Monday, December 27, 2010

Have we become Amish?

Hamodia this past week printed a letter where the letter writer was very upset that an article a month ago seemed to promote computer use among students. He writes:

there are numerous Gedolei Yisrael who have clearly stated that it is wrong for children to use any form of technology

The Author responds that yes the letter writer is right, however out in the field we can't say this.

This is unbelievable. It is wrong for children to use technology? How do their kids get to school? By horse and buggy? Do they not use electricity? Where do you draw the line?

Below is the complete text of the letter and the response.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Advertising to Charedim

Ynet has a very interesting article on the subject Tapping into haredi ad market

This is a good follow on to my post from a few days ago.

One of the most interesting points is all of the restrictions.

The restrictions in the ultra-Orthodox advertising world are many and varied. Every newspaper has its own Rabbis committee and a head censor who works for them called 'the auditor'. His is in charge of making sure the content published in the newspaper is suitable for the readers' moral values. He approves or disqualifies commercials and makes sure they are photo-shopped, incase there is any hint of femininity.
Women are not allowed to be shown at all, not even little girls. "We take security precautions because man is born evil," explains Eitan Dovkin, director of Habetzefer's haredi satellite. Publishing women's first names is also not allowed. For example, the opposition leader Tzipi Livni is referred to as Mrs. Livni and pregnancy is referred to as "the time before giving birth" or "when you are expecting". 

"Using only the Yiddish language is not a good idea and neither is showing a skullcap in every situation. An ultra-Orthodox watching a doctor with a skullcap will think: 'Do they think I'm stupid? My doctor is secular", says Menachem Eichler, co-CEO Cultures McCann for the ultra-Orthodox sector.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Touch screen kosher phone???

This is why I can't take the whole kosher phone thing seriously. If all you are supposed to be doing with your phone is making calls, then a touch screen phone is completely unnecessary and is in fact a step backwards. What exactly do you need a touch screen for? In fact why do you need 3G if you don't have a data plan? In fact, for actually making phone calls a touch screen can be quite annoying. It is clear that this is being done to keep up with the Jones's and is a money making idea from Pelephone (they charge a lot more for the phone) and the Vaad Harabanim went along, why, I don't understand.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fascinating insight into the Charedi view of various professions from children's books

We bought my 4 year old son a set of books (in Hebrew) written for the Charedi public in Israel. The books teach safety rules through stories about a little boy called Eli.

It was very interesting to see how the various professionals were portrayed. When Eli got hurt and had to go to the hospital, the paramedic and the doctor were both Charedi (big black Yarmulka and beard). When he had cavities and went to the dentist the dentist was likewise portrayed as Charedi. However, when he went to the zoo, both the zookeepers and the head of the zoo were portrayed as Chilonim as was a house painter and a firemen. Of course, they were all men.

It is fascinating that even though the current hashkafa is torah only certain professions are still portrayed as Charedi. You also get a clear picture of how the Charedi world looks upon the various professions. Even though no Israeli Charedi can become a doctor or dentist (as University is absolutely forbidden), they are still portrayed as Charedi as if to say, if you do work these are worthwhile professions. On the other hand, for professions such as zookeepers, firemen, painters the clear implication is that these are not professions that are worthwhile.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kupat Hair - Marrying off your children puts you on the tzedaka rolls

According to Kupat Hair the profile of the recipient of Tzedaka has changed dramatically. In the past most of the people who needed tzedaka were people who had undergone some tragedy, someone died, got sick, divorce etc. the average Charedi was not rich but did not need support from Kupat Hair.

In the last few years this has changed dramatically. Most of the people who now get money from Kupat Hair are regular people who are poor because they married off their children. To marry off their children they had to buy them apartments and that put them under water. They borrowed money that they could not repay and now they need tzedaka (source Michpacha newspaper).

This just strengthens my feeling that the Charedi system is falling apart and cannot go on much longer.

Did the Avos keep all 613 mitzvos?

The You Tube video that everyone is watching has brought this question to the forefront.

R' Hoffman wrote a response The Avos and the Mitzvos, where he claimed that there are 3 opinions, minimalist, middle and maximalist, where he recommended teaching the maximalist position. He also claimed that the video mocked both the maximalist position as well as R' Elyashiv.

IMHO, the video mocked neither. The video mocked those who take the maximalist position to ridiculous extremes.

The fact is that even the maximalist position is not so maximalist.

The same Radvaz who R' Hoffman claims is a maximalist discusses a similar question in a teshuva. He discusses what does it mean that the Torah existed before creation. He quotes Chazal who describe the discussion between the Moshe Rabenu and the Malachim when Moshe went to get the Torah. The Malachim asked how can Hashem give the torah to man? Moshe answered it says in the Torah לא תנאף does that apply to Malachim? It says לא תחמד does that apply to Malachim? etc.

The Radvaz asks what was the Malachim's question and what was Moshe's answer? They didn't know that it says לא תחמד in the Torah? He answers that the Malachim understood Torah on a different plane. They saw Torah as a description of אלוקות, they didn't know about the mitzvos that relate to man. Moshe explained to them that the Torah has another level of meaning where it requires certain mitzvos that only apply to man. He explains that before matan torah the letters of the Torah existed but not in the same order/words that we have. In fact, the Ramban in his introduction to his commentary on Chumash makes the same point. The Gra also is quoted as saying this. The Gemara in Bava Basra has a discussion about who wrote the last 8 pesukim in the torah. One opinion is that Moshe wrote it בדמע. The regular pshat is tears. The Gra however is quoted as saying that דמע is from לשון דמאי, something that is mixed up. He says that Moshe wrote the letters but not the way we read them today. In short, they all say that before Matan Torah the Torah existed in a different state then what we received at Har Sinai.

It is clear that the same thing applies to those who hold from the maximalist position. The Avos were mekayem the mitzvos based on their understanding of how to serve hashem. How to serve Hashem was different then it is now. That is why Yaakov could build a מצבה, Yehuda could perform Yibum with his daughter in-law, Amram could marry his aunt, etc. They fulfilled those mitzvos that made sense to fulfill.

I would like to make another point. Just because Rashi quotes a midrash doesn't mean he holds from it. Rashi quotes midrashim to explain the text, if a midrash explains the text well Rashi will quote it. There are places where Rashi quotes Midrashim that contradict each other.

A few quick examples. In ויצא Rashi quotes Chazal that Dina was conceived as a boy and Leah davened and a נס happened and she turned into a girl. Yet Rashi quotes in Vayigash on the pasuk ואת דינה בתו that the man is responsible for conceiving a daughter. The Maharsha in Nida points out the contradiction and answers that the Gemara in Nidda had a different pshat in ויצא (see my post The interesting story of Dina and Yosef for a full explanation). Yet, Rashi quoted both. Similarly Rashi says that Avos kept all of the Mitzvos yet Rashi says in Vayigash that Shimon married Dina which is clearly prohibited. The Maharal there answers that he saw ברוח הקדש that it was permitted. We see that things are not as simple as they appear.

My point is that it is impossible to take a completely literalist/maximalist approach to the Gemara in Yoma 28b. There are too many examples of things that the Avos did contrary to halacha.

R' Hoffman claims that the majority opinion is the maximalist one. I am not sure where he got that from. In any case, I happened to see that the Meshech Chochma (33:18) seems to take a minimalist view. He explains the Gemara in Yoma 28b that Avraham kept Eruv Tavshilin as a מליצה (an expression) to mean that Avraham was involved in הכנסת אורחים. So we find a 20th century mainstream Acharon taking the minimalist view.

Here is the video that is causing the storm.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fascinating letters in yesterday's Yated

The letters in the Hebrew Yated Neeman are always interesting. I would like to share 2 of them with you.

An Avrech writes about how he was swindled by a get rich scheme. Someone approached him and told him he could make 20,000 shekel a month basically doing nothing. All he had to do was make some initial investment. Well, he fell for it, he paid his initial investment (a large sum of money) and of course the 20,000 a month never materialized.

Now I understand that many people fall for scams and Madoff had some very savvy and rich investors. However, there is no question that the average Charedi Avrech is very vulnerable to these kinds of scams for a number of reasons:
1. They are poor and desperately need money so they are willing to take chances.
2. They are sheltered and have no idea how the economy really works. They don't understand that there is no way that you can make 20,000 shekel doing nothing.

The next letter complains about how Charedi women now need to work 8-9 hours a day to support their husbands in kollel. The letter goes on to say how the husbands are now taking care of the kids in the afternoon getting up at night etc. because the wives are working so many hours. He asks, why can't they only work for 4-5 hours a day instead and work in shifts? Instead of 1 women 8 hours have 2 for 2 4 hour shifts.

This letter also betrays the ignorance of the letter writer about the economy and the workplace. There are 2 reasons why his suggestion is silly:
1. If they only work 4 hours they won't make enough to support their husband learning
2. The jobs that he is talking about are in high tech, knowledge worker jobs like computer programming. It is no problem to have shifts for cashiers, cashier A works 4 hours from 8 - 12 and cashier B works the next 4 hours from 12 - 4. There is little or no loss of productivity. However, that is not the case for computer programmers. 1 person working 8 hours is much more productive then 2 people working 4 hours. In The Mythical Man Month Fred Brooks illustrates a similar fallacy with the following example: If one woman can produce a baby in nine months, then nine women should be able to produce a baby in one month. The reason that this is false is that gestation is a sequential process, whose stages cannot run in parallel. If nine women get pregnant at the same time, in nine months they will produce nine different babies.

A similar principle applies here, many if not most times it is not practical to split up the work between 2 people and therefore you simply have the work proceeding at half the pace. In addition you now have twice as many people who need to synchronize/communicate which slows everyone down.

In short, it simply won't work.

The common denominator of these 2 letters is the fact that the writer has no clue how the economy/workplace really works. This is sad, because if these people ever do leave kollel and go into the workplace they are woefully unprepared for it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Unfortunately, the latest kollel scandal doesn't surprise me

It is an explicit gemara. The gemara in Kiddushin 30b states:

ר' יהודה אומר כל שאינו מלמדו אומנות מלמדו ליסטות ליסטות ס"ד אלא כאילו מלמדו ליסטות

My translation:
R' Yehuda said whoever doesn't teach his son a trade is teaching him to be a robber. [The Gemara asks] teaching him to be a robber? [The Gemara answers] it is as if he is teaching him to be a robber.

The Gemara states explicitly that if you don't teach your children to make a living they will eventually steal because they have no way of supporting themselves. Due to everything that is going on (financial crisis etc.) the Charedi population and institutions are in dire straights and need money. With no other alternatives to make money some turn to robbery exactly as the Gemara predicted.

There is another factor as well. When your whole chinuch is predicated on dismissing everyone else and saying that everyone else is worthless, wrong, a sinner, etc. it is very easy to justify stealing from them. After all, if the government is רשעים etc. there is nothing wrong with stealing from them.

What bothers me most about the latest Kollel scandal

If you haven't heard, a number of kollels were raided yesterday on the suspicion that they were cheating the government.

Police: Haredim embezzled millions in ID fraud
Jerusalem Police on Sunday raided the offices of three ultra-Orthodox non-profit organizations, which operate yeshivas in the capital and nearby towns of Beit Shemesh and Beitar Illit. Officers believe that the organizations embezzled millions from the State.

The haredi institutions are suspected to have produced fake IDs in order to receive monthly stipends from the Education Ministry for alleged yeshiva students.

More than a 1,000 fake ID cards were discovered in the raid, along with computers and machines for printing and laminating the cards, and other equipment.
Police officials said they monitored the organizations in question for quite some time. "The organizations presented a false record of hundreds of students who attend each yeshiva, and received money for these students," one official explained.

What is most bothersome is that many of the Charedi sites (Take a look here for example) are focusing on who turned them in and how they are going to get back at those people. The fact that they stole money from the government isn't important or bad. The real sin is that someone turned them in.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The electricity is back on in the New Square Main Beis Medrash, for now

They gave Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc. a check today for $46,450 toward the unpaid bill nearly 30 hours after the utility shut off power for lack of payment.

They still owe another $31,882, the amount paid today represented the minimum payment for restoration of power.

New Square main synagogue pays $46G to get power back

New Square Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer said earlier today that he and other community members were negotiating a payment plan with the utility to get power restored.
Spitzer blamed the tough economic times cutting into the donations from supporters to pay for the utility costs.

It doesn't sound like this is over by a long shot. I can see a recurrence of this in a few months when they again don't pay.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Square Main Bais Medrash Has Power Cut For Not Paying $78,000 Electric Bill

Financial Meltdown: New Square Main Bais Medrash Has Power Cut For Not Paying $78G Bill

Mispalilim coming to Skver’s main Bais Medrash have been Davening in the dark since Monday morning after Orange and Rockland Utilities cut off power when bills were not paid.

Congregation Zemach owes the utility $78,332 dating to late 2009 and payment negotiations have been ongoing for several months, a utility spokesman told LoHud.

The congregation must pay a minimum of $46,500 for power to be restored, O&R spokesman Michael Donovan said

When you combine this with the Girls School in Brooklyn being evicted for non-payment of rent and all of the other financial crises in the Charedi world, this may be the beginning of the end. I just don't see where the Charedi world is going to get the money to continue as is.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kupat Hair's tactics are gezel gamur

This is not me talking (although I have certainly criticized their tactics, see for example, Another historic event from Kupat Hair Bnei Brak and Kupat Hair never stops ) but R' Matisyahu Solomon.

Kupat Ha’ir’s Over The Top Advertising

The Lakewood mashgiah Rav Mattisyahu Solomon, shlit”a, did term some of the solicitation techniques of Kupat Ha’ir as “gezel gamur”/ theft in the true sense of the term.

I wonder if this will make any difference.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Poverty in Israel - some disturbing statistics about the Charedi world

Hamodia published an article today summing up the poverty report with a focus on the Charedi population. Here are some of the highlights:

1. A staggering 56% of Charedim in Israel live in poverty.
2. The average gross income for Chiloni families is 12,000 shekel a month while for Charedim it is only half, 6,100 shekel a month supporting a much larger family.
3. Only 52% of Charedim work at least 35 hours a week versus 71% of Chilonim.
4. One more interesting statistic, only 38% of Chareidim use computers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not only Orthodox Jews don't shake hands with women ...

neither do some Muslims. A conservative Muslim government minister shook hands with Michelle Obama when she was welcomed to Indonesia. "I tried to prevent (being touched) with my hands but Mrs. Michelle held her hands too far toward me (so) we touched," Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring told tens of thousands of followers on Twitter.

It is fascinating that this is the heter that many Jew use to shake hands with women as well.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Poverty in Israel

Every November in Israel the government publishes a report on poverty and the press makes a big deal about how people are becoming poorer and poorer and more children are falling under the poverty line.

What everyone forgets to mention is that a large percentage of the poor people in Israel are Haredim and Arabs who are poor by choice.

The numbers show that 70% of large families (5 or more kids) are poor. Guess what, families with 5 or more kids are overwhelmingly Haredi or Arab.

The fact is that the Haredi population is poor by choice, large families and little or no secular education means that there is little chance of not being poor. Because of this, there is very little that the government can do to help them.

If you exclude the Haredim and the Arabs the poverty numbers in Israel are not bad. I understand that these groups need to be dealt with as well, but they need to be dealt with differently since they are poor by choice.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Economic slowdown = Shidduchim slowdown

This weeks Hebrew Mishpacha magazine had a very depressing article that because of the economic downturn and the rising apartment prices the shidduch market has slowed down dramatically in Israel. The reason is very simple fewer and fewer parents of girls can afford to buy an apartment for the couple. Many/most of the boys are still holding out for an apartment and there are very few parents of girls who can afford it.

The article says that the dormitories in the Yeshivas are full because the older boys who should be getting married aren't. One Rosh Yeshiva said that usually around 30 boys a year get married, this year only 10 got married. The head of a post high school seminary said that in the past half the girls were engaged or married by the end of the year, last year it was only 10%. The reason is very simple, the boys are holding out for an apartment and the girl's parents simply can't afford it.

The bottom line is that the average Charedi family size has gone up to over 6 kids per family and the income sources have gone down. In previous generations people had war/holocaust reparations from Germany, people actually worked, the cost of living in Israel was much lower, people had money from grandparents, and people lived much simpler life styles. All of these things have gone away. We now have the second or third generation of kollel only parents marrying off their daughters and the money is simply not there. There is simply no way that people can afford to pay $150,000+ to marry off their daughter.

The big question is what is going to happen? IMHO this is a much bigger issue then concerts, internet, etc. This goes to the heart of things marriage and family. It is disappointing that more hasn't been done by the Charedi leadership on this issue.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's hard to be a בן נח II

My wife sent me a fascinating link Noahide Halacha 101 or Meet the Adams Family which details a conversation with someone who tries to keep the ז' מצות בני נח. You can see from the conversation how complicated it is. Here is 1 excerpt:

“This problem went even further,” John continued. “Could we eat in a restaurant where forbidden meats may have contaminated their equipment?”

I admit that I had never thought of this question before. Must a gentile be concerned that a restaurant’s equipment absorbed eiver min hachai? Does a Noahide needs to “kasher” a treif restaurant before he can eat there? Oy, the difficulty of being a goy!

“How did you resolve this dilemma?” I timidly asked.

“Well, for a short time our family stopped eating out,” he replied. “You could say that we ate only treif at home. My wife found the situation intolerable – no MacDonald’s or Wendy’s? Although I know that observant Jews do not understand why this is such a serious predicament, but please bear in mind that we made a conscious decision not to become Jewish. One of our reasons was that we enjoy eating out wherever we can.

“So I decided to ask some rabbis I know, but even then the end of the road was not clearly in sight.”

“Why was that?”

“I had difficulty finding a rabbi who could answer the question. From what I understand, a rabbi’s ordination teaches him the basics necessary to answer questions that apply to kosher kitchens. But I don’t have a kosher house – we observe Adamite laws. As one rabbi told me, ‘I don’t know if Noahides need to be concerned about what was previously cooked in their pots.’”

What a fascinating question, does the din of טעם כעיקר apply to a גוי? This is just 1 example. These kinds of questions come up on every facet of life.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why were 11 sifrei torah burned in the Vihznitzer Beis Medrash in Bnei Brak?

It seems like it is a machlokes. R' Wosner said it was because they did not treat the Beis Knesses with respect.

It is the obligation of every individual to maintain the sanctity of the Beis Knesses. Do not eat, do not use phones and do not talk about trivial matters while in a place of such holiness. There are Shuls that will turn half the Beis Medrash into an Ezras Nashim for a simcha. This is completely forbidden.

source Vos Iz Neias

On the other hand R' Chaim Kanievsky is reported as having said that the reason the Sifrei Torah were burned is because they disrepected the Chazon Ish. 50 years ago the Chazon Ish asked the Vihznitzer Rebbe not to use electricity from the electric company on Shabbos but rather to use a generator. Recently, they have started to use the regular electricity on shabbos and that was disrepecting the Chazon Ish who was like a sefer torah so the sifrei torah were burned.

source Kikar Hashabbat

What are we supposed to make of this? How does this fit in with Daas Torah?

As an aside R' Wosner made a startling comment about the holocaust as well:

Our gedolim have already explained why Sefardim were not affected by the Holocaust,” Because they are extra stringent when it comes to showing proper respect for a Beis Knesses.

It always bothers me when someone says that they know why the Holocaust happened or why certain people died and certain people didn't. It is clear that the Holocaust was a time of הסתר פנים and like the age old question of צדיק ורע לו we will never know why.

It's hard to be a בן נח

I started thinking about how hard it is for a בן נח to properly observe theז' מצות בני נח. Where is their shulchan aruch? Who paskins for them?

Believe it or not there are many disputes about the ז' מצות בני נח. Here are a few examples:
1. Is pikuach nefesh דוחה one of the ז' מצות בני נח? It is a machlokes the Chazon Ish and the Minchas Chinuch.
2. Is there divorce? The Pnei Yehoshua claims that divorce is a chiddush and therefore doesn't apply to בני נח, others argue that they don't need divorce, if either party wants they can just leave and that ends the marriage.
3. When does a בן נח become a גדול? The Minchas Chinuch claims that shiurim are a הלכה למשה מסיני and therefore don't apply to בני נח, he postulates that whenever they have דעת they are a גדול.

What we see from here is that there are fundamental disputes about major issues with no resolution. What is a בן נח to do? They have no poskim and can never have poskim as they are not allowed to learn torah and in fact are חייב מיתה if they learn torah. It is a little strange that they are obligated to keep these mitzvos but there is no framework for them to do so.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Some post Simchas Torah thoughts

Many shuls drag out the davening/hakafos on Simchas Torah and finish very late. IMHO this is not working and people are starting to vote with their feet. If you look around the shuls you will see a core group of people who are dancing and everyone else is basically hanging out waiting for hakafos to finish. I have been davening Vasikin for the past few years on Simchas Torah and every year the minyan keeps getting bigger as more and more people do not want to be stuck in shul until 1,2, or even 3PM. This year the minyan was enormous with people coming from many different shuls. In addition, shuls adopt a number of questionable halachic practices to do this:
1. Making Kiddush before Mussaf and eating more then a כביצה
2. Not davening Musaf before mincha gedola and therefore getting involved in a question of which should come first mincha or musaf
3. Not davening musaf before 7 hours (around 12:30 this year in Israel).

These are not the biggest issues but why get involved.

In many yeshivas (including my son's) they have a much better system. They start davening earlier and have short hakafos (max 5-10 minutes each) and finish davening by 11. People can then go home and eat and enjoy the Yom Tov. They then daven mincha a little early (4PM) and have hakafos from after mincha until Yom Tov is over, approximately 2 hours.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some thoughts on the Yomim Noraim davening experience

Given that we just recently finished the Yomim Noraim I would like to express some thoughts about my experience.

I. Very few people pay attention to all of Chazaras Hashatz. It is simply too long with too many arcane and complicated piyutim.

There seem to be 4 groups of people
1. Those who actually pay attention to the whole chazaras hashatz, a very small minority
2. Those who try but can't focus for the whole time so they bring a sefer and look at it at various times
3. People who are bored and either fall asleep or daydream
4. People who keep themselves busy with various things (e.g. on Yom Kippur walk around with smelling salts), go in and out, etc.

I admit that I belong to group 2. I try to pay attention but I find it very difficult to stay focused on many of the piyutim etc.and always bring a sefer to look at it.
I don't have a solution for how to make the situation better, but I see with my own eyes that it is definitely a problem. If only a small percentage of the people in the shul are paying attention to Chazaras Hashatz then what is the point?

II. I like the idea of setting a fixed amount time (e.g. 15 minutes) for the silent shemoneh esrei. It makes it possible to pace your silent shemoneh esrei so that you can finish in time to hear chazaras hashatz (if you want), and if you daven a little quicker, you know exactly when chazaras hashatz will start so that you can go to the bathroom, learn something, whatever, knowing how much time you have.

III. No speeches. The davening is long enough and people have a hard enough time focusing on it, adding a speech is counterproductive. Davening on Rosh Hashana was almost 6 hours, to add a speech to that (especially along one) is too much. In addition, on Rosh Hashana many shuls announce that shofar blowing will not be before X AM so that the women know when to come. The speech has to be before shofar blowing because afterwords you can't be mafsik. Therefore, in my experience what happens is that the women come at X AM and the Rabbis is speaking and they need to wait who knows how long until the speech is over. if there is going to be a speech it should end exactly at X AM no matter when it started (even if it started 2 minutes before).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Starting Shacharis early the day after Yom Kippur

The acharonim (see the Mateh Efraim and Aruch Hashulchan at the end of Siman 624) bring down a minhag to get up early to daven the day after Yom Kippur so the Satan will not be able to complain.

Somehow this has turned into a minhag to start davening 5 minutes earlier. The 6:30 minyan starts at 6:25 the 7:00 minyan starts at 6:55 and even the 8:00 minyan starts at 7:55.

IMHO I don't see how this is mekayem the minhag at all. There is no way that going 5 minutes early to an 8:00 minyan is called משכימים. This is just another instance where the spirit of the minhag is completely ignored for a doubtful mechanical kiyum.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Thomas Friedman gets it half right

First the part he gets right (When Friends Fall Out).

I have a big problem when people get so agitated by Israel’s actions in Gaza but are unmoved by Syria’s involvement in the murder of the prime minister of Lebanon, by the Iranian regime’s killing of its own citizens demonstrating for the right to have their votes counted, by Muslim suicide bombers murdering nearly 100 Ahmadi Muslims in mosques in Pakistan on Friday and by pro-Hamas gunmen destroying a U.N.-sponsored summer camp in Gaza because it wouldn’t force Islamic fundamentalism down the throats of children.

That concern for Gaza and Israel’s blockade is so out of balance with these other horrific cases in the region that it is not surprising Israelis dismiss it as motivated by hatred

Unfortunately he offers the same old tired solution based on a Palestinian that is doomed to failure.

Amos Oz is such an idiot

He wrote a typical left wing editorial in the NY Times today. The following statement is typical of his idiocy:
No idea has ever been defeated by force — not by siege, not by bombardment, not by being flattened with tank treads and not by marine commandos. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one.

Really??? What about the Nazis in WWII? I am sure that Amos Oz and his ilk would have been all for a negotiated peace with Hitler in 1941. After all, you don't make peace with friends, you make peace with enemies. What about slavery in the US? The Civil War? The list goes on and on.

His solution is typical left wing idiocy as well.

...quickly reach an agreement with the Palestinians on the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as defined by the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has to sign a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank — and by doing so, reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip. That latter conflict, in turn, can be resolved only by negotiating with Hamas or, more reasonably, by the integration of Fatah with Hamas.

What world is he living in? This is a complete and utter fantasy. Why not throw in peace with Iran as well?

What hypocrisy

It is amazing how hypocritical the world is. The flotilla departed from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. Since Cyprus became independent in 1960, there has been tension between the Greek majority (80%) who are Orthodox Christians and the Muslim, Turkish minority that lives in the northern part of the island. In 1974, the Turkish army invaded the island to aid its Turkish "brothers". In 1983, the Turkish-Cypriots declared an independent state in the northern part of the island. Turkey’s occupation of half of Cyprus is deemed illegal by the European Union and the United Nations. If the government of Turkey feels so strongly about ending disputed occupations, why does it not start with the disputed occupation it is operating itself? Where is the outrage from the world? What about the Kurds in Turkey? Why don't they have their own state?

The world is in an uproar about the deaths of 9 so called "peace activists", yet around 500 civilians were killed in Thailand, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India in just the month of May with nary a peep from the UN.

Israel needs to truly disengage from Gaza

I was against the disengagement when it happened, but now that it happened Israel needs to fully disengage, and in fact should have done this from day 1.

Israel needs to tell the world, we are leaving Gaza, closing the border, cutting off electricity, water etc. You want to turn the clock back to June 4, 1967, fine, we have NO responsibilities to Gaza.

Let the Palestinians in Gaza figure out how they will get electricity etc. Let them get everything from Egypt,by sea, however they want. Let's see how their fellow Arabs the Egyptians would treat the Palestinians in a situation like that.

Believe it or not Aluf Benn from Haaretz wrote a column today suggesting exactly this.

Monday, May 31, 2010

ויקרא משה להושע בין יהושע

Last year I had 2 posts about this (ויקרא משה להושע בין יהושע and ויקרא משה להושע בין יהושע II) where I discussed the difficult Rashi.

I just saw that Torah Temima has a similar answer to the Keren Ora. He says that Moshe davened for Yehoshua because Yehoshua was from Yosef and it says in וישב that ויבא יוסף את דבתם רעה אל אביהם and therefore the sin of lashon hara was something that Moshe thought Yehoshua needed special protection from. He also explains that the derasha in the Gemara is using 20/20 hindsight. Moshe really just davened that Hashem should save Yehoshua, he had no idea about what the Meraglim would do. Later the Gemara looking back added on that he should be saved from the עצת המרגלים.

In truth, this answer is also very difficult. To say the Gemara is looking back with 20/20 hindsight and Moshe didn't say that is very difficult. In addition, according to the Torah Temima why didn't Moshe daven for the representative of Menashe as well as he was also from Yosef.

I saw that others ask, how could Moshe daven for Yehoshua not to sin? הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים and therefore you can't daven for someone else not to sin, it his choice.

The bottom line is that for me עדיין צ"ע how to understand the Rashi and the Gemara in Sota.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mishpacha Editor: Everyone knows Kollel only is a הוראת שעה

In this weeks English Mishpacha magazine Rabbi Moshe Grylak wrote the following:

...we have constantly heard from gedolei yisroel since the time of the Chazon Ish, who insisted that that universal torah learning was obligatory for several generation in order to rebuild the Torah world that was destroyed in the Holocaust. The reconstruction has succeeded beyond all expectations and legions of torah scholars have filled the Earth. Our Gedolim knew however, that full time learning is not for everyone. Even Maran Harav Shach ztz"l the great disseminator and defender of Torah in our times, said on many occasions that Klal Yisrael consists of Torah scholars and balabatim who support Torah learning. "Everyone is required to serve Hashem," he said, "but not everyone can do so by means of learning all day."

What refreshing words, I hope that it is really true.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What should we daven for, עולם הזה or עולם הבא?

The impression I get from many people, articles, etc. is that a person needs to daven for spiritual things for himself and his family.

The fact is that there is an explicit Gemara that says the opposite.

The Gemara in Shabbos (10a) states:
רבא חזייה לרב המנונא דקא מאריך בצילותיה אמר מניחין חיי עולם ועוסקים בחיי שעה

Rava saw that R' Hamnuna was davening for a long time, he told him you are neglecting olam haba and spending time on olam hazeh

Rashi explains:
חיי עולם תורה, תפילה צורך חיי שעה היא לרפואה לשלום ולמזונות

chayei olam is torah, tefilla is chayei sha'ah as it is for health, peace and money

You see explicitly from the Gemara that tefilla is considered dealing with worldly matters (peace, health, and money) and only torah is chayei olam haba. If Rav Hamnuna was davening that he should understand the sugya or that is children should succeed in learning why is that called חיי שעה? You see from the Gemara that Rava had no hava amina that Rav Hamnuna was davening for that but Rava understood that R' Hamnuna was davening for worldly matters and that is why he rebuked him.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Charedim and working in Israel

The Mishpacha newspaper had pages upon pages of articles about Charedim working. The gist of the articles was that Charedim want to work and that the chilonim/government don't want them.

I would like to give my take on this.

One of the more effective claims that the Chiloni politicians and media have made in the past few weeks is why in Brooklyn can Charedim be doctors, lawyers, accountants etc. but not in Bnei Brak. The Charedi representatives only answer has been discrimination.

There is no question that there is discrimination against Charedim but the fact is Charedim can't get jobs for other reasons. Here are some of the differences that I see between Brooklyn and Bnei Brak.

1. In Brooklyn, Charedim go to real Universities whether it is Touro, Brooklyn College, Queens, etc. These are regular accredited universities with decent reputations. In Israel, Charedim will not go to University. They go to to all kinds of special Charedi programs that offer some kind of degree, the equivalent in NY of going to a place like Devry's. Many employers in Israel want a degree from a recognized University which the Charedim don't have.
2. In Brooklyn Charedim are much more open to the world. Guys who learn in the Mir, Chaim Berlin, etc. follow sports and generally know what is going on. Chafetz Chaim Yeshiva in Queens (certainly considered a Charedi Yeshiva), when they built their new building included a beautiful gym, that would never be done in Israel.They see non-Jews in the neighborhood and interact them. They see women dressed not so tzniusly. Therefore when they go to work, they have something in common with their co-workers. They can talk about sports, politics, technology, or whatever. In Israel, Charedim are very very sheltered. If you live in Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer, Beitar, many neighborhoods in Yerushalayim, RBS, etc. you basically hardly ever see a non-Charedi person let alone a woman dressed non-tzniusly. Their also is no openness to sports or anything else in the general culture. Therefore, it is very hard for a Charedi person to fit in, they have absolutely nothing in common with the other people and have no idea how to interact with them.
3. Jews in America are stereotyped as smart and non-violent. This helps in the job market. Charedim in Israel are thought of as violent (rioting all the time) and ignorant.
4. In Israel, the Charedi parties are constantly pushing for religious coercion, whether it is not selling chometz on Pesach, no public buses on Shabbos, mehadrin buses etc. This causes the general public to worry that the Charedim are trying to take over and create a Taliban like state. In Brooklyn, there are no worries about religious coercion.

The bottom line is that the Charedim want to have their cake and eat it too. On one hand, they want to have the freedom to educate their children however they want, but then when it comes to getting a job, they want their education to be considered. It doesn't work that way. If you want to join the world you need to play by the rules and one of the rules is education.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Girls should not go to the Kotel Shavuos night for tznius reasons

My translation

We have been asked by the Gedolei Yisrael to publicize the following in their name:

כה תאמר לבית יעקב ותגיד לבני ישראל

Yisrael are holy and many go to the Kotel on Shavuos night, especially to daven at vasikin.

Since the route to the Kotel is through narrow streets and alleys, it creates a serious mixture (men and women) and the pitfalls are many until the bad outweighs the good.

Therefore we are calling on the girls who are pious and holy not to go to the kotel on Shavuos until 10AM on Shavuos morning.

(Those who must go should go through the Jaffa gate).

The route using the Nablus gate is for men only

It ir preferable that boys do not go by themselves but rather should be accompanied by an adult because of off the derech kids and other people who are hanging around.

The rest discusses the separation of the sexes at the Kotel.

The big question is going to be what happens to girls/women who decide to go tonight and go through שער שכם (probably not even knowing about this)? Are they going to be harrassed/attacked? Is this going to create another big controversy?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why do we need to keep dinim d'rabbanon?

This seems like a pretty obvious question but the answer is not so obvious. The Rambam in the Sefer Hamitzvos explains that we need to kepp dinim d'rabbanan based on לא תסור. In other words there is a חיוב מן התורה to keep dinim d'rabbanan. The Ramban there disagrees and asks on the Rambam, if there is a חיוב מן התורה then why are we מחלק between dinim d'rabbanon and d'oraysas? If every din d'rabbanan is really a d'oraysa then why do we say ספקא דרבנן לקולא?

We see clearly from the Ramban that he holds that there is no חיוב מן התורה to kepp dinim d'rabbanan. If so what is the מחייב?

R' Elchanan in קונטרוס דברי סופרים has the following fascinating suggestion. He suggests that there really is no מחייב. He says that why do we keep d'oraysa's? Because we want to do the רצון hashem. The same applies to dinim d'rabbanan. we assume that whatever the חכמים were מתקן is the רצון hashem and therefore we keep them because we want to do the רצון hashem.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A refreshing take on the business of Tzedaka

Indeed, these false values have already begun to leach into our thought processes, and the partnership arrangement” described in the article is symptomatic of a creeping trend toward facile religious devices that are expected to yield instant and foolproof gratification. It is akin to other contemporary manifestations of the same disease: seeking “segulos” as a “push-button” means to achieve desires, consulting “mekubalim” in the expectation of immediate results, responding favorably to flyers from tzedakah organizations filled with “case studies” of people who, with disaster staring them in the face, make desperate pledges and are miraculously and instantly saved.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Israel is accepted into the OECD

This was the big news yesterday as everyone was very happy and congratulatory. I thought the most interesting reaction was from Yated Neeman. They were 100% positive stating how it is a good thing for Israel, etc. They quoted Moshe Gafni (MK from Degel Hatorah) taking a little credit as head of the Knesset Finance Committee.

Why is this so interesting? Because acceptance into the OECD was only possible because of all of the economic reforms that were put into place by Netanyahu and his successors which the Charedi world fought tooth and nail against. It was also only possible because Israel has a good University system and produces top quality graduates who can produce on a level equal to or above the rest of the world. If Gafni and friends had had their way Israel would not be an OECD member.

In short, if the Charedi world had it's way Israel would have had no chance of joining the OECD yet the Charedim are perfectly happy to reap the benefits.

It is patently clear that a Charedi society could never be self sufficient and that is clearly not what the Torah wants from us. The Torah is supposed to be a blueprint for an independent religious state that can be self sufficient not a ghetto relying on other Jews and Goyim. This was exactly the dispute between Rivka and Yitzchak regarding giving teh Berachos to Esav. Yitzchak thought that Yaakov didn't need to be self sufficent that Esav would provide for him and Rivka felt that Yaakov needed teh berachos of gashmius as well. We all know who was correct.

The tzedaka wars are escalating

In the past few years the fight for tzedaka money has become a never ending series of escalations. The Kupat Hair Beni Brak started with having Kvitelach for special days, now every one is doing that. The Kupat Hair Beni Brak has escalated again. Now they are promising that someone will daven at the Kever of Rashbi for a whole year for anyone who donates. I can't imagine what will be next.

Here is an ad from a local Kupa:

Here is the latest Kupat Hair ad:

It is absolutely unbelievable that Misnagdim are now talking about giving Kvitelach to Rabanim.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Charedim work and education

For the past week this has been a major topic of discussion in Israel. IMHO the Charedi responses have been disingenuous at best. Eli Yishai (Head of Shas) was interviewed a umber of times about this, his answer was come visit our Shas school in Ramat Gan where we had the highest test scores in the country. That answer, while true, is very misleading and not indicative of the state of Charedi education. That Shas school teaches secular studies at a high level because the clientele demands it. Ideally, all Shas schools would be Torah only like the Ashkenazi schools. However, since Shas appeals to a much wider audience they have schools which have a high level of secular studies. Other Charedi spokesman have made similar comments. The bottom line is that the Charedi ideal is Torah only and anyone who says anything else is lying.

When it comes to working and jobs, again the Charedi spokesmen want to have their cake and eat it too. You can't provide no secular education and then complain you are shut out of jobs because they require a degree.

There is no question that a lot of what is learned in secular studies in high school is a waste and can be skipped. However, there are core subjects that are very important. The Charedi world thinks that in a few months people can learn what is needed to get a job. That is true for some things but not for many and certainly not for the jobs of the future. They seem to believe that secular knowledge is easy to acquire and there isn't much of it. As R' Aryeh Kaplan described Another approach is that which many Chassidim have. They say, “What do scientists know? Do they know what’s happening? Do they know what’s going on? They’re a bunch of phonies, a bunch of bluffers, a bunch of stupidniks! Do they really have a way of finding out the truth? They find a bone and they think it’s from a monkey.” But, I think to somebody who knows what science is, this is a very unsatisfactory approach. much of the Charedi world has no clue about how much knowledge there is out there.

There is a very elitist attitude that if someone can learn a sugya in Bava Kama he can surely learn x (x being any secular discipline). This is simply not true. Learning Torah definitely is helpful in teaching certain modes of thinking but is certainly not the be all and end all of knowledge.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

I am back

For the past few months I have been working almost non-stop on a very big project at work and therefore have had no time or energy to blog. Things have finally calmed down a little and I hope to be back blogging.

One thing I learned over this period is how important Shabbos is. This project was being worked on by people all over the world (India, Israel, US East Coast, US West Coast), which meant that someone was working on it 24 hours a day. This made the project a 24x6 job for me as I had to keep track of people all over the world and interact with them. Shabbos allowed me to get away for 25 hours and not think about work, check e-mails etc. On Shabbos I could truly get away. I feel bad for the othe rpeople on the project who don't have that. They were literally on call 24x7 for a few months, at least I had 1 day a week off.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Not a Zero-Sum Game

Jonathan Rosenblum has printed some really interesting columns lately, Not a Zero-Sum Game is another one.

For the record, I made a very similar point 5 years ago in this post The Charedi view of the government and money.

I would like to make a few comments on some of what he wrote:

From an economic point of view, Israel has no interest in chareidim performing menial work when they are capable of much more productive labor. As a professor of computer science at Bar Ilan University commented recently, “Anyone who can hold kop in Rabbi Akiva Eiger can be taught to be a highly skilled computer programmer.”

This is a myth that the Charedi likes to perpetuate, that Charedim are smarter then everyone else. It is simply not true. There are smart Charedim and not so smart Charedim. חכמה בגויים תאמין and there are some very smart chilonim as well. This idea that any Charedi who wants could become a professional is silly. Some certainly could, others definitely could not.

Both arguments implicitly accept the necessity of higher and better paid chareidi employment. In his interview with the English Mishpacha two weeks ago, Bnei Brak Mayor Yaakov Asher spoke of the upsurge in vocational education in the wake of dramatic cuts in child allowances.. Still, according to the article, there are only 13,000 employed individuals in Bnei Brak, a city of 165,000 souls. Clearly, it is a rare salary that can support 12.5 individuals.

There are 2 very important points here.
1. He can say that there is a necessity for higher Charedi employment but until the "Gedolim" say it it is meaningless.
2. It is unbelievable that in a city of 165,000 only 13,000 people work. Believe it or not money doesn't grow on trees. This relates back to the post that I quoted at the beginning. Many Charedim view the government as a cash machine, give us money and leave us alone. The budget is a zero sum game, whatever we can save and get for us great whatever doesn't go to us is basically lost.