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!


Anonymous said...

Youre a riot :)

I dont know why you feel the need to pick on Reb Harry so much. He is just misguided. He has his way and you will not change his mind. He is not open to change as ecident by the fact that he moderates the commenst and deletes the ones he doesnt like. I know. The comments I send that he can fight against he does; the rest he deletes.

I dont think you can quote just these few Rashi's. Though I never heard of this observation before, it appears to be not only innovative by somewhat on the dot. How about the Rashi about yamin she'hu smol? I would be interested to see you put together a fuller list of the "chareidi" Rashis.

Dov said...

First, what you say about chareidim having to support constant increase in the numbers of people learning is keneged Kvod HaRav Shach Zatzal. He said clearly (and was caught on tape saying) that he wants the Bais Midrash packed with SERIOUS talmidim only, those who will learn seriously with mesirus nefesh. Not just numbers of students. Rav Shach's words were, as I remember, that anyone who wasn't going to study seriously should go to the army. Was Kvod HaRav Shach Zatzal not chareidi?

Second, Rashi doesn't say that Kedoshim Tihyu means minimizing mingling, he says minimize promiscuity (by your own translation). Whether this means mechitzos on busses, or mechitzos in stores, or mechitzos in malls, or seperate-side-of-the-street sidewalks, or living in different towns, is a matter of applying Rashi with brains and with an eye towards halacha. We need to define promiscuity with halachic sophistication, not just say it means all mingling.

Anyone who's learned Rav Moshe's teshuvos (which means anyone chareidi, right?) knows that Rav Moshe was very precise in how he wrote. When he matired something shas hadchak he said so. When he matired something but was against it, he said bal nefesh yachmir and tavo alav bracha. Most of his kulos were then the subject of follow-on teshuvos that clarified his feeling not just his psak. If you look in the bus teshuva, he says very clearly (as I remember) not only that it's permitted to ride a mixed bus, but that "ain alav le'hachmir" and "aino begeder shel ha'issur." (He also said that a man's going to work by bus is an important thing, but let's not go there.) No bal nefesh yachmir, no tavo alav bracha. It's better according to Rav Moshe to go on a mixed bus than to use store-bought liquid soap on Shabbos. It's a serious lack of kavod chachamim to put more words in his mouth than that.

Lastly, you can't promote an attitude without recognizing and relating to the consequences that come out of that attitude. Just like you're constantly holding all of NCO Judaism responsible for what individual NCO Jews do, you need to take responsibility for the large and growing amount of chilul Hashem that comes directly from the kapdanus on the issues you're raising. I look at the chareidim arrested for beating up women in Beit Shemesh and say to myself "this is Yechezkel's derech taken to its logical conclusion, he must be so proud." You need to either stop taking all of NCO Judaism to task for the actions of individual NCO Jews, or take equal responsibility for actions of chareidim.

Of course, I wrote all this as a proud chareidi according to your definition. Every time I read your writing I skip down the street singing "now you and me are free to be chareidi." Thank you very much for your insights into my life.

Yechezkel said...

>>Youre a riot :)

As are all chareidim in Yerushalayim these days.

>>I dont know why you feel the need to pick on Reb Harry so much.

1) Because he picks on us so much.
2) He's easy pickings
3) (The main reason) Because he has the arrogance to call his blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" and so many people who know even less than him swallow his glop.

>>He is just misguided. He has his way and you will not change his mind. He is not open to change...

I don't write for him as much as for the misguided readers for whom there is still hope.

>>The comments I send that he can fight against he does; the rest he deletes.

Maybe it's because you are not allowed to post as Anonymous :-)

>>I would be interested to see you put together a fuller list of the "chareidi" Rashis.

It is easier to put together a list of "non-chareidi" Rashis. I did make a list in my book on pages 95-6 as I noted here and on page 99 I note two Rashis that say that Moshe Rabbenu's place of Kaballat kahal was the Beis Midrash. Still as far as I am concerned you can start at Breishis 1:1 and go straight on through till L'Einei Kol Yisrael.

Have you read my book?

Thanks for commenting.


Yechezkel said...

To Dov,

>> First...

I did not hear the tape but it looks to me that Harav Schach is trying to improve quality, not decrease quantity. My earlier post was about dependency and even by your account, Rav Shach made no mention of that.

Keep trying.


Rashi does not live in a vacuum, my friend. He lives along with all the chazals that he quotes (see Rashi himself in Sukka 52a s.v. V'Safda) and with our Poskin. See SA Even HaEzer 21 and Messilat Yesharim Chapter 11 and then do whatever you think is right.

>>Anyone who's learned Rav Moshe's teshuvos...It's a serious lack of kavod chachamim to put more words in his mouth than that.

What I quoted is precisely what he wrote.
Incidentally, many of us know the gemara in Bava Basra 57b about passing women who are laundering by the river. The gemara says that if there is another route, one is a rasha to take this route even if he closes his eyes. If there is no other route, he may take this route but he must still try to close his eyes.

Applied to buses, especially in a secular environment where women are underdressed, the gemara indicates that if there is no other alternative it is permissible. But if there is a reasonable alternative, one who takes this one is called a rasha. This seems to mean that if there is no mehadrin bus, one may take the regular bus which is what the poskim say in their teshuvos. But if there is a mehadrin bus, it seems that one who opts for the regular bus would be considered a rasha even if he closes his eyes.

This is a gemara in 2 places in Shas and a Yalkut in 4. I doubt that Rav Moshe would not agree to this chazal. I have yet to hear of a teshuva where the questioner asked: I can take a mehadrin bus or a secular one. Which should I take? And the Posek responded that the secular one is as good as the mehadrin one.

In any case, as I said, if you don't think this is the Halacha, do what you want.

>> Lastly...

Here you are clearly losing your reason and writing from your emotions. Chill out. I am promoting a hashkafa, not what you call "an attitude".

>> Thank you very much...


Dov said...

Yechezkel, I disagree in fact with very little of what you believe in, but you've put yourself in a position of defending a name-brand and an outlook that's causing a tremendous chillul Hashem on a daily basis. And violence in my neighborhood.

Do a replace-all to "Torah Jew" or "Shomer Torah u'Mitzvos," and stop defending people who are letting their families starve (which you yourself don't do) and denying their kids a way of supporting their families (which you do not do) and I'll be behind you all the way, or maybe in front of you. Not everyone in the groups you defend are like you, unfortunately.

Dov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dov said...

The questions and positions that Yechezkel implies are trief are in fact discussed by many very Chareidi Rabbonim and educators.

I happen to be a chossid of one of the Rabbonim quoted, but won't insult him by saying which :-)

Anonymous said...

I only post to you as anon. I have a name with him, and he accepts it. When he was a retort.

No I didnt read your book. I am a bit busy trying to balance 3 sedarim in Kollel, running my own evening kollel, wandering around my house aimlessly and getting attacked by my kids, kein yirbu :) .

I like your blog. You should try to post more often. I think that will increase your readership. I know personally, I am not blogging so often, but I have a few that I look at. If I look a few times, and nothing new is there, I will forget to look back. I think you have what to offer the blog world. Just dont think the oilam of bloggers will care too much. But as RYS said - if only one person ....

Keep up the good work

Honest said...

If you believe that the definition of charedi includes holding that there are not enough people in kollel, and that anyone who does not hold that is not a Torah-true Jew and not a proper Jew (synonyms that you have used on this blog), why didn't you put that in your book?

Is it because then Rav Leff would have wised up to your act?

You are deceiving your readership.

Yechezkel said...

>>If you believe that the definition of charedi includes holding that there are not enough people in kollel, and that anyone who does not hold that is not a Torah-true Jew and not a proper Jew (synonyms that you have used on this blog), why didn't you put that in your book?

Chapter 2 (specifically page 64). BTW, how much - or little - of my book have you read?

>>Is it because then Rav Leff would have wised up to your act?

Rav Leff can be reached at 972-54-6720268

>>You are deceiving your readership.

About what?

P.S. It's hard to tell that I have a readership!



Anonymous said...

Nice to see that I can go to America and return and still not miss one new post :(

From what I see, the best way to increase your readership is to post often. No one likes to check blogs once a week. No one likes to check blogs daily only to find that there is nothing new - again - for the past 2 weeks. So they take it off the list.

I know. Because thats what I do too with a lot of (former) blogs