Friday, October 30, 2009
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
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 PublicBoth 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 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?”
“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.
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).
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
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.
Monday, October 12, 2009
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 (Israelnationalnews.com)
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
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
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)!!