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.