Monday, December 14, 2015

A Litvisher father tries to explain Chanuka to his son

The following made up dialog regarding Chanuka sounds very funny but actually points to a very big problem in today's society (translated from אבא ליטאי: המכבים היו ציונים):

(S is the son and F is the father) 

S - Daddy, how did we defeat the Greeks?
F - With Hashems help
S- So what did the Maccabim do?
F- They were just soldiers. Hashed helped them and with Hashem's help they won
S- The Maccabim were soldiers?
F - Uh ... they were soldiers of Hashem, Hashem's army
S- So the Maccabim where Lubavitchers?
F - No, no, heaven forbid, they were Litvaks
S - Did Yehuda Hamaccabi have weapons?
F - Yes
S - So Yehuda Hamaccabi was a chiloni or a non-Jew?
F - Of course not, why would you think that?
S - But only chilonim and non-Jews serve in the army
F - In those days religious people also served in the army
S - Why did the Maccabim go to the army and we don't?
F - Because our Torah learning protects us
S - And their Torah learning didn't protect them?
F - Maybe you should go learn Mishnayes with Moishe
S - The Maccabim learned Mishnayes?
F - They learned Torah a lot of Torah
S - Did they not work?
F - Chas V' Shalom
S- Did Antiochus give them money?
F - No, they worked 
S - What did they do?
F - Matisyahu was a farmer
S - Matisyahu was a Thai?
F - Of course not why would you think he was a Thai?
S - Because all of the farm workers are Thai
S - How did he work in the fields with a white shirt?
F - How do you know he wore a white shirt?
S - Because Moishe said that a real Jew only wears white shirts
S - What did the Maccabim want?
F - They wanted a Jewish state that would be independent
S - Is that we want?
F - Yes but we can't say it, we are not Zionists
S - But daddy, I want to be a Maccabi, Zionist and a soldier
F - Gevald, what happened to you!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Questions on Toldos

For me, Toldos is one of the most difficult parshiyos in the Torah.  So many strange and difficult things happen that are realy hard to understand. Here are some of the difficulties:

Was Esav a Rasha in the Womb?

Rashi quoting Chazal seems to say that Esav was a Rasha already in the womb. On the pasuk ויתרוצצו הבנים בקרבה Rashi quotes the famous Medrash that when Rivka passed by a House of worship for Avoda Zara, Esav tried to get out to try to join them. We see clearly that already in the womb Esav wanted to worship Avoda Zara. Where did this desire come from? The Gemara in Sanhedrin (91b) states that the Yetzer Hara only enters a person at birth. If so why did Esav want to worship Avoda Zara in the womb? Similarly, Rashi comments on the pasuk ממעיך יפרדו that already in the womb זה לרשעו וזה לתומו. The mefarshim on Rashi struggle with the question but I haven't seen a good answer. It seems that Esav was a Rasha in the womb.

How did Esav turn out so bad?

Esav was born from 2 צדיקים, Yitzchak and Rivka and in addition Avraham Avinu was around. With all of these great role models around how did Esav become a  כופר בעיקר, a murderer and an adulterer? R' Hirsch in a famous comment, says that Rivka and Yitzchak made a mistake in Esav's chinuch. Instead of realizing that Esav was very different then Yaakov they gave him the exact same education as Yaakov which was not suitable for Esav and therefore led him off the derech. (Unfortunately, the Charedi word is repeating this mistake today). R' Hirschs answer is difficult for the following reason. How can he say that the Avos made such a major mistake? We generally assume that the Avos were on a much much higher level then us, if so how could they make such a major mistake?

Why didn't Rivka tell Yitzchak what she knew about Yaakov and Esav?

Rivka clearly understood that Yaakov should get the berachos, why didn't she say anything to Yitzchak? In fact, Rashi comments that ותלך לדרש את ה that she went to Shem to ask him what was going on. However, why didn't she ask Yitzchak or Avraham, they were presumably greater then Shem? Additionally, after getting an answer from Shem why didn't she tell Yitzchak? Even at the end of the Parsha after the Berachos, Rivka still doesn't tell Yitzchak the real reason for sending Yaakov away. Why not? What kind of relationship did Yitzchak and Rivka have that Rivka couldn't tell Yitzchak the truth about their son Esav?

Why did Yitzchak want to give the Berachos to Esav?

How could Yitzchak be fooled by Esav? What does that say about Yitzchak?

How can a Beracha be obtained under false pretenses work?

Yaakov abtained the berachos under false pretenses, why would that work? In fact, what exactly is the idea of the berachos? Is it magic? Yaakov was clearly the successor to Yitzchak and Avraham, if he had not gotten the berachos would that have changed? Why?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shaved heads and Sheitels

Interestingly enough yesterday's (Shabbos) daf (נזיר כ"ח) discussed both women shaving their heads and wearing sheitels.

There is a din that a husband can annul his wife's vows including a vow of נזירות. The Mishna discuses until what point can he annul the vow and has a dispute between R' Meir (or Rebbi depending on the girsa) whether he can annul the vow after she brings her korbanos but before she shaves her head (a נזיר after he completes his נזירות has to bring a set of korbanos and then has to shave his head). R' Meir says that the husband can annul the vow even after she has brought the korbanos because he can say that he doesn't want his wife to have a shaved head (because he doesn't like it). The Gemara explains that the Tanna Kama disagrees with R' Meir because the wife can wear a wig (פאה נכרית) and the מפרש explains and that it looks like her head isn't shaved and therefore the husband has nothing to object to. R' Meir says that the husband can object to a wig that he doesn't like it.

Form this Gemara we see a number of very important points regarding both shaved heads and sheitels:

Shaved Heads

1. It is clear that married women didn't shave their heads, otherwise the husband would have nothing to object to.
2. The Gemara assumes that a woman with a shaved head does not look good and is not pleasing to her husband.

Based on the above I don't see any way to claim that a married woman must shave her head as many Chassidic groups require. In fact, we see just the opposite, that at the time of Chazal married women did not shave their heads and a woman with a shaved head was considered not attractive to her husband.


The Gemara allows a married woman to wear a shaitel and in fact according to the Tanna Kama the shaitel was relatively realistic and looked good. This would seem to support those Rishonim and Acharonim who permit shaitels.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

How does פרוזבול work?

As we approach the end of Shemitta now is the time to write a פרוזבול so that any loans that you made don't become cancelled by Shemitta.  To many people a פרוזבול seems like magic, you sign a document and poof your loans don't become cancelled. However, this is not the case. פרוזבול works within the halachic system and uses well established halachic principles.

The gemara in Gittin 36a states:
הלל התקין פרוסבול וכו': תנן התם פרוסבול אינו משמט זה אחד מן הדברים שהתקין הלל הזקן שראה את העם שנמנעו מלהלוות זה את זה ועברו על מה שכתוב בתורה (דברים טו) השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל וגו' עמד והתקין פרוסבול

Hillel saw that people were not lending money and therefore created פרוסבול so that the loans would not be canceled by shemitta.

The gemara asks on Hillel
ומי איכא מידי דמדאורייתא משמטא שביעית והתקין הלל דלא משמטא

How could Hillel be מתקן פרוסבול when the torah says that the loan is canceled?
The gemara answers:
אמר אביי בשביעית בזמן הזה ורבי היא

Abaye answers that פרוסבול only works if shemitta is d'rabbanan. The gemara then asks the reverse question:
ומי איכא מידי דמדאורייתא לא משמטא שביעית ותקינו רבנן דתשמט

How could the chachamim make shemitta derabbanan, min hatorah he has to pay back the loan? The gemara answers
רבא אמר הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר

Beis Din has the power min hatorah to take away your money.

The simple reading of the gemara is that פרוסבול only works if shemitta is d'rabbanan. In other words, the Rabbis don't have the power to what they want, if shemitta is min hatorah they can't do anything. In fact, this is how the Rambam (הלכות שמיטה ויובל פרק ט) paskens ואין הפרוזבול מועיל אלא בשמיטת כספים בזמן הזה, שהיא מדברי סופרים; אבל שמיטה של תורה, אין הפרוזבול מועיל בה

The Raavad there argues on the Rambam and has a different interpretation of the gemara, Rashi also learns like the Raavad.

They explain the gemara as follows. Rava's answer of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר answers the original question as well. What is the machlokes the Rambam and the Raavad? Here are 2 possible explanations:
1. There is a famous machlokes what is the power of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר min hatorah? Is it A) the simple translation of the words that beis din can declare your property ownerless or is it more then that, B) they can take your property and give it to someone else.

One case where this comes up is where a man is mekadesh a woman with a kinyan d'rabban, is she married min hatorah? Kinyanim d'rabban work based on הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר if we hold like A, then a kinyan d'rabbana only works m'drabbanan, min hatorah the woman has not yet received the money and therefore min hatorah is not yet married. However, according to B, a kinyan d'rabbana works min hatorah and she is married min hatorah.

Based on this we can understand the machlokes the Rambam and the Raavad. The Raavad holds like B, that Beis Din can take from a and give to b, that is how a פרוזבול works, Beis Din takes the money from the borrower and gives it to the lender before shemitta, therefore there is no loan for shemitta to cancel. the Rambam on the other hand holds like A, Beis Din min hatorah can only take away your money but they cannot give it to me and therefore it doesn't help for shemitta, by shemitta they need to give you the money and they can't, and therefore shemitta cancels the loan.

The gemara there brings 2 sources from where הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is learned out. דאמר ר' יצחק מנין שהפקר ב"ד היה הפקר שנאמ' (עזרא י) וכל אשר לא יבוא לשלשת הימים כעצת השרים והזקנים יחרם כל רכושו והוא יבדל מקהל הגולה רבי אליעזר אמר מהכא (יהושוע יט) אלה הנחלות

The Rashba seems to say that the above machlokes depends on what the source is. The pasuk in Ezra is like A, Beis Din can take away your money, while the pasuk by nachala is like B (they took from 1 and gave to another). The Rambam when he brings down the din of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר quotes the pasuk in Ezra as the source, the Rambam lshitaso that הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is like A, and doesn't work for shemitta min hatorah.

2. How does shemitta cancel a loan? A) Does it cancel the monetary aspects of the loan or B) does it NOT affect the monetary aspects, rather it prohibits the lender from collecting. The Rambam holds like B, it is an issur, therefore הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is not relevant it can't be matir issurim, the Raavad on the other hand holds like B, and therefore הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר can restore the monetary aspects.

The gemara later on daf ל"ז has the following strange din
המחזיר חוב לחבירו בשביעית צריך שיאמר לו משמט אני ואם אמר לו אע"פ כן יקבל הימנו שנאמר (דברים טו) וזה דבר השמטה אמר רבה ותלי לי' עד דאמר הכי

If the borrower wants to return the money after shemitta anyway, he can, but the lender must first refuse. Raba says that ותלי לי the borrower can do this to the lender until he says that he wants to pay back. What does ותלי לי mean? Rashi explains the gemara literally, the lender can string the borrower up on a tree and force him to say that he wants to pay back the money. The Rosh asks how could that be? This destroys the whole din of shmitta. We can explain the machlokes like 2 above. Rashi holds that shemitta doesn't cancel the loan, the borrower is still obligated, however, the lender cannot go and collect the loan. Therefore, he can force the borrower to pay as the gemara says. The Rosh holds that the loan is cancelled and therefore how can he force the borrower?

To conclude, we see that פרוסבול is an example of chachamim working within the halachic system and not just waving their magic wand. In the area of money the chachamim have more powerful tools to work with and may be able to do more, but in the end, they need to work with the halachic tools available.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Parnassah knife - what have we come to?

The following ad was in this past weeks Mishpacha magazine

This is most probably an issur d'oraysa but they have no problem printing this ad, but a chas v'shalom to print a picture of a woman. This really makes me sick.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Kollel wife is insulted by a positive article about men who work and learn seriously

Mishpacha magazine published a very positive article about Charedi men who left kollel to go to work but are still very much involved in learning and learn a few hours a day. The wife of an Avreich was insulted by the article and wrote the following response:

מיהו אברך

רבקה ח ירושלים

אני לא קוראת קבועה של העיתון, אבל קניתי אותו בגלל הכתבה על אנשים שתורתם אומנותם במובן שגם הם לומדים שעות וגם עובדים

אני נשואה לאברך חשוב - אנחנו חיים, שורדים, ומתחתנים ילדים, והכתבה הזה השאיר אצלי טעם חמוץ. אינני יודעת למה, אבל אולי כי הרגשתי שיש בה משום זלזול בתלמידי חכמים אמיתיים כמו בעלי שמוסרים את הנפש לתורה,שלומדים כל החיים, שנשארים בכולל והם אברכים אמיתיים
אני לא יודעת להסביר בדיוק, כי מובן שזה תופעה מבורכת אבל לא על חשבון אנשים כמו בעלי וחביריו

אני כותבת לכם בסערת נפש. אני מורה בסימנר מספר שעות בשבוע, ואני תוהה מה לומר לתלמידות בעקבות כתבה כזו אם השאלה תעלה

אשמח לשמוע דעות בעניין הזה ומה אומרת דעת תורה על זה

I am not a regular reader of the magazine but I bought it because of the article about the people who "their profession is torah", in the sense that they learn hours a day while also working.

I am married to an important Avreich - we live, we survive, we are marrying off children, and this article left a bitter taste in my mouth. I don't know why, but maybe because I felt that there was disrespect for real Talmidei Chachamim like my husband who gives his soul to Torah, learns his whole life, and stays in kollel and these are the real Avreichim. I don't know how to explain this exactly, because it is clear that this a good phenomenon but not on the backs of people like my husband and his friends.

I am writing to you with a lot of trepidation. I am a teacher in a high school a few hours a week and I don't know what to tell the girls about this article if the subject comes up. 

I would be happy to hear other opinions on this subject as well as what "Daas Torah" has to say about this.

A few comments about the letter:

  1. I don't understand why it is disrespect to her husband to show respect for people who work and learn. Respect is not a zero sum game.
  2. She states that her husband and his friends are the real Talmidie Chachamim implying that people who work are not Talmidie Chachamim and can't become Talmidei Chachamim. While in most cases this is true, there have been people like the Chayei Adam, R' Kehati (Kehati Mishnayos) , and others who worked and were still Talmidei Chachamim. 
  3. Her husband has been sitting in Kollel for more then 20 years (they are marrying off kids) and is an important Avreich, and yet his wife doesn't consider his opinion Daas Torah. You would think that an important Avreich who has been sitting and learning for the past 20+ years and gives his soul to Torah would have "Daas Torah", otherwise what has he been doing this whole time?
Where does this attitude come from? I think it is comes from fear of the slippery slope. If people realise that you can leave kollel and still be a Talmid Chacham, still learn seriously, then they are afraid that the kollels will empty out. Why stay in kollel when you can work and make a living and still learn? Therefore, no respect can be given to people whole left kollel even if they are worthy of respect because of the slippery slope.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Kollel to Work: The Transition

Binah magazine this past week had a cover story about couples transitioning from the husband being in kollel to the husband going out to work and the difficulties in this transition. There was 1 particular part that really caught my eye where a wife talked about the sacrifices that they are having to make while her husband works and that it is a much bigger sacrifice to work then be in kollel. My comments are in [brackets]:

I was always taught to feel like it's something special to sacrifice for Torah. Well, you leave kollel and you realise that almost EVERYONE has to make sacrifices for life. It is a fact of life that the world is set up for hard work, its the way God made it, but somehow in the kollel mentality you forget that [that is part of the whole educational system which teaches to look down at working men].
One might even start to look with cynicism at the yeshiva families who are so proud of their sacrifices, now that you realise that they actually have it pretty good. ... compared to the life of the person working up from the bottom tier, kollel life is nice [this applies to people who are not in the bottom tier as well].
Of course the objective is that after a few years of clawing our way through college and entry level, we will end up in a more relaxed life, please God [unfortunately this is a complete fallacy see my note 1 below]. My husband will still be working full time hours with none of the sweet family schedule stuff [this is a bigger deal then she realises see note 2 below], but hopefully money will be less tight [see note 1]...    

Note 1: Unfortunately money does not become less tight as time goes on, if anything it becomes more tight as I will explain. Lets take a typical example, 28 year old married 5 years with 2 kids and a third on the way leaves kollel. He gets an entry level job paying $30k. Money is definitely tight but his expenses are pretty low, minimal tuition ( pre-school) and only 2 kids. Fast forward 10-12 years later and he is very successful and more then tripled his salary to $100k. Sounds great, however, not only did his income triple but so did his family and now he has 6+ plus kids many/most in Yeshivas. Tuition + summer camp is easily $10k per school age kid and taxes are higher. Living in a high tax state like NJ or NY 1/3 goes to taxes, that leaves about $70k, if $50k goes to tuition then you have basically have no money left. This is all without the regular kids expenses such as clothing (weekday and shabbos), shoes (weekday and shabbos), food, etc. all for 6 kids. Additionally, health insurance for a large family can be very expensive even if your employer provides coverage. The fact is, being a middle class frum Jew is the worst of both worlds, the government and the schools classify you as rich because you make a nice salary but you pay so much in tuition that you are really poor. The kollel families benefit from all kinds of government programs (health insurance, food stamps, section 8 housing, etc.) while you are considered rich so you get nothing from the government. In America it is very difficult to make ends meet working with a large family unless you make a whole lot of money.

Note 2: The Kollel schedule is so much easier then a work schedule it is not even comparable. The average employee in corporate America starts out with 10 days of vacation and if they are lucky can get up to 15 days after a few years. However, in America, Yom Tov is 7-12 days that you must take off. Then you have Purim and Tisha B'Av which to experience the spirit of the day you must take off, and then you have 5-7 days of Chol Hamoed. That leaves basically no days off to take a real family vacation or even to take off on Chol Hamoed (depending on the year). Contrast this to the kollel schedule. 1 month off for Nisan, 3 weeks off after Tisha B'Av and 3 weeks off after Yom Kippur. Add in short Fridays where for 2 months you need to leave work at 2:30 to get home for Shabbos, there is no comparison.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hamodia and the Hubble Space Telescope - Cognitive Dissonance

Hamodia published an interesting feature in this weeks English newspaper about the Hubble space telescope. Of course they emphasised the "wonders of Hashem" and talked about far off galaxies and nebulas and how they show the greatness of Hashem's creation.

However, those same far off galaxies and nebulas also "prove" another fact, that the universe and the world is billions of years old which is something that much of today's Charedi world does not accept and calls kefira. It is fascinating how they can use and praise science when it fits their agenda but suddenly when science contradicts their agenda (e.g. Chazal got their science from Sinai and never made a mistake in Sinai) suddenly the scientists don't know anything etc. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Only in Israel can the Attorney General say that from a legal standpoint Deri can be a Minister but he will have a hard time defending it

What on earth does that mean? If legally Aryeh Deri can be appointed a minister (he fulfils all of the criteria set out in the law), what is there to defend? It is an open and shut case. The answer is that the Supreme Court in Israel has decided that it has the last word on judgement, and therefore if in the Supreme Court's judgement he is not "worthy" to be a Minister, then he can't be appointed.

There is no way to describe this except as judicial dictatorship. The elected government makes a decision based on their judgment of what is best and comes the Supreme Court and substitutes it's judgment and says that the decision was unreasonable. Why should the opinion of unelected judges hold more weight then the man elected and charged with the responsibility?

One of the fundamentals of representative democracy is that the people elect representatives who are supposed to use their judgment in running the government. Basically what the petitioners are saying is that based on our judgment we think he is a bad candidate and we would not have appointed him. The problem is that Netanyhau was elected to apply his judgment as to what is best, not you, and not the Supreme Court, if you don't like it run for the Knesset.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Yated takes the money for the ads but assumes no responsibility

Basically what it says is that while Yated Neeman publishes advertisements for various investment/real estate schemes they takes no responsibility for the trustworthiness of the people involved nor do they take any responsibility for the issurim of taking interest etc. that may be violated. The responsibility rests on the investors to investigate.

Imagine what would happen if Yated would take such an approach to restaurants or food products, or women's clothing. Imagine if they said the restaurants that advertise here may be treif, it is up to the consumer to check them out. There would be such an outcry that they would be forced to stop taking such ads until they checked them out. Yet in monetary matters, no one cares.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Have you ever wondered how all of the money change places make a living?

I have and this weeks Mishpacha magazine answered my question. Mishpacha interviewed 2 businessmen who lost everything due to the change places and the article explained how they worked. Changing money is a very low profit business with a margin of maybe 1.5%. This means that if you change $1 million a month you only make $15,000 gross and then you need to pay rent, workers, other expenses, etc. Given that, how can the change places in Charedi neighbourhoods, where there are 3,4,5 or more within blocks possibly all make a living? It is hard to imagine that so many millions of dollars are being changed very month. The answer that the Mishpacha magazine gave was loan sharking. The change places have become de-facto banks giving out loans to people who are desperate for money at ridiculously high rates. The businessmen who were interviewed spoke of taking a 20,000 shekel loan for a week at an interest rate of 5% for the week. Over a year that comes out to over 200% interest. Of course when after a week you can't pay back, they roll it over for another week taking another 5% interest etc. You end up using up all your money just to try to pay the interest.

Of course, these kinds of loans are both illegal under Israeli law as well as under halacha but it doesn't stop anyone. Unfortunately, many in the Charedi world are desperate for money and get sucked in.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The electoral system is even more broken

All you have to do is look at the difficulties Netanyahu is having making a coalition and the deals he has to make to do it. These deals are a disaster for the country. My post from 9 years ago The electoral system in Israel is broken ... is unfortunately more relevant then ever.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Local Charedi newspaper makes a pathetic and childish attack on former MK Dov Lipman

A local newspaper in Bet Shemesh printed the following article about Dov Lipman:

It is difficult to part from you!

In the context of the political upheavals that happened this week, the Knesset parted ways with the first MK from Bet Shemesh, Dov Lipman from Yesh Atid who was placed number 16 on the list and did not succeed to return to the Knesset and who will join the long list of former MKs. Here are a variety of pictures from Dov Lipmans important and plentiful work as a testimonial to the man and his work.    

This is a really childish and pathetic attack on Dov Lipman. While you can certainly disagree with his methods and actions, no one can deny that he worked hard in the Knesset, showed up to all of the meetings, and tried to get things done. Pretending that the pictures shown above represent what his Knesset service was about is very low blow.

Charedi newspaper בקהילה: Don't help poor families that didn't vote for a Charedi party

NRG quotes an editorial from בקהילה that the Charedi tzedaka organisations shouldn't give any money/help to families that didn't vote for a Charedi party in the elections. Below is my translation of the article and then some commentary:

Don't Help Needy Families that didn't vote for Charedim

The editor in chief of the the weekly Charedi newspaper בקהילה, Dov Greenbaum, wrote in an editorial that in his opinion "the support organisations in the Charedi population should investigate very thoroughly those that voted with their feet against enhancing Charedi power. They should reject and throw out the ingrates in our camp who out of laziness didn't go and fulfil their duty [to vote]".

The elections are behind us but the tension is still in the air - and now the time for revenge has come. The editor of the the weekly Charedi newspaper בקהילה, Avraham Dov Greenbaum, called on the Charedi charity organisations to not help help families where the parents did not vote for a Charedi party, either because they voted for a different party or didn't vote at all.

It would be good if the heads of "Yad Lamishpacha" and other support organisations in the Charedi world would investigate and reject those who this past week voted with their feet against enhancing Charedi power, writes Greenbaum in his weekly column. "Throw out those ingrates in our camp who in their laziness did not go out and fulfil their duty [to vote]. Remove and cut off the individuals who sanctified a war against the Charedi leadership".

Greenbaum does not specify exactly who he is referring to, but hinted that he is also referring to those who voted for the right wing-Charedi party of Eli Yishai or didn't vote. "2 sides to the coin he explained, those who are pushing nationalism that is not lacking in the Charedi world and those that are pushing zealousness that is growing in our streets. The zealots and nationalists don't get along with their Rebbe all year long, what does he understand?"

"Nationalism we saw in Eli Yishai's stillborn party" writes Greenbaum, "They are trying to make a revolution on their way to the Knesset. To hurt/attack Litzman, Gafni, Deri. The last time they attacked Yishai as well. That is how it is. Attack the establishment. Why not? They get the great dividends of the Charedi world and every other benefit, but when asked to give of themselves once every 4 years, 1 vote for Charedi Judaism, they turn their back".

In a conversation with NRG, Greenbaum explained that he was not referring to those who based on the order of their Rebbe voted for Eli Yishai or didn't vote, rather, only those who made their own decisions. " Charedi Judaism is suffering from the syndrome of 'I also have an opinion'. This is expressed by those who vote against the orders of their Rebbe among other things. Either because of their spreading nationalism or because of learned zealotry. The 2 together 'take revenge' on the Charedi population as a whole and the reduction in seats that the Charedim received is to their credit. He added: "Whoever doesn't eat [maror] bitter herbs with us won't sit with us for the meal". 

Regaring his call not to give them any help, even though among them there are needy families, Greenbaum justified his position by saying: "There is no need to say a lot regarding the fact that they are not justified in taking part in the Charedi consensus whether for good or bad. Whoever separates himself from the group in a time of trouble, Chazal taught us that he cannot be included with us in a time of joy. He even added and said "There is no choice but to not give to those who are not a part of us what we work hard to get with little power". 

IMHO this is a very dangerous tack for the Charedi world to take.  If we take his words to their logical conclusion then the government should provide no support to the Charedi world at all. Why should the government provide security to Charedi neighbourhoods when Charedim are not willing to participate and give their share (e.g. serve in the Army and security forces)? Why should the government provide money to Charedi schools when Charedim are not willing to teach their kids secular studies? Etc. The Charedi world is trying to have it's cake and eat it too. On one hand they participate in the elections, elect MKs and get all kinds of government money, while on the other hand refusing to give anything back to the state and in fact being anti the state. As I wrote here  at least the Satmar are honest about what they are doing. 

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

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

There is another important point to make here. These same organisations that Greenbaum is saying should not help needy families who didn't vote for the right party, have no problem collecting money from those same type of people. They have no problem collecting money from people who voted for other parties, people who served in the army and people who are not listening to the Gedolim but rather think for themselves. Lets see him put his money where his mouth is and do the same kind of checking before accepting money as he is advocating before giving out money, I guarantee you that won't happen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Election analysis 2015 Israeli Elections - Updated Results

Now that the elections are behind us here is an analysis of the results.


Likud - 30
Machane Hatziyoni (Herzog and Livni) - 24
United Arab List - 14 13
Yesh Atid (Lapid) - 11
Kulanu (Kachlon) - 10
Habayit Hayehudi (Bennet) - 8
Shas - 7
Yahadut Hatorah - 6
Yisrael Beitenu (Lieberman) - 6
Meretz - 4 5
Yachad (Eli Yishai) - 0


Big Winner

Netanyahu and the Likud. He greatly outperformed all expectations and got between 5 and 10 more seats then the polls gave him.  His 30 seats combined with the fact that the next largest party in the government will be only 10 seats will give him tremendous power. He should be able to make a pretty stable coalition.

Other Winners

  1. Kachlon - His party will be the second largest in the coalition and he will most probably be the Finance Minister
  2. Deri and Shas - Eli Yishai's party failed to reach the threshold 


Big Loser

Eli Yishai is the big loser of these elections. He gambled that he could get enough votes (4 seats) and get into the Knesset and he lost. He fell short by 10-15,000 votes. This loss probably finishes him in politics.

Other Losers

  1. Herzog - The polls had him leading and he ended up losing by a big margin. He will be stuck in the opposition
  2. Lapid - He went down to 11 seats and will be in the opposition
  3. Bennett - Fell all the way down to 8 seats.
  4. Lieberman - fell all the way to 6 seats, will probably disappear in the next election.

What will the next government look like?

There is really only one realistic coalition based on the results, however, there are 2 other remote possibilities that could happen if for some reasons the negotiations go south.

Probable Coalition

Likud - 30
Kulanu (Kachlon) - 10
Habayit Hayehudi (Bennett) - 8
Shas - 7
Yahadut Hatorah - 6
Yisrael Beitenu (Lieberman) - 6

Total: 67

Probable Ministers

Here are the major ministries and who will probably be the minister:

Prime Minister - Netanyahu
Finance Minister - Kachlon 
Foreign Minister - Likud (Erdan or Steinitz)
Defense Minister - Likud - Yaalon
Justice Minister - Likud
Education Minister - ?
Health Minister - Yahadut Hatorah (Litzman)
Interior Minister - Shas (Deri)
Internal Security Minister - Lieberman?

I would hope that the government doesn't change the law and sticks to 18 ministers.

Other Possible Coalitions

There are 2 other possible coalitions:
1. Yesh Atid replaces the Charedi parties, that would create a coalition of 65. I don't see this happening because I believe that Netanyahu has no interest in dealing with Lapid. The Charedi parties will be a lot easier to satisfy, throw them a little money and they will be happy.
2. Unity government with the Machane Hatziyoni, the 2 parties together have 54 seats they could then add other parties (Kachlon) as needed. I don't see this happening either as the idealogical divide between the 2 parties is quite wide.

The Charedi Perspective

I think that even though the Charedi parties lost seats, they came out winners in that they will be a necessary part of Netanyahu's government and therefore will be able to reverse some of the budget cuts. The bottom line with the Charedi parties is money, and since they will be in the government they will get to feed at the government trough.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Interesting points about the Luchos

In last weeks parsha (כי תשא) we read about the luchos (both the first and the second). There are a lot of questions and interesting issues that come up in relation to the luchos.

I. Did the first and second Luchos have the same text

From the pesukim it sounds like they did, the pasuk states:
וכתבתי על הלוחות את הדברים אשר היו על הלוחות הראשונים אשר שברת
However, there are a number of sources that say that the 2 sets of luchos had different text.

Gemara בבא קמא נד - נה

The Gemara has the following story:
R' Chanina ben Agil asked R' Chiya bar Abba why in the first dibros it doesn't say טוב and in  the second dibros it does? R' Chiya answered, you ask why it says טוב  I don't even know if it does say טוב and he sent him to ask R' Tanchum who explained that since the first luchos were broken they didn't say טוב.

Many acharonim ask the obvious question, how could R' Chiya not know if it says טוב in the dibros? A number of Acharonim (Pnei Yehoshua, Rif, on the Eyn Yaakov and others) explain the Gemara as follows. The discussion between the 2 was about the luchos (as we see from the Gemaras answer). R' Chanina assumed that what was written on the first luchos corresponded to the first dibros and what was written on the second luchos corresponded to the second dibros. R' Chiya answered him, I don't know what was written on the luchos, go ask R' Tanchum. R' Tanchum validated R' Chanina's assumption and explained the difference in the luchos explaining that since the first luchos were broken טוב was not written on them. Now we can understand R' Chiya, of course he knew the pesukim in Chumash, but he didn't know what exactly was written on the luchos.

We see according to these acharonim that the maskana of the Gemara was that טוב was written on the second luchos but not the first.


Shamor and zakhor were both on the first luchos, and only zakhor on the second luchos

Beis Halevi

The Beis Halevi (דרוש י"ח) explains that the first luchos had all of תורה שבכתב and all of תורה שבעל פה written on them. However, the second luchos had only the 10 dibros. 


The Netziv in Haamek Davar, states explicitly that the first luchos had the text written in Yisro and the additional text from Vaeschanan was Torah She Baal Peh, and then the second luchos included the
additions from Vaeschanan, and were therefore in some respects greater.

II. In what כתב were the luchos written?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (21b) has a machlokes between R' Yosi and Rebbi whether the Torah (e.g. the luchos) was given in כתב עברי or כתב אשורי. R' Yosi says כתב עברי and Rebbi says כתב אשורי. 


The Geonim and Rashi understand R' Yosi literally, that כתב אשורי was not used until עזרא came and changed the כתב. In other words, the writing on the luchos and every other sefer torah, tefillin, mezozus was in כתב עברי until עזרא came and changed the כתב. 


The Ritva is bother by a number of questions:
1. There are so many halachos/derashos related to כתב אשורי how could it be that it was not given at Har Sinai?
2. The Gemara in Shabbos says that the ם and ס of the luchos were a נס. That only works in כתב אשורי

Therefore, the Ritva claims that the luchos were given in כתב אשורי, however, כתב אשורי was considered to be too holy and therefore all oner seforim etc. were written in כתב עברי. Then, עזרא came and changed the כתב so that all seforim would be written in כתב אשורי.


The Radvaz has a fascinating yeshiva about this issue. He starts off assuming like the Rtva. However, he then finds a Yerushalmi in Megila that states that according to the opinion that the luchos were given in כתב עברי the ע was the letter that was בנס in the luchos.

Based on this Yerushalmi, the Radvaz explains the following. The first luchos were given in כתב אשורי, but the second luchos were given in כתב עברי and that is what the Yerushalmi is talking about.

Brisker Rav

The Brisker Rav in Menuchos (29b) has a fascinating pshat in the Gemara. The Gemara there has the famous aggaddta where Moshe sees Hashem putting the כתרים on the letters and Hashem explains to Moshe that R' Akiva is going to darshen these. The Gemara then says that Moshe asked Hashem מי מעכב. The Brisker Rav is bothered by the לשון of מי מעכב. He explains the Gemara as follows. The Gemara is going like R' Yosi that the Torah was given in כתב עברי and like the Geonim, that even the luchos were in כתב עברי. We know that כתב עברי doesn't have כתרים, so Moshe was asking, מי מעכב, what is stopping you from giving the Torah in כתב אשורי so we could already have the כתרים. 

We see a number of fascinating things from this Brisker Rav:
  1. The Gemara in Menachos is going like R' Yosi
  2. He understands R' Yosi like the Geonim 
  3. The derashos of the כתרים only came into existence at the time of עזרא

III. Who wrote the second luchos?

While most assume that Hashem wrote the second luchos as well, there is a Medrash Raba in Shemos  ( which states explicitly that Moshe wrote the second luchos.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Can a modern state be run based on Halacha?

According to the Bostoner Rebbe the answer is no. At a news conference (, the Bostoner Rebbe said that "he is afraid of a halachic state".

Here is the full context of his statement:
אני מפחד מהיום שיהיו 61 חברי כנסת, כי אני לא יודע איך ניתן לנהל מדינה עם האחריות של שמירת התורה. לדוגמה, לסגור את שדה התעופה בשבת, בעולם המודרני אני לא יודע איך אפשר לעשות את זה". ובכנות הוסיף ש"ברוך השם שלא באים לשאול אותי שאלות כאלה".

I am afraid of the day when we have 61 MKs because I don't know how you can run a state with the responsibilities of keeping the Torah. For example, shutting down the airport on Shabbos, in the modern world I don't see how you can do that. And in a moment of candour he added "Thank God that no one comes to ask me these types questions"

Unfortunately, this is emblematic of the modern Charedi leadership,  don't deal with the modern world, rather withdraw from it. Don't engage with the world, rather have everyone sit and learn.

The problem is that it puts Torah in a very bad light. The Torah is supposed to be a blueprint for society, and yet the Charedi leadership says that we can't run a modern society based on Torah because we don't have answers. What does that say about the נצחיות of Torah?

This was not always the case, R' Waldenberg (שו"ת ציץ אליעזר) wrote a whole sefer about these issues as well as many teshuvas and R' Sholmo Zalman Auerbach was already available to address these issues.

It's very interesting that the Bostoner Rebbe pointed to closing the airport on Shabbos as a big problem. IMHO, that is the least of our problems. Power generation, police and army activity on Shabbos are much bigger problems. How do you deal with industries (for example Intel's chip factories) which can't be shut down once a week? How would you create a workable justice system given the Torah's rules of evidence? The list goes on and on.

Additionally, there are very serious economic issues to be dealt with. Modern economies are based on credit and interest, for example, every modern state sells government bonds which pay interest. What about the prohibition of ריבית? How do you square advertising with the prohibitions of אונאת דברים?

To their credit the RZ Rabbis are trying to deal with these issues. To their credit they are publishing seforim which focus on halacha in the modern world, dealing with issues like the army, police, economic issues, etc.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Why is Charedi Poverty Getting Worse? A heartfelt column from a 30 year old Charedi man with no economic future

YNet published a column today by a 30 year old Charedi alumnus of Ponovezh who feels that he was done an injustice by the Charedi educational system. The column is in Hebrew so I am going to translate it because I feel it is a very important statement from a born and bred Charedi. Below is my translation of the column:

Charedim, lets admit that we made a mistake

At the age of 30, unemployed and divorced, I understand that an injustice was done to me. I could have been a doctor or a lawyer but you prevented me [from doing this]. We need to break this cycle.

I am a born and bred Charedi from birth. I attended a Talmud Torah that focused primarily on Torah subjects. "Secular subjects" - that is what they are called in the Charedi world - were only there as "helpers for torah subjects". I will explain in simple terms. To learn Gemara you need some minimal knowledge of math or for example, in order to write Torah novella there is a need to know some elementary syntax and grammar. 

Because of this, we spent very little time on secular subjects. Multiplication tables represented the apex of our mathematical learning, we could only dream of anything further. We didn't learn any English whatsoever, after all, in the Gemara there are no English words.  If anything, it is more relevant to learn Aramaic. History? What does that contribute? The only history that we learned was the history of the Jewish people that is found in Tanach. And with this, the years passed by slowly. I then studied in an advanced Yeshiva where all we studied was Gemara. 

And then at age 20, I got married and to no ones surprise, glad that you guessed, I continued learning in Kollel where there also we studied Gemara exclusively. I received a stipend of 2000 shekel a month. My wife worked as a secretary and somehow we managed. After a year we had our first child and then we started to feel the financial difficulties. After our second child was born, the difficulties become too much to bear. The financial pressure caused tension and fights and in the end to my great sorrow, at the age of 26 I found myself divorced and penniless.

Now that I was obligated to pay child support, I had to go out and look for a job. Luckily, I found work at a Charedi bank that agreed to hire me after a series of tests. Even though I didn't have a HS diploma or a degree, I am quite intelligent. Since this was a Charedi bank, they understood the simple fact that Yeshiva students are lacking knowledge with respect to the secular population but are very smart. In my innocence I believed that I had managed to penetrate into the Israeli economic scene without a HS diploma. I invested myself fully into work. I finished courses with excellence and I surpassed all of my colleagues with degrees. I thought that I was living proof that it is possible to prosper without a HS diploma or college degree, however, it didn't last very long. The economic situation is not great and less then a month ago I was laid off because of labor force reductions.

Again I found myself at a starting point. I am now 30, divorced and paying child support, and I now understand that I was done an injustice.  If I would have gotten a HS diploma at an early age and a college degree after that I would have been able to do whatever I wanted, doctor, lawyer, economist, psychologist. However, now at age 30 I found myself deliberating between working at a call centre for minimum wage and becoming a bus driver at a slightly higher salary. Is this what is appropriate for me? Definitely not! However, I need to support myself and the injustice screams out to the heavens. I am a talented guy, in fact very talented. I have 1 simple question - why? Why am I supposed to work in a job that is not suitable for me only because they prevented me from getting an education? It is a moral injustice to push whole generations into the cycle of poverty. It is not possible to support a family without a college degree, certainly not without a HS diploma.

When you meet a Charedi doctor or architect the first question that you ask him is when did you become a Baal Teshuva? If it wasn't so sad it would be funny. Imagine a scenario where the Charedi population would combine learning for a degree alongside Gemara. Suddenly we would see senior Charedi doctors, and also architects who are alumni of yeshivas. In general, the Charedi population would become a contributing and important piece of Israeli society. This is not impossible. It may be too late for me but it is not too late for all those Charedim who are following the same path. 

I turn to the Charedi leadership: For the future generations, combine torah learning with secular studies. We will continue to learn Gemara but at the same time we will get a HS diploma and degree so that the next generation won't get stuck in the cycle of poverty. Someone has to stop this cycle. It is time to admit the simple truth, we made a mistake.

Yisrael, an Alumnus of Yeshivas Ponovezh

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The value of work in the eyes of Chazal

In certain circles today, the word work is a 4 letter word. However, if we look at Chazal we see that Chazal actually believed the opposite, that in fact Chazal thought work was very important and valuable.

In last weeks Parsha (יתרו), we have the ten commandments with one of them being the commandment to observe Shabbos. However, before commanding us to keep Shabbos the Torah states "ששת ימים תעבוד ועשית כל מלאכתיך".  On this pasuk there are many derashos of Chazal on the positive value of work. The תורה שלימה at the end of יתרו has 2 essays on this point and all of the sources below are taken from there.

Work as a Mitzva

There are a number of sources in Chazal that state that not only is work a positive value, but it is a mitzvah.
1. Source: במכילתא דרשב״י
ששת ימים תעבד רבי אומר הרי זו גזרה אחרת שכשם שנצטוו ישראל על מצות עשה של שבת כך נצטוו על מלאכה
Six days you should work, Rebbi says this is another gezera that just like the Jewish people were commanded as a positive commandment to keep Shabbos, so too they were commanded to work [on the other 6 days].
2. Source: ובאבות דר״נ נו״ב פכ״א
רבי אליעזר אומר גדולה היא מלאכה שכשם שנצטוו ישראל על השבת כך נצטוו על המלאכה שנאמר ששת ימים תעבוד ועשית כל מלאכתך
Rabbi Eliezer said work is a very good thing because just like the Jewish people were commanded to keep Shabbos, so too they were commanded to work as the pasuk says 6 days you should work  

R' Kasher explains the source for saying that work is a mitzvah as follows:

ונראה שיסוד של הדרשות הנ״ל הוא משום שהתורה הזכירה שמנה פעמים במצות שמירת שבת עשיית מלאכה בששת ימים וצריך להבין מה רצתה התורה לומר בזו- הרי בעיקר באה להזהירנו על שמירת שבת, ולמה הדגישה בכל פעם עשיית המלאכה בששת ימים. מזה למדו רבי ור״א שהתורה צוותה בפסוקים אלה על המלאכה בששת הימים ואין זה רשות גרידא. אלא כשאדם הולך בטל ואינו עושה כלום מבטל מצות התורה של ששת ימים תעבד

It seems that the reason behind these derashos is that the Torah mentions 8 times when discussing the mitzvah of Shabbos doing work on the other six days. We have to understand what is the Torah telling us? The main point the Torah is coming to tell us is to warn us to keep Shabbos and therefore why does the Torah emphasise every time the idea of doing work on the other 6 days. From this Rebbi and R' Eliezer learned that the Torah is commanding us to work on these 6 days and it is not optional, rather if a person sits and does nothing he is not fulfilling the mitzvah of working 6 days. 

Work as a positive value

R' Kasher then brings a whole set of statements of Chazal about the positive value of work. What is fascinating is that he only quotes the more obscure ones, the others he doesn't quote because as he says "כי ידועים הם", everyone know them.
Sources: ממכילתא דרשב׳׳י שם מאבות דר׳ נתן נו״ב, ממשנת דבי אליעזר

1. ר׳ אלעזד בן עזריה אומר גדולה מלאכה שלא שרת שכינה בישראל עד שעשו מלאכה שנא' ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם 
R' Elazar Ben Azarya said work is so good that the divine presense did dwell with the Jewish people until they did work as the pasuk says make me a mikdash and I will dwell amongst you.
2. רבי אליעזר אומר גדולה היא מלאכה שאפילו אדם הראשון לא טעם כלום אלא עד שעשה מלאכה שנאמד ויניחהו בגן עדן לעבדה ולשמרה 
Rabbi Eliezer said work is good because even Adam could not eat anything until he did work as the pasuk says he was put into Gan Eden to work and protect
3. רבי אומד גדולה היא מלאכה שכל מי שאינו עוסק במלאכה בני אדם משיחין בו, מניין איש פלוני אוכל, מניין הוא שותה 
Rebbi said work is good because anyone who doesn't work people talk about him, from where does he eat, from where does he drink?
4. ועוד היה רבי אומד גדולה היא מלאכה שכל מי שהוא עוסק במלאכה אין ידו חסרה פרוטה לעולם.
Rebbi also said work is good, someone who works is never lacking for money. 
5. ועוד אמד רבי יוסי גדולה היא מלאכה שכל מי שאינו עוסק במלאכה הדי זה מתחייב בנפשו
 R' Yosi also said, work is good because someone who doesn't work will end up giving up their life.
6. רבי מאיד אומר גמלה היא מלאכה שכל מי שאינו עושה מלאכה בחול סופו לעשותה בשבת 
R' Meir said work is good because anyone who doesn't work during the week will end up working on Shabbos. 
7. חביבה היא המלאכה, שהרי כל בריות שברא הקב״ה בעולמו, לא מסר להן מלאכה אלא לבני אדם בלבד. וכן היה ר׳ מאיר אומר 
ראית מימיך ארי אכר, צבי חייט, שועל כורם, או אחד מן החיות עושה מלאכה. [הרי אינן עושין מלאכה], והרי הן מתפרנסין בלא מלאכה- ובני  אדם אין מתפרנסים אלא מן המלאכה לא מפני שהם קלים, אלא שהמלאכה חביבה- 
Work is valuable because out of all of the creature that Hashem created he only gave work to man. And R' Meir used to say this as well, did you ever say a lion farmer, a deer tailor, a fox vintner or any animal every doing work? [We know they don't do work] they get their food without working while people only get their food from work, not because it is easy but because work is valuable. 
8. חביבה היא המלאכה, שכל הנביאים נתעסקו בה. ביעקב אבינו הוא אומד, אשובה ארעה צאנך אשמר. במשה הוא אומד, ומשה היה רועה. בדוד הוא אומר״ ויקחהו ממכלאות צאן. בעמוס הוא אומר, כי נקר אנכי ובולם שקמים, ויקחני ה׳ מאחרי הצאן.
 Work is valuable as all of the prophets worked. ... (description of their work)

The מנורת המאור ח״ג פרק תלמוד תורה states:

וחסידים הראשונים היו משתדלים לעשות מלאכה, כדי שיתפרנסו ממנה, ולא היו חוששין למלאכה פחותה, ואע״פ שהיו מהם נשיאים וראשי ישיבות וגדולי הדור, כגון ר׳ יוסי, שהיתה מלאכתו שהיה נושא עצים על כתפו, והיה שמח בחלקו ומשתבח במלאכתו, ואמד גדולה מלאכה שמחממת את בעליה.

וכל מי שאינו עושה מלאכה להתפרנס ממנה הרי זה חוטא ומחטיא את הבריות. כיצד הוא חוטא, כיון שאינו עושה מלאכה להתפרנס ממנה, סופו בא לידי עניות וגונב את הבריות. כיצד מחטיא את הבריות, מפגי שמרגנין אחריו וחושדין אותו, ואומדין עליו, פלוני שהוא בטל ואינו עושה מלאכה, מניץ הוא אוכל״ מניין הוא שותה, עכ״ל. 
The early righteous men would try to work to support themselves and they were not afraid of difficult/embarrassing work even though they were the heads of the assembly, Rosh yeshivas and Gedolei Hador ... (descriptions of the various Tannaim and their work). 
And anyone who doesn't work to support himself is a sinner and causes other people to sin. How is he a sinner? Since he doesn't work to support himself he come to be poor and then steal from people. How does he cause others to sin, because he cause people to talk about him, he doesn't work from where does he eat, from where does he drink?

We see from these many statements of Chazal that work is not simply a curse but it is a valuable thing that raises up a person to new heights.

R' Kasher concludes the essay with the following:

הכתוב ,ששת ימים תעבוד ועשית כל מלאכתך״ שבעשרת הדברות מיחד ותופס מקום כבוד נעלה ורם בתולדות האנושות עד נצח. הערך המוסרי של העבודה קשור קשר אמיץ במנוחת השבת, כשם שהמוסריות של שלות השבת צומחת ויוצאת מעבודת השבוע. ... חג המנוחה חוזר ונרכש ומתאשר תמיד
מחדש על ידי עבודת ימי החול״.
The pasuk six days you should toil and do your work that is in the ten commandments, takes a proud and high place in the annals of man. The moral value of work is tied tightly to the rest of shabbos, the morality of of the peaceful shabbos is derived from the work of the week. 
The holiday of rest is bought every week with the work of the week.

This is not 1 מאמר חז"ל that can be dismissed, this is clearly something that Chazal felt strongly about and emphasised. There are many many more statements in Chazal praising work that I did not quote here. The fact that today in certain circles this is completely ignored is very sad. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why is Charedi poverty getting worse? The kids respond

Mishpacha published a follow up article with 2 main themes:

  1. Responses from kids who are taking money
  2. Suggestions on how to improve the situation
They also mentioned that they received over 250 responses to the original article. 

Below are 2 responses from children, 1 male 1 female. The letters speak for themselves.

My parents pay our rent and we go to them and my wifes parents just about every shabbos, and we also take frozen foods and cans. Yes we are parasites like the ones that you write about with disgust, and all of the older people who read the article probably clucked their tongues. All my life I was taught that I was supposed to sit and learn, also when they married me off, they expected me [to sit and learn] and I expected myself to sit in kollel. In my kollel we get 1000 shekel a month if we get it, sometimes we don't get anything. My wife works and makes 3000 shekel a month. So what do you want? We should die of starvation? We should live in the street? We shouldn't buy diapers? What do you want from us? You know that in the winter electricity costs 500 shekel a month and child care for 2 kids costs 1500 shekel? ...

An irritated/anxious Avreich

They married me off at 18 and three quarters. Suddenly, I learned that 4 pieces of salmon for Shabbos cost 50 shekel and that yellow cheese is much more expensive then regular cheese and that my studies cost so much money that there is no chance that I could ever pay for it myself. My husband learns in a kollel where new Avreichim don't get paid. We don't know exactly when a new Avreich turns into an old one [and starts getting paid]. I go to school and my parents pay for it. We go to my parents practically every day for lunch and we take vegetables for dinner and we also come for shabbos. If someone thinks that this is wrong, he should think twice before he marries off his next child this way. I know that I sound chutzpadik but I am not chutzpadik, I am frustrated.

Chava L. Yerushalayim

These letters paint a very bleak picture indeed. The children are frustrated, angry and upset that they have been put into this situation and you know what I don't blame them, what can they do at this point in their lives? They are married off completely unprepared for life. What is worse is that they are resentful and angry at their parents and Charedi society for putting them in this position. That doesn't bode well for the chinuch of the next generation.  If you read between the lines of these letters, there is a lot of pent up anger with the Charedi system which at some point may simply explode. 

The articles points out that the average Charedi kid who gets married has no clue about finances, home economics, etc. and therefore their big solution is to have classes when they are engaged to teach them these basics. IMHO, this is like a bandaid for a gunshot wound. Even if you have a PhD in Economics, you can't make something out of nothing. As the Avrech pointed out in his letter, you can't support a family on 4000 shekel a month, no matter how economics savvy you are. If 1500 shekel goes to child care and 500 for electricity that leaves 2000 shekel (about $500) for everything else for the month, that just doesn't add up. 

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The city of Bet Shemesh is running out of money, why is that important?

The city of Bet Shemesh has had Charedi leadership (A Charedi mayor and Charedi politicians in most of the key City Council positions) for the past 6 years and it is running out of money. According to a report on Radio Kol Chai the city has a 40 million shekel budget deficit. The mayor is proposing a budget cut of 25 million shekel, the other Charedi parties do not agree.

Why does Bet Shemesh have such a big budget deficit? In Israel city governments get much of their money from property taxes (arnona), especially from businesses, factories, industrial areas etc. The rates for them are much higher and they provide the money to support the functioning of the city government. Unfortunately, Bet Shemesh in recent years has seen an explosion of building of residential apartments, but NO industrial business areas. The city has grown in population (especially young population) with little to no growth in business leading to the budget issues. All of the children need city services such as Ganim, schools, etc., however there has been no corresponding increase in revenues. In addition, many of the people moving in pay little arnona as they are learning in kollel and get up to a 90% discount.

This is no surprise as for the past few years the Charedi leadership has singled out Bet Shemesh as the place to build affordable housing for the growing Charedi population. This has led to an impressive array of new housing developments but none of the supporting infrastructure that is needed especially in terms of business and industrial areas. As I have said previously (The cash machine that is the Israeli government) Charedim as a group view the government very differently then other citizens. They view the government as a cash machine, give us money and leave us alone. The budget is a zero sum game, whatever we can save and get for us great whatever doesn't go to us is basically lost. This is bad when they are a minor party but is a disaster when they are in power. This is what scares the average Israeli most. In 20 years the Charedi parties may very well be the biggest parties in Israel, and therefore would control the government. What economic policies would they enact (more money for Yeshivos, Avreichim etc.) and where will the money to pay for it come from?

Hat Tip: Life In Israel

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Why is Charedi Poverty Getting Worse? Part 4 - Letters to Mishpacha

In part 3 I quoted extensively from an article in Mishpacha which described how married children are driving their parents into poverty by taking and taking and taking. This week the magazine published 3 letters in response, all agreeing with the article.  One letter in particular is very interesting and reinforces the points that I have been making, here it is:

קשה וכואב היה לקרא את הכתבה של ר" קפלר, על ילדים הנשואים הרוכבים על גבי הוריהם. אך כמה מפליא, יכול להיות שההורים נותנים בכך דוגמא אישית

נאמר זאת, הילדים לא המציאו את השיטה, הם ראו אותה אצל ההורים! אתם עכשיו שבאים בטענות, עשיתם (וחלקם עדיין עושים) את אותו דבר בדיוק! הוריכם ניצולי השואה לא יכלו לחשוב על כך שילדים שלהם יהיו מצוקה ומחסור, ונתנו (ועדיין נותנים) לכם את כל אשר להם. דור ניצולי השואה עבדו כמו חמורים, חלקם בעבודות מפרכות גוף ונפש, וביחד אם הרנטות שהם קיבלו מגרמניה הם חיתנו את הילדים, קנו להם דירות, ועזרו להם לעבור לדירה גדולה יותר, וכן הלאה ככל שיכלו ומעבר לכך.

הדור השני כבר עבד הרבה פחות, רובו למד בכולל (וחלקו עדיין בכולל עד היום), וחי מקצבאות הממשלה, מתמיכות מהכולל, ומעזרה מההורים. וכשהם הגיעו לחתן את ילדיהם (הדור הסחטן של היום) עמדו הם בלא מודעות בפני שוקת שבורה ולקחו את ילדיהם וזרקו לתוך המים הסוערים. והילדים האלו שרגילים לכך שסבתא היא באר מיים חיים, הולכים גם הם לשאוב. ולפעמים מגש העוף שהם גנבו מהפריזר יהיה העוף היחיד שהנכדים יראו במהלך השבוע ... כי כשאין, אזז אין

הורים יקרים אתם אשמים! אם אתם לא מספיקים לילדכם כלים לפרנסה, ואתם כן מראים לו דוגמה אישית של חיים על חשבון הסבים, אז אתם יכולים להאשים רק את עצמכם

It was hard and painful to read the article by R' Kapler about married children who are dependent on their parents. However, how interesting it is that the parents are giving their children a personal example [of being dependent on their parents].

We can say this, the children did not invent this, they saw their parents doing it. You [parents] who are now complaining did (and some are still doing) the same exact thing! Your parents, holocaust survivors, could not bear to see their children lack from anything, and therefore gave (and are still giving) to you everything they had. The generation of holocaust survivors worked like mules, some in  physically and spiritually crushing work, and along with the reparations they received from Germany married off their children, bought them apartments, helped them move to bigger apartments, etc. giving whatever they could and sometimes even more. 

The second generation worked much less, most learned in kollel (some are still learning in kollel) and live off government and kollel stipends, and help from their parents. So when they came to marry off their children they found themselves in a hopeless situation and took their children and threw them into the turbulent waters. The children who were used to their grandparents being the source of all good, are coming back to take. Sometimes the tray of chickens that they take from the freezer are the only chicken the grandchildren will see that week... because when there isn't any, there isn't any.

Parents, it is your fault! If you don't provide your children with the tools to make a living and you provide an example of living off the taxpayer, you can only blame yourselves.

This letter pretty much sums up what I have been saying, the kids ares simply following in their parents footsteps. The problem is that the generational money is running out and there is nothing to replace it.

The fact that Mishpacha published 3 letters in favour of the article (these are the only letters published) says a lot about what is going in the Charedi community. At least some people seem to understand that there is a real issue here, the question is, what will the leadership do about it?

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Why is Charedi poverty in Israel getting worse? Part 3

The Mishpacha magazine in Hebrew this past week ran an article about the hidden cause of Charedi poverty. The article detailed how parents are going into debt and collapsing in order to support their married children. Because I think this article is so important and powerful I am going to quote highlights from it. I will sprinkle in my commentary, but truthfully, the article really speaks for itself.

  הוא הבטיח לי סידור מלא, התובע גאה ונחוש עמד מול הרכב בית דין. אשתו לצידו כרעייה נאמנה מוכנה להעיד. אבא שלה הבטיח דירה בירושלים ובסוף נתן דירה בפרוייקט
כך היה המעשה: אב ירושלמי הוזמן להגיע לבית הדין כנתבע על יד חתנו ובתו. הזוג הצעיר דרש את כל מה שמגיע להם לדעתם תחת הכותרת סידור מלא
הסיפור הזה מפורסם ...אבל הדיינים בבית הדין מכירים סיפורים כאלו שזורמים אל שולחנם על בסיס קבוע. גם אליהם מגיעים להתדיין בנים נשואים שתבעו את הוריהם

He promised me a complete arrangement the plaintiff proud and determined stood in front of the Beit Din his wife at his side as a loyal wife ready to testify. Her father promised an apartment in Jerusalem and in the end bought them an apartment in the periphery. 
This is the story: A Yerushalmi father was taken to Beis Din as a defendant by his son in law and daughter. The young couple was demanding everything that was coming to to them under a "full arrangement". This story is famous ... but the judges of the Beis Din see stories like this that come to their desks on a regular basis. Also to them come the cases of married children suing their parents

After I read this I was blown away, married children suing their parents for support? What have we come to? What has the kollel system wrought?

Not everyone takes their parent to Beis Din, some simply come to their parents and take stuff.

להרבה זוגות נשואים יש שוק קטן ופרטי שמכיל הכל: המטבח של אבא ואמא. כמה פשוט קופצים לשבת או לערב, פותחים ארונות נזכרים ששכחו לקנות פסטה או שמן. לוקחים
לפעמים ההורים מזמינים משלוח של קפואים הרבה מגשי עופות והודו, שיספיקו עד ט"ו בשבט. ככה לפחות הם חשבו. אבל הילד שלהם, אבא לשלוש בעצמו רואה שיש להם בפרוזר המון עופות ולוקח כמה מגשי פולקוס. מי ירגיש שהיו כאן עשרה מגשים ועכשיו יש רק שבעה?
סיפרה על יהודי מכובד מאשדוד שבכל פעם לפני שנשואיו היקרים מגיעים, הוא עורם קופסאות שימורים ומעביר אותן לארון העליונה ... מסלקים הכל

Many young couples have they own private little store, their parents kitchen. How simple is it to just come over for a night or Shabbos open the cabinets and remember that you forgot to buy pasta or oil and simply take it. 
Sometime the parents order a large delivery of trays of chicken and turkey that will last until Tu Bishvat, at least that is what they thought. But their child, a father of 3 himself, sees the freezer full of chicken trays and takes a few. Who will notice if before there were 10 and now there are only 7?
Someone told about a respected Jew in Ashdod who, every time his married children come for a visit, moves all of the cans to a higher closet, they hide everything.

This is simply mind boggling. The article mentions as well that this practice in many cases is simply stealing al pi halacha. The question is where does this attitude come from? The article answers this as well:

להבחורי הישיבות של ימינו נותנים הכל מסביר למשפחה הרב צבי טברסקי, מחנך ותיק ומדריך חתנים. וזה טוב ונכון, כי הם לומדים תורה והם חוד החנית של העם היהודי. מפנקים אותם מכבדים אותם על בסיס קבוע: הם צעירים בני שמונה עשרה-תשע עשרה שמקבלים חינם מגורים וריהוט, חשמל ומים ושלש ארוחות ביום. כך צריך להיות ... אבל לפעמים במקביל לכל השפע הזה, קורה שהבחורים מתרגלים שהכל מגיע להם. מתרגלים לקבק. אולי לא מספיק חינכו אותם להכיר טובה אולי לא הבהירו להם שיש מי שעובד קשה כדי שהם ייהנו מכל הטוב הזה

The yeshiva students of today get everything explains Rav Tzvi Twersky, a veteran educator and marriage counsellor, to Mishpacha. This is good and correct because they are learning Torah and they are the tip of the spear of the Jewish people. We pamper them and give them honour regularly: They are 18-19 year olds who get for free a furnished place to live, electricity, water, and 3 meals a day. This is how it should be. ... However, sometimes, with all of this abundance, it happens that the boys get used to the fact that they should just get everything. Maybe we don't educate them enough to have gratitude, maybe no one explained to them that there is someone who works very hard so tha they can enjoy all of this abundance.

I would say not maybe but definitely. IMHO this is the root of the problem. The Yeshiva boys just get and get and get and really feel that everything is simply coming to them. Yonasan Rosenblum wrote a good column about this a few years ago:

The second major reason not to grant draft exemptions from Pesach cleaning is that it fosters a sense of entitlement that can work against true striving in Torah. Contrary to the common impression among yeshiva bochurim, limud Torah is not a general exemption from all responsibilities in life. As one who was zocheh to learn in kollel for nearly 15 years, I view the expansion of kollel learning as the glory of our generation. But nothing will ever come from one who views yeshivah or kollel as life with an E-Z Pass.
But acceptance of the yoke of Torah must come first. One does not demand that one be freed from responsibilities in order that one can learn. Nor does the yoke of Torah provide one with a right to demand from others that they take on one's responsibilities.
More and more, especially in shidduchim, we hear the attitude expressed that a ben Torah is entitled to be spared all life's worries and to be able to live in comfort in order that he can learn in peace. Such an expectation is both unrealistic and dangerous. It is impossible to protect oneself from all worries: illness strikes, fathers-in-laws' businesses go bankrupt, wives who undertook the burden of parnassah find that they are no longer physically or emotionally capable of doing so six children later, or that the children are suffering from having a permanently drained and part-time mother.

The quest for comfort can be inimical to spiritual growth in general and to growth in Torah learning in particular. When the Mishnah in Avos (6:4) describes the way of Torah – "bread with salt shall you eat, water by measure shall you drink, on the earth shall you sleep" – it is hardly describing a life of comfort.
An acquaintance told me recently that her brother had been advised against a certain shidduch by his friends. They had pointed out that the girl's parents were already in late middle-age, and that she had only one sister, so she might end up having to take care of her parents one day. At least her brother was embarrassed when she pointed out: "Oh, so you expect your in-laws to support you for twenty years, but, chas v'Shalom, you should ever have to do anything for them." No doubt such bald-faced selfishness is rare, but the extreme examples often reveal more than we care to admit.

It seems that we are raising a generation of children who feel entitled to everything. It seems that today's Yeshiva Bachurs never heard of the famous idea of נהמא דכיסופא, that Hashem put us here on Earth so that we wouldn't feel shame getting a free ride in Heaven, that rather we should earn it. Today's children have no problem whatsoever with נהמא דכיסופא in fact not only aren't they embarrassed but they want it.

Why is this coming to a head now? Why now can't the parents afford this now? The answer is what I have been saying, there are 2 major reasons:
1. Generational money is gone
2. Large families

פעם היה לנו יותר אפשריות אומרים לי אבות ואמהות לנשואים. מדובר בכאלה שחתנו את בנם הבכור לפני עשור ושניים, והרגישו את עצמם עשירים גדולים: היו להם כך וכך מאות אלפי שקלים בתכנית חסכון, עשרים אלף דולר מהסבא ניצול השואה ודירה קטנה בעפולה להשקעאה. 
את הזוג הראשון חתנו בלארגיות נתנו קנו תמכו. ... היום אם חתונת הילד השישי, הבסיס הכלכלי נשמט מתחת לרגליהם. מאות האלפים נמוגו עם החתונות, הסבה הקשיש נפטר, והדירה בעפולה ממושכנת ולא מכסה אפילו שליש. אבל הילדים הנשואים מסרבים להבין את המצב.

הבת החמישית רוצה לתינוק שלה אותה עגלג כמו שקבלה אחותה הגדולה. 

Parents of married children told us that in the past they had more options. We are talking about people who married off their oldest child 10-20 years ago , at the time they felt rich. They had a few hundred thousand shekels saved up, twenty thousand dollars from their grandfather, a holocaust survivor, and a small apartment in Afula for investment purposes. The first child they married off in grand fashion. and they gave them everything and supported them. Today however, with the marriage of their sixth child, the rug has been pulled from under their financial feet. The savings are gone, spent on the weddings. The grandfather is dead, and the apartment in Afula is mortgaged and the rent does not even cover 1/3 of the mortgage. But the married children refuse to understand the situation. The fifth daughter wants the same (expensive) carriage as her older sister got.

This article paints a very bleak picture of the future of Charedi society in Israel. As I said in my previous posts, the money is simply running out and the second and third generation kollel parents have nothing to fall back to. There is simply no way that they can support the next generation in the kollel lifestyle when they can't even support themselves. What is the father of 3 who takes (steals) chickens from his parents going to do when his parents are dead and he needs to marry off his fifth child while supporting the first four? Where is the money going to come from?