Monday, February 27, 2012

How is R' Elyashiv doing?

Over the past few days, there have been various reports saying that he is getting better, sitting on a chair, davening, etc. According to Kikar Shabbat it's all a lie. R' Elyashiv's condition hasn't gotten any better and he hasn't been able to sit on a chair, daven, etc.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, even when he was healthy most of the statements about/in the name of R' Elyashiv were false so why should it change now that he is in the hospital.

However, the question does have to be asked, why can't the public get accurate information from someone? R' Elyashiv means a tremendous amount to many people (so much so that people have donated years of their life to him) and everyone is being asked to daven for him so therefore the public is entitled to know what is going on. Why the secrecy?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Who should be exempt from serving in the army?

Now that the Supreme Court has canceled the Tal Law and done away with army exemptions (at least for the moment), it is important to understand  who if anyone should get an exemption. Here is a quote from an article of R' Aharon Lichtenstein on exemptions for yeshiva students (Tradition, Fall 1985) who presents a very compelling argument against draft exemptions:

Finally, even if we grant that the Rambam's statement does imply a categorical dispensation in purely halachic terms, it remains of little practical significance. We have yet to examine just to whom it applies. A levi [sic] is defined genealogically. Those who are equated with him, however, literally or symbolically, are defined by spiritual qualities; and for these the Rambam sets a very high standard indeed. He present an idealized portrait of a selfless, atemporal, almost ethereal person - one whose spirit and intelligence have led him to divest himself of all worldly concerns and who has devoted himself "to stand before God, to serve Him, to worship Him, to know God; and he walks aright as the Lord has made him and he has cast off from his neck the yoke of the many considerations which men have sought." To how large a segment of the Torah community - or, a fortiori, of any community - does this lofty typology apply? To two percent? Five Percent? Can anyone... confront a mirror and tell himself that he ought not to go to the army because he is kodesh kodashim, sanctum sanctorum, in the Rambam's terms? Can anyone with even a touch of vanity or a concern for kavod contend this? Lest I be misunderstood, let me state clearly that I have no quarrel with economic aspiration or with normal human foibles per se. again, least of all do I wish to single out b'nei yeshivot for undeserved moral censure. I do feel, however, that those who would single themselves out for saintliness should examine their credentials by the proper standard

In essence, RAL's point is that requires a tremendous amount of hubris for a person to say that my learning is so important that I don't need to go to the army and fight, especially when in many other areas the person doesn't show such great faith (as RAL describes). It is very nice for a person to say that they are joining Shevet Levi, but who says that they were accepted?

This is even more relevant today because very few 18 year olds are really choosing to be in Shevet Levi. When the exemption started most people served in the army and therefore to get an exemption meant making a conscious decision to dedicate yourself to learning Torah. Today it is just the opposite. All Charedim in Israel are simply assumed to be learning and there is tremendous societal pressure to do so. Anyone who chooses to not learn is an outcast, off the derech and looked down upon.  Therefore to say today that all of these 18 year olds are joining shevet levi is simply not true. They are simply doing what society expects of them.

There is 1 more very important point. There already is a system where Yeshiva students go to the army it is called Hesder and there the students commit to a 5 year program where they spend a year and a half in the army and 3 and a half years in the Yeshiva.

IMHO such a system should be instituted for the Charedi world as well. I would propose the following:
1. 3 years learning in Yeshiva (17-20) before the army
2. At the age of 20 enter the army for a year and a half (in an appropriate setting, no women, kashrus, etc.)
3. At the age of 21.5 they are free  to do what they want, go back to yeshiva, work, whatever.
4. A small percentage of students in any Yeshiva would be granted a permanent exemption. This would be reserved for those thought to be the generation of Torah leaders (if after 3 years in a Yeshiva you can;t identify these people then you have a real problem).

I don't see how a system like this would destroy the Torah world. Bottom line, it is a year and a half in teh army and then back to the Yeshiva. Devoting a year and a half to defending the country might even have positive effects in terms of maturity, growth etc. and after the year and a half service they could sit and learn for as long as they want with no one bothering them.

IMHO the real reason that the Charedi leadership is against plans like this is because a plan like this means that at the age of 21.5 - 22 the guys are free to do whatever they want. They can go to work, go to school whatever, and the Roshei Yeshiva are afraid that without anything hanging over their heads the Yeshivas will empty out. To that I say, if you have to force people at the age of 22 to stay and learn then it is better that they should go out and get a job.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The NY Times praises the organ donation system in Israel

In Israel, a New Approach to Organ Donation

Israel recently passed a law: if two patients have identical medical needs for an organ transplant, priority will be given to the patient who has signed a donor card, or whose family member has donated an organ in the past.

This was spearheaded by Dr. Jacob Lavee who told the following story:
In 2005, he had two ultra-Orthodox, Haredi Jewish patients on his ward who were awaiting heart transplants. The patients confided in him that they would never consider donating organs, in accordance with Haredi Jewish beliefs, but that they had absolutely no qualms about accepting organs from others.
That Haredi Jews would not donate organs was a well-known fact in Israel. But this was the first time anyone had openly admitted the paradox to Dr. Lavee.
The unfairness of a segment of society unwilling to donate organs, but happy to accept them, nagged at Dr. Lavee. After he operated on both patients, giving each a new lease on life, he put together a proposal that would give priority to those patients willing to donate their organs.

This raises a very big moral/ethical question. If you really believe that taking a heart from a brain dead patient is murder how can you accept it?  In essence the doctors are killing the donor to save you, as the Gemara says why is your blood redder then his?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yated's ridiculous Pesach ad disclaimer

Yated Neeman prints a lot of ads for hotels for Pesach. They printed the following disclaimer today:

IMHO, this disclaimer is a joke. Only old and sick people are going to hotels? The bottom line is that they print these ads because they bring in a lot of money so to salve their conscience they printed this ridiculous disclaimer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Should we be davening for R' Elyashiv to live?

At first glance the question sounds ridiculous, of course we should. However, the fact is that it is not so clear cut.

The Gemara in כתובות ק"ד tells us that when Rebbe (R' Yehuda Hanasi) was dying, his שפחה initially davened (along with everyone else including his talmidim) that Rebbe should live. However, when she saw the pain that he was in, she davened that Rebbe should die. When she saw that the talmidim were still davening that Rebbe should live and therefore the מלאן המות couldn't take him, she caused a distraction (she dropped something which broke and caused a loud noise) which allowed Rebbe to die.

We see explicitly from this Gemara that there are times that it is proper to daven for a person to die. R' Moshe (אגרות משה חושן משפט חלק ב, סימן ע"ג) quotes this Gemara להלכה. He writes:

ונקט זה הגמ' לאשמועינן שאיכא לפעמים שצריך להתפלל על האדם כשמצטער ואין מועיל מיני רפואות לרפאותו, והתפלות שיתרפא לא נתקבלו ,שצריך להתפלל עליו שימות ,כי אמתיה דרבי היתה חכמה בדיני התורה והיו למדים ממנה רבנן לפעמים

R' Moshe quotes a Ran in Nedarim (40a) that makes the same point from the story with Rebbe:

כתב דה"ק פעמים שצריך לבקש רחמים על החולה שימות כגון שמצטער החולה בחליו הרבה וא"א לו שיחיה, כדאמרינן בפרק הנושא דכיון דחזאי אמתיה דרבי דקא מצטער אמרה יה"ר שיכופו העליונים את התחתונים כלומר דלימות רבי
הרי דהר"ן מביא לדינא הא דהתפללה אמתיה דרבי לבסוף כשראתה צעריה דרבי טובא ותפלות דרבנן לא מתקבלות לרפאותו לגמרי ואף לא להקל יסוריו אלא שיחיה כמו שהוא ביסוריו

Based on this, the question becomes is R' Elyashiv in the situation of Rebbe or not?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Split in the Edah Charedis whether to publicly call to daven for R' Elyashiv

On Friday the Gaavad of the Edah Charedis (who is supposed to be the supreme authority), R' Yitzchak Tuvia Weiss, asked the management of the Edah Charedis to publicize a call to daven for R' Elyashiv. However, the Edah management defied him and refused saying it wasn't proper. The reason for the refusal was very clear. R' Elyashiv was a dayan on the official Chief Rabbinate Beis Din for many years and therefore many in the Edah will have nothing to do for him because he "collaborated" with the Zionists. It will be interesting to see how this defiance affects the Edah going forward internally and externally especially the Hashgacha.

Source: הגאב"ד הורה להתפלל עבור הגרי"ש - הנהלת ה'עדה' התנגדה

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fly me to Ramallah on Delta

Last week, Delta put a new destination on their web site, Occupied Palestinian territories. Here is a great video making fun of this:

Thursday, February 02, 2012

R' Wein hits the nail right on the head


The most dreaded status in Israeli society is to be considered a frier - a sucker, a boob, stupid and unable to withstand being taken advantage of.  
The underlying motive for all of this Charedi bashing is that the Israeli public, including the divergent sections of it – religious, traditional, secular and Charedi light, is tired and disgusted at being a frier. It has had it with supporting a large and growing section of the Israeli population that it feels is being supported by the general public while itself contributing next to nothing to the general good and welfare of society.

It is useless to protest that the study and observance of Torah and the continuity of Eastern European or Sephardic traditions is somehow the guarantee of the continued existence of the State of Israel.

It is well recognized that thousands of Charedi young men are not really cut out to sit and study Talmud all day. The streets are full of them even if they are not yet those who have thrown off their garb and faith. Yet the rabbinic and Chasidic leaders of the Charedi community refuse to endorse the practical notion that these young men do national service stints - in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, shelters and other welfare institutions.

In this way they can fulfill their obligations to the state and society and allow themselves to obtain the necessary educational and vocational skills to enter the Israeli workforce and not be condemned to a lifetime of borrowing, charity and poverty. 

Is the sole and main purpose of the Charedi members of Knesset to allocate as much government funds as possible for the unemployed, the uneducated and the unappreciative at the expense of others in society?
And then there are the small things that have been raised to be great principles of faith in Charedi society that are continual irritations. I cannot understand why a prayer on behalf of the soldiers of the State of Israel is not allowed to be recited in Charedi synagogues and institutions of learning. Is this not the height of ingratitude when such prayers for the Czar’s army, the Turkish army and other “friendly” governments when we were in exile were recited?

It will be fascinating to see if someone like Yonasan Rosneblum responds to this.