Wednesday, May 20, 2009

San Francisco is such a depressing place

I travel to San Francisco for business every so often and it is a really depressing place. Everywhere you walk there are homeless people and bums all over the place. It is just amazing how many there are. It is a little scary to walk around when it seems like half the people are mentally ill and talking to themselves or yelling at you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Where is the שוק?

The Gemara in Berachos 24b says that שוק באשה ערוה. Therefore it is really important to know what the Gemara means when it says שוק. In modern Hebrew it means the thighs and in fact that is what the Mishna Berura holds, he writes that שוק means the area above the knee.

The Chazon Ish however, disagrees based on a Mishna in Ohalos (8:3) which seems to clearly imply that the שוק is below the knee.

This has a tremendous נ"מ. If שוק is below the knee then a woman would need to cover the area from the knee to the ankle the same way she covers her thighs. Just like stockings/socks is not a good covering for the thighs it should not be for the calves either.

Interestingly enough the Chazon Ish (or other poskim that I saw) does not quote an explicit Gemara in Erchin 19b(that we recently learned in Amud Yomi).

The Gemara in Erchin is discussing what is the definition of רגל. The Gemara tries to bring a proof from Chalitza that you can do Chalitza up to the knee that רגל is up to the knee. The Gemara answers that by חליצה it says מעל רגלו and therefore up to the knee is above the רגל. The Gemara then asks if so what about above the knee? The Gemara answers that above the knee is מעל דמעל. The gemara then asks that from the ankle to the knee should already be מעל דמעל and the Gemara calls the area from the ankles to the knee שקא and therefore from the ankle to the knee should be considered מעל דמעל as well. The gemara answers that the ankle doesn't count (עיי"ש) and therefore the whole are from the foot until the knee is considered מעל רגלו.

We see black on white that the Gemara calls the area from the ankle to the knee שוק.

The bottom line is as the Chazon ish himself says, even the most pious women are not מחמיר to consider from the ankle to the knee שוק and therefore we need to say that שוק means different things in different contexts.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When does a boy become Bar Mitzva?

Many times when the halacha speaks of years it doesn't mean full years but means years as counted by Rosh Hashana. For example, for the first 3 years you can't eat the fruits of a tree. The 3 years are not complete years, for example if you plant a tree in the summer, on Tu Bishvat the first year already ends after only 6 months. The first Mishna in Rosh Hashana lists off all of the Rosh Hashanas for various things.

The Gemara in Erchin (18b) lists 5 things (קדשים, בתי ערי חומה, שדה אחוזה, עבד עברי and בן ובת)where when the Torah says years it refers to full calendar years. The Gemara says that everyone agrees that by Bar Mitzva a boy needs to be 13 years and 1 day old.

However, the Gemara uses the language מעת לעת. Rashi says that not only do you count days but you even count hours. What this means is that a boy born on כ' אייר at 3PM will only become Bar Mitzvah on כ' אייר at 3PM. Until 3PM he is still a קטן. Tosafos (Erchin 31a, Nida 44b) argues on Rashi and holds that by Bar Mitzva we don't count hours, we only count hours by קדשים and בתי ערי חומה where there is a special limud.

להלכה, the Magen Avraham או"ח סימן נ"ג ס"ק י"ג paskens like Tosafos that we don't count hours as does the Bach and the Shach (ח"מ סי' ל"ה).

Some are machmir for Rashi and have the Bar Mitzva boy redo the mitzvos after the time.

For an interesting analysis see the משנה למלך הל' אישות ב:כ"א.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What is the source for celebrating Lag Baomer as a holiday?

Lag Baomer is not mentioned in the Bavli, Yerushalmi, or any Medrashim. It is not mentioned in the Rambam either. The earliest source we have for Lag Baomer is from the later Rishonim. The Meiri (יבמות ס"ב) comments on the Gemara that describes how R' Akiva's students died between Pesach and עצרת that they stopped dying on Lag Baomer and therefore we don't fast or say hespedim on Lag Baomer. This idea is what is brought down in Shulchan Aruch.

The Pri Chadash asks why would we celebrate that they stopped dying? The Gemara says that all 24000 students died, the reason they stopped dying is that there were none left. Why is that cause for celebration? The question is better then any of the answers that I have seen.

The Chida based on this question says that we celebrate that R' Akiva took on his new talmidim on Lag Baomer when the old talmidim stopped dying. However, this is against the simple reading of the Gemara. The Gemara says that the world was desolate until R' Akiva started teaching new Talmidim. It sounds like there was a gap between the 2 groups of talmidim.

R' Chaim Vital gives a completely different reason for the celebration of Lag Baomer. He says that R' Shimon Bar Yochai died on Lag Baomer and therefroe we celebrate his yarhtzeit.

This is difficult for a number of reasons:
1. There is no earlier source that R' Shimon Bar Yochai died on Lag Baomer. R' Chaim Vital is the first to say this.
2. It says in Shulchan Aruch that the yahrtzeit of a tzaddik is supposed to be a fast day not a day of celebration. The shulchan aruch in סימן תק"פ lists off a whole bunch of fast days such as ז אדר (Moshe's death), the day of Miriam's death, the day of Yehoshua Bin Nun's death, etc. Therefore if R' Chaim Vital is right we should be fasting on Lag Baomer not celebrating.

The Chasam Sofer in his Teshuvos was very much against the idea of making Lag Baomer a Yom Tov. He writes:

How can there be a holiday for a day when no miracle occurred and isn't mentioned in the Mishna, Talmud, or any hint at all in the Tanach?

In recent years the pilgrimage to Meron has become a huge event. This year more then 500,000 people are expected. This is another clear sign that the Chassidim have won. Rashbi and Meron are kabbalastic traditions which the Chasidim have adopted, as we see from the Chasam Sofer the non-Chasidic world was against this. Yet, today the whole Charedi world is caught up in Meron and Rashbi.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cutting a child's hair before the age of 3

R' Chaim Kanievsky pointed out that there is an explicit Gemara that you can cut a child's hair before the age of 3.

The Gemara in Moed Katan 14b discusses whether a child can get a haircut on Chol Hamoed. The Gemara says that not only a child who was born on Yom Tov or Chol Hamoed can get a haircut but even other children. You see explicitly that if a child is born with a lot of hair you are allowed to cut it. This is quoted l'halacha in Shulchan Aruch Siman תקל"א.

Here is the background to the story. Someone asked R' Chaim the following question. His son is only 2.5 and he wants to take him to Meron to cut his hair on Lag Baomer (he won't be 3 yet). Should he be machmir to wait until his son is 3 to cut his hair? R' Chaim answered that it is explicitly permitted to cut a child's hair before the age of 3.

IMHO this question is a perfect example of what is wrong with the Charedi world today. Not cutting a child's hair before the age of 3 is a minhag, if you don't have the minhag then you don't have the minhag. To ask whether you should be machmir is ameratzus. What kind of chumra is it to wait until 3 to cut a child's hair?

It may make sense to be machmir when you have a a situation where we posken that something is mutar but some poskim say assur. Therefore to avoid violating an issur according to some shitos you are machmir. This depends on the issue and the person etc. However, by a minhag like this of not cutting hair, how can someone think it is שייך to be מחמיר?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Jewish Observer is stopping publication

Is this good or bad? I never really read the Jewish Observer so it is hard for me to comment. I think magazine like Mishpacha have taken a lot of their readers.

R' Ovadya's son: Haredi Bachelors Over the Age of 20 Must Leave Jerusalem

Haredi Bachelors Over the Age of 20 Must Leave Jerusalem

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. This is not the solution to the shidduch crisis.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Hamas is getting smart

They are now putting on a moderate face to Obama claiming that all they want is a state in the 1967 borders basically, no different then the Saudi plan. This will Obama to recognize Hamas start talking to them officially.

Of course in reality Hamas still wants to destroy Israel and is just following Mohammed's plan of asking for a truce when you are not strong enough to win.

Addressing U.S., Hamas Says It Grounded Rockets

On the two-state solution sought by the Americans, he said: “We are with a state on the 1967 borders, based on a long-term truce. This includes East Jerusalem, the dismantling of settlements and the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.” Asked what “long-term” meant, he said 10 years.

Apart from the time restriction and the refusal to accept Israel’s existence, Mr. Meshal’s terms approximate the Arab League peace plan and what the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas says it is seeking. Israel rejects a full return to the 1967 borders, as well as a Palestinian right of return to Israel itself.

Kupat Hair never stops

Here is their latest campaign

You have to wonder how much this costs and is it worth it. Why are they spending money on sending people there for Shabbos?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Is mixed seating on buses our biggest concern?

According to Yehuda Meshi Zahav the founder and head of Zaka (and a former Edah Chareidis activist) the answer is no. There are many more important issues that need to be dealt with. According to him this is a way of running away from the real problems. It is easier to address something like this then the more serious issues in the Charedi world.

The road to purity

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the founder and head of Zaka, was once himself coordinator of the Eda Haredit. Today, he says that this focus on the fear of being in contact with women sounds a little obsessive to him. "When I was a child, I used to take the bus from Mea She'arim to Mahaneh Yehuda, and I don't recall that anything wrong happened to me. I think this whole matter of buses has become totally disproportionate - as if there are no real problems elsewhere. So what if they see a woman on a bus? What can happen to them? When I think of the terrible things happening in some families - like the sort of thing we have been witnessing recently - I really think it's a way of running away from the real problems. Mixed buses seem to me the least of our concern," he says.