Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What did R' Aharon Kotler advise talmidim to do before WWII?

Here is a description of a letter that R' Aharon Kotler sent to R' Gedalya Schorr after R' Aharon found out that R' Schorr was going back to America. This letter was written in the summer of 1939. (source Hamodia magazine Parshas Chukas))

...he could calmly remain in Kletzk and that he did not have to worry about a war in the near future

WWII broke out less then 2 months later and if R' Schorr had followed R' Aharon's advice he most probably would not have survived.

The question we need to ask is what is the lesson we need to take from here? The answer IMHO is that no one is infallible. Yes, RAK was a great talmid chacham but he (and almost all of the Gedolim in pre-war Europe) completely misread the situation before WWII.

RYBS said that R' Chaim thought that there would be Jews living in Brisk in 1979 just like they lived there in 1879 and therefore he didn't see the need for changes like secular education etc.

Today, the world is changing so fast that חדש אסור מן התורה doesn't work.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why don't girls cover their head when davening?

This is a really simple question which does not have a simple answer.

The Shulchan Aruch (סי' צ"א סע' ג) paskens that it is אסור to say a Beracha without a head covering. The Shulchan Aruch is based on 1 opinion in מסכת סופרים which Rabenu Yerucham paskens like l'halacha. The Mishna Berura (סי' ב' ס"ק י"ב) paskens like the shulchan aruch.

By issurim, there is no distinction between men and women, issurim apply to both equally. Therefore, this issur of not saying berachos without a head covering should apply to women as well. We don't find any source to distinguish here between men and women.

In fact, the sefer ישכיל עבדי draws exactly this conclusion. He quotes the shulchan aruch and says he doesn't understand how the Beis Yakov's allows the girls to daven without covering their heads.

R' Ovadya Yosef has a teshuva about this (יביע אומר ח' ו' סי' ט"ו). He has a long discussion about whether it is an issur to say a beracha bareheaded or just a מדת חסידות. He brings rishonim and acharonim on both sides and concludes that the minhag today must be to rely on those who hold there is no issur. However, he recommends that for Shemoneh Esrei and Bentching that girls should cover their head to be חושש for the shulchan aruch.

It is absolutely fascinating how this din is completely ignored by the חרדים לדבר ה. After all, the Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Berura both pasken that it is assur, why are we not at least חושש for their opinion? The Charedi world has adopted so many wilder chumras why is this one left behind? There is no question that this chumra has much more basis then disallowing certain color stockings.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Should you wear תכלת because ספק דאורייתא לחומרא?

The answer would seem to be yes. Many poskim today assume that the techeles that has been discovered is at least a ספק and therefore since tzitzis is דאורייתא we should be machmir to wear it based on ספק דאורייתא לחומרא.

However, some want to say as follows in the name of R' Chaim. We only say ספק דאורייתא לחומרא when by doing an action we can be מברר the ספק. Take the classic case of a person forgetting whether he benched, said shema, etc. or not. After doing the mitzva again he will be ודאי יוצא the mitzva and therefore he is חייב to do that. However, in the case of techeles, even if a person is machmir and puts on techeles he is not מברר the ספק. He still may not be יוצא the mitzva. The only time you say ספק דאורייתא לחומרא is when by doing something you can be מברר the ספק, however, if doing something leaves you in the same state as before, ספק, the principle of ספק דאורייתא לחומרא doesn't apply.

There are a number of problems with this analysis.
1. RHS and others claim that R' Chaim never said it, it is not printed anywhere.
2. Even if R' Chaim actually said it we don't pasken like this. The Rishonim have a machlokes whether the first 3 berachos of bentching are מעכב one another. What is the din if you only know 1 beracha, should you say it? The Rif says no because they are מעכב one another and the Ramban says yes that they are not מעכב one another. להלכה what should a person do in this situation? This is the same kind of situation as we described above with techeles. You have a ספק whether you need to say the beracha you know and even after you say it the ספק still stands, you still may have not been יוצא. The פמ"ג says that in this situation you don't say ספק דאורייתא לחומרא (like R' Chaim). However, there is one extra wrinkle here by bentching. By bentching if you are not חייב you are saying a ברכה לבטלה which is an איסור. In other words here the chumra is not risk free. Therefore the פמ"ג says that you should not say the 1 beracha. However, wearing techeles is risk free, therefore it would seem that even the פמ"ג would agree that you should be machmir.

In any case, both the Mishna Berura and the Aruch Hashulchan pasken against the Aruch Hashulchan Pri Megadim and say that מספק you should say the 1 beracha. We see from here that they pasken that you do say ספק דאורייתא לחומרא even when you cannot be מברר the ספק even in a case where there is a ספק איסור!

ויקרא משה להושע בין יהושע II

The (קרן אורה (סוטה לד (thanks Chaim B) answers both questions as follows:

Moshe did not know that the Meraglim would sin. Rather he knew that the mission would be a serious challenge and the that yetzer hara would try very hard to entrap them and cause them to sin. Therefore he davened that they should succeed.

If so why did Moshe only daven for Yehoshua? He answers based on the Arizal as follows. Each Nasi represented a shevet and therefore the neshama of the progenitor of the shevet was with the Nasi on the trip. Moshe thought that would protect them and therefore he did not see the need to daven for them. However, Yehoshua was from Efraim and therefore had no progenitor to protect him (I guess you can ask why didn't Efraim's neshama come?) as the pasuk puts Menashe and Yosef together so Yosef went with Gadi ben Susi from Menashe and not Yehoshua. Therefore Moshe davened specifically for Yehoshua so that he would have different protection.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Netanyahu's speech yesterday

All things considered Netanyahu's speech yesterday was as good as can be. I am personally much more right wing then Netanyahu and can in no way shape or form support any kind of Palestinian state, however, I realize that Netanyahu did what he had to do at this juncture.

I think that it was very important for him to give the historical perspective which is always missing.

It was also very important for him to insist on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. As we can see from Mubarak's and others reactions this hit the nail on the head. They are so against recognizing Israel as a Jewish state because as a Jewish state we have a historical/religious claim on the land. However, if Israel is not a Jewish state then we are just colonialists stealing Palestinian land. It is critical that this come out in the open. The average person on the street in Israel is now being exposed to this and is coming to the realization that the Arabs simply don't want peace and will never accept Israel. The YNet article about this has a whopping 700+ comments already.

Our good friend Hosni Mubarak ...

Egypt (and the rest of the Arab world) will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

How can anyone think that Israel can make peace with the Arabs when they still deny this basic fact?

ויקרא משה להושע בין יהושע

Rashi comments that Moshe changed his name and davened that Hashem should save Yehoshua from the עצת המרגלים.

This is very difficult for a number of reasons:
1. We see clearly from Rashi that Moshe knew that the Meraglim would sin, that is why he davened that Yehoshua would not be caught up in it. If so, why did he send them at all? After all Rashi comments שלח לך that Hashem gave Moshe the choice as to whether to send meraglim or not. If he knew they would sin why didn't he just cancel the mission?
2. Why daven only for Yehoshua? Yehoshua was probably the greatest of the meraglim, why would Moshe worry that he would sin? At the time that they were picked all of the Meraglim were tzadikim, why didn't Moshe daven for all of them?

I did not find any of the meforshim on Rashi that dealt with the first question that if Moshe knew they were going to sin why send them. The Netziv does ask this question and because of this question says that Rashi's pshat is very difficult. In fact, he rejects Rashi's pshat and offers his own pshat.

The meforshim do deal with the second question but I didn't see any convincing answers.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

When does תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה not apply?

I saw an interesting piece in one of the the weekly sheets that are distributed. They had the following question. There was a wave of burglaries in a particular Charedi neighborhood so the residents decided to hire a private security company. However, then the question of how to apportion the costs came up. Since the Gemara says that תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה and the majority of the people in the neighborhood sit and learn in kollel (and presumably have the status of Talmidei Chachamim) who should pay? R' Elyashiv answered that the principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה only applies in a normal situation, before there is a rash of burglaries. However, now that there already was a rash of burglaries it would be considered a נס for the talmid chacham not to be harmed. Therefore the principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה does not apply and everyone has to pay equally for the security company.

When the issue of drafting yeshiva students for the army came up, this principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה was used as one of the reasons for the exemption. It would seem from the above that R' Elyashiv would disagree as it is as at least as much a נס to not be harmed in war/terrorist acts in Israel as not being burglarized where there is a rash of burglaries. In fact, at the time R' Zevin vehemently disagreed and made exactly this argument.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Your forget about the weather in Israel

In Israel from May - October you basically forget about the weather. Every day is sunny and it never rains.

It is a real shock to travel to the US and suddenly have to worry about the weather is it going to rain or not.

In Israel hardly anyone complains when it rains, people are generally happy because everyone knows that we need the rain. In NY when it rains in the summer all you hear is complaints.

It is clear to me that the rain patterns in Israel are much more conducive to emuna then those in the US. When it rains all the time you lose the connection to Hashem, rain is just a normal part of life. In Israel, where it doesn't rain for 6 months and even in the winter hardly rains, it is much easier to connect the rain to Hashem.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama thinks that the US is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world

Obama said the following in an interview 2 days ago:

if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.

This statement is simply not true by any stretch of the imagination. The number of Muslims in America ranges from 1 million to 7 million depending on who you believe (see for example here). Even if we take the higher number of 7 million the US is nowhere near one the largest Muslim countries. 7,000,000 Muslims is a little over 2% of the population. According to Wikipedia the US is number 52 in total population and is not even on the chart in terms of percentage.

What does this say about what Obama really wants? Is anyone in the press going to call Obama out on this?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What are you all Obama voters thinking now?

As things go bad from to worse regarding Israel are you Obama voters having second thoughts, regrets about your vote.

Forgetting about Israel, are you happy with the direction he is taking?