Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chazon Ish and shmitta FYI

Calatrava update - the bridge is still not fixed

Shook prices shekel/kg, any Badatz-grade:

apples 6-7
cheapest tomatoes 2
celery, parsley, lettuce - combination of any three for 12 shekel
tomatoes - 12

a belated post - when the shmitta started, the price gap was incredible. Non-observant produce cost 508 times cheaper.As G-d would have it, the good things don't last long. There was a strange frost throughout the land, and the cheap produce became on par with the shmitta-observance grade food.

Did you know that:

R. Dessler married the granddaughter of R. Salanter, and her kiddush cup was less than the Chazon Ish minimum.

Chazon Ishasked his first shayla about Eretz Isroel, Trumos and Maasros from R. Kook.

R. Y. Chaim Zonnenfeld traveled together with R. Kook to kibbutz settlements teaching Shmiras Shabbos.

Chazon Ish ruled that electricity has the din of Boneh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Calatrava, Rabbi Feinstein's chochmah etc.

This is a pictorial comment on the Burkha Lady here


The Calatrava Bridge, according to the recent news on the radio, has produced cracks in its risque pylon, and is being repaired. No wonder it looks too interesting to be structurally sound.
(see the bridge as it was 1 months ago, little has changed)
Being true to the real intent of Jewish Law, R. Kamenetzky and R. Moshe Feinstein always reported even smallest givfts on their 1040 tax forms.

This story is from Noideh B'Yehudo, I call it the Tzaddik story, which can also be found in R. Ettinger's (Oruch HaNer) Binyan Tzion Tshuvos (QandA):

A very religious, and who turns out to be ferfrumt (overly religious) tzaddik-looking man comes to be a guest at an important man's house. All day long he reads tehillim, davens profiundly, etc.

Suddenly the man had to go on a trip, and in spite of the yichud laws, the tzaddik came to the man's wife and informed her of her being chosen for a divine mission to bring on the moshiach. The Tzaddik caused the wife to commit adultery with him, and as a parting shot, informs her that the heaven will put a box of gold in the cellar of her house.


The more thigns change, the more they stay the same, don't they?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

interesting facts and opinions

Rambam's opinion is that talmud tora should be free of charge. We poskin, however, to compensate a teacher "for keeping time open."
Rabbeinu Yona in a cooment to Pirkey Avos said that Tora must come with Avoda.
R. Gifter of Telz was seriously against talking to the dead concurrently with tefila at a cemetery.
R. Moshe Feinstein ztz"l ruled that X-Mas stamps are OK to use and handle.
Sara Shneuer, a seamstress from Krakow, founded the Beis Yakov girls' school system almost hundred years ago.

I learned these on Iyar 2, 23 April, 2000

Monday, April 14, 2008

A priest and eight women; bar mitzvah unison and Yiddish accent

According to the great R. Meir Hakoheyn, a talmid of the great R. Meir of Rothenburg, in his Hagahos Maymonios, it is said that:

"If a city is all Kohanim, with no Yisroyel there, then it follows the holocho logic to deduce that a Kohen gets the first two aliyos to Toroh, and the rest should be read by women."
( see Mishne Toroh, Hilchos Tefiloh, 12:19)


Shulchan Oruch.-O.H. 141:2 Magen Avrohom forbids more than one person to recite blessings simultaneously, in order to ensure that every word of the brocho is heard clearly.

In one fo his rare rulings, R. Moshe Feinstein also ruled that two Bar Mitzvoh boys cannot read the maftir and haftoroh sections in unison (Igrois Moishe, O.H. I-102).


Sure, it feels good to speak Israeli Hebrew. To read Maqor Rishon, or Maqor Chayyim. To pronounceSav without a dagesh as Tav. To go from L'hoidois to L'hodot. Maybe it feels better to daven the local Sephardi pronunciation as well.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the authority of the modern Hebrew grammar, was so happy to be here that he, paradoxically, severely beat his family members when they slipped and spoke a word of Yiddish!

No support for family violence here, though. There can be no law that can make the holy Yiddish, the language of Golus, which still rules ever so painfully, the language of the great Be'er Hagolah, the Vilna Gaon, and Chofetz Chaim, a taboo.

The straight and honest halachah advises ashkenoizim to remain within their pronunciation. The saintly and revered, the Israel-loving R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach who loved Israel, too, ruled so, in V'olehu Lo Ibul, Part 1, Opinion 44.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rabbinic authority

Come to think of it, R. Yakov Emden was fighting the influence of the Eybeshitzer Rebbe. The famous Shaagas Aryeh, from Vilno, went wandering through European towns, exercising the power of speech that Shulchan Aruch gives to anyone who is learned in Torah. In one city, he listened to a rabbi's Fri. night speech, commenting "hevel vshtuss," prompting the speaker to call Shaagas Aryeh an am haaretz. Shaagas Aryeh replied with the Mishna that says that an am haaretz precedes a kohen; the head of the community admitted that Shaagas Aryeh is great enough to dine at his house. Visiting another city, Shaagas Aryeh was so critical of the city's minhagim and halacho practice that the community exercised the right to ask him to leave. They escorted him to the city's limits, as befitting a talmud chacham's stature. He turned around, looked at the city, and said that the city was great to visit. The heads of the community told him that this was the first nice comment they heard from him. Shaagas Aryeh answered that the city was good, because the they, the heads of the community, were no longer in it.

It's exciting to learn what cool, democratic(?) liberties are granted by Shulchan Aruch.
(in resposne to a friend sending
Rabbinic authority Berel Wein, THE JERUSALEM POST, Mar. 14, 2007)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Real rabbis please stand up

A more ethics-oriented answer to the fanaticism (The anti-whig, The Beit Shemesh Burka: Extreme Tznius (modesty) phenomena would (and should) be based on Jewish ethics teachings. They are mostly ignored by the stricture-obsessed amateurs. They ignorance is exacerbated by the lack of continuous contact with a real rabbi. Most amateurs satisfy their spiritual needs through listening to rhetorical, moving speeches by rabbis who are not really teaching Jewish ethics to families members. Most of Jewish inspirational philosophies and lectures gravitate towards preaching-to-the-choir topics like critique or admiration of the Israeli government, disdain for the Diaspora, and loose-ended, interpret-for-yourself quotes from Talmud.

Chofetz Chaim, R. Moshe Feinstein, R. Grodzinsky, R. Shlomo Zalman Oyerbach, R. Neuwirth, the real gdoilim, have always taught ethics over externalities. Hazon Ish, so frequently stereotyped as the source of strict rulings, was in reality a real practicing ben toyra. During his early years in the Land of Israel he did not look as stereotypically religious as the rest of the locals, who actually asked him if he learned at all. (He answered in our most beloved mama loshn language , "Ven Ich hob tzeit, lern sich," "When I have time, I learn.")

The solutions, however, would never come from Jewish leaders, columnists, media darlings and rabbis who use the terminology of "pulpit", "sermon". etc. The solution is sticking to the close, organic, classic reltionship of rabbis and their immediate surroundings, and steering away from the new and fashionable lecture circuits, rabbinical radio shows, adn political rallies spiced with provoking thoughts from Talmud.

(in response to a friend's sending me To tell or not to tell, that is the question
Mar. 30, 2008)

It's the season for Orthodox scandal. From New York to
Jerusalem, from Beit Shemesh to Melbourne, shocking
tales of adultery and child abuse, infidelity and
incest within the Jewish world are making front-page
headlines. The latest incidents - a well-known cantor
caught in the act of adultery; a mother of eight
beating her two youngest to the point of
hospitalization, with no recovery predicted for the
toddler; a mother of 12, practicer and preacher of an
extreme form of female modesty, allegedly whipping and
humiliating her children, several of whom admitted to
incestuous relationships; the principal of a
prestigious Orthodox Melbourne school dismissed for
sexual molestation - remind us once again that the
Orthodox community is not immune to the plagues of the
larger one.

Is it right and proper - constructive or destructive -
to air this dirty linen in public, to name names, to
splash the story for all to see?...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Temple honesty

Regarding whether we are serious or are we just pretending, voting for Obama, or we really want the Temple back, in '08:
I was a teenager when I came to the US from one of the last shtetls in Ukraine. My family was easily attracted to a magnificent Reform shul nearby. I was the one that had to ask several cloying questions - why do they wear scarves instead of tallis? why do they say strange things instead Jewish-related passages?

The answer was that because the Jews who long ago came from the utter poverty in Eastern Europe have become free to take control of their own lives to live in a great country, and we can modernize our beliefs accordingly. If I didn't like it at that shul, we could try a Temple not far away, because it may provide additional element of fun, by dedicating each week to honoring each of many nations of the world. Why, I asked? We Jews need to learn to appreciate other people.

Somehow I found myself in a Conservative shul. I remember a rabbi's, or a community director's speech during a Yom Kippur service, after a series of funny jokes: "And now we must be really grateful for this opportunity to sit here, together, free of fears and worries, enjoying this pelasant atmosphere, and maybe we can just devote a moment to contemplate on those who are really fasting today, because they don't have anything to eat. THIS IS the REAL YOM KIPPUR!"

That was the last straw. After college, after having even exposed there to the supermarket-like circus of ideologies, which included all variations of Christianity, New Age and Jewish Reconstructionism, Humanism and Neo-Neoisms, I still kept the memories of the soundbites from my Reform and Conservative experiences. Naturally, I steered myself to an Orthodox shul. Tehre I realized how dishonest I would have been to my late grandparents, who prayed for the Moshiach, and for the real Temple, had I graduated from a pathetic shtibl-shul of unpainted wood, to an airy edifice of concrete and stained glass, and to empower myself to edit the ultimate object of my grandparents' prayers.

Through communist prosecutions, accusations of being fanatical parasites, they kept on believing. I had no right to let the sensation of having become an enlightened, successful Jew, to actually disobey the commandments we have kept for thousands and so years.

We are the ones who are serious, who do not snicker behind our boss's back at his seemingly funny commands, and we proudly keep transmitting the words, the ideas, and practices we were asked for our boss. My and your grandparents told us about Abraham, where he might have thought about G-d's most incredible, challenging, inhuman to our gentle, modern senses request - to sacrifice your own son. He, being intellectually honest, believed - seriously, without fooling himself, and really wanted to obey his Boss. He built his own altar. And that is why we believe that we will do whatever he asked us. Through thick and thin, with eyes wide open, we know that there is no overriding authority above him. Yes, we will build our own altar.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Proud to be an Ashkenozi

I have my own terutz for eating kitniyot. But, the pro-eating argument in the decision is still significantly connected to the concept of projecting a message, "to show that you're from Israel." It sounds antiquated, or unpopular, but there is no halachic task upon us to "show" that we are from a certain locale.

The only "show" task we have is to dress differently so as to look differently from gentiles. Maybe another task is to look decent, and not ostentatious. I can't think of other tasks like that.

But the rationale of appearing as someone from Israel, besides reminding me of Machon Meir mentality, reminds me of Reform synagogue, unfortunately. I remember when my dad and I drove around on Shabbos looking for a shul, the only one we found easily was a huge building of a reform shul. Therewe saw a lot of strange things. So when my dad and I asked the people why the tallis were small, why they prayed like Christians, why they prayed in English ("you're Jewish, right?"), why the women sat with men, why the American flag, why A, B, C, they answered that to know, to show that this is modern times, we are in USA and the religion must reflect the surroundings.

So the answer to the Kitniyot decision is that they are too sure that kitniyot-eating is specific to Israel. Most of Israeli population now, unfortunately, is eating a mixture of chametz with token matza. Religious Sephardim are eating kitniyot. But the Machon Meir thought gets caught up in assumption that Sephardim are the Israeli-specific thing.

The way we can examine Yemenite and Ashkenazi culture, we can also strongly suggest that Ashkenazim and Teymanim are probably from the same region of Israel, prior to the Destruction of the Temple, and why should we Ashkenazim suddenly mix our identities? Protecting the minhagim of the family, clan, and place of roginin is a very serious concept in Halachah. When discussing the Teymanim people usually go gaga and say "how cute" the Teymani minhagim are. Nobody suggest that they change their minhagim. So by the same token, why should Ashkenazim? At Machonn Meir they didn't see the conenction of this logic, " mah kesher?"

Another strong reason for abstaining from kitniyot is the way it is written is Shulchan Aruch, sif 453. Rama reminds that many authorities tried to literally cancel the minhag, but "nichshalu", as I understand, they "ran into problems," if not "failed," andrealized that the authority of the rabbis that insituted the abstention has been ever so wise.

My own terutz, which is also connected to appearance, to eat kitniyot, is that many arrogant shkenazim offhandedly say that because Sephardim eat kitniyot, "they eat chametz. " Since we are concerned with "maaris ayin," and we don't go into McDonald's to drink a cup of water, we don't eat fish blood (though it's permitted) -- so that a Jew, arrogant, judgmental, uninformed, or whatever - will not come to a wrong conclusion.
I think we should eat kitniyot to erase the possibility of creating such a false impression about a group of Jews. As long as the kitniyot have a Badatz rating, which they can easily have.

I have seen though, sunflower seeds, corn, shelled peanuts, being leniently and arbitrarily consumed, wherein I personally thought of these foods having been kept from before Pesach by the person.

I spoke to a guy from a kibbutz up north and he said that corn, sunflower seeds, and things that grow above ground are harvested by the same combine that harvests wheat. They just change the front attachment. He strongly believes in abstaining from kitniyot. He reminded me that as far as canola, which is grown in Canada and US, since on fields it is often rotated with wheat and rye, for purposes of enriching the soil as well, it is enough for one stalk of stray wheat to render an acre of canola crop unfit for Pesach.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Humorous Review Israeli Dating Ads

These are actual Personal Ads from Israeli newspapers:

Shmuel Gabbai, 36.
I take out the Torah Saturday morning. Would like to
take you out Saturday night.
Please write POB 81.

Couch potato latke in search of the right applesauce.
Let's try it for 8 days.
Who knows?
POB 43

Divorced Jewish man seeks partner to attend shul,
light shabbos candles, celebrate holidays, build
Sukkah together, attend brisses, bar mitzvahs -
Religion not important.
POB 658

Orthodox woman with get, seeks man who got get or can
get get.
Get it?
I'll show you mine
if you show me yours.
POB 72.

Sincere rabbinical student, 27, enjoys Yom Kippur,
Tisha B'av, Taanis Esther, Tzom Gedalia,
Asarah B'Teves, Shiva Asar b'Tammuz.
Seeks companion for living life in the 'fast' lane.
POB 90.

Yeshiva bochur, Torah scholar, long beard, payos.
Seeks same in woman.
POB 43.

Nice Jewish guy, 38.
No skeletons.
No baggage.
No personality.
POB 76

Female graduate student, studying kaballah, Zohar,
exorcism of dybbuks, seeks mensch.
No weirdos, please.
POB 56.

Jewish businessman, 49, manufactures Sabbath candles,
Chanukah candles, havdallah candles,
Yahrzeit candles. Seeks non-smoker.
POB 787.

I am a sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your
heart to, share your innermost thoughts and deepest
secrets. Confide in me. I'll understand your
insecurities. No fatties, please
POB 86.

Jewish male, 34, very successful, smart, independent,
self-made, looking for girl whose father will hire me.
POB 22.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Religious Parrot

I heard this famous story directly from the friend of the couple. I don't remember anymore where it took place, but I heard it in Suburban Detroit.

A frum family had a well-trained, smart parrot. But one day the parrot actually escaped. Some time later, it turns out, the parrot landed in a totally different community, on a porch of a Jewish couple who were borderline assimilated, very successful, New Age, liberal, and they attended a Reconstructionist or Humanist Temple on some Yom Kippur occasions.

The couple felt responsible to find the owners of the parrot and posted posters and other announcements, to no success. Meanwhile several weeks have passed, and they noticed that the parrot spoke strange language in addition to the regular English expressions that parrots know to repeat. The couple realized that investigating into the parrot's language skills might help them find its owners.

Some of the their friends did not have any idea of the language. One friend did recognize that the mysterious expressions contained Hebrew, but not the kind he understood. The couple made recordings of the parrot, and turned to the help of all the Reform, Conservative rabbis, and other academics, and soon were told that the parrot was saying blessings, standard greetings, basic Talmudic expressions, and kiddush of Ashkenazic Jews. The couple did notice that the parrot spoke in this mode on weekends, on Friday nights, and whenever they had candle-lit dinner. The couple narrowed down their search and put up posters in a religious neighborhood nearby, eventually getting the attention of the parrot's owners.

The couple was fascinated by the bird, and the frum owners' gratitude. The couple wanted to know what were the events that the bird was used to. They were invited to a Shabbat. While witnessing the family's shabbos, the couple identified the blessings, the kiddush, and the expressions; they intellectually appreciated the lifestyle, and soon realized that they were interested in the spiritual beauty of it all. Starting with the superficial, aesthetic Shabbos observance, they became more observant, and soon became totally religious, and now they are leaders in a frum shul, and nobody even suspects that they were baaley teshuva. And all because of a parrot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

on non-Google DIY thinking

Though right about Google, they thought they had the answers from a Jewish egomaniac some 2,000 years ago.

What I have learned from my rabbis is that according to Dvorim 30: 1-12 and on, we are told that a Jew has Torah on the tip of his tongue, and he needs to use this tip-of-the tongue educated intuition to practically use Torah and Holocho. Shulkhon Oruch is for evry one of us to try and at least kn ow instinctively, versus going to a favorite rabbi-magician-mekubal to tell us in a dramatically Biblical way. The same verses say, "it's not high above heavens, or beyond the sea", and in the same spirit, far away, or in the mountains. I have been taught that we must think and analyze Torah and Holocho on our feet.

There is a cocnept of hassidus, which is separate from Hasidut (as a spiritual, charismatic movement). Hassidus is a type of religious behavior that is overly demonstrative, excessive, and/or based on unnecessarily and arbitrarily-sought out strictness. It also includes fanatical pilgrimage and visits to great rabbis, living or dead, often to ask them for easily explainable halochic clarification, or to receive a personal advice. Most of these activities are actually willingly divulged. Again, in line with what I have said in the above paragraph, a Jew who is in touch with holocho, and his rabbi, and reads (regularly) to learn will not find himself doing this Hassidus, and have more free time for that learning, and working out relationships with people in his everyday life - a boss, an employee, students, an grumpy neighbor, a business partner.

In the Shmonay Esrey blessings havdolo we also invoke our ability to distinguish between different degrees of holiness, i.e., an inspiration, a source, a mishnah, a sugya, a rishon, an acharon, a holocho. At the risk of sounding trite, I would say that we are smarter than we think.