Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eli Yishai (Interior Minister): A Charedi only city will have no income and will not be able to survive

In a radio interview to Kol Brama, Eli Yishai explained his opposition to splitting Bet Shemesh into a Charedi city and a non-Charedi city. He explained that a Charedi city has little or no tax base, cities raise much of their money from property taxes (arnona). However, 80% of Charedim receive a very large discount paying very little. In addition, in a Charedi city there is little or no industry.The bottom line is that a Charedi city with no Chilonim will be bankrupt.

What does this say about the viability of the Charedi world as constituted?


Thursday, December 29, 2011

What should we do with contradictory medrashim especially when Rashi quotes both?

When Yosef reveals himself to his brothers the medrash says that he "proved" his identity by showing them his mila. Yet, in last week's parsha (Miketz) the medrash on the Pasuk
ויאמר פרעה לכל מצרים לכו אל יוסף אשר יאמר לכם תעשו
says that Yosef forced all the מצרים to do a מילה and therefore if even the Egyptians had a מילה what proof was Yosef trying to bring by showing them his מילה?

There are a number of answers offered but I believe that this raises a more fundamental question, do we need to assume that medrashim are not contradictory especially when Rashi quotes both? I can't offer a definitive answer but I would suggest that the answer is no. The purpose of medrashim is not necessarily to tell us the pshat in the text but rather to bring out certain lessons and therefore even if the medrashim conflict the lessons are still valuable.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Noted Charedi Mechanech: Banning The Internet Is Not The Answer

London - Noted Charedi Mechanech: Banning The Internet Is Not The Answer

Rabbi Osher Shapiro explained how the internet is not the reason for the ever growing problem of at risk teens that plagues society.  Rabbi Shapiro, who lives in Stamford Hill London, is the son of the Naroler Rebbe Rabbi Berish Shapiro Shlita, in addition to being a well known mechanech and founder of Kol Bonayich, a United Kingdom based outreach organization.

 In fact, Rabbi Shapiro placed the blame for the younger generation’s fascination with the internet squarely on the shoulders of those who issued internet bans and said that the act of banning something such as the internet or a concert only increases its appeal. According to Rabbi Shapiro the internet, like the telephone, the radio or the cell phone, is an instrument that was, at first, met with great trepidation by many in the Jewish community, but when used properly can become an integral and appropriate part of our lives.

Finally someone in the Charedi world who is willing to say the emperor has no clothes. There is no question that the internet is not going away any time soon and in fact is becoming more and more ubiquitous. More and more services are going online and soon there will be many things that are only accessible on the internet (e.g. making an appointment at the US Embassy in Israel). It is simply not workable to ban the internet in modern society.

R' Elyashiv's No's - No to Nachal Charedi, No to Charedi colleges, No to Charedi job programs

The following letter from R' Elyashiv was printed on the front page of yesterday's Yated Neeman:

... We must protest and warn of all sorts of trends from outside to harm the pure cruse of oil, who found 'special frameworks for Haredim,' which will be under their full control and spirit, included in this are: programs of national service, army service,
They also are encouraging all kinds of institutes and colleges for job training and academic degrees which bring in foreign ambitions absorbed from the outside, and their goal is to bring a change in the spirit and essence of the Haredi public, and act to introduce all sorts of other aspirations, national and enlightenment which our forefathers did not know; and to integrate and connect them with the nonreligious life and the culture of evil people.

The question that needs to be asked is where will the money come from? If job training, secular studies etc. are prohibited how will people make a living? Live on handouts? Is that really the traditional Jewish way? Given the recent events in Bet Shemesh things are coming to a head and the secular majority is not going to give the Charedim money for much longer. In any case in 20-30 years the Charedim will be the majority and there won't be any money for the government to give.

The Charedi world has this idea that everyone is out to get them, that the secular want them to become irreligious. IMHO, from my experience working in Israel (with mostly Chilonim) this is simply not true. In fact, my experience is that they respect the religious people that they interact with at work. The average Chiloni has no interest in making anyone irreligious. They do however want a number of things:

1. Freedom from religious coercion
2. Army service for Charedim
3. No money for people sitting and learning

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Another fascinating picture of R' Ovadya Yosef and his family

This time as a young child, the adults are his mother and father.


When to daven mincha this Friday?

What is different about this Friday? This Friday we will be lighting Chanuka candles. Usually on Friday, most peoples wives light Shabbos candles and then they go to daven Mincha. The minhag on Shabbos Chanuka is that we light Chanuka candles before Shabbos candles (this needs a post by itself to explain why). Davening mincha after lighting Chanuka candles is problematic for 2 reasons:
1. The Chida writes that since Chanuka candles are זכר למקדש, they should be lit after Mincha because in the Beis Hamikdash the menora was lit only after the תמיד של בין הערבים. Nowadays, Mincha is instead of the תמיד.
2. There is a machlokes what is the nature of the mitzvah of lighting candles on Chanuka? Is it a mitzva of לילה? Or is it a mitzva of פרסומי ניסא? According to some Rishonim (the Rashba and others) it is a mitzva of night (see What is the nature of the mitzvah of lighting candles on Chanuka?, for a lengthy explanation of the machlokes). Based on this, when we light before sunset on Friday night, it is the regular din that you can do a mitzva of night starting from plag hamincha. If so, when we light we are designating the time from plag hamincha until shkia, night, and therefore it is inappropriate to daven mincha then (this is similar to the early Shabbos problem of davening Mincha and Maariv between plag and shkia).

Based on these 2 reasons, the minhag in many places has become to daven Mincha this Friday early (mincha gedola time) so that Chanuka candles will be lit after mincha.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Free private Mehadrin buses for 6 million shekel a month

The incident with Tanya Rosenblit seems to be the straw that broke the camels back (Tanya Rosenblit Is The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back) and it is clear that Egged will not be able to continue the Mehadrin bus lines.

Therefore a group of Charedi askanim have come up with a plan to set up free private mehadrin bus lines. Why free? Because by law a private company cannot run a fee for service bus line without a permit from the Ministry of Transport which they won't get. Therefore, to get around this the buses will be free, however, there will be pushkas on the bus for anyone who wishes to contribute.

This is expected to cost 6 million shekel a month. As I wrote here, The real cost of mehadrin standards, you have to question whether this is the best use of such a large sum of money. The Charedi population is very poor (see Poverty in Israel - some disturbing statistics about the Charedi world) and I am sure that the money could be used for more pressing needs then Mehadrin buses.

Different laining in חו"ל and ארץ ישראל on Chanuka?

Every year this amazes me.

On Chanuka we read the parsha of the נשיאים, every day the נשיא for that day. Each נשיא is 6 pesukim and we have 3 aliyas. The miniumum number of pesukim for an aliya is 3. therefore we are 3 pesukim short. From where do we get the extra 3 pesukim? This is a machlokes the Mechaber and the Rama. The Mechaber writes that we simply read over that day. In other words, tomorrow morning Kohen will read the first 3 pesukim of the 5th נשיא, Levi will read the next 3, and the third aliya simply repeats all 6 pesukim of the 5th נשיא. The Rama on the other hand says, that for the third aliya you simply read the next day. In other words, tomorrow morning Kohen will read the first 3 pesukim of the 5th נשיא, Levi will read the next 3, and the third aliya reads the 6th נשיא. In חו"ל the minhag is like the Rama and in EY the minhag is like the mechaber.

The Gra points out that this is לשיטתם by chol hamoed succos. On chol hamoed succos the problem is greater, each day is only 3 pesukim and there are 4 aliyos. According to the Mechaber in חו"ל kohen and levi read the 2 days of sefeka d'yoma and then the next 2 aliyas simply repeat them. The Rama writes that שלישי reads the next day, meaning if today is the first day of Chol Hamoed, the first 2 aliyas read days 2 and 3 and the third aliya reads day 4, even though it is clearly not day 4 even with the sefeka d'yoma, and רביעי goes back on the first 2 days. In EY the machaber writes that we simply repeat the same thing 4 times. Here also the minhag in EY is like the mechaber.

The machlokes would seem to be does the next day have any connection to today and does it make sense to read it.

Interestingly enough the Ashkenazim in EY are noheg like the Mechaber both on Succos and on Chanuka.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Colored strollers prohibited? No it's a fraud - UPDATED

I saw the following pashkevil that colored strollers are prohibited, I don't if it is a joke or real.

According to Kikar Shabbat the pashkevil is a fraud.

However, that fact that so any people believed it or at least thought that it could be true says it all.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The IRS is going after me and other Americans in Israel

There have been articles in Hamodia for months about how the IRS is cracking down and is auditing people in Israel who claimed the child tax credit. However, I never thought it would happen to me. Last week I received a letter from the IRS stating that I owed tens of thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. I was quite surprised as I file a tax return every year and get a refund every year. It took me a while to figure out why they thought I owed all that money but I finally figured out what they did. I immediately went to an accountant who specializes in these things and he told me that I am not alone, many people have gotten such letters.

Here is the IRS's modus operendi. Let's take as an example someone who made $100,000 in salary working in Israel and paid $40,000 in Israeli taxes with 6 kids. The taxes that they paid in Israel more then cover what their US tax liability and since the child tax credit is refundable they would get between $5000 - $6000 as a refund. What the IRS does is they believe that you made $100,000 but throw everything else away. (Very similar to teh idea of פלגינן דיבורא in halacha). They deny that the foreign taxes were paid and the fact that you have 6 children. From their perspective it is all a fiction to cheat the US government. Therefore, from the IRS's perspective you made $100,000, paid no taxes, and in fact got $6000 in illegitimate child tax credits. Oh, and by the way you have 30 days to answer them otherwise they start taking your assets.

Proving that I made what I said I made and paid taxes in Israel like I said, is not difficult, I have my pay stubs and year end (tofes 106) statement. However, how do you prove that your children are your children and that they live with you? What kind of proof can you bring? The accountant suggested going to our family doctor and getting a letter from him attesting that these are our children. We did that and it turns out we were not the first to ask him for it.

The accountant needs to get my Israeli pay stubs etc. translated and then he will respond to the IRS. Hopefully it will go well.

One lesson that I learned, never throw out things like pay stubs, etc. You never know when you may need them.


After submitting all my supporting documentation (pay stubs, children's passports, letters from schools, doctors, etc.) the IRS has withdrawn their claim and sent me an official letter stating that I don't owe anything.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Maintaining a pure Torah outlook

The following letter appeared in today's Hamodia and to me epitomizes the issues that I have with the Charedi world.

Can you believe this? No matter how much Torah is learned how many mitzvos are done, it is all worthless if you don't have the pure Torah outlook. Of course the big question is who decides what the pure Torah outlook is? In the book Harav Mibrisk Volume 3, there is a discussion of the Aguda convention before WWII where the question of the partition of Palestine was discussed and in fact the majority opinion was in favor. The book describes how R' Elchonon got up at the convention and expressed the pure Torah view against Zionism, partition etc. and that this was the Brisker Rav's position as well. What is amazing is that the author describes R' Elchonon's position as the pure Torah position and dismisses all of the other Gedolim's opinions as non-pure Torah positions. Based on what? Why was R' Elchonon's position more pure Torah then the other Gedolim who were at the convention? How do we decide? In fact a bigger question is whether there is such a thing as the 1 pure Torah outlook? Was R' Akiva not propounding a pure Torah outlook when he declared that Bar Kochva was Moshiach? Was R' Saadya Gaon not expressing a pure Torah outlook when he dismissive the idea of gilgulim? I could go on with any number of example, the fact is that on just about every major theological issue there is a fundamental machlokes starting with who does hashgacha pratis apply to, to the source of machlokes. Is 1 side not expressing a pure Torah outlook?

IMHO this is the biggest problem in the Charedi world today. The inability to admit that there may be more then 1 path, that everything is not black and white. As R' Elyashiv was quoted as saying "They could say it we can not". Since the end of the Sanhedrin there have always been multiple opinions in Judaism, the Charedi world's attempt to deny this is simply revisionist history.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The mystery of the ninth year is solved

A few days ago I posted about Kupat Hair's big campaign of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year and I (among others) asked the question how is this the 9th year? This morning in shul I saw a whole booklet put out by kupat hair where they explain this "segula" and have an FAQ. Question number 4 is our question, the sefer says the ninth year and yet this year is not the ninth year? The answer given in the name of R' Wosner is you are right, it isn't the ninth year but it doesn't matter. In fact any 9 is good.

Here is the actual text from the booklet:

So when you really think about it, according to R' Wosner the whole Kupat Hair's campaign was a fraud. There is no 9 minutes of grace, as according to R' Wosner any 9 is good, just like it doesn't have to be the ninth year who says it has to be the ninth hour. Maybe all day on the 9th day of the 9th month is good. In fact maybe even the whole month?

The bottom line is once you say R' Wosner's answer that the 9th year is לאו דוקא where do you stop?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Some interesting statistics about the Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim

Number of students: 7200
Number of Batei Medrash: 20
Number of Yeshiva students: 3400
Number of Kollel avreichim: 3000 (I know the numbers don't add up)
Number of staff members: 200+
Number of shnitzel pieces served on Wednesday's: 10,000+
Number of students served lunch every day: 6000
Monthly budget: 10,000,000 NIS
Monthly stipend budget: 3,000,000 NIS
Yearly budget: 120,000,000 NIS
Debt owed: 54,000,000 NIS

Source: Mishpacha magazine in Hebrew ה' כסלו תשע"ב

Saturday, December 03, 2011

What is the significance of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year? - Updated

This ad is all over the Charedi press this week.

I understand the 9th day of the 9th month but how is this the 9th year? What is it the 9th year of?

Someone suggested that 9th year is the 9th year after Yovel. However, that is impossible for a number of reasons.
1. This is the 4th year of the shemitta cycle so there is no way that this is the 9th year of the Yovel cycle the math doesn't work out.
2. There is no Yovel nowadays so there can't be a 9th year in the Yovel cycle.