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.