Monday, December 30, 2013

The Rebbes are not coming!!!

The trip has been cancelled for a whole host of reasons among them

  1. The Belzer Rebbe dxecided not to particpate personally
  2. Winter weather in NY
  3. They couldn't come to agreement with the American Rebbes to participate
  4. R' Shteinman never really backed the whole idea
The truth is I never understood what they hoped to accomplish with this and it is probably better that it was cancelled.

Poverty in Israel, why does no one care?

Israel has very high poverty rates for an OECD country, 23.5 percent, and yet the average middle class (and up) Israeli doesn't seem to care. The question is why not? Are middle class Israelis simply cruel and unfeeling? The answer according to the NY Times article,  Israel's Undeserving Poor, is actually much more complex.

Two segments of Israel’s population stand out as the poorest of the poor: “ultra-Orthodox Jews” and “Muslim-Arabs.” Unemployment rates for ultra-Orthodox Jews (mostly ultra-Orthodox men) and Arabs (mostly Arab women) are very high. So are birth rates. The result: 59 percent of the ultra-Orthodox (also known as Haredim) are poor. Similarly, 58 percent of Arab Israelis are poor. 
to be blunt, Israelis know that Haredis and Arabs are disproportionately represented in the underground economy (namely, by evading taxes). Finally, to a large extent they are poor because of choices they make — preferring their traditions over participating in the modern Israeli economy. Simply put: For Haredi Jewish men, the choice is generally to study the Torah and have many children (while the women have to provide for the families). For Muslim Arabs, it is to keep women at home and have many children (while the men go to work).
For the comparatively well-to-do to care more about Israel’s poverty, they first have to be convinced that the necessary measures have been taken to eliminate poverty-by-choice.
Only when unemployed Haredi men and Arab women go to work and black-market tax evaders are forced to pay taxes will the middle and upper classes be more open to thinking about a redistribution of wealth. Right now, the majority of Israelis have good reason — or good excuse — to object to any redistributive attempts to take from them and give to others.
For middle-class Israelis to care, the message from the state should be quite different — one that could be called compassionate cruelty. The state should be telling its citizens: We don’t much care if the poor-by-choice get even poorer and get even less from the state. We don’t much care about poverty rates that take everybody into account without much consideration of personal and communal decisions and their consequences. But we will ensure that those willing to work and pay their dues are properly assisted, and the government will make sure that they are the only ones to be raised above poverty level on the government’s dime.

There is no question in my mind that the article is correct. I see this attitude every day at work (hi tech). The people at work are upper middle class and are concerned citizens, but have no interest in transferring their hard earned money to people who they believe are poor by choice and are expecting to be supported by the government.

As I posted a while back (The cash machine that is the Israeli government) the Charedi population looks at the government as a cash machine, give us money and leave us alone. The budget is a zero sum game, whatever we can save and get for us great whatever doesn't go to us is basically lost. The Charedi population views itself as hardly using any government services no, schools, university, roads, police, jails, etc. (which is of course not true, they use the roads, health care, the army protects them etc). In addition, the Charedi population pays less in direct taxes because many people don't work, they are poor, and those who do work get a lot of money under the table and therefore when they get money from the government they don't look upon it as their tax money coming back to them. Because of this, the Charedi MKs are seemingly always trying to get more money for their constituents.

Until there is a fundamental shift (as the article states) attitudes are not going to change and poverty is not going to move people to action.

Regulation of גמחי"ם in Israel is coming, why are the Charedim so afraid?

Today, גמחי"ם are completely unregulated and can basically do what they want. The Israeli government is working on legislation to change this, the proposed legislation will put the גמחי"ם under the supervision of the Bank of Israel (as banks and money changers are today). The main element of the law is that all customers, depositors and lenders must be identified and the sums of money reported. According to the Charedi press this will cause most of the גמחי"ם to simply close. The question is why? Additionally, the question is why is the government doing this? Is it just another anti-Charedi law or is there some real reason for this?

The answer to the second question will answer the first question as well. The main reason that the government is proposing the new law is to crack down on money laundering. גמחי"ם today are a very easy way to launder money. Let's say you have 100,000 shekel that you don't want the government to know about it and you want to launder. The solution is simple, you go to a גמ"ח and give them the 100,000, you then immediately take a loan of 100,000 from the same גמ"ח and kick back a small percentage to the גמ"ח owner. You now have a legitimate 100,000 "loan" which is tax free which you simply never pay back. If the government comes knocking asking about where you got the 100,000, you show them the loan papers from the גמ"ח. Since there is no regulation, there is no way for the government to know if you paid/are paying back the loan. Everyone wins, you have laundered your money and the גמ"ח owner makes an easy profit. How much of this is going on is pure speculation, in any case this is what the government wants to prevent.

The Charedi opposition to this is for 2 reasons:

  1. A lot of money made in the Charedi world is "off the books" and not reported to the government. There is no question that the גמחי"ם are laundering some of it. If the גמחי"ם will now need to report every transaction it will be much harder to hide this money.
  2. Charedim have an inherent mistrust of the government. Therefore, even if they are doing nothing wrong they don't want the government knowing how much money they have. 
What is clear is that this bill will pass in the near future and that this will be another blow to the average Charedi Avreich who depends on גמחי"ם to survive. With fewer גמחי"ם it will be much tougher to borrow the money they desperately need. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why are the Rebbes coming? משהו שמיימי

That seems to be the best that anyone can come up with (see for example למה צריך בכלל את מסע המועצת?) which is pretty sad. The Charedi world in Israel is collapsing under financial strain and this big event is going to cost millions of dollars, wouldn't that money be better used to actually support the poor?

It seems that Satmar will be participating and as I wrote earlier they have some very strict conditions including no speeches in English (except for 1). That won't play very well in NY and the US where except for the Chasidim the rest of the Charedi world doesn't really speak Yiddish any more. What they hope to accomplish is a mystery. This is the reason that R' Shteinman has not really supported this, he understands the situation and doesn't see the justification for the event.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Rebbes are coming, the Rebbes are coming

As of now, the Chasidic Rebbes from Israel are planning on coming to NY the week of January 6th for a major rally/protest against the Israeli government on Tuesday January 7th. They are still looking for a venue as an outdoor stadium is out of the question in the winter and places like MSG are too small.

The big question is what is the purpose of the visit and what do they hope to accomplish? There has been talk of the Rebbes meeting high ranking officials/politicians to discuss the "persecution" of Charedim by the Israeli government.

IMHO, this is silly for a number of reasons. As the Satmar Rebbe said, the average American will not understand the Charedi position at all. The call by the Israeli government for sharing the burden seems very reasonable as do the budget cuts for schools that don't learn secular studies. It is very difficult to explain on one hand how you participate in the government and  take money while on the other hand you won't share the burden. In addition, Americans are not particularly fond of "welfare queens" which in truth, is what the Charedi population looks like. They want to not work and be supported by the government. In fact, this may actually affect the Charedi population in the US negatively because it may cause people to look more carefully and critically at the Charedi lifestyle (Section 8, welfare, medicare, shools, that don't teach secular studies, etc.) in the US.

The other reason given is to explain the situation to the Charedim in the US and get their support. Here also, I believe that this is not going to work. On one hand, the true believers, already believe and support the cause. On the other hand, the moderate Charedi who works may not be persuaded, if his kids can learn secular studies in high school why not in Israel? If he can work for a living why not in Israel? If anything this may cause a crisis of faith among these people as they start to question the wisdom of their leaders.

The other big question still unanswered is whether Satmar will participate. On one hand Satmar brings a lot of people, on the other hand they also have a lot of demands for their participation including:
1. All speeches in Yiddish
2. No Israeli politicians (Charedim) can speak
3. The freedom to attack "moderates" like R' Shteinman

It will be fascinating to watch how this plays out over the next few weeks.

Monday, December 23, 2013

At least the Satmar Rebbe is honest about the draft for Charedim in Israel

In response to the upcoming visit to the US by prominent Chasidic rebbes to protest against the Israeli government the Satmar Rebbe said the following at a dinner last Saturday night.

There is a very big question. How can they make a demonstration [against the Israeli government] in front of the non-Jews when they themselves are part of the government and taking money from the government? Why should the non-Jew understand? The Charedi is benefiting from government budgets, is part of the government and has MKs in the government, why should he be any different then a chiloni? This is exactly what the government is asking from the Charedim, to share the burden. The non-Jew can understand that those God fearing Jews who don't participate and have nothing to do with the government and get no government money have a right to not be drafted as well and therefore a demonstration is worthwhile.

Now, you can disagree with his point regarding those who don't take government money, but his point regarding those who do take money is very hard to refute. If you participate in the government and take money then you also need to contribute, the government is not simply a cash machine.

Friday, September 13, 2013

And people wonder where the Burka ladies come from ...

When Yated Neeman this week published a front page קול קורא form women to be מתחזק in their צניעות.

It says that for women צניעות is one of their fundamental mitzvos and therefore they should be מתחזק in their צניעות. It isn't hard for me to imagine a Charedi woman who already dresses צניעות to look at this and feel that they have to do more and burkas are just the logical conclusion if we take this קול קורא at face value.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

4 Minim at a subsidized price, is this a good thing?

For the first time in all the years I have lived in Israel, I am seeing ads all over the place for subsidized ד' מינים. Many chesed organizations are organizing sales at cost or even subsidized prices. Below are 2 of the many ads that I saw.

I assume the reason for this is the government cutbacks in kollel stipends and child payments and therefore many people simply cannot afford it. While at first glance this seems like a great idea, it may have negative consequences. There are a lot of people who make a good part of their yearly income by selling ד' מינים. This year it will be very hard for them to compete with chesed organizations undercutting their prices by as much as half. In essence, this will be depriving the sellers of their parnassa.

In fact, I am seeing this kind of sale happen for more and more items, meat, clothing, etc. If this trend continues then Charedi stores will simply have to go out of business, there is no way they can compete against the prices that these organizations offer. This may set off a vicious cycle, people are poor and therefore can't spend money in the stores, which makes the stores unprofitable, making the store owner and all his workers poor which makes the Charedi community even poorer.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Starting Selichos on Time

Last night was the first night of selichos and in Israel חצות was about 12:40 so selichos also started around 12:40. Many shuls have a minhag where the Rav speaks for a few minutes before selichos to inspire the people. This is a very fine minhag, however, the Rav should realize that it is very late and that people want to start selichos on time and go home and go to sleep. Sunday in Israel is a regular workday and people can't really sleep late. For the Rav to plan to speak for 15 minutes and then speak for an extra 10 minutes is really not right. No one would be upset if the Rav spoke for 25 or even 30 minutes if he started 25 or 30 minutes before the scheduled time for selichos. However, to start speaking 15 minutes before the scheduled start and then go over 10 minutes and start selichos 10 minutes late  is a tremendous טרחא דציבורא at such a late hour.

There is a famous saying that to speak for 10 minutes is much harder then to speak for an hour. When you have a short time you need to really hone your message and measure your words. When you have an hour you have much more leeway. Unfortunately, there are some people who can never fit what they want to say in the allotted time. If you give them ten minutes they speak for 20-25. If you give them an hour they will have enough material for an hour and a half.

This really bothers me. Many times it points to a lack of discipline and preparation. I speak publicly every so often, and when I do so, I go over exactly what I am going to say a number of times before I actually speak and I time myself. If I have 10 minutes to speak then I will make sure that I have enough to say for 10 minutes and not more. The same goes for 40 minutes or an hour. I don't understand how you can prepare a speech that is allotted 15 minutes and take 25 minutes. That is almost double the time.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Charedi education dominos have started to fall

Kikar Shabbat is reporting that 2 Chassidish high schools, "חידושי הרי"מ" in Tel Aviv and ישיבת נדבורנה in Bnei Brak have agreed to teach the core curriculum in exchange for full funding.

Now we will see if this creates a domino effect and who else decides to take government money.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Is a Yeshiva boy/Kollel Avreich חייב in Parshas זכור?

This is quite amusing

Yated Neeman - Secular studies aren't for Jewish kids

In yesterday's Hebrew Yated Neeman the following was published as part of an editorial.

My translation (starting from end of the first line):
The Mashgiach R' Yechezkel Levenstein wrote the following in a letter to one of his close students: "My wish is to see the children growing in Torah and fear of Heaven, secular studies are not for Jewish children when our wish is that they became God fearing. Hashem gives bread to everyone and there is no one who is starving to death because Hashem gives food to all the animals of the Earth, "famine" kills in the next world, and regarding parnassa (income) in this world we have faith in Hashem. The main thing is the next world, praised be those who merit Torah and fear of heaven".

Is this really the Torah perspective? What happened to the Gemara in Kiddushin about teaching your son a trade? What happened to the Gemara in Bava Basra "“A person should hire himself out for any work rather than requiring assistance from others”? What about the Gemara in Berachos that many did like R' Shimon Bar Yochai (learned all day and didn't work), ולא עלתה בידם, they failed? Is there no chiyuv hishtadlus to make a living?

What really struck me was that a few pages earlier they had the following ad:

This is but one of the many ads found in the newspaper and in my mailbox and in shul every day about people who have no money for basic necessities. Yes, no one is starving to death, but there are many many Charedim who are in very bad financial shape and it has a very bad effect on both the kids and shalom bayis.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Charedi response to Egged's ad about stealing bus rides

Some Charedim have come up with some very cute takeoffs of the Egged ad

Unfortunately these responses seem to justify stealing because Egged's service is so bad. However the fact is that however, bad Egged's service is, you still aren't allowed to steal from them. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why is the Charedi leadership silent about attacks on Charedi soldiers?

There was another attack on a Charedi soldier yesterday (Dozens attack haredi soldier in Jerusalem) and yet we hear nothing from the leadership. Nothing from the politicians and nothing from the Gedolim. In fact, the Charedi website Kika Hashabbat had the gall to public an article today, נתניהו אשם באלימות, blaming Netanyahu and the secular politicians for the violence. Why the silence? When it comes to the draft, to secular education we hear them loud and clear. However, when it comes to violence against other religious Jews suddenly silence.

This is exactly what happened with קמצא and בר קמצא. The Gemara (גיטין נ"ו) says that בר קמצא thought the following after he was thrown out of the party :
 אמר הואיל והוי יתבי רבנן ולא מחו ביה ש"מ ניחא להו
The Chachamim were sitting at the party and saw what happened and kept quiet it must be that they agree with what was done thus setting in motion the chain of events.

The same certainly applies today.

There is something terribly wrong with charedi chinuch if this is the result.  In addition, there is something very wrong with Charedi society if the reaction to anything bad that happens is to blame someone else. What happened to introspection, looking for faults in yourself? What happened to taking responsibility for your actions? I am sorry, but the only one responsible for the violence in Charedi society is Charedi society.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

What does this ad from Egged say about the Charedi population in Israel?

This ad appeared in the Charedi newspapers last week. The ad states that riding the bus is like taking a Challah in the grocery store, just like you wouldn't steal the challah you shouldn't steal rides from Egged.

IMHO this ad is embarrassing and a chillul hashem. This is not a bombastic anti-Charedi politician saying this, this is a for profit company that is spending a lot of money on full page ads in Charedi newspapers. Egged is only spending the money because there is a problem of Charedim not paying for bus rides.

Comparison of Haredi education in Israel and the US

The Charedi leadership has rejected the idea that the government have any control over what is learned in Haredi schools. Any government intervention/control is a gezeras shmad. Let us compare the Haredi schools in NY and those in Israel to see whether government mandates are really shmad.

The following table describes the current situation:

NY Haredi Schools
Israel Charedi Schools
Budget from the Government
Yes 55% of public schools
Elementary School standardized tests
High School Standardized tests
Yes (Regents)
No (Bagrut)
State Curriculum
Yes Instruction given to a minor elsewhere than a public school must be substantially
equivalent to the instruction given at the local public school
Option to opt out

As we can see in NY State the government provides no funding and yet, mandates a standardized curriculum and standardized acheivement tests. In Israel, on the other hand, the government provides partial funding but mandates no requirements.

The following table describes what the government is proposing in order for a school to get government funding:

NY Haredi Schools
Israel Charedi Schools
Budget from the Government
Yes 55% of public schools if the school teaches the state curriculum (full math,english and hebrew, 55% of the rest), otherwise 30% funding
Elementary School standardized tests
High School Standardized tests
Yes (Regents)
No (Bagrut)
State Curriculum
Yes Instruction given to a minor elsewhere than a public school must be substantially
equivalent to the instruction given at the local public school
Option to opt out
Yes, any Haredi school that doesn't take government funding doesn't need to fulfill any government requirements.

What is fascinating is that there is much more government control/intervention in the US then what is being proposed in Israel let alone what exists now. Yet no one is calling teh US government evil and shmad.
Source for NY State Data:

Monday, June 17, 2013

R' Chaim Kanievsky: Men are not allowed to wear watches

because of the prohibition of לא ילבש.

Source: Kikar Shabbat

I believe that this opinion of R' Chaim has not bee accepted by any of the poskim and in fact there are pictures of many great Rabbanim including R' Elyashiv his father wearing a watch.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Does Stanley Fisher hate Charedim?

Stanley Fisher (the outgoing Head of the Bank of Israel) commented today that the State of Israel is facing a demographic problem, given the current projections the Chiloni population in Israel will be a minority in 50 years due to the growth of the Charedi and Arab populations. Given the low participation level of both of those populations in the workforce, this will cause economic issues and affect the quality of life in Israel.

The Charedi politicians immediately attacked Fisher as a racist and hater of Charedim and that he wants to destroy the Charedi population.

IMHO, they are completely wrong. Fisher remarks were not predicated on hate or racism, but based on cold hard facts. At some point as the Charedi population grows larger and larger, the shrinking tax base will be unable to provide the social benefits. The money will simply not be there. This has nothing to do with hate, it is pure economics.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Can you believe anything said in the name of the Gedolim?

I would have to say that the answer today is probably not.

As many of you know, there was an anti-draft rally in Manhattan yesterday sponsored by Satmar. Satmar tried very hard to get other groups to join, and because of that over the past week, there was much discussion about what R' Chaim Kanievsky's opinion was. Was he for or against the rally?

R' Elya Ber Wachtfogel, Rosh Yeshiva of South Fallsburg wrote in a letter on Thursday that R' Chaim Kanievsky was for the rally.

However, on Friday, R' Chaim's sons publicized a letter saying that he did not support the rally.

Even more interesting is that on Sunday at 3PM some people produced another letter supposedly from R' Chaim Kanievsky supporting the rally.
This letter turned out to be forged.

The bottom line is that it is impossible for the average person to know what is true and what is not. 

There needs to be a better way for the Gedolim to get their message out to the people because the current system is just not working.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Daylight savings in time in Israel will now be until the last Sunday in October

I think this is a reasonable setup, however, it will cause some problems with early morning minyanim in October. At the end of October actual sunrise in Israel is about 6:50, however, many are machmir for נץ הנראה which is 10-15 minutes later. What this means is that those who are machmir will not be able to daven before approximately 6:45.

The woman is erased but her feet remain

Yated Neeman has a policy not to show any pictures of women so when they get a picture with a woman that they want to print, they simply photoshop her out. However, sometimes they do a bad job and leave over small parts of the woman's body like in the case below where the woman's feet and shoes are clearly visible under the man's body.

Source: Kikar Shabbat

Monday, May 27, 2013

I feel like it's 1984 ...

when I read the Charedi newspapers these days. The Charedi press is simply inventing a story and writing about it. The Charedi press is full of headlines "The destruction of the Torah world" and "Israel is the only country in the world which restricts Torah learning" etc. when it is nothing of the sort. As I wrote here this is simply ridiculous. The current proposal allows those who want to sit and learn to do so until 21. At the age of 21 they need to serve. After their 2.5 years of service time they are free to do whatever they want. They can go back to the Yeshiva and sit and learn 18 hours a day for the next 50 years. No one is going to stop them, period. The only thing they need to is figure out on what whey are going to live on (like everyone else). This is exactly what R' Elyashiv did, he sat and learned all day until his kids were literally starving (see here and here), and then he got a job as a Dayan for the Rabbanut.

In reality, the Charedi world has 2 problems with the proposals:
1. Freedom of choice - Believe it or not, the Charedi leadership loved the fact that you could not work without going to the army. This forced everyone to stay in yeshiva/kollel to avoid the army. The current proposals free people up at a much earlier age which means that many more people will leave the yeshiva/kollel by choice. It also give people much more educational choice, they will be able to actually get a higher secular education.
2. It's all about money. The Charedi world as currently constituted cannot survive without government money (see this post for the details). If the government takes away the money the Charedi world will have no choice but to change and have more people go to work.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Women's names on Coke bottles cause a big storm in the Charedi world

Coke has R' Landau's Hechsher and is the drink of choice for many Rebbe's at their tishes. However, they are running an ad campaign which features peoples names on the bottle labels as you can see below.

Some bottles have women's names on them (Tali, Savta) and some have men's names on them (Shay). The Charedi world is up in arms, how can they serve the Rebbe from a bottle with a women's name on it? R' Landau is putting pressure on Coca Cola to not distribute these bottles in Charedi areas. In the meantime here is 1 solution.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I wouldn't hire Charedi women either

The Mishpacha newspaper had a long article this past Tuesday on the problems that Charedi women have in finding good paying jobs. IMHO, they downplayed the major reasons Charedi women have problems:

I. Pregnancy

Charedi women are almost always pregnant. If you hire a 23 year old Charedi women she probably has 1 child already and is pregnant with another. Over the next 15 years she will probably have a baby every 18 months to 2 years. This raises a number of serious issues for any employer:

  1. Maternity leave - Every 18 months to 2 years the woman will take off at least 3 months, the employer has to figure out how to replace her for those 3 months, it is not simple. If you have a number of Charedi women, the odds are that at any given time at least one will be out on maternity leave.
  2. In Israel it is practically impossible to fire a pregnant women. I saw this happen more then once where I work (a major American company with tens of thousands of employees around the world). Management decided to discontinue a product that was not selling and therefore laid off the entire team, directors, manager, programmers etc. Everyone except for the one woman who was 5 months pregnant. The company paid her not to come to work for the duration of her pregnancy she then took her 3 months maternity leave and then they paid her another 3 months until they could fire her. While no one hires employees with the intention of firing them, the ability to fire workers is important. Charedi women are very hard to fire because they are generally either pregnant or just had a baby much of the time. 
  3. Pregnancy itself - Being pregnant is not easy (each stage has it's challenges) and there is no question that for at least some women it will affect their productivity

II. Large Families

Charedi women generally have large families and large families make it harder to work for a number of reasons:
  1. If you have 5, 6,7 or more kids, someone is always sick and someone needs to stay home and take care of them.
  2. Someone needs to watch the kids during school vacations 
  3. School ends late afternoon, someone needs to watch the kids until teh mother gets home for work, or she needs to leave work early.
  4. Taking care of a large family is exhausting and a full time job. 
  5. Travel is very difficult if not impossible. 

III. It's a job not a career

Charedi women are brought up that work is a necessary evil to support their husband while learning and that they should not be career women. This means that they are generally not looking to get ahead etc. and will do their jobs but nothing more. It makes for good low level workers but does not provide much path for advancement.

IV.Cultural Issues

Charedi women want to work in an all female Charedi environment. What that means is that they have nowhere to advance and are severely limited in what and where they can work. If a Charedi women shows great promise it is very hard to promote here because she will then have to work with men, chilonim, and non-Jews. These days the workplace is all about teamwork. If you have nothing in common and can't relate to your co-workers it is a problem.

V. Education

Charedi woman may be well educated in the Beis Yaakov's but they generally don't have real academic degrees and in the secular world that is what counts. In all of the hi tech companies that I have worked for in Israel, they can't even get in the door because the minimum requirement is a degree from a University. Without a University degree they are limited to lower paying jobs.

In short, IMHO Charedi women have a hard time finding good paying jobs not because of discrimination but because of legitimate business and financial reasons. If I was running a business/managing a group, I would have a very hard time justifying hiring a Charedi woman because of all the issues mentioned above. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Lakewood has no religious test for admission???

Anyone who knows anything about Lakewood knows that that statement is ridiculous. Yet this is exactly what Moshe Gleiberman, vice president of administration at Beth Medrash Govoha, said in an interview defending the states decision to grant Lakewood a $10.6 million grant to build a library:

there is no "religious test" for admission, but it does have rigid education standards.

However, people are starting to ask questions, see this article:

Now the state’s top Assembly Democrat says she is concerned about public dollars going to a college with admission standards she says resemble a "religious test." Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) said students who want to go to the college must speak Hebrew, know the sacred texts and agree not to date within the first six months of schooling.

"I will tell you that I am extremely surprised by this," Oliver said. "This is not a secondary institution that is open to the general public."

Oliver sees a distinction between Beth Medrash Govoha — known in Hebrew as a yeshiva — and private Catholic schools like Seton Hall University and St. Peter’s University that she says should qualify for public money.

"Seton Hall is open to anyone — Jewish, Christian and Muslim. They have an open admission process, and any student in New Jersey can attend." Oliver said. "Not every student can attend the yeshiva."

If a qualified non-jew or a woman takes them at their word and applies for admission to make a point what is Lakewood going to do? The Charedi world attacked YU very harshly when it came to various compromises in order to get government money, yet it looks like Lakewood is basically doing the same thing for the same reason, to get government money.

With money tight and the economy bad, I guess anything goes when it comes to money.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Ner Israel repudiates Dov Lipman

Dov Lipman has said many times that he is a product of Ner Israel and that his hashkafos are based on what he learned from the previous Rosh Yeshiva, R' Weinberg.

However, the current Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel, R' Aharon Feldman, wrote a strongly worded letter against Dov Lipman saying:

The positions and pronouncements of Dov Lipman do not in any way represent the positions of the Yieshivas Ner Israel or the former Rosh Yeshiva, R' Weinberg

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Saudi Arabia: Woman agrees to marry man only if he agrees to marry her friends as well

We tend to think of polygamy as favoring the man not the women. Yet, the Saudi press is reporting a story where a woman only agreed to accept a marriage proposal if her future husband promised to marry her best friends as well. The man eventually agreed and married all 3 women at the same time. The Saudi press reports that the women are having a great time.

Source: YNet

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Interesting ads - a window into the Charedi world

The following ads are really interesting and show what is going on in the Charedi world.

The first ad is a cheap knockoff of all the Tzedaka Kupas who promise to daven for you at various holy sites. It is not clear to me whether this is serious or a joke, but just the fact that I am considering that this might be serious says it all.

The second ad illustrates the desperate poverty in the Charedi world where people can't afford a decent place to live.


Tensions rising between the Edah Charedis and the Litvish Yeshiva world

On Yom Haatzmaut, a member of the Edah Charedis Beis Din, R' Yehoshua Rosenberger from Bet Shemesh, called R' Shteinman a  מסית ומדיח. For those who know Yiddish the pashkevil is below:

The Lithuanian Gedolim have have not taken this lying down and R' Chaim Kanievsky and R' Nissim Karelitz demanded that the Edah denounce the statement. As of now, the Edah has not yet responded. If the Edah doesn't deliver an appropiate denunciation they are threatening to declare a Cherem on the Edah Charedis hashgacha and hit the Edah were it hurts most, the pocketbook.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Walking with your wife in the street is the cause of all problems

Here is a key quote: based on the power of the Torah we know that all of the problems are caused by husbands walking with their wives in the street.

Are they claiming Nevua? Ruach Hakodesh? Are there no other more pressing problems in the world today?

Hat Tip: בעולמם של חרדים

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Best Segulos

The Israeli IRS is going after Charedi weddings, caterers and musicians

The Israeli tax authorities have started questioning many Charedim who made weddings recently. They are asking them where did they get the money to pay for thee wedding as well as how much they paid the caterer and musicians. The strategy is very clear.
1. The Charedi population claims to be poor and is poor and yet somehow manages to marry off their children and pay for weddings. It is clear that at least some of this money is unreported/untaxed income that the government is after.The government is asking if make 5,000 shekel a month and spend it all to get by where did you get the money to pay x thousand shekels for a wedding?
2. The Charedi caterers and musicians are most probably not declaring a large part of their income. The authorities are forcing the wedding makers (under legal penalty) to detail how much they paid the caterer and musicians. The authorities will then match this up with what those parties declared as income and go after them for the rest.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Store dress code with a twist

Many Charedi stores have a sign on the door that women should only come in if they are dressed tzniusly (skirt, socks, shirt covering the neck and elbows, etc.). Some stores offer wraparound skirts to women customers who aren't wearing one.

A chiloni store owner put up a similar sign in the reverse direction.

You can only come in to the store if you are wearing only an undershirt and religious women can get one from the cashiers. I don't think this is serious but it is funny.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hamodia: Create an autonomous Charedi region in Israel

Hamodia today published an article suggesting that the Charedim set up an autonomous self governing region in Israel. Autonomous meaning full self governance except for foreign affairs. The region would have police but no army.  The writer believes that this will work economically as well as Charedim will be able to work without the having to obtain academic degrees and with no problems of tznius in the workplace.

IMHO, this is absolutely ridiculous for a number of reasons. Leaving aside the fact that the government would never do this, this could never work. Where would the money come from? Who would work? You can say that you don't believe in academic degrees but the fact is that a lot of vital jobs in society require a lot of secular education. Who will serve as the doctors in such a society? Who will run the power plants? Will everything be run on Shabbos with Shabbos goyim? It is nice to say that the Charedi autonomy will have no foreign policy and no army, so who will protect it? The Israeli army? If so they will need to pay for that. The bottom line is that Charedi society in Israel today has no way to generate anywhere near the sums of money required for autonomy.

Another big question would be who would lead this autonomy? The Chasidim or the Litvaks, or the Sefardim? Who will provide the Daas Torah, The Rebbe's or R' Shteinman or R' Ovadya? There is so much internal fighting and politics in the Charedi world today I don't see how this could ever work.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Is Daas Torah a political threat, intimidation, and illegal?

The mayor of Bnei Brak was number 7 on Yahadut Hatorah's list and therefore resigned as Mayor after the national elections and moved on to serve as an MK. After his resignation R' Shteinman and   R' Chaim Kanievsky published a letter which said that על פי דעת תורה R' Avraham Rubinstein should be the next Mayor of Bnei Brak. Based on the support of those 2 Gedolim, he was unanimously selected by the city council to serve as mayor. Someone in Bnei Brak (a Charedi) has filed a criminal complaint that R' Shteinman and  R' Chaim Kanievsky's דעת תורה letter is political intimidation and deprived the people of their democratic rights to choose a mayor and therefore was illegal.

What is fascinating is the reaction on the Charedi sites (Kikar Shabbat, בחדרי חרדים) to this complaint. It seems that many people in Bnei Brak are not happy with the new mayor and the way he was selected. Many  of the comments were supportive quoting the Gemara (Berachos 55a) that אין מעמידין פרנס על הציבור, אלא אם כן נמלכים בציבור that the people should be consulted in the appointment of leaders (e.g. elections).

Here are some typical comments:
אולי לא צודק נגד גדולי הדור..אבל הרובינשטיין הזה מאז שנכנס ..הגזים ומאוד...איך הוא יכול לסגור לנו את העסקים בשעה 11 בלילה?? מה ?. כל הפרנסה זה בלילה..לא הגיוני למנות אברך ראש עיר...גם אם זה בני ברק זה לא צחוק..זה עיר..וצריך מישהו עם ידע וניסיון ..מישהו שהציבור ירצה בו!!
Maybe he isn't right against the gedolei hador... but this Rubinstein from the time he came into office .. has overreacted .. how can he close the stores at 11 at night?? All of our income is at night.. It is not logical to appoint an Avrech as the mayor... even if it is Bnei Brak it isn't a joke. We need someone with knowledge and experience, someone the people want!!
מה פתאום שעסקנים ורבנים יסגרו דיל מעל ראשי התושבים על מישהו מסויים שיכהן בתפקיד ראש העיר או בכל תפקיד ציבורי??? ומי יודע מה כלול בדיל הזה???
אני מחזק את ידיו של אותו ישראל אפל, שאינני מכירו, על הצעד הצודק והאמיץ שנקט.
How can it be that askanim and rabbis make a deal over the heads of the residents for a specific person to serve as mayor or any other public position??? Who knows what else is in this deal???
לא קשור לגדולי הדור. הם לא יכולים להחליט מה ומי רק כי עסקן זה או אחר לחש להם כך או כך.!!!!!!!!!
עד מתי ישלטו פה בעיר הכנופיות של פלגים אלה ואחרים??????????
This has nothing to do with the Gedolei Hador, They can't decide who and what just because soem askan whispers in their ear. Until when will the gangs of the different factions rule???

The bottom is we are starting to see some serious cracks in the Daas Torah ideology. People are getting fed up with what is going on.

Source: זעזוע: חרדי תובע "עונש מאסר לגראי"ל ולגר"ח"

Should Kollel families have a family budget? השתדלות vs בטחון

With all of the talk about budget cuts and how the Charedi world is going to suffer and lose a lot of government money, this post (Should Kollel families have a family budget?) from 6 years ago seems even more relevant today then it was then. A letter writer to Hamodia wrote:

Kollel families receive a certain siyata dishmaya that helps them to make ends meet in a near miraculous manner. If they were to begin to keep track of their income and expenditures, they would realize that their finances just do not add up, and the husband might feel pressured to leave kollel.
Instead, they should have bitachon that Hashem will provide for them and not look too closely at their finances.

Lately, the Charedi press has been whining about how much money the government is going to take away from the Charedi world etc. (see for example 3064 shekel - This is how much the average Charedi family will lose under the new government) and how bad this is going to be for the average Charedi.

Let's apply the logic from the above letter to the current situation. Where is everyone's bitachon? If as the letter writer states above, kollel families receive siyata dishmaya then it shouldn't matter how much money the government cuts, they should have bitachon that Hashem will provide for them and not look too closely at how much the government is cutting.

The truth is that this really leads to a much bigger question of how does Hashem run the world? The prevalent (only?) Charedi hashkafa today is that not even a leaf falls without it being a גזירה מן שמים and that השתדלות has no effect, it is just an illusion. השתדלות is just so that we avoid ניסים גלוים (see מכתב מאליהו, חזון איש אמונה ובטחון and others). If so why be upset with Bennet and Lapid? In fact, the Chinuch states exactly this when explaining the mitzva of לא תקם. He says why take revenge on the person who wronged you, it wasn't really him anyway, it was Hashem. The same should apply to Bennet and Lapid. It is not them cutting the Charedi budget it is a גזירה/punishment  from Hashem. If anything the leadership should be doing a חשבון הנפש asking why is Hashem suddenly cutting their monetary support?

What we see is that many in the Charedi world have bitachon up to a point but when the going gets tough many suddenly do a lot of השתדלות. I pointed out a few years ago (Should we go to the best doctor?) that when R' Elyashiv needed complicated heart surgery they flew in the top cardiac/blood vessel surgeon from Cleveland (a religious Catholic) to do the surgery. I questioned this based on the above Charedi hashkafa. If  Hashem is doing the healing not the surgeon then once we have done our השתדלות, going to the doctor and having the surgery, why should it matter whether the surgeon is the best in the world or simply Joe surgeon who is competent? As long as we do our השתדלות to avoid requiring a נס, the rest is a גזירה מן השמים. If the גזירה is that the surgery will be successful, then it will be successful even if done by the average surgeon, and if the גזירה is that it won't be successful then it won't help that you have the best surgeon.

Of course there is another hashkafa, (which the average Charedi will call Kefira) that while Hashem does intervene, it is rare and therefore השתדלות not only works but is what Hashem wants. Please read the following 2 articles carefully which articulate this position very well.

האם כל אירוע מכוון משמים? בירור בסוגיית ההשגחה
משמעויות אמוניות ומעשיות בסוגיית ההשגחה

In my mind, in the modern world this opinion (which may even be the majority opinion certainly among the Rishonim) fits the world today much better.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Baked after Pesach? Really?

For some years now, not eating chametz that was sold to a גוי has become a very popular chumra. As I pointed out a few years ago (Not eating chametz that was sold to a גוי - Is it possible? and Not eating chametz that was sold to a גוי - Is it possible? Part 2) this is practically impossible, however, it hasn't stopped anyone or kept the the stores from pushing it. Here is a picture from Osher Ad in Bnei Brak.

The store sign clearly states that the crackers were backed after Pesach this year, however, if you read the red sticker it tells a very different story. The crackers were actually baked after Pesach LAST YEAR. The fact is that there is no way in the world that the stores could be flooded with products baked after Pesach a day or 2 after Pesach. It is logistically impossible which means that a whole lot of people are lying to sell more cookies.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

How can you buy freshly baked bread after Pesach and still violate the prohibition of חמץ שעבר עליו הפסח?

This happened this year in Bnei Brak, a bakery opened right after Pesach and sold freshly baked bread and Harav Shriel Rosenberg paskened that the buyers violated the issur of חמץ שעבר עליו הפסח.

How can this be? How can you violate the issur of חמץ שעבר עליו הפסח on freshly baked bread after Pesach?

The answer is that the owner of the bakery was in the US for Pesach, and therefore when the bakery baked bread at 10PM the night after Pesach in Israel, it was only 3PM in NY on the 7th day of Pesach. Therefore, the owner of the bakery violated the issur of owning Chametz (since when the bread was baked it was still Pesach for him) and therefore the people who bought the bread violated the issur of חמץ שעבר עליו הפסח.

Source: Kikar Shabbat

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

It's all about money

If you read the Charedi press it is patently clear that the current situation is all about money. The charedi world can only survive on government money, if the government turns off the cash machine the Charedi world will be forced to adapt.

Lets compare two 30 year olds, the first an Avreich learning in kollel married with 5 kids, the second being a Chiloni, single, working in hi tech.

I. Avreich 

Non Government Income 

Kollel stipend of 1800 shekel
The wife/mother works as a teacher/ganenet - 3400 shekel a month (the truth is that this money is coming from the government as well)
Other income - Night Kollel/Friday kollel - 400 shekel a month
Total Income: 5600 shekel a month

Taxes Paid

Income Tax - 0
Health Tax - ~200 shekel
Social Security - ~100 shekel
Property Tax - ~50 shekel
Total tax - 350 shekel (6%)

Government benefits Received

Child payments - ~900 shekel
Arnona (property tax) reduction - 90% - ~500 shekel
Guaranteed Income - ~1200 (Note: guaranteed income is only paid if the wife is not working, even so about 10,000 Avreichim are receiving this benefit).
Private Elementary Schools - 55% - 75% government support Yeshiva Ketana - 850 shekel ~ 1450 shekel a month
Total Benefits Received - ~3600

II. Chiloni


Salary - 20000 shekel

Taxes Paid

Income tax - ~3800 (19%)
Health Tax - ~1000(5%)
Social Security Tax - ~1000 (5%)
Property tax - ~600 
Total Tax - 6400 (32%)

Government benefits Received


Here is the bottom line, the Avreich is getting more then 3000 shekel more then what he is putting in while the Chiloni is putting in almost 1/3 of his income and gets nothing tangible back. 

It gets worse for the Chiloni. Imagine he is a hard worker and gets a raise to 25000 shekel a month or gets a 5000 shekel bonus, sounds great, but he only gets to keep about half of the money, 46% goes to right to the government in taxes. 

This is why the Charedi world gets no sympathy when they cry about all the money that they will be losing. It is hard to feel sympathetic when you are getting nothing and in fact paying in a large portion of your income to the system. 

There are those who claim that the Charedi world pays more then their share of taxes, I don't see how, the numbers don't lie. Yes, the Charedim pay VAT like everyone else, but even there they pay less simply because they spend less. In addition a good part of the VAT that they pay is simply the government getting it's money back from the transfer payments that it gave them. If all you make is 5600 shekel a month then even if you spend every penny that comes out to 952 shekel in VAT. The Chiloni who is taking home more then double is spending most of it (~10000) and therefore paying more in VAT (1700). 

The bottom line is that a large percentage of the population feels that they cannot afford to subsidize those who want to sit and learn. Very few people have a problem with people sitting and learning, as long as they don't want the government to support them. If you want to sit and learn and be poor by choice, go ahead, but don't expect government support.

Updated on 4/4 with a note about guaranteed income

Stop whining already!!! Everyone is not out to get you

I get both Hamodia and Mishpacha (Hebrew) delivered every week and I was very disappointed by their Pesach editions. Both Hamodia and the Mishpacha newspaper devoted a large section to whining about how  anti-Charedi the new government is, how terrible the situation is and how much money the Charedi world will lose. Enough is enough, the people voted, get over it. The Charedi world needs to wake up and realize that the country has moved on. It is not 1950 and no one is trying to destroy or secularize the Charedim. It is all about money, there is simply not enough money to continue to subsidize an ever growing number of people who are poor by choice.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Boyaner Rebbe's little secret - His father taught at YU and his older brother works for NASA

The Mishpacha magazine in both English and Hebrew had a cover story about the Boyaner Rebbe in their big Pesach issue. What was most interesting about the article was not what they wrote but what they left out. Although they mentioned his father in the article a number of times they never explained what the Rebbe's father did, where he taught, and why he didn't become the Rebbe. They also completely left out the Rebbe's older brother Yigal from the story who should have been Rebbe before his brother. The obvious question is why? After all these are important elements of the Rebbe's biography.

The answer is very simple. The Rebbe's father and brother are not Charedi and don't fit the mold. The Boyaner Rebbe's father, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Brayer, was a doctor of psychology and respected lecturer in education and Bible at Yeshiva University in New York and a prolific author. Even though he always considered himself a Boyan Hasid in every respect, and had a senior status among Hasidim, Rabbi Brayer was firmly in the modern Orthodox world. He was the leader of a mixed community of ultra-Orthodox and modern Orthodox in New York, and devoted most of his life to academic research. The Rebbe's older brother has a Ph.d and works for NASA and his sister also has a Ph.d. These facts don't fit in with the Charedi narrative of a holy Rebbe following in his ancestors footprints and therefore have to be concealed from the Charedi public.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Mir Yeshiva stands to lose a lot of money

One of the lesser known facts about the Israeli governments support for Torah learning is that until now the government has provided money to Yeshivas for foreign students who were enrolled. There are approximately 18,000 foreign students learning in the various Yeshivas and the government was providing the Yeshivas between 65 - 120 million shekel a year for them. That is all going to stop under the new government. There will be no more support for foreign students.

This will impact the Mir more then most Yeshivas as the Mir has over 2000 foreign students and was getting over 20 million shekel for them. Now the Mir is going to have to figure out how to replace that 20 million shekel from other sources.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Israel has a new government - some analysis

Here is some initial analysis of the new Israeli government.

I. Who is in the government and who is out

As I predicted right after the election, the coalition will be a secular one consisting of:
  1. Likud - Yisrael Beitenu - 31
  2. Yesh Atid (Lapid) - 19
  3. Bayit Hayehudi (Bennet) - 12
  4. Hatenua - Livni - 6
68 seats in total. 

The Charedim parties who desperately wanted to be in the government are out.

II. Main Issues that will be dealt with

The following major issues will be dealt with by the new coalition (over and above the regular security issues like Iran, Hamas, etc.)
  1. The Draft - This was one of Lapid's major issues and he got most of what he wanted. 
    1. Everyone will be drafted except for 1800 yeshiva students. 
    2. Yeshiva students will be able to push off their draft only until the age of 21. At the age of 21 they will  either be drafted or do national service
    3. Mandatory service time for boys will be cut to 2 years
  2. Education - Again Lapid is the big winner here. 
    1. Shai Piron, number 2 on Yesh Atid's list will be the Minister of Education
    2. Within 2.5 years every school will need to teach the core curriculum or face monetary sanctions
  3. Electoral Reform - Again another big issue for Lapid
    1. The threshold to get into the Knesset will be raised to 4% (5 seats) 
    2. A vote of confidence will require 65 votes and an alternative candidate for Prime Minister.
    3. The government will be limited to 18 ministers and 4 deputy ministers

III. The Ministers

The issue of what ministries each party would get almost killed the coalition before it got off the ground. Here are the important ministries and who will lead them.
  • Defense Minister - Likud, Moshe Yaalon
  • Finance Minister - Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid
  • Foreign Minister - Yisrael Beitenu, Avigdor Lieberman (on hold until after his trial)
  • Education Minister - Shai Piron, Yesh Atid
  • Industry, Trade and Labour Minister - Bayit Hayehudi - Naftali Bennet
  • Religious Services Minister - Bayit Hayehudi
  • Justice Minister - Hatenua - Tzippi Livni
  • Health Minister - Yesh Atid
  • Welfare and Social Services Minsiter - Yesh Atid
  • Interior Minister - Likud - Gidon Saar

IV. The Winners 

The big winners are Lapid, Bennet and Livni.


He got most of what he wanted
  • A secular government
  • A small government
  • A draft deal which he can live with
  • Education reform
  • Electoral reform
  • 5 ministers


  • Strengthened his coalition position
  • Head of the powerful Knesset finance committee
  • Took back the Religious Services Ministry from the Charedim


With only 6 seats she managed to do very well:
  • Justice Minister
  • In charge of negotiations with the Palestinians

V. The Losers

The big losers are clearly the Charedi parties. They have basically lost the main things that they have been fighting for over the years:
  • Unlimited draft exemption - gone
  • Complete educational freedom - gone
  • Government Monetary benefits for Avreichim - gone, only for people who work or try to get a job
It will be very interesting to see what happens now in the Charedi world.

The other big loser is Netanyahu. With this coalition he has burned his bridges with the Charedi parties. The perception is that he was outmaneuvered by Bennet and Lapid and he has made many enemies in the Likud. You have to believe that this is his last hurrah as Prime Minister. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The cash machine that is the Israeli government

As a followup to yesterday's post where I detailed how much money the average Charedi gets from the government today (and may lose with the new government), I would like to refer to a post of mine (The Charedi view of the government and money), from 8 years ago that is more relevant today then ever.

Here are some of the highlights with my comments from today mixed in, in [brackets]:

This made me realize that the Charedi view of the government in Israel is completely different then everyone else. They view the government as a cash machine, give us money and leave us alone. The budget is a zero sum game, whatever we can save and get for us great whatever doesn't go to us is basically lost. The Charedi population views itself as hardly using any government services (no, schools, university, roads, police, jails, etc.) [which is of course not true, they use the roads, health care, the army protects them etc.] . They also feel that they have little or no stake in the government, they don't believe in it. In addition, the Charedi population pays less in direct taxes because many people don't work, they are poor, and those who do work get a lot of money under the table and therefore when they get money from the government they don't look upon it as their tax money coming back to them. [Lately, some in the Charedi world have made the claim that the Charedim pay more in taxes then the average Chiloni and get back less, however, this is not at all backed up by any real data]  Last but definitely not least, the money the Charedi population gets from the government is in many cases the difference between making it through the month or not making it. The government money is a huge part of their income that they cannot do without [see yesterday's post which quotes an estimate from Mishpacha that it was over 3000 shekel a month a very big sum when your total income is about 7000 shekel]. Therefore, when their representatives in the Knesset bring money for Yeshivas etc. it is a big deal and is the way success is measured.

The middle and upper middle class (who vote for Shinui [this past election Yair Lapid]) sees things very differently.
1. They pay the majority of taxes and know that any money in the budget is coming from their pocket, taxes

It has always amazed me that the secular majority has not wiped out the money for Charedim yet, I believe that the day is coming and then the Charedi society will be in for a huge shock and adjustment. [Lo and behold that day seems to have come and as predicted the Charedi world is in shock]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

3064 shekel - This is how much the average Charedi family will lose under the new government

This number appears as a big headline on the front page of yesterday's (Tuesday 3/11) Mishpacha newspaper. Here is how they came to these numbers:

I. Income Assumptions

Family Status

Married couple with 6 kids


The husband/father learns in kollel  and receives a stipend of 1800 shekel
The wife/mother works as a teacher/ganenet - 3400 shekel a month
Other income - Night Kollel/Friday kollel - 400 shekel a month
Total Income: 5600 shekel a month

Government benefits Received

Child payments - 1592 shekel
Arnona (property tax) reduction - 90%
Guaranteed Income 
Private Elementary Schools - 55% - 75% government support Yeshiva Ketana - 850 shekel ~ 1450 shekel a month

II. What will be Cut

Child payments - 542 shekel reduction
Arnona reduction - 0% (no reduction)
Education - No government money, reduction of 1450 shekel
Kollel Stipend - no more

III. How will this be implemented?

There are 2 basic policy shifts which will happen to cause all of the above to happen.
1. Currently, government benefits are income based per number of heads in the household. Therefore, Charedim qualify because they have low incomes plus large families. However, the government is now going to introduce another criterion into the mix. To get low income government benefits you will have to prove that you have tried to go out and make a living, what they call in Hebrew מיצוי כושר השתכרות. In other words, if you don't work, or try to find work, you don't get government money.
2. No funding of schools that don't teach the core curriculum. Today these schools get between 55%-75% funding, depending on what they teach  Now it will be all or nothing, if the full core curriculum isn't taught the government will provide no funding.


I have to say that I believe that these are good and needed reforms. If you are poor by choice then that is your choice and no one else should be forced to support you. Regarding school funding, the fact is that just about everywhere else in the world there is a mandatory curriculum that every school (public, Catholic, Charedi, etc.) must follow. Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate for the State of Israel to impose these requirements as well. Somehow the Charedim in NY and Manchester and Antwerp, and everywhere else outside of Israel manage to live with that.

If these changes take place they will force the Charedi world in Israel to rethink Torah only, there is no way that the Charedi world as it is constituted today can survive these kind of cuts.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Charedi parties threatening revenge - Part 2

Many people have commented that the Charedi parties are only doing what everyone else does in politics. If you don't take revenge and make your enemies pay no one will take you seriously in politics and you won't succeed in getting anything for your constituents. In other words the Charedi parties are simply playing by the same rules of dirty politics as everyone else.

The answer to that is very simple. Religious Jews are supposed to be answer to a higher authority and are supposed to play by the Torah's rules and not any other rules. If you can't play by the Torah's rules in politics then don't play. Last I checked, there is no heter to violate aveiros for politics.

This is one of the reasons why the whole idea of religious parties is a terrible idea. Most Israelis see the Charedi world through the lens of the Charedi politicians and the political system which gives them a very warped view of Charedi society. IMHO we would be much better off if there were no religious parties like in the US and instead would influence the political system from within the large parties. While there is no question that the political system in the US is much more amenable to this because representatives are directly elected in districts, I still believe it could work here.

Part 1 is here

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Charedi parties are threatening revenge on the Bayit Hayehudi - Is that the Torah way?

The Charedi parties are vowing to take revenge on the Bayit Hayehudi party if they are excluded from the coalition including voting with the left to destroy settlements and giving up land to the Palestinians.

The Charedi parties claim that they are run על פי תורה, is this a Torah true position? The answer is clearly not for many reasons:

1. There is an issur of לא תקם, you aren't allowed to to take revenge. Even if the Charedi parties are claiming that Naftali Bennet and the Bayit Hayehudi leaders are not really religious and they are reform (see for example R' Moshe Sternbuch), and therefore the issur doesn't apply, that applies to the leaders only. The people who the revenge will actually be taken on, the ones who live in the settlements are without a shadow of doubt, religious people who devote their lives to Torah and Mitzvot. Should their lives be ruined for petty revenge? Is this allowed ע"פ דין?
2. The Chinuch explains the issur of לא תקם as follows. Since everything that happens to a person comes from Hashem what is the point of taking revenge? The person who harmed/slighted/whatever you is just the messenger, the harm/slight/whatever is coming from Hashem. If the Charedi politicians really had Emuna they would look at this whole series of events as a learning experience and try to understand what Hashem is trying to tell them, not planning revenge.
3. Are they really going to give back holy places in Israel just to satisfy their revenge? Does ארץ ישראל mean so little to them that they are willing to sacrifice it to a silly revenge fantasy?

The fact is that the whole draft crisis has been blown completely out of proportions by the Charedi politicians. No one is trying to destroy the Torah world, the Torah world will survive just fine if many of the boys spend a short time in the army.

IMHO, the Charedi politicians have shown a complete moral bankruptcy during the coalition negotiations and are willing to do anything to get into the government. Is this really the message that the Charedi world wants to put out that they are for sale and will do just about anything to get into the government? That they are obsessed with petty revenge?

There has been a set of 12 questions posted all over the internet ( , and others) for Charedim to answer. I would love to see some cogent answers.

Click here for part 2