Monday, December 17, 2012

Wanna make a quick and easy $100?

Just promise the Satmar Rebbe of Williamsburg that you won't vote in the Israeli elections (and violate the greatest aveira there is) and he will give you $100. In fact, the offer is open to all Israeli citizens including the non-religious. All you need to do is deposit your id card and any other identifying documents that would let you vote with the Satmar office before the election (so you can't break your promise) and they will give you the money.

Of course there is one problem. The whole scheme is illegal under Israeli law but that has never stopped Satmar yet.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How much does a Penthouse in Gan Eden cost?

According to this ad it is really cheap, only 1600 shekels. If this is not outright theft in the name of tzedaka, then I don't know what is.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Fool me one shame on you fool me twice shame on me - Why would anyone vote for Tzipi Livni?

All she has done is been a disaster. It is beyond me why anyone would vote for such a loser. The woman had her chance as foreign minister and then as the leader of Kadima and did nothing, in fact worse then nothing she did damage. She was the worst ever opposition leader and was destroyed in the Kadima primaries by Shaul Mofaz. Can someone explain what she has to offer?

The fact is that the polls give her party about 7 seats. Assuming that they are relatively on target, then what? She did nothing as opposition leader so what do people expect her to do as the leader of a small opposition party? It just makes no sense. She has to be reading the polls, what is she thinking? Is she completely deluded?

The politicians in Israel are absolutely shameless. The 7 who left Kadima are worthless losers, however, they are bringing a lot of money and in return they will get a Knesset seat for another years. The system here is broken beyond repair, all the jumping around, splitting has exposed the absolute bankruptcy of the current list based system.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Why did חז"ל make so many גזירות related to carrying on Shabbos?

Daf Yomi just started the 6th פרק of Shabbos which deals extensively with גזירות related to carrying on Shabbos. The Gemara has extensive discussions about what jewelry women can wear on Shabbos, what are animals allowed to go out with, etc. all גזירות  in fear of the person violating the איסור דאורייתא of carrying 4 אמות in a רשות הרבים. It is patently clear that in the the time of חז"ל that they felt that this was a very valid concern as we know that that חז"ל followed a number of rules when making גזירות, two of them being:

1. מילתא דלא שכיחא לא גזרו ביה רבנן - We don't make גזירות for far-fetched cases.
2. we don't make a גזירה לגזירה - We only make גזירות to protect people from violating an איסור דאורייתא, we don't make גזירות to protect people from violating an איסור דרבנן.

Based on the above חז"ל would only have made all of these גזירות  regarding carrying if there was a real concern that people would violate the איסור דאורייתא of carrying in a רשות הרבים. What this means is that there must have been MANY places deemed רשות הרבים in existence in Israel (and Bavel) otherwise they never would have made all of these גזירות as it would have been a מילתא דלא שכיחא and/or a גזירה לגזירה.

However, this is very very difficult. תוספות on 64b already makes the claim that we don't have a רשות הרבים דאורייתא nowadays because we don't have 600,000 people and our streets aren't wide enough. This opinion of Rashi and Tosafos has been accepted להלכה and is the basis of all city עירובין. But, if this is true, then how in the time of חז"ל did they ever have a רשות הרבים דאורייתא? Why would they make all of these גזירות if they didn't? It is not believable that in the time of חז"ל the population of the cities in Israel was larger then today. The only city today, in 2012, with a population over 600,000 is Jerusalem and only a fraction of that is in the old city (which is the only part of the city that existed 2000 years ago and in fact was smaller then it is today). Every other city in Israel today has a population less then 600,000 people. There is no way that in the times of חז"ל the cities were anywhere near as large given what we know of the population etc.

In short, how could it be that in the time of חז"ל two thousand years ago they were so worried about people violating an איסור דאורייתא of הוצאה when we can't find a רשות הרבים דאורייתא today? Brooklyn, with a population of 2.5 million people (larger by far then any city 2000 years ago) is the only place that I have heard of that there even is a discussion about. There are עירובין in every large city in Israel (based on the presumption that the city is not a רשות הרבים דאורייתא) and many large cities/communities in America.  How do we reconcile this with the many גזירות that חז"ל made regarding carrying on Shabbos (including canceling the miztva of Shofar when Rosh Hashana falls out on Shabbos)? How come חז"ל felt that a רשות הרבים דאורייתא existed and we don't?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Party primaries in Israel, democracy at work or a big joke?

Yesterday I voted in the Likud primaries and I have to say it is a big joke. There is nothing remotely democratic about it.

The way the system works is that every voter has to pick a list of candidates that they want to serve in the Knesset. In the Likud voting yesterday every voter had to pick 12 national candidates. There are a number of glaring problems with the system:

1. There is no ranking. Everyone you pick is equal. Imagine you have a few candidates you think are really worthy so you vote for them. Now you have to vote for another bunch of candidates just so your ballot is valid. In other words, your vote for some Joe Shmo as your 12th pick who you know nothing about counts as much as your number 1 pick. Just to be clear, you HAD to vote for 12 candidates for your vote to be registered.
2. You end up voting for people that you never heard of and know nothing about. What ends up happening is that every serious candidate makes up lists of recommended people and that is who people vote for even though you have no idea who half the people are.
3. There are all kinds of deals and revenge lists. Every serious candidate has workers at every polling station giving out their recommended list of who to vote for. Every person that I saw at the polls (including myself) had a printed list with 12 numbers (the people to vote for). The system lends itself to gross manipulation by organized groups.

This is not just a problem with the Likud. All of the parties with primaries (which is not too many) have basically the same system because they all need to pick a list of people for the Knesset..

It is clear that the only solution is a district based system where every MK is elected from a district and then you can have district based primaries.

I have a few posts about election reform from a few years ago, unfortunately there has been a lot of talk but no action.

The electoral system in Israel is broken ...
Election reform in Israel

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How many times does a form of the word מלאכה appear in the Torah? (Shabbos 49b)

Todays's daf (Shabbos 49b) attempts to find a source for the idea that there are 39 melachos on Shabbos. The Gemara says that the various forms of the word מלאכה appear in the Torah 39 times.

However, there is a big problem. In actuality the various forms of the word מלאכה appear 65 times in the Torah. Many of the Rishonim in Shabbos quote R' Chananel that it appears 61 times and they are bothered by this obvious contradiction.

The Rishonim and Acharonim give a number of answers:
1. R' Chananel (quoted by the Ramban, Rashba and others) - The Gemara only counts the word מלאכה when it is written in the context of an act that is forbidden on Shabbos. This excludes things like מלאכה when described in Bereishis, etc. This also excludes all the references to מלאכת עבודה  by Yom Tov since all 39 מלאכות are not prohibited on Yom Tov.  According to this, the number of remaining appearances of the word מלאכה is thirty-nine if you start with 61 (see above). However, this is very difficult as we know that מלאכה really appears 65 times and therefore we are left with 43 not 39.
2. The תוספות יום טוב (Shabbos 7:2) explains that the Gemara excludes all appearances of the word מלאכה  that appear in the context of לא תעשה מלאכה. The תוספות יום טוב claims that the count, not including all of these, comes to a total of thirty-nine. However, this is simply not true as the תוספות יום טוב missed a few occurrences.
3, The מראה פנים says that the word מלאכת is not included in the count, however, this is difficult for a number of reasons. Firstly it does not get the count down to 39, secondly the Gemara explicitly says that מלאכת is included in the count.

This is one of those very difficult Gemaras which seems to imply that the text of the Chumash that we have is not even word perfect with that of the Amoraim and Rishonim (R' Chananel's 61 versus our 65 versus's the Gemara's 39). In fact, R' Akiva Eiger (Shabbos 55a) collects over 20 cases from all over Shas, medrashim, etc. where our mesora differs from either Chazal's or the Rishonim (see Does our sefer torah have an extra letter(s)? for more).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Charedi leadership tone deaf? Is now the time to call for tefilos against the draft? Updated

The Charedi leadership is calling for 3 days of tefilos and learning against the draft. While that is very nice, you have to question whether now is the time to do this. With a mini-war going on in Gaza, the Northern front with Syria heating up and the reserves being called up it doesn't seem like this is the time to emphasize the Charedi world's non-service in the army. Would it not have been better to call for 3 days of learning for the safety of the soldiers fighting and the people in the South under attack and leave the draft issue until things calm down?

Here is the article from Thursday's Yated Neeman:

The rockets are flying in the South, the Yeshivas are running away to the North

This discussion comes up every time the South of Israel comes under rocket fire (see for example my post from 2009 Yeshivas are moving north out of danger, what about the protection of Torah learning?) Should the yeshivas move out of those areas? According to reports (See for example בהוראת הרבנים: הישיבות לצעירים נוטשות את הדרום ) both R' Shteinman and R' Chaim Kanievsky have told the yeshivas to leave the South and come to Bnei Brak.

On one hand the move is understandable, with rockets landing in Ashdod, Ofakim, Kiryat Malachi, etc. they want to move to a safer place. However, on the other hand, this raises some serious questions. The Charedi world justifies the draft exemption for yeshiva students based on the following:

1. Torah learning protects everyone
2. The boys are engaged in מלחמתה של תורה
3. Talmidei Chachamim don't need protection

Based on these it would seem that the Yeshivas should stay where they are. If the boys who are learning are engaged in war just like the soldiers why should they abandon their posts? In addition if Torah learning protects, let them stay where they are and be protected by their Torah.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Charedi Seminary in Bnei Brak is offering a course in developing smartphone applications

According to newspaper reports one of the prestigious seminaries in Bnei Brak is starting a course to teach girls how to develop smartphone applications.

Isn't this ironic, on one hand, the Charedi rabbanim are railing against smartphones and on the other hand the wives of Kollelnicks will be writing applications for those very same smartphones.

A Charedi spokesman offered the following explanation:
This is the crux of the conflict of the Charedi world with technology. On one hand it causes great damage, Yeshiva students are addicted to their iPhones and plummet in their level of religiosity. On the other hand, the world is moving ahead and people can make a good living from this.

The question we need to ask is how far will the Charedi world allow the women to go in supporting their husbands in learning? To develop smartphone applications you need a smartphone at some point (simulators/emulators are only good up to a certain extent, at some point you need to test on a real phone). What kind of rules will they need to invent to control the smartphone usage? Will it work? What will be the effect on the women?

This is a perfect example of the quagmire that the Charedi world is in today. You either need to become like the Amish and shun ALL modern technology or you need to embrace it, it is all but impossible to take a middle ground.

Source: ב"בית יעקב" בבני-ברק ילמדו לפתח אפליקציות

Sunday, November 11, 2012

R' Hirsch: Chinuch lessons from Yaakov and Esav

This post, R' Hirsch: Chinuch lessons from Yaakov and Esav, from three years ago is just as relevant today as it was then. Please take a look and read it.

Was עשו created as a רשע?

The answer according to the way the Maharal understands Rashi at the begining of this weeks parsha seems to be yes. Rashi on the pasuk ויתרוצצו הבנים, quotes the famous medrash that whenever Rivka passed a house of avoda zara עשו tried to get out. Rashi a few פסוקים later comments on the phrase ממעיך יפרדו

 מן המעיים הם נפרדים זה לרשעו וזה לתומו

From Rashi it seems clear that already in the womb Eisav was a רשע who wanted to worship avoda zara. The obvious question is why?

The Maharal points out that a person has no yetzer hara until he is born. The Maharal ( says

 אבל כאן מה שעשה עשו לא בשביל יצרו אלא מפני שהיה עשו רוצה לצאת לשוב אל מינו וטבעו שכל דבר ודבר מתעורר אל טבעו לפיכך כשבא יעקב לבתי מדרשות היה מתעורר אל רוח הקודש ומתעורר לצאת בטבעו וכן עשו כאשר היתה באה לפני בתי ע״ז ולא משום יצרו הרע.

Basically the Maharal says that Esav wanted to return to his nature (which was a rasha from creation and Yaakov wanted to return to his nature which was קדוש from creation). עשו wanted to worship avoda zara not because of a choice he made but rather because that was how he was created, that was his nature. The Maharal makes a similar comment in Parshas Noach (8,21, bottom of the second column):

ובבטן אמו אפשר לו לעשות מעשה רע ואין לו יצה"ר רק שהוא פועל כך בטבעו לפי שהוא רשע מבטן

 The Maharal says explicitly that a person can do bad things without a yetzer hara but rather because he was created a רשע.  

This raises some very troubling questions.

Isn't one of our fundamental beliefs that a person is NOT born a רשע but has free will? How does this fit in with this Maharal? How else can we explain why Eisav wanted to worship avoda zara in the womb according to the Medrash quoted by Rashi? This also raises questions as to the greatness of Yaakov. If Yaakov was created with a natural instinct to go to the Beis Medrash then he did not choose to be a צדיק but rather was born one, just as it seems עשו did not choose to be a רשע but was born one.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Take a shower and become טמא?

Yesterday's daf (Shabbos 14a) has a whole slew of gezeras relating to טומאה and טהרה. Among them is a gezera that anyone who pours 3 קבין of water on themselves becomes a שני לטומאה and is מטמא תרומה. It is generally assumed that nowadays a shower does this. The reason given for the gezera is that the chachamim were afraid that people would think that the washing after going to the mikva is really what makes you טהור and not the mikva. Although this gezera has no relevance nowadays, when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt and we have תרומה this will be very relevant, anyone taking a shower will become טמא and need to go to the mikva.

It is also interesting that Ezra was מתקן טבילת עזרה for טומאת קרי so that people would show restraint.  בדיעבד if you pour 3 קבין of water on yourself (e.g a shower) it is good for טבילת קרי and takes away that טומאה which is quite חמור, you aren't allowed to learn, and replaces it with a less severe טומאה.

Of course these are all dinim d'rabbanan. When the Beis Hamkidash is rebuilt and we have a Sanhedrin and מלאה הארץ דעה, the Sanhedrin may decide to be מבטל some or all of these gezeros given the changes in lifestyle.

The Mordechai applies this gezera in the gemara (if you take a shower after going to the mikva you are טמא) to hilchos nidda. The simple understanding of the gemara is that the chachamim made up a new טומאה and therefore it has no relevance to hilchos nidda. The Mordechai however learns that the pshat is that taking a shower cancels the tevila, and therefore a woman who goes to the mikva and then takes a shower is prohibited to her husband. We are machmir for this Mordechai לכתחילה. The poskim have different shiurim for how long she can't take a shower. One shiur given is until she is נוהג היתר with her husband, after that it is clear that the mikva was matir and not the shower.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making a מי שבירך for sick people on Shabbos

The daf a few days ago (Shabbos 12) discussed ביקור חולים on Shabbos. The gemara says that someone who goes to visit a sick person on Shabbos should say שבת היא מלזעוק ורפואה קרובה לבא to the sick person. Rashi explains, we are telling the sick person to try not to be sad because it is shabbos and a person is supposed to be happy on shabbos. The Ran has a different peshat. He says we are telling the sick person that since it is shabbos we can't daven for him.

Rashi's peshat fits in better with the מי שבירך לחולים, we say the מי שבירך and then we tell the people in shul, don't be upset about the sick person it is shabbos. However, according to the Ran it is a bit difficult, we are contradicting ourselves, we just said a prayer for the sick person and we end off by saying we really aren't allowed to daven for you. The fact is that the whole idea of making the מי שבירך לחולים specifically on Shabbos is very strange. Shabbos is the one day when we aren't supposed to be sad and daven for sick people and yet we specifically say it then.

Proof positive that the internet is here to stay in the Charedi world

Every week on Tuesday, Yated Neeman (in Hebrew) is distributed for free. I always find it a fascinating read, especially the ads/kol korehs, letters and op eds. Lately, every week they publish an anti internet piece on the front page and this week was no exception. However, what is fascinating is that many of the letters that people are writing now have email addresses for responses. This week, there was a letter from someone promoting a phone line where you can call and hear the "Gedolim" talk about how bad the internet is etc. What was absolutely astonishing was that in the letter the writer asked that anyone who had new material (e.g recordings) should EMAIL them to him. Of course he wrote in parentheses that he has kosher internet, but that is besides the point. The irony is unbelievable, an anti internet crusader was using the internet to get material. There were other letters as well which provided email addresses for feedback. It is clear that even in the real/conservative Charedi world email (and by extension the internet) is becoming an indispensable tool.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Physics of Superheroes as applied to עוג מלך הבשן (Berachos 54b)

Today's daf (Berachos 54) has 2 interesting discussions which relate to the size of Og. First the Gemara has a story that Og wanted to destroy the Jewish people by throwing a mountain on them. The Gemara says that the Jewish camp was 3 parsa by 3 parsa (approximately 12 square km) so Og picked up a mountain that big to throw on them (see the Gemara for how they were saved). Og obviously had to be quite huge to pick up such a large mountain. Later, the Gemara comments that Moshe was 10 amos tall, had a weapon 10 amos long, and jumped 10 amos to strike Og and only reached his ankles. Even using the smaller shiur of an ama, 18 inches, Og's ankle was 45 feet off the ground, meaning that he was 300-400 feet tall.

The Chafetz Chaim (או"ח סי' רי"ח) takes the first story quite literally. However, from a strictly rationalist/scientific viewpoint it is very difficult to take these gemaras literally, and in fact, both the Rashba and the Maharsha do NOT take these stories literally.

On one of my trips to the US I bought a fascinating book called, The Physics of Superheroes, which explains many of the basic principles of physics using examples from comic book superheroes. One of the superheroes that he discusses is Giant Man, his power being that he could increase his size when needed. In his discussion in the book he points out that the size that a person could grow to is limited by the strength of materials (particularly bone) and gravity. A person's size is ultimately limited by the cube square law. For simplicity's sake let's model a person as a box. A box's volume is a product of length x height x width so a box that has a length, width and height of 5 feet (our person model) will have a volume of 125 feet cubed. Now assume that he grows to 4x times these proportions (20x20x20). He will now have a volume of 8000 cubic feet, in other words quadrupling his length increases his volume by a factor of 64. Now we need to consider density and mass. It makes sense to say as a person grows his density stays the same (otherwise he would simply thin out into nothingness). To maintain a constant density means that mass must increase at the same rate as volume so quadrupling height increases weight by a factor of 64. The problem is that as weight increases the ability of the skeleton to support that weight does not. The strength of an object depends on how wide it is, it's cross-sectional area. In our case here volume and mass increase much faster then the cross -sectional area of the bones. Let's take the following simple example of someone who is 6 feet tall and 185 pounds. A single vertebra can support approximately 800 pounds. Now lets increase his height by a factor of 10 to 60 feet. His volume and mass grow by 1000 while his cross-sectional area only grows by a factor of 100. His vertebra can now support 80,000 pounds but his weight is now 185,000 pounds, meaning that his skeleton can no longer support his weight.

The bottom line is that if Og was between 370 and 400 feet tall his body would collapse of it's own weight. It is a matter of simple physics.

 Of course we could come up with all kinds of miracles and believe anything, but we know that Hashem tries to limit miracles and the world works with nature (the laws of physics). Therefore it doesn't make sense to assume that Og simply being able to stand (against the laws of physics) was a miracle and therefore the non-literal explanations of the Rashba and Maharsha (and probably others) are very useful here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I would love to drive here

Using electronic water meters on Shabbos

2 months ago I posted about this and various people suggested some possible halachic justifications. In today's Yated Neeman there was not 1 not 2 but 3 separate "Kol Koreh's" against using ANY kind of electronic water meter. They write in the name of various gedolim (see below) against using heterim based on safek pesik reisha or grama as they are דימויים מפופקפקים מאד. The only electronic water meter that can be used is one where the electronic component can be completely turned off for Shabbos and it will mechanically measure the water on Shabbos. This approach may work in Israel where the Charedim are a big enough population for the water carriers to accommodate them. However, this will not work in chu"l even in a place like NYC, kal v'achomer in a city with a small religious population. The poskim will need to deal with the issues of electronics on Shabbos and come up with a position that people can deal with or we will need to become Amish.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The "Jewish Dwight Howard"

Northwestern’s newest big man is a hard-working, yarmulke-wearing potential steal

Aaron Liberman attended an 86-student Jewish high school near Los Angeles with no basketball gym on campus. He passed up interest from USC, Boston College and several mid-majors to be part of the Northwestern program. And his highlight videos feature so many dunks and blocked shots against small-school opposition that one website christened him the "Jewish Dwight Howard."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out especially with Shabbos and wearing his yarmulke during games. I hope he succeeds.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - Social shipping and delivery, is this really a good idea?

In the OU Torah tidbits this past week the following ad appeared:
Carry and Cash will connect people who have packages to send to people who are traveling who will take the package for a small fee. Sounds great at first but there are a number of major problems.
  1. Security - We have all heard about people being arrested for carrying contraband given to them by a third party. In fact, cash and carry explicitly state on their website that you should "Unpack & Repack" every item. By doing that you are supposed to verify that what you are taking is legitimate. However, that is not always so simple. What happens if someone hides contraband in an innocent looking object such as someone gives you a stuffed animal to transport stuffed with illegal drugs. You won't detect this by simply unpacking and repacking and if you are caught you will go to prison for a long time. Do you really want to take that chance for a few bucks?
  2. It may be illegal. Most countries allow travelers to bring a small amount of goods into the country (in Israel for example up to $200) for personal use. However, there is no such allowance for commercial purposes so even if you are bringing in a $5 item for someone (and getting paid for it) you may strictly speaking have to declare it at customs etc.
  3. Liability - As I mentioned above you are supposed to "Unpack & Repack" every item. What happens if you repack the item and it gets damaged? What if it is stolen on the way? Who is liable?

Better to be a Ganenet then to work in Hi Tech

And the woman should be home for the children in the afternoon.

This all sounds great except that who is going to pay for this? The husband is of course learning in Kollel, so the wife is the main breadwinner. How exactly are you supposed to support a large family on a kollel stipend and a Ganenet's salary and then to top it off buy your children apartments when you marry them off?

Source: הגראי"ל: "עדיף לעבוד כגננת מאשר בהיי-טק"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No more draft exemptions starting tomorrow

It will be very interesting to see what happens.
Here is a graph depicting the meteoric rise in the number of draft exemptions over the last 10 years:

Source: YNet

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Straw that breaks the camels back? Charedi students caught on video trying to work off the books

Channel 10 in Israel did an undercover investigation into Charedim working off the books to avoid the army and to not pay taxes.

They put up posters in Bnei Brak looking for sales people for a fictional company called Ohel Avraham. They rented an office, put in hidden cameras and started interviewing applicants for the jobs. The conversations went like this:

Interviewer: Do you have a problem getting paid on the books?
Applicant: Yes,
Interviewer: Why?
Applicant: The problem is the army
Interviewer: Have you worked in the past?
Applicant: Yes off the books
Interviewer: What hours can you work?
Applicant: I can work from 6AM until midnight, I am simply registered at a Yeshiva

Others said they could work from 10-5 or from 1-9.

9 out of 10 applicants that were taped on video ensured the interviewer that they had ways to ensure that they would get paid and not lose their significant benefits as Yeshiva students.

Here are the government benefits that they don't want to lose:
  • 800 shekel as an Avrech
  • Guaranteed minimum income payment - 1040 shekel
  • 500-2000 shekel from the Yeshiva/Kollel
  • Significant (90%) discounts in property taxes and pre-schools
Remember this is all recorded on video and will be shown on Channel 10 tonight. This may be the straw that breaks the camels back. At least until now the battle has been an ideological one, the power of torah learning, vs service in the army. Now all of Israel will see on video that for some in the Charedi world it has nothing to do with Torah and everything to do with just avoiding the army and making money.


Followup - Electronic water meter: Can you turn on the faucet on Shabbos?

I posted a few days ago about electronic water meters and can they be used on Shabbos.

A number of people suggested that this should be permitted because it is a פסיק רישיה דלא ניחא ליה on an איסור דרבנן. I would like to raise 2 issues with that premise:

1. Is this really לא ניחא ליה? Everyone would agree that you cannot disconnect the meter before shabbos and use the water because you would be stealing from the water company. Therefore, the meter recording how much water you used is ניחא ליה.  If the meter didn't record your use the company would not be able to charge you and you wouldn't know how much to pay, in essence you would be stealing. Therefore, you want the meter to record your use to keep you from stealing.
2. It is not so clear that פסיק רישיה דלא ניחא ליה on an איסור דרבנן is permitted. R' Eider in his sefer on hilchos shabbos writes that a פסיק רישיה דלא ניחא ליה on an איסור דרבנן is assur. The Shemiras Shabbos in the new edition has an introduction to Hilchos Shabbos. In the text he doesn't discuss פסיק רישיה דלא ניחא ליה on an איסור דרבנן but in a footnote he quotes a number of Mishna Berura's that it is assur. R' Willig in his sefer Am Mordechai on Shabbos, wanted to make the following distinction by פסיק רישיה דלא ניחא ליה on an איסור דרבנן. He said that if the issur is עיקרו מן התורה and it is only דרבנן for a technicality (מלאכה שאין צריכה לגופה ,מקלקל, etc.) then פסיק רישיה דלא ניחא ליה on an איסור דרבנן would be assur. But if the issur is עיקרו מדרבנן like electricity then פסיק רישיה דלא ניחא ליה would be mutar.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Charedi Demographics vs Chiloni demographics

Recently two 102 year olds passed away, R' Elyashiv and Benzion Netanyahu (the father of the Prime Minister). Although they lived to the same age the number of descendents that they have is radically different.

Benzion Netanyahu has 12 descendents, 2 of them great grandchildren. This makes sense as he had 3 children, 1 of the three (Yoni) had no kids and the other 2 (Iddo and Bibi) had 2 and 3 kids respectively.

R' Elyashiv on the other hand is estimated to have at least 1300 descendents. The math is actually quite simple. If you take an average family size of 6 (which may be small, R' Elyashiv himself had 12 children of which 10 survived to adulthood) and multiply it 3 additional generations, you get 6 * 6 * 6 * 6 = 1296. The actual number might be higher as we know R' Elyashiv had great great great grandchildren (a fifth generation)

These numbers explain why the Chilonim are worried, sooner (rather then later) Charedim will be a majority in Israel.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kadmia MKs try to jump ship to the Likud; Another sign that the electoral system is irrevocably broken

The events of today, and in fact the events of past year where the Likud has been trying to get Kadima MKs to defect exposes the complete bankruptcy of the current electoral system in Israel.

Israel has a list based election system. You don't vote for any individual person but you vote for a party list. Given that, it makes no sense to allow any Knesset member to leave his party and and form a new one or switch to an existing one. He was not elected and it is not his seat. The party was elected and the party should control the seat. If an MK doesn't like it let him resign. The current system is the worst of both worlds. There is no personal accountability, you cannot vote anyone out of office, if they are high on the list they will be in the Knesset. On the other hand the MK's can do whatever they want with the seat once they get it. This is a formula for disaster and is anti-democratic.

I have a few posts about this topic from a few years ago, unfortunately there has been a lot of talk but no action.
The electoral system in Israel is broken ...
Election reform in Israel

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Electronic water meter: Can you turn on the faucet on Shabbos?

In an interesting letter in yesterday's Yated Neeman a writer brought up this issue. He claimed that in some places in Israel they have installed electronic water meters and therefore you can't use the water on Shabbos. He wanted to warn people who are planning a vacation to keep this in mind when picking a destination.

It would seem that the letter writer is right about the problems of using water on Shabbos if you have an electronic water meter. Every time you turn on the water you are directly causing the electronic water meter to record your use which falls under the general rubric of electricity.

There is no question that in the near future electronic water meters will be everywhere. What will the religious community do? Not use water? There is little to no chance chance of convincing the water company to not switch to electronic meters. As I have posted before (Using electronic devices on Shabbos), it will soon reach a point that we will not be able to do anything without causing some reaction in some sensor. We have already reached that point with hotels:
Electronic keys
Motion sensors which shut off the lights and air conditioning if there is no movement
Faucets that go on and off based on motion sensors
Toilets with sensors
Automatic doors
Security cameras

I for one don’t see how a frum person can stay in many (if not most) hotels in the US on Shabbos based on this. 

If we just continue saying that electricity/electronics is assur we will either not be able to do anything on Shabbos or have to become Amish.

The question is what will the reaction from the poskim be? RSZA opinion that there really is no issur seems to be very well reasoned and I believe is generally accepted. The question is will anyone have the courage to run with it and say that in the modern world where circumstances have changed we need to allow certain things (like electronic locks, refrigerator sensors etc.) The fact is that in the next 10 years the incandescent light bulb will go the way of the dodo which will remove the only issur doraysa related to electricity (except for the Chazon Ish which does not seem to be accepted). I know that there is a very fine line, it is clear that we don't want people using computers, tv's, mp3 players, cell phones, etc. on shabbos, on the other hand we are rapidly reaching a point where we will be unable to do anything on Shabbos in a modern home. The poskim need to come up with some kind of balance, given what is going on in the Jewish world I am not optimistic.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Talmidei Chachamim don't need protection: Does this provide a basis for draft exemptions for yeshiva students?

The Gemara in Bava Basra 7b discusses the need for building walls around a settlement. Since walls are for communal protection, all residents have to share in the cost of erecting them. However, the Gemara rules that Torah scholars are exempt from this expense, since they are protected by virtue of the Torah they learn. This is quoted l'halacha in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 243.

The question that we need to ask is does this provide a basis for draft exemptions for yeshiva students?

In the past I have posted about this very issue. See the following posts:

Torah scholars don't need protection - does this apply now during a war?
When does תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה not apply?
Yeshivas are moving north out of danger, what about the protection of Torah learning

Here is a summary of the main points of those posts.

R' Zevin in a famous essay says writes the following.

When actual lives are at stake, may we rely on miracles? In 1929 at Hebron... didn't young students of the yeshiva, whose holiness shone like stars in the sky, fall before the malicious enemy? Please, did these martyrs need protection or not?... If you understand that the scholars don't need protection in relatively peaceful times and are exempt from building the protective walls, what consequence has this when compared to a life-and-death struggle, a war which is a mitzvah and in which all are obligated? The defense authorities ordered everyone to cover all windows as protection against shattering glass in case of an air raid. Would anyone think that some rabbis will not do so, claiming, "Rabbis do not need protection?" ...Why did rabbis leave areas under enemy fire along with the rest of the general population? Why did they not rely on this maxim? 

R' Aharon Lichtenstein wrote:

 It may be stated... that such a claim (that since rabbis "don't need protection" they should be exempt from military service) raises a very serious moral issue. Can anyone whose life is not otherwise patterned after this degree of trust and bitahon argues for exemption on this ground? Is it possible to worry about one's economic future - in evident disregard of Rabbi Eliezer's statement that "whoever has bread in his basket and says 'What shall I eat tomorrow?' is but of little faith" - and yet not enter the army because one is presumably safe without it?

I saw the this in a Charedi publication. The following interesting halachic question came up. There was a wave of burglaries in a particular Charedi neighborhood so the residents decided to hire a private security company. However, then the question of how to apportion the costs came up. Since the Gemara says that תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה and the majority of the people in the neighborhood sit and learn in kollel (and presumably have the status of Talmidei Chachamim) who should pay?

R' Elyashiv answered as follows:
The principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה only applies in a normal situation, before there is a rash of burglaries. However, now that there already was a rash of burglaries it would be considered a נס for the talmid chacham not to be harmed. Therefore the principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה does not apply and everyone has to pay equally for the security company.

If  תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה doesn't apply to a rash of burglaries then how much more so it doesn't apply to a situation of war.

Last but not least the Charedi Yeshivas themselves don't believe this. During the Cast Lead operation in 2009 many of the Charedi yeshivas (Grodna, Petersburg,Belz,Ger) in the South (Ashdod and other places) temporarily moved to Yerushalayim or Bnei Brak for safety reasons.

On one hand the move is understandable, with rockets landing in Ashdod they wanted to move to a safer place. However, on the other hand, this raises some serious questions. The Charedi world justifies the draft exemption for yeshiva students based on the following:

1. Torah learning protects everyone
2. The boys are engaged in מלחמתה של תורה
3. Talmidie Chachamim don't need protection

Based on these it would seem that the Yeshivas should stay where they are. If the boys who are learning are engaged in war just like the soldiers why should they abandon their posts? In addition if Torah learning protects, let them stay where they are and be protected by their Torah. Their move undermines the claim for draft exemptions and looks very bad. The soldiers are entering Gaza to fight while the yeshiva bachurim are fleeing to safer havens.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fascinating articles/posts about drafting Charedim

Father's Lament for Son Who Should've Served - One Ultra-Orthodox Father Sees Good Side of Israeli Draft

This is a really interesting article written by a Charedi Baal Teshuva who is upset that his son is not serving in the army. One of the most telling quotes is:
my son never decided — it was never on his radar screen — not to go into the army. That decision was made for him by me, almost 20 years ago.

This is so true, no one is making a conscious decision today to dedicate himself to learning, it is just expected and the thing to do in Charedi society

That’s NOT Self Sacrifice!
This is written by a Charedi girl who went to the army and kept up her religious standards.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Are they really out to destroy the Torah world? Will there really be no Yeshiva world if Yeshiva boys are drafted?

According to the Charedi press the answer is yes and yes. See the Yeshiva World News for an example of this where this is called a שעת השמד and that everyone should prepare to go to jail.

A commenter on YWN wrote a very insightful comment which expresses really well what I have been thinking and blows away the whole Charedi conception of what is going on. Here is the comment with my thoughts interspersed in [brackets]

I know the whole “the world’s out to get us & they’re controlled by the big bad Zionists” thing is very appealing. It’s also effective at accomplishing a specific goal of rallying the troops. However, it’s hysteria in this situation. The big bad Zionists are not out to rid the world of Torah & Mitzvos. Are there anti-religious Zionists? Are there people in the State that hate religion? Yes, but they are a minority just like the Neturei Karta who meet with the Iranian president. The majority of Israelis believe in Hashem & are religious to one extent or another (80% according to yet another recently published study in Israel that I saw this week [see this post of mine for the data]). No one is asking the chareidi tzibur to close their yeshivas or to drop religion & learning. They are simply asking for help. [the average middle class Israeli is simply staggering under the load and has reached the breaking point]
The government discussions at this point are NOT saying that every 18 year old ben Torah will be drafted to the army. In fact, the plan is to allow some full time learners to get a deferment and some to have to serve. [many of the proposals talk about a deferment until 22, also, Hesder has existed for over 50 years, the Charedim could have created an equivalent where they learn in Yeshiva for a year and half to 3 years before the army and then serve in separate units for a shorter time]. Also, no one said they will have to serve in the army – they are being given a choice of army OR a CHESED program (called Sheirut Leumi, National Service). The fact that the rav is quoted as having said this tells us that the person who has been informing the rav of the situation has neglected to tell him the truth or the whole truth. Unfortunately, this is often the case – there are askanim that have very specific & biased intentions when they ask a question of a rav or give him information or even when they “quote” him.
Additionally, if some chareidim are asked to help serve, this in no way means “there will be no yeshivos.” Are there no other people in the chareidi batei midrashim?? Only boys who are 18 – 20?? [To me this is the most important point made here. They want to draft yeshiva boys for a very limited amount of time and are flexible on when. After their 2-3 years service they can go back to the yeshiva.  I will say it again, you don't have to reinvent the wheel, Hesder has been doing this for over 50 years. In Hesder they learn for almost 2 years, then go to the army for a year and a half and then back to yeshiva for a year and a half]. Perhaps the other chareidi tzibur members need to pitch in for a bit to cover while those boys are serving. Oh, and there are hours before & after “service hours” for soldiers & national service members. Just like all the frum people of the world that work & learn or serve & learn – the yeshivas can & should stay open. Perhaps they’ll need to adjust their hours a bit but it’s worth it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It just doesn't stop; Another Charedi wrote an idiotic article about the draft

See חילונים, מה פתאום נזכרתם אחרי 64 שנה

Don't these people realize that they are doing more harm then good? Don't they realize that they are not convincing anyone except themselves. Just the title of this article, חילונים, מה פתאום נזכרתם אחרי 64 שנה?, Chilonim what happened that you woke up after 64 years? is stupid beyond belief and shows a complete ignorance of history. The original exemption was for 400 Yeshiva students and until 1977 was very limited. It was only in 1977 that the exemption became unlimited. Besides that, the Chiloni population has been talking about this for years, where does he think the Tal law came from 10 years ago? Nothing was done about this until now because teh Charedi parties have disproportionate power in Israel's crazy parliamentary system. As the Charedi population keeps growing and the number of exemptions keeps growing the issue is becoming more and more acute until now where it has reached the breaking point.

The article itself is even worse. He writes that the Chilonim are right, it is not fair that Chilonim go to serve in the army and put their lives on the line and Charedim don't. However he says, in life you should be smart not right. He says that if Charedim go to the army for 3 years they won't come back Charedim. That is a very weak argument for a number of reasons:
1. It doesn't speak well for the Charedi education system
2. The army can create separate units etc., Hesder is very successful

Last but not least he makes the claim that Charedim pay their fair share of taxes (specifically VAT) as they have large families and spend a lot of money. Here also, the facts are against him. The fact is that the average Charedi income is 6111 NIS (source), much of it coming from government money. Even if they spend all of it every month on goods and services and therefore pay VAT they are paying VAT on a maximum of 6111 with much of that money simply going from 1 government pocket to another. The average chiloni makes double that 12021 and is also using most if not all of their money for consumption as well so they are paying double the VAT. In addition, many Charedim buy things from Gemachim and other similar type sales where there is no VAT. The simple fact is that 56% of the Charedi population is classified poor and poor people pay little or no taxes.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Parallels between the tuition crisis in America and drafting Charedim in Israel

R' Yitzchak Adlerstein wrote a very important article about what is going in America with tuition,
 A New, Ugly Wrinkle in the Tuition Crisis. I don't live in America, however, I would like to draw a parallel to the situation in Israel. The feeling of middle class parents that R' Adlerstein describes in America is very similar to the feelings that the middle class in Israel have to the Charedim. The middle class in Israel works very hard and doesn't get much for it. A very large part of their salary goes to the government in taxes. They then see the Charedim, not serve the country in any meaningful way (in their eyes), not work, and live off government stipends and jobs (see this post where I detailed many of the statistics, only 39% of Charedi men are in the workforce and half of those are working work for the government in some capacity). It is no wonder that they feel resentful just like the middle class religious parents feel resentful. These people work hard very hard long hours and have little to show for it at the end of the month.

Last year I posted a story (it is worth the read) about someone who felt entitled to tzedaka. I believe that a big part of the resentment (both in America and in Israel) is this feeling of entitlement and lack of hakaras hatov by the recipients. The Charedi world in Israel shows no hakaras hatov whatsoever to the soldiers in the army and to the government that gives them millions of shekels. The same applies in America, the middle class parents paying full tuition get no recognition and no hakaras hatov from those who benefit from their work. Does the middle class parent ever get honored by the school? The answer is no, the honorees are generally rich people or Rabbis/Rabbeim. At some point the middle class person reaches a point where they say enough is enough. I believe that the middle class in Israel has reached that point with the Charedim and it sounds like they have reached that point in America as well.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Would you make a thief's story the centerpriece of your complaint?

This is exactly what Hamodia did this past week. They wrote a long article about the problems /abuses of passengers on the light rail in Jerusalem. The article had 3 stories, 2 very legitimate (a woman having to pay for a stroller and a problem with 2 transfers on the same card). Then came the third story which was the focus of the article. It told the story of Aryeh, an 18 year old foreign Yeshiva bochur who had no money but decided to take the light rail anyway (in short, steal/cheat). He figured the worst thing that would happen is that he would get caught and he would pay a 186 shekel fine. In plain terms the Yeshiva bachur was a thief who expressed no remorse about his actions and had no thought of paying back the company. He was caught and because he had no id on him he was arrested. Once he was arrested he was mistreated in jail etc.

I have 2 major problems with this story.
1. Why publicize the story about a thief? It just takes away from the legitimate complaints about the light rail. It also is a chillul hashem that someone who is learning in Yeshiva can steal without any reservations.
2. The Hamodia article was supposed to detail issues with the light rail. This boys story did not do that. He tried to cheat the light rail, had no id, and was arrested, there is nothing wrong with that. Whatever happened after that in the police station has nothing to do with the light rail and does not point to any problems with the light rail (it might point to other problems such as police brutality but that was not the point of this article).

What really bothered me about this story was the fact that this kind cheating is basically condoned by Hamodia and parts of the Charedi world. Yes, Hamodia paid lip service in the article by stating that he was wrong but that is all it was. If the cheating/stealing truly bothered them then they would have found a different story about the light rail to print. After all, according to the story there are hundreds of incidents to choose from.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Why do Charedim write these stupid articles in secular newspapers?

I posted a few days ago about an article in YNet about the draft and Charedim. Today another Charedi wrote an even stupider article on this topic. The article is all about how hard it is to be a Yeshiva bochur and what they give up. He then says, after all that "burn 3 years in the army"?

Again, this article is just going to inflame and anger secular Israelis. To say that because they give up, TV, movies, sex before marriage and going out, they deserve special treatment is idiotic for a number of reasons. As many of the commenters on YNet said, this is a lifestyle choice. Just because you choose this lifestyle doesn't mean that you should be exempted from serving the nation. No one else gets to make a lifestyle choice and exempt themselves from the army. There are also many chilonim who serve in the army 3 years and then go to University, also studying hard and working long hours to pay for their education. In addition, they are doing this by choice. Last but not least, anyone who has been around the yeshiva world, walks around Charedi neighborhoods etc. sees with their own eyes that many yeshiva bochurs don't give up so much, don't learn so many hours and enjoy life. The number of people learning 18 hours a day is quite small. This line of reasoning will not convince a single chiloni.

More importantly, this whole article is based on a false premise that learning Torah is not enjoyable and that the ben torah is giving up עולם הזה. This is simply not true, learning Torah is supposed to be the greatest pleasure a person can have, R' Aharon Kotler once commented to a rich donor, you will get the reward for all of the Torah learning that you support in עולם הבא but I pity you for your עולם הזה. If this is the case then the ben torah is not giving anything up he is doing the most enjoyable thing in life.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The dummies guide to Charedi rabbinic titles

Yated Neeman (Hebrew) made history yesterday when it called R' Aharon Leib Steinman מרן. The title מרן until now had been reserved only for R' Elyashiv and crowns R' Steinman as his successor.

This led me to realize that many of the casual readers of Yated Neeman and this blog don't know the subtle differences in titles used and what they mean. Therefore I offer an an explanation of the Rabbinic titles that the Charedi press (mostly Yated) uses:

1. הרב - This is used for every Charedi public figure. All of the Charedi MKs are called Harav, for example, Harav Eli Yishai.
2. הרה"ג - הרב הגאון - Since everyone is called Harav someone who is a Rabbi  of a community, shul, etc. or a Rosh Yeshiva, Ram, etc. can't also just be Harav. Therefore they have now become הרב הגאון and when they are introduced the speaker generally just says Hagaon.
3. הגאון - This is applied to certain important Rabbinic figures as they are more important then the average rabbinic figure who is הרב הגאון
4. הגאון הגדול - Since every shul rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva is already הרב הגאון, we need a new title for the Gedolim. We can't have someone like R' Chaim Kanivsky referred to by the same title as your local community Rabbi. Therefore they came up with הגאון הגדול, the great Gaon, for Rabbanim like R' Chaim Kanievsky, R' Shmuel Auerbach etc.
5. מרן - This title is reserved for the person who is considered to be the Gadol Hador. First it was R' Shach, then R' Elyashiv and for the first time yesterday R' Steinman.

(Edited July 5th)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Charedim: We won't be drafted because "we aren't interested"

Ynet yesterday published an op-ed by a Charedi guy about what is going to be with the draft and Charedim. The gist of the article was, it's not going to happen because "we aren't interested". Not only that, but he asks that the Hilonim help the Charedim with education jobs, etc.

Why was this article written? What did the author hope to accomplish? There are almost 1000 comments on the article most of them from angry hilonim. Irrespective of the underlying issues, this article fanned the already high flames of anger for the Charedi world to new heights. It is the height of arrogance to say I am not going to serve in the army because I don't want to and you just have to deal with it.

The comments mostly mention 2 ideas:
1. Taking away all monetary support for yeshivas, kollels, etc.
2. Taking away the right to vote for anyone who doesn't serve in the army or do some kind of civil service

With this being the mood of the people, it is going to be very hard to come to any compromise. I truly believe that the average person has had it and if the government comes up with the equivalent of Tal Law 2, there will be riots in the streets.

Toldos Aharon Rebbe: You can be מחלל שבת to destroy a non-kosher phone

The Toldos Aharon Rebbe appointed a committee in charge of the Ruchniyos of the Chasidus and one of the the things he said was that if they find a non-kosher phone on Shabbos they can be מחלל שבת to destroy it. He also said that the destroyers would not have to pay for the destroyed phone.

I can understand the feeling that non-kosher phones are a bad thing and the desire to get rid of them from his chasidim, but how can he allow chillul shabbos to do that? What good is it to be a kannoi if you are violating halacha?

The Chazon Ish once commented on the Kannoim in Yerushalayim that they were pre-matan torah Jews, meaning that their actions were not guided by torah but by emotion. This is a very bad thing which leads people to do terrible aveiros and to be matir chillul shabbos.

Source: האדמור מתוא"י: "נפצו טלפונים לא כשרים גם בשבת"

Monday, June 11, 2012

The richest Rabbis in Israel

I find it hard to believe that the Gerrer Rebbe is worth 350 million shekel and the Belzer Rebbe 180 million. How did they get so rich? Where does the money come from?

Monday, May 28, 2012

The bleak facts about Charedi participation in the workforce in Israel

The government recently came out with a report outlining Charedi participation in the economy, The report is pretty bleak. Here are some of the more interesting numbers:

General Population
% participating in the workforce
% of men participating in the workforce
% of women participating in the workforce
% working in the public sector
% that know English well
% of women working full time
% considered poor

% served in the army (20-29)
average income
6111 NIS
12021 NIS

The numbers speak for themselves but a few are very interesting/surprising.
  1. Almost half of the Charedim who work, work for the government in some form (mostly in education).
  2. The average Charedi income is half of the general population average and that needs to support a much larger family and more then half of Charedim are considered poor
  3. The army numbers are unbelievable 85% vs 6.8% says it all

Monday, April 23, 2012

A blessed year only for people living in חו"ל?

The seforim say that when Parshas שמיני is read 8 times, שמיני, שמונה,שמינה, it will be a bountiful and blessed year for Klal Yisrael. This can only happen in year like this one in חו"ל. This year in חו"ל they read Parshas שמיני 8 times as follows:

1. Shabbos Mincha on Shabbos Hagadol
2. Monday before Pesach
3. Thursday before Pesach
4. Shabbos Mincha on the first day of Pesach
5. Shabbos Mincha on the 8th day of Pesach
6. Monday after Pesach
7. Thursday after Pesach
8. Shabbos Parshas שמיני

However, this can only happen in חו"ל. In Israel the 8th day of Pesach was just Shabbos and we read Parshas שמיני that Shabbos leaving us 3 short (the Monday after Pesach we were already reading תזריע).

Does this mean that only in חו"ל will they have a bountiful and blessed year because they read שמיני eight times while those of us in Israel won't?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hashgocha Pratis stories that aren't true

Mishpacha magazine in Hebrew prints a story every week that is supposed to be true (with the names and other identifying things changed). This past week they printed a story about an airline flight that went bad with hashgocha pratis that I happened to have first hand knowledge of (close relatives of mine were on the flight). When I read the story I was very surprised, they made significant changes to the facts and even added a number of events that didn't happen (I assume to emphasize or create the hashgocha pratis aspect).

The true story is the following. United flight 90 a little over a week before Pesach left Newark airport at 10:50PM on a Wednesday night. After takeoff the flight attendants discovered that 3 of the 8 bathrooms (all in coach) didn't work. About an hour into the flight an announcement was made over the PA asking for a doctor. About an hour and a half into the flight the decision was made to turn around and return to Newark. After landing in Newark, they attempted to fix the bathrooms. After a while they decided that the problem was more serious then they first thought and that they needed to switch planes. They marched everyone through the deserted airport to another gate to get on a different plane. However, at around 4AM the crew announced that they had worked too many hours and therefore could not fly. At that point they sent everyone to hotels and rescheduled the flight for Thursday afternoon at 1:30PM. Everyone left and returned the next morning boarded the flight and the flight took off with no problems for Israel arriving early Friday morning.

The story in the Mishpacha changed the following elements:
1. They made the flight a week later, the Wednesday right before Pesach, (for reasons that will become obvious, they wanted it to be right before Pesach not a week and a few days before Pesach)
2. There are 8 bathrooms on a 777, 5 in coach and 3 in business, the 3 bathrooms that were not working were in coach. They changed the story so that all 3 business class bathrooms weren't working to highlight the class aspects.

They added the following elements:

1. A meshulach who lost his wallet with all of the cash that he had collected (thousands of dollars). The story states that they made an announcement over the PA asking the passengers if anyone found a wallet, this never happened. This also explains why they changed the date, it was important that he wouldn't have the money for Pesach.
2. To enhance the hashgocho pratis they wrote that the wallet was found in the airport but the man couldn't get it because it was locked in a safe and the person who could open was not available before the flight was supposed to leave on Thursday afternoon. Therefore, with no choice (it was erev Pesach) he got on the plane with a heavy heart. But then hasgocha pratis struck, the plane had an engine problem on the runway and had to return to the terminal allowing the man to retrieve his wallet. The only problem is that this never happened, there was no engine trouble and the plane simply took off and flew to Israel.

 I have always taken these kinds of stories with a grain of salt but seeing firsthand how the writers changed the story to create the hashgocha pratis aspects is very disturbing. It calls into question all of these hashgocha pratis stories that you read. If they can change/falsify this one why not others?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Korban Pesach nowadays - Halachic issues Part III

Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here

I. Issues related to כהנים

To bring korbanos we must have כהנים to do the עבודה.

Are kohanim today כהני ספק

The first question that we need to ask is whether there are any "real" כהנים nowadays?

The Gemara in Kesubos 24b has a long sugya about יוחסין and the proofs that you need to bring. The Gemara quotes pesukim in Nechemia regarding עבודה in the Beis Hamikdash וז"ל הגמרא

שנאמר ומבני הכהנים בני חביה בני הקוץ בני ברזילי אשר לקח מבנות ברזילי הגלעדי אשה ויקרא על שמם אלה בקשו כתבם המתיחשים ולא נמצאו ויגאלו מן הכהונה

The כהנים who could not prove that they were כהנים מיוחסים were not allowed to work in the Beis Hamikdash. Based on this many acharonim say that all כהנים today are only כהני ספק. In fact this opinion is brought down by the Magen Avraham in Hilchos Pesach (סימן תנ"ז סע' ב). The Rama writes that you give the חלה to a young כהן (who has not seen קרי) and then he writes י"א that you never give any חלה to a כהן nowadays. The Magen Avraham there asks why not and he answers that none of the כהנים nowadays are כהני ודאי and therefore we don't give them וז"ל:

שאין מחזיקים אותו ככהן ודאי

The Magen Avraham repeats this in סימן ר"א and in fact the שדי חמד quotes many acharonim who hold like the Magen Avraham.

However, the Chasam Sofer (Kesubos 25b) and others disagree and hold that the כהנים today are certainly כהני ודאי and the כהנים at the time of Ezra had to bring proof because there was a real חשש that they were פסולים and therefore the whole sugya in Kesubos is simply a מעלה ביוחסין. The Chazon Ish also holds like this that the כהנים today are certainly כהני ודאי and that what Ezra did was only a chumra d'rabbanan וז"ל:

והנה מגואר בגמ׳ דע״א מהימן מה״ת לענין תרומה ונראה דה״ה לענין יוחסין ורק מדרבנן החמירו דמעלה עשו ביוחסין, ואפשר דגם הוא עצמו נאמן מה״ת והא דאינו נאמן משוס שגח כהונה אינו אלא מדרבנן, ולדידן מהימנינן לו׳ ע״פ עצמו משום שאין לנו תרומה, ולענין נ״כ וקריאה כתורה אונו חשוד לשקר, ..., ומ״מ אינו אלא מדרבנן ולא מה״ת, ואפשר דבדליכא כהן אחר לא העמידו חכמים דבריהם, עי׳ שביעית סי׳ ה׳ ] , לכן בזה״ז אי איתיהיב רשות להקריב ק״פ אין לבטל בשביל שאין לנו כהן מיוחס וסגי בבדיקת ד׳ אמהית, אף שאין לנו יחוס אבות עד כהן שעבד, ואפשר דהעמידו חכמים דבריהם אף כה״ג,

The Chazon Ish raises an interesting question, if the chachamim made a gezera d'rabbanan is that gezera מעכב? In our case there is a gezera d'rabbanan that only a כהן מיוחס can do avoda, can we violate that gezera nowadays since we have no choice or do we simply not bring korbanos?

R' Tzvi Pesach Frank brings up a very similar question in מקראי קדש on Rosh Hashana. There is a gezera not to blow shofar on Rosh Hashana however, this gezera does not apply in the Beis Hamikdash. One of the Gedolei Yerushalayim held that Yerushalayim is like the Beis Hamikdash and therefore you blow shofar on Shabbos. R' Frank asked, should we, who don't blow on Shabbos, go to hear the shofar on Shabbos. He quotes R' Akiva Eiger that you would be יוצא. However, he quotes a machlokes harishonim in Succa about a similar issue. The Mishan has a machlokes whether if you are in the Succa but the table is in the house is that good. The mishna has an expression that לא יצא מצות סוכה מימיו. Tosafos understands this to mean that since they violated the din drabbanan they aren't יוצא at all. The Ran argues and says that it just means that they weren't יוצא the mitzva כתיקונן.

R' Frank is מחלק that by succa they were פוסל the succa and therefore you aren't יוצא בדיעבד but by shofar it is just an איסור on the person and therefore you are יוצא בדיעבד.

It would seem that the איסור for the kohanim is an איסור on the person and therefore not מעכב.

II. בגדי כהונה

There are a number of problems with בגדי כהונה, some halachic and some technical.
1. We don't really know how to make בגדי כהונה. In fact, on just about every one of the בגדי כהונה there is a machlokes harishonim (Rambam, Rashi, Ramban, Raavad, etc.) on the details. Even without that a picture is worth a thousands, and creating בגדי כהונה from just the description for example in the Rambam is very difficult.
2. Techeles - The אבנט requires techeles and according to many we don't have techeles.  There are 2 main answers given to this question. The first is that maybe techeles is not מעכב in the בגדי כהונה just like it is not מעכב in tztitzis. The problem is that it is against an explicit תוספתא.

מנחות פ״ו ו' תכלת וארגמן ושני ושש משזרמעכבין זא׳יז...התכלת והלבן (בציצית) אין מעבבין זא״ז

The second suggestion is that the chilazon is not  מעכב and that you can make techeles for בגדי כהונה out of any blue dye. The מרכבת המשנה has such a suggestion based on the fact that by בגדי כהונה the Rambam never mentions the chilazon  (כלי המקדש פ״ח הל' י״ג):

 ותכלת האמורה בכל מקום היא הצמר הצבוע כעצם שמים שהוא פתוך מן הכוחל

 All the Rambam writes here is that techeles has to be blue. Only in hilchos Tzitizis does the Rambam mention the חלזון. In fact if you read the Rambam carefully there it seems מדוייק that the chilazon is only for tzitzis.

ואחר כך מביאין דם חילזון ... וזו היא צורת התכלת של ציצית

III. מנחת כהן

Before a Kohen does avoda for the first  time he needs to bring a מנחת כהן. This korban is not זמנו קבוע and therefore not דוחה טומאה. So it seems we are stuck. For a kohen to start doing avoda he needs to bring a מנחת כהן but he can't because it isn't דוחה טומאה.

The Mishne Lamelech (כלי המקדש פרק ה' הל, ט"ז) writes that there is a dispute whether this is מעכב or not the Rambam says it is not מעכב וז"ל

אין הכוהן עובד תחילה, וכן כוהן גדול אינו עובד תחילה--עד שיביא עשירית האיפה משלו, ועובדה בידו:  שנאמר "זה קרבן אהרון ובניו אשר יקריבו לה', ביום הימשח אותו" (ויקרא ו,יג).  ואם עבד קודם שיביא עשירית האיפה, וכן כוהן גדול שעבד בכהונה גדולה קודם שיביא עשירית האיפה--עבודתן כשרה.

According to the Rambam we have no problem as בדיעבד even without the the kohen bringing his korban his avoda is good, ועיין מנחת שלמה תנינא סימן ק"מ for a discussion of this and other issues.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Korban Pesach nowadays - Halachic issues Part II

Part 1 is here

What Korbanos can we bring?

Nowadays we are all טמא so any קרבנות that we would being we would have to bring בטומאה. What קרבנות can be brought בטומאה and under what conditions?
The Mishna in Temura(14a) states:

יש בקרבנות הציבור מה שאין בקרבנות יחיד שקרבנות הציבור דוחין את השבת ואת הטומאה וקרבנות יחיד אינן דוחות לא את השבת ולא את הטומאה א"ר מאיר והלא חביתי כ"ג ופר של יוה"כ קרבנות היחיד הן ודוחין את השבת ואת הטומאה אלא שזמנו קבוע

The Mishna initially is מחלק between קרבנות הציבור and קרבנות היחיד with respect to what קרבנות can be bought בטומאה. R' Meir however, brings a number of examples that don't fit in (קרבנות יחיד that are דוחה טומאה and קרבנות הציבור that are not דוחה טומאה) and therefore states that the rule is that any קרבן that is זמנו קבוע, meaning, it must be brought at a specific time, is דוחה טומאה and any קרבן that is not זמנו קבוע is not דוחה טומאה. The Rambam in the פירוש המשניות writes that this is the real reason and no one argues on it.

Korban Pesach, while it is a קרבן יחיד is זמנו קבוע and therefore would also be דוחה טומאה.

There is a machlokes tannaim (Yoma 6b, Pesachim 77a) whether טומאה הותרה בציבור or טומאה דחויה בציבור. The Gemara in Yoma has a number of נ"מ one of them being the following. The ציץ is מרצה on korbanos brought בטומאה. The gemara says that if טומאה הותרה בציבור then the ציץ doesn't need to be מרצה on קרבנות הציבור but if טומאה דחויה בציבור then you need the ציץ to be מרצה on קרבנות ציבור as the korban is פסול because it is טמא. The Rambam and most Rishonim and Acharonim pasken that טומאה דחויה בציבור and therefore to bring any korbanos we need the ציץ to be מרצה. To do that you need a Kohen Gadol to wear the ציץ.

In addition Tosafos in Yoma 6b say that we don't completely reject the distinction between קרבנות ציבור and קרבנות יחיד. They say that the only time that there is a machlokes whether טומאה הותרה בציבור or טומאה דחויה is by קרבנות ציבור but by קרבנות יחיד everyone would agree that טומאה דחויה בציבור. What this means is that according to everyone to bring a קרבן פסח would be based on טומאה דחויה בציבור and would therefore require the ציץ.
וז"ל התוספות
כיון דהתם לענין פסח איירי איכא למימר נהי דפסח כיון דאתי בכינופיא חשיב כקרבן ציבור ודוחה את השבת ואת הטומאה מ"מ כיון דלאו כל ישראל מייתו חד פסח בשותפות מהדרינן אטהורין אפילו למ"ד טומאה היתר היא בקרבן ציבור גמור הבא בשותפות וכן משמע לקמן בסמוך (דף ז.) דאילו של אהרן אע"ג דזימנא קביעא ליה ודחי את השבת ואת הטומאה כקרבן ציבור מכל מקום כיון דקרבן יחיד הוא מהדרינן אטהורין לכולי עלמא

Who appoints the Kohen Gadol?

The Rambam (Klei Hamikdash 4:15) writes that the Sanhedrin appoints the Kohen Gadol וז"ל:
אין מעמידין כ"ג אלא ב"ד של אחד ושבעים
If so, we have no Sanhedrin nowadays so we can't appoint a Kohen Gadol. However, Tosafos in Yoma 12b argue and write that the King and the other Kohanim appoint the Kohen Gadol וז"ל:
וי"ל דכהן גדול מתמנה בפה ומסתלק בפה ובירושלמי דריש ליה מקרא ומסתברא שהדבר תלוי במלך ובאחיו הכהנים
Note: מלך here doesn't necessarily mean literally a King as there were Kohanim Gedolim before there was a King (e.g. עלי הכהן). Therefore either the King is not mandatory or the King means the leaders of the Jewish people. In either case it would be theoretically possible to appoint a kohen gadol nowadays.

The bottom line is that to bring a קרבן פסח today we need a כהן גדול.

חינוך המזבח

The Mishna in Menachos (49b) has a halacha that before you can use the מזבח you need to be מחנך it. How are you מחנך it? The Mishna says by bringing the קרבן תמיד של שחר.

What comes out from the Mishna is that we can't just bring a קרבן פסח, first we have to bring the קרבן תמיד to be מחנך the מזבח.

However, there is a problem to bring the קרבן תמיד to be מחנך the מזבח. Both the בנין ציון and the נצי"ב claim that we can't bring most korbanos today based on the following. In the תוכחה it says והשימותי את מקדשיכם ולא אריח בריח ניחוחם. They ask, if the Beis Hamikdash is destroyed so what korbanos are we bringing that Hashem won't be מריח בריח ניחוחם? It must be they say that even though technically speaking מקריבים אע"פ שאין בית, we can't bring any korban that is supposed to be לריח ניחוח which is every korban except קרבן פסח. What this means is that according to them we can't bring the קרבן תמיד to be מחנך the מזבח because it needs to be לריח ניחוח and therefore we can't bring the קרבן פסח either.
There are 3 answers for this:
1. Both the Aruch Hashulchan and the Brisker Rav hold that חינוך המזבח is not מעכב
2. We don't hold like the the בנין ציון and the נצי"ב. This idea that they came up with is not found in the Gemara or Rishonim. In fact, the Rambam writes that מקריבים אע"פ שאין בית and therefore you can bring all korbanos.
3. Maybe the קרבן פסח can be מחנך the מזבח. The whole idea of חינוך המזבח is that you have to start the Seder Hakorbanos from the beginning. The seder hakorbanos starts with the קרבן תמיד של שחר and ends with the קרבן תמיד של בין הערבים. the one exception is קרבן פסח which comes after the קרבן תמיד של בין הערבים. In other words the קרבן פסח is not in the normal seder hakorbanos and can be thought of as it's own seder. if so, maybe it can be מחנך the מזבח as it is the first (and only) קרבן of it's seder.

Part 3 is here

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Korban Pesach nowadays - Halachic issues Part I

Since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash the idea of bringing the Korban Pesach has come up at various times. It came up during the times of the בעלי התוספות and came up again in the 1800's when Jews started to come back to Israel. This series of posts will explore some of the halachic issues involved.

I. Can we bring Korbanos nowadays?

The Gemara in a number of places (Megilla 10a, Zevachim 107b) brings down the opinion of ר' יהושע that we can bring korbanos nowadays because the מקום המקדש still has kedusha וז"ל (Megila):

א"ר יהושע שמעתי שמקריבין אע"פ שאין בית אוכלין קדשי קדשים אע"פ שאין קלעים קדשים קלים ומעשר שני אע"פ שאין חומה מפני שקדושה ראשונה קידשה לשעתה וקידשה לעתיד לבוא

This opinion of R' Yehoshua is a מחלוקת Amoraim ר'יוחנן and ריש לקיש in Zevachim 107b as well (עיי"ש). The Rambam (בית הבחירה 6:14,15) paskens like ר יהושע that we can bring korbanos nowadays because קדושה ראשונה קידשה לשעתה וקידשה לעתיד לבוא. Here is the לשון of the Rambam:

במה נתקדשה בקדושה ראשונה שקדשה שלמה שהוא קידש העזרה וירושלים לשעתן וקידשן לעתיד לבא לפיכך מקריבין הקרבנות כולן אע"פ שאין שם בית בנוי. ואוכלין קדשי קדשים בכל העזרה אע"פ שהיא חריבה ואינה מוקפת במחיצה ואוכלין קדשים קלים ומעשר שני בכל ירושלים אף על פי שאין שם חומות שהקדושה ראשונה קדשה לשעתה וקדשה לעתיד לבא

The ראב"ד there argues and seems to hold that the מקום המקדש has no קדושה nowadays וז"ל:

א"א סברת עצמו היא זו ולא ידעתי מאין לו ובכמה מקומות במשנה אם אין מקדש ירקב ובגמ' אמרו דנפול מחיצות אלמא למ"ד קדושה ראשונה לא קדשה לעתיד לבא לא חלק בין מקדש לירושלים לשאר א"י ולא עוד אלא שאני אומר שאפילו לרבי יוסי דאמר קדושה שנייה קדשה לעתיד לבא לא אמר אלא לשאר א"י אבל לירושלים ולמקדש לא אמר לפי שהיה יודע עזרא שהמקדש וירושלים עתידים להשתנות ולהתקדש קידוש אחר עולמי בכבוד י"י לעולם כך נגלה לי מסוד ה' ליראיו לפיכך הנכנס עתה שם אין בו כרת

According to the Rambam we can bring Korbanos nowadays because מקריבים אע"פ שאין בית. However, R' Tzvi Hirsch Kalisher (in his sefer דרישת ציון) brings up the question what about according to the Raavad? After all, he holds there is no קדושה and therefore cannot say מקריבים אע"פ שאין בית? He suggested the following. According to the ראב"ד since the מקום המקדש has no קדושה therefore there is no איסור במות. Based on that, we should build a מזבח on the מקום המקדש and it will be good ממ"נ. If we pasken like the Rambam then it is the מזבח of the Beis Hamikdash and if we pasken like the ראב"ד it is just a במה.

However, it is not so simple. Many Rishonim hold that there is no היתר במות nowadays even if the מקום המקדש has no קדושה. The Mishna in Megila (10a) states:

אין בין שילה לירושלים אלא שבשילה אוכלין קדשים קלים ומעשר שני בכל הרואה ובירושלים לפנים מן החומה וכאן וכאן קדשי קדשים נאכלין לפנים מן הקלעים קדושת שילה יש אחריה היתר וקדושת ירושלים אין אחריה היתר

The Gemara there quotes R' Yitzchak as saying that you can be מקריב on a במה nowadays because the מקום המקדש has no קדושה. The Gemara then quotes this Mishna plus a Mishna in Zevachim which prohibit במות and the Gemara says therefore R' Yitzchak retracted. Then the Gemara brings a מחלוקת תנאים whether the מקום המקדש has קדושה or not. Tosafos there is bothered by the whole מהלך of the Gemara, if it is a מחלוקת תנאים whether the מקום המקדש has קדושה or not why did R' Yitzchak back out? Therefore Tosafos says that R' Yitzchak understood from the Mishnayos that the היתר במות is not תלוי on the question of whether the מקום המקדש has קדושה or not but rather is an independent din וז"ל:

לכך נראה להר"ר חיים דכ"ע מודו דמשבאו לירושלים נאסרו הבמות ושוב לא היה להן היתר והני תנאי בהא פליגי דמאן דאמר לא קדשה סבר דאף במקומו של מזבח אין יכולין להקריב עכשיו ומאן דאמר קדשה סבר דבמקום מזבח מותר להקריב אבל לא בבמה

Therefore if you hold that the מקום המקדש has no קדושה you can not be מקריב any korbanos nowadays. Many rishonim quote this question and answer of Tosafos and the consensus seems to be that the היתר במות is not תלוי on the question of whether the מקום המקדש has קדושה or not but rather is an independent din.

Based on the above the only way we can bring קרבנות nowadays is if we pasken like the Rambam. How do we pasken? The Mishna Berura in סימן תקס"א makes the following statement.
בית המקדש. והנכנס עתה למקום המקדש חייב כרת שכולנו טמאי מתים וקדושה הראשונה קדשה לשעתה וקדשה לעתיד לבוא [מ״א] ועיין בליקוטי הלכות זבחים בפרק המעלה

In the ליקוטי הלכות he explains that based on all of the rules of psak we should pasken that the מקום המקדש has קדושה as in a dispute between R' Yehoshua and R Eliezer we pasken like R' Yehoshua and in a dispute beween R' Yochanan and Resh Lakish we pasken like R' Yochanan who both held that the מקום המקדש has קדושה. He also points out that the overwhelming majority of the Rishonim hold this way (Rambam, Semag, Tur, etc.) and the ראב"ד seems to be a דעת יחיד.

Therefore the bottom line is that we can bring Korbanos nowadays based on the Rambam that מקריבים אע"פ שאין בית.

Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here