Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Why people used to have a lot of children and don't anymore

I saw a very good article explaining this Children aren’t worth very much—that’s why we no longer make many.

I had heard this explanation before - children used be an economic benefit, and now they are an economic burden. But this goes a little deeper.

But the fertility decline is not merely the product of a price effect - of people having fewer children because children are more costly. Children are not normal goods...or even inferior goods...they become not goods at all, but rather bundles of claims on their parents. ..Before the fertility decline, resources flowed from children to parents; after the transformation, resources flowed from parents to children.
In each country, before the demographic transition, children were essentially the property of their parents. Their labor could be used for the parents' good, and they were accustomed to strict and austere treatment. Parents had claims not only to their children's labor in childhood, but even to their wealth in adulthood. To put it crudely, marrying a wife meant buying a slave factory, and children were valuable slaves. 
After the transition, mediated by mass education, children were transubstantiated into persons. Their individual status increased, and parents no longer had a culturally recognized claim on their labor. Children's culturally supported entitlements increased, including not only food and clothing, but also study and play time. Their relationship with their parents became more egalitarian and friendly, their treatment less strict.  
But children do not exactly own themselves in the present situation: the government has claims on their future earnings, through taxation and other mandatory payments (and, increasingly, education loans). In essence, mass education is a communist transformation: individually-owned "goods" (children) are brought under national ownership, and returns from children flow to the country as a whole (through tax-based entitlement programs), rather than individually to their previous "owners." When farms are communally owned, production suffers and famine results; when children are communally "owned," fertility decline results.  
There is another, related shift in the direction of resource flow during this time: resources (including labor) stop flowing from wives to husbands, and instead flow from husbands to wives, as a result of Western-style female liberation. This trend is also a result of education, and amplifies the trend toward low fertility.  
So why did people used to have children? It's hard for us even to imagine, but children used to be valuable - they used to be much more like slaves or farm animals, which are both very valuable. They were also treated much more like slaves, with patriarchs (at least) maintaining distance from children...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why is Charedi poverty in Israel getting worse? Part 2 - Updated

Yesterday I wrote about the "third generation effect" as a big reason for Charedi poverty. Today, I would like to discuss another important reason.

In the last 20 years, Western economies (I am including Israel for this discussion), have shifted from manufacturing economies to service/knowledge economies. This has had profound effects on workers with little education. In my parents generation, blue collar workers could make a decent middle class wage and could provide for their family. The 85% of Charedi men who worked in 1979 worked mainly in blue collar jobs and were able to support their families. Those types of jobs are gone today. Manufacturing jobs have moved to low wage countries like China, Vietnam, etc. and automation has eliminated thousands of jobs. On Chanuka, we took the kids on a tour of the Nesher cement factory in Ramle. The factory is huge (it is so big it has it's own power plant) and produces all of Israel's cement. We had to take a bus on the grounds to get around on the tour. And yet, this huge factory only employs some 250 people, many of them highly educated professionals. 50 years ago a plant like that would have provided thousands of jobs to blue collar workers. 

Unfortunately, this trend has negative ramifications for Charedim as well. Charedim in Israel receive little to no secular education and therefore even if/when they want to go out into the working world they aren't qualified to get a job that can support a large family. While learning Gemara may sharpen the mind in some ways, it is no substitute for math and science and computers and English. Without these it is very difficult to find a good job. 

The bottom line is that in today's economy there are very few good jobs remaining that don't require a lot of secular education, something that the Charedi leadership refuses to allow it's children to get. No education = no good jobs = poverty.

Here is a fascinating article about a Charedi girl who would not give up her dream of becoming a doctor and what she had to to do to fulfil it. It shows the sad reality of Charedi society and higher education.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Why is Charedi poverty in Israel getting worse?

Mishpacha magazine in English reviewed a report by the Taub Center in Israel which offered some suggestions.

One big reason is the "third generation effect". In 1979, 85% of Charedi men 33-54 worked. In the years that followed the percentage dropped to well under 50%. That percentage plummeted as Menachem Begin and the Likud removed the limits on army exemptions for Yeshiva students allowing the kollel only generation to really take root. The generations that grew up in the 1980's and later were raised with a torah/kollel only mentality Those who became long term Avreichim in the 1980's and 1990's had working parents to help them out and therefore were able to manage albeit living simply. However, these Avreichim are now marrying off their children and have no money to help their children at all. Therefore, the children are having a hard time making it at all even living simply as they simply don't have the money to pay a mortgage, buy food, clothing, etc. for a large family. The next generation will be even worse off as this generation at least has grandparents who worked who can help out a little, in 10-20 years even the grandparents will have been in kollel and will have no money to help out.

In other words, the Charedi community as a whole is running out of money. Generations of not working takes its toll on the resources and the hard earned money (and German war reparations) from 2-3 generations ago are basically depleted.

The report concludes, "this is something that should be worrisome, first and foremost to the charedi sector itself".

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Is secular education and work a viable answer for Charedi poverty?

Everyone who discusses Charedi poverty proposes as a solution secular education and work for Charedi men as the solution for Charedi poverty. I also used to believe this, however, I have changed my mind on this for the reasons below.

One of the tenets of Charedi society is large families. There is a Mitzva D'Rabbanan of ולערב אל תנח ידיך to have as many children as you can. Therefore the average non-Chasidic Charedi family has 6 kids and when you take away all of those couples with fertility issues that have 0, 1 or 2 kids the average goes up closer to 8.

Large families are not economically sustainable in a modern western economy, period. Here is a fascinating article Children aren’t worth very much—that’s why we no longer make many which details the reasons why. Basically children have gone from being valuable assets to being financial drains. The cost of raising a single child to the age of 18 in the US is estimated at well over $300,000. These numbers are for the general population, raising a child as a religious Jew is much more expensive due to the cost of education. When you multiply that by 5,6,7, or 8 it simply impossible on the average or even better then average salary in a Western economy.

The average salary in the US is about $42,000, in Israel it is about 7200 shekels a month. Lets assume that the Charedi man can get a job at double the average salary, $80,000 or 15,000 shekel a month (a dubious assumption but lets use it just to highlight the issue) and has 8 kids. Income taxes eat away at least 25% leaving $60,000 to live on. All of the kids are in school together at some point. Tuition in the US is at a minimum $5000 and generally much more, but even at $5000 a child that is $40,000, 2/3 of the net income. That leaves just $20,000 for everything else and everything else includes clothes for 8 kids, shoes for 8 kids, books for 8 kids, etc. Feeding 8 kids is not cheap either. Food is expensive especially things like meat and chicken. Then of course you have the summers where everyone needs to go to camp which again is another few thousand dollars a child.

In Israel the numbers are similar bad, taxes are higher so the 15,000 shekel gross is at best 10,000 shekel net and then tuition is half of that and you have food, clothing etc. again.

The numbers just don't add up even with much higher salaries then $80,000.

If the numbers are so bad how does Charedi society survive today? In truth, I don't know exactly but here are a few reasons

  1. Government programs - Both the US and Israeli government have a whole host of programs that are available to poor people, food stamps, section 8, medicaid, property tax reductions, subsidised day care, etc. The Charedi population takes full advantage of all of these and lives in large part off of them.
  2. Generational money - The post war generation was able to save up money for their descendant who are living off of it. This will not clearly not last much longer.
    1. They worked in a economic good times
    2. The cost of living was low
    3. Smaller families
  3. Poverty and sacrifice. The Charedi population especially in Israel is very poor. 
  4. Community help
Unfortunately these don't translate to working families. As soon as you make a decent salary, you lose all of the government help, if you make $80,000/15,000 shekel you are considered rich and get nothing from the government. The same goes for community help. People are willing to give Tzedaka/help out someone who is sitting and learning, but are much less willing to help someone who is working for a living. 

There is another factor which comes into play. When the man is sitting and learning, the wife is willing to sacrifice because she has been taught all her life that sitting and learning is the most important thing her husband can do and that she should sacrifice for it. As soon as the husband leaves kollel and goes out to work, that dynamic changes. It is much harder to sacrifice when your husband is working, when he is not doing the most important thing in the world. Additionally, there is an expectation of a higher standard of learning if the husband is working rather then learning.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that education and work is not the solution for Charedi poverty, because the Charedi lifestyle, specifically large families, is simply incompatible with the modern western economy. The western economy is set up so that salaries can support a family of 4 (2 kids), and even that is difficult these days. Charedim with large families working simply cannot bring in enough money to support the family without additional help.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Every day Hashem cries for people who can't learn Torah and try anyway

The Gemara in Chagiga (5B) states that Hashem cries for 3 people every day.
1. A person who could learn Torah but doesn't
2. A person who can't learn Torah but tries anyway
3. A leader who is haughty with the people

We can understand why Hashem cries over the first person, he should be learning Torah and isn't, but why does Hashem cry over the second person? At least he is trying to learn.

R' Schacter explained the Gemara as follows. Every person is unique with his own set of talents and abilities. Our mission in life is to figure out how to best use those talents in the service of Hashem. Some people have talents that can be used in learning while others have talents (art, music, business, people skills, etc.) that can be used to serve Hashem in other ways.

Based on this it is clear that Hashem is crying for the first 2 people for the same reason. They are not using their talents to serve Hashem. Just like the person with the talent to learn should be serving Hashem by learning, and therefore Hashem cries because he isn't learning. The person who doesn't have the talent to learn, should be serving Hashem NOT by learning but by using his talents to serve Hashem in other ways. Therefore when he does try to learn Hashem cries because he is not using the talents Hashem gave him.

This Gemara is telling us a very important principle in life that a person needs to understand what his talents are and based on that figure out what his particular mission in life is and we can't force everyone into the same mission.

IMHO this is the biggest problem in the religious world today on both sides of the spectrum. The real modern world (e.g. schools like Ramaz, Frisch, Yeshiva of Flatbush) causes Hashem to cry for person 1. People with the talent to go into learning are encouraged to do other things instead. How many modern parents encourage their children to sit and learn Torah? The Charedi world on the other hand causes Hashem to cry for person 2. In the Charedi world every boy is supposed to sit and learn no matter what his talents are and if your talents lie in other areas you are in big trouble in the Charedi world.

What we need is to allow people to serve Hashem based on their talents rather then simply pigeon-holing everyone into 1 thing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What are the challenges of a Kosher Parnassa?

The Mishpacha Magazine in English had an article this past week that people who earn a living need to make sure that they put fear of heaven before parnassa. While the overall message is a good one, I believe that the examples used were very poor and showed a complete lack of understanding of the real challenges a frum person has when working.

The 2 examples given of challenges were davening mincha with a minyan and not shaking women's hands. IMHO the author completely missed the point with these examples.

There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest challenge when working is the issue of stealing. I don't necessarily mean directly stealing money (although unfortunately that happens a lot as well, see for example Ocean County attorney admits role in Facebook scheme), what I do mean is stealing indirectly. For example, not working the amount of hours that you are being paid for, taking long lunch or Mincha breaks, wasting time at work, misusing company resources, etc. Chazal were very concerned abut this issue, so much so that they said (Berachos 14a, Shulchan Aruch Siman 90) that workers who worked high up in trees should daven mincha up in the tree so as not to waste their employers time by climbing down and then climbing back up.

If I had to suggest something related to arayos, it would not be shaking women's hands. I follow the psak of my Rabbeim that if a woman extends her hand you shake it as quickly as possible. I have found that in these situations, I am so nervous about this (thinking whether she will extend her hand or not) that this totally occupies my mind and I have no pleasure at all from the handshake, in fact it is almost painful. If there was an issur related to arayos that I would bring up it would be the issur of yichud. So many of the sexual abuse scandals that have come up in recent years would have been prevented if people simply kept hilchos yichud.

As with many things, it seems that the Charedi mindset is a chumra is always better especially if it is Bein Adam Lamokam. However, the fact is that many chumras are kulas in a different area. The 2 mentioned in the article are good examples.

While davening mincha with a minyan is an important thing, it is at best a chiyuv midrabbanan while stealing from your employer however, is an issur d'oraysa. If it takes you 10 minutes to walk to Mincha 25 minutes to daven (because after all you need to daven slowly with kavana etc.) and 10 minutes to walk back (45 minutes) you are probably stealing from your employer, as he may be willing to give you 10-15 minutes for mincha but not 45. We see this message clearly from Chazal as they permitted workers to daven mincha up in the tree so as not to cheat the employer and allowed workers to skip parts of bentching for the same reason. You see clearly from the Gemara in Berachos (14a) that Chazal were much more concerned about not cheating your employer which is a sin of bein adam lchaveiro and therefore has no kapara until you pay the person back then mitzvos bein adam lamakom like davening and bentching where they instituted leniencies for workers.

Regarding not shaking hands with a women, again the issue is not as clear cut as the author makes it out to be. While the Chazon Ish is machmir other poskim are lenient and they are lenient in part because of the concern for embarrassing the woman. If a woman sticks out her hand and you refuse to shake it, it can be very embarrassing especially in a public setting. Embarrassing someone is a very serious aveira, Chazal equate it to killing someone. In Parshas Vayeishev, Tamar is willing to be killed in order not to embarrass Yehuda and Rashi quotes Chazal who praise her for this. So in fact, you can say that someone who shakes a woman's hand is machmir in bein adam l'chaveiro.

Finally, I would like to take issue with the first story that the author wrote. He wrote that he was in a shul in Yersushalayim for Rosh Chodesh bentching davening next to a kollel avreich and while the avreich had kavana when he said חיים של פרנסה he had much more kavana when he said חיים שיש בהם יראת שמים. The point being that יראת שמים is much more important then פרנסה.

IMHO, you see from Chazal that they thought פרנסה was very important and in fact a prerequisite for יראת שמים.  The Gemara in Kiddushin (29b) states explicitly that a father who does not teach a son a trade is teaching him to become a thief. Unfortunately, today we see this too often where people have no way of making a living end up resorting to less then honest means to make money.

There is an obvious question that we can ask about davening for חיים שיש בהם יראת שמים. The Gemara states that הכל ביד שמים חוץ מיראת שמים, that יראת שמים is the one thing that is for sure in our hands and not in Hashem's hands. If so, how can we daven for יראת שמים?

The Maharsha asks this question on the Gemara in Berachos (10a). The Gemara tells a story about a group of thugs who were bothering R' Meir. R' Meir was going to daven that they should die, however his wife, Beruria, told him that instead he should daven that they do teshuva which he did, and they did teshuva. The Maharsha asks our question from above, how could R' Meir daven that the thugs should do teshuva, isn't that under the rubric of יראת שמים?

The Maharsha asks this question on a Gemara at the end of Moed Katan(28a) (that was just learned in Daf Yomi) as well. The Gemara states that Rava davened that he should become an ענו like Rabba Bar Rav Huna (his prayer was not answered). The Maharsha points out that ענוה should fall under the rubric of יראת שמים and therefore how could Rava daven for it?

R' Moshe Feinstein in Iggros Moshe (as well as others) answers that you cannot daven directly for יראת שמים, that is only in your hands. However, you can daven that Hashem should remove any obstacles that you have that may prevent you from achieving יראת שמים. Interestingly enough the example R' Moshe gives is parnassa, he says that the thugs were thugs because they had no parnassa, once R' Meir davened for them and they received parnassa they did teshuva. We see that Parnassa is a key blocker in achieving יראת שמים.

In fact, based on the above, it makes more sense to daven for parnassa then יראת שמים because יראת שמים can only come from you, while parnassa comes from hashem and is a prerequisite to יראת שמים and therefore it makes sense to daven for it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bobov45 Rebbe: Gedolei Yisroel will decide whether we accept the psak of the Beis Din

For those who haven't been following the story after the previous Bobover Rebbe died, both the Rebbe's son-in-law and brother claimed the throne. This caused a split in Bobov (Bobov48 and Bobov45) and they even went to court to resolve the dispute. The judge (a religious Jew) sent them out of court to a Beis Din which has been working on the case for 9 years. The Beis Din just released a psak in which Bobov48 came out the winner.

You would expect that a Chasidic Rebbe would respect the psak of a Beis Din win or lose and move on, but no, he doesn't like the psak so he is consulting with Rebbes in Israel on what to do.

Many are claiming that the Beis Din was corrupt and that the psak is one sided. It is no wonder that many religious people have no faith in the Beis Din system. If the Bobover Rebbe (45) can't get a fair hearing and is thinking of ignoring the Beis Dins psak what should the average person think and do?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Hamodia reader was very upset that the newspaper referred to the Israeli Army as כוחותינו, our forces

Here is the letter from Hamodia.

"The Real Power"

As subscribers to your important newspaper, Hamodia, the newspaper of Charedi Jewry, I was very surprised to see time after time during the military operation the words, "our forces" ...
It is important to point out that we never relied on or put our trust in flesh and blood and our true forces are -- only Torah learning and the students who learn Torah.

IMHO this letter is idiotic for a number of reasons:
  1. The fact is that whether you like it or not, the soldiers are fighting for every Jew who lives in Israel and if given the chance Hamas would slaughter the Haredim just as much as they would slaughter any other Jews.
  2. Did Moshe Rabbenu not raise an army to fight Amalek, Midyan, etc.? Did Yehoshua, Dovid Hamelech etc. not fight wars? Why didn't they just sit and learn? The answer is very simple, we need to do our hishtadlus when it comes to war (just like anything else) and that means having an army and fighting. Why does the writer see a contradiction between our army and faith in Hashem?
  3. Why can't the writer show a little hakaros hatov to those who are putting their lives on the line so that he can sit and learn?
Source: Kikar Shabbat

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yeshiva Gedola with secular studies planned to open in Israel - fierce Charedi opposition

The yeshiva is supposed to be modeled on YU where the boys learn Gemara in the morning and secular studies for a degree late afternoon and night. However, it is meant to be a Charedi yeshiva appealing to the Charedi world. The reaction in the Charedi press has been swift and fierce as expected.
The following are from today's Yated:

There are a number of questions that need to be answered about this new Yeshiva.

  1. How will it work with army? Will the students still get an exemption?
  2. Who is it aimed at? The logical target crowd are the American Charedim who send their kids to high schools like Maarava and get a bagrut. The question is will it be able to expand past that group.
  3. Does it have any Rabbinic support? 
It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Misleading statements in the name of Achdus

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote a column describing the efforts of Mrs. Sharon Issacson a member of the "Charedi" community in Ramat Bet Shemesh, to help out women whose husbands were called up to the army to fight in Gaza. The point of the article was to show how the Charedi community has stepped up to the plate and is showing achdus with the soldiers and the Israeli people.

There is only one problem. Mrs. Sharon Issacson is not your typical Israeli Charedi. In fact, it would be hard to call her Charedi at all given her background and life today. She was raised in a Modern Orthodox home in NY and attended a co-ed elementary school and YUs Stern College. Her husband is a graduate of MTA and YU and has a law degree from Columbia NYU. He is currently the Rosh Yeshiva of Mevaseret, a 1 year American Yeshiva for modern orthodox boys in Israel. Her 2 sons went to Maarava for High School. There is 1 even more startling fact that is missing, her son is currently serving in the Israeli Army in Nachal Haredi. 

Given all of the above is it not very misleading to simply call her "Charedi"?

It seems that every time the Charedi world tries to appeal to more moderate Americans they bring examples that fall into one of 2 categories:

1. Baalei teshuva
2. They grew up in modern homes

A few years ago, Aish Hatorah published an article Women at Work which claimed that Orthodox women can work at any job that they want.

Let's get something perfectly clear: Jewish women work. One of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. I'm a zoo veterinarian.
And nowadays, like women all over the Western world, they work in every field. Some run their own businesses or are part of a larger corporation. Here in Israel one of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. Another is a school principal. Several good friends are lawyers. One's a pediatrician. Two are successful artists. I'm a zoo veterinarian.
My point is, little is forbidden to us. We work in the fields we want. We have open choices. We can choose to work part-time or full-time.

As I pointed out then (See Misleading statements in the name of Kiruv) if Aish Hatorah was a Modern or Centrist Orthodox institution then these statements would be perfectly true and not misleading. However, Aish Hatorah is a Charedi institution and it's goal for it's students is that they join Israeli Charedi society. The fact is that if Elizabeth had been born to a Charedi family she would not have had a choice to be a veterinarian, a nuclear physicist or anything other then a school teacher. University study is strictly prohibited. In Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak even getting a high school diploma is prohibited (see this post No Bagrut for Beis Yaakov girls?).

I find it very offensive when Charedi institutions use examples of Baalei Teshiva or people who were brought up in a more Modern home, as Rosenblum does in this case, to try to make a point about the Israeli Charedi community. It is simply not true, the are not really in the same Charedi community. A "real" Israeli Charedi would never marry any of their children for example. Americans, either Baalei teshuva or those coming from a more modern home, have a very different world view and certainly do not represent Israeli Charedi society.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The role of human initiative and action

The article that I quoted yesterday  It's not Iron Dome [saving us] it's Hashem, where Chaim Cohen claimed that Hashem is diverting the Hamas rockets to non-inhabited  areas and that our hishtadlus (Iron Dome) has little to no effect, started me thinking about this question. The article is perfect example of the current Charedi approach that a leaf doesn't fall without it being decreed from heaven (see my post Hashgocha Pratis, what does it mean? for an elaboration of this). I believe that this shita has taken over the Charedi world in the last 50 years for the following reasons:

1. It is theologically simple. It is a very black and white answer which fits into the current Charedi mindset and it promotes emuna peshuta
2. It is as the Chinuch wrote far-removed from the intellect, which fits the current anti-intellectual climate
3. It fits very well with a Torah only mindset. If everything (even a leaf falling) is from Hashem then Torah only makes a lot of sense. Everything else doesn't count anyway.

While this shita is certainly legitimate and has it's sources, it creates a lot of serious questions about man's role in the world. Basically, according to this shita, man has no real role in the world. This world is simply a test and nothing that man does has any real effect (see R'Dessler). The problem is that we see with our own eyes that this isn't true. Of course R' Dessler says that we are simply mistaken and it is all a test, but I think that most people have a very hard time with this. We see that people take initiative and do things and do have success. People work hard and get promoted for their hard work, get good grades and based on that get high paying jobs, etc. While this shita may have made sense for people in earlier times when man had basically no control over anything, today, when we do have limited control, and we can see the direct results of our actions this shita is much more difficult to accept.

In fact, even in the real Haredi world we find that this shita is not accepted when it comes to certain things, medicine for example. Haredim many times move mountains to see the top specialist in the field (for a famous case see Should we go to the best doctor?).  However, according to R' Dessler (and the Chazon Ish) this really should be considered too much השתדלות and a lack of בטחון. After all, Hashem is doing the healing not the surgeon and 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.

In fact, what does it actually mean that someone is considered the best surgeon? After all, הכל בידי שמים, our success is actually an illusion to make it look like it is our skill. In fact, our success in worldly matters is simply a גזירה מן השמים so the fact that he successfully operated is not due to his skill but due to the גזירה מן השמים. This is essence Chaim Cohens claim against Iron Dome, all hishtadlus is simply an illusion and doesn't really matter.

There is however, a different approach, that while there certainly is hashgacha in the world, man also has the ability to take initiative and accomplish things. As I pointed out yesterday, the Ran in his Derashos (10) explains that in truth a person can say that כחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה as long as he recognizes that his raw talents come from Hashem. because we see that different people have different talents and some people are truly gifted. With this approach, Hashem has given every person certain כוחות and it is up to us to use those כוחות in the world. According to this approach, Iron Dome itself is from Hashem because he gave the designers and implementers the intellect and skill to build it. However, it didn't just come down from heaven, people had to actually use their initiative and skills to make it happen.

This is much more theologically complex position, but ultimately one that fits in much better with the way we see the world working and I believe gives more meaning to what we do in our lives.

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's not Iron Dome [saving us] it's Hashem - Updated

So writes Chaim Cohen in a column on the Charedi website Kikar Shabat. He is upset that all we hear about in the news is praise for Iron Dome and that no one gets up and says that we are being saved by Hashem in the merit of our Torah learning and mitzvos. He even claims that Hamas believe this quoting an interview on CNN where he claims that someone from Hamas said that their rockets are very accurate and that 80% of the rockets are diverted to uninhabited areas by your god.

I have a few issues with this article.
1. Why is it that when it comes to the good things done by the government they always come from Hashem but yet the bad things are always from the government? If you really believe that Iron Dome has little to no role in protecting us, it is all from hashem then where is that faith when it comes to other things like government money? Why scream, kick and yell when the government cuts funding, after all that also comes from Hashem? Why bring in the top heart specialist to treat R' Elyashiv (see Should we go to the best doctor?) when everything is from Hashem?
2. As many people pointed out in the comments on Kikar Shabbat, there was no such interview on CNN, it looks like he simply made it up. The claim that their rockets are accurate is laughable and ridiculous. Everyone knows that their rockets are very inaccurate especially the home made ones and therefore 80% landing in uninhabited areas is perfectly reasonable.
3. Where is the Hakaros Hatov to the soldiers and the defense establishment? Soldiers are dying in Gaza protecting him and his family and is pontificating about having faith.
4. His argument is silly. He can claim anything but he has no way to prove it.

Updated 10:30PM

R' Aviner has what I believe is a much truer Torah perspective. He says that we need to understand that Iron Dome is from Hashem. He quotes a Ran in his Derashos (10) where the Ran explains that in truth a person should be able to say that כחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה because we see that different people have different talents and some people are truly gifted. However, the Torah tells us that we need to remember that these כוחות are from Hashem and therefore ultimately it is all from hashem. This is the way that we need to look at Iron Dome, Hashem gave the Jews who built the system the intelligence and skill to build it. Therefore, Iron Dome is itself a נס  and worthy of praise.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer Safeguard Campaign

When I first heard about this I thought this was a safety campaign for the summer. However, when I saw this ad I realized that this was nothing of the sort.

I think this is a very unfortunate and damaging phenomenon. It makes Judaism into magic and promotes a quick fix. You have a problem do this סגולה and your problem will be solved. That is not how it is supposed to work. You are supposed to be מפשפש במעשיו do teshuva, etc. not some quick fix.

For a whole list of Segula ads see The latest סגולה and Some of the segula type ads that I have seen in the past.

I recently heard a drasha from a Charedi Rosh Kollel who decried the whole segula business and he said the following. When Bnei Yisrael fought Amalek the Torah says that when Moshe raised his hands they won and when he lowered them they lost. Chazal asked did Moshe's hand win the battle? The Rosh Kollel said that if we asked this question today about a Gadol (do R' Chaim Kanievsky's raised hands make us win the war?) the answer would be "of course" and "how can you even ask such a question"? Yet, Chazal did ask this and didn't answer of course.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Charedi Yeshivas are again running away from the missiles in the South, what about the protection of Torah learning?

Source: Mishpacha Newspaper י"ב תמוז

This is the third time in 5 years that this is happening and I am posting about it (Yeshivas are moving north out of danger, what about the protection of Torah learning?Should yeshiva students move away from the South to avoid the missiles?). Three times in Halacha makes a חזקה, so it is fair to say that we can draw conclusions from the actions of the Yeshivas. What I posted then is as relevant today as it was then:

The Charedi world justifies the draft exemption for yeshiva students based on the following:

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

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

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Skverer Chasidim are now censoring the Chumash

Skverer Chasidim have come out with a new Chumash for their girls school that has censored out whole swathes of the Chumash. It only starts at לך לך as בראשית and נח are too theologically challenging and then it censors out things like Lot's affair with his daughters, Yehuda and Tamar, Yosef and Potiphar's wife. In short, anything having to do with relations between men and women.

I always joked that the Chasidim would need to censor things out of the Chumash but I am still surprised to see it actually happening.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

How many people can a פרה אדומה be מטהר? Part 2

In my previous post I asked about the strange distribution of פרה אדומה 8 in the period of the second בית המקדש and only 1 from Moshe to Ezra.

The ערוך לנר (Succah 21a) offers an answer explaining why there were so many in the second בית המקדש. He posits that פרה אדומה are very rare, it is very hard to find an animal that meets all the criteria. Therefore he says that whenever they did find one they used it even if they did not need the ashes. In other words, the reason why there were 7 פרה אדומה during the time of the second בית המקדש is that 7 suitable animals were found. If more animals had been found there would have been more, if less animals had been found there would have been less. The פרה אדומה were not done specifically out of need.

However, this does not explain the period from Moshe to Ezra:
1. How could 1 פרה אדומה last for 800 years?
2. Why didn't they make more פרה אדומה even if they didn't need them like they did in the second בית המקדש? It is logical to assume that פרה אדומה were as rare in that period as they were in the period of the second בית המקדש and therefore whenever they discovered a suitable animal they should have used it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How many people can a פרה אדומה be מטהר? Part 1

How many "doses" can 1 פרה אדומה provide? How much ashes can there possibly be from 1 cow? It is not clear to me from the Mishnayos or the Rambam exactly how much ashes needs to be in each "dose" the one thing it does say is that you need to see the ashes in the water which means that you need more then a drop of ashes. I don't see how the ashes of 1 cow could provide millions of "doses" which is what it sounds like, see below.

The Mishna in Para (3:5) states that there were 9 פרה אדומה in history. However, the distribution is very puzzling. The Mishna states that Moshe (really Elazar) made a פרה אדומה in the מדבר and that פרה אדומה lasted until the time of Ezra which is about 800 years and then Ezra made a פרה אדומה when they returned from בבל. Then, in the period of the second בית המקדש they made an additional 7 פרה אדומה. How is it possible that from Moshe until Ezra one פרה אדומה was enough to be מטהר everyone while in a much shorter period from Ezra until the destruction of the second בית המקדש they needed 8? What changed between the period of the שופטים and the first בית המקדש and the second בית המקדש that required so many more פרה אדומה in the second בית המקדש? Going back to my original question how could 1 פרה אדומה possible have enough ashes to מטהר everyone for 800 years? Did people not become טהור in that time period? 

[Update] It was pointed out in the comments that the ashes come not only from the cow but also from everything (wood, etc.) that was used to burn the cow which would additional ash. However, I don't think that it dramatically changes things, even adding in the wood that was burned teh questions above still remain.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

R' Shalom Cohen spiritual leader of Shas - It is prohibited for women to learn academic studies

Here is the letter that R' Cohen published:

We are witnesses today that there are students who learned in [Charedi] seminars who are applying and requesting to learn academic studies.

Our Rabbis, the Gedolei Yisroel, completely opposed academic studies even in Charedi colleges since a number of the lecturers are university graduates and don't have the pure torah ideology that we are raised on.

Likewise, the coursework in the colleges is based on academic and scientific methodologies which contradict daas torah.

Therefore, students should not even consider going to learn academic studies in any setting, because this is not the path of Torah.

The third paragraph is quite interesting, I wonder what scientific methodologies contradict daas torah?

The problem with this is that you can't have it both ways. On one hand, the men have to sit and learn in kollel and not work and the wife has to support the family. On the other hand you can't ask the wife to support the family with no education.

Bottom line, if the husband is sitting and learning and the wife doesn't have an academic degree who is going to support them?

Source: Kikar Shabbat

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yated Neeman - The boys were kidnapped because the draft law was passed.

It amazes me how certain people in the Charedi world always seem to know חשבונות שמיים and that these חשבונות שמיים always come out that they are right. To think that we know what Hashem is doing and why and to blame it on someone else is simply unbelievable.

See: האשמים בחטיפת הנערים

Sunday, June 08, 2014

93% in Kiryas Yoel on Medicaid

This is driving animosity for Orthodox Jews as they are being looked upon as drains on the government treasury.

You can see the stark difference in numbers between Kiryas Yoel and the other areas of Orange County.

Dec. 2013 Medicaid recipients / Population / % Enrolled:
- Kiryas Joel - 20,293 / 21,894 / 92.7%
- Newburgh area - 17,764 / 54,447 / 32.6%
- Middletown area - 17,253 / 48,418 / 35.6%
- Port Jervis area - 4,485 / 14,511 / 30.9%
- Orange County - 91,557 / 375,592 / 24.4%
Sources: Orange County Department of Social Services, U.S. Census Bureau

In the past Jews (including Orthodox Jews) have been looked upon as a model population in the US, educating their children and contributing/succeeding economically. Now the picture has changed radically and Orthodox Jews are looked upon as a drain on society. I don't know how much longer this can go on.

Source: Times Herald-Record

Monday, June 02, 2014

R' Shteinman: No degrees for girls even at the expense of losing large amounts of funding

R' Shteinman was asked by the head of the Seminary in Bnei Brak, R' Wolff, the following question. The seminary is getting a large sum of money to pay for the education of a certain set of girls and the donors are requesting that the girls get a degree. Should he acquiesce to the request or continue the policy of no academic degrees?

R' Shteinman answered, no degrees even if it causes a major loss of funding.

On one hand the Charedi world is collapsing economically and yet, the leadership will not allow anything to be done to alleviate the problem.

Source: B'Chadrei Charedim

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What do they want from the Avreichim, that they should die from hunger?

So says the cover of this weeks Mishpacha's magazine where the cover story interviews the head of the largest Gemach in the world (who has seen a tremendous increase in the number of people taking loans), and details the financial crisis that the Israeli Charedi community is going through.

98% are requesting loans just to continue living. I know for sure of hundreds of girls who are sitting at home because there is no money to marry them off . People come to us because they need expensive treatments. What should I tell them? That they should forgo surgery until the government will fall? What do they want from the Avreichim - that they should die of hunger?

R' Kuperman then goes on to blame the financial crisis in the Charedi world on the government which has cut funding and the Charedi rich who don't give enough tzedaka.

What he fails to say is that the Charedi world itself is to blame for setting up a society that cannot sustain itself. When you set up a system where every man is supposed to sit and learn in kollel forever, you are setting the society up for a financial collapse.

Of course people can't marry off their daughters when the price for such a marriage is an apartment plus support for the husband to keep learning. Where on earth is the money going to come from when the father of the girl has himself been sitting in kollel for 20 years?

Of course people can't pay for expensive surgery because they have no supplementary health insurance because they can't afford the few shekels a month for such insurance.

Of course people have to take out loan after loan to pay their monthly bills, when the husband is sitting and learning (earning almost nothing) and the wife is earning next to nothing because she wasn't allowed to get a university degree.

A while back I posted a quote from R' Shteinman that people should not buy life insurance as the merit of giving tzedaka to the widows and orphans is what is saving this generation from destruction. The practical result of this policy is that every single day I get a flyer in my mailbox telling of some tragic death and that because of it the wife and children have no food to eat.

Someone in the Israeli Charedi world (not Jonathan Rosenblum) needs to state the obvious truth, that the current system is financially bankrupt and cannot go on. Much of the Charedi world is living in a fantasy world that the government is going to fall and the Charedim will be in the next government and restore the government money. It isn't going to happen. No Israeli government in the foreseeable future is going to give significant amounts of money to the Charedim. The Charedi world is going to have to wake up and understand that it has to become self supporting, and not self supporting with a handful of super rich paying the bills and the rest sitting and learning, but self supporting where the majority of the population goes out and works and only the true elite sit and learn long term.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A very different perspective on Shechita - Helping souls achieve their tikun

I was always under the impression that shochtim saw themselves as people providing a valuable service to the Jewish people by providing kosher meat. However, Mishpacha (Hebrew) had an interesting article last week about the Kosher meat industry in Argentina. As part of the article they interviewed Rav Asor who is the head shochet (as well as the oldest and most experienced) for both the Rabbanut and Badatz Beis Yosef in Argentina, and he provided a very different perspective as to how he perceives himself.

"Do you think I look at the animals with the eyes of a butcher? No, I look and think about the many souls that are gilgulim in these animals that are waiting for a tikun, and how much these souls will be helped when the meat that are in will be eaten at the seudas mitzva of Pesach night. I truly feel a shlichus.
I don't just think I know. Sometimes I see the tears in teh eyses of the animal, and I had some cases where the animal itself stuck out ist neck to my knife. At the last second you can see that the soul inside wants to get out. 

The truth is that there is no source for gilgulim in the Gemara, in fact, there is an explicit Gemara that seems to contradict the whole idea of gilgulim. The Gemara in Bava Metziah (107a) comments on the pasuk ברוך אתה בבואך ברוך אתה בצאתך that it is teaching us that just like a person enters the world without sin he should leave the world without sin. The רש"ש there comments that this contradicts gilgulim. The reason being, that the premise of a gilgul is that a nefesh that already sinned comes into the world to be מתקן that sin. However, the gemara states explicitly that a person comes into the world without sin. Gilgulim is a Kabbalistic concept which was popularized by the Ari and has now become part and parcel of Charedi Judaism.

If you are a rationalist does this statement of the shochet bother you? Does this make you have any doubt about the shechita?

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Supreme Court in Belgium upholds law forcing Charedi schools to teach secular subjects

It's not just in Israel, in Belgium starting next year, the Charedi schools must by law teach secular studies. Not only that, the government will be administering standardized tests to everyone and any children who fail the tests will be forced to transfer to a government run school.

The Admor of Peshvark told his Chasidim that in light of the ruling they should leave Belgium and go to a country that doesn't have compulsory secular studies. I wonder how practical that is for 2 reasons:
1. What countries don't have compulsory secular studies?
2. How will they get in?

It will be interesting to see what happens.

Source: Kikar Shabbat

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A letter to Mishpacha in response to their dramatic headline about financial collapse in the Charedi world

The following letter was printed in this week's Mishpacha in response to their dramatic cover story last week about the financial collapse of the Charedi Torah world.

As the wife of an Avrech in Kollel whose stipend has been almost completely cut, I would like to respond to the news that was reported about the poor status of Avreichim. I am writing with tears because I look around and I see that people have no idea. They don't know what we are dealing with every day. I am certain that it has been many years since Jews have been required to show this much dedication to Torah and supporting a house of Torah.
My Husband is an Avrech who is a Tzadik, he learns all day and excels, yet, in spite of all this, he has no stipend except the bare minimum - and people around don't know. Everyone is enjoying life and we are living in real poverty. 
I don't want to be poor, to have to ask for money, to become someone who needs help, but this is what is happening because we want to preserve a house of Torah and only Torah. 
If people now know what the families of the Avreichim were going through, it is a little bit better.

I have to say I don't understand what this woman wants. She can't have it both ways, she says that she doesn't want to be poor, yet she wants her husband to sit and learn all day. Well guess what, money doesn't grow on trees. She and her husband have made a choice and now need to live with it. Learning torah was never meant to be an occupation and a way to make a living. She is poor by choice and should not be blaming other people. Her comment that everyone else is living it up and enjoying life while she and her family suffer in poverty is particularly galling. People who work, work hard for their money and sacrifice a lot to do it. No one owes her or her husband anything.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Charedi world in Israel is in financial collapse

So says the Mishpacha newspaper this week. Tens of Kollels have shut their doors leaving thousands of Avreichim nowhere to go. The heads of the Kollels claim that donations from abroad (mostly the US) have dropped due to the incitement against the Torah world in Israel. What they mean by this is that many American Charedim don't understand why everyone should sit and learn and no one should work. They don't understand why secular studies are prohibited in high schools when all of the Charedi high schools teach secular studies. They don't understand on the insistence that no one should be drafted. The fact is that American Charedim are a different breed then Israeli Charedim and given the financial problems in the US are no longer willing to provide unlimited funds to bankroll a system that they don't really believe in.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Why do Skverer Hasidim wear boots?

One thing that differentiates Skverer Hasidim's dress from other Hasidic groups is that they wear high boots on Shabbos.

The Mishpacha profile (referenced in my last post) quoted 2 reasons for this minhag, one a typical Chasidish story and one a very practical reason:

  1. One of the previous Rebbes went to visit his brother for Shabbos. On Erev Shabbos he put on the traditional white knee high socks, however, he saw that his brother was not wearing white socks because he was too poor to afford them. In order not to embarrass his brother he put on his high boots for Shabbos.
  2. Skver located in the Ukraine is a very cold place and therefore they wore boots all the time to keep their feet warm.
The question that we can ask is what is the relevance of wearing boots today? Especially according to the second reason, why wear heavy boots in a warmer climate where everyone has heat? Why did clothing styles get frozen in the style of 150-200 years ago?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Square: Total Conformity, is this what Judaism is about?

Mishpacha magazine (Hebrew) published an interesting supplement for Pesach where they had a writer spend a Shabbos in different places and describe the experience. One of the places was New Square.

The piece emphasized the total conformity in New Square in every aspect of life. Here are some example:

  1. There are no restaurants, bakeries, prepared food stores in all of New Square. The only supermarket sells only basic items, no prepared food, no national brands. Everyone eats the same few staples
  2. Everyone eats the exact same food on Shabbos. For example, the menu in every family in New Square for the Friday night meal without exception is 
    1. Gefilte fish
    2. Chicken Soup
    3. Chicken
    4. Fruit compote for desert
  3. There are no individual simchas. Every Shabbos there are approximately 10 aufrufs and ten bar mitzvas, they only throw candy at the end for everyone and there is 1 small kiddush after davening
  4. There is only 1 shul with only 1 minyan. On Shabbos morning at 8AM they start saying Tehilim for 3 hours, at 11AM they start Shacharis which takes over 3 hours
  5. There are 3 tishes every Shabbos which everyone must attend
  6. All the men dress exactly the same down to the boots that they all wear.
  7. There is complete separation between men and women
    1. separate sidewalks, one side men one side women, married couples aren't allowed to walk together
    2. separate waiting rooms at the doctor
    3. mechitza buses
    4. women leave shul after kedusha so that when the men leave there isn't a woman around

Another aspect mentioned in the article is the fact that the Rebbe is in total control of the town. The mayor, city councilmen, city workers are all appointed by the Rebbe and nothing happens without his say so. Since, the Rebbe is the absolute focus of the town, before anyone does anything they consult the Rebbe. Consulting the Rebbe is not cheap, first you have to pay the Kvitel writer, then there is a Gabbai in charge of the door to the Rebbe's room, you have to pay him as well. Last but not least you need to leave money for the Rebbe himself when you finally meet him.

I understand the importance of minhagim and mesora but this seems completely stifling. Where is the room for the individual? Everyone is not made from the same mould. Does saying tehillim for 3 hours every shabbos morning really talk to everyone? Aren't there people who could use their time more productively (in a spiritual sense)? Can everyone sit 6 hours in shul? What if a person wants to daven vasikin? Daven before סוף זמן תפילה? Must everyone eat the same exact food? Where is the opportunity for individual spiritual growth? The opportunity to use your own כוחות? To think for yourself?

The level of control that is described here seems "cult" like to me. The individual has basically no autonomy to do anything, everything is completely regimented. Is this really the way Hashem wants us to live, as faceless automatons all doing the exact same thing? 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Could we bring enough Korban Pesachs for everyone?

There is a chiyuv on every person to bring a Korban Pesach, in fact it is one of the 2 mitzvos aseh that you are chayav kares for not fulfilling. However, it is very difficult to see how the Jewish people could actually have ever fulfilled this mitzva in the practical sense and certainly with the population today (~14,000,000 Jews) it is hard to see how enough Korbanos could actually be brought.

The Gemara in Pesachim 64b states that King Agrippas wanted to take a census so he had the Cohanim count the number of Korban Pesachs that were brought and it came out to 1.2 million korbanos, 12 million people (10 to a korban).

1.2 million korban pesachs seem to be a very problematic number. There are a number of major issues:

  1. The Korban Pesach is only brought on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan after the korban tamid is brought. The Mishna (58a) states that on Erev Pesach the Tamid was brought from 7.5 - 8.5. That leaves just 3.5 hours (8.5 -12) to bring the korban pesachs. That means that they had to sacrifice over 340,000 korbanos an hour, over 5700 a minute and over 95 a second. That is simply impossible.  Let's think about what needed to be done.
    1. shechita
    2. collect the blood
    3. sprinkle the blood on the mizbeach
    4. Skin the animal and take out the organs to be burned on the mizbeach.
    All of this at the pace of 95 a second??? Just for comparison a modern slaughterhouse kills about 1000 animals an hour, so in the time allotted could get to 3500 animals. 
  2. How could they possibly fit all of the people and animals in the Azara? The Gemara states that the Korban Pesach is brought in 3 shifts. 1.2 million korbanos means 1.2 million animals and at least 1.2 million people, even in 3 even shifts that is 400,000 people and animals a shift!!! The Beis Hamikdash was simply not that big the whole thing was 100 ama x 100 ama. Even assuming a large ama of 2 feet that is only 40000 sq feet. In addition the Kodesh Hakadoshim was 20 ama long which takes away 1/5 of the total space. In any case, not only does it not fit 400,000 people and animals, it doesn't even fit 40000 people and animals. In addition, moving 400,000 people into and out of a confined space takes hours, the whole 3.5 hours would have been taken up by simply trying to get the people in and out without having time to do anything.
  3. This leads to the question that given the dimensions of the Mishkan and the Beis Hamikdash and the number of people, how did everyone ever bring a korban pesach? The numbers just don't work. 
  4. As I mentioned above there are over 14 million halachic Jews today, more then in the time of King Agrippas, if Moshiach came now, how could we all possibly bring a korban Pesach in the 3.5 hour window on Erev Pesach
I have seen various answers suggested all very difficult:
  1. The numbers are an exaggeration. This is difficult for a number of reasons:
    1. Nowhere in the Gemara (or in any of the Rishonim/Acharonim that I saw) is there even a hint that these numbers are not real.
    2. Even much smaller numbers are unrealistic, even 1/10, 100,000 korbanos, is impossible
    3. How would we do the mitzva today if Moshiach came with the population numbers as they are?
  2. It was all a miracle. This is also very very difficult:
    1. The fact is, that on this very daf, indeed, just a few lines above, there is the famous machlokus between Rava and Abaye on ... are we allowed to rely on nissim. "Abaye said: it was taught that it was closed [referring to the gates of the azarah] , Rava said, that they closed it. What is between them? This is between them: to rely on a miracle.  Abaye who says that it was closed, like it was closed by itself and they relied on a miracle [to ensure there were two other groups].  Rava says they closed it, and we do not rely on a miracle. ..." If the entirety of the aliya laregal and particularly the korban pesach was ma'aseh nissim from beginning to end, then Rava's position is rendered untenable - nobody went into the Azarah for pesach without relying on countless miracles, so what is the closing of a door or allowing it to be closed in the grand scheme of things?   And generally machlokus Abaye and Rava we posken like Rava - so where does that leave us halacha l'ma'seh?
    2. This is quite a big miracle and yet nowhere in the Gemara or even the Rishonim or Acharonim do we have a hint about this very big miracle.
Here is another point to consider. In addition to the Korban Pesach which would have 10 or more people in a chabura there was a chiyuv on every male to bring an olas r'iya on the first day of Yom Tov, this is 1 korban per person, so if there were 1.2 million korban pesachs each with at least 10 people, that is at least 6 million olas r'iyas that needed to be brought.

In addition, there was the chagigas yud daled which was supposed to be brought to provide meat to eat at
the seder (especially if there were big chaburas for the korban pesach) plus additional shalmei simcha. This all adds up to hundreds of thousands if not millions of additional korbanos besides the Korban Pesach that needed to be brought at this time. It just doesn't seem possible.

Until now we have discussed how this could have worked in the Beis Hamikdash. However, Bnei Yisrael brought the Korban Pesach the second year in the Midbar as well. At that time there were only 3 Cohanim, Aharon and his 2 sons. The population was 600,000 men plus presumably 600,000 women, assuming even 20 people per chabura that leaves 60,000 korbanos. Even if the shechita was done by a non-kohen, 3 cohanim had to do all the other avodos, kabolos hadam, holacha, zerika, ... burningthe emurim on the mizbeach. That is certainly an impossible task for only 3 cohanim. Could 3 cohanim really be makriv tens if not hundreds of thousands of korbanos in a 3.5 hour window?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Labor is the new saviour of the Charedim, really?

The heads of the Charedi parties (especially Deri and Liztman) have been going around and proclaiming that they are done with the Likud and Netanyahu and that they will be working to make Yitzchak Herzog, the head of the Labor party the next Prime Minister of Israel.

However, lets take a look at some of the positions of Labor and Herzog:
1. Draft of Charedim - Labor and Herzog are in favor, in fact, Herzog said that he would have voted in favor of the current draft bill that includes criminal sanctions.
2. Women's right - Labor and Herzog were in the forefront against הדרת נשים and are opposed to mehadrin buses.
3. Reform Rabbis - Labor and Herzog support the state recognizing Reform Rabbis and ending the Orthodoc monopoly on Judaism.
4. The "Peace Process" - Labor and Herzog have always pushed for the "peace process" and a Palestinian state and they have no problem with dividing Jerusalem.

On other words, it is clear that Labor not only does not support the Charedim on their big issues, but in fact, Labors positions on these issues are probably worse for the Charedim then the Likud. If so, why are the Charedi MKs pushing Herzog? The answer would seem to be petty revenge. They are very upset with Netanyahu and believe that he betrayed them so they want to take revenge on him. The problem is that they are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is there causality between the number of full time Torah learners and the results of Israel's wars?

R' Yair Hoffman posted the following chart which he claimed showed that the correlation of loss of life of IDF soldiers r”l in the wars to the amount of Yeshiva students studying in Yeshiva, shows a clear inverse relationship: the more students in yeshiva, the less loss of life.
Name of WarTotal loss of life, r”l# of Yeshiva Students in Israel
1982 Lebanon War72512,150
2006 Lebanon War16551,084
2012 Operation Cast Lead1366,000
Clearly, the number of lives lost is only 1 factor in the success or failure of a war  and is very much dependent on who you are fighting and what kind of war. Fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza should lead to fewer casualties then fighting an all out war against multiple Arab armies armed with the latest weapons. Therefore, the fact that only 13 soldiers were killed in Operation Cast Lead does not show anything about the efficacy of Torah learning, the low number of casualties was expected based on the military situation. In fact, IMHO a much better barometer is the actual outcome of the war and if we use that as our measure of Torah learnings protection we come to the opposite conclusion. 
Name of WarOutcome of War# of Yeshiva Students in Israel
1948Miraculous Victory400
1967Miraculous Victory600
1973Hard fought painful victory800
1982 Lebanon WarNot a clear cut victory, led to an almost 20 year occupation of Southern Lebanon12,150
2006 Lebanon WarDraw51,084
2012 Operation Cast LeadMarginal at Best66,000
Based on the chart above one can make the argument that as the number of full time learners mushroomed the outcomes of the wars became progressively worse. 

Is any of this conclusive? Of course not, but I think that my analysis makes a lot more sense then R' Hoffman's.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why the 3rd Beis Hamikdash will come down from Heaven

The Tolna Rebbe had a fascinating (and humurous) explanation of why the 3rd Beis Hamikdash will come down from Heaven.

Picture for yourselves how this Bais Hamikdash will be built.  Let me tell you what is going to happen.

“The first ones who will enter the picture will be Agudas Yisroel who will say ‘Of course we are the ones who will build the Bais Hamikdash.  We are the ones who worry about all the needs of the chareidi community. Is there any doubt that we should be the ones in charge?’  They will convene a whole assembly of gedolim in order to decide what needs to be done.

“Meanwhile, R’ Meir Porush will come and say, ‘And what about me?  The Agudah represents everyone?  I want this to be under my auspices.’  And then there will be a second group of Rabbonim discussing how to build the Bais Hamikdash.

“The Litvaks will come next and they will start to scream. ‘Gevald! The chasidism should build the Bais Hamikdash?  They will all be dancing because they don’t know anything about the actual halachos of building the Bais Hamikdash.  They will offer to find one Kohein who actually knows the halachos of the avoda. But they will tell us:  “for this part, you are going to need the Kollel Chazon Ish.  For that part you are going to need the avreichim in Brisk.”  What are you, crazy?  We will build the Bais Hamikdash.’

“Then will come Satmar, from both sides, and they will say, ‘You are all Zionists!  You are unfit to build the Bais Hamikdash.’

“The Chabadniks will also get involved.  ‘You are all crazy!  Moshiach is ours!  It is our Rebbe, our Moshiach, what are you talking about the Bais Hamikdash?  You are all insane.’

This is so true, it is hard to believe that a Chasidic Rebbe would say this.

Source: Jerusalem - Tolna Rebbe: Why We Won't Be Able To Build The Third Bais Hamikdash On Our Own

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A different take on the new draft law for Charedim

If you read the Charedi press today it seems like a terrible day. The headlines in the Charedi press are all doom and gloom and say things like "A day that will be remembered in infamy." However, the fact is that the law that was passed was actually quite generous to the Charedim.

The law states that in the summer of 2017 the Charedi world must supply 5200 soldiers, sounds like a lot, however, this is from a potential group of 50,000. Of course this is only in 3 years, for the next 3 years there is complete peace and quiet, no draft whatsoever. Additionally, if there aren't 5200 soldiers in 2017, the law gives an extension of 6 months before any criminal sanctions take place. Last but not least, 3 years is a long time in Israel and there will most probably be a new government before then which can of course change the law.

The bottom line is that this law is actually quite favourable to the Charedim. If that is so, why the gloom and doom? The answer is very simple, it serves the Charedi interests. It creates unity and a common enemy and preserves the notion of us against them, the Charedim vs the evil Israeli government.

Source: החרדים דווקא מרוצים מחוק הגיוס החדש

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Cults in the Charedi world?

To my great surprise Mishpacha magazine (Hebrew) had a long article about cults in the Charedi world. They describe how charismatic individuals who seemt o know kabbala suck people in and take charge of their lives. They detailed how a Rosh Kollel got sucked in by a charismatic leader who spouted kabbala and seemed to know things about the Rosh Kollel. The leader then proceeded to take command of the Rosh Kollel's life in terms of decision making, all decisions had to be run by the leader etc. and of course the leader found ways to extract money until his family extricated him.

The writer of the article asked the obvious question, how is this different then Chasidim (or today even non-Chasidim) who ask the Rebbe before making any decision and of course contribute financially to the Rebbe? The answer given was not very satisfying to me and leaves the question very much open to me.

Take a look at the picture below of the Satmar Rebbes vacation villa in Miami Beach Florida. Keep in mind that Kiryas Yoel is the poorest town in the United States. 

Also take a look at my post The richest Rabbis in Israel. When you combine the money with the societal pressure to conform and stay in the fold (e.g. משמרת הצניעות), it is hard to see the difference.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The success of Charedi Kiruv

Jonathan Rosenblum wrote about the success of Charedi kiruv in this past weeks Mishpacha magazine. However, his description of how they are successful is very troubling:

I would agree that neither ignorance nor poverty are major selling points for Torah. 
involves frequent lectures from Orthodox Jews who have achieved prominence in fields to which the students might aspire. The subliminal message is: Becoming shomer Torah u'mitzvos does not require eschewing the career to which you previously aspired.

The problem is that it is a big lie. All of the examples that they bring are either Baalei Teshiva or people who were brought up in a more Modern home. Using these people as examples of how well religious Jews can fit into society is very misleading when the institutions/mekarvim themselves don't believe in that hashkafa. According to Charedi hashkafa, University study is prohibited and any secular study is very much discouraged, yet those are the examples they site when trying to be mekarev people. If a Baal Teshuva raises his children in a Charedi environment it means that his children cannot follow in his career path or any secular career path because they won't learn any secular studies in school.

Aish Hatorah published a similar article, Women at Work,  a few years ago which claimed that Orthodox women can work at any job that they want.

Let's get something perfectly clear: Jewish women work. One of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. I'm a zoo veterinarian.
And nowadays, like women all over the Western world, they work in every field. Some run their own businesses or are part of a larger corporation. Here in Israel one of my neighbors is a nuclear physicist. Another is a school principal. Several good friends are lawyers. One's a pediatrician. Two are successful artists. I'm a zoo veterinarian.
My point is, little is forbidden to us. We work in the fields we want. We have open choices. We can choose to work part-time or full-time. 

Again we see the big lie. Aish Hatorah is a Charedi institution and it's goal for it's students is that they join Israeli Charedi society. The fact is that if Elizabeth had been born to a Charedi family she would not have had a choice to be a veterinarian, a nuclear physicist or anything other then a school teacher. University study is strictly prohibited. In Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak even getting a high school diploma is prohibited.  As I mentioned above, all the women that she brings as examples fall into one of 2 categories:

1. Baalei teshuva
2. They grew up in modern homes

None of the women cited grew up in a Charedi home in Israel, because if they had they would not be where they are today.

Charedi kiruv may be successful in attracting the initial generation, however, it is not at all clear that it is successful with the next generation.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How would you like to be called the "בדיעבד Ideal"?

The Mishpacha newspaper (Hebrew) had a long article about the American Aguda Yarchei Kalla in Yerushalayim. They interviewed one of the organizers who called himself a simple baal habayis. The newspaper described him as the ideal b'dieved, that if chas v'shalom you have to work (בדיעבד) and not sit in Kollel then he is the ideal as someone who works but learns seriously.

This is so typical of the Israeli Charedi hashkafa that anyone who is not sitting in kollel is בדיעבד.

The newspaper went on to quote Harav Asher Weiss who said that Israel needs more Baal Habatim like these from America, who work but also learn seriously. IMHO this will not happen if you call them בדיעבד. Once you give someone a negative connotation it is then very difficult to then ask them to try to grow spiritually as they feel that they are בדיעבד so there is no point.