Sunday, November 29, 2009

Are גמ"ח's a bad thing?

Sounds ridiculous at first, what could be bad about providing interest free loans to people who need them? However, in this past weeks Mishpacha (Hebrew) the editor printed a letter in his weekly column which makes exactly this claim.

The main point of the letter is that גמ"ח's allow people to borrow money that they can never pay back. Someone who has a hard time getting through the month has very little chance of paying back a $50,000 loan that he took to marry off his children. The existence of גמ"ח's greatly increases the societal pressure to provide money to children without giving any thought to how the money will be paid back. According to the letter most people in the Charedi world are in debt and spend a lot of time running from גמ"ח to גמ"ח to pay back loans. גמ"ח's promote irresponsible financial behavior and let people drown themselves in debt.

I agree with the letter writer to a point. גמ"ח's are definitely enablers for risky financial behavior just like zero dollar mortgages were in the US. As a parent I know it is very difficult to say no to a child or not provide them what they need. If $50,000 is the going price to marry off your daughter it is very difficult to say no and unfortunately in today's Charedi society if you say no to the money your daughter will have a hard time getting married.

The bottom line is that the Charedi lifestyle is simply unsustainable financially. Sooner or later the bubble will burst.

In truth, I don't know what the answer is. In today's world (both in the US and in Israel) even if you have a good job it is very difficult to support a large family. Salaries are simply not made to support 6+ kids. Therefore telling people to work is not necessarily going to solve the problem. Large families and the modern finacial world just don't go together.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry ... Part II

Here are some quotes from some well known Gedolim about this (

הגראי"ל שטינמן: אף פעם לא שמענו מכך, אבל הם מראים בספר אז כנראה זה נכון, אבל צדקה לבד זה גם סגולה.

הגר"ח קניבסקי: לא שמעתי על כך, מי שרוצה ישועה שיתפלל, אפשר להתפלל תמיד מתי שרוצים.

If R' Chaim Kanievsky never heard of this then it must be really obscure as he is a tremendous baki.

Hat tip: Rafi G.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I don't know whether to laugh or cry ...

after seeing this ad. They must be really desperate to be pulling completely unknown segulas out of a hat.

Has anyone even heard of this sefer? The sefer may be from someone who lived before R' Shimon Bar Yochai or may be from the time of the Ramban. That is a big difference.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Very funny conversation

Girl #1: I'm so tired of dating! I wish I were married already!

Girl #2: Yeah, I'm really tired of spending nights at the Marriott
Hotel with guys I really don't want to be there with.

Girl #1: But if you don't go to a hotel what else is there to do on a date?

Girl #2: Maybe we need to find a different hotel to go to instead of
the Marriott.

To the frum listener the meaning is obvious, however, the non-frum listener is liable to really misintrepret this badly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ותלך לדרוש את ה

Rashi comments that she went to Shem and Ever. The question can be asked why didn't she ask her husband Yitzchak or Avraham who was still alive? Also, once she got the amswer why didn't she tell Yitzchak. After all, she was told that רב יעבוד צעיר, and that when one was up the other would be down. if she had told Yitzchak, it probably would have changed his views on the Berachos.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

R' Hirsch: Chinuch lessons 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. It is amazing how his words below are so relevant to our generation. There is no question that R' Hirsch could be speaking about the current Charedi educational system. It is a terrible shame that his approach has basically died out as it is so needed in our modern world.

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?

He explains in his commentary on Chumash that Yitzchak and Rivka made exactly this mistake with Esav. They tried to educate Esav the same way as Yaakov, to sit and learn all day in the Beis Medrash. However, Esav's personality and inclinations did not lie in that direction. Because he was not given an alternative he turned into Esav harasha.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ויתרוצצו הבנים בקרבה

Rashi comments that when Rivka passed a Beis Medrash Yaakov tried to get out and when she passed a house of Avoda Zara Esav tried to get out.

That obvious question is was Esav a Rasha already in the womb? What choice did he have there? Did he even have a Yetzer Hara before he was born? The same goes for Yaakov. Chazal state that a person's yetzer tov doesn't enter them until the age of 13, if so, what drove Yaakov to the Beis Medrash?

The Maharal gives a very perplexing and difficult answer. He says that Esav was not propelled by the Yetzer Hara to go to the house of Avoda Zara rather that was simply his nature. The same with Yaakov and the Beis Medrash. Esav's innate nature was drawn to tumah and Yaakov's was drawn to kedusha.

This Maharal seems to contradict a fundamental principle of Judaism that every person has free will and can choose to be a Tzadik or a Rasha. If Esav's innate nature in the womb was to worship Avoda Zara how can he blamed for his actions, likewise if Yaakov's innate nature was for kedusha why should he be rewarded for that?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Davening 40 days in a row at the kotel, is it a segula?

The various tzedaka organizations promote davening 40 days straight at the kotel and other holy places at various times of the year to raise money.

R' Elyashiv is quoted as stating there is "no inyan" in such an act, adding one’s tefillos are accepted each time one davens at the Kosel.

It will be interesting to see how the various tzedaka organizations react to this.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chosson and Kallah Dancing Together at the Sanz Wedding

Take a look at Sanz Klausenburg Wedding In Israel 2009 Part 27 and you see clearly that they are dancing together holding hands.

I am absolutely stunned at this, that they would dance together holding hands. What happened to tznius?

Fascinating perspective on the Israeli economy

Israel: Leader of Business Innovation

Those of us living here don't always see it, but it is a very true look at the hi tech economy here.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

America's obsession with sports

I just came back from the US having spent a few weeks working there on site for a customer (one of the big reasons why I haven't posted much).

Being in America for an extended period of time helped me realize how obsessed America is with sports.

There is not 1 not 2, not 3, but at least 10 all sports channels available (Espn, ESPN 2, ESPN Classic, ESPN News, Yes, MSG, SNY, MLB...) in the NY area. There are also 2 all sports radio stations that talk sports 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Sunday afternoon is dominated by the NFL.

Peoples lives are defined by the sports teams that they are fans of and people live through their teams.

Being back in NY pulled me in a little and I am very happy that in Israel I am somewhat removed from this.

When I was in Israel learning for the year, I was completely disconnected. There was no way to be a US sports fan in Israel, you were completely cut off from everything. You couldn't even get the scores. Unfortunately, today, the internet has made it very possible to continue being a US sports fan in Israel. Everything is available online. The internet has made the world a much smaller place, you can feel connected to anywhere now. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is great that my kids can talk to their grandparents and cousins on Skype and keep up a very close relationship. It is bad that it makes it hard to pull away from the sports obsessed US culture.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

יקח נא מעט מים ורחצו רגליכם

Rashi comments that Avraham was afraid that they were ערביים who worshiped the dust on their feet and Avraham was מקפיד not to bring avoda zara into his house. Lot on the other hand was not מקפיד and therefore did not have them wash their feet first.

It is clear from Rashi that he is praising Avraham Avinu for his behavior. However, if you look at the Gemara ב"מ פו you get a different picture. The Gemara says that because Avraham was חושד that they were עובדי עבודה זרה Yishmael came from him whose descendants worshiped exactly as Avraham was חושד the malachim. The Gemara is saying that Avraham was חושד בכשרים and punished for his behavior while Rashi seems to be praising Avraham for not wanting to let עבודה זרה in his house.