Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dessert for the Shabbos Table: Haven't I Seen You Fellas Somewhere Before?

At the end of Sefer BaMidbar we are introduced to the new younger generation. The repalcement of the old guard. The Torah introduces us to a completely new set of Nesiim. The class of 2488, the "new blood". I have never heard of these fellows before so I am happy to make their acquaintance.

Hey, you know something? Some of these fellows don't look so young after all, and they seem to be a bit familiar. Well, of course I know the Nasi from Shevet Yehuda - that's our old friend Kalev ben Yefuna, glad he's still with us. But these two other fellows, the one from Binyamin and the one from Efraim, I know them, too.

Of course! These are the two great elders that said prophesy inside the camp 38 years ago. They were known as Eldad and Meidad then. All of the meforshim say so. I wonder why the second one changed his name? Did he change his Shevet, too?

But there is one other of these other Nesiim... I know this isn't the first time I am meeting him. One that looks quite a bit older. Even older than Moshe. Perhaps even old enough to be his father!

Oh that must be him! The one from Shevet Zevulun. I know him! Where was it, now?

Oh yes. He's been around a while. He is discussed in Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel in BaMidbar 11:26. Could this actually be the same fellow? Elitzafan ben Parnoch is not a very common name, you know. There aren't many in the phone book.

But that is truly a strange accounting there in Targum Yonasan. And why him of all people? There must be more to this story. Can anybody explain to me what was going on?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What's Cooking for Shabbos? - Parshas Maasei Challenge: An "Age Old" Question

As much as I consider myself a disciple and follower of Rashi, this week's Parsha gets Rashi into a fix that I don't know how to get him out of.

But the Rashi isn't here in this Parsha, it's somewhere else. So, being that this is Parshas Maasei, let's do a little traveling.

The subject is – how does the Torah determine a person's age? And our first station stop is Parshas Ki Tisa.

Rashi tells us in Parshas Ki Tisa (Shmos 30:15) that the Jews were counted both after Yom Kipper 2449 (Shmos 38:26) and again on 1 Iyar 2449 (BaMidbar 1:1) and notes that the results of both censuses were identical. He asks: How can two censuses conducted almost seven months apart produce identical results? He answers that the ages of people were calculated from each successive Rosh HaShanna and since both censuses took place in the same year (no Rosh HaShanna in between) nobody's age changed. Therefore, the two counts were identical.

Apparently, according to Rashi, this is how the Torah calculates ages of people. Let us call this the "RH" (Rosh HaShanna) method.

Rashi is immediately under attack from - who else but? – Ramban. Ramban and many others vehemently disagree with Rashi. They maintain that the qualifications to be 20 years old for the census is the same as to be 20 years old for Arachin. And according to the Talmud in Arachin (18b), one need be 20 full years. As such, the Torah calculates a person's age when he reaches each successive date of birth, just as we do. Let us call this the "PBD" (Precise Birth Date) method. The Ramban and Ohr HaChaim offer different answers to Rashi's question of the two censuses.

So what we see basically are two certified methods that the Torah uses to calculate a person's age:
  • Rashi (RH) - Like the first Mishna in Rosh HaShanna there is a specified date in the calendar (e.g. 1 Tishrei) at which time everybody's age advances one year regardless on what date you were born. According to Rashi (Shmos 30:15) this is how the ages were calculated in the desert.
  • Ramban (PBD) - If you are born on 1 Av you are 1 year old on the following 1 Av and increment every year at 1 Av. This method is scripturally based as the proper method to calculate Arachin.

Apparently the Torah uses one method or the other, but for each respective authority this is THE "certified" method.

The problem is that both of these methods do not concur with our next station stop, Parshas VaEira. The Torah tells us in Parshas VaEira that Moshe was 80 years old and Aharon was 83 years old - we assume at the same time. The question is: At what date is the Torah testifying to Moshe's and Aharon's respective ages?

We would like to assume that, unless forced to say otherwise, the Torah talks in proper chronological perspective. At first glance we surmise that this is talking about when they first met Pharaoh to demand freedom (or the second time), approximately 10 months to 1 year before the Exodus - let's say 15 Nissan to 15 Sivan of 2447.

But now we have a problem, because according to our traditions, Moshe did not reach the age of 80 until 7 Adar 2448. So, like both "certified" methods (PBD or RH) how can he be referred to as 80 years old in Nissan of 2447? He wasn't even close!

Now, there are two ways of justifying that Moshe was 80 years old before 7 Adar of 2448 if we introduce crude "uncertified" methods. It is actually one method with 2 variations: Miktzaso K'Kulo or Rubo K'Kulo. This means that Moshe can be considered 80 years old prior to his 80th birthday if we say that 1 day or month from a year is counted as a full year (Miktzaso K'Kulo), or the majority of a year (178 days in a standard year) is counted as a full year (Rubo K'Kulo).

Of these methods, Miktzaso K'Kulo works better because Miktzaso K'Kulo advances Moshe's age to 80 on 8 adar or 7 Nissan 2447. Rubo K'Kulo does not advance Moshe's age to 80 until 8 Ellul 2447, and the Midrashim imply that the audience with Pharaoh and the snakes was earlier than that.

This approach will make Shmos 7:7 understandable but it forces us to say that the Torah used one method to set age for the national census and a different method to set the ages for the audience with Pharaoh. Thus we are forced to say that the Torah is being inconsistent with its methods and that is certainly a "dochek".

For Ramban and followers of PBD there is a bit of a way out if we say that even though the Torah in Shmos 7:7 is now holding before the second audience with Pharaoh and the snakes, at approximately Nissan of 2447, the Torah is counting the ages as if it is now 7 Adar 2448. This means that Moshe was not actually 80 at the time of the audience but 79 and the Torah is "misleading" us by looking ahead about 10 or 11 months.

With this we can say the Torah is consistent about birthdays but is being chronologically subversive. This is trading one "dochek" for another, but perhaps it is preferable.

The question now becomes- can Rashi also play this option of maintaining the Torah's consistency in terms of calculating birthdays and merely saying that the Torah is now "looking ahead" to the coming Rosh haShanna (2448) which will be Moshe's 80th R"H and would justify calling him 80 years old by the RH method? With this approach, it would even be possible to say that the Torah is not chronologically subversive if the audience with Pharaoh and the snakes actually occurred on Rosh HaShanna 2448. Incidentally, we know from Parshas VaYeshev and Miketz that Pharaoh traditionally grants audiences on Rosh HaShanna. (This approach would mean squeezing the first 9 makkos into 27 weeks which is possible but inconsistent with classic Midrashim).

I am afraid that it is impossible for Rashi to go this route.


This is where this week's Parsha comes in. In this week's Parsha we are told that Aharon HaCohen died on 1 Av 2487. We also know that he is 123 years old. We also know that R"H 2488 is not for another 2 months. That means that if we maintain the RH method (Rashi's method), he is 123 based on 1 Tishrei 2487. His very first R"H was 122 years earlier on 1 Tishrei 2365 when he was considered 1 year old with the RH method.

Now, we know that Moshe died on 7 Adar 2488 (more than 7 months later) and that he was 120 years old. Our tradition is that he was born on 7 Adar, as well, which would be 7 Adar 2368. Thus, Moshe's first R"H (when he is called 1 year old) is 1 Tishrei 2369.

It comes out that using the RH method, Moshe and Aharon are always 4 years apart (for example 1 Tishrei 2369 was Moshe's first R"H and it was Aharon's 5th) and on 1 Tishrei 2448, Moshe indeed arrived at his 80th R"H, but Aharon has just arrived at his 84th. Thus with the RH method it is impossible that Moshe can be 80 at the same time as Aharon is 83!

Perhaps you want to suggest that Aharon did not follow the "tradition" that the Tzadikkim in the Torah died on the same date of their birth, and perhaps his date of birth was after R"H of 2365 and his first R"H was in 2366 - only 3 years before Moshe's? This cannot be, because, if so, on R"H 2487 he would only reach his 122nd R"H and the Torah cannot call him 123.

As such, for Rashi, it is impossible to maintain that the Torah is using the RH method to calculate Moshe's and Aharon's ages in Shmos 7:7. We must say that, according to Rashi, the Torah is being inconsistent and employs one method for the national census and a different method to calculate the ages of Aharon and Moshe.

The only question is – why?

I have not yet seen any authority who discusses this issue. Comments from readers are welcome.

Off Center Update: It ain't So

Re: My earlier post - Off Center: Say It Ain't So Jo

I received my copy of Jewish Observer yesterday. I noted numerous discrepancies between the original text and Rabbi Harry Maryles's paraphrasology of substantial significance.

Accordingly, I inserted a number of inline updates to the original post.

Please reread the initial post.

Thank you.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What is a Technical Writer?

In a previous post, I compared my writing with that of another blogger. I noted that the other person is a "superb prosaic writer" and I called myself a "mediocre technical writer".

I can practically hear many of you in the audience (or, is that, both of you in the audience) asking: what is a Technical Writer?

So, as another one of my public services I shall attempt to describe to the audience the essence of the Technical Writer -

How to tell if something was written by a Technical Writer:

  1. Open the document.
  2. Carefully scrutinize the text.
  3. If you are reading a numbered set of instructions, you are reading the work of a Technical Writer. If not, proceed to the section below entitled: Other signs of a Technical Writer.
  4. Close the document.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for all documents that you wish to check.

Note - Technical Writers are notorious for throwing in information in standalone paragraphs that are headed with the word Note. If the information is totally useless, it is usually headed Important Note.

Important Note- The above note only applies when the Technical Writers assume that your IQ is 115 or above. If they suspect your IQ is lower than 115, they head the note Warning.

Other signs of a Technical Writer:

  • Always uses bulleted lists
  • Heavy use of bold typeface words
  • Never ever uses the word Please
  • Likes to highlight text in 10% Grey
  • Loves the Chicago Manual of Style
  • Never set foot in Chicago
  • Does not end sentences with periods.

Warning - Never show this posting to a real Technical Writer

Tips for Reading One Above and Seven Below

One Above and Seven Below is not an easy book to read. Although I did my best to make it light and entertaining, the book is actually more like an academic textbook where each successive chapter builds or elaborates on points that were defined in the previous chapters.

The purpose of the book is to help people understand what we "chareidim" consider to be true Torah hashkafa. The only reason to invest time reading the book is too gain this insight. It follows that the book should be read properly, or it does not pay to read it at all.

Thus, I would like to provide some helpful tips for reading One Above and Seven Below:

  • Read the FAQs - Know what the book is trying to do before you play with it.
  • Clear your mind -The book will define what is meant by the term Chareidi and use that definition throughout. Please do not take your perception of the term "Chareidi" and try to apply it to what the book says. You will only harm yourself and others.
  • Do not read the Chareidio-Active Fallout (Kids at Risk) chapter before you have read the body of the book.
  • Do not skip the Preface and Introduction.
  • The entire book is summed up in Chapter 9 (What's in a Name). I currently advise readers to read Chapter 9 in advance. It would be best immediately after Chapter 2 but it can be read even before reading anything else. The reader will not catch the full significance until he/she reads the rest of the book but it tells you where the book is going. The rest of the book is how it gets there.
  • Besides the above dispensation, read the book through and read it in order.
  • Chapter Six is a very tedious chapter. If you suspect it may be too tedious for you, it is better to skip the chapter than to get stuck in the book and abandon it. It is nevertheless an exceedingly important chapter and that is why I recommend to read at least Part 4.
  • I know that time is precious, but I strongly recommend reading the book a second time. Readers who have done so have by-and-large felt that it is worthwhile.
  • Send complimentary emails to the author and recommend the book to everybody you know.



Monday, July 28, 2008

Off Center: Say it ain't so - Jo (Updated 7-30-2008)

I am a close friend, a neighbor, and great admirer of Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum. I am on his Jewish Media Resources e-mail list and so, I consistently receive and follow his writings. Undoubtedly, we are on the same team and share the fundamental anglo-Chareidi haskafa, but it is inevitable that no two thinkers -especially idealistic analytical ones -will always do the same thinking.

Harry Maryles's Emes Ve-Emunah blog is currently discussing one of Rabbi Rosenblum's latest write-ups which I have not yet had the privilege to see. It seems like this write-up appears in the current issue of the Jewish Observer. My issue of JO is sent from America with snail-mail and generally arrives one issue late. Thus, I can only see the points that Harry Maryles paraphrases and comments on. Based on what Harry wrote, my question to my like-thinking colleague, Rabbi Rosenblum, is: "What on earth were you thinking?"

IOW, since I am only seeing this piece second-hand I must clairvoyantly conclude that either R. Rosenblum wasn't trying to say what Harry said he is, and if he was, it shouldn't have been said.

The fluff about not having a leader like RSRH I can ignore. This is, after all, ikvesa d'meshicha. Whether or not the leadership of the Chareidi world measures up to the outstanding leaders of previous generations is not relevant. At least the Chareidi world - Chassidic, Misnagdic, and Sefardic - has leaders. I wish I could say that for all Orthodox Jews.

Thus, I will concentrate my comments on the second half of the post. Maryles writes (per Rosenblum):

The Charedi world isn’t totally isolationist. There are areas of positive Charedi contributions to the secular world. There are cable TV programs that offer Shiurim, outreach organizations, and service organizations, such as Yad Sarah that are widely used by secular Israelis.

This is the understatement of the year. In a comment post to Emes Ve-Emuna I expanded this with a partial list:

The Chareidi world has come up with Ohr Samayach, Aish HaTorah, Discovery, Shofar (R. Amnon Yitzchak), Neve Yerushalayim, Ner Yaakov, Orchos Yerushalayim, Lev L'Achim (P'eylim), Torah U'Mesorah (including Mendel the Mouse), Yad Sarah, Yad Eliezer, JEP, Project SEED, Shaar Yashuv, Ner L'Elef, Ohr LaGolah, Marvelous Midos Machine, Uncle Moishie, Community Kollels, Chofetz Chaim Foundation, Am Echad, EFRAT (for before one is even born), ZAKA (for after one is already dead),and HATZALA (for those great moments in-between) to name just a few.

Note that EFRAT is on this list. Do you know what that is? It is an Israeli organization founded to talk Jewish secular women out of having abortions and to assist them. Who are we talking out of having abortions - chareidim? I don't think so. No, it is secular women. We are helping them bring more secular Jews into the world. (Ohr Samayach and Shofar will get them later!)

And all these are just the Agudah/ Litvish chevra. Do you think that Belz (think Ezra L'Marpeh), Ger, Vizhnitz and Chabad are sitting with their hands folded? Okay, so Toldos Aharon does not do aggressive outreach because they honestly do not expect many customers - but walk into their Bais Midrash on Shabbos and you get the inverse-Yarmulka rule: The smaller the Yarmulka the faster one is invited to a meal.

When I take my kids to Avos and Banim (did I leave out Avos and Banim from my previous list? Forgive me! How could I!), there is always a GSS man standing there to keep tabs on Eli Yishai. It's an Ashkenazi shul. Take my word for it, the GSS guy is always invited to come back - [even if] Eli Yishai isn't!

But on the whole there is no sense of personal responsibility to their fellow secular Jews.

Huh??? Did Jonathan Rosenblum write this?????

Update - No. Jonathan Rosenblum did not write this. Harry Maryles did. RJR wrote: But neither the impulse to reach out nor the sense of responsibility for fellow Jews is universal in the chareidi community. IOW, some are and some aren't. Decidedly more accurate, IMO.
I see in Mr. Maryles' paraphrase a highly misleading distortion of of Rabbi Rosenblum's statement and intent.

Look. It is undisputed that certain factions in the Chareiedi world are not interested in interacting with the non-Chareidi world. What is equally true is that what is probably a bigger segment is indeed interested, and is doing it quite well, I must say. What we see here is the non-Chareidi world ignoring the extroverted faction and kvetching about the introverted faction. It's like crossing the street in London. If you don't look both ways, at least you better look the right way.

There is one very large obstacle to influencing secular society that he mentions -the perception of Charedim as beggars.


Update - Rabbi Rosenblum did not employ the term beggar. The terminology he used was "secular Israelis view the larger chareidi population as perpetual supplicants." I question the purposefulness of Mr. Maryles to modify this terminology.

In a great analogy, Jonathan points to the fact that no one would ever take advice from a Meshulach. People who knock on your door asking for handouts - no matter how wise they might appear - are not going to be asked for advice for anything. The Charedi world is now looked upon that way.

The secular Israeli sees the Charedi world with their hands constantly stretched out begging for charity. This is not a group whose wisdom will be sought. Or that can give them a national identity.

Update - RJR did not write "sees the Charedi world with their hands constantly stretched out begging for charity." He wrote that they "view us dependent upon them". This is in relation to child support allowances. Child support allowance is not charity. It is the right of every Israeli, rich or poor, as part of Bituach LeUmi that every Israeli - even chareidim - pay in to. Most non-Israelis do not understand that we do not get $2400 ($200/ month) per year tax deductions for dependents until age 23 like in the US. In its place is national child support allowance until 18 (5 yrs less) of 145-250 NIS/ month (now $42-$73/ month per dependent). The secular believe that (a) they pay into BL and chareidim do not (b) this pittance is enough to live off of and (c) if we did not recieve this lucrative bounty - which they receive as well - we would cease to exist as if $50/month makes or breaks our budget.
These are all fallacies.
Again I question the purposefulness of Mr. Maryles's misrepresentation.
I wonder what is the point here. The secular world will see us this way because they want to see us this way. There will always be beggars - this is G-d's decree - "Ki lo yechdal evyon m'kerev ha'aretz". There are plenty of non-Chareidi beggars -but because they are so disheveled they all get lumped together. The secular world is like Sodom - no beggars allowed. So they creep into the woodwork. Moreover, many non-chareidi beggars actually want to appear like chareidim because the take is bigger. So you won't see many non-chareidi looking beggars, even when they're there. Another reason - do you know how many non-chareidim with small families do not need to beg because they get packages from Yad Eliezer and Chazon Yeshaya and Meir Panim - but chareidi families with 6 to 16 children still have to beg because they cannot subsist on what the organizations can give them?

Many of us need to take - but more of us love to give. Giving and taking holds us together. We need to have beggars as much as they need us. It is part of our culture and we are not ashamed of it. If the secular world wants to see us as if we are all nothing but beggars - there is nothing we can do to change it. I honestly don't know what Rabbi Rosenblum's point is.

Update - In context, I can appreciate RJR's point. Nevertheless, I still feel that there is no hope to rectify this as long as the secular are going to look at us through a glass coated with a veneer of silver.

At an institutional level there is an ironic twist. We have more institutions than anybody, many for ourselves, but many as well such as Ohr Samayach, Aish, Discovery, Shofar, ZAKA, EFRAT, Hatzala, Ezer Metzion, reaching out to our secular brethren. And they all flood our mailboxes with solicitations. Get that, seculars? Ohr Somayach is for you, Aish is for you, Shofar is for you, ZAKA is for you - but when we ask for the money to sustain these programs, we are broadcasting that we are a society of beggars!!

As they say - win or lose, you lose!

Now is the time for the Charedi world to do some soul searching.

As I wrote in the post comment, we have more institutions than anybody that are searching for Jewish souls.

And come up with leadership – and a plan to be more involved in influencing
their secular brethren.

If RSRH were around today, we would take him for a leader. But he was yesterday's leader. Today's leaders are other folks. But they are here. We have leaders and we have plans - all we need are customers!

It would also help a lot if Charedi leadership...

I thought we had to come up with leadership?

...would call off the war it has declared on Religious Zionists

One poster in his comment took the words right out of my keyboard: "The war is in your mind only."

What war? The Chareidim are not at war with any other Orthodox Jews. The Chareidim have standards and we stake our territory with them. You like our standards? Welcome in! You don't like them? Stay away! Our standards are based on Shas and poskim. Come and look! Not interested? Chaval. We will miss you - but we are not at war. You don't bother us - we don't bother you.

Just one thing - we have never compromised our standards and we never will.

and for Religious Zionists to understand today’s reality of Zionism even in its religious form - and adjust their views accordingly. Charedim could use their help. Just think of the possibilities of the Torah world joining forces and working together trying to create a ‘new world order’ in Israel.

It boggles the mind.

A mind is a terrible thing to boggle.

From my Inbox - All it Takes

More correspondence from a concerned reader:

...I also am wondering if I have what it takes to stay in the good camp...

My response:

Don't be silly. Everybody has what it takes to stay in the good camp. All you need to do are 3 things:

Sur Merah - Stay out of trouble
Aseh Tov - Do the right thing (if you are not sure, consult LOR)
Bakesh Shalom V'Rodfehu - Pursue peace (this is the bein adam l'chaveiro clause)

Oh, and no Lashon Hara (Netzur leshoncha merah)

I take full responsibility for this program, boys and girls.

You can try this at home!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chana's Song - Music to my Ears

An articulate young blogster seems to be commanding lots of attention. At least she caught mine. Her name is Chana, she is from Chicago, she was 19 when she last updated her profile. And she is very curious.

Now, I happen to be partial to the name Chana. Both my own grandmother (the one who stood in front of the Aron Kodesh just before she was deported to Auschwitz) and my wife’s grandmother were named Chana. That is why our youngest daughter is named Chana. But I digress…

Chana, who considers herself to be Modern Orthodox has taken upon herself to introduce us to Haredi philosophy. I really don't mind the competition. If somebody can do a better job than me -- kol hakavod! I just wanted to critique her work a bit and see how it compares with mine. And my overall assessment is… our perspectives have much in common.

Let's have a look:

In Part 1, Chana brings out 5 aspects of chareidi philosophy:

  1. There should be no labels and no distinction between chareidi and MO.
  2. To the chareidim, the Torah is our primary guide and is the end-all and be-all of what defines us.
  3. For the chareidi, Halacha is respected as an inviolate body of knowledge and instruction.
  4. We choose insularity to help us obtain and maintain our goals.
  5. We promote and derive vitality from learning Torah for learning’s sake.

    I think she is absolutely on target with all 5 points. I have expressed (almost) all of them myself thusly:
  • Her point #1 is the main summation of my entire Book 1 and is the theme of the epilog chapter – Chapter 9. She makes this point first and I make it last but it is my central point and actually, I advise my readers to skip to Chapter 9 after Chapters 1 and 2.
  • Her point #2 is the theme of Chapters 1 and 2.
  • Her point #3 is the theme of Chapter 8. In that chapter, I focus on the teachings of the Rabbis but it applies to Halacha in general just the same.
  • Her point #4 I do not discuss much, but I agree with it fully.
  • Her point #5 is the logical extension of point #2 and is likewise covered in Chapters 1 and 2 and expanded on in Chapter 3.

    We move on to her Part 2. In Part 2 she opens with reiterating our approach to learning and how it is based on Mesorah. I dealt with this briefly in Chapter 7 –Lesson 4. She carries on with a lengthy soliloquy about the preeminence of Chazal. I voice this sentiment in a much different fashion in Chapter 8 and it is also subliminally one of the concepts that I am trying to market in Chapter 4.

    To sum up – I applaud Chana for hitting the nail on the head. Furthermore, even I was not qualified to write such passionate prose when I was 19 (of course, the Jewish world may have been a bit different then). I might also add that she is a bit braver than I. She takes it upon herself to analyze the difference between Chareidi and MO. I suppose she can do that because she knows what an MO is. She says she is one (I have my doubts).

    In my book (one), I don’t define any differences between Chareidi and MO - only between Chareidim and NCOJs. With one notable exception, the term MO isn’t even in my book. It’s partly because I have no idea what a MO is. Heck, lots of my readers think I don’t know what a chareidi is. At least I know what a NCOJ is. It is somebody who doesn't meet my definition of chareidi (pretty simple, no?).

    Actually, the main difference between what she wrote and what I wrote is –she said it much briefer and you don’t need to spend 20 bucks to read it.

    That said, I would expect that Chana would consider my book as a suitable source for further elaboration owing that there is so much overlap, but it doesn't look that way.
    Two of the commenters on her Blog referred to my book (in Part 1), and Chana commented that she wouldn't recommend it. She said it was poorly edited, which I can accept (truth be told, I did not give the editor a lot of leeway to make changes) but she also said "if anything, it will confuse people further".

    I sense a diversion here. I have received complaints about the editing in terms of it being "wordy" and "slow to get to the point" but, so far, no one who read it through said that it was confusing. I have received more compliments of "well written" than "poorly written". What is probably more accurate is that there is no debate that the book carries the "potential to rub people the wrong way" (as I clearly state in a disclaimer). It does project a sense of chareidi elitism, which is unavoidable, by the way. And I may come across like the salesman I am trying to be. But in terms of Chana, I really think that she has no problem with what the book says – as I noted, it’s very similar - so much as she has with who is saying it. An MO may analyze the "chareidi", but for a chareidi to toot his own horn is pretentious.

    Of course, there is a vast difference in temperament which may have something to do with it. Chana is a very sensitive person and a superb prosaic writer and is definitely an NF on a Myers-Briggs scale. I am a mediocre technical writer - less sensitive and more cynical and a high NT.

    Now, she hasn’t given my book any credit (she actually discredited it) but one thing is certain – she read it before she wrote her posts. Can she truly say that it did not influence her?

    In any case, I wonder what’s in store for Part 3 or, at least, what's the main show after the Introduction. I can hardly wait. That’s because I’m a curious Jew!

The Guiding Principles of 1A7B

For those of you who have not yet read the book - and, especially those who have no intention of reading the book - I thought it would be a public service to lay down the main principles of One Above and Seven Below. So here they are:

The first and most important point is that despite all the hype I make about chareidim - such as "The Chareidi Response"; "Every thing you always wanted to ASK about the Chareidim"; in the FAQ section: "chareidi Judaism"; and especially in the opening of Chapter 1 "This book is about chareidim..." - despite all that... this book is NOT about chareidim!!!

This book is about Orthodox Jews!

It is merely how we folks who call ourselves chareidi define all Orthodox Jews. The main principles were all summarized on page 217 but here they are again - now the trick is to replace the original word "chareidi" with the term "Orthodox Jew". Okay, I'll do it for you:

  • [A chareidi] {An Orthodox Jew} is one who buys into G‑d the Father’s contractual deal (heretofore: policy) as stated in Leviticus 26:3 in accordance to Rashi’s commentary adapted from Torat Kohanim which stipulates that our side of the deal involves performing the commandments with “toil in Torah”.
  • Toil in Torah does not mean that every Jew must drop everything and dedicate his life to nothing but Torah study. Toil in Torah means that every Jew should continue doing what he does best with the aspiration of creating a society that functions along the guidelines of the laws of the Torah as well as do whatever he can to increase the knowledge of the laws and philosophies of the Torah among all the members of this society and, subsequently, among all of mankind. This latter aspect ideally entails some level of personal study and, at the very least, full scale support – moral and financial – of those who can study more intensely.
  • Man’s ultimate purpose is to come as close to G‑d as he can. This is accomplished by emulating His traits (from Mesillas Yesharim and others).
  • The very minimum implementation requirement to be [chareidi] {an Orthodox Jew} – in conjunction with the ideological adherence to [chareidi] {Orthodox Jewish} principles[1] - is to observe the commandments at their most basic level (Asseh Tov), not to wantonly violate any negative commandments (Sur Merah) and to recite Kriat Shema twice a day[2] (and mean it).
  • (Note -This is not on page 217 but I am adding it here) - Every thing that one does is either a mitzva (Anochi Hashem) or a transgression (Lo Yihiyeh Lecha). There is nothing that is neutral (see earlier post on Xenophobia).
  • Every Jew is invited to the party - Black tie (and suit and hat and velvet kipa) optional.

The ideology that I am trying to promote throughout this entire project is the ideology of Torah, pure and simple, the way it would be presented by Rashi himself were we to be sitting at his feet 900 years ago.[3] I do not seek to add to it nor to subtract from it. In a nutshell, it is what we Ashkenazim call Yiddishkeit {Orthodox Judaism}. Ideally, it would follow that the best term for the followers of this discipline would be, well - Yidden {i.e., Orthodox Jews}!

[1] These would be the concepts that were covered in Chapter 7 – Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Faith, Pirkei Avot, Messilat Yesharim and Chovot HaLevavot.

[2] See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 45:23

[3] Moreover, I am not promoting any particular subjective understanding of the verse or of Rashi’s position. If the reader sincerely maintains an interpretation of the Torat Kohanim that differs with mine, then I urge him to follow his own viewpoint.

Any Questions-- just ASK...


Friday, July 25, 2008

From my Inbox - The Power of the Few

Here is the tail end of a correspondence from a concerned reader:

By the way, I get really upset about how it looks that the 7b are by far the majority and we are just headed for camp Klala no matter how hard we try individually to improve ourselves. Can you tell me your perspective on this scenario? only give it to me nicely so it won't make me depressed. Thank you.

To follow is my response:

The staus of "Im Bechukosai Telechu" does not come easy. It takes conviction, commitment, discipline, "bitul hayesh" and TOIL (ameilus). Remember that I wrote that being there is only the first step toward our real goal (top of Mt. neverest) and I noted (page 192) that the legend is that even the Gaon of Vilna only attained 4 or 5 levels. So, obviously there is not going to be too big a crowd (maybe that's why mountains are narrower at the top). Also, just like I wrote on page 257 that there are no guardrails between one level to the next in the 7B but there is also no guardrail between the 1A to the 7B, so we are all fighting against the "force of gravity".

I am afraid that this much will indeed make you depressed. So, here's the bright side (and it's on page 93) - The value (or influence) of virtue is at least 500 times greater than the value (influence) of misbehavior. So, on the "great ship" each person who has a ticket to camp Bracha has 500 votes against each person who holds a ticket to Camp Kelala so even if they are outnumbered by 500-1, they can still turn the whole ship around (just like 50 tzaddikim could have saved Sodom).


Y. Hirshman

Good Shabbos!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Shabbos Table Follow-Up

We were discussing the question of why is the Parsha of Temidim and Musafim taught in Parshas Pinchas? Were these offerings not being brought for the past 40 years? And, if so, this command must have been issued 40 years earlier?

I have been alerted in the interim that there seems to be an opinion in the Talmud Yerushalmi that, in fact, no korbonos were actually brought over the last 40 years. It is not completely clear if this may be the opinion of Rabi Elazar in Chagiga 6b. The gemara seems to imply that even according to Rabi Elazar, all the details were commanded at Sinai. Also, the Torah clearly indicates that the Tamid and musaf Rosh Chodesh were at least brought at the inauguration ceremony. The mishna in Menachos (4:3) says explicitly that the musafim of "Chumash Pekudim" (Pinchas) were brought throughout the 40 years. So apparently these words from Hashem were not said now at year 40 but much earlier (which is our question).

One anonymous gentleman (who is apparently enamored by expensive black hats) posted publicly to point us to a Netziv in Parshas Pinchas that I missed. The Netziv writes that the zechus of the Temidim served a different purpose throughout the 40 years until this point. For the 40 years, the Temidim brought the hashpaah of Torah to Moshe Rabbenu - the day Korban for Torah sh'B'Ksav and the evening Korban for Torah she'Baal Peh. Klal Yisroel did not need a zechus for Parnassah because the mahn fell in Moshe's zechus. But now things are changing - Moshe is about to leave the scene and his zechus for mahn (parnassah for the tzibbur) is about to cease. He prays to G-d -let them not be like sheep without a shepherd - i.e., nobody to be mefarnes them. Hashem responds, "Es korbani lachmi l'ishai..." From now on, the Temidim will be their zechus for parnassah.

As such, Hashem actually did tell Moshe these words in the 40th year even though He apparently said them earlier as well.

I am very happy to have been shown this Netziv. However, our discussion on Shabbos did not involve the Netziv and we took a different more esoteric approach. We wanted to suggest that perhaps the tzivui of TuM (that's Temidim u'Musafim NOT that other term) was done at Sinai and it is only being recorded here in Pinchas - i.e. ein zu mekomo. And why was it recorded here?

Perhaps, HKB"H "foresaw" our mesorah that we read the Torah on a fixed yearly cycle and there is a spiritual relevance between every Parsha and the time of year that it falls on. As such, Parshas Pinchas is always just before or after 17 of Tamuz and always ushers in the 3 weeks of mourning over the loss of the Bais HaMikdash and the korbanos. It is a time of sadness and introspection over what we lost and brings the galus more to the forefront. As such, Hashem wanted especially in this time that we usher in the yemei hachurban to remind us that the commandment of the TuM is still in effect and that we are not to be meya'esh (despair) from them despite the fact that the 3 weeks are beginning "again".

May we be zocheh to partake of the zevachim and the Shlamim, BB"A.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Just Because we are Xenophobic doesn't mean that we Hate Geirim

Note 1: This post may be difficult for readers who are not familiar with One Above and Seven Below

Note 2: This post deals with the issue of questionable Geirus. It does not deal with the issue of disqualifying a Bet Din or Dayan.

The issues of Geirim in our midst have dominated many headlines - and Blog titles - of late.

I do not want to express an opinion on the controversial ruling of the Rabbinical High Court but I do wish to comment about the chareidi approach to geirus in general.

Quite obviously, my book is my current obsession, and, consequently, I have an intimate relationship with its listing page. Toward the bottom of that page there is a section about Customer Discussions with a list of active groups. The groups that appear on my page are either under the category of "Religion" or "Judaism". Like mountain climbing, I have done some exploring on the groups merely because "they are there". (No, lately I haven't climbed any mountains higher than Massada and Meron.) I have no desire to actually participate in these groups because they are not really my cup of tea. Still, businessman that I am (was?), I will not pass up an opportunity to plug my book.

So, when a new discussion opened entitled "What is Judaism About?" I thought that it could not hurt for me to invest my 2 cents.

To address the lead question I wrote as follows:

Judaism is about that G-d created man in his image and gave every man the opportunity to attain immortality by making himself like G-d. No original sins, intermediaries, or artificial additives are necessary. Just do what G-d says.

Followed by:

For more information, see my book: One Above...

Business is business.

The OP (Original Poster) threw me this question:

...shall I assume that by "gave every man the opportunity to attain immortality" you mean "gave every human being the opportunity to attain immortality"? If that is not your meaning, please tell me.

My response was:

Your assumption is correct. Every Human being can come close to G-d and elevate their soul (which is fundamentally immortal). It's just that G-d's list of demands for Jews is much more complex than the "short list' for non-Jews (kind of like your tax forms). It is like the world is a big corporation. Everyone works towards the corporation's "Corporate Mission". The Jews are the administrators and the executives. They have more responsibilities and obligations and, accordingly, get a higher salary but everybody in the organization that does his job gets paid. Anybody (Jewish or not) can move up the corporate ladder but they have to assume the higher responsibilities and carry them out.

We believe that G-d is a capitalist.

OP rejoins:

I've read quite a few pages of your book online. You devote a lot of words to telling people not to read it. Would you say that "gatekeeping" - keeping people away - is an important part of the Jewish religion?

Hirshman responds:

Judaism is not for everybody and my book is not for everybody. There is nothing benign about Judaism. It is a breath of life for those who follow it properly and the kiss of death for those who "misuse" it (Deuteronomy 30:15). This means that it is helpful to some and harmful to others. When we urge people to embrace Judaism, it is for their benefit. And when we tell people not to embrace Judaism, it is for their benefit.

Later in the discussion she asked if I had anything more to contribute. Here is what I wrote:

The most important concept of Judaism is expressed at length in chapter 6 of my book and I cannot do the topic justice here. Briefly, it is this - Judaism is comprised of only 2 commandments (1) I am the L-rd your G-d ... (Anochi Hashem) and (2) There shall be for you no other gods (Lo Yihiyeh). These being the first two of the ten commandments - the only ones that we heard directly from G-d as opposed to the others that we heard through Moses. These 2 commandments basically apply to all mankind and are representative of the 2 commandments that were given to Adam(besides to reproduce): (1) From all the trees of the garden you shall eat and (2) from the tree in the center of the garden you shall not eat. In both cases these two headline commandments represent all of the positive commandments and the negative commandments respectively. That means that each of our 247 positive commandments is a manifestation of Anochi (or Adam's commandment to eat) and each of the 364 negative commandments are examples of Lo Yihiyeh (Adam's commandment not to eat). We extend this concept to maintain that the (chareidi) Jewish viewpoint is that every single activity that we do, even mundane ones like eating and sleeping and procreating, can be done for a lofty purpose (for the benefit of the soul and our ultimate purpose in life) or for an earthly purpose (for the benefit of the body alone) and thus it is either a fulfilment of Anochi or a transgression of Lo Yihiyeh.
There is no such thing as a neutral activity. This is what I meant when I wrote that there is nothing benign about Judaism.

OP asks:

This is very interesting. Does this idea imply that sleeping only for the benefit of one's physical health is a kind of idolatry?
I respond:

First off, it is quite obvious and well known that maintaining one's physical health is not only a rhetorical "mitzva" but an actual one that is dictated in Deuteronomy 4:15. That was not the focus of this concept. The focus of this concept is as follows:

We are here on this Earth to fulfill some divine mission. This is accomplished by performing the commandments (mitzvot) and Torah study. We must maintain our physical health BUT we must maintain it for the purpose of accomplishing our mission. Thus, as long as our 8 hours of sleep is used to facilitate our service to G-d over the 16 waking hours, then not only the 16 waking hours but also the 8 sleep hours are all considered to be employed in G-d's service. Thus one gets full "credit" for being a servant of G-d for 24 hours. Conversely, when one does not properly use his 16 waking hours for Torah study and mitzvot, then the time that he spent sleeping, even if it was to maintain his physical health, did not contribute to facilitating his service to G-d. Thus, he will be judged that not only were his 16 waking hours self-serving (and thus "idolatrous") but the 8 hours of sleep that did nothing but facilitate his self-serving lifestyle are also "debited" as self-serving and he will be viewed as one who was delinquent in his responsibilities not just for 16 hours but for a full 24 hours.

Tough deal.

And a tough deal it is. What all this is saying is that Judaism is no benign game. Depending on how it's played it is either Bracha or Kelala; Chaim or Maves; Anochi Hashem or Lo Yihiyeh Lecha; One Above (Im Bechukosai Telechu) or Seven Below (V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu).

Get it?

Every Jew's purpose in life is to fulfill Anochi Hashem and Im Bechukosai Telechu and hang around the One Above camp. If he is transgressing on Lo Yihiyeh Lecha and is stuck at V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu and is populating the Seven Below camp, he is doing a harmful disservice to himself and to all of Klal Yisrael.

This certainly applies to a full born Jew; but, when I say "Every Jew", I mean every Jew.

For someone who was not born Jewish, this applies at least as much - so why should he want to become Jewish if it is just to spend his life in the Seven Below camp and live a life of keri? And why should the Jewish people want to accept a non-Jew who is only knocking on the door of the Seven Below camp?

One who stations himself in the Seven Below camp brings chance misfortune on the Jewish people, chance misfortune upon the world and chance misfortune upon himself. It brings klalah and maves.

Many of us are under the impression that a convert who sacrificed for Judaism will merit exemplary reward for his keeping of Torah and mitzvot - more than that of a regular Jew who received it as "an inheritance". I also assume that this is the case.

But be aware that Judaism is a two-way street!!

If it is true that a convert will receive a more splendid reward for observing Torah because no one forced him to be "Im Bechukosai Telechu" and he is doing it on his own initiative, then it is imperative that if he violates the Torah, he will receive a much harsher retribution because no one asked him to be "V'Im Bechukosai Timaasu" and he is doing it on his own initiative.

This is because Judaism is an opportunity, like a business opportunity or an investment. And it follows the same rules – the higher the yield, the higher the risk. The higher the salary, the higher the responsibility. And there is one more rule – if you don't have the capital, don't invest.

Now that we understand this, let us consider a situation where a questionable "convert" who never observed Shabbat, or Kashrut, or Taharas HaMishpacha, and never intended to do so, now comes before a bet din. If he is deemed a Ger, then for all his violations he is subject to retributions that are much harsher than that of a born Jew who was forcibly obligated to observe the Torah. And he is not bringing the Bracha of Im Bechukosai Telechu upon the rest of Klal Yisrael, either. Are we doing him a favor by sustaining his "geirus"? Are we doing ourselves a favor? Are we doing the world a favor?

I am confused, because most of the voices on the Talkbacks and Blogrolls have passionately screamed that it is a reprehensible travesty and injustice to annul a questionable Geirus. How can we interfere with someone's aspirations to join the Jewish people and obtain Israeli citizenship? Well - sure we can do it to save their children from being mamzerim so they can get married, but to save them from chamas keri? Who believes in that?

We believe in that.

When we stood at Mount Sinai, we were all geirim. We entered a covenant with circumcision, immersion, and hartzaat dam briss. With this geirus we became a mamleches kohanim and a goy kadosh. We became eligible for two crowns for Naaseh V'Nishma. But we also became eligible for annihilation for transgressing on Lo Yihiyeh Lecha.

Why is Lo Yihiyeh Lecha in the singular?

Rashi in Shmos (20:2) says that it was to give an opening to Moshe to save them from annihilation after the Golden Calf. He could claim, "Your commandment of Lo Yihiyeh Lecha (singular) was not addressing the entire nation. It only addressed me. They are not geirim after all and are not subject to such harsh retribution."

This is how Moshe gets Klal Yisrael out of a pickle jar. He does us a great favor by downgrading us. By doing the reprehensible travesty and injustice of "revoking" our geirus "retroactively". Of course, the downgrading came at a price - no harsh punishment, no splendid reward. We had to surrender those two crowns. We were disgraced.

Why did he allow us to be disgraced like that?

Because that was what was best for us. Because it saved our necks.

And who set this whole thing up?

G-d did it. Because it was what was best for us..

This is called being Merciful.

Are all those voices who cry "foul" being merciful?

I am not too sure.

We love geirim (real and imagined) and all Human beings more than anybody - and we want what's truly best for them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Delicacies from Yechezkel's Shabbos Table - Parshas Pinchas Challenge

This week we discussed the following question:

Why on earth is the Parsha of Temidim and Musafim in Parshas Pinchas?

IOW, all of the events that are related in Parshas Pinchas are a series of events which actually occurred around the 40th year of our sojourn from Egypt. Thus, we get the impression that the Korbanos of Temidim V'Musafim were actually first commanded to us in year 40.

It is very difficult to support this idea as, for one thing, the commandment of the Temidim was specifically given in Parshas Tetzaveh. As for the Yomim Tovim, Rashi in Parshas Emor (Vayikra 23:8) says that the Isheh L'Hashem was the musaffim of Parshas Pinchas. (Rashi there is very difficult because he asks in Vayikra "Why are the musaffim mentioned here?" What do you mean "mentioned here"? All of Sefer Vayikra are the mitzvos that were dictated at Har Sinai! It should be here. The question should be why are they mentioned THERE - meaning, in Pinchas).

The Netziv in Vayikra (ad loc.) picks up on this and initially entertains the idea that the musaffim were not brought before they entered Eretz Yisroel and therefore they were first commanded 40 years later. He rejects this because chazal tell us that the burnt goat that Moshe sought in Parshas Shmini after Nadav and Avihu died, was the Se'ir Rosh Chodesh. It is obvious that the musaffim were commanded at Sinai.

The Netziv does suggest that perhaps a tzivui of mussafim for Yom Tov was given at Sinai, but the exact "details" in terms of how many of what animal was not specified until Parshas Pinchas. Until then, they could improvise whatever mussaf they wanted. This would only hold true for Yom Tov but not for the Tamid, Shabbos or Rosh Chodesh.

A bit of a dochek, if you ask me.

Of course we know that Rashi in Pinchas says that our entry to Eretz Yisroel was b'zchus the Korbanos so that basically answers the question but we were looking for an answer with a little more spice.

After considerable deliberations, we came up with an interesting alternative answer - but I do not want to reveal it just yet. I want to see if any readers would care to make any suggestions.

I will give it a few days and then I will disclose the result of the jury deliberations.



How Many People Never Died?

On page 109 of my book I referred to Eliyahu HaNavi as the only Human being who ascended to Heaven alive. At least 2 readers contacted me to point out that according to Chazal, there were numerous others besides Eliyahu HaNavi.

Here is how I responded to the last reader:

Firstly, thank you for your letter and thank you for reading my book. Believe it or not, you are not the first person to challenge me on that statement concerning Eliyahu HaNavi. My response earlier, and now as well, is that what I had in mind is that Eliyahu HaNavi is the only human being that is attested to explicitly in the pasuk to have ascended to heaven alive. All of the other tzadikkim mentioned in Derech Eretz Zuta are based on our mesora from Chazal and, with the possible exception of Chanoch, there is no firm basis in the Tanach.

Although we live and breathe the words of Chazal, we cannot always consider their statements to be conclusive because they are often subject to conflicting Midrashim or a range of opinions among Chazal themselves. To point out a few examples, on the same page I note that there are at least 3 opinions as to which shevet produced Eliyahu HaNavi. The contention that he is a Cohen and that he is Pinchas is compromised thereby. Also, see footnote 25 on page 102 where I bring conflicting sources as to which tzadikkim were born circumcized including a head-on collision concerning Bilaam. Another example is a controversy as to whether Zimri was actually Shlumiel ben Tzurishadai which contradicts a Midrash that all of the original nesiim died in the maaseh Korach (according to Rabbenu Bechaye). There are numerous other examples of this. It's true that I have not actually seen any dissenting opinions on the Derech Eretz Zuta, but still I was relying on what is undisputed in the pasuk.

Still, your point is 100% valid and duly registered.

My Blog - Why I created it and what I hope to achieve with it.

It is with a great deal of apprehension and trepidation (b'eimah, u'b'yirah, b'resses, u'b'zeah) that I decided to create this blog. In what I am doing I see myself as a contradiction in terms. My stated purpose with One Above and Seven Below (1a7b) is first and foremost to promote ameilus b'Torah as that is what I have derived from the Chumash and Rashi to be the Jew's sole key to success. It goes without saying that the more time one spends on the Interenet, the less ameilus b'Torah one can engage in. As such, owning and promoting a Web log (Blog, b'la'az) is counterproductive both for myself and for my "customers".

My perspective about Blogs is well reflected in the opening post of this blog: "Fiddling on the Blogs". I understood from the get go that the Internet in general and Blogs in particular are no place for a nice Jewish boy and I did my best to avoid them. Another issue is that I am not from the younger generation and I am attempting to convey a dignified aura of experience, maturity, authority and sophistication with my writing. To mingle with the cantankerous crowd of Hyde Park soap box orators is not the most dignified and sophisticated of approaches. Clearly, from the vantage point of Kavod HaTorah, blogging is not the way to go. I will hold out against it.

I pretty much knew that I couldn't hold out forever.

I knew I was asking for trouble when I went Googling around the Net to see who has been talking about my book. But what author can resist? The first discussion that I found was on an Internet chat forum called Hashkafa com. The fun thing about this discussion was that the posters had not actually read the book and were discussing it on pure speculation. Toward the end, two people who had read at least some of the book took to the stage and turned the discussion around. I thought it was quite amusing and had promotional value so I made it available as a sidebar feature on my website.

Finally, one blogger did pick it up. He went so far as to write a critical review on the book. Although I felt his review was way off target (I may post a full response later in this Blog site, Bl"n), I thought it prudent to post a succinct response. Thus I was initiated into the world of Blogs and news forums. Two of the most popular, sophisticated and challenging are Cross-Currents, and HaEmtza (Harry Maryles). These sites always deal with topics that meet head-on the issues that I deal with and there always are fiery discussions.

I knew better than to get entangled in these discussions personally but I did stick in a post here and there for the patently pretentious goal -to put in a plug for my book. Publicity is the ikar and there is no publicity like well-placed free publicity. It was for publicity sake that I allowed myself to get into a public debate with Natan Slifkin on Cross-Currents.

In the background, I have followed the discussions and have yearned to see the 1a7b Chareidi perspective expressed. However, birds of my feather do not flock en masse to the Blogosphere, and for good reason. Most of them are truly busy with ameilus b'Torah. The Chareidi voices, although they are there and are not silent, are grossly outnumbered and largely drowned out. Those that do express themselves do so with much emotion which, more than not, merely arouses the ire of the "consumers" (most everybody else) without impressing the point.

Owing that my overwhelming motivation for my entire project was to supply a coherent Chareidi voice where it is mostly lacking, I knew that it was only a matter of time that I should make it available on my own Blog so it will be available for those who are open to seeing it.

Well - the time has come.

Obviously, maintaining a Blog is a big commitment of time that, frankly, no Chareidi worth his salt should have at his disposal. I happen to be taking advantage of a lighter than normal work load at the office (and even this entails Halachic issues that I would like to avoid). I read into this gift of found time a bracha min haShamayim to operate this Blog - but, I have my doubts (I did not seek a bracha from my Rav!). Also, every minute put into this Blog detracts from the limited time that I have to work on Book Two. As such, I do not guarantee that I will maintain a constant flow of new items on this blog.

Lastly, what do I plan for this Blog to contain?

The following:

  • The 1a7b perspective on current events and issues
  • My assesment on discussions and postings on other related Blogs
  • Divrei Torah
  • Comments on News items in the Jewish world
  • Previews and Updates on 1A7B Chelek B'
  • Responses to Criticisms
  • Public Responses to Feedback and comments from my readers

Sof davar, like 1A7B itself, the main goal of this Blog is to help people on their journey to the top of Mt. Neverest and to merit the Brachos of Parshiot Bechukosai, Re'eh, and Ki Tavo. May we all be zocheh, BB"A.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chareidim and Light Bulbs

In the upcoming (?) Book Two, I have indicated that I plan to write a chapter on the Chareidi approach to Halacha and what the "veldt" considers to be "chumras".

In light of this, here is a segment that I may use as an opening to the chapter. Comments are welcome:

Question: How many chareidim does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: 14 -

10 chareidim to sit in Kollel and debate all the Halachic issues of changing light bulbs (i.e., do you have to toivel (immerse) the light bulb before you use it; if you studied Torah under the light, can you throw out the old light bulb or does it require genizah; if the light bulb is more than a tefach (hand’s breadth) in diameter and there is a corpse underneath, does it convey the impurity, etc.)

1 chareidi posek to answer all the shailos

2 chareidim to collect money for the light bulb (because of v’hiyisem nkiyim m’hashem u’m’yisrael) and finally ---

1 chareidi to buy the bulb and change it (of course, if he is left handed, he must find out if he can change it with his left hand or if he must still use his right)

but all this is if it is only a bare light bulb. If the light bulb is inside a fixture we will need 15 chareidim ----
-- That's right. We will need 1 more to check the fixture for bugs!!

Fiddling on the Blog - a new Tradition!

Fiddling on the Blog! Sounds crazy, no?

Well, you may say that here in our little village of Bitulzmahnia everybody is "Fiddling on the Blog". Trying to eke out a simple controversial post without the whole world breathing down our necks!
You may ask - how can one keep his balance on a blog without transgressing 14 assehs and 17 lavvim?
I'll tell you, it isn't easy!
You may ask - so why do we stay and live in Bitulzmahnia?
That, I can answer in one word - EGOMANIA!!

A-ha-ya-ya-ya-ya. Ya-ya-da-da-da-da - Egomania!
A-ha-ya-ya-ya-ya. Ya-ya-da-da-da-da - Egomania!

Here in Bitulzmahnia we have egomaniacs of all types: we have the know-it-alls, the self-righteous, the preachers. We also have the apologists, the critics, and the peacemakers. And of course we have the frummies, the kofrim, and the mushchasim. And together we form one big happy cyberfamily. The tzad hashava is that everybody has much too much time on their hands and will waste it on anything except Torah, Avoda, and Gmilus Chassadim.
To be sure, we sometime have our differences like -is that Rav an MO or Chareidi? But we can usually settle these issues conclusively in 100 insults or less.
He's Mo - He's Chareidi - He's MO --He's Chareidi --MO--Chareidi--MO--Chareidi.


Of course, we have our special types, such as Yenta the Megillah-writer who cannot post a comment in less than 2000 words. And, the great sage, the Blog-owner:

Poster: O, invincible Blog-owner, how do you rid your blog of malicious posts?
Blog-owner: I spray it with posticides!


And not to forget Nachum the Blogger:

Nachum: You are absolutely wrong and you don't know the first thing about this issue.
Moderator: Nachum, you say the same thing every week.
Nachum: So if you are an am -haaretz why shouldn't I be the one to let everyone know?

Of course, not everybody is a straight-arrow. There is also his (dis)honor the Lurker, his (dis)honor the Troll, his (dis)honor Anonymous and his (dis)honor many others. They form a much larger cybercircle. But, we moderate them and (some of the time) -they don't bother us.

You may ask - when did this egomania get started?

I'll tell you - I don't know. But we've been at it for as long as we can remember.

But I can tell you this: Without our EGOMANIA life would be as meaningless as-- as--as---
one who fiddles on the blogs!!!