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.