who use rock, rap, reggae and trance influences will not receive rabbinic approval for their CDs, nor will they be allowed to play in wedding halls under haredi kosher food supervision, according to a new, detailed list of guidelines drafted with rabbinical backing that differentiates between "kosher" and "treif" music.

The guidelines, which are still being formulated, also ban "2-4 beats and other rock and disco beats;" the "improper" use of electric bass, guitars and saxophones; and singing words from holy sources in a disrespectful, frivolous manner.

"Michael Jackson-style music has no place in our community," says Mordechai Bloi, a senior member of the Guardians of Sanctity and Education, an organization based in Bnei Brak that enforces what it sees as normative haredi behavior.

The man responsible for drafting the list is Rabbi Efraim Luft of Bnei Brak, who heads an organization called the Committee for Jewish Music. Luft works in conjunction with Bloi's organization and with the Jerusalem-based Council for the Purity of the Camp headed by Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Safronovitch. These are the two most important and influential "modesty patrols" in the haredi community.

This is a really interesting quote:

"We might be able to adopt Bach or Beethoven, music with class, but not goyishe African music and beats.

It will be interesting to see if this succeeds.

Sources in the haredi music scene who spoke off the record for fear they would hurt their relationship with the rabbinic representatives said they doubted the rabbinic establishment would succeed in their newest crusade against CDs.

"What are they going to do listen to every single disc that is released? What about the thousands of discs that are already in the market?"

Monday, September 01, 2008

Olmert racing against clock for deal with Palestinians

This is absolutely pathetic. Olmert who has completely and utterly lost any public trust that he had is doing anything to make an agreement with Abu Mazen. The fact that the agreement isn't worth the paper it is written on is irrelevant. The fact that Abu Mazen rules over nothing is irrelevant. All that matters is that the "Peace Process" is moving forward.

Only in Israel can a leader who is resigning under a cloud can give away half the country.

Solutions for poverty in the Charedi world

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote an article in last week's Mishpacha magazine (Can we talk seriously about poverty?) where he describes the poverty in the Charedi world and the toll that crushing poverty takes on individual lives and Charedi society as a whole. He mentions 3 possible solutions to the problem:

THREE SOLUTIONS ARE commonly offered to the destructive poverty in the Israeli chareidi community (though the problem is hardly limited to Israel): greater government support; increased contributions from rich Jews abroad; and adopting a simpler lifestyle. Each is a thin reed upon which to pin hopes for a solution.

Amazingly enough he leaves out the only real solution, education and working for a living. Why has working for a living become verboten? What happened to the Gemara in Kiddushin of חייב אדם ללמד את בנו אומנות? What happened to the Mishnayos in Pirkei Avos? The answer is so obvious and yet he brings up solutions that are bandaids.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What airline should you fly on II?

Today's Yated Neeman had a follow up ad which listed more recommended airlines. For the curious, US Airways is the recommended airline for flights in the USA.

Of course, if you must fly on a different airline that has movies you can get your handy mechitza by calling 057 3155613.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why Russia succeeded in Georgia and Israel failed in Lebanon

The press here in Israel has been very focused on the war in Georgia and actually quoted Russian sources that Russia learned from Israel's failure in Lebanon. They have also been discussing why the Russians succeeded so quickly and Israel failed.

There is a very simple reason why Russia succeeded and Israel failed. Russia used overwhelming force while Israel did not, basically fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. Israel's leaders need to learn this simple lesson from the Russians, overwhelming force wins. You can't fight a war with 1 hand tied behind your back and win. Until we learn that lesson the war in Lebanon will repeat itself again and again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Historic event in Vilna taking place today

The Kupat Hair Bnei Brak is sending a minyan of talmidei chachamim to daven at the grave of the Gra for the people who gave money to the Kupa.

Here is an ad that appeared last week to promote the big event:

Here is the schedule for today's big event:

As I hope you can figure out from the tone here I am not in favor of this for a number of reasons:

1. It tries to get people to act against Halacha. These ads ran in newspapers around Israel and flyers were distributed all over the country. Yet, the halacha clearly states that עניי עירך קודמים. In other words, someone who lives in Yerushalayim, Bet Shemesh, Beitar, Rechasim, Ashdod, etc. should be giving to their local Kupa shel Tzedaka not the Kupa of Bnei Brak. By going out with these big campaigns they are making it hard for local tzedaka organizations (which al pi halacha come first) to collect money.
2. It makes a business out of tzedaka. People can no longer give tzedaka just to give tzedaka? How many עניים could have been supported with the money that went to fly all of these people to Vilna? Do we need to promise a yeshua to get people to give tzedaka?
3. It is a quick fix approach. It makes all kinds of promises of yeshuos with no effort. Give a little money and someone will daven for you and you will be saved. Is that what we believe in? What happened to working hard on yourself, davening yourself, improving yourself?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Not eating meat during the 9 days

There are a number of different reasons for not eating meat during the 9 days:
1. Aveilus - Meat is something that makes us happy (אין שמחה אלא בבשר ויין) and therefore in these days of mourning we abstain
2. זכר לקרבנות - We are supposed to remember that during this time the קרבנות were stopped.

Whatever the reason we are supposed to use this to feel the aveilus of the churban. Unfortunately, many people take not eating meat during the 9 days in the wrong direction. Some people love it, as I once heard "and best of all, there's always ice cream or cheese cake for desert".

Those who feel that it is easy and great and they get to eat ice cream all the time, are 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. Clearly, we cannot violate the minhag and eat meat even if we don't like meat, on the other hand, we shouldn't be eating gourmet milchig meals and enjoying ourselves either.

These days are supposed to be sad, eating gourmet milchig meals while not technically violating the minhag is certainly violating it's spirit.

Monday, August 04, 2008

ערב ט' באב שחל בשבת when to take off your shoes?

The Rama is clear, after Borchu you take your shoes off. This is the minhag that I remember when I was growing up.

However, recently a new minhag which makes a lot of sense has evolved. People go home after mincha, eat, and then at Tzeis Hakochavim say boruch hamavdil, take off their shoes, change their clothes and then go to shul to daven maariv. This seems to work better then the old minhag of taking off your shoes in shul. The question is, why didn't the Rama advocate this minhag? One answer is that in the days of the Rishonim and Acharonim it was hard to get people to come out to shul at night and therefore if people had gone home they wouldn't return for maariv. Still you have to wonder is this really true? Was this the case in Eastern Europe 100-150 years ago?

I am interested to hear what the readers will be doing.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Functionally illiterate Chasidim

This weeks Hamodia had a very sad letter from a Chassidishe housewife living in Boro Park. It seems that her husband who was born in NY cannot speak English. He is completely dependent on her for any interaction outside of the Chasidic community. From her letter it is clear that this is not an isolated incident but is a normal phenomenon in many Chasidic groups in NY.

My wonderful capable husband is completely handicapped. He can't call the telephone company without me. Any questions on our credit card bill must be resolved through me.
Yet, if my husband must venture out into the world, even simply via a telephone call he is at a complete disadvantage due to the inadequate command of the English language.
my husband went to take his road test. When he arrived home, I asked him how it went and he sheepishly handed me the paper the instructor had given him. He hadn't been able to figure out whether he had passed or failed.
my husband is a native New Yorker, born and raised. He is also quite intelligent. Yet, when I walked in he was at a complete loss and the nurses were gaping at him in disbelief not comprehending how an American adult could not respond to such elementary questions about his own child without assistance.

This is very sad and is spreading to the non-Chasidic community. I can identify a Yeshivish kid right away by the way they speak Yinglish instead of English. English today is the language of the world and for people living in America not to learn it is a terrible shame.

Monday, July 28, 2008

In 5 years we"ll ask how this happened

This was Olmert's comment in response to the report from GSS Head Yuval Diskin about the the weaponry that Hamas is smuggling in.

There is just one problem, he is the Prime Minister and running the government. He can do something about it if he wants to. What kind of idiotic response is that? He fears what will be but does nothing about it. The sooner he goes the better.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The beginning of the end of the Kollel system in Israel?

According to Mishpacha, 2000 Avreichim may lose their places in Kollel and the 5 biggest Kollels have suffered a 50% drop in donations. The money has basically dried up due to the financial problems in the US and the devaluation of the dollar vs the shekel.

Is this the beginning of the end of the Kollel system for everyone?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Olmert's birthday wish to "Moish" Talansky

Ynet has a video that Olmert sent to Talansky for his 70th birthday.

מויש, אני אוהב אותך, אתה בן-אדם כיפי. תמיד מועיל להיות חבר שלך, אני מקבל יותר ממה שאני נותן, ובתקופות של צרות, של בעיות ושל קשיים - אני מעדיף לצידי אותך, מאשר את רוב האנשים שאני מכיר

Moish, I love you, you are a fun person. It is always great to be your friend, I get more from you then I give, and in times of problems, stress, and hardships, I would rather have you at my side then most of the people that I know

The line about "I get more from you then I give" takes on a lot more meaning today.

Remember, this is the guy who Olmert's lawyers tried to make out as a money launderer, and a serial liar.


Here is the actual video (courtesy of Rafi G):

Kadima splitting?

Globes is reporting that Tzippi Livni is thinking about forming a new party to run in the next elections. The reason for this is that Livni could very well lose the Kadima primary to Mofaz and she is not willing to be number 2 to Mofaz. According to Globes she has wide support both from the Kadima MK's as well as outsiders.

This is absolutely amazing, first they split the Likud now they are splitting Kadima.

As I have mentioned many times before the political system in Israel is completely broken and needs to be remade. It is absolutely ridiculous that in a list based system(the voters vote for a party not individuals), and MK can walk away from his party with his seat. At the very least there needs to be a district system where at least half of the MK's are elected from a district and are directly responsible to the voters.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Olmerts attorneys making another mistake

So far they have tried to blacken Talansky's image, calling him a liar and a money launderer and a criminal. While this might be a good tactic in a regular case, in Olmert's case they are just making things worse.

Imagine, they convince everyone that Talansky is a money launderer. That will not help Olmert, in fact it will hurt him. No one denies that Olmert was a friend of Talansky and took money from him. How is it going to look that the PM was friendly with and took money from a money launderer? It will only make the bribery case stronger, as a criminal does not give money for free, he asks for something in return.

Olmert's team also made a mistake in their pre-cross examination boasting. They boasted that they would destroy Talansky, peel him like an onion etc. This created very high expectations. So far, after 2 days of cross examination, they haven't done much. They have basically wasted time investigating Talansky's past. It certainly seems like Olmert and his attorneys were just blowing hot air.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The NY Times on Samir Kuntar - Raid went "horribly" wrong

The New York Times writes the following about the child killer Samir Kuntar:

Perhaps Israel's most reviled prisoner, Samir Kuntar, will return to a hero's welcome when he crosses into Lebanon this week, 29 years after he left its shores in a rubber dinghy to kidnap Israelis from the coastal town of Nahariya.

That raid went horribly wrong, leaving five people dead, a community terrorized and a nation traumatized. Two Israeli children and their father were among those killed.

What does the Times think would have happened if the raid had gone right? In fact, why do they think the raid went "horribly" wrong at all? What do they think Kuntar set out to do? Kuntar and his compatriots did exactly what they set out to do, they murdered innocent Jews. The only thing that went wrong was the fact that they were captured.

The fact that Abu Mazen praised Kuntar showed his true colors. How anyone can think that this man wants to make peace after calling a child killer a hero is beyond me. The same goes for Lebanese PM Siniora.

Monday, July 14, 2008

It looks like the government will fall over Avishai Braverman

Absolutely amazing. The government didn't fall after the disaster (war) in Lebanon, the 2 Winograd reports and Olmerts 6 investigations (including Talansky and Olmertours). It looks like it is going to fall because Labor MK Avishai Braverman was not appointed head of the Knesset Finance Committee. Because he was not appointed, the Labor Ministers voted no confidence in the government, this should lead to their dismissal. If they are dismissed, on Monday the government will fall and elections will be in 90 days.

The bottom line is, the sooner this government falls the better and if it has to be on a political matter like Braverman so be it.

Where does ישמעאל fit into the ד' מלכיות?

בלעם at the end of the parsha, discussed according to many, the Messianic era. The Ramban understands that he was talking about the ד' מלכיות. The Ramban quotes the Ibn Ezra who thought that ישמעאל was the last of the ד' מלכיות. The Ramban disagrees and says that the Ibn Ezra is completely wrong and that ישמעאל is independent of the ד' מלכיות.

I heard teh following explanantion of the Ramban. The ד' מלכיות represent rebellion against Hashem. They take the kingship from us (who represents Hashem in this world) and worship avoda zara. ישמעאל is different. ישמעאל has Hashem's name in his name and is not rebelling against the מלכות of Hashem. ישמעאל as the Torah says is a פרא אדם, a wild man. He believes in Hashem but wants to do what he wants to do. ישמעאל does everything in the name of Hashem including killing. Therefore, ישמעאל is independent of teh ד' מלכיות and can exist concurrently with them.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Olmert: Peace with Palestinians is closer then ever - Who does he think is fooling?

This is the headline in Haaretz online today.

How dumb does he think the people are? Gilad Shalit is still in captivity, Hamas is violating the ceasefire almost every day and he is talking about peace with Abu Mazen? Does anyone beside Olmert and the diehard left believe that Abu Mazen is relevant? Would a deal with Abu Mazen be worth the paper that it is written on? For Olmert to state

"It seems to me that we have never been as close to the possibility of reaching an accord as we are today,"

is cynical beyond belief. Olmert, a petty thief who stole from charitable organizations, is trying to make people forget about his legal troubles. This time I don't think it will work. No one, even the Israeli public, is that stupid.

Olmert's latest problem - double reimbursement for travel

It seems that Olmert would travel abroad (18 times a year while Industry and Trade Minister) and then bill 2 or more charitable organizations for his trip, pocketing the extra payment. This is not just verbal allegations, the police actually have the double receipts. Below is one example of the double billing:

Note the same flight number and date to 2 separate organizations. Interestingly enough the amounts are different.

I can't wait to hear the imaginative excuses for this one.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tzippi Livni and Resolution 1701 - disconnected from reality

Tzippi Livni was the architect of UN Resolution 1701 which has completely and utterly failed (see Security Council resolution 1701 has completely failed ). Yet, instead of fessing up to her mistakes she is still acting as if Resolution 1701 actually is working and means something.

Livni: We must disarm Hizbullah

"Unfortunately decision 1701 was not completed by the Lebanese side and I hope that during the next few days it will be implemented with the return of the kidnapped soldiers," Livni said.
"We need to stop the arming of Hizbullah by way of the Syrian border and disarm it. There is currently an opportunity to do so and we mustn't lose it." She refused to answer questions about the progress of the prisoner swap deal.
Israel plans to continue its efforts towards the fulfillment of decision 1701 through other Security Council channels in order to expand UNIFIL's mandate.

Believe it or not, according to Livni Resolution 1701 will be implemented when the prisoner swap takes place.

She completely forgot about all of the other important provisions in Resolution 1701 that haven't happened and will not happen. Who exactly does she think is going to disarm Hezbollah?

Let's take a look at what UN Resolution 1701 actually says and if it is even being close to implemented:

1. no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government;
Livni herself stated that Hezbollah is still smuggling arms.
2. there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon
As Livni herself stated not only has Hezbollah not disarmed but they now have more weapons then ever.
3. disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon see 2

In fact, she is wrong about the prisoner return as well. Resolution 1701 states:
unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers

The soldiers are not being returned unconditionally, but only after Israel agreed to pay a very high price.

The bottom line is, Resolution 1701 is a completely worthless piece of paper that has no connection to reality.

The really sad thing is that Tzippi Livni is a leading candidate to be the next PM of Israel.

Security Council resolution 1701 has completely failed

Officials: 1701 on verge of collapse

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, passed to stop the Second Lebanon War, is on the verge of collapse as Syria continues to rearm Hizbullah, senior defense officials warned Tuesday night ahead of a scheduled security cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
"Syria is rearming Hizbullah at a rapid pace and this is proof that 1701 has completely failed," one official said.

This is not exactly unexpected. I hate to say it but I told you so. I had a series of posts where I discussed the resolution and how it wasn't worth the paper it was written on. Believe it or not, I may have been too optimistic. I wrote:

How the ceasefire may play out

The situation in Southern Lebanon is basically back to where it is on July 12th, 2006

In fact, the situation today is much worse then it was July 12, 2006. Hezbollah has more rockets and more advanced weaponry then it had 2 years ago.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What airline should you fly on?

According to the ועד לעניני תחבורה the main criteria is whether or not the flight has movies shown. They split up the airlines into 3 groups.
Preferred - no movies shown
Second choice - movies but only on a personal screen which can be shut off
Third Choice - movies on a main screen

On the Tel Aviv - NY route for example, there are no Preferred airlines. Continental and British are second choice and El Al is third choice (because they have some planes without personal screens and the movies they do show are particularly bad (according to the Vaad). I wonder how they know this? Who watched the movies for them and compared?).

For some reason, they left out some popular airlines on the Tel Aviv - NY route. I know from personal experience that Lufthansa is very popular. They would probably be a third choice because on their trans-atlantic flights they have a lot of planes with movies on the main screen. They also left out Delta which has a non-stop flight Tel Aviv - NY as well as Tel Aviv - Atlanta.

Interestingly enough, Arkia and Israir are prohibited completely.

You can see the whole list below:

The dollar is still worth 4 shekels according to the Gedolim

The dollar hasn't been anywhere near the 4 shekel mark in a very long time but Areivim is still insisting on pricing in dollars at 4 shekel to the dollar. This month they will be collecting $5.6 at 4 shekel to the dollar. This obsession with the dollar is really strange, why they can't just say they are collection 22.4 shekel is beyond me.