Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fumbling the Ball in the Red Zone - A Chanuka Parable

I have never been much of an athlete. I was always chosen in last and, even then, only if I was the one who brought the ball. It took me longer than most of my friends to develop a taste for sports and to understand what's going on. I will be forever grateful to one of my former classmates who was one of the first to explain to me the finer points of American football. This classmate was also the "first string" quarterback for the schoolyard touch football we played at recess.

Her name is Rebecca. (She now lives in Efrat with her husband and six kids. I don't think she plays football any more but she does run marathons.)

From these humble beginnings, my taste for American football matured until I came to respect the sport. Subsequently, I became a diehard Lakewoodist and I am currently a neo-chareidi mussarist pushing ameilus b'Torah. What's more, I have been removed from the American scene for over 12 years. And besides, the team I used to root for (the Natwich Nutcrackers) haven't won a Super Bowl in over twenty years. And despite all that, I still respect the sport. Or maybe, it's because of all that.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think that any religious Jew should ever waste 3 hours of his life watching a football game. It's not just bittul zman. In recent years, the high quality field level cameras give us close up views of what goes on not only on the field during plays but also revealing glimpses of what goes on on the sidelines between plays. Still and all, there are a few valuable things we can learn from the philosophies of the sport.

For example, I learned to appreciate the precision teamwork that is necessary to execute a successful play. The players of each team are specialists in their roles. Be it the quarterback, the running backs, linemen, receivers, tight ends, linebackers, or safeties. The entire roster is about 45 people but only 11 can participate in any play. For every play, the coaches determine what needs to be done and picks out which players are the specialists for the particular mission of the play. Each player has a distinct assignment and the success of the play depends on how he carries it out. No matter how insignificant a position may seem to be, nothing can be neglected. No matter how talented are the quarterback, the running back or the receiver, a single well placed block or a single missed block can spell the difference between winning or losing. Every player's moves count!

I always thought that a well executed play looks like a perfectly choreographed ballet (I taught Rebecca about ballet!- just kidding!)

Another pearl of wisdom is a remark I heard an analyst say in the name of Jerry Glanville (anybody remember him?) who coached the Houston Oilers during one of their few winning seasons when they barely made the playoffs:

Do you know what NFL stands for? Not For Long!!

I have never forgotten this witticism because it applies to so much more than professional sports.

But I really want to discuss the main object of the game. The object of the game is to conquer the playing field by advancing the team to the goal line. If the team conquers the entire field, they are awarded a touchdown and earn 6 points. And how does a team advance?

By moving the ball.

In other words, the team is where the ball is. And this brings me to my main point. In order to score any points, your team has got to have the ball. Only the team with the ball can score points! And only the team that can score the most points can win the game.

So in American football - as in many other sports - the most important rule for any team is:

Hang on to the ball! Whatever you do, don't lose possession of the ball!

We all know that there is one thing in football that will guaranteee any team, no matter how talented it's players, many tallies in the losing column: turnovers.

A turnover is when the team that controls the ball mishandles it so that they wind up losing the ball and it winds up in the hands of the opposing team. Remember, only the team that is controlling the ball scores points.

Because of this, you will notice something that happens in football. If my team is controlling the ball, I have ten players who will have no trouble advancing to the enemy's goal line un-opposed. That's right, nobody from the other team will stop them. Or will even try to stop them. Unfortunately, the ten players in question will be the ten players who do not happen to be the one holding the ball. For the one fellow who currently has the ball, life is different. The entire opposing team will do everything in their power to stop him. First order of business is to make sure that this one fellow doesn't get the opportuinity to advance the ball.

And, if they can, they are going to try to do something else. They are going to try to cause him to "cough up" the football. To lose control.

To fumble!!

When the player is a klutz and coughs up the ball on his own, we call this a fumble. But when the other team helps expedite the process, we call this stripping the ball or a forced fumble.

Now, even though a vigilant defensive player will always look for an opportunity to force a fumble, the defensive players become all the more vigilant when the controlling team gets near their goal line. When a team is within 20 yards of the opponent's goal line we say they are in the red zone. They are very close to scoring. When this happens, the defending team gets a bit tougher. And they look harder for a chance to force a fumble. Thus the team trying to score has to be ever more watchful about hanging on to the football. Because they must score to win. And the most devastating thing that can happen is if they fumble the ball in the red zone.

Now, what's the significance of all this?

The significance is that this is the story of the Jewish people. Or better yet, this is the history of the Jewish people.

You see, we are playing one big game. A game of football. We must conquer a field. But it is not a field of distance. It is not a field of 100 yards. It is a field of time. It is a field of 6000 years. We must advance through this field of time and reach the goal line. If we don't, we will not win the game.

And, in order to do it. We must maintain control of the ball! The Torah is the ball. And the only way to win is if we are still holding on to it when we reach the goal line. the only way to win the game is:

Hang on to the ball! Whatever you do, don't lose possession of the ball!

The Greeks were great athletes. They knew the rules of football. They knew that as long as we don't cough up the football we will eventually reach the goal line and score. So they tried their hardest to make us "fumble the football". To make us lose control of the "ball".

להשכיחם תורתיך ולהעבירם מחקי רצוניך.

They tried to outlaw Rosh Chodesh - our calendar, Shabbos - our testimony that HKBH created the world, bris milah - our visible sign of identity, family purity - the Waters of Eden and to write on the horn of the ox that "we have no portion in the G-d of Israel". And the line had us as 30 point underdogs.

But we won that game because we were the receiving team and we never gave up possession of the football. Even the Lions can beat the Vikings if they can only keep the ball out of the hands of Brett Favre (no small feat).

But that was just one game. It wasn't the Super Bowl and the season isn't over. The "Greeks" came again and again just under a new coach and wearing a different color jersey each time. No they are not outplaying us but they are all trying for the same tactic - forcing us to fumble the football.

Until recently it wasn't all that difficult to hang on to the football. Because we weren't in the red zone.

But we are now.

And so the "Greeks" are trying harder and harder to make us cough up the ball. And it's getting harder and harder to hang on to it.


Because just like in American football, we must execute each "play" with precision teamwork. Each person must carry out his assignment flawlessly. Whether it is a spotlight role like passing or carrying the ball, or whether it is a supportive role like throwing blocks. Every person's assignment is essential to successfully completing a play.

But it looks like many players are neglecting their assignments. They think that their job is to get to the goal line. And they say that it is so easy. Nobody seems to be stopping them.

They have forgotten that they are not the player that is carrying the ball.

From the whole "team" of Klal Yisroel barely one out of 11 is still carrying the ball (actually, less). These are the One-Aboveniks, the Im-Bechukosai-Telechuniks who are Ameilim b'Torah. Only they have the ball. And 11 out of 11 of the "opponents" are ganging up on them trying to stop them and trying to strip the ball. And they are trying very hard.

Because we are in the red zone.

And those who are supposed to be blocking for them are not carrying out their assignments.

So when we see people in the chareidi world stumbling and fumbling and losing control of the football it is because, since they are the only ones carrying the ball, all of the forces of the opposing team focus on them as the gemara says in Sukka 52a:

ת"ר ואת הצפוני ארחיק מעליכם זה יצה"ר שצפון ועומד בלבו של אדם והדחתיו אל ארץ ציה ושממה למקום שאין בני אדם מצויין להתגרות בהן את פניו אל הים הקדמוני שנתן עיניו במקדש ראשון והחריבו והרג תלמידי חכמים שבו וסופו אל הים האחרון שנתן עיניו במקדש שני והחריבו והרג תלמידי חכמים שבו ועלה באשו ותעל צחנתו שמניח אומות העולם ומתגרה בשונאיהם של ישראל כי הגדיל לעשות אמר אביי ובתלמידי חכמים יותר מכולם

For those who don't read fine print, this passage is saying that the Yetzer Harah forsakes all of the nations of the world and only starts up with the Jews. Then comes the Amora Abayeh and he adds: And to the Talmidei Chachamim - those who study Torah - he (the Yetzer Harah) incites more than to any other Jews!

And those Seven-Belowniks who think they are reaching the goal line unimpeded do not realize that the opposing forces do not bother them. They are not carrying the ball. They will not score any points. And instead of executing a successful play, they are botching their assignments.

It is those who carry the ball who must reach the goal line in order to win the game and everybody else on the team has to block the opponents and enable the ball carrier to advance.

If they do, they can wear the same Super Bowl ring as the ones who advance the football. If they don't, they will be as famous as Jerry Glanville.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's All Greek To Me - Purim Repost L'Chvod Chanuka

The following post is a repost from last March 9th. I originally wrote it in response to the referenced article which was current at that time. Though I titled it and laced it with a Purim motif, it is as much if not more relevant to Chanuka. So I am reposting it now in honor of Chanuka. I changed nothing from the original post except for the closing line in Hebrew.

A freilichin Chanuka to all:

Original Title: Yefes in the Tents of "Shame"

יונים נקבצו עלי אזי בימי חשמנים, ופרצו חומות מגדלי וטמאו כל השמנים

There is an interesting discussion going on over at Emes Ve-Emunah. The discussion revolves around an entity that I had never heard about until I tuned into blogs: the Orthoprax.

If you are not sure what that is, you are not alone. Last I checked there were 76 comments posted to the initial piece many of which are debating the proper usage of the term. So after reading the post and perusing the comments, I for one, am still plenty confused. But the confusion does not start here.

We Jews are so-o-o creative! We always like making up new discriptive terms (see my post about chareidim and wings). Reform, Conservative, Traditional. Those are pretty easy to understand because they are in plain English. But here's a really hard one one: Orthodox.
Where did this term come from?

The Greeks, for Heaven's sake. It came from the GREEKS! (As does the term Hypocrite).

So what does it mean? Well, it's Greek to me.

Our sages were not very fond of the Greeks. The first step of Hellenization was when we translated the Torah into Greek. This is one reason why we fast on the 10th of Teves. The next step is when we refer to our hashkafas in Greek terms. First there is Orthodox. Then there is Heterodox and Conservadox. (These last 2 are just one plain pair-a-dox) and now there is Orthoprax.

But getting back to the term Orthodox, I think I have finally figured out what it means. It means: keeping the Torah like a Greek. How so? Consider the following about an "Orthodox" Jewish female NCAA basketball player at the University of Toledo. This comes from a recent Jerusalem Post article entitled Holy Toledo:

Shafir is not only a leader on the team, but she has become a role model in the Jewish community as the first female Orthodox Jewish athlete in the NCAA Division I competition, the top level of American collegiate athletics.

"One thing that we figured was to get in touch with a rabbi in town to find out what was most important. We then spoke to her uncle and father, who gave us a list of what Shafir would need. This included access to kosher food, a T-shirt under her jersey, not riding in a motorized vehicle on Shabbat and not practicing on Saturdays," says Cullop. "The list was not long, and we knew she would observe the holidays. Luckily the calendar works out in our favor. They were more concerned with school and appreciative of everyone finding solutions."

The Rockets have postponed all of their Saturday afternoon practices to Saturday evenings after sunset. However, Rabbi Chaim Bogonski and Shafir worked out a deal four years ago allowing her to play games on Shabbat. When Shafir was on the Israeli National Junior Team, she was the only Orthodox player. Bogonski ruled that since practice was work and games were fun, it was acceptable to take part in games that fell on Shabbat. This was important, since a majority of the games for Toledo are on Saturday afternoons.

So this is Orthodox? An Israeli girl coming to Chu"l to play basketball in public on Shabbos!? Oh yes, she is acting under complete Daas Torah a la Rabbi Chaim Bogonski. And, certainly, she wears a tee-shirt under her tank top and from the waste down she wears gym shorts just like the Kohen in the Bais HaMikdash! And she is a role model because she is an "Orthodox" Jewish athlete?

This may be Orthodox but it is Greek Orthodox. Antiochus would be proud. But I have my doubts about Mattisyahu (NOT the rapper!!!).

This is kneeling and bowing!

In a book entitled Where Heaven Touches Earth by Rabbi Dovid Rosoff, in the Glossary on page 611 he has the following entry: Chareidi: Orthodox.

I don't think so.

If this is Orthodox, then please do not call me Orthodox. In any case, I don't speak Greek.

What's a better term? Well, Yeshaya didn't speak Greek either. Not to us, at least. And he has a term for the Jews who do the right thing. You know what he calls them?


He actually coined the term. He certainly must have been referring to somebody. He had a term for Orthoprax, too. But not in Greek. You know what he calls them? He calls them מִצְוַת אֲנָשִׁים מְלֻמָּדָה (Yeshaya 29:13) - those who perform mitzvos by rote.

So the Orthoprax are actually nothing new. They've been around for quite some time. Just like the chareidim.

G-d fearing Jews don't need to act like Greeks. And we do not need Greek terms to describe ourselves. We do not need to bring Yefes into the tents of "Shame". And we are forbidden to kneel and bow.

For us, there are many old Biblical or Talmudic terms in Hebrew. Terms like tzaddikim, yesharim, anavim, yereyim, chassidim, kedoshim, perushim, chaveirim, chareidim or...just plain Yehudim. Like Mordechai HaYehudi (or Yehuda HaMaccabee). I'll take any one of them.

The bearers of any of these terms have one thing in common. They will not kneel and they will not bow. They will not send their daughters from Eretz Yisrael to Eretz HaAmim to play basketball on Shabbos in front of men wearing shorts and T-shirts.

כי ארכה לנו השעה ואין קץ לימי הרעה. דחה אדמון בצל צלמון הקם לנו רועים שבעה

100,000 Battered Women

In the course of reading up on the Yaacov Neeman fiasco for my previous post, I looked primarily at the Jerusalem Post version of events. Interestingly, JPost has two almost identical articles on the subject. The first is dated Dec 8 and is found HERE. But you won't find this version on their site anymore. It's been shelved and replaced by the updated version which is available on the site and right HERE.

The first version is the more interesting one because it is graced by no less than 180 Talkbacks. A great deal of them express a lot of support for an Halachic based society and for Sar Neeman. The more titillating portion reflects the absolute paranoia of the non-Halachic world. A sight for sore eyes, R"L. Jews who are terrified of Judaism!

One interesting exchange really got my goat. It begins at Talkback #133 by one Miriam:

133. Over 100 thousand orthodox women are battered each year in Israel.

Its a big problem, 40 thousand of those are hospitilized. So do we want more halachic laws in Israel?

Miriam - New York (12/08/2009 19:40)

Do you believe that? 100,000 battered Orthodox women!! 40,000 hospitalized!!

Well neither did some other readers, notably numbers 149, 160, and 181. After being challenged by #149, Miriam came back at #155 sticking to her guns:

155. #149 Denial is not a river in Egypt, google it yourself.

Its a huge problem in the Frum community, your just not aware of it. I have no axe to grind, I worked to open refuge center in Israel for Frum battered women.

Miriam - (12/08/2009 23:54)

And the duel is on....

עד שיבא הכתוב השלישי ויכריע ביניהם

Here comes talkbacker 179 and sets the record straight:

179. Clarification of Miriam #133

For those who may have misunderstood Miriam (#133) and her astronomical numbers, she obviously means the following:
In Israel, over 100,000 Orthodox women a year have marital relations with their husbands and 40,000 of them are hospitalized in the maternity wards.
Life can get rough for an Orthodox woman!

So the awful truth is out. 100,000 Orthodox women per year are "taken advantage of" by their spouses and 40,000 of which wind up bed-ridden at places like Maayanei Hayeshua. And when I see these brutal numbers, my veins surge with rage at the cruelty of this phenomenon and I scream out:

Is that all???

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bechol Beisi Neeman Hu

There seems to be much fanfare surrounding a sentiment expressed by Justice Minister Yaacov Neeman at a rabbinical conference in Jerusalem as reported in numerous media (click HERE for current JPost item).

As to be expected, all of the leftists in Israel who get spooked by rabbinical conferences rushed to the podium demanding his head. Certainly, no leftist wanted to be left out as the scramble for votes within the ever shrinking leftist camp is at stake. And it seems that my "Centrist" buddy, Rabbi Harry Maryles is right there with them (kind of makes me think of "When Rabbi Harry Met Rabbi Sally"). And the shark feeding frenzy is on.

Now, I don't actually know what Sar Neeman really said because he spoke in Hebrew and the news media that I follow speak English. But it seems to me a foregone conclusion that he is being taken way out of context. You see, the setting was a conference for Rabbis and rabbinical judges (dayanim) on Jewish monetary laws. And whatever he really said was in relation to Jewish monetary laws and it was being said to Rabbanim and dayanim. It was not a public policy statement even if he is a public official. It was not said to the public.

But, of course, as long as it is not taken as a public policy statement, it is not newsworthy and the anti-religionists (and Centrists) would be lacking crucial misinformation with which to smear the religious in their papers and blogs. And so, they treat it as if it was a public policy statement and, to boot, color it with the most extremist, far-right, fundamentalist hue on the palette. Thus, all the Talkbackers on the JPost edition are petrified that we are going to start stoning adulterous women.

At least one talkbacker had the sense to calm everybody down and ensure the readership that there will be absolutely no stoning for adultery - the penalty for adultery is strangling, not stoning.

Of course, I think it's a good idea to abstain from committing adultery no matter what kind of government we have but I guess old habits are hard to break.

Now, Rabbi Maryles is a bit more learned so he doesn't seem to be concerned about stoning for adultery, but he is concerned about being stoned for Chillul Shabbos. And rightly so, for stoning is the proper punishment for this infraction. He is also obviously concerned about things like mehadrin buses, chas v'shalom, or geirim being required to keep "basic Halacha", chas v'shalom, and he is convinced that in a halachic society, the religious Zionists and the chareidim will not be able to find common ground.

What a pessimist!

I don't want to be too harsh. What Rabbi Maryles seems to be saying is that he himself would like a halachic society - on his terms, of course - but that it is not something that we can implement by force.

This much I can readily accept especially insomuch as (1) it's no chiddush. This is what we are praying for moshiach for and (2) this is not what Sar Neeman meant in any case.

The part that got me about his post was this:

So as much as I believe that the nation of Israel should be guided by Halacha, I also believe that Mr. Neeman’s statement is a foolish pipe dream that will - not only not happen - but will have the effect of alienating the vast majority of its citizens to the point that it could actually threaten the very existence of the state - via a mass exodus of its secular citizens.

First of all, if it will not happen, how can it have any effect? But, moreover, he projects that if it would happen "it could actually threaten the very existence of the state - via a mass exodus of its secular citizens."

Do you hear this? Don't chas v'shalom implement a halachic society because even though we will have observant Jews living in Eretz Yisrael, we might not, chas v'shalom, have a "State"!

Obviously, to Rabbi Maryles, the "State" is more important than Halacha and Judaism.

I don't understand. If the State should remain secular, what do we need a state for? Isn't the State supposed to be "reishit tzmichat geulatenu"? Wasn't the whole Mizrachi rationale for the creation of the state that it will become a halachic state - by their standards at the very least - and we rebuild the Bet HaMikdash, etc., etc., etc.?

Or is "Mizrachi" no different than Herzelian Zionism of "lets be like all the nations"? Let us neglect and abandon our Judaism for the sake of a "State"!

By the way, I have news for him - there has been a mass exodus of its secular citizens for over 60 years. It hasn't done them any good and it hasn't done us any harm. From what's going on now I am convinced that the only thing that will save the state is a mass exodus of its secular citizens, starting with Tzippi and Ehud.

Now let's look at what the Torah says.

My Torah says: Im b'chukosai telchu - If you observe Halacha (I call this One Above), THEN v'yishavtem lavetach b'artzechem - you will dwell peacefully in your land.

If we all keep the mitzvos, we get to stay in peace. State or no State.

BUT - Im b'chukosai timasu - if you will loathe my Halacha (I call this Seven Below), THEN v'eschem ezareh b'amim v'harikosi achareichem cherev - I will scatter you among the nations and empty out behing you the sword.

If we don't keep the mitzvos, we'll have to go at the point of the sword. State or no State. And, if I am reading the winds (and the newspapers) right, Ahmadinijhad, Mashaal and the UN (compliments of Richard Goldstone) are fixing to do just that.

Harry is worried that if there is an Halachic society, the Seven Below who refuse to comply with Halacha and bring upon us keri and galut will make a mass exodus - AND THAT WILL THREATEN THE STATE!!!

The fact that the One Above who keep the mitzvos will be able to stick around and live in peace doesn't seem to impress him.

In my book, getting the Jews to keep the mitzvos, by hook or by crook, is sound advice. This is what G-d says.

But that's not what Rabbi Harry says. He tells us not to even seek to implement an Halachic society so the State will remain intact and all of us can (chas v'shalom) go to galus chased by swords!!

Harry is waiting to welcome us with open arms in West Rogers Park.

My Torah says that an Halachic state is a good idea. And so does Yaacov Neeman's.

But evidently not Rabbi Harry Maryles's.

G-d help us all!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Delights from the Shabbos Table: Why I Must Honor Judge Goldstone

Most of us know the famous dictum from Pirkei Avos (6:3):

הַלּוֹמֵד מֵחֲבֵרוֹ פֶּרֶק אֶחָד, אוֹ הֲלָכָה אַחַת, אוֹ פָּסוּק אֶחָד, אוֹ
דִּבּוּר אֶחָד, אֲפִלּוּ אוֹת אַחַת צָרִיךְ לִנְהוֹג בּוֹ כָּבוֹד

If one has learned a single item of Torah from a fellow Jew he must confer upon him honor.
As such, I hereby pay tribute to the "Honorable" "Judge" Richard Goldstone for shedding new light on a puzzling Rashi commentary that has plagued the scholars for centuries. In this past week's Parsha the Torah tells us:

וַיִּירָא יַעֲקֹב מְאֹד וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ

And Yaakov was very frightened and it was distressing to him...

Rashi explains based on the Midrash:

And Yaakov was very frightened - that he be killed
And it was distressing to him - that he may kill others
The question is obvious: We well understand that Yaakov will be concerned about being killed. But why should he be so distressed about killing those who are his enemies?

Rivers of ink have been dedicated to explaining this Rashi and many sharp explanations have been posited. But now, thanks to this learned Jew, the "Honorable" Grudge (er- I mean Judge) Goldstone we have a simple and pertinent insight into the words of Rashi:

Yaakov knew that should he kill anybody else, he would be charged with war crimes and sent to Azazel!

As they say: Win or lose - you lose!

Rashi was clearly ahead of his time. And kudos to our teacher, "Rabbi" Goldstone for unlocking this mystery.

Yaakov truly had reason to be distressed - ויצר לו.

And once again it is an עת צרה ליעקב -

וממנה יושע!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

HaAretz Tluya B'Mitzvos

It's been a while since I offered any pearls form Niflaos MiTorasecha. For those who have forgotten (or never knew) this sefer is an anthology of words encoded in the Torah in Roshei Teivos and Sofei Teivos and the striking relevance to the context.

I have two tidbits to present. The first is actually from last week's Parsha and I apologize for my tardiness.

There is only one occurence of the word ציון (Tzion) in consecitive Sofei Teivos in all of Tanach! (No occurrences as Roshei Teivos at all!) It transverses these two psukim (Breishis 18:18,19):

יח-יט- וְאַבְרָהָם הָיוֹ יִהְיֶה לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל וְעָצוּם וְנִבְרְכוּ-בוֹ כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶצ: כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהֹוָה לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט לְמַעַן הָבִיא יְהוָֹה עַל- אַבְרָהָם אֵת אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר עָלָיו:

The code in this pasuk clearly indicates that the gift of Tzion is in the merit of following the path of HKBH and specifically doing צדקה and משפט (righteousness and justice).

The amazing thing is that this message is clearly reflected in the well known pasuk in Yeshaya (1:27) that we read every year before Tisha B'Av on Shabbos Chazon:

צִיּוֹן בְּמִשְׁפָּט תִּפָּדֶה וְשָׁבֶיהָ בִּצְדָקָה:

Rav Aranovsky also points out that the lead word in our pasuk that holds the first letter (צ ) of our hidden word is part of the word הארץ - the land!

The second tidbit is related to this week's Parsha, Chayei Sara. One would expect that a simple word such as פאה would have numerous occurrences in the Torah as Roshei Teivos. This is somewhat true. There are 8 occurrences plus another 27 elsewhere in Tanach. However, the Sofei Teivos is not so plentiful. There are 9 occurrences in Tanach but only one of these is in the Torah. And it is in this pasuk (Breishis 23:9):

וְיִתֶּן-לִי אֶת-מְעָרַת הַמַּכְפֵּלָה אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ אֲשֶׁר בִּקְצֵה שָׂדֵהו בְּכֶסֶפ מָלֵא יִתְּנֶנָּה לִּי בְּתוֹכֲכֶם לַאֲחֻזַּת-קָבֶר:

Rav Aranovsky explains that this seems to referee a well known dispute in the Mishna (Peah 1:3) between the Tana Kamma and Ravi Shimon (ben Yochai) as to whether one must designate Peah at the edge of his field or if it may even be in the middle of the field. The Tana Kamma is lenient (even the middle) and Rashbi is machmir (יתן בסוף).

Rambam (Matanot L'Aniyim 2:12) clearly rules like Rashbi that Peah can only be designated at the edge of one's field.

Our pasuk seems to have this in mind when it encodes the word Peah in thbis pasuk right next to the words אשר בקצה שדהו . It is as if the pasuk is saying that the Peah must be בקצה שדהו - at the edge of the field - just as is the ruling of Rambam!

Golden Oldies for Parshat Chayei Sara

I still can't find time to write so again I will fall back on reruns from last fall.

Parshat Chayei Sara is a perennial trigger of Shidduch related articles and I actually posted 3 such articles last year. The first was titled:

Shidduchim Then and Now

and it was meant to zero in on what I have and continue to maintain is the main issue of the Shidduch crisis in the chareidi world: the gender imbalance. This is not to say that there are not other mishugossin that exacerbate the problem (a la Chanaya Weissman), but (1) in many cases these mishugossin are merely a derivative of the gender imbalance and the "buyer's market" that it causes and (2) these mishugossin are nothing new. They have existed for generations when we did not have anything called a "shidduch crisis" afoot.

The second post was entitled:

Lost and Found

and it was a succinct witicism that I heard in the name of Rav Nachum Pertzovitz, ZT"L which, in one line, dealt with the "mishugossin" aspect of shidduch trevails. Note that this "gem of wisdom" was mined way before the current shidduch crisis.

The third, and most important one was entitled:

Is the Yeshiva World Ready for Web Cam Dating?

and was a call to action. It articulates my firm conviction that we can partially alleviate the problem if we standardize long distance dating over the Internet.

The immediate result of that post was that I was introduced to ShidduchVision which was, at that time, an embryonic concept to implement this idea. I explored ShidduchVision and even contacted the developers. What emerged was that although we are of one mind on the concept, we are sorely divided on the method.

My position is that Web Cam dating can only be effective if it takes advantage of the strength and ease of access of the Internet. Yes, the Internet is a dangerous tool but so is electricity. We just have to know how to use it safely and, today, it is not that hard.

The postion of the SV developers was that the Internet is a non-starter because it won't get Rabbinic support and the quality is not lifelike. It's point-to-point cable or nothing. My contention is that PTP is so limited and cumbersome that it will take years to develop, leave many locations unattended (and thus be totally useless for those locations), and will likely be eventually replaced by the Internet anyway. As for Rabbinic support, I feel that if the cheaper, quicker and more efficient Internet system is petitioned for properly, there will be Rabbinic support. I explained all of this in great detail in a subsequent post in January entitled:

Realizing the Vision

Well, a year has passed since these posts were written and there is good news and bad.

The good news is that ShidduchVision has officially been launched and is up and running and the "date" worked out very nicely - though, if I understand correctly, the shidduch didn't (you can't win em all). This is great news...

...if you live in Chicago and want to date somebody in Baltimore or vice versa.

The rest of the world is out of the Loop (and the Beltway).

It looks like some other major communities are close to being launched and sponsors are being sought out in numerous others. So eventually, ShidduchVision may actually turn in to something effective. But only partially effective.

For one thing, we must ask: how long will "eventually" really take, and how do we justify the wasted time and opportunities to help singles that are being passed up because we must wait for a PTP cable system to be installed? We have already invested a full year and all we have is Chicago and Baltimore!

How long will it take to get to St. Louis, Denver, Montreal and Scranton?

But the real reason it can be only partially effective is because many smaller communities and mini communities will never have a PTP cable system like ShidduchVision. Not now, and not "eventually".

Will Vancouver (written up a few years ago as a 70% intermarriage rate!) ever have one? Will Cincinatti or Hartford? Will Rio de Janeiro? San Diego and Phoenix? How about Waterbury and Rochester?

And some of these places need it a lot more than Chicago and Baltimore.

I really am cheering for ShidduchVision and hope that it succeeds beyond all expectations. I really hope that the time and money invested in ShidduchVision proves to be a more "profitable" investment than what we might have gained over the same time by pushing for an Internet-based system (for less money).

And how will we know that it has succeeded beyond all expectations?

If I feel no need to write again next year singing the same blues I am singing now for the second straight year.

Aren't you sick of reruns?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Golden Oldies for Parshat Lech Lecha

I have a feeling my readership has grown over the past months. Actually I think it has quadrupled from about 3 steady readers to close to 12.

For the benefit of those who have recently joined us, I would like to link to some award winning (Darwin Award?) posts from previous years (of which there has been but one).

A very insightful subject was covered a year ago about who did the land of Israel belong to immediately after the great flood. To read it, click here:

And, on a lighter note, I would like to link to an all-time favorite:

The Biblical Psychotherapist

Enjoy and good Shabbos!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cheering for the Wrong Side!

Not much time to write. Though I really meant to comment on Rabbi Harry Maryles's post about Tyranny of the Majority - Imposing Chumros on the Public. Harry's post begins with these words:

Finally some common sense. The Transportation Ministry in Israel has determined that the Mehadrim buses are illegal.

Evidently, Harry saw a very poorly written JPost article and misread it to think that the Ministry of Transportation is fighting against Mehadrin buses. And he lauds this finding as "common sense".

Unfortunately, Harry doesn't always know what he is reading. I have said this before in relation to other Emes Ve-Emunah (sic) posts such as this one (see this comment and the 3 that follow) and this one (see this post). On the current post, I posted a comment which did not seem to make an impression on anybody. My comment was saying this:

The Ministry of Transportation is not fighting against Mehadrin buses! Just the opposite. The Ministry formed a committee to submit a report to the court to fend off the anti-Mehadrin-bus petitions of Naomi Ragen and the Israel Religious Action Center of the Progressive Movement.

The Ministry and Egged are fighting for the Mehadrin buses as is indicated by the much clearer INN news item that states:

The requirement by the "mehadrin" lines for men and women to sit separately is not legal, the committee reported to the court at its hearing. The Ministry noted that by law, any rider on the line can sit wherever he or she chooses. Nonetheless, the report also pointed out that it is permissable for men and women passengers to sit separately if they prefer.

What this means is that the ministry is not determining that the requirement is not legal. It is not their job or authority to determine what is legal or not. That is for the courts. They are merely saying that the Mehadrin buses have no legal authority to actually compel anybody to sit separately and, technically by law, women can still sit wherever they want, so the Mehadrin buses are not really infringing on anybody's legal rights and, consequently, there is no reason to interfere with them.

The next paragraph is clearer:

Representatives for Egged and for the Ministry reminded the Court that there were numerous alternative bus lines offered for riders who wished to ride integrated vehicles. The Ministry said that there currently are 90 mehadrin lines serving the hareidi-religious population throughout the country, and none of the permits for any of the lines obligates riders to segregate themselves.

They are "reminding" the courts that riders who prefer integrated lines have plenty of alternatives. Again, the point is that there is no reason to interfere with the Mehadrin lines.

The ministry AND Egged both want these Mehadrin lines. That is why they are answering the petition.

Now, as I wrote in my comment on Emes Ve-Emunah (not!), I believe that this action by the Ministry of Transportation does indeed reflect a rare display of common sense, just not the common sense that Rabbi Maryles has in mind.

Two other false points that were brought up by Rabbi Maryles are worthy of comment. One is his statement that:

Poskim like Rav Moshe Feinstein have weighed in on this issue long ago. There is no Halachic requirement to have segregation of the sexes on a public bus.

This is an unmitigated falsehood. Rav Moshe Feinstein never discussed the issue of segregation of sexes for the Israeli Jewish public. His responsa about public transportation merely addressed the American non-Jewish public where segregating sexes is out of the question. In fact, the only thing that can be said in his name in relation to what Jews who have choice must do in public is in Igros Moshe Orach Chaim A: 39 where, in the course of discussing the requirement of mechitzos in shuls, he bases the requirement on the gemara in Sukka 51b/52a and, based on that, concluded that Jews are required to segregate the sexes "in any place of gathering". I discussed this in an earlier post.

This brings me to the second false point in his post. Rabbi Maryles writes:

The idea of segregating the sexes is on a public bus is merely a Chumra insisted upon by Chasdic sects like those that live in Meah Shearim.

I have written about this countless times. Mekillim like to label Halachos that they do not follow as Chumros. Though there may be legitimate reasons to rely on lenient opinions on many matters, this does not justify calling one who does not rely on lenient opinions as a machmir. If it is in Shulchan Aruch, it is not a chumra.

In terms of segregating the sexes, it is more than clear from Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 21:1 as well as the simple pshat of Kedoshim Tihiyu according to Rashi and Devarim 23:10,15 and Rav Moshe's teshuva in IgM OC-A:39 and the gemara in Sukka 52a that it references that religious Jews must maintain separation of the sexes wherever it is possible to do so. This is not a chumra any more than Hilchos Yichud. It is Halacha.

To reprint from the post that I linked to 2 paragraphs ago:

It is a sad day in Israel when being medakdek b'mitzvos and not following kulos are called Chumras! And since the issue at hand is a the opportunity to be medakdek b'mitzvos, what is he talking about that grandchildren will be even more machmir? Shulchan Aruch hasn't gotten a bit more "machmir" in 450 years!!
So now I want to voice my main complaint and that is the title of Harry's piece:

Tyranny of the Majority - Imposing Chumros on the Public

Both parts of this title made me scratch my hairless head. For the second part, since when has Kedoshim Tihiyu become a chumra?

And for the first part, how can a majority be tyrannical? If that's what the majority (and the Ministry of Tranportation and Egged) wants, where's the tyranny?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Good News - The More it Gets Better, the More it Gets Worse

4 Cheshvan - tonight - is my wedding anniversary (coincidentally, it is also my wife's). 23 years, 2 countries, 6 dwellings, 6 brisses, 6 kiddushes, 3 bar mtzvas, 1 chasuna (no einiklach)...

...the best is yet to come (IY"H).

No, we did not celebrate. I went to a wedding (Rav Elfinbeim from Merkaz HaTorah) and my wife went to a funeral (Rebbitzen Scheinberg, Z"L). Affairs of state take precedence over the state of affairs!

For those of you who may actualy have read my book, I have a very detailed 12 page narrative at the back of the book relating exactly how I got myself into this predicament. For what I want to discuss here, I want to paste in a few excerpts starting on page 289 (a row of asterisks indicates a gap in the narrative). Incidentally, Natwich is a psuedonym for my home town (it is not the capitol of Kansas):

Summer passed and fall arrived and, with it, began my fifth year of full time Torah study at Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, New Jersey. I continued meeting new prospects (fueled, in part, by the efforts of the benevolent ladies of Cope Institute), continued drawing blanks, and continued being haunted. I also continued showing up to the study hall but it wasn’t with the same energy I passed my 26th birthday and I felt that I was outgrowing the unmarried faction at Lakewood Yeshiva. I was also becoming more cynical, world-wise, and thick skinned. I started telling the matchmakers that I didn’t think that I should be meeting a prospect that was younger than 21.

During the last week of June (I think it was Wednesday night), Mrs. N. from the Cope Institute ladies’ auxiliary contacted me. It seems that her husband’s cousin’s daughter, one Miss Devora M., who had just recently completed the ritual post-high-school year at a seminary in Eretz Israel, has returned to New York and stepped off the plane that very morning. Would I be interested to meet her?

“Has she gotten over her jet lag?”

“She’s ready.”

“Has she gone out at all yet?” (Experience has told me that it is not beneficial to be somebody’s “first one.”)

“Yes, she has.” (This was true – one guy, one date.)

“How old is she?” (Mrs. N. knew all about my age preferences.)


“Sounds a bit young.”

“Won’t hurt.” (Not now, but maybe when I take off my hat and reveal the receding hairline she’ll wise up.)

We met on Sunday. Needless to say, it was one of the more pleasurable first dates that I had had in some time. At one point I inquired as to when is her birthday. She said it just happens to be this coming week.

“So you’re going to be twenty?”

“No, I am going to be nineteen.”

It seems that nineteen-and-a-half really meant half-way to nineteen. I would be twenty-seven in December. All the reruns she sees on television I saw on the first run. She was freshly back from her banner year in Eretz Israel and was charged with an enthusiasm that I had long forsaken. (Actually, my “enthusiasm” was extinguished by the tear gas five years back.) I could feel the age difference.


The next morning, I admonished the matchmaker for “misrepresenting” the girl’s age and speculated that it may present a bit of a “generation gap” but I admitted that I had a very good time and I would like to squeeze in another date before my upcoming furlough. I couldn’t afford to waste any of my remaining “Lakewood boy” time. At this point, I had no idea what her thoughts were.

Later that day, I placed a call to my father. We spoke about my upcoming visit to Natwich and other issues related to the impending “transition.” I also commented that I had just started seeing a new girl. I remarked that I really liked the date I had with her but that I am concerned that she is so very young.

My father, who has a knack for being able to see the larger picture, had a prophetic response: “She vill get older!”

Couldn’t argue with that.

The rest is in the book.

The upshot of the story is that I found myself at 26.5 hitched to a barely 19 year old baby factory when I wasn't actually looking for one. And my father was right on the money. She did get older. She is not 19 any more (but as for being a baby factory...)

Well, 23 years ago, we could get away with something like this. But, I suspect that if a 26-plus bochur tried to pull off something like this today, he would be waterboarded and sent back to the "freezer". Like, what chutzpah does does a browning bochur have to take up with a green girl?? There are so many 25 and 24 and 23 and 22 year old maidens waiting for Prince Charming and he has to grab baby Princess Di?

"How could you, you lecherous cradle robber?! Don't you know there's a shidduch crisis going on? Leave the babies alone, for heaven sakes and marry a woman!"

Now, I have been writing profusely about the shidduch crisis - not just last week, but even last year. And I said then and I say now and, as some commenters pointed out, others have said before me that in the (non-chassidic) chareidi community, the biggest problem is the demographic imbalance between available green girls and eligible brown boys. Each year that a guy grows older there are more and more younger girls for him to choose from.

Take it from me!

And each year a girl grows older, there are less and less older boys to choose from.

Take it from a cast of thousands.

And so, very recently there was a proclamation from some 60 rabbanim that boys should indeed seek out wives who are closer to their ages if not beyond. Now, this won't do anything to solve the mathematical problem of more girls/boys on a yearly basis but it may help some of the older girls who have been high and dry.

I did not read the text but my feeling is that the focus is not so much that a 22 or 23 year old boy should not meet a 19 year old. I think it is more that 25-30 and up guys should not be meeting 19 year olds. They should be staring at 23.

I think this is reasonable and I am all for it (but who am I to talk?)

The amazing thing is that even after I and many others talk about the numerical discrepancy between the girls and boys in our circles as more important than the overplayed pickyness (which is only a symptom of the imbalance as I wrote last year). Some people still don't get it. This includes some of the people who have commented to my posts as well as Chananya Weissman who wrote a lengthy editorial in the Jerusalem Post and did not seem to acknowledge this mathematical discrepancy. As of this writing, there are about 80 talkbacks on Chananya's piece (5 of which from Chananya himself) and about 10-15 of them are pointing out the mathematical repercussions of the burgeoning chareidi birth rate.

And, yet, in talkback #73-74, Chananya is still denying that it exists.

So I am here to write that not only does it exist based on simple mathematics - it is worse than it looks. And that is because even many of those who present the mathematical formulae are making a mathematical mistake:

They are looking at the wrong variable.

You see, there are two terms that we need to understand and distinguish: Birth rate and birth increment (delta-T).

A birth rate (better term: growth rate) is the percentage of new offspring in a population at the end of a year compared to the original size of the population at the start of the year.

A birth increment is the absolute number of new offspring at the end of a year compared to the absolute number of offspring at the end of the previous year.

For example:

Suppose we have a population of 1000 people at the start of year 2000 and it generates 30 offspring by years end. The birth rate is 3%.

Now suppose the next year (2001) sees 32 offspring. The current birth rate is 32 / 1030 = 3.1%. Not a big change. But the birth increment is 32 /30 = +6.66%.

Now let's say 2002 sees 35 offspring. The new birth rate is 35 / 1062 = 3.295%. But the birth increment is 35 / 32 = + 9.37%.

Now we go to 2003 and we see 39 offspring. What are our numbers? Birth rate is 39 / 1097 = 3.55%. And the birth increment? 39 / 35 = + 11.42%.

So we see that from the end of 2000 to the end of 2003 (3 yrs) the birth rate only move .55% from 3% to 3.55%. Doesn't seem too drastic. HOWEVER, the birth increment averaged 9.15% for each of the 3 years to a total discrepancy of 27.45%!! Thus, in 2021 when the girls half of the 39 offspring from 2003 (let's say 19 girls) hit the market, only 15 boys from 2000 will do the same. That's a 19 /15 or 26.66% surplus of girls over boys or we can simply say that 4 girls out of 19 (21%) won't even get a date!

The important thing is the birth increment, not the birth rate. And in the chareidi world (think Bnei Brak) we are talking about astronomical numbers. 12%/ year.

The point I am making is that the birth rate does not have to move much in order for the birth increment to move a lot. In fact it doesn't have to move at all. In fact, it can even move backwards!!! Consider this:

Suppose in 2000, the population of 1000 people produce 500 offspring. We have a new poulation of 1500 and a birth rate of 50%.

Now, let's say in 2001 they produce 600 offspring. The new population is 2100 and the new birthrate is 600 / 1500 = 40% and the birth increment is 600 / 500 = + 20%.

Now let's say 2002 sees 720 offspring. We have a new birthrate of 720 / 2100 = 34.28% while the birth increment is 720 / 600 = +20% (again).

Now let's say 2003 sees a mere 900 offspring. Well, the new birth rate drops to 900 / 2820 = 31.9% while the birth increment has soared to 900 / 720 = + 25%!!

So what do we have after 3 years? The birth rate has actually steadily dropped from 50% to about 31.9% (a 36% drop) while the birth increment has averaged a 21.66% yearly gain (and a 65% cumulative gain)!

Unfortunately for the girls, it is not the birth rate that counts. It's the delta-T, the birth increment.

So those 12% yearly increases are great news - if you happen to wear tzitzis. But not if you wear tights.

12% yearly increases - bli ayin hara, kein yirbu!

I wish the news was better.

P.S. This may be a good time to look again at my posts about Web Cam dating (HERE and HERE).

Don't Wait for a Rainy Day

Sruly, again...

And here in the Holy Land we begin to say V'ten tal u'mattar on Motzaei Shabbos (hba"l).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Missing the Boat

L'Chvod Parshat Noach - this one just in from my buddy, Sruli:

Incidentally, Sruli sent me another humorous perspective on Parshat Noach last year which I posted then at:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ezer or Kinegdo?

I have noted numerous times that I don't have as much time available to write blogs as I used to. Theoretically, this is good. It means business picked up.

But it also means that sometimes there are news items that are discussed in the blogosphere that I would like to address but I miss the train. One major subject pertains to a news item that goes back more than a month to Sept. 10. This hot news item concerned the inauguration of a new "Yeshiva" called Drisha Institute. (I truly suspect that the Rama would call it the "Prisha" Institute.) The charter is to ordain "Orthodox" women as morei horaah with the title "Maharat". With this they will be the equivalent of the male Rabbi.

Harry Maryles brought this item to my attention in a timely post (you can depend on him not to miss a story like this) and later he posted a correspondence with a cousin of his on the issue. His stance is remarkably conservative so, for a change, there is no need to lock horns with him. Perhaps, deep down, he is as much a male chauvinist as we die-hard chareidim are.

I actually even agree with him on the liberal side of the issue. I also believe that a studious Modern Orthodox woman could become as proficient in Halacha and hashkafa and as qualified for the job as any Modern Orthodox rabbi.

In any case, it is now Parshat Breishis and this is why I wanted to talk about it. Parshat Breishis is where we learn that G-d created man and G-d created woman and G-d created man for a purpose and G-d created woman for a purpose. G-d also created birds and fish and horses and cows and snakes and scorpions and He created each one for a distinctive purpose. And the best way to perpetuate the Briah is to focus our energies on fulfilling our distinctive purposes.

This is a very important aspect of true Jewish (i.e. chareidi) hashkafa. So important, that I made sure to include a chapter about it in my book including a seven page segment (161-168) on the role of the female members of the population.

As a public service, I extracted this segment and saved it as an iPaper file and am presenting it right here.

Ezer or Kinegdo?

As for the "Maharat", it is indeed commendable for women to be proficient in relevant bodies of Halacha and Hashkafa. But in terms of official community leadership and the Rabbinate, the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 1:5) seems to insist that these positions are solely for men. For a woman, no matter how erudite she is, this leaves but one of two complementary roles:

She may either be an ezer or a kinegdo.

כשם שמקבלין שכר על הדרישה כך מקבלין שכר על הפרישה

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Birthday to Avigayil as the Wellsprings of Salvation Overflow (K"Y)

Erev Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan is Shabbos and that marks a year since the processing of the following post:

Besides using the opportunity to congratulate my wife for popping out our latest maidel, I made the following points:

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.

8000 chareidi kids (ken yirbu) just from Maayanei HaYeshua!

That means that in 3 years we will need gans for 8000 kids.

This invoked some interesting dialog in the comments section. I quote:

I'm no math genius, but...Why not just re-use the ones that will be vacated by today's 8,000 3 yr. olds?
My response:

Was that a serious question? I obviously didn't mean that we will need 8000 new gan spaces. What is certain is that they were not churning out 8000/year 3 years ago. Let us guess that they were doing, say, 6000/ year. Then we will need 2000 more over what we have now.

So here I am saying that in 2008, there were approximately 8000 births at MHY and I am speculating that in 2005 they were doing about 6000. Of course, this did not go unchallenged:

>>What is certain is that they were not churning out 8000/year 3 years ago.

I'm not as certain as you are. What makes you so certain?

I respond to the challenge:

>>I'm not as certain as you are.

You probably also are not related to any MHY midwives as we are and you probably have not had any births at MHY as we have (5 since 1999, ken yirbu).

That was almost exactly one year ago, and what a difference a year can make. To follow is a current news item from Israel National News (Arutz 7):

Record 900 Births in One Month in Bnei Brak Hospital

Tishrei 24, 5770, 12 October 09 09:36

by Gil Ronen (

Maayanei Hayeshua hospital in Bnei Brak has released statistics according to which a record number of births took place in the hospital in September. More than 900 babies were delivered in that month, 100 more than the previous record month, December 2008.

The hospital said that close to 500 of the babies born in September 2009 were boys, and that about 10 percent of the births were of twins. The record number for babies born during a single eight-hour shift during September was 24, or three per hour, and the single day with the most births was the high holiday of Yom Kippur 5770. More than 40 babies were born on that day alone. The hospital said that its doctors have determined that the relatively high number of births on Yom Kippur is not due to fasting by patients.

The head of the hospital's Mothers and Women Section, Dr. Benny Chen, said that the most impressive statistic related to the number of natural births, as opposed to caesarean sections, at the hospital. “By G-d's grace, the average rate of natural births is 88.5 percent,” he said. “Only 12.5 percent were born in a caesarean section – about half the national rate.”

Dr. Chen said that the number of births at the hospital has grown by about 10 percent annually since 2006. There were 8,742 babies born in the hospital in 2008 – compared to 6,968 in 2006. The hospital is Israel's fourth largest in terms of births per year.

The name “Maayanei Hayeshua” means “the Springs of Salvation” and is taken from a verse in Chapter 12 of the Book of Isaiah.

Well, how do like that? Here we have official statistics: 8,742 births in 2008 versus 6,968 in 2006. This works out to an increase of 1,774 births over the two years. This is a combined increase of over 25% for the two years and incrementally it works out to almost exactly a 12% yearly increase, not the measely 10% that Dr. Chen (a doctor but not a mathematician - note that 88.5% plus 12.5% = 101%!) reported.

Incidentally, by the same rate, it means that there were approximately 12% fewer births in 2005 which comes to the neighborhood of 6,221 - and I said 8000 to 6000. Not bad, huh?

Now, if this is a true indication of the chareidi birthrate in Eretz Yisrael, it tells us some very exciting but scary things. On the plus side, there can never be too many ovdei Hashem and shomrei Torah u'mitzvos. Keep them coming!

On the minus side, I may have been a bit conservative about the shortage of gan space. If the difference between 2005 and 2008 is around 2,520 souls (8,742 - 6221), that's a lot more needed gan space than I speculated.

But what is of a deeper concern is the so-called "shidduch crisis". I have previously maintained (see this post) that in the chareidi world there is no functional shidduch crisis, meaning that people are getting married left and right and any boy with a pulse and a briss can get a shidduch. The problem is a demographic one relating to the imbalance between available boys to girls.

To use the Bnei Brak numbers we have in front of us, let us assume that the overall male/female birth ratio is an even 50-50. There were about 8,742 MHY births in 2008 of which we assume 4,371 are girls (and 4,371 are boys). These girls will be ready to enter the shidduch market at about 2026 when they are 18. So in 2026 we expect 4,371 girls to announce eligibility. The boys from this crop will not (on average) announce eligibility until about 3 years later when they are 21. In 2026, it will be the boys born in 2005 who will now be 21 who will enter the shidduch market to contend with the new 4,371 girls born in 2008. And how many boys should we expect to see?

Half of 6220 or about 3110 boys.

So in 2026 we expect 3110 new boys to enter the shidduch market when there will be 4,371 girls.

That's over 40% more girls than boys!!

This is a very serious problem and I cannot think of any practical solutions. The only thing that I can come up with is that, from now on, we should hold every girl in gan for an extra 3 years.

Will we have enough gan space?

Oh, how I wish I was in the prefabricated caravan business!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Nefesh (keshura) B'Nefesh Proposal - Is her "I Do" a Done Deal?

Ah-h-h, the diamond business. I remember it well, Horatio.

In my youth it was a great business. A wholesome, straightforward, and honorable business. It put a lot of food on my plate and it still does, to some extent. But, aside from it being a kosher lucrative business, it was also a cheerful business.

This is because there is a long standing tradition for a groom to present his bride with a diamond ring in the early stages of the engagement. This is a custom that seems to be shared by many cultures so it is practiced by Jew and non-Jew alike, which suits us in the diamond business just fine.

For the young Jewish grooms of our little village of Anatev um-er, Natwich, my father always got a sense of satisfaction helping them to gladden the hearts of their intendeds for rock bottom prices. As a fringe benefit, we often had the earliest scoop on who is about to get hitched.

Actually, in the times before formal Chassan guidance courses became commonplace, Dad (LOY"T) was always happy to fill in the role at no extra charge. Okay, he didn't mix in to the intimate aspects but he is certainly a "mumcheh" in the Halachos of Kiddushin and Nissuin. This means what kind of ring to use for what and when and how to deliver it. Obviously, it all comes with the territory.

A big problem in the American scene is that, although there is a Jewish way of doing things, we are all enraptured by the chukos hagoyim. The goyish way always seems more "romantic". So even Jews get down on one knee to "pop the question" and carry the bride across the threshold.

These may seem like innocuous "romanticisms", but, if misunderstood, they can make problems. We frum Jews in the diamond business know the rules. What you should do, and what you shouldn't do. And one of the rules is that when you give the diamond engagement ring to the new Kallah, you give it to her in private. If there are people around, some rabbanim even advise to mention that this ring is "shelo l'shem kiddushin" (not for the purpose of betrothal). What you don't do is what you see here.

Now isn't that an adorable couple? They do indeed look very tzugepass'd and I wish them a long life of bracha and happiness and true Yiddish nachas. May they build a bayis neeman b'Yisrael. Mazel Tov on their engagement.

But---are they merely engaged? I am not so sure. He asked her to marry her in front of a lot of witnesses, some of whom are Mitzva observant adult men. She accepted in front of all those witnesses and he put a valuable ring on her finger in front of all those witnesses (and captured on video). Could it be that this constitutes a Halachic betrothal (erussin) and she is actually already mekudeshet and an eishet ish?

I think it can. And, if so, it may be a little late for Rabbi Fass to officiate (Tzippi Livni beat him to it). No, I am not a posek but I do think that one should be consulted.

Now, assuming this radiant couple follows through to a typical marriage ceremony in the near future - and there is every indication from their enthusiasm that they will, IY"H, there are not many major ramifications to this question. The main issue is: should they conduct the erussin at the wedding with reciting the Birkat Erussin or not. If the erussin already took effect, it would be a bracha l'vatala. Another ramification is that according to many authorities (not all) the requirement for a married woman to cover her hair may already be in effect.

Obviously, the bigger question would be in the unfortunate scenario that (chas v'shalom) one of the parties may reconsider going through with the match.

Would she require a get?

I certainly hope that this negative scenario is unthinkable because the get question is not.

For all you singles (particularly the remaining 80 from the Nefesh b'Nefesh flight) out there. There is a Jewish way to do things and a non-Jewish way. And when you do something the non-Jewish way, you may actually be doing something else the Jewish way.

It pays to know what you are doing.

I do not know if my concern of a valid Keddushin is correct (I discussed the matter with a few colleagues in the Kehilat Bnei Torah Beis Midrash without resolving the question), but it is worth checking out. And if it is:

Mazel Tov Mrs. Nechama Dina Taylor (and Zach)!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good Questions Deserve Good Answers

My "Erev Yom Kippur" post drew one comment. It was from a poster who calls himself "CynicalFrumAmericanInTheUK". I am happy he didn't call himself "CynicalFrumAmericanInJerusalem" - how many more of us do we need?

In any event he posed 2 very pertinent questions on my post which seems to indicate that some readers could use some assistance in internalizing the concept. So let's deal with his 2 questions:

CynicalFrumAmericanInTheUK said...

Question #1: Where's the line for peshiya of this sort?
If, for example, someone opens up a chareidi cheder in a very hard-core chiloni neighborhood, where it's clear that the neighbors are likely to respond in not such a nice way, are the chereidim involved posh'im?

If you really believe in the logic, you have to apply it consistently, not just in the direction you believe in.

Answer #1:

Let me give another example. A fireman goes into a burning building to rescue people trapped inside even though the odds are poor. The building combusts and the fireman perishes with the other doomed souls.

The question is: would this be considered being negligent and thus make the fireman accountable for his demise? And the obvious answer is: don't be ridiculous. Negligence means - as I wrote in the post, by the way - taking unnecessary risks or risks that have no noble purpose. I.e., when there is no reason to expose oneself to danger and there is nothing to be gained by it (save some cheap thrills).

Conversely, when people expose themselves to risks that are necessary in order to accomplish a more rewarding end, it is difficult to call this being reckless or negligent. Our fireman was moser nefesh to try to save people. He is a hero.

Thus, if someone opens up a chareidi cheder in a very hard-core chiloni neighborhood, where it's clear that the neighbors are likely to respond in not such a nice way, my assumption is that they are opening the cheder for what is in their estimation (and mine as well) a noble aim of helping to bring lost Jewish children back to their heritage. They are trapped in a spitually burning building. Trying to save them may mean being exposed to dangers and be risky, but it is a known calculated risk. I cannot call this negligence.

But, as I wrote in my post, if a biker or an attactive young lady go about lacking essential pieces of protective gear, or imbibe in intoxicating beverages, and thus invite danger for no noble purpose, I would say this is reckless and negligent.

If you feel there is something inconsistent about this, please spell it out for me.

QUESTION #2: In Nezikin, doesn't the guilt of a poshea in fact reduce the culpability of the other guilty people involved? In other words, by your analogy, wouldn't the murderer in fact be less guilty than he would be otherwise?

Answer #2:

In Nezikin we distinguish between poshea (negligent) and meizid (deliberate). When somebody acts deliberately, nothing reduces his culpability. This is a typical murder or theft. Still, if the victim did not take logical precautions that may have prevented the occurrence, he also deserves a measure of responsibilty. Like I wrote, there is enough to go around. However, there are events of injury or damage where neither party was deliberate; for example, a typical car accident where A inflicts damage upon B. In such a case, the negligent actions of the "victim" (B) may indeed lessen the degree of culpability of the one who inflicted the damage (A). I believe that insurance companies have formulas to calculate these things.

If you have any other "CynicalFrumAmericanInTheUK" questions, you know where to find me.

Piska tova,


Friday, September 25, 2009

Guilt by Association

Yom Kipper - the great Day of Atonement - is looming close so I will present a brief "Shabbos Shuva" drasha.

We all know that there are three categories of trangressions:

Cheit - חטא - Cheit literally means an error. It is a misstep that was done with no malicious intent. This is the lightest of the three types of transgressions. The pasuk says (Koheles 7:20):   כ כִּי אָדָם אֵין צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה-טּוֹב וְלֹא יֶחֱטָא
One can succumb to a cheit and still be regarded as a tzaddik. One merely needs charata - regret - to atone for a cheit.

Avon - עון - Avon is an iniquity that was performed out of lust. The sinner is conscious of his sin but he cannot (or does not) exert the required self-control to overcome his earthly drives. This is obviously more serious than a cheit, and in some cases (where he could have avoided the lustful encounter) the gemara calls him a Rasha. It is much more difficult to atone for an avon. In addition to charata, one needs to forsake the practice - azivat hacheit (really azivat haavon) - and a commitment for abstinance - kabbala al ha'atid. Nevertheless, one is certainly not removing himself from the roster of the faithful. Depending on the severity of the avon, either teshuva alone is sufficent or teshuva with the merit of Yom Kippur.

Pesha - פשע - In modern Hebrew pesha translates as a crime and one who perpetrates one, a posheah, is a felon. This means one who disobeys the law. He knows the law but he disobeys it anyway. He disregards the law. He is rebelling against the rules of society. And in our case, it is a rebellion against the rules of G-d. A posheah is a renegade, a traitor. This is the most serious of transgressions. For a pesha, even teshuva with Yom Kippur is not sufficient. One must undergo some degree of yissurim to atone for a pesha.

I want to dwell on this third category for a moment and on the term pesha. The way this term is used by Chazal in the hierarchy of transgressions pretty much matches that of modern Hebrew - a deliberate crime. But for those of us who have studied seder Nezikim, there is a slight variation to the term. In Nezikin it is not translated as one who is deliberate but rather one who is reckless and negligent. When one is entrusted with another person's property, money, or livestock, in some cases he is responsible for all risks, but in many others he is not responsible for damages due to acts of Providence or theft or unexplained loss. But, even in these cases, there is one stipulation: that he was not "poshea" - i.e., not negligent - with the property under his care. But if he was negligent to any degree, he is fully accountable for the property even though the negligence was a very minor contributor to the overall damage.

Thus if one collects money for a tzedakka and it is robbed in a break in, the collector does not have to replace the money. But if he kept the money in a pocket of his suit jacket, and hung the suit jacket on the rack of the Beis Midrash while he studies for an hour and the money is stolen out of the jacket by an unscrupulous miscreant, the collector must replace the money even though he did not orchestrate the theft in any way. He left the money unintended even though it was deep in a private jacket pocket in a holy Beis Midrash. He was negligent. He was posheah.

What we learn from seder Nezikin is a very scary thing indeed. We learn that in order to be callec a posheah one does not need to be uneqivocally deliberate and rebellious. It is enough to merely be negligent. Because the term poshea really means someone who disregards the rules. Someone who disregards his responsibilities. Someone who takes unnecessary risks. Someone who contributes to a harmful occurrence, even passively, is fully accountable if, without his/her contribution, the occurrence would not have occurred.

Even if they are the ones that were ultimately harmed.

This in no way exonerates the more active perpetrator but it does say that if the "victim" was negligent - he/she is equally accountable.

I have conveyed this sentiment in previous posts. Most notably these:

Absolving the Casualty - The Torah's Perspective on Victimhood


We Are Not Judging Him, We Are Judging You

What brought all this to mind for me at this time is this. Among the many senseless tragedies that seem to be plaguing the general Israeli society, the latest is an awful story about a 15-year old girl who was found dead on Ashkelon beach. Apparently she was hanging out late at night with a bunch of older auss-vorfs drinking and smoking and dressed for the weather. Among these misfits was a 26 year-old divorcee (who has an 8 year old daughter) who wanted to take this young juvenile for a ride. It turned out to be a one-way ride. It is not clear from the accounts in the press if she was sexually assaulted or not but this seems to be the assumption.

In a current JPost piece on the incident there was a (for once) sensible statement made in the name of President Shimon Peres:

Following the Drenkin's murder, President Shimon Peres on Thursday called on Israeli youngsters to abstain from alcohol.

Speaking to children at the Kfar Hayarok School in central Israel, Peres said drinking alcohol "endangers people and only leads to complications and loss. I urge you to make a commitment in your hearts not to drink any more."

"Drinking too much can lead to a lifetime of difficulties," the president said. "It doesn't give you anything, but just puts you and your friends in danger. You, the youngsters, are the most precious thing for the country. Please, look after yourselves."

Like I said, some sensible words for a change. But, amazingly, this is not sensible enough for an organization that calls itself The National Council for the Child (NCC):

The National Council for the Child (NCC), however, issued on Thursday afternoon a statement titled "Don't blame the victim," in which it quoted the NCC's director Dr. Yitzhak Kadman protesting the "various comments" made on Drenkin's attire and the public outcry against youth alcohol consumption.

"No rape victim, no matter what she wore, is guilty of her rape. No youth is guilty of their murder, even if they drank alcohol," Kadman was quoted as saying.

In my humble opinion, I think Dr. Kadman has had one too many. Everybody who cries "Don't Blame the Victim" is only telling half the story. What they mean is "Don't blame the victim in place of the perpetrator". Okay, fair enough. But why on earth can't we blame the victim along with the perpetrator? Is there not enough blame to go around?

So I did indeed put up a talkback on this article which was posted as #13 (I disguised my name):

13. With Gross Negligence, Who needs Guilt?

Dr. Kadman says: "No rape victim, no matter what she wore, is guilty of her rape. No youth is guilty of their murder, even if they drank alcohol," Kadman was quoted as saying.

I am sorry to disagree with him. There may not be gullt but there is certainly negligence. A girl who goes around "without clothes" is like a biker who rides without a helmet. They may not be "guilty" for what happens to them but they are highly negligent. When people recklessly court danger, they don't need to come to it, it comes to them.

Yes, the victim is a victim but she is not totally blameless.

A pesha means being reckless and negligent. It is the most serious of the three categories of transgressions. It is only atoned through repentance and sufferring.

Even if we already sufferred from it.

Because we can be victims of ourselves.

And then be held accountable for it.

תעבור על פשע לעם שבי פשע תמחה פשענו מנגד עיניך
גמר חתימה טובה

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shanna Tova

If anybody still checks my blog, it is evident that I haven't done much posting lately. Baruch Hashem, I am still alive but I haven't had the time for serious writing of late.

I have been busy cleaning up after messy kids. (No those kids aren't mine. Those are mere amateurs - mine are professionals!)

May all my readers, fans and foes alike, have a happy and healthy Shanna Tova!


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nothing Wrong With...As Long As...

In my August 23 post on Classes of Dependency I discussed how my definition of Chareidi as one who "does mitzvos with ameilus b'Torah" remains an accurate definition even though there may be a sizable segment of Jews who lay claim to "ameilus b'Torah" and do not consider themselves, nor would I consider them, chareidi.

I alluded to two reasons why the definition doesn't really fit but I only discussed one. The one I discussed can be summarized as follows:

Any person who speaks out against wholesale Torah study cannot be considered an "ameil b'Torah" no matter how much Torah he knows. In other words, suppose there are 60,000 Kollel students in Eretz Yisroel (out of 1,750,000 adult male Jews) - if one says this number is too big, he is no proponent of אם בחקתי תלכו . If one says this number is too small, he is one of "us".

Thus I didn't know whether to laugh or cry (I did both) when I read the master of Emes Ve-Emunah challenge me in a comment that:

What makes you think I don't support learning in Kolel?

And later in the very same comment pronounce:

You sir hvae been brainwahsed right along with the 60 thousand Avrreichim in Israel most of whom should be getting jobs.

Um. Could you run that one by me again?

But, now I need to discuss the second area in which these well-intentioned non-Chareidi Orthodox Jews fall short of the definition of chareidi despite what looks like compliance to my refined definition of "doing mitzvos with ameilus b'Torah". But this is not a shortcoming in the "ameilus b'Torah" department, it is a shortcoming in the "mitzvos" department. And it falls back to my original, unrefined definition:

A non-chareidi knows the Chumash. A chareidi knows the chumash with Rashi.

Now, in chapter 1 of my book, I applied this principle to a general lack of "ameilus b'Torah" mandated in Vayikra 26:3 for those who learn Rashi. But at the end of chapter 3 (pp. 95-6), I noted that it applies to numerous other Torah mitzvos. The prime example is that non-Chareidim don't seem to read Rashi - and the Ramban - on Vayikra 19:2, and because of that, they do not implement Kedoshim Tihiyu.

What is Kedoshim Tihiyu?

Rashi explains based on Midrash Rabba (Vayikra 24:6) that it means "distancing oneself from promiscuity for wherever we find a constraint against promiscuity, there we find kedusha".

It follows that where there is no constraint against promiscuity, there is no kedusha.

The Ramban goes a bit further to explain even within the framework of what is not Halachically prohibited, one can live a totally secular lifestyle. He terms this - נבל ברשות התורה - a vulgar person within the boundaries of Torah. This is because he is not using the mitzvos as guidelines to live a G-dly lifestyle, but rather to fulfill his obligation and maintain his Jewish identity while pursuing a lifestyle as close to the secular world as the Torah "permits". Kedoshim Tihiyu is saying that the Torah does not truly permit it.

This is the common refrain of "There's nothing wrong long as...". Such as "There is nothing wrong with going on a vacation to Las Vegas as long as you don't do this or that." "There is nothing wrong with going to this event or watching movies as long as..." "There is nothing wrong with eating this as long as it doesn't contain..." "Everything is 100% muttar as long as it's not 100% assur."

In most cases, it may not be "100% assur" but kedusha it isn't. There is no kedusha in going to a goyisha opera even if no women sing. It's not for us. We must be kedoshim. If not, we are a "naval b'rshus haTorah".

This comes from the Ramban in Vayikra 19:2. But let's not forget Rashi. Rashi presents a variation of this concept in Devarim 14:21 when he quotes a gemara in Yevamos 20 that we must "sanctify ourselves with [abstention from] what is permissible to us".

But, let's return to the Rashi in Kedoshim Tihiyu - "You must distance yourself from promiscuity (i.e., irreverant migling of the sexes)." What does this mean in real terms?

It means we are to do everything we can to put a distance between men and women who are not married to each other. Wherever we can. Wherever it is possible to do so. This seems to be indicated in Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 21.

All observant Jews should be in favor of segregating men from women any place where they may come to unruly mingling. This is called "kedusha" and it is mandated in the Torah not only in Vayikra 19:2 but in numerous other places (e.g., Devarim 23:10-15). The only possible question should be: To what lengths should we go to impose upon people who are not prepared to accept upon themselves the disciplines of kedusha? But this question comes after advocating the "concept".

So let's talk about buses in Eretz Yisrael. There is no question that segregation on buses is a manifestation of kedusha just like anywhere else - a shul, a wedding hall, a funeral. Lack of segregation is a lack of kedusha (a davar rah). Since the Torah commands us to pursue kedusha, it is obvious that any Jew who observes mitzvos ought to support the concept of segregation on buses.

Now I can understand one who thinks that we should not actively fight for this concept in the face of resistance from less observant Jews. But to oppose the entire concept and actively and vocally fight against the kedusha of gender separation? Such a person is at worst a transgressor of Kedoshim Tihiyu and V'Nishmartem mikol davar rah, and at best - a naval birshus HaTorah.

And, as such, I was totally appalled to see a recent post written by an "observant" blogger who calls his forum "Emes Ve-Emunah" decrying a pro-segregation article that appeared in, of all places, a secular medium, and in the process, decrying all attempts to implement this kedusha. This is part of what he writes:

What he fails to understand is that sex segregated buses are not a Halachic requirement despite his claim to the contrary. If it were you would never see any Charedi Rabbanim on non segregated buses. Nor would you see Teshuvos by such eminent Poskim as Rav Moshe Feinstein who do not insist that segregation is mandatory.

Not a Halachic requirement? Well, hey! Neither is a mechitza in a shul. The Torah says nothing about mechitzas in shuls, the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch say nothing about a mechitza in a shul. Ergo, there is no Halachic requirement to have a mechitza in a shul.

Of course the gemara in Sukka talks about mechitzas, not at shuls, but at any mixed gathering, even solemn ones like funerals. And based on only this, Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that mechitzos are min haTorah (IgM OC-A 39) and the only question is, how high? Of course RMF doesn't have a teshuva about segregating Jewish buses because nobody asked him about segregating Jewish buses. He only ruled about whether we are required to avoid non-Jewish buses that are beyond our power to segregate. Nevertheless, he does say (ibid.) that "it is most logical to say that the [requirement] is from the Torah at any place of gathering".

Now I know that this blogger does not daven in a shul that does not have a mechitza. But I truly wonder why not? There is no Halachic requirement. And evidently, he is not concerned about "havu perushim min ha-arayos" of Kedoshim Tihiyu.

In any case, perhaps segregated buses in the Holy Land is too sensitive an issue to campaign for. But to campaign against it? Anybody who fights for mingling of the sexes where it can be avoided - and rationalizes that it "is not a Halachic requirement" - is a naval b'rshus haTorah. Nobody who understands all the allusions to kedusha throughout the Torah would do such a thing. And nobody who does so can be a chareidi.

Now, while we are on the topic of kedusha, I must comment that I was equally appalled by the very next post that appeared in this "Forum for Orthodox Jewish thought on Halacha, Hashkafa, and sociological issues of our time" that calls itself Emes Ve-Emunah. The post opens as follows:

Is it halachicly permissible for homosexual couples to have and raise children? Is it a good idea?

The answer to both those questions is probably yes - under certain conditions.

This post is based on an article that appeared in another free-thinking Jewish online medium.

Now, the article itself is a bit confusing. Let's analyze it a bit.

The headline of the article is: Israeli Rabbis Back Gay Parenting

Now, what does "gay parenting" mean to you? To me it means two people of the same gender who are living together and, against all odds, find a way to procure a child which they raise together in their humble abode as if each one is the natural parent. Thus the child grows in a house with two "parents" of the same gender.

Indeed, the glossy photo prominently displayed underneath the headline depicts just that. Two "intimate" men and their "son".

Alas, the article itself makes no mention of such a scenario. Here's what the article says:

The ruling currently being discussed in the institute envisages a homosexual marrying a woman who is fully aware that her prospective husband is not physically attracted to women and retains a relationship with another man.

Okay. So we are discussing a homosexual man marrying a woman even though he is not sexually attracted and he will impregnate her by hook or by crook. Simultaneously, he is having a "relationship" with another man.

What kind of relationship?

Here's what the article says:

“There is nothing wrong with two men having a close relationship without intimate relations and we should not penalise people who are not attracted to members of the other sex,” says Rabbi Burstein. “Having homosexual tendencies is in itself not a sin. Giving in to them is.”

So evidently it is a "kosher" platonic relationship. No intimate relations. This obviously can only mean that he primarily resides with his wife, even if they barely touch, and the offspring are brought up by the mother and father in this wonderful mixed-gender Jewish house. As for him and the "other guy", they will have long phone conversations, perhaps go for a stroll in the park once in a while and wink at each other from the same side of the mechitza. Of course, as far as intimacy or parenting is concerned, the "other guy" is left out at the gym. Well, I suppose he could be the kvaater at the bris!

Now, I am very confused because, even though some she'er, ksus, and onah issues may need to be addressed, I fail to see what innovative Halachic ruling is required for this, nor how this is called "homosexual parenting". This is what I would advise any sincere SSA afflicted individual to do.

Now, if the "relationship" with the other man means that they live together, then it is certainly not without intimacy. No two people who are sexually attracted to each other can live together and not be intimate. And, as some commenters at Emes Ve-Emunah rightfully pointed out, it is forbidden by the laws of yichud. Even Rabbi Burstein agrees that this is forbidden. And, on top of all that, if this is the case, what is the "innovative Halachic ruling" that is being "envisaged"? The article doesn't give us a clue. Nor does Rabbi Burstein.

Incidentally, the article makes it appear that some sort of authorization has already been obtained from some respected Gedolim. But a more careful reading tells us merely that Rabbi Burstein "consulted with both on the homosexual issue". The next line in the article uses a grammatical trick where the second half of the sentence is future-present and the first half is made to look like it is past-present but is deceivingly ambiguous. I am sure there has been no authorization obtained from these Gedolim (except perhaps for the lame scenario presented which does not really need Halachic approval) because, if there were, the article would say it in BIG BOLD LETTERS.

So, the article itself is a red herring which hasn't really revealed anything innovative and the story doesn't fit the title. What is clear is that the Halachic ruling is not about raisng children in a homosexual home. Halacha will not sanction a homosexual home. It merely determines a way for a frum SSA to maintain a heterosexual family structure even in the face of his homosexual tendencies.

Now, apparently Mr. Emes Ve-Emunah saw this article a bit differently. Although I think he may be as confused about it as I am, it is evident from his review that he bit at the title and the picture and that he thinks there is actually a serious gesture from Gedolei Yisrael to sanction a homosexual household. And, of course, he is all for it. He writes:

On a halachic level though - I do not believe there is any real problem.

There's nothing wrong long as...

And I don’t think the major Poskim have one either.

I think it depends who you call a major posek. Now, I am nobody's posek but I will posken anyway. There is no hetter for a homosexual household and there never will be. Even if the parties swear not even to hold hands, there is no hetter. For one thing, the laws of Yichud certainly apply. Even a brother and sister are not allowed to live alone together in the same house for more than 30 days מפני החשד . Secondly, אין אפוטרופוס לעריות .

But, besides all this, a Jewish home is not a love nest. It is a mikdash me'at. A place of kedusha.

Kedusha - remember that?

איש ואשה, זכו - שכינה ביניהם . A man and woman, if they are worthy - the Shechina is with them. This is because a man - איש - has a "yud" and a woman - אשה - has a "heh". The "yud" and the "heh" join to form an abbreviation of the Name of G-d. But two "yuds" or two "hehs" just won't cut it.

Thus, even if by some strange quirk, there can be a way to make a homosexual home that doesn't violate Halacha - there is no kedusha. It would be a "nevala b'rshus haTorah". But in truth, it's worse than a "nevala". It is a hashchasa - כי השחית כל בשר דרכו . Because homosexual marriages are what brought the Great Flood to the world as the Midrash says (Midrash Rabba Breishis 26:5):

 רבי הונא בשם רבי אמר דור המבול לא נימוחו מן העולם עד שכתבו גמומסיות לזכר ולבהמה

Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rebbi: The generation of the flood were not wiped out from the world until [men] were writing marriage contracts to males and to beasts.
Believe it or not, I deeply sympathize with the pains and frustrations of the SSA and I truly wish I could propose better solutions for them. I thank G-d every day that He didn't make me one (when I say shelo assani isha, I have in mind shelo assani k'isha, which would be much worse). I am sure that the G-d that created SSA will have compassion for those that He inflicted it upon. But on one condition - that they keep this affliction to themselves. Whether or not they succumb to the drives, in terms of the general public, it must stay "in the closet". An SSA is most "kosher" when nobody who doesn't have to know that he is SSA knows about it. G-d did not destroy the world because people were driven to engage in homosexual behavior. He destroyed it because they went so far as to "normalize" it publicly as an "alternative lifestyle".

By the tenets of Kedoshim Tihiyu, it is clear that the answer to both of Emes Ve-Emunah's initial questions is: No, not under any conditions. Or, perhaps I am wrong. Maybe it is permissible under one condition.

On condition that one dispenses with the mitzva of Kedoshim Tihiyu.

Getting back to the definition of "chareidi", a chareidi is one who knows the Chumash with Rashi. Rashi on Vayikra 26:3 and Rashi on Vayikra 19:2 and Rashi on Devarim 14:21. Rashi did not make up any of these commentaries. He quoted Chazal.

But this is beyond the comprehension of the subscribers to "Emes Ve-Emunah" who think the definition of "chareidi" is: Kanoim from Meah Shearim who get irrationally upset when the government of Yerushalyim Ir HaKodesh brazenly promotes chillul Shabbos or when the authorities insist on cutting up dead Jews for no earthly purpose.

But at least now I can understand why Mr. Emes Ve-Emunah fights so hard against Mehadrin buses. It's because where would all those poor SSAs sit? At least, as long as there are no Mehadrin buses, they can sit together with the ladies so they don't get sexually aroused.

And to think I questioned his adherence to Kedoshim Tihiyu!