Thursday, October 30, 2008
Source - Baal HaTurim Bereishis 6:11
PS - The Baal HaTurim (Breishis 3:12) was also the source for my earlier post on Spousal Abuse.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
My "Bina Yeseira" did it again. Another pink one!
4:47 am on Erev Rosh Chodesh!
Again we trekked to Maayanei HaYeshua in Bnei Brak. (Jerusalem is just not chareidi enough for us) :-)~ And again my sister came through as the All-Star catcher (hasn't dropped one yet).
It's starting to get a bit crowded here in Har Nof. I don't want to give exact numbers - let's just call it 6 of one and half a dozen of another.
Maayanei HaYeshua is really hopping. We got there about 10:00 on Monday night and maybe half of the delivery rooms and barely two of the screening rooms were taken. It looked like it would be a slow night. By 1:00 the rooms were full to capacity. Babies were popping out one or two an hour.
Today, Maayanei HeYeshua had 4 sets of twins and one run of 4 deliveries within an hour. There is a two week wait for the Beit Hachlama in Telse Stone - after they just added a new wing.
And these are all Chareidim!
Anybody who claims that the cutbacks in child allowance payments have caused a reduction in birthrates in the Chareidi sector has not been hanging around Maayanei Hayeshua.
My sister says Maayanei HaYeshua is doing about 700 births/month (works out to about 1 baby/hour) and over 8000 / per year. They come from Bnei Brak and Petach Tikva, Ashdod, Kiryat Sefer, El-Ad, Emanuel, and even Tifrach and Ofakim. They are also getting higher amounts of Chardalim.
This does not include the chareidim of Jerusalem (except us), Beit Shemesh or Beitar who usually go to Shaarei Tzedek or Hadassah. (Also, for some reason that my sister couldn't explain - the Gerrers and Chabdniks from Bnei Brak, Kfar Chabad, and other places refuse to use Maayanei Hayeshua and go to Tel HaShomer instead. I guess they are afraid that 18 years later they will vote for Degel instead of Agudah!)
8000 chareidi kids (ken yirbu) just from Maayanei HaYeshua!
That means that in 3 years we will need gans for 8000 kids.
I wish I was in the pre-fab caravan business!
We plan to give a name, IY"H, tomorrow morning (Thurs. 2nd Day R"Ch Cheshvan) at the netz minyan at the Kosel (I have a car - I do not take the #2 netz bus from Har Nof). Probably at the R. Beinish Finkel minyan if they will give me an aliyah.
Anybody who comes and mentions this blog post gets a free book!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Subject: המלצה חשובה מהמשטרה
המלצה חשובה מטעם משטרת ישראל. בתי מלון רבים משתמשים בכרטיסים מגנטיים במקום מפתח לדלת של החדר. בסיום הלינה במלון, אין למסור בחזרה את הכרטיס המגנטי ("המפתח"). יש לקחת את הכרטיס בצאתך את המלון ולהשמיד את הכרטיס בהזדמנות הראשונה. הכרטיסים המגנטיים מכילים את כל המידע שמסרת למלון: הכתובת שלך, מספר כרטיס אשראי, תאריך פג תוקף כרטיס אשראי וכו'. כל אחד עם קורא כרטיסים (מכשיר זול, וקל להשיג בכל חנות מחשבים), יכול לעיין במידע ללא כל בעיה !!! חשוב מאד לקרוא ולהעביר הלאה לכמה שיותר אנשים . בנימין דהן ראש תחום סלולאר משטרת ישראל
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I received a personal email from a very close friend regarding my post on the Autistics. After stripping it of all personal content, I wish to present my response on-line.
He began by pasting this portion of the original post:
All of today's wigs are forbidden, not because of their being used for takrovet avodah zarah (which they confirm was and is a real Halachic issue) but because they do more to hinder the realization of tznius as opposed to enforcing it.
His comment was:
I think you treat the autistics too much like prophets. Even prophets can not tell us about Halachik issues based on their prophecy. Just because you find support for your ideas in their words is not reason to promote this kind of faith communication. I don't think this promotes the type of serious discussion of the issues that you are aiming for.My response:
>>I think you treat the autistics too much like prophets.
The term "too much" that you inserted in this comment is superfluous. Your comment would be more accurately expressive if you would have said: I think you treat the autistics like prophets. Clearly, the issue is whether or not one is justified in treating them as prophets at any level. If the answer is "no", then any amount of advocacy is already "too much". If the answer is "yes", then there is no basis to assert that it is being done "too much". Arguably, it is not being done firmly enough!
To deal with the comment, my response is that I honestly don't know how we are to view these communications. I know that numerous rabbanim are against performing the FCs for the very reason that we shouldn't meddle with "Heavenly" forces (like אוב וידעוני and מעונן ומנחש) but not because they are without substance. Still, we have the renowned gemara in Bava Basra (12b) which says that "from the day of the destruction of the temple, prophecy was taken from the prophets and given to idiots (mentally impaired people) and children" to contend with and their claim is that they were sent to this world in this mentally impaired state to deliver these messages. And so, it may not be within our bounds to ignore them either.
As an associate of mine commented: למיחש בעי .
>> Even prophets can not tell us about Halachik issues based on their prophecy.
They themselves say that their purpose is to give us mussar and urge us to do teshuva. Not to pasken shailos. Therefore, I would say that these issues are not to be viewed as Halacha L'Maaseh but as general rebukes as to what is wrong with our society. Still and all, they do claim that a woman will not be allowed to greet Mashiach with a sheitel. Maybe they will be right!
>>Just because you find support for your ideas in their words…
I would prefer you do not use the term "your ideas" which intimates that I am expressing new ideas and making things up that have not already been expressed for centuries. The accurate term is "your hashkafos" meaning the widely accepted and long standing hashkafos of the chareidi world that I subscribe to. All I am doing is trying to get more subscribers.
>>… is not reason to promote this kind of faith communication.
I am in no way promoting the "faith communication". I am promoting the "your ideas" (or "hashkafos") that they are being supportive of.
>>I don't think this promotes the type of serious discussion of the issues that you are aiming for.
As you and I both agree, it lends support. It does not need to be taken further than that.
Let me repeat that my ultimate goal is to get more subscribers to what I - and the chareidi society in general - consider to be the authentic Torah based hashkafos. This alliance will not cause any subscribers to cancel their subscription and it does have the potential to bring in a few more. So -what is there to lose?
Thank you for reading and thank you for commenting.
Our tax system explained in terms of beer
A brilliant explanation of our tax system using actual percentages, the impact of a tax cut, and the public reaction that everyone should be able to understand.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. "Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes, so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
And so -
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 ( 22% savings).
The ten th now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
"I only got a dollar out of the $20,"declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!"
"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"
"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia
For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not, or will not, understand, no explanation is possible.
Dear Fellow Business Owners
As a Business owner who employs 30 people, I have resigned myself to the fact that Barack Obama, wll be our next President, and that my Taxes and Fees, will go up in a BIG way. To compensate for these increases, I figure, that the Customer, will have to see an increase in my fees to them of about, 8%. I will also have to lay off 6 of my employees. This really bothered me as I believe we are family,here and did'nt know how to choose who will have to go. So, this is what I did. I strolled thru the parking lot and found, 8 Obama bumper stickers on my employees cars. I have decided these folks will be the first to be laid off. I can't think of another fair way to approach this problem. If you have a better idea, let me know.I am sending this letter to all Business owners that I know.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
ויתהלך חנוך את האלהים ואיננו כי לקח אתו אלהים
And Chanoch walked with G-d, and he is absent because G-d took him away. (Breishis 5:24)
Rashi writes on the earlier pasuk (Breishis 5:22):
And Chanoch walked – He was a tzaddik and his mind was vulnerable to being turned toward wickedness. Consequently, the Holy One hastened to remove him and brought about his death before his time. And this is the reason that the pasuk repeats this point in regard to his death to say ואיננו that he is absent – he is absent from the world to fill his allotted years.Evidently, Billy Joel was not the first to say that "only the good die young."
And he's not the last, either.
We are hearing messages like these from a very unlikely source - from mentally impaired people. People afflicted with autism, Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and similar ailments.
We in Eretz Yisrael have been hearing about the autistics and their messages for months and even a few years. There is a relatively sizable group but the two most outspoken ones are Binyamin Golden and Daniel (last name is undisclosed). These handicapped people communicate with us through a method known as facilitated communication (FC) where a trained technician brings the subject's forearm to a keyboard or printed letter chart and the subject types or taps on the letters of the board to spell out their thoughts.
There is much controversy as to whether FC is genuine or a manipulated hoax and consequently, whether to take these communiqués seriously. I do not know enough about all sides of the FC debate to have an objective opinion but Ben Golden does live right here in Har Nof – I have seen him quite often - and he is a genuine autistic. My wife is well acquainted with Ben's mother (I've never met her). They are part of a women's group that meets for Tefillah and Tehillim at the Kosel every Wednesday morning. Mrs. Golden (an American) certainly stands by the integrity of the autistics and FC.
More complete details about who they are, what their mission is, and most of their communiqués have been compiled, translated, edited, and posted on a special dedicated web site. I highly recommend looking it over (click here).
As far as I am concerned, it does not matter whether they or the whole FC technique is genuine. What they say is genuine because it is nothing more than the words of the nevi'im and chazal that have been at our fingertips for centuries. Actually, for everything they say the editor has supplied sources from Tanach, Chazal, Shulchan Aruch, and even references to Baalei mussar such as Chovos HaLevavos and Ramchal. Genuine or not, I identify with these preachers because – aside from likewise being out of my mind – their words reinforce the concepts of the One Above and Seven Below that I am promoting with my project.
The autistics have been giving predictions of coming events, reproach, and advice. The tones of the autistics vary but they simulate the tones of the prophets. The two most vocal ones preach very harshly and frighteningly. Some of the others – notably the female ones – speak much more gently and encouragingly. Nevertheless, they all present the same basic message:
- The time of redemption is imminently close. It will be an ordeal of terrifying events and midas hadin. There will be a great war (Gog u'Magog) and most of the inhabitants of the world will perish. As for the Jewish people, only those who observe Torah and mitzvos will survive. Accordingly, it is incumbent upon every single Jew to do complete teshuva and commit him or herself to complete Torah observance. (For more, click here.)
- We must divest ourselves of our reliance on all material assets and depend entirely on Hashem.
In short, the world is soon to be turned over like the Sodom and Amorra that it is. When it happens (even before), forget about all your possessions and run for cover under the Kanfei Hashechina and DON'T LOOK BACK!!
They are very in tune with current events. One can learn more from them than from the papers. Here are some of the main points of their predictions and advice:
- We should be very worried about Iran and Russia. Russia has not changed its stripes and glasnost was a cover. Russia wants to swallow the whole world. (For more, click here and here and here.)
- The financial markets will all fall and money won't be worth more than tissue paper. You can invest in gold but you can't eat it. (For more, click here and here.)
- All Jews who live in chutz LaAretz should pack up and move to E"Y immediately. Don't worry about parnassah because the parnassah in the exile will be worse. It is not enough to own an apartment in E"Y and if one is not shomer Torah, it won't help. (For more, click here.)
- Jews from Russia should especially get out because soon there will be no more opportunity. Russia is slated for total destruction. (For more, click here.)
- The Jews in eretz Yisrael should prepare special clothes for greeting Moshiach (Jews from Chu"l can do it too, but they should come here first). The clothes must be wide, clean, and respectable. Women cannot wear wigs or makeup! (For more, click here)
In an earlier communiqué they advised Israeli Jews to stockpile a two-week supply of food. In more recent messages (click here) they have said that it doesn't matter – G-d will provide for those that He wants to save, and for those that He doesn't…it won't help.
As far as the reproach, these guys do not mince words. They call 'em like they see 'em (sorry, G.), and they see 'em a lot clearer than we do. They claim to convey to us a message from on high as to how a Jew must conduct himself. They say that very few Jews of any stream are living up to the standards that the Torah expects from us. Here is some of what they say:
- There has never been a generation as depraved as ours. (For more, click here.)
- Women must improve their commitment to tznius – and husbands must enforce it. They scream over and over again about tight clothes, short skirts, sheer stockings, makeup, and sheitels. (For more, click here and here.)
- All of today's wigs are forbidden, not because of their being used for takrovet avodah zarah (which they confirm was and is a real Halachic issue) but because they do more to hinder the realization of tznius as opposed to enforcing it.
- There is no hope for non-observant Jews who wish to stay non-observant.
- All Jews must rid their homes of all unnecessary materialistic gadgets and "toys".
- Torah Jews have no business going to amusement parks or to Goyish places for vacations or doing dangerous things (canoeing, mountain climbing, Jeeping). (For more, click here.)
- Torah Jews should not go out to restaurants and certainly not indulge in pizza and fast-foods.
- If the Jews do not do teshuva, there will be (chas v'shalom) Jewish blood. There always is.(For more, click here.)
When they discuss Jewish society, they are not hesitant to name "groups".(For more, click here.) They say that much of the observance of "observant" Jews is superficial and does not count. We all are worshipping the "Golden Calf". They say that most of the chareidim are not genuine and are too materialistic and are not maintaining proper tznius. Yet, in terms of Hashkafa, the chareidi derech is proper. Here is some of what they write about the chareidim (source):
And in Chapter 67 they write:
The Haredim could save the world because the Haredim are able to illuminate the world [See Radak Yeshaya 51:4 "my laws are a light to the nations etc."]. They are the closest to the Truth, to Hashem. The Haredim (so-called "Ultra Orthodox") should bring the rest of the Jewish people to the Redemption with simcha (joy) and shleimus (completeness). They should bring the world to the highest spiritual level and closeness to Hashem [As is explained in Mesillas Yesharim 1 "He rises higher and the world rises higher with him etc."]
Unfortunately in reality the situation is completely different. In reality, at present many Haredim are not only not elevating the world to higher levels; they are actually bringing the world close to total destruction [See Koheles Raba 6 and Mesillas Yesharim 1 "Be careful that you don't ruin and destroy my world etc."]
Many Haredim have been attracted to the secular way of life. Haredim have been exposed to the impure outside world in various ways; whether it is by traveling or living abroad, whether it is through relationships with secular people or by reading newspapers and all sorts of books, listening to the radio, internet etc. Whichever way, they have tasted the secular "culture" and as a result, many of them are drowning in gashmius [materialism] and worldliness, which has made them distant from Hakadosh Baruch Hu [G-d].
This non-Jewish lifestyle of these Haredim nowadays usually comes with some sort of 'hechsher'. These Haredim who have strayed from the right path don't usually go looking for a hechsher for all heir hearts' desires, but since a lot of money can be made from it, some Jews have taken the initiative to arrange "hechshers" for many things that are in fact the opposite of what is really kosher. The truth is that many hechshers and rabbinical approvals are actually worthless because they were influenced by money [See Gemara Shabbos 139a].
The happiest people of all can be found among some of the Chareidim - the Ultra-orthodox Jews, who know the truth. They know that we are facing the greatest danger, but they are happy because the Jews have been awaiting the coming of Moshiach for over two-thousand years and at last it seems the time has come.
All the other Jews are miserable, each one according to his or her spiritual level. This is because they don't sense the truth; they don't understand and are not looking into the holy prophecies from the Torah, etc. They don't realize that even if a deep shelter was built, even if of the latest modern technology was used to build a shelter that can protect people from a nuclear bomb, if Hashem does not want specific people to live, they will not.
And still in Chapter 67:
This is not intended for the secular Jews. It is intended mostly for the Ultra-Orthodox community, because if there is any truth at all it can certainly be found amongst them. One who learns Torah and lives a life of mitzvos must be closer to the King of All Kings, Hakadosh Baruch Hu (G-D).
But in our day, with all the sheker (lies and deceptions) in a world of sheker, the sheker has found its way even into the Kodesh Hakodashim (holiest of places). We must extract it and therefore even the Ultra-Orthodox Jews must do self-examination.
There will also be some secular and modern-religious Jews that will repent in a second, if they are presently almost on the verge of the Truth and just need an extra 'push'. But it will still not be complete repentance. It will be repentance only for the sake of saving themselves.
The Ultra-Orthodox Jews need to be much closer to Hashem, since they have the whole framework of Torah and mitzvos. If they don't live with real kedushah holiness), the judgment against them will be much harsher. If they are living the way they are supposed to, they will come to a very good end. And it won't even be an end; it will be a beginning [of a life of eternity and spiritual pleasures].
Batya was a girl who had CP and passed away on Chol HaMoed Pessach, 5768. Though she spoke with a much softer tone, she had this to say (source):
- Accept the advice of Rabbanim
- Learn mussar (or at least, read my Blog ;-}> )
- Those who do not repent will disappear from the world
- One of the most important components of Teshuva is to do chessed. Every person must outdo himself in chessed.
For those who are still with me, I want to discuss one more aspect of the autistics and the one that is referred to by the title of this post. In earlier communications, the autistics were willing to answer direct questions. As of late, they are refusing to do so. Many questions revolved around the events that were taking place at the time and why did they happen. Especially when G-d has suddenly and violently pulled away from us precious souls.
In general, they respond that every tragedy that befalls the Jewish people is due to our sins and shortcomings. In Chapter 29, Daniel asserts that the Lebanon War was a direct result of the Homosexual parade in Jerusalem. (In Chapter 31, Daniel says that it was not the only cause but that the war was due to our sins and the parade is symbolic of them). Though, when Hashem punishes us – it is through the tzaddikim.
Hashem always takes the tzaddikim.
Thus, in a rare Q and A in Chapter 76, Daniel discusses with his father the massacre at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. He says:
But he adds (source):
Daniel: It was not by chance that that specific yeshiva was chosen. Not by chance at all. Nor were any of the other acts of terror. They all cause us to want to do some deep thinking.
Every tragedy that takes place has a specific reason, a root, and there is a reason that we cannot understand. We must therefore try and figure out the reason that we are able to understand.
Abba: Why was that yeshiva chosen?
Daniel: The Dati-Leumi (modern orthodox) movement tries very hard to be the elite of the Zionists. They think they have secured themselves a place in this world as well as in the next world.
A person that is truly spiritual does not feel that he possesses any power, that only Hashem possesses power. This is a person who believes that the reason of existence is Torah, mitzvos etc. and that this world is purely for the sake of fulfilling Hashem's will from morning to night and from night to morning and nothing else but the will of Hashem.
Yet, in the case of the dati-leumi, this is not their entire goal.These are not people whose entire lives evolve around the constant fulfilling of Hashem's will; these people think they can be part of the secular world as well as being religious -more or less believing in Hashem. A person who seeks education from the secular - Hellenistic world must return to the real, proper Yiddishkeit and become a true follower of Hashem.
The Dati-Leumi Jews have great weaknesses when it comes to Yiddishkeit.
The difference between the weakness that has ensnared the Charedi community lately, and the weakness of the Dati-Leumi community is, with the Dati-Leumi, their weakness is a part of their idealism whereas with the Charedim it is just a personal weakness each individual has with his or her connection to this world.
The Yiddishkeit of the so-called radical Jews or Ultra Orthodox is trueYiddishkeit.
Abba: The eight people that were killed were all complete tzaddikim, no?
Daniel: Of course they were all tzaddikim. They were simply the sacrifices of this generation, just like the tzaddikim that passed away during the holocaust. The sacrifice needs to be complete and they were complete.
Likewise, about the tragic jeep accident that took the lives of four outstanding talmidei Chachamim in the summer of 2007, first Daniel says (source):
I want to tell you all that a lot is happening all around us and people don't really want to take notice of what's going on. First of all, four young people were killed today, out of which three were Yeshiva students and one a married Yeshiva man. And how did they die? They were on a trip driving a Jeep.
Yeshiva boys and a Yeshiva man out on a Jeep ride. I ask you, what are Torah-learning men doing on a jeep-ride? What were they doing wasting their time on dangerous adventures? This is the behavior of non-Jews and people don't realize this. Again, they don't understand this.
Daniel: The 4 boys that were killed were Tzaddikim according to our generation but Jeeps are not appropriate. What do you think? HaShem took them for nothing? HaShem took them not because they were good boys, they were Tzaddikim. They are an example for every generation, they are the sacrifice of this generation to other boys that are not so good that behave the same, that do much worse things. Taking trips without protection and without using the brain, and endangering their lives. HaShem always takes the Tzaddikim.
We have lost many precious people over the past few years. People who we dearly needed (of course, we need every Jew regardless) and who, like Chanoch, are absent from this world and who are not here to fulfill their years. They were meant to be here for many more years and they are absent. People who lived for the klal and died for the klal. But they were all tzaddikim gemurim.
Just a partial list will include people such as: Rabbi Benzion Dunner, Dr. David Applebaum, Chezi Goldberg, Mrs. Yael Antinev, Mrs. Batsheva Unterman, Rabbi Yisroel Aisenstark, Naftali Smolyanski, Aleihem Hashalom (and HY"D where applicable). All of whom were outstanding "klal" people and some of whom I have been privileged to meet. Add to this the four yeshiva boys from Netanya and the eight malachim from Mercaz HaRav (with special note to Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar of Shilo who was my cousin) and the victims of many other violent incidents such as the Number 2 Kotel bus, Sbarro, and Beis Yisrael bombings (HY"D) and we see a pattern.
Hashem plucked them from this world way before their time – because they were tzaddikim. Because of our sins. Because we are the ones who are not worthy.
We see that the autistics are on the mark about at least one thing:
HaShem always takes the tzaddikim!
Perhaps they are on the mark about other things, as well.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Did everybody understand what that meant?
Nobody will understand it unless they are familiar with the Gemara in Avoda Zarah (2a-3b) that the post was based on. The Gemara (A.Z. 3a) concludes the prophetic account that the wayard nations who are "fools of the world" will beg G-d to give them the opportunity to fulfill the Torah anew. G-d will respond: "Idiots of the world! Those who prepared on Friday will have what to eat on Shabbos. Those who do not prepare on Friday, of what shall they eat? (Reference: Grasshopper and the Ants). Yet, even so, I have a very easy mitzvah for you to perform and it is called Sukka. Go and do it."
Immediately everybody will take and go to his roof and build a sukka. Whereupon G-d will intensify the sun as in the height of summer and each one will kick down his sukka and leave.
The Gemara asks: why is this to be held against them? The Halacha is that if one is in distress he may leave the sukka?!
The Gemara responds: It is permissible to exit the sukka - but do they have to kick it on the way out?
And G-d will laugh at the nations!
I have always been curious as to why of all 248 positive commandments HKBH chose sukka as the trial-by-ordeal to incriminate or exonerate the nations?
Also, what kind of sinister premeditated trick is this to get everyone into the sukka and then turn up the heat? Didn't G-d tell them that it is a very simple mitzva? (Note- The Gemara touches upon this question). Even the Gemara concedes that they are not at fault for exiting the sukka - only for kicking it down. But wasn't it supposed to be an easy-to-do mitzvah?
G-d is teaching the nations - and us - a very valuable lesson.
All of the nations have depended on their own skills, resources, and brute strength for power and domination. They all competed with each other to amass the greatest wealth and to produce the most powerful and lethal armies, weapons, and sattelite systems. It is this wealth and technology that will make them invincible and to dominate others. Even the great State of Israel is part of this rat race.
But the Torah based core Jewish people have nevr put their faith in wealth and weapons. They have for genrations taken refuge under the Kanfei HaShechina - ופרוש עלינו סוכת שלומיך . We have always dwelled in G-d's sukka. And from generation to generation it would get hot in there sometimes. And some of us would kick down the sukka and leave.
But many of us didn't.
Those of us who stuck to the Torah - ואתם הדבקים בה' אלקיכם חיים כולכם היום . We did not depend on manmade wealth and weapons and technology. We are the ones who will merit the reward of Torah in the "future to come".
So G-d tells the nations: Let us see if you can also observe the mitzvah of "sukka". Let us see if you can dispense with your military might and technology and weaponry and depend only on Me. The nations will throw away their weapons and occupy the "sukka". But this alone is not the test. G-d has to "turn up the heat" and subject the nations to the same ordeals that Klal Yisroel had to endure for millenia. They will immediately "kick the sukka" and run back in search of their man made might. But, by then, it will be gone.
And G-d will laugh at them.
Endnote - I have a second explanation as to the relevance of the mitzvah of Sukka and its connection to Koheles. I wanted to include it but I am out of time (almost Shabbos). It is hidden in the pasuk in Koheles 7:2. Let's see if anybody can uncover it!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The opening gemara in Masechet Avoda Zarah (2a) says:
In the future to come the Holy One shall bring a Torah scroll and set it in His lap and proclaim, “For each one who occupied himself with it, let him come and receive his reward.” Immediately all the nations of the world will gather and come in pandemonium…
The kingdom of Rome will enter before Him first…The Holy One says to them, “In what way have you involved yourselves?”. They will say before Him, “Master of the World! We installed many markets, we made many bathhouses, we amassed much silver and gold, and all this we did for no purpose other than to enable [the people of] Israel to busy themselves in Torah.” The Holy One says to them, “Fools of the world! All that you did, you did for your own purposes. You built marketplaces to situate harlots, bathhouses to adorn yourselves, and the silver and gold is actually Mine...”
The kingdom of Persia enters after them. The Holy One says to them, “In what way have you involved yourselves?”. They will say before Him, “Master of the World! We built many bridges, we conquered many metropolises, we waged many wars, and all this we did for no purpose other than to enable [the people of] Israel to busy themselves in Torah.” The Holy One says to them, “Fools of the world! All that you did, you did for your own purposes. You built bridges to collect from them tolls, you conquered cities to conscript the inhabitants and their property for your military campaigns, and, as for wars, I am the One who manipulates wars…"
I have oft-times reflected on this passage and noted that the great super powers of the world will line up to apply for this reward. Edom (the US and Europe) and Persia (Iran). No doubt Russia and China will also submit their applications.
And what about the State of Israel?
Will the State of Israel that tries so hard to be like all other nations, will the State of Israel also line up to ask for the great reward? And what claim will they make?
My guess is that the State of Israel will be right there clamoring away with the rest of the nations. And, as with the rest of the nations, HKBH will ask them, “In what way have you involved yourselves?” And they will say before Him, “Master of the World! We gave military deferments to those who could prove that they are studying Torah. And we made sure that they will not be able to legally work as long as they received these deferments. We gave child allowances for the children of your people - although we halved the child allowances at the same time as bread and milk doubled. And we set aside a special budgetary allotment for Torah schools - to make it look like we are giving them extra money when in truth we are giving them less since we didn't think that they deserve the same basic funding as State schools and so we made sure they didn't get it. And all this we did for no purpose other than to enable [the people of] Israel to busy themselves in Torah..."
And what will happen? Will the Holy One smile and heap infinite reward on the State of Israel for their sincere efforts or, as to the rest of the nations, will He say to them, "Fools of the world! All that you did, you did for your own purposes..."?
Just don't kick the sukka on the way out.
Monday, October 6, 2008
This one is going to go all 15 rounds.
To briefly call the stakes, the defender, LazerA, is standing up for the current Kollel system and the challenger is trying to defeat it with a knockout. My prediction is that no matter what the challenger comes at him with, the defender will still be standing after the 15 rounds.
Let's rehash some of the highlights of the match:
- On Sept. 29th, Rabbi Eidensohn needed to fill some space on his Blog and so he posted the battleworn words of the Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:10. Apparently, he wanted to start off the new year with a display of fireworks. Not surprisingly, this re-ignited the usual Blog-brawls with Garnel Ironheart, Bartley Kulp, and Earner extolling the Rambam as an indictment to the Kollel system. LazerA was the lone bulvahn who took on the entire tag-team.
- I think he did a great job (evidently FKM thought so too) and Rabbi Eidensohn was so impressed that he made LazerA's protracted response the official Daas Torah space filler of October 2nd. Ironheart seemed to have bowed out but Earner stood in for the tag team. Earner is from the school of thought that the idea of Kollel is some modern newfangled invention and did not exist in prehistoric (beyond 150 years ago) times. (I thought they were the "modern" Orthodox!)
- Subsequently, on October 5, Daas Torah posted a seemingly previously unpublished response from Bartley Kulp (was it submitted by email?) which invoked further responses from LazerA and some choice comments from new tag-team members.
After all is said and done, one paragraph in LazerA's initial response truly summarizes the entire debate:
Again, it seems to me that the bulk of these criticisms are rooted less in actual practical issues but in basic differences in ideology. For those who truly believe that limud haTorah, in of itself, is the key to all of klall Yisrael's success materially and
spiritually, these arguments are, for the most part, non-sequiturs. Perhaps the most dissonant idea is the apparent underlying assumption that we already have "enough" talmidei chachamim. I'm not sure if that is even possible, but, even if it is, I certainly don't think that we are anywhere near that point yet.
These words are a clear echo of the entire concept of One Above and Seven Below as is spelled out in my treatise. (See, for example, the definitions on pages 57 and 60 in the book preview).
As LazerA says, it boils down to "those who truly believe that limud haTorah, in of itself, is the key to all of klall Yisrael's success materially and spiritually" vs. those who don't. And, as in more general fields of belief, the trite adage applies: For the believer there are no questions and for the non-believer there are no answers.
Now, anybody who is still reading this post and made it to this point may notice that, thus far, aside from referencing the debate and placing my own bets, I have not really contributed anything of substance. But, so as not to disappoint my fans (and G.) and being ever the loquacious fool that I am, here I come.
In regard to the initial springboard, the passage from Rambam:
Kollel stipends are not tzedaka. It is money willingly invested into a system by people who want to support Talmud Torah and the money is systematically distributed to those who study Torah as compensation for the time they invest in doing their job. The kollel world sees the Torah studied as a valuable commodity that is being produced even without tangible by-products. Many Jews refuse to view the study itself as a worthy commodity unless they actually see the kollel fellow "giving back" in some tangible and immediate way - such as the emergence of "kli kodesh" (Rabanim, mechanchim, poskim, mashgichim, etc.). These Jews are generally not those that invest (at all or significantly) into the system. Those that do invest see the "production" of Torah L'Shma as a commodity unto itself that benefits them even without direct tangible returns.
Moreover, we view the entitlement of ameilei b'Torah to communal funds as akin to the entitlement of the Kohanim and Leviim to the trumos and maaseros as compensation for their service to the Klal - cheleph avodaschem - which procludes them from a personal career. This is clearly alluded to in Midrash Tanchuma (Devarim Re'eh 18):
עשר תעשר . עשר, בשביל שתתעשר. עשר, כדי שלא תתחסר. רמז למפרשי ימים, להפריש אחד מן עשרה לעמלי תורה.
Tithe you shall tithe: Tithe so that you should become wealthy. Tithe so that you should not lose capital. This is a hint to those who go overseas (on business trips) to set aside one tenth for ameilei b'Torah.
Note that this Midrash singles out the ameilei Torah even though the pasuk is really talking about maaser rishon (for the Leviim). As such, Rambam himself (yes the same Rambam who wrote Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:10) equates any person who dedicates himself to the service of Hashem to the bnei Levy (Hilchos Shmitta V'Yovelos 13:13).
The resulting rule of thumb is:
Those that kvetch do not support and those that support do not kvetch.
In my view, it is elementary that the Rambam is not talking about kollel stipends. He is talking about people who need to go begging door to door or to take money from standard tzedaka funds (e.g. Yad Eliezer or Vaad HaRabanim) in order to stay in full-time learning when he has the option of gainful employment that can offset the need for this undignified income and does not totally impinge his capacity to learn.
The question of whether government assistance programs for lower income people should be termed as the kind of charity that the Ramabam is eschewing and is a chillul Hashem should be directed to qualified Halachic authorities. In my personal view, I think that while it certainly may be a chillul Hashem for one to take WIC and foodstamps and drive a late model car and maintain a bungalow in the mountains, for a qualified person to take advantage of these programs - which he pays taxes for, by the way - is no more a chillul Hashem than receiving a Pell Grant (legally) or a subsidized student or small business loan.
In regard to Earner's comments and Bartley Kulp's diatribe on financial viability of the system:
Here the debate is fought on two levels:
- The economic cost/benefit to the community and the viability of the system.
- The economic cost/benefit to the individual Kollel student and to his family.
The first issue is primarily championed by Earner and I am specifically focusing on these remarks:
Perhaps it is time to accept that the Jewish people cannot support a significant percentage of families whose head of households do not work.
The affluence of the last generation of American Jews is now a memory. If we will expect women to support large families, we will have to repeal the Takana against marrying more than one wife because statistically women earn significantly less on average than men.
The system is bankrupt and it is not fair to raise our sons without a parnassa (which is the same as raising him to be a criminal) or our daughters to be beggars.
Evidently, this entire debate is being conducted on a rationalist and pragmatic platform. This makes sense for rationalists and pragmatists. However, proponents of the Kollel system are by nature religious idealists. We believe in G-d's pyramid scheme.
What is G-d's pyramid scheme?
The pasuk says in Devarim (14:22): עשר תעשר . עשר, בשביל שתתעשר. עשר, כדי שלא תתחסר
The Midrash Tanchuma explains that when one gives a proper tenth to G-d, then his investments are blessed ten-fold. He is the baalhabus and G-d is the "Kohen". But if he neglects to give a proper tenth, his capital is reduced to a tenth of its value. G-d is the baalhabus and he is the "Kohen". Thus we have a pyramid effect, when the "earners" give a tenth of their income to the proper causes, their capital increases thus enabling them to give a bigger sum the following year. This should cause a further increase thus enabling larger contributions, etc, ad infinitum. Unlike a man-made pyramid scheme, there actually will be enough money at the end of the day to pay everybody. G-d has as much as we need.
Conversely, when G-d gives us the capital up front and it is not properly tithed, the next year (or whenever G-d is ready to pull the plug) there will be 10% less capital. Thus a smaller cash base to contribute the funds that are anyway below the required level (sub-prime). All of a sudden, the pyramid goes the opposite direction. The capital shrinks, the inadequate tithes shrinks, etc. ad nihilo!
So to respond to Earner: The system can support any number of families where the head of household does not "work". It is cheleph avodaschem in the "ohel moed". The money doesn't originate in the community. It is G-d's bounty to the community for participating in his pyramid scheme. G-d has as much as we need. Don't you worry. It is only when the community doesn't invest the proper amount that the funds fall short. And then - the pyramid scheme collapses like a house of cards.
Thus, although I might agree with Earner that: "It is time for our Rabbonim to recognize that the system is broke and needs fixing" for, today it truly is, I do not agree with him as to who is responsible for fixing it and how.
G-d tells us that this is one problem that we can actually solve by "throwing more money at it" (and we won't have to repeal any Takanos against polygamy - sorry to disappoint you).
Issue 2 - Bartley Kulp
Firstly, I agree with LazerA that the trend is that responsible Kollel fellows know when to quit. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I also agree with Bartley that for them to break into the high level earnings market after Kollel is a formidable challenge. But I do think Bartley is a bit removed from the Kollel man's mindset.
The Kollel fellow may need to leave the Kollel but he does not want to leave learning. His objective is not to transform from a learnaholic to a workaholic. It is to make the necessary changes that are required to remain "above water" without selling out on his Torah hashkafos. True, they will undoubtedly lose their intensity but they do not need to be discarded. This is the delicate balance of הוי תורתך קבע ומלאכתך עראי (Brachos 35b) that is all but impossible to maintain in today's economy.
What Bartley seems to advocate is the standard right wing Modern Orthodox perspective that Yeshiva boys should actively pursue higher education before Kollel and before marriage to "ensure" financial independence. One of LazerA's responses is that financial independence is still not ensured. I agree to this. What he did not point out and I wish to add is that while finacial independence may be more readily achieved and is not ensured, the exposure to the outside world at that point makes a decline in Kedoshim tiyihu absolutely inevitable.
When we look at those who have gone that route, we see it.
There is no argument that the chareidi / Torah /kollel community is more insular than the non-chareidi community. We see it as a virtue. Perhaps you see it as a shortcoming. Though we all crave for financial independence, from a hashkafic perspective the chareidi community does not admire the Modern Orthodox. The anti-Kollel arguments act as self-supporting proof that the TIDE perspective comes at a price. And the argument that I put forth earlier about G-d's pyramid scheme tells us that it is a price that there should be no need to pay.
Bartley's last issue about kollel becoming a "social obligation" is a very pertinent issue; but it stands on its own. It doesn't affect the integrity of the system nor it's financial viability. I can agree with Bartley in theory that a person's sacrifice for Limud HaTorah should be his own and not at the expense of beleaguered parents. As much as I am pro Kollel, I also do not think it should be a social obligation. Parents should not force kids into it and kids should not force parents into it. Kollel is, after all, only for those who want it (even if I think that everybody should want it). If a parent does not want to or cannot support his offspring in Kollel, then don't! In such a situation, one who goes into Kollel has to be willing to do it without parental support. Many people - including Rav Elyashiv, Shlit"a, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlit"a and Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, ZT"L, Rabi Akiva, and thousands of others have managed to stay in learning without any parental support. It can be done. (I do recommend moving to Eretz Yisroel). But it won't be easy. Especially today.
My point is that although now that the money is indeed scarce and we need to proceed with caution, our efforts should be to strengthen it and not to weaken it. It is a system that has given us back more than we have given it. If we buy into G-d's pyramid scheme we will eventually rake it in.
עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה ותמכיה מאשר
Thursday, October 2, 2008
The gemara in Sanhedrin (21b) states:
Raba said - Even if one has inherited a Sefer Torah from his ancestors, it is a mitzvah to write one of his own as it is written (Devarim 31:19): And now, write for yourselves this verse...
This mitzvah is recorded in Halacha in Rambam (Hilchos Sefer Torah 7:1) and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 270:1). Both the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch write that if one merely makes a necessary correction - a haga'ah - in a Sefer Torah is as if he wrote the complete Sefer.
It seems self evident that the basis for this Halacha is the apparent superfluous word "kisvu lachem" - write for yourselves - that is in the pasuk. It could have simply written "And now, write this verse..." Why does it say, "And now, write for yourselves this verse..."? And so, Raba teaches us that each individual Jew is obligated to write a Sefer Torah for himself.
This seems to be the simple understanding of the pasuk and Raba's Halacha. This is what we call the "Pshat".
I think that the pasuk might be telling us something more. Perhaps what we may call "remez" - a hint. It is a hint about making hints.
Chazal tell us (Yalkut Shimoni Breishis 8 Article 62) that 974 generations prior to the creation of the world G-d sat and cross-checked and tested and linked together [the letters of] the Torah. 974 generations before Creation, the Torah was signed and sealed and ready to be delivered.
Yet Chazal tell us in Midrash Rabba (Ruth 5):
One should always do mitzvos with great enthusiasm for if Reuven would know that the Torah would write about him, "And Reuven heard and saved him from their hands..." he would have carried Yosef back to his father on his shoulders. If Ahron would know that the Torah would write about him "...behold he will come out to greet you..." he would have greeted Moshe with drums and cymbals. If Boaz would know that HKBH would dictate about him, "And he produced roasted kernels and she ate..." he would have fed her fattened calves!
I have always reflected about this Chazal. What if Reuven had carried Yosef to his father on his shoulders? Isn't this Midrash telling us that the pasuk would say, "And Reuven heard and saved him...and he brought Yosef to his father on his shoulders..."? If Ahron would have greeted Moshe with drums and cymbals would the Torah not write "...behold he will come out to meet you with drums and cymbals..."? If Boaz had fed Ruth with fattened calves would the scripture not say, "And he produced fattened calves and she ate..."?
But, wait! Wasn't the Torah signed and sealed for 974 generations before creation?
We are taught that all human beings have bechira. That is why there is reward and punishment and retribution. So how can all human events be predestined from before Creation?
What if Kayin didn't kill Hevel? What if the generation of the flood had repented? What if Pharaoh had let the Jews out before all those plagues? What if the Jews did not make the Golden Calf? What if Ammon and Moav had greeted us with bread and water? What if Adam and Chava hadn't eaten from the Tree of Knowledge?
What would the Torah say?
We are forced to say that when the Chazal say that the Torah was written 974 generations before creation, it is not the Torah as we read it. It is perhaps the utterances of Anochi Hashem and Lo Yihiyeh or the Asseres HaDibros. Or perhaps, as the Ramban says, all of the letters of the Torah were designated in advance, but the arrangement of the letters was shaped by the events of the world and those who participated in it.
The Torah wrote "Vayishma Reuven" because of what Reuven did. In effect, Reuven wrote that pasuk. And who wrote "Vayikach Korach"? Korach wrote that. Who wrote "Vayashkem Bilaam"? Bilaam wrote it. Who wrote "Vayahre Pinchas?" Pinchas wrote it.
In effect, the Torah wasn't written by G-d. It was written by us.
And it still is!
Many of us have heard about Torah Codes that seem to reveal hidden secrets. Such as words that are hidden in consecutive roshei teivos or sofei teivos that I have discussed a number of times in my Blog. Also there has been much studying done on equidistant letter sequences (ELSes). Another variation are position letters, i.e. when the second letters or the third letters of a string of words form a word.
Two of the most renowned examples are:
- There seems to be a hint of the Rambam encrypted in the roshei teivos of the following pasuk (Shmos 11:9): לא ישמע אליכם פרעה למען רבות מופתי בארץ מצרים since the Rambam reached his pinnacle of greatness while living in Egypt. Note that this is the only occurence of the roshei teivos רמבמ in the entire Torah. It is claimed that from one of the two "mem"s (I am not sure which) at an ELS of 613 letters, the words משנה תורה , Rambam's magnum opus, is spelled out. (I do not have the software to confirm this).
- There is a famous story (I believe it is found in Sefer Kav Hayashar - I do not have this sefer) concerning the Ramban. The Ramban had a disciple named Avner who eventually became a heretic and scoffer. He challenged the Ramban that if his teachings are true that ליכא מידי דלא רמיזא באורייתא - there is no event that is not alluded to in the Torah - where might he find a reference to himself (Avner) and his departure from Judaism? The Ramban davened for heavenly inspiration and that night he saw this pasuk in a dream (Devarim 32:26):
אמרתי אפאיהם אשביתה מאנוש זכרם - I have said that I will anull them in anger, I will nullify from humanity any remembrance of them.
It was revealed to him that the third letter of the last 4 words of the pasuk:
אמרתי אפאיהם אשביתה מאנוש זכרם - spell out the name Avner!
And what about Avner? What if he did not become a heretic? What would be the significance of this code in this pasuk?
We have to answer that all of our potential is encrypted in the Torah. Both our positive potential and (chas v'shalom) our potential for negative actions. When we do something in this world we "activate" the Torah's hidden hints about our achievements. Things that we accomplish, whether for the good or the bad, are "activated". Things that we do not accomplish remain buried and "deactivated" forever.
Whenever we do something, we are editing the Torah. We are changing it. We are writing a haga'ah. We are activating the letters of the Torah that tell of our accomplishments.
So now we have another meaning of "kisvu lachem". Not just to write for ourselves another copy of the Torah that's been around from 974 generations before Creation. But now, "kisvu lachem" means "write yourselves into the Torah". Write a new version of the Torah. A new version where the letters tell of what you have accomplished in your life. The letters have been there for over a thousand generations but they are not "activated". You must come and activate your version of the Torah.
And it's a good idea to do good deeds with enthusiasm.