Finally a sophisticated positive way to deal with חילול שבת


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You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that throwing rocks, shouting shabbos, spitting, overturning Rubbish bins and every bit of meshugass the paleontological neanderthals  attempt to “increase holiness” is a complete ביטול זמן and serves to sever them more from the rest.

Here, is an approach I like. Hats off, as they say

The Admor of Amshinov, Rav Sholom Shimon Kalisch זצ’’ל


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In another blog I was asked to post the picture by a comment, but I can’t recall the article! Anyway, I have in our dining room of the Rebbe זי’’ע. I just took a picture of it with my iPhone. He was very well-known and famous. In Lubavitch he is known because the Rayatz instructed his Chassidim when he was in hiding from the authorities and unable to respond to their questions to only ask R’ Sholom Shimon. In addition, at the wedding of the last Rebbe, R’ Sholom Shimon walked into the Simcha in the wee hours of the morning while the Rayatz was saying a Ma’amar Chassidus. He must have sensed R’ Sholom Shimon had come in, because in a very rare occurrence, he actually stopped saying the Ma’amar Chassidus until the Rebbe from Amshinov had sat down. In Amshinov, there is also a tradition which I have seen written that says there is only one sefer that has to be learned to understand all Chassidus, and that is the Tanya of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Interestingly, I heard Rav Schachter saying that a Scholar is now working on an important Sefer comparing the Tanya to the Nefesh Hachaim of R’ Chaim Voloshin, the prime student of the Vilna Gaon (who did not sign the Cherem against Chassidim). The word is that he finds the thoughts and approaches close to identical. I also heard the Rav (Soloveitchik) say this, although he qualified it by saying that the differences are advanced and he doubts many actually understand the differences. The Rav was unique of course in the sense that he knew both those Seforim inside out, and had been taught Tanya by his Lubavitcher Melamed when a boy (but that didn’t matter because the Rav had a superior intellect, as is well known).

As for me, I know nothing about either! The current Amshinover Rebbe in Bayit Vegan,  is well-known as one of chosen Tzadikei HaDor. He doesn’t get involved in politics, and is a truly incredible Oved Hashem. My only connection is an nostalgic familial one, because my grandmother, Toba Frimet Balbin ע’’ה, who I loved very much and was the engine behind the Balbin family, was from Amshinover Chassidim. She and my Zeyda Yidel are buried in Israel, and I still remember Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner ז’’ל speaking about her before her coffin left from Essendon Airport. Rabbi Chaim Gutnick ז’’ל told me that she used to bring him a present every Purim. I never knew that, and he told me they were all around his house!

PS.  I got this picture from Chayi Glick (nee Rotter), whose mother I believe stems from Amshinov and whom I cajoled incessantly to bring back from New York.


Parshas Veyeshev: Small acts leading to big consequences


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[ I had written this for David Werdiger’s excellent JBD organisation, but received much positive appreciation via private email, so I thought I’d share it here as well. Besides, my kids don’t listen to my divrei torah at home, they say I talk too long. It’s the educator in me :-) ]

In Parshas Vayeshev, the Torah relates that after Rachel’s death, Ya’akov’s bed was in Bilha’s tent (because Bilha was Rachel’s handmaiden and Ya’akov’s concubine). Reuven, the eldest son, was upset, feeling that his own mother, Leah, should have been afforded this privilege as she was Ya’akov’s first wife and the one who bore him and most of the sons. Reuven unilaterally moved his father’s bed to his mother Leah’s tent; an act stemming from respect for his mother’s honour. The act itself was not earth shattering, however, its effect was cataclysmic. It signified that the eldest child was prepared to over-rule the overt wishes of a father – the father of all his brothers.

Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik זצ’’ל: Picture from the Jewish Press

Rav Soloveitchik suggested that this is why the brothers indirectly felt empowered with the chutzpah to commit the regrettable act of selling Yosef, their father’s favourite son. They also assumed a level of personal empowerment. Reuven realises that he is responsible for this ill-advised empowerment. He repents, fasting and praying. What seemed like a small act of moving beds led to a rolling set of momentous events.
The moral is clear. We are all observed microsopically by our children, our friends and our relatives, and society. A seemingly innocuous act may lead to an unconscious outcome of unintended education or even profanation of God’s name. In contradistinction, a seemingly innocuous positive act can be eminently efficacious, leaving a subconscious impression that potentially influences micro and macro history, present and future.

After my father, R’ Shaul Zelig HaCohen’s passing ע’’ה I feel every little act and legacy that he left, suffuses the lives of our wider family. It is in this sense that we say

יעקב אבינו לא מת


דוד מלך ישראל חי וקיים

Poetry to my ears, a paunch to my boich


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Remember, our parents and grandparents couldn’t have been wrong. Poskim always have trouble saying something is forbidden if Rishonim and Acharonim said it was ok.

Reverend Shimon Allen will of course tell me that there is nothing new in this.

Finally, I have some ammunition. (click on the link)

My father ע’’ה exulting in his yearly dose of Gribenes on Erev Pesach

My father ע’’ה. R’ Shaul Zelig HaCohen Balbin exulting in the yearly dose of Gribenes and liver and Kartofel on Erev Pesach

Veyeishev. Guest Post from R’ Meir Deutsch


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We got to Parashat VaYeshev. We reached the dreamers. At first Joseph dreams of Sheaves (ALUMOT) and stars, the King’s bartender dreams together with the King’s baker. We barely finish that Parasha and the King himself, Pharoah, starts dreaming about cows and grain stalks.
Now let us stop dreaming and try to concentrate on Yosef and his brothers.
Let us just consider the text itself, and the Pshat.


פרשת וישב

מאיר דויטש © כל הזכויות שמורות

יוסף חולם את החלומות, וכדי להתגרות באחיו הוא מספר אותם להם. אני, הנער בן השבע עשרה, איני רק האהוב על ידי אבא, שעושה לי במו ידיו כתונת פסים, אלא, למרות שאתם מבוגרים ממני, אני עתיד למלוך עליכם. האם זה פלא שאחיו מקנאים בו, שונאים אותו וזוממים להורגו?
נראה את הטקסט בפרשתנו:

בראשית פרק לז

(יט) וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל אָחִיו הִנֵּה בַּעַל הַחֲלֹמוֹת הַלָּזֶה בָּא:
(כ) וְעַתָּה לְכוּ וְנַהַרְגֵהוּ וְנַשְׁלִכֵהוּ בְּאַחַד הַבֹּרוֹת וְאָמַרְנוּ חַיָּה רָעָה אֲכָלָתְהוּ וְנִרְאֶה מַה יִּהְיוּ חֲלֹמֹתָיו:
(כא) וַיִּשְׁמַע רְאוּבֵן וַיַּצִּלֵהוּ מִיָּדָם וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא נַכֶּנּוּ נָפֶשׁ:
(כב) וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם רְאוּבֵן אַל תִּשְׁפְּכוּ דָם הַשְׁלִיכוּ אֹתוֹ אֶל הַבּוֹר הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר בַּמִּדְבָּר וְיָד אַל תִּשְׁלְחוּ בוֹ לְמַעַן הַצִּיל אֹתוֹ מִיָּדָם לַהֲשִׁיבוֹ אֶל אָבִיו:
(כג) וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר בָּא יוֹסֵף אֶל אֶחָיו וַיַּפְשִׁיטוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף אֶת כֻּתָּנְתּוֹ אֶת כְּתֹנֶת הַפַּסִּים אֲשֶׁר עָלָיו:
(כד) וַיִּקָּחֻהוּ וַיַּשְׁלִכוּ אֹתוֹ הַבֹּרָה וְהַבּוֹר רֵק אֵין בּוֹ מָיִם:
(כה) וַיֵּשְׁבוּ לֶאֱכָל לֶחֶם וַיִּשְׂאוּ עֵינֵיהֶם וַיִּרְאוּ וְהִנֵּה אֹרְחַת יִשְׁמְעֵאלִים בָּאָה מִגִּלְעָד וּגְמַלֵּיהֶם נֹשְׂאִים נְכֹאת וּצְרִי וָלֹט הוֹלְכִים לְהוֹרִיד מִצְרָיְמָה:
(כו) וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה אֶל אֶחָיו מַה בֶּצַע כִּי נַהֲרֹג אֶת אָחִינוּ וְכִסִּינוּ אֶת דָּמוֹ:
(כז) לְכוּ וְנִמְכְּרֶנּוּ לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים וְיָדֵנוּ אַל תְּהִי בוֹ כִּי אָחִינוּ בְשָׂרֵנוּ הוּא וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶחָיו:
(כח) וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף מִן הַבּוֹר וַיִּמְכְּרוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים בְּעֶשְׂרִים כָּסֶף וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף מִצְרָיְמָה:
(כט) וַיָּשָׁב רְאוּבֵן אֶל הַבּוֹר וְהִנֵּה אֵין יוֹסֵף בַּבּוֹר וַיִּקְרַע אֶת בְּגָדָיו:
(ל) וַיָּשָׁב אֶל אֶחָיו וַיֹּאמַר הַיֶּלֶד אֵינֶנּוּ וַאֲנִי אָנָה אֲנִי בָא:

נחזור לפסוק כ”ח: וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף מִן הַבּוֹר וַיִּמְכְּרוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים בְּעֶשְׂרִים כָּסֶף.
ובהמשך כתוב: בראשית פרק לז

(לו) וְהַמְּדָנִים מָכְרוּ אֹתוֹ אֶל מִצְרָיִם לְפוֹטִיפַר סְרִיס פַּרְעֹה שַׂר הַטַּבָּחִים:

ומאוחר יותר נאמר: בראשית פרק לט

(א) וְיוֹסֵף הוּרַד מִצְרָיְמָה וַיִּקְנֵהוּ פּוֹטִיפַר סְרִיס פַּרְעֹה שַׂר הַטַּבָּחִים אִישׁ מִצְרִי מִיַּד הַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים אֲשֶׁר הוֹרִדֻהוּ שָׁמָּה:
דעת המפרשים ידועה. מדינים מוכרים לישמעאלים, ישמעאלים למדינים. יוסף נמכר פעמים רבות.

ננסה להתרכז בנושא:
ישמעאלים הם אנשי הובלה של סחורות, וכן האורחה בדרכה למצרים. “נושאים […] הולכים להוריד מצרימה”, וגם המכירה שלהם לפוטיפר אומרת: מִיַּד הַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים אֲשֶׁר הוֹרִדֻהוּ שָׁמָּה
מדינים הם סוחרים. נאמר במפורש: “מדינים סוחרים”
אם כן נוכל לסכם:
המדינים מוכרים את יוסף לישמעאלים. הישמעאלים מורידים אותו מצרימה (אנשי הובלה). הישמעאלים, שאינם סוחרים, מבקשים מהמדנים לתווך במכירת יוסף לפוטיפר. נשים לב, לא מדינים אלא מדנים. איני יודע מדוע המפרשים וגם התרגום קוראים למדנים מדינים. מי הם המדנים? ניזכר בפרשת חיי שרה וילדיו של אברהם מקטורה:
ותלד לו אֶת זימרן, ואת יוקשן, ואת מדן, ואת מדין …. (בראשית כה, ב). בין צאצאיו היו שני בנים: מדן ומדין.

מה שנאמר כי פוטיפר קנה את יוסף מהישמעאלים, נוכל לומר – ככתוב, המדנים מכרו אותו לפוטיפר, ופוטיפר קיבל את יוסף מיד הישמעאלים, המובילים, להם היה שייך.

ברצוני להתעכב בפסוק כ”ח: וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף מִן הַבּוֹר וַיִּמְכְּרוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים בְּעֶשְׂרִים כָּסֶף.
נתאר את המאורע לפי הפשט.
בעצת ראובן שרצונו להציל את יוסף ולהחזירו לאביו, יוסף מושלך על ידי אחיו לבור במדבר.
האחים מתרחקים מהבור שבמדבר ויושבים לאכול לחם, משם הם רואים אורחת ישמעאלים מובילה סחורות, בדרכה למצרים.
יהודה מציע למכור את יוסף לישמעאלים. האחים שומעים את ההצעה. ההצעה לא זוכה לדיון, לא זוכה להסכמת שאר האחים ולא נעשית כל פעולה על-ידם, כמו שנאמר: “וישמעו אחיו”. לא אמרו איש אל אחיו נמכרנו.
סוחרים מדינים עוברים במקום – כנראה שבני יעקב לא רואים אותם. המדינים רואים את יוסף בבור או שומעים רעשים ובודקים עם נמצא מישהו בבור. הם, המדינים, מעלים את יוסף מהבור ומוכרים אותו לישמעאלים.
בינתיים, כאשר ראובן שמע את הצעת אחיו יהודה למכור את יוסף, הוא משאיר את אחיו ליד שולחן האוכל ורץ אל הבור, לפני שאחיו ידונו בהצעתו של יהודה ויקבלו החלטה, וזאת כדי להציל את יוסף ולהחזירו לאביו. כאשר מגיע ראובן אל הבור כבר עזבו המדינים את המקום. הוא מפנה מבטו אל הבור, סוקר את הבור פעם או פעמיים ולא מוצא בו את יוסף. הוא חוזר אל אחיו הסועדים, קורע בגדיו ואומר להם: “הילד איננו”.

זה הסיפור לפי הפשט. האחים לא העלו את יוסף מהבור, הוא גם לא נמכר על ידם. לא רק ראובן, אלא גם אחיו הופתעו כי יוסף נעלם מהבור.

ננסה לראות האם נוכל לקבל את הטענה כי האחים מכרו את יוסף.
נחזור לפסוק: וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף מִן הַבּוֹר וַיִּמְכְּרוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים בְּעֶשְׂרִים כָּסֶף.
אם האחים מכרו את יוסף, אז הפסוק צריך להיות כך:
וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ (או וימשכו אחיו) וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף מִן הַבּוֹר וַיִּמְכְּרוּ אֶת יוֹסֵף לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים בְּעֶשְׂרִים כָּסֶף. לראשית הפסוק אין כל קשר למאורע. אם האחים מכרוהו, מדוע מוזכרים כאן בכלל המדינים: “ויעברו אנשים מדינים סוחרים”? הרי, כאמור, אין להם כל חלק בסיפור שלנו, לא בהוצאת יוסף מהבור ולא בסחר עם הישמעאלים. המכירה הייתה על ידי האחים לישמעאלים ישירות.
האין זה מחזק את הטענה כי הם, המדינים, הם אלה שהעלו את יוסף מהבור ומכרוהו?

אם האחים היו המוכרים, הרי, כאשר זועק ראובן בשובו מהבור “והילד איננו”, ודאי היו אומרים לו אחיו: “ברור שאיננו, הרי מכרנו אותו. הנה חלקך מעשרים הכסף שקיבלנו עבורו“. האם גם אחיו היו מופתעים כמוהו שהילד איננו?

Guest post from R’ Meir Deutsch on Chanuka


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What is Chanuka? This is the question in Mesechet Shabat. The question wants actually to give an answer to two customs; why are we celebrating eight days, and why are we lighting candles. The answer comes in a compact package – a can of oil sealed by the high priest.
Happy Chanuka.

מאיר דויטש © כל הזכויות שמורות

בתלמוד מוזכרים שני חגים שאינם מחגי התורה – פורים וחנוכה. בשניהם אנו אומרים “על הנסים”. כידוע, לפורים יש מסכת שלמה – מסכת מגילה, כמו כן מגילה שלמה שהיא מגילת אסתר, וכל זה על נס שקרה מחוץ לגבולות הארץ, בגולה. מה יש לנו לחנוכה? לא מגילה ולא מסכת. לכן אין זה מפליא שהגמרא צריכה לשאול “מאי חנוכה?”
על כך משיבה הגמרא במסכת שבת כא, ב: “בכ”ה בכסליו ימי חנוכה תמניא […] כשנכנסו יוונים להיכל טמאו כל השמנים שבהיכל, וכשגברה מלכות בית חשמונאי ונצחום, בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול, ולא היה בו אלא להדליק יום אחד, נעשה נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים, לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה”. לפי התלמוד הנס הוא פך השמן. האם לפך שמן שבער שמונה ימים צריך לקבוע לדורות שמונה ימים טובים והלל והודאה? בתשובת התלמוד אין כל זכר לניצחונות על צבאות אדירים על ידי קומץ של חקלאים. אפילו כיבוש ירושלים ושחרורה אינו מוזכר. כמו כן אין אזכור לטיהור המקדש ובניית מזבח חדש. יש רק נס אחד – פך השמן.
על ההיסטוריה של אותה תקופה אנו למדים מספרי החשמונאים ומיוספוס, ואולי מעט מתפילת “על הנסים” שבה אנו אומרים: “מסרת רבים ביד מעטים […] וטיהרו את היכלך”, מעניין כי בתפילה זו לא מוזכר פך השמן. מדוע אין זכר לכל הדברים הללו בתלמוד? האין הניצחונות וטיהור המקדש נסים גדולים מפך השמן? יש האומרים כי דעתם של חז”ל לא הייתה נוחה מבית החשמונאים, שהמליכו את עצמם אף על פי שהיו משבט לוי ולא מבית דוד. טענה זו אינה עומדת מאחר שתפילת “על הנסים” משבחת את בית החשמונאים. אולי חכמינו לא ראו בניצחונות החשמונאים ובטיהור המקדש דבר גדול משום שבימיהם הארץ הייתה נתונה תחת שלטון זר, בית המקדש כבר לא היה קיים, והניצחונות איבדו את משמעותם. לתשובה זו מצאתי סימוכין. בהקדמה למגילת תענית כתב המקבץ: “הנה באתי במגילת תענית לקרות הנסים ונפלאות שנעשו לאבותינו שקבעום על ידם לעשות יו”ט באותן ימים”. חכמינו שאלו: “תנו רבנן: מי כתב מגילת תענית? אמרו: חנניה בן חזקיה וסיעתו, שהיו מחבבין את הצרות” (שבת יג, ב).
האין זה מפליא כי ספר המתאר נסים ונפלאות, לפי הגמרא, חיברו אותו “מחבבי הצרות”? כנראה שהזכרת הטובות של אז, אשר אינן קיימות היום, היא כעין “הזכרת צרות”, לפיכך קבעו חכמינו הלכתא: “בטילה מגילת תענית” (ראש השנה יח, ב), בכך ביטלו גם את “יום ניקנור” אותו יכולנו לחגוג יחד עם יתר הניצחונות של בית חשמונאים.
תשובת הגמרא לשאלת “מאי חנוכה” ופך השמן תמוהה. הרי המקדש כולו חולל והיה צריך לטהרו, אין מזבח ואין לחם הפנים, אבל גם אין מנורה כי היא נלקחה על ידי היוונים. בית חשמונאי בנה מנורה חדשה. בתחילה נעשתה משיפודים של ברזל מצופים בעץ, העשירו ועשאום מכסף, חזרו והעשירו עשאום מזהב (ראש השנה כד, ב; עבודה זרה מג, א; מנחות כח, ב.). הכול טמא! אם הדבר החשוב ביותר היה למצוא שמן טהור? מדוע אם כן, במקום לחכות לנס, לא החלו בייצור מעט שמן בירושלים עד שיוכלו להביאו מתקוע שבגליל? המהרש”א אמר כי לא יכלו לעשות זאת כי כולם היו טמאים. אם כך המקדש טמא, בוני מנורת השיפודים טמאים, מדליק המנורה טמא, ורק השמן במנורה טמאה הוא טהור!

בשאלת הגמרא “מאי חנוכה” נשאלות למעשה השאלות: מדוע חג של שמונה ימים ומדוע מדליקים נרות.

כאמור, ספרי החשמונאים מספרים לנו מעט על ההיסטוריה של אותה תקופה. ספר ב’ מספר על איגרת:
“אל היהודים אשר במצרים ובברכה מאת האחים היהודים בירושלים ובארץ יהודה שלום רב. […] ונתפלל לה’ ויעתר לנו, וזבח ומנחה הבאנו והדלקנו את הנרות ונערוך את הלחם. ועתה עשו את ימי חג הסוכות בחודש כסלו” (א”ש חרטום, הספרים החיצונים: חשמונאים ב, תל-אביב 1979).

באותו ספר בפרק העשירי כתוב: “ביום עשרים וחמישה לחודש ההוא, הוא כסלו, חגגו שמונה ימים כחג הסוכות, בזכרם כי לפני זמן מה בילו את ימי חג הסוכות בהרים ובמערות”. וכיצד הוא נחוג אז? “במקלות מקושטים ובענפים המצויים בעונה ההיא ובתמרים הודו לה’ על אשר הצליח דרכם”.
לפי ספרי החשמונאים, בחודש כסליו היה כבר המקדש טהור, הוקרבו זבחים, הדליקו נרות וערכו כבר גם את לחם הפנים. לא מסופר בספרי החשמונאים על נס פך השמן, וגם אצל יוסף בן מתתיהו הוא אינו מוזכר. הקריאה של הלוחמים לאחיהם במצרים היית לחוג את חג הסוכות בחודש כסליו.
יוספוס קורא לחנוכה “חג האורים” או “חג הנרות”. גם בסוכות מוזכר חג האורים בשמחת בית השואבה.
“מי שלא ראה שמחת בית השואבה לא ראה שמחה מימיו. במוצאי יום טוב הראשון של חג ירדו לעזרת נשים ומתקנין שם תיקון גדול. מנורות של זהב היו שם, וארבעה ספלים של זהב בראשיהם, וארבעה סולמות לכל אחד ואחד, וארבעה ילדים מפירחי כהונה, ובידיהם כדים של מאה ועשרים לוג שהן מטילין לכל ספל וספל. מבלאי מכנסי כהנים ומהמייניהן, מהן היו מפקיעין, ובהן היו מדליקין. ולא היה חצר בירושלים שאינה מאירה מאור בית השואבה” (סוכה דף נא עמוד א).

התלמוד ממשיך (סוכה דף נג עמוד א): “תניא, אמרו עליו על רבן שמעון בן גמליאל כשהיה שמח שמחת בית השואבה היה נוטל שמנה אבוקות של אור, וזורק אחת ונוטל אחת ואין נוגעות זו בזו”.
האם אנו יכולים ללמוד גם מחכמינו כי יש קשר בין חנוכה לסוכות? חנוכה הוא החג היחיד שאינו מוזכר בכתובים בו גומרים את ה”הלל” (לפני שנקבע לאמרו ביום העצמאות וביום ירושלים). הגמרא בירושלמי, סוכה ד, ה אומרת: “שמונה עשר יום ולילה אחד קורין בהן את ההלל בכל שנה [הכוונה “הלל” שלם] שמונת ימי החג [סוכות ושמיני עצרת] ושמונת ימי החנוכה ויום טוב של עצרת [שבועות] ויום טוב הראשון של פסח ולילו”.
לפורים יש מגילה שלימה ויש גם מסכת, אבל אין אומרים בו את ה”הלל”, לעומתו, בחג החנוכה, גומרים את ה”הלל” כמו בחג הסוכות.
קשר נוסף נמצא במחלוקת בין בית שמאי ובית הלל על הדלקת הנרות. גם אם לא מוזכר שם במפורש חג הסוכות, הרי ניתן לנו רמז: “בית שמאי אומרים יום ראשון מדליק שמנה מכאן ואילך פוחת והולך, ובית הלל אומרים יום ראשון מדליק אחת מכאן ואילך מוסיף והולך”. ישנה מחלוקת מה הטעם של בית שמאי ובית הלל, אחת הדעות היא: “וחד אמר: טעמא דבית שמאי – כנגד פרי החג [שבקורבנות חג הסוכות היו פוחתים והולכים בכל יום], וטעמא דבית הלל – דמעלין בקדש ואין מורידין. אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן: שני זקנים היו בצידן, אחד עשה כבית שמאי ואחד עשה כדברי בית הלל, זה נותן טעם לדבריו – כנגד פרי החג, וזה נותן טעם לדבריו – דמעלין בקדש ואין מורידין” (שבת כא, ב).

נשאל את עצמנו: לדעת בית שמאי, מה עושים פָּרֵי החג של סוכות אצל נרות חנוכה? אם אין קשר בין חג הסוכות לחנוכה, מה מביא אותם להשוות קורבנות של חג הסוכות שמספרם הולך וקטן לאופן הדלקת נרות בחנוכה? האם אין הדבר מצביע על הקשר בין שני החגים? אנו רואים כי גם בתלמוד קשרו בין חנוכה לסוכות.

Hygienic toilet flushing additives on Shabbos


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As I generally do, I read the Heichal HaTorah publication, with sections from Rav Donenbaum, the respected Brisker Moro D’Asro of Heichal HaTorah on Friday nights. In last week’s section, he discusses the issue of the different types of toilet cleansers available on the market designed to keep the bowl/water fresh and clean. As I recall, the article started off with an assumption which I question, and which I believe is a key point in the analysis. Specifically, he assumes that a resultant colouring that may emanate from these solid chemical inserts adds to the hygienic “feel” of a toilet after flushing: Rav Donenbaum put the word hygienic in inverted commas.

My personal feeling, and I stress I am not a Posek, is that the colour itself adds absolutely nothing to any hygiene or feeling of such. In fact, from my perspective, it’s actually more of a divergence from the real state of the cleanliness of the toilet bowl as it serves to camouflage! I know many people who refuse to use it during the week because it’s horrid to look at, and really doesn’t tell you much.

If and when I go to a toilet, and the water looks crystal clear, I have far more confidence in the cleanliness, than when I see some dark blue (or other colour) water which may well be masking. Indeed, there are products that don’t have colour that are just as efficacious. Therefore, I would say that it’s hardly a situation of ניחא ליה based on ‘hygiene’ as Rav Donenbaum assumes and if you want to argue that it is ניחא or then go down a path of גרמא when it’s in the cistern then I’d say that in the least one should not make an objective ruling on an aspect which is entirely subjective.

The Halacha is clear. There is no prohibition in colouring food or liquid foods. This is the overwhelming opinion, as held by both the Mechaber and the Rama. Yes, it is true that the Sha’ar HaTziyun of the Chafetz Chaim says that someone who is punctilious should seek to avoid these situations. Others, such as the Aruch Hashulchan, Tzitz Eliezer, Chacham Ovadia and many more disagree and blankly permit it as noted in a footnote by Rav Donenbaum.

The same permission is applied to Molid Reach (creating a smell) especially when that smell is hardly lasting even if you buy a rolls royce version of such products. The cohanim used to use perfumed water on Shabbos when they washed their hands. This is an open Gemora (which I can’t remember the source of). Putting a smell on clothes or hair is a different category, because it lasts. A Melocho that doesn’t last, is considered by Rishonim and Acharonim as not a Melocho.

There is some discussion about the different types of devices and certainly the ones where the chemical device is placed in the uppermost bowl is argued as less problematic, as the water is already coloured, and it could be argued that one doesn’t care about what happens next and it is Gromo, rather than an intentional colouring. I am not sure that this argument is correct.

I don’t believe that the colouring serves the purpose that Rav Donenbaum is working with, namely, to give the feel that the bowl is now “hygienic”.

As a musician and frequent traveller, I have been to many putrid toilets in hotels and function rooms, where the water in the bowl is a “fresh” blue or green. I have never felt it cleaner simply because of the colour. They are often foul and stink. One might argue that if hygiene and smell was an issue, then using a toilet brush is the way to go, followed by another flush (I assume that Rav Donenbaum permits flushing toilets, although some Poskim are against it full stop).

If my memory serves me correct, some Chazon Ish types prefer to line the bowl with cotton wool so no “noise” is created (or is that one of those apocryphal jokes?)

I discussed the matter with Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter who felt that it was not permitted but for the simple reason that it is ניחא ליה whether it’s in the cistern or below because the colour shows whether the device is still working and hasn’t lost it’s efficacy. When one sees the colour fade, one knows they have to replace it.

I asked Rav Schachter whether I should speak to one of the companies, such as Harpic, and ask them why their blue module colours the water blue and to use the argument of מסיח לפי תומו and he said this was a very good idea. I went to the harpic site and lo and behold they stated explicitly

Let’s you know when it needs replacing by fading

Accordingly we see this mentioned explicitly. There is no doubt in my mind, that a chemical doesn’t have to be blue (coloured) to deodorise and kill germs and emit a pleasant smell. The primary purpose is to tell you when it needs replacing and is therefore forbidden. Rav Schachter mentioned this was different to a cup of tea, where the colour and colouring is immaterial.

Of course, I haven’t paskened in any way, I have quoted from my personal discussion with Mori Rav Schachter. תורה היא וצריכים ללמוד

Farewell Rabbi Yaakov Sprung


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Please note: there will be no comments on this post.

I am not a member of Mizrachi. I used to be, about three decades ago, and my Rav was the saintly Rav Boruch Abaranok ז’’ל. Rav Abaranok was a Tzadik Gamur. He wasn’t a Beinoni. He was the real thing. He received his Smicha from the Chafetz Chaim and was friendly with Rav Elchonon Wasserman הי’’ד. He didn’t wear a Kippa Sruga (knitted yarmulka) and wore a dark suit and homburg hat. He wasn’t a great orator, but his words in a one on one situation, penetrated the heart more than any orator could achieve. He was also a staunch zionist, and supported the State of Israel in a genuine fashion. I have written about him here. When he paskened, he would subsequently invite you to come the next day or that night, to his office or home, and have all the Seforim open and prepared, and would explain from inside how he had come to his Psak Din.

Our son, Tzvi Yehuda, now famous for his incredible and successful chasing kosher side venture, was fortunate to have Rav Abaranok as his Sandek. I remember being flabbergasted when he arrived at the door for both the Bris and subsequent Upsherin, each time carrying a gift of Seforim. Our younger son, Yosef Dov who is learning in Israel presently, was also lucky to get a set of Seforim from Rav Abaranok ז’ל.

On Shabbos he wore a black litvishe kapote much like the dress of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis of Israel.

I used to bring our children (two back then) to Rav Abaranok almost every Sunday morning. His children and grandchildren were all overseas, and his wife nebach, was with him but not 100% due to her horrid experience in the Holocaust.

Rav Abaranok became very sick after a fall (as I recall). I had a strange sense that he was about to leave this world. It was too difficult for me to absorb emotionally, so I started visiting less often. He would ask me, if he saw me, “Yitzchok, what did I do. Why don’t you come anymore?”. He never realised that I couldn’t cope with seeing him slip away.

On his first Yohr Tzeit, I went and stood outside his house (which is no longer there) and just cried.

While he was still at Mizrachi, the community decided to appoint a new Rabbi. I stopped going because my father ע’’ה asked me to (the reason for which is immaterial to this post)

That Rabbi was replaced by the recently deceased and well-known, Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen ז’ל. Many members of our family still daven at Mizrachi and my brother-in-law is now the President. I was fortunate to have occasions to interact with him. My interactions were always of a Torah/Halachic nature and I enjoyed speaking “in learning” with him. He had a pleasant disposition and was a professional American style Rabbi with lots of grandeur.

Rabbi Cohen eventually left (I believe of his own accord, but I can’t recall), and was replaced by Rabbi Sprung.

Rabbi Sprung will complete 10 years of Rabonus at Mizrachi in August. I went to his home every Purim (even though he stopped serving scotch after the first year :-), and we shared divrei torah and halachic discussions. On one occasion, when there was an  injustice in the community, he was the Rabbi who was prepared to stand up, by ringing overseas, properly ascertaining facts, when he could easily have avoided the issue. He made a difference.

My wife loved his Shabbos Shiurim, and went every Shabbos to hear these. She said that he put so much preparation into each Shiur. He seemed to always be giving Shiurim. He went from minyan to minyan at Mizrachi and gave droshos. He enjoyed good relationships with the Roshei Kollel of Mizrachi’s Kollel and other Rabbinic staff.

His pastoral support was incredible. He would visit the sick, comfort the mourner or the forlorn, and his door was open. Recently, one post was perhaps too revealing about my state of mind. He doesn’t read blogs, but someone had mentioned it to him. On the next morning, I got a phone call wherein he expressed concern for me, and stressed that whenever I needed or wanted to discuss anything with him, to do so, and that his door was always open. My father ע’’ה was in hospital several times. Rabbi Sprung always visited him amongst many others. I know my father greatly appreciated Rabbi Sprung’s visits. He was in fact the only Rabbi to visit him.

Rabbi Sprung on the far left. [picture from melbourne eruv website]

On Simchos (Smachot if you want to use Ivrit) he would meticulously prepare by interviewing everyone, and then weave a wonderful Drosha where he paid tribute to the attributes of the Ba’alei Simcha and their families. I heard such Droshas many a time. We invited him and his Rebbetzin to our own Simchos, as I considered him a Choshuve Rav with whom I had developed a relationship.

Mizrachi is not like other Kehillos. There are a lot of “leaders” of other organisations who are highly opinionated who daven there as well as many highly educated professionals and “machers”. Rabbi Sprung’s fidelity to Halacha was unquestionable. He wasn’t afraid to state his firm halachic view on a range of issues, including those who led services at the conservadox Shira Chadasha (an identical view with which Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter agrees). These types of issues may have made him be seen as too “right-wing”, but I can’t know that with certainty. I can only describe my interaction. Perhaps Mizrachi will now employ a hatless, Kipa Sruga type. Time will tell.

Towards the end of his Rabbonus contract in August, Mizrachi decided that it would only extend the contract after a democratic vote of all members. I can’t recall whether they had a democratic vote to appoint him, but I do recall there were a few candidates. One can surmise that after 10 years in the role, some no longer appreciated what he offered.

I am sad to see Rabbi Sprung’s tenure at Mizrachi Melbourne come to an end. Knowing him, he will see it as Hashgocho (divine providence) and depart as gracefully as when he arrived. I know he was widely respected by the Melbourne Rabbinate, and he avoided politics when  possible. I’m guessing Rebbetzin Naomi Sprung may feel somewhat blessed that she has an opportunity to relocate to an area closer to her children and grandchildren. Melbourne, isn’t exactly close by, and to be dislocated from family would be a strain for anyone.

I wish Rabbi and Rebbetzin Sprung immediate future success, together with lots of Nachas and joy.

We now wait to see who the (democratically elected?) new Rabbi will be.

Rebbetzin Bashi Twersky speaks


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In a earlier blog post, I felt that we need to be more nuanced in the way we express our opinions on why God allows/does things. One of the Seforim I learned back in days gone by was ספר העיקרים by one of the Rishonim, Rav Yosef Albo. It “spoke to me” at the time, and I used to learn it during Mussar Seder. I remember the Mashgiach noticed what I was doing, but he (sensibly) “let me be” and learn what my heart desired. He said nothing. I don’t know if they have reprinted this Sefer, but my original one seems to have gone walk about. If I remember correctly, it was in the second perek where he wrote a phrase which has stuck with me since

לו ידעתיו – הייתיו

If I knew Him (God), then I’d be Him.

In other words, attempts to know exactly why, are axiomatically impossible.

That doesn’t mean to say that one can’t surmise, one can’t draw lessons, or one can’t initiate a Drush. But, one can’t say this is why X happened, unless God himself, or a Navi is commanded to tell us.

I think her point below is excellent and salient. Some would say I’m even guilty of promoting it, which may be true, but isn’t and wasn’t ever my intention. My only quibble with what she says relates to the cause/effect nature of her statement which implies that we know for sure.

Again, I do not disagree with her point. She is clearly an intelligent lady. This is a snippet from the Jerusalem Post

Bashi Twersky, the widow of Rabbi Mosheh Twersky – who was killed in the Har Nof terrorist attack last week – said the internal divisions within the ultra-Orthodox community that have developed over the last two years were the (my emphasis) reason why her husband and three other members of the community died in the brutal incident.

Speaking at the mass prayer rally and ceremony held in the Jerusalem neighborhood on Tuesday night for the end of the shiva mourning period for the victims, Twersky said the dispute had become increasingly acrimonious over the last year in particular.

She was alluding to the establishment of a new political movement and party that is in competition with the traditional Degel Hatorah non-hassidic haredi party.

She said that the attack had been particularly brutal, and asked how such a death could befall those praying in synagogue, “how did the sanctity of the synagogue and prayer not defend us,” she asked.

“The fire of dispute has been burning among us for a year now, and this dispute became terrible, and every day it gets worse.”

“Someone who listens to a great rabbi different from the one I listen to, someone who belongs to a different camp from me is commanded to be cruel to them, is commanded to humiliate and disgrace them, to harass them with terrible brutality.

“When we behave with cruelty to our brothers, God sends a punishment with cruelty, measure for measure.

“In synagogues and study halls they persecuted, disgraced and humiliated those who think differently from me, and therefore we were struck by the attribute of strict justice in a synagogue at the time of prayer,” the rabbi’s wife said.

She added that strengthening religious observance, as has been advised by many rabbis, was not a good enough reaction, and that rather a “drastic change” was required.



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[Hat tip BA]

November 24, 2014

Rabbi Hershel Schachter once told me that if there’s a disagreement in matters of halachah at the OU between him and Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, you are the deciding vote.

The halachic decisors at the OU are the three of us. So if there’s a dispute the majority rules.

You’re also involved in running the office?

Yes. That is part of my responsibilities.

Have standards been lowered over the years to expand and broaden the kosher market?

I think that generally during my 35-year tenure as the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division the standards have actually been enhanced. There’s a good side to the kosher market’s expansion, and a less good side. Rabbi Berel Wein would often bemoan the fact that we’re seeing a lot more “glatt” kosher and a lot less “standard” kosher, a lot more “shmurah” matzah and less “regular” matzah. My own experience growing up in America was that even the Conservative Jews had two sets of dishes. While they weren’t necessarily careful about kashrus outside the home, they were nonetheless careful inside the home. Unfortunately, because of the erosion of the Jewish people to assimilation, that broader commitment has weakened dramatically.
Coextensive with that, we’ve seen the growth of the Orthodox community, especially the chasidic and yeshivish com-munity, which is much more careful and demanding about kashrus. This is expressed most dramatically by the fact that in the 1940s there was no such thing as glatt kosher in America. Glatt kosher began to emerge primarily when Satmar came to America after the war. Before that it didn’t exist. Rav Moshe Feinstein never ate glatt kosher because according to the Rema one doesn’t have to. Today in the OU market everything is glatt. The driving force is the consumer market, which today is much more stringent in this matter.
We’ve actually seen conflicting attitudes. On the one hand, the frum community became much more demanding in terms of kashrus, but we’ve also seen the degrading of kashrus by the general population, which is very unfortunate. It’s unfortunate because we want them to be careful regarding kashrus, and also because kashrus is something that binds them together as Jewish and is a bulwark against assimilation.

When I studied in Lakewood, I remember the yeshivah used food products that I don’t think they would use today.
I have the same recollection. I remember when I was in Lakewood in the ’60s they used regular Rice Krispies, and so on. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. When Rav Aharon Kotler started Lakewood, he wasn’t makpid on chalav Yisrael. The famous story that’s told is that when he was finally convinced to switch to chalav Yisrael it came in a big canister, which overturned, and he was very upset about the entire switch.

The OU still certifies kosher chalav akum.

We’re sensitive to those who are diligent about chalav Yisrael. If something is used with what Rav Moshe called “chalav hacompanies,” we list it as OU-D on the ingredients. And when we certify products that are chalav Yisrael we indicate that.
The Chazon Ish has a discussion about chalav Yisrael and he quotes the Pri Chadash, that when there’s pikuach hamemshalah [government supervision] it’s muttar. It’s interesting to cite what Rav Wosner writes in Shevet Halevi that when the Chazon Ish wrote this, Rav Wosner recommended he not print it, since the Chasam Sofer does not permit it. However the Chazon Ish didn’t agree with him. Rav Moshe in his teshuvah claims that government supervision is good even according to the stringent position of the Chasam Sofer. So that’s the OU’s position in terms of dairy products. We have many products we give supervision to that are chalav Yisrael.

The consumer should know what the differences are between local chasidishe hashgachos and the major hashgachos. Would you agree with that?


Do you find those hashgachos to have more chumros?

I think the OU generally has more chumros. All the hashgachos we give we believe are l’chatchilah. We’re dan on everything. We record everything in terms of the halachos, the psakim. We have a secretary, a safra d’dayna, Rabbi Eli Gersten, who’s a very big talmid chacham. We don’t do things on a b’dieved level in shechitah or any production we certify. I think people have come to recognize that. One of the reasons is the level of the rabbanim we employ. There are over 50 rabbanim working in my office, not to mention the people in the field. These are musmachim of our finest yeshivos. They’ve come to recognize that the OU is a purely communal, non-profit organization. Beyond our salaries, we’re not the beneficiaries of even a penny that the OU earns. It goes right back into the Jewish community in terms of kiruv and to the Yachad Program, for children with disabilities. I think that makes the OU unique.

While there are three fine rabbanim in charge of the OU, we also have to rely on the individual mashgichim and on the credibility of the owners of companies. So while we may be able to rely on the OU, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is kosher.
Every hashgachah is based ultimately on the credibility of the entrepreneur who’s running it. If we find someone who’s dishonest, it doesn’t matter if he’s a Jew or a non-Jew; we remove our certification.

Rabbi Schachter told me that China is very problematic, since Chinese entrepreneurs have been caught cheating many times. With that in mind, how comfortable can we feel that we’ll actually be eating kosher at the end of the day?

In terms of China, as the global economy expanded, American companies started sourcing ingredients from every corner of the world. That requires us to go to China and other far-flung places. We inspect all these plants. We have people in China. And, generally speaking, the ingredients we use coming from China are in most cases ingredients that are relatively innocuous. We look at the kashrus sensitivity of the product. We inspect all the plants. The need is there because of globalization.

You have competition and I’m sure the OU is competitive to get as many companies certified by the OU as possible. How do we know you won’t compromise to get a customer?

Obviously it’s an issue and we confront it all the time. But in terms of the OU, that’s one of the things that’s a major underpinning behind our founding. The advantage of the OU as an organization is that there’s an infrastructure and any monetary temptation is mitigated because it’s a communal organization. Our people won’t be rewarded financially; their parnasah doesn’t depend on this or that company. That’s the advantage of communal kashrus.

There’s a conception that kosher food is more healthful and cleaner. Is this only among non-Jews, or also among those Conservative and Reform Jews who, you said before, stopped eating kosher?

You’re right. Companies who look for kosher supervision are not only looking to sell to Orthodox Jews who keep kosher. The kosher market is much larger than that. It includes people who for their own religious requirements look for kosher, such as Seventh-day Adventists or Muslims or people who have lactose intolerance and want to see if it’s pareve, or gluten intolerance and want to see if it’s kosher for Pesach. But a big part of the market includes those who have a perception that if it’s kosher, either quality- or health-wise it’s a better product. Part of that, candidly, is not always the case. For example, a kosher salami sandwich has just as much cholesterol as a non-kosher one. But other times it’s accurate: For example, when there was the problem with mad cow disease; because kosher slaughter eliminates a lot of the blood through salting, it seems it was less susceptible to mad cow. I think another thing is that we provide another set of eyes watching the plant. The USDA or FDA sees a plant maybe once a year. So the kosher designation gives consumers some comfort that there’s an extra set of eyes in the plant.

Does that hold true for non-Orthodox Jews?

I assume it’s universal. Also, in terms of the general Jewish population, we see that around Pesach time American Jews come home to roost and for the Seder and Pesach they’re more likely to buy kosher products.

How closely do you work with other kosher agencies?

The OU’s position is we will use other ingredients from other agencies that we feel meet a certain standard. So there is a certain amount of communication.
The OU is much larger than all the other agencies combined. We could’ve used our leverage to say that if you want to be an OU company you can only use OU products. But we didn’t. When I came to the OU 35 years ago, one of the people who told me to maintain that was Rav Soloveitchik. There was a company that applied to the OU that was under another certification. That certifier complained that we took the company away. I said, “We didn’t take them; they applied on their own.” He said,”Let’s ask Rav Soloveitchik.” Rav Soloveitchik told us, “It’s a free country, and they’re doing this for marketing reasons; they can choose whom they want to use for kashrus.” Then the Rav said to me: “I wouldn’t want to see everything come under the OU, because I don’t think that’s healthy for the American Jewish community that this should be a monopoly.” And I was always guided by that direction from the Rav.

It’s impossible today for any hashgachah not to rely on the OU, since no small kashrus supervision organization can possibly certify all the ingredients that are used in most products.

True. It’s impossible. Every supervision is relying for the basic ingredients on the OU. That doesn’t mean to say that some of them will not check with us as they may want to go see the plants on their own. But ultimately, basic ingredients, for example oils, are under the OU. I remember when I was growing up it was very difficult to get kosher oils. Then Crisco Oil came under the OU. What people take for granted now was very much not the case then. Trying to convince companies to make basic ingredients kosher was heroic work in the 1950s.

Kosher food is often expensive. Maybe we should educate people that in some things the extra hechsher is just a waste of money.

We try to do that in our Pesach directory. We have a special box where we list things we think are innocuous that are kosher all year. We know that to be an Orthodox Jew is a very expensive endeavor. With so many products under different national supervisions it’s possible not only to have kosher food available throughout the US, and if you’re buying a national product that has an OU, it’s the same cost as similar unsupervised items. That’s a tremendous savings. It makes it possible for people to keep kosher at no additional cost.

Any plans for future improvements?

There’s always room for improvement. A lot of it just has to do with a sense of seriousness and purpose. I’m proud of the people who work at the OU. They’re all talmidei chachamim and are endowed with that sense. So they’re the ones who inspire me.

The people in your office are really from diverse yeshivah backgrounds. I’ve been there more than once. You have Modern Orthodox rabbis and chasidim.

That was by design. When I first came to the OU, I thought the OU was a communal organization and should represent all different communities and yeshivos, and we tried to build it on that basis. On a related issue, another thing the OU does is we go to all yeshivos and we make presentations explaining what’s involved in kosher supervision. And also, every other year we do a program for three weeks to teach kashrus to yeshivah guys.

by Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter

Reprinted with permission from Ami Magazine

Donate to the Har Nof fund?



We all graphically witnessed the murder in the Shule in Har Nof, leaving four widows and 24 children without a father.

An anonymous person has generously agreed to match whatever is donated, up to 1 million dollars. I have now donated, after an email from the OU.

Here is the link.

Please feel free to distribute to others if you are comfortable with the concept etc

How does one react to tragedy in an authentic Jewish manner

We say, many times, מפני חטאינו גלינו מארצנו. This is undeniable, and a basic tenet of Judaism. It goes to the concept of שכר ועונש Reward and Punishment (with apologies to Camus) and without which there could never be בחירה חפשית, free choice. Mankind was handed the choice, and through those choices, God through his נסתרות, his Godly account book, decides when, where and how we will get what is “coming to us”.

To pretend that any human being can fathom Godly logic is simply heretical in my opinion. It implies that using one’s own logic and calculations they understand the Godly ledger and plan. This is tantamount to imagining that a human being can work at that level, and that is heresy. We are given hints, advice, and when there was נבואה the direct word from God. We were also given the gift of תשובה which for matters between Man and God, we have the capability of being forgiven at opportune times, or even יש קונה עולמו בשעה אחת. It’s an involved process as outlined by the Rambam in הלכות תשובה, but it’s do-able. If we are earnest, Hashem is there. For matters between man and man, it is more difficult. Man’s capacity to forgive, despite the dictum of והלכת בדרכיו is disturbed by man’s frailties and predilections. Accordingly, one may have all the correct intentions, and yet, the person from whom one seek forgiveness refuses your entreaties (there are הלכות about how many times one must seek such forgiveness but ואכמ’’לֹ this is not the place to discuss these).

Who can say why Hashem hid his face so to speak, and allowed an atrocity such as the one in Har Nof to go ahead? The Rambam says that those who attempt to ascribe reason are מאוס they are despicable.

There may be some imbued with temporary phases of רוח הקודש and even non Jews who are given the power to see into the future (Bilaam is a famous example). But what does that mean to the public person in the street?

I can’t speak for the man or woman in the street, but I can speak for myself. My own view is that if a universally respected Rov, whether they are a Kabbalist, a Rebbe or a Rov, or whether it is one’s Rav Hamuvhak, one’s “special” Rabbi, suggests that following events, a person, each person, should retrospect, and seek to improve themselves in ways that actually may and will vary according to the vagaries of one’s pattern of sin needing improvement, then this is correct and proper. I also think that the timing for such statements is critical, and in fact, need not be tied in specific terms to a particular incident. When we feel most vulnerable, we are most amenable to listen, in general. Do we still feel their pain after Shiva or Shloshim?

A Rabbi who thinks they know “the reason for the Holocaust” or “the reason for the Chmelnitzki massacres” or “the three boys who were kidnapped at bus stop and murdered” or the Rabonim גזע תרשישים butchered while davening in Tallis and Tefillin is as close to an heretic as I can imagine. Unless they can show consistent רוח הקודש and some accompanying supernatural influence from above that can be tested and verified, what gives them the knowledge or power to be able to second guess God? This, to me is the height of חוצפה and bad manners.

Somebody once asked the Klausenberger Rebbe why he does not go to the demonstrations where they shout שבת and throw stones (who did they learn this stone throwing tactic from?). He shrugged his shoulders. The questioner was not satisfied and pressed on by saying that it was a Torah command to complain about those who are less observant in certain ways. The Klausenberger Rebbe answered, nu, did your protests help? Did they do any good? We already saw from Ya’akov Avinu, and presumably the Malach in Rivkah’s tummy, that when Eisav wants to go into a house of Avoda Zora, any yelling and screaming didn’t help. To admonish implies there needs to be a reasonable chance that the admonishment will help. If it doesn’t, you may well be pushing the person further away from Judaism. Achronim pasken this way L’Maaseh.

We saw three grades of reaction to this tragedy. The first was from the שונאי ישראל the arch haters of Jewry, the Neturei Karta. These low lifes had the unmitigated gall to actually attempt to comfort the family of the ישמאלי who had topped himself, and about whom the modern blood libel that “the Jews killed him” was swallowed “hook line and sinker.” They have been put in Cherem by many. Do they exist in Melbourne? Yes, they most certainly do.

The next grade of reaction was that of one of the Satmar Rebbes. There are two. They fought and continue to fight. As usual his thoroughly offensive comments were not only extremist, but dripping with a lack of compassion. In the midst of the Shiva for יראים and שלימים, not to mention the Druze who is in גן עדן as one of the חסידי אומות העלם he trotted out the headline grabbing “reason” that is the hallmark of the vacuous movement known as Satmar. Who are they, and who is he, that he knows why Hashem allows things to happen? Does he also go public with his advice to his own Kehilla about the hushed pedophilia in that community? What is the reason for such? Which lunatic would  claim that the reason for that phenomenon is due to the fact that they are anti the State of Israel when their Rebbe, R’ Yoel was saved by Zionists whom he despised! It’s all documented, not by artscroll of course. They tell me that R’ Yoel was not such an extremist in reality, and that when he heard of the death of any Jewish soul, would weep uncontrollably. I hope there was not a remote smell of triumphalism in the Satmar community that the murders in Har Nof, and the problems in Yerusholayim are due to “we are right, and you are all wrong”. That attitude stinks to high hell. If R’ Yoel had רוח הקודש why did he go to Israel and leave penniless. He failed dismally in Israel. Did he make a mistake? Are you allowed to say such things?

The third grade of reaction was the incredible one from the actual אלמנות of the slain Rabbis. They didn’t want any arguments or finger-pointing over Shabbos. They wanted no Loshon Hora or Rechilus or speaking ill of others. For this reason, in my home, their wish was respected and we tried our outmost to expel any negativity, and personally I did the same. This post would have been written on Friday, but as soon as I received their request, I was frozen, and resisted. Are there Satmar in Melbourne? Plenty.

We all have much on which to improve.

Stop being God’s accountant. Be your own accountant. Each of us knows exactly the aspects which we need to improve. If you don’t, that’s your first problem. It isn’t the same for everybody, nor can we be lumped into some group, all transgressing certain or the same sins.

Faith, according to Rav Soloveitchik, is about not questioning. It is about axiomatic acceptance. The only time questioning is a useful activity is if one has accepted the axioms, and uses questioning to enhance their understanding of the ways of Hashem.

I refrained from posting pictures of the first two grades of people because frankly, they don’t deserve a bit or byte. Perhaps a bite according to the Gemora.

The centrality of Eretz Yisrael



The following is from HaRav Tzvi Sobolofsky, a well known Rosh Yeshivah and Talmid Chacham from YU.

Avraham is described in Parshas Toldos (26:5) as one who observed the Torah of Hashem. Chazal (Kiddushin 82a) explains that this passuk is teaching us that Avraham observed the entire Torah even before it was given. The Ramban in his commentary on this passuk elaborates on this statement of Chazal. Yaakov also observed the mitzvos prior to them being given but only did so in Eretz Yisroel. This was the justification for Yaakov marrying two sisters, and as such Rachel actually died as he returned to Eretz Yisroel. The Ramban adds that although mitzvos are binding outside of Eretz Yisroel, the primary place for mitzvah observance is in Eretz Yisroel. Thus, the voluntary observance of theavos was limited to when they were present in Eretz Yisroel.

This premise of the Ramban, that there is a fundamental distinction between mitzvos performed in Eretz Yisroel and those performed outside of Eretz Yisroel, appears difficult to understand. Agricultural mitzvos such as terumah, ma’asros, and shemitah are linked to the land and do not apply in Chutz La’aretz. Mitzvos which are chovas haguf, those performed with one’s body, have to be observed outside of Eretz Yisroel and yet the Ramban understands them to be on a higher level if done in Eretz Yisroel. Why should mitzvos which are not connected to the agriculture of Eretz Yisroel still take on an additional dimension when done in Eretz Yisroel?

Chazal (Keilim, chapter 1) delineate the ten level of geographic kedusha that exists in the world. The place with the most intense kedusha is the Kodesh haKodoshim. Different areas of the Beis Hamikdash and Yerushalayim are each endowed with various degrees of kedusha. The tenth and final area mentioned is Eretz Yisroel. Each area has its ownhalachos that differentiates it from the other areas. The kedusha of Eretz Yisroel which separates it from the rest of the world is the fact that the korbanos of the omer and the shtei halechem offered on Pesach and Shavuos can only be brought from grain that was grown in Eretz Yisroel. Rather than the obvious halachik distinctions between Eretz Yisroeland Chutz La’aretz such as terumah, ma’asros, and shemitah, why do Chazal highlight the halachos that are related to korbanos?

The mefarshim explain that the theme of these mishnayos which differentiates between different levels of kedusha is the gradations of kedusha emanating from the Beis Hamikdash. Beginning with the Kodesh haKodoshim and ending with Eretz Yisroel, there are ten levels of kedushas ha’aretz. It would be irrelevant for the mishna to highlight the agricultural mitzvos that apply only in Eretz Yisroel as the mishna is not focusing on those distinctions.

The omer and the shtei halechem are korbanos that must come from an area endowed to some degree with kedushas ha’aretz. Eretz Yisroel has sufficient kedushas ha’aretz to enable these korbanos to be brought from grain grown in its borders.

Eretz Yisroel is distinct from Chutz La’aretz in two ways. It is agriculturally different which results in a practical difference concerning mitzvos pertaining to the land and it is also different in that it has kedushas ha’aretz which Chutz La’aretz does not. It is this second dimension of Eretz Yisroel that results in its unique status concerning all mitzvos. The primary location for the performance of all mitzvos is in the Beis Hamikdash, the place dedicated for avodas Hashem. The outermost precincts of the Beis Hamikdash end at the borders of Eretz Yisroel. Thus, the entire land is the primary location for mitzvah observance. Although the Torah clearly obligates us to fulfill mitzvos even in Chutz La’aretz, the Ramban understands this to mean that these mitzvos are still not at the level of mitzvos performed in Eretz Yisroel.

The avos who volunteered mitzvah observance only did so in Eretz Yisroel where the highest level of fulfillment of the mitzvos could be achieved.

This aspect of Eretz Yisroel as an extension of kedushas ha’aretz explains another halacha that does not apply in Chutz La’aretz. Chazal teach us that the declaration of Rosh Chodesh must be done by a beis din in Eretz Yisroel. The Rambam elaborates upon this theme by applying this even to our observance of Rosh Chodesh today. In the absence of the process of witnesses testifying that they saw the new moon and the subsequent declaration of Rosh Chodesh by beis din, Rosh Chodesh today is “declared” by the Jewish people observing it as Rosh Chodesh. The Rambam states that it is this observance-declaration of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisroel that determines the day of Rosh Chodesh which establishes Rosh Chodesh worldwide. Why is Eretz Yisroel so central to the observance of Rosh Chodesh, given that Rosh Chodesh has nothing to do with the agricultural uniqueness of Eretz Yisroel?

The declaration of Rosh Chodesh emanates from the Beis Hamikdash, as all Torah ultimately comes from the Beis Hamikdash which housed the aron and was the seat of the Sanhedrin. From Eretz Yisroel, the outermost area endowed with kedushas ha’aretz, goes forth the declaration of Rosh Chodesh. Whether by the formal announcement of beis din or the observance of the people, the new moon is sanctified in Eretz Yisroel. As we are about to observe Rosh Chodesh this coming week, we turn to Eretz Yisroel and realize its centrality in our lives. From the days of the avos until today, Eretz Yisroel remains the primary location for mitzvah observance. Even as we follow the commandment of the Torah to continue performing mitzvos in Chutz La’aretz, we look forward to the day when mitzvos will be performed in their complete glory in Eretz Yisroel blessed with the Beis Hamikdash rebuilt in its midst.

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ואפילו בהסתרה … even when he is hidden?


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There is a moving Breslov melody which is very popular. The words are from R’ Nachman in לקוטי מוהרן although I haven’t ever read that ספר חסידות, but so I am told. The gist of it is that even when God is hidden, as in ואנכי הסתר אסתיר את פני he is still there albeit בהסתרה.

My davening was very agitated at Shule today. In fact, during davening, when I read certain things, tears welled up in my eyes, and for reasons which probably aren’t entirely normal, I didn’t want anyone to notice my distress. I raised my voice for pesukim which condemned רשעים.

I asked a few people, what is the meaning of this song after the tragedy the latest tragedy. Rav Moshe Twersky הי’’ד for example, Rosh Yeshiva, was named after R’ Chaim Brisker’s elder son Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, the Rav’s father, whose Yohr Tzeit falls out on the same day as my father ע’’ה.

I asked others whether Breslav would be bopping in the streets of Beit Shemesh. How can anyone, even a Chossid bring שמחה to the table.

I noted to others, that in this case, they don’t do Tahara, and one is buried in their bloodied clothing. I don’t know what the din is, but my feeling was it would have been appropriate to bury the person in their Tefillin as well as their Tallis. אפילו בהסתרה was sounding so hollow to me. I couldn’t cope with it.

[Hat tip BA]

Here is a post from a lady close by

Some people wake up in the morning to the soft strains of the music on their alarm clock. This morning I woke up to the heart-stopping shrieks of multiple ambulances and police cars racing down my street on the way to Har Nof. Meanwhile my husband was in shule davening Shacharis. I hadn’t even said goodbye to him as he left while I was still asleep and was considerate enough not to wake me. Thank G-d my husband came home from shule. But my friends Chaya Levine and Breina Goldberg weren’t as fortunate. What do you say to a friend, the widow of a holy martyr, whose life has changed drastically in an instant? How can I smile at Salim, the friendly Arab worker at the grocery store across the road, without feeling suspicious? And how do I deal with the fact that for the first time in 24 years in Israel I no longer feel safe in my own backyard? May G-d comfort all of us in these trying times, and may we all appreciate every minute spent with our loved ones.

I just don’t want to hear God’s accountants telling us it is because of a) or b) or c). Do yourselves a favour and adopt וידום אהרון.

At times like these, I’m terribly reminded of horrible holocaust scenes . I’m left with extreme בהלה

What can one do? We can donate money to relevant organisations, but there are families that now comprise some 24 children without a father. What was the Aybishter doing hiding? Can we ask why? I say yes. I say we adopt Moshe Rabeinu’s attitude and say מחיני נא מספרך rub me out from your Torah if you have something against the Jews. This so soon after a Shabbos Kiddush Hashem, it defies logic, and yes, I know “that soul may have completed its purpose in this world” is often used, but I don’t know why that soul wasn’t allowed to complete more. Who does it harm?

Don’t anyone dare suggest it was because we didn’t follow Satmar’s incorrect views.

In Melbourne we have the wonderful CSG looking after Shules and Schools. Ironically, they don’t look after Chareidim who think that their negative attitude to Israel and Torah Learning etc will protect them. This is a reminder that אין סומכין על הנס and you have to protect yourself. Does someone really believe that two or three deranged chevra from this כת הרוצחים these ישמאלים ממזרים aren’t capable of a copy cat style operation. Both major political parties are supportive of improved security, but there is a limit to what can be done. And I hope nobody touches the latently anti-semitic, nevus socialist alliance party. Don’t give them one vote.

Parents, watch your kids. Watch yourselves.  I see kids in the Charedi area of Ripponlea walking at night alone or in two’s. They wouldn’t have a hope of protecting themselves from the type of attack that Zac Gomo endured. Zac was a חייל with training and that saved him. He spoke Arabic and knew how to close a wind pipe.

Maybe we need to introduce קרב מגע in every Jewish School. Obama isn’t going to help us, and neither is anyone else. We can’t be sanguine. We must act, speak up, and look after ourselves. At the same time, improving one’s own personal faults in עבודת השם and עבודת הזולת, which is a very personal thing, should be on everyone’s mind. The world is finely balanced, and as usual, we are on the עקידה and although it is commonly thought that Yitzchak didn’t die on the עקידה the Midrash/Peskikta explicitly says that פרחה נשמתו i.e. Yitzchok died before the knife cut, and when he was saved, a new Yitzchok was effectively born.

אני הקטן don’t have anything of real value to contribute in this blog post except an outpouring of = extreme angst and aggravation that MY God was אפילו בהסתרה and if so, I say, no I beseech, that this game of hide and seek needs to stop through full גילוי אלוקות במהרה בימינו.

In the meanwhile, I would, even though it’s against intrernational law, not only demolish the houses, but evict all members of the family on a one way passage to Gaza. Let them rot there. I would investigate and include any Imam/Sheik who had influenced them (if they did) and do the same to them. The Balad party and all parties should swear allegiance to a JEWISH State, and if they can’t, they should leave to an Arab state.

End of Story.

Being a Shaliach for Bircas HaGomel


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This question came up for me recently. Note, unlike a Bircas Hanehenin which is optional in the sense that it only comes to be if you want to benefit from something, this is a Bircas Hanehenin that is a Chiyuv, It was about someone in a car accident and his mother (in Israel of all places) begged me to be the Shaliach for Bircas Hagomel. Whilst this appears to be against the Rama, and I have looked a little, a few local Rabonim replied in the negative immediately. I have seen some contrary opinions but alas haven’t studied them in enough detail (yet) to feel confident about them. I have asked Rav Schachter but I’ll need to ring him, as I have a few unanswered questions. Has anyone come across this one. It’s different of course to the husband and wife situation if one uses the argument of אשתו כגופו but I note many women had and  have the minhag to say it themselves anyway (either with a minyan in their house — I think it’s a peculiar minyan which has to have two Talmidei Chachomim) or they say it in Shule from the women’s gallery provided it’s not a Chassidic or neo-Litvak Shule of today. Some women, for a Bris,  say it at the Bris.


Benedictine, Gin and Tonic, and those sorts of things


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This is forbidden by most major Kashrus authorities. Nothing is unchanged, and even those who wish to claim that it may have been Kosher, need to produce evidence that it’s currently Kosher.

Now, there is a rumour that Rav Lande from B’nei Brak permits it. I’d love to see that letter. It seems to be elusive. I think Rabbi Hasofer, who was once in Melbourne, is now the younger Rav Lande’s right hand man on Kashrus.

I note that I became a recent convert to diet tonic water (NOT for pregnant women). Schweppes used to be on the list, then were removed. It seems that much of the problem with Schweppes may be that they can’t be bothered saying what’s in their drinks and as such, we don’t know.

Enter Kirks. I bought those. Now they don’t seem to make the diet or normal tonic anymore (unless someone can direct me where I can buy).

In the meanwhile, I bit the bullet, and said to “hell” with relying on these secretive companies. We bought a SodaStream which also supports Israeli enterprise, and it has a diet tonic flavour. Provided you don’t but the fancy version with the LED lights (LED lights on Shabbos is a topic on its own) you can use it on Shabbos too.

Many of the flavours are new, and I just love the diet pink grapefruit. Reminds me of breakfast in an Israeli hotel where you fress to the extent that you can’t eat lunch.

Slurpees revisited


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I listened to a Shiur from the Star K on this topic, a reputable Kashrus authority. Basically, you have every right to drink a slurpee as long as the syrup is kosher. What is kosher. Well the OU are strict and insist that their flavours have the OU symbol, and Star K advise that if you are in doubt ask the proprietor to show you the syrup.

We have a situation in Melbourne, however, that we seem to be unable to check the source of many flavours as they may well come from disparate sources. They certainly aren’t using OU.

Now, in Sydney, apparently they are more lenient. I find that a little hard to understand (as it supposedly due to the London Beth Din ruling).

Here is an interchange which might make you question the same. It’s okay to say X is my Posek, but you should never be afraid to ask your Posek to explain himself.


Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 2.32.13 pm

Congratulations to Hatzollah Melbourne


When people are at their greatest need, these responders, many from the normally secluded Adass community, are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They do a magnificent job and all-not just Hungarian Charedim-should support the cause.

I think they can improve their annual dinner format, but I have expressed those views privately.

חזק ואמץ

may you sit idly with no call outs!

How do you see comments?

On Shabbos someone approached me and said they had wanted to see the comments thus far and add their own. The trick is to click on the TITLE of an article and then the comments should be below (if there are any).

To be honest, I only know about comments because I get an email telling me there is one and showing me what the comment is.

When you show all the comments by default, I think you take up valuable real estate. That being said, I am a believer that all hypertext links should be underlined. Nobody would know to click on the title of the article to see more. That’s just plain bad UI design (something I’m not responsible for, unless I’ve missed some option somewhere)

Mesora and Psak: How it may differ between Chassidim/Mekubalim and others


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The closeness to Mesora has always been primary. Halacha LeMoshe Misinai is immutable. Torah Shebaal Peh as written is a record of Mesora including contradictions and attempts to disambiguate and show through the Midos SheHatorah Nidreshes BoHem, including Sevara (which isn’t listed but is clearly a Midda as testified by the Gemora in many cases). As time advanced through Tanaim, Amoraim, Geonim, Rishonim we move to latter generations known as Acharonim. To be sure, there are some Acharonim, who on occasion would argue with Rishonim. Two well known examples are the Vilna Gaon and the Rogachover. They were guided by what they felt was Emes L’Amito.

When it comes to Acharonim, there  are those, depending on which group you align yourself with, who are considered “the last word” and there are others, such as the Chazon Ish in respect of electricity where everyone seems to be Chosesh to some extent to his opinion. That being said, others will say he was an Acharon in B’Nei Brak and if he was your Rav and/or you lived there you need to follow his Psokim.

The Brisker Shitta, is different. Whilst they are beholden to Beis HoRav (Volozhin/Soloveitchik) they were never afraid to disagree with each other. Of course, there is a group that follows every word of Reb Meshulam Soloveitchik, son of the Griz (Uncle of the Rav) in the same way that Chassidim follow their Rebbe. He’s just not called a Rebbe, and he doesn’t fir tish etc.

We saw that as a Posek became more recognised, people came for Brachos. Some were averse, and others would give a general Brocha to be Yotze. I sensed this from Videos of R” Shlomo Zalman.

The Rishonim (and here there is some difference amongst Ashkenazim) and certainly Sephardim, are untouchable. If you want to innovate=bring something consonant with Menorah you need to bring a Rishon.

I remember well, some 40 years ago when my zeyda bought a copy of the Meiri. At the time it was very controversial. Beautifully put together, it was ignored somewhat for years. Now, it seems nobody has a problem quoting a Meiri. The Meiri was a Bar Mitzvah present for my cousin Ya’akov Balbin and while it sat in my house for many years after he went on Aliya, I sent it to him at his request.

There have been plenty examples of Ziyuf. There was the fake Yerushalmi on Kodshim, and more.

The common denominator was that to qualify for Psak,  especially the style of Psak (especially Hungarian) where one joins different Kulos, you had to have a Rishon (or early Acharon who quoted a Rishon given that some had access to Rishonim we don’t have, or a Girsa we don’t have.

There are stories where the Rav’s Talmidim, would say but Rebbe it’s an open Maharsho that contradicts your Pshat. When he was younger, he angrily banged the Gemora and said, “and I’m not an Acharon”? This was not haughty. This was what he felt. He felt his Pshat was more correct than the Maharsho and was ready to debate it with anyone.

Many Acharonim either didn’t own, or look at other Acharonim. That’s not to lessen their importance. But, it’s a derech.

Where Chassidim/Mekubalim are different, I feel is that they would consider that when there is no clear way forward or where there are different views, Kabbola, whether from the Zohar or Ari on occasion trumps and guides the Psak. A pure non Chossid/Mekubal would note such opinions but would be less likely to PASKEN based on them.

Do people agree with me or have I over simplified. Drush is another class. One has license to extrapolate and certainly doesn’t need a Rishon to find a nice Pshat.

Aleppo Codex - Genesis

Conversions: Now the Israeli Bureaucracy are Poskim


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[Hat tip BA]

This, from the Times of Israel by Ben Sales, is another level of conversion madness.

TEL AVIV (JTA) — In 2012, Anna Varsanyi was married in an Orthodox Jewish ceremony conducted through Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

Two years later, the Hungarian immigrant has made a life in Israel, settling with her husband in the central city of Modiin and working a desk job in a hospital. She is weeks away from having her first child.

But the baby won’t be Jewish, according to the State of Israel.

Varsanyi, 30, is the victim of an unusual bureaucratic mix-up.

Israel abounds with immigrants who are considered Jewish by the state but not by the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate under its stricter qualifications. Varsanyi is the rare case in which the opposite is true.

Born to a Jewish mother, Varsanyi meets the Chief Rabbinate’s standards for who is a Jew. But Israel claims Varsanyi isn’t Jewish because her mother converted to Christianity.

‘This woman’s basic rights are being violated, and those of her unborn child are being violated’
Varsanyi says her mother is Jewish and it was her great-grandmother who converted — in 1930.

“It’s like they tell you, ‘Come, make aliyah, you’re Jewish, you’re one of us,’” Varsanyi said, using the Hebrew word for immigration to Israel. “But when you’re already here, they say ‘You’re second-class, you’re not one of us. So you might as well leave.’ ”

Born under Hungary’s Communist regime to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, Varsanyi grew up barely aware of her Jewish heritage. But a growing interest in her Jewish roots led her to study Yiddish literature and culture at university and to register for a 10-day Birthright Israel trip. Next came a year abroad at the University of Haifa, where she met her Israeli future husband. After a stint working for the Jewish Agency for Israel in Budapest, she immigrated in 2011.

Varsanyi gained citizenship under the Law of Return, which requires only one Jewish grandparent for an immigrant for automatic citizenship. Varsanyi’s maternal grandfather was unambiguously Jewish.

But when Israel’s Interior Ministry saw a document concerning her great-grandmother’s conversion, they refused to register her as Jewish, claiming she was raised Christian. To be recognized as Jewish, the ministry told Varsanyi, she needed to convert.

Except Varsanyi can’t convert because she is already Jewish according to Jewish law, which doesn’t recognize conversions to other religions. The chief rabbinates of both Israel and Hungary consider Varsanyi, her mother, her grandmother and her great-grandmother to be Jewish.

“It’s hard to imagine anybody more committed to the Jewish people than someone like Anna,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, the founder of Itim, an Israeli organization that guides people with religious status issues through Israeli bureaucracy. “They’re simply not looking at the facts. This woman’s basic rights are being violated, and those of her unborn child are being violated.”

At first, the Interior Ministry’s decision had little effect. Varsanyi already had citizenship and was married, the two areas in which issues of personal religious status are most likely to cause problems.

But last year she began petitioning the ministry for a change in status, worried that her future children would not have their marriages recognized by the government.

‘If I didn’t have principles or problems I’d say let them win’
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Varsanyi said. “Why would they force me to convert when I’m Jewish? If I didn’t have principles or problems I’d say let them win. But I wouldn’t be able to face myself.”

The ministry has rebuffed her requests, claiming that her mother converted from Judaism before she was born. Varsanyi says this is not true, that it was her great-grandmother who converted.

The ministry also has refused to rely on the Chief Rabbinate’s recognition of Varsanyi as Jewish, despite a 2012 law allowing it to do so. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabin Haddad told JTA that the ministry has asked the rabbinical court that declared Varsanyi Jewish for an explanation but has yet to receive a response.

After several rejections, Varsanyi has come to feel like the ministry’s employees “don’t give a crap.” She said she once met with a ministry official, who after reading her papers said, “I don’t know what you want because you’re not Jewish.”

“It was traumatic — I almost cried,” she said. “Like, ‘Welcome to Israel: You’re not a Jew.’ ”

Rabbi Riskin on the conversion issue


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[Hat tip MD]

Original in hebrew is here

Rabbi Riskin: Haredim are the greatest reformers

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin came out strongly against the ultra-Orthodoxas a result of their opposition to the law, saying “The Haredim are the greatest reformers. Justifying only one way is to Catholicism and the Pope”

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi of Efrat and founder of Ohr Torah Stone institutions, has slammed the haredi opposition to the law after the conversion  waves on Israel Radio. “I do not understand the thing. Yes, I  there is a commandment of “love the convert. “Yes, I think that the Chief Rabbinate until now did not know what it means is to convert properly with love and care. How do they have the audacity to say the conversions I perform are not in accordance with  Jewish law? “said Rabbi Riskin.

“Their behavior regarding conversion law is contrary to Halacha. Unfortunately, the Haredim are the greatest reformers, on many  things. Including enlisting in the IDF, because there is no section in the Talmud, where it says there Torah in respect of the laws of saving people’s lives in action. There is room for dissenting opinion in Judaism. One who claims there is only one way this is not not Judaism, but Catholicism and the Pope. “

“The government has taken a bold step in favor of the unity of Israel, a move that will prevent a split into two peoples: Jews and Israelis,” said Rabbi Riskin. “I hope the Chief Rabbinate understands that we, city rabbis, are completely dedicated to Halacha and as in all generations there were dissenting students of Hillel and Shammai offering a different interpretation. We unite and will not split, we will talk and not boycott. This is about the lives of human beings and the future of our people.”

On the Aruch Hashulchan


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A reader asked me what “caused” the Aruch Hashulchan not to remain the primary acharon for Psak, arranged according to the Shulchan Aruch but then be “overtaken” by the Mishna Brura as a source for final psak by many. (Mind you they don’t accept the Mishna Brura on skirt length and more, even if they accept him for Hilchos Shabbos)

This is largely due to the Hungarian Charedim.

They couldn’t accept

  1. His Psak that it was permitted to say Krias Shma in front of woman with revealed hair because today such a thing no longer titillates a male
  2. His Psak that Dina D’Malchuso Dina, following the laws of the land, especially vis-a-vis Mesira, are not germane because in many cases we live in a Malchus shel Chessed.

Of course, number 1 is factually true unless one is hermetically sealed. Unfortunately, number 2 is not only factually true but is the problem with today’s society in fearing going to authorities over especially heinous crimes and is infamous. There are those who want to claim that the Aruch Hashulchan was forced to write as in 2. to assuage the authorities and avoid the censor. I don’t know. But I do know, that if you live in a Malchus Shel Chessed, you have no excuses.

I like the Aruch Hashulchan very much because he starts with primary sources and for a very much part time learner like me, that is helpful.

The Mishna Brura has some issues which many still won’t acknowledge: it wasn’t all written by the Chafetz Chaim. Some sections were written by family, who openly acknowledge they didn’t agree with the Chafetz Chaim and therein is the source of some contradictions in the Chafetz Chaim. I have seen tomes trying to reconcile contradictions in the Chafetz Chaim, but they failed to realise that it was from two sources!

The Shulchan Aruch HoRav, who mainly basis his Psak on the Magen Avraham, is a masterpiece of prose. It is a pleasure to read and every word needs to be weighed carefully. Furthermore, he doesn‘t always pasken for Lubavitch, although he follows the Kzots and not the Gra in respect of shiurim and the like. His Siddur will often say what is for Lubavitch. The Chafetz Chaim has a strange habit of not quoting Shulchan Aruch HoRav in many instances for some reason, even though he easily outweighed those Acharonim who were quoted.Then again, I don’t know who is  responsible for that.

As a more modern sefer, I do like the Shearim Metzunoyim B’Halacha, and I bought it 32 years ago. I understand he’s a relative of Rabbi Braun, formerly of Tzemach Tzedek in Sydney and now on the Beis Din in Crown heights. He wasn’t a Lubavitcher. The Kitzur remains an essential part of anyone’s library.

The Chayei and Chochmas Adam are good but a little too brief for me and seem to have parts missing.

In a nutshell, that’s my answer to the reader. By the way, you can find Aruch Hashulchan online, re-typeset.

For Sephardim, it’s another matter. You have the Ben Ish Chai or you follow Rav Ovadya as in Yalkut Yosef.

And, anyone who doesn’t know, do yourself a favor and download the free ובלכתך ודרך from the Apple Store for your iPhone or iPad (you have to type it in Hebrew). It’s great. I know it sits on my iPhone but haven’t got a clue about Android.

Finally, while I have no affiliation with Rusty Brick, I like their products. They cost a little, and are vastly superior to the free versions of various things available from Lubavitch web sites. It’s important to support software companies who are trying to write good things of use!

Rav Schochet – prominent Chabad rabbi – bans Telushkin Book For Heresy Content


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If there is one thing that any chossid or reader of the works and episodes of the last Rebbe זי’ע is that while he was firm and unwavering, his responses during yechidus were often unexpected. There is a need for a person to imagine how is Rav HaMuvhak would have behaved, but once you get into the realms of the greats, you are a brave man extrapolating from the general to the particular. This is what Rav Schochet and many others do. They are well intentioned but in my opinion show disrespect by double guessing their Rebbe. Based on Schochets comments below we could never have seen the wonderful interchange between the LR and a reform rabbi who wrote 9 1/2 steps which the LR ALLOWED him to publish. I say take a step back and remember to be מקבל the אמת from whoever tells you. If he has problems with certain views or assumptions then let him state these; he otherwise falls in the category of the ubiquitous protests stuck on the walls of Yerushalayim which not many pay attention to.

Here is the article from

Make up your own mind. I found the book excellent. I think that calling Telushkin out in this way achieves zero kiruv.

In a letter written a few weeks ago, Rabbi Gershon Elisha Schochet, Av Beis Din of Toronto, asks Rabbi YY Shusterman, Rov in Beverly Hills California, if he permitted the reading and disseminating of the Telushkin book.
After a response was not forthcoming, he chose to publish the letter:
I have heard a rumor, that you have supposedly approved the book of Telushkin, and additionally, you have ruled, in your capacity as a Rov More Hora’ah for Chabad, that Shluchim should encourage the distribution of the book.
I am sure you are aware of the Rebbe’s opinion prohibiting the use of books which were written by unscrupulous individuals, even when there is no inherent problem with the content of the book. And the Rebbe held the same regarding books which only referenced such publications.
Also, you are surely aware of the Rebbe’s extensive correspondence regarding the Conservative movement, it’s “Rabbis” and leaders – that the Halacha is they are considered heretics.
You are surely aware of the famous ruling by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, that a Conservative “Rabbi” is not trusted for testimony in Jewish court just by the mere fact that he is affiliated with said movement, and he doesn’t need any prior warning before being disqualified…
Regarding the author, Telushkin – there is no need to do any research, for it is clearly known to anyone who searches the internet that he serves as a “Rabbi” in a Conservative temple, where a woman serves as a “Chazanit” and his assistant “Rabbi” is from the Reform movement,
Although this would have been enough for someone who is a G-d fearing Jew, and even more so for a Chossid of the Rebbe, and even more so for one who presents himself as a Rov who rules according to the directives of the Rebbe – to completely prohibit the above book.
More so, in this case (without even discussing the issue of the author), when many people who are considered G-d fearing Jews, and known around the world as smart people who are busy with spiritual issues (I am not talking about those “leaders” who are well-versed in politics, PR and monetary issues) – have said that the book has some terrible ideas which constitute a Chilul Hashem, so much so that anyone who has any inkling of a connection to the Rebbe, and more so if he has an iota of Hiskashrus, would immediately denounce this book.
I therefore turn to you and ask you, in the name of Anash and their descendants which are here and those that will come, that you please tell me that this rumor is a lie, and there is no inkling of truth in this matter.
If G-d forbid there is some truth to this rumor, I demand you tell me what the reasoning behind your ruling is, and if you made your decision independently or after consulting with other Lubavitcher Rabbonim and Mashpiim, and tell me their names and reasons.
With a blessing for a Ksiva V’chasima Tova,
Rabbi Gershon Elisha Schochet

Ron Prosor in the UN on Ir HaKodesh


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It says a great deal that the international community is outraged when Jews build homes in Jerusalem, but doesn’t say a word when Jews are murdered for living in Jerusalem. Throughout history, Jerusalem has been the capital for one people and only one people – the Jewish people.
Amb Prosor addresses the UN Security Council

Amb Prosor addresses the UN Security Council
Copyright: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Following are excerpts on from remarks by Ambassador Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, to the Security Council during the Emergency Session on Jerusalem:

• I am here to convey one simple truth. The people of Israel are not occupiers and we are not settlers. Israel is our home and Jerusalem is the eternal capital of our sovereign state.

• There are many threats in the Middle East, but the presence of Jewish homes in the Jewish homeland has never been one of them.

• It says a great deal that the international community is outraged when Jews build homes in Jerusalem, but doesn’t say a word when Jews are murdered for living in Jerusalem. The hypocrisy is appalling.

• Throughout history, Jerusalem has been the capital for one people and only one people – the Jewish people.

• Jerusalem is central to our identity and our tradition. The holy city is named more than 900 times in the Bible. On holidays we sing לשנה הבאה בירושלים – “Next year in Jerusalem.”

For thousands of years, through persecution and massacres, expulsions and crusades, blood libels and pogroms, Jews turned their hearts in prayer towards Jerusalem. The connection between the Jewish people and our capital cannot be denied.

• The Palestinians and others have had the audacity to accuse us of trying to alter the historic Jewish character of our ancient city. Really? The truth of the matter is that Jerusalem had a Jewish character long before most cities in the world had any character. It was the capital of the Jewish people long before Homer composed the Iliad, before Romulus and Remus founded Rome, and before the armies of Alexander the Great swept across the Middle East. Jerusalem is steeped in Jewish history.

• Earlier this month, he [Palestinian President Abbas] called on Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount using (quote) “all means” necessary. Are these the words of a leader committed to making peace?

• The video of his hateful remarks was broadcast on official Palestinian Authority television 19 times in three days -19 times in three days. The results of these inflammatory remarks were almost immediate. Hundreds of Arabs rioted in Jerusalem damaging the light rail system and a Hamas terrorist deliberately drove full speed onto a Jerusalem train platform and killed two people. Did President Abbas express outrage or remorse over the senseless killings? Of course not. He couldn’t even muster the courage to denounce an attack that left a three-month-old baby dead.

Rather than trying to extinguish the flames of conflict, the Palestinian leadership is adding fuel to the fire. First they incite violence on the Temple Mount and then they run to the Security Council to complain about the consequences. If this isn’t manufacturing a crisis, I don’t know what is.

• Following Israel’s victory in 1967, Israel reunited Jerusalem. Since then, all people – and I mean all people – regardless of religion and nationality can visit the city’s holy sites.

And while we were victorious and assumed control over all of Jerusalem, Israel extended a hand in peace to the Muslim world. According to the status quo brokered between Israel and the Waqf [the Islamic religious authority], Muslims would enjoy access to pray at their holy sites, while all other religions would be allowed access to the Temple Mount.

Israel went one step further and decided that Jews would not be allowed to pray on the site. I want to make sure you understand this. The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest place, but we were willing to restrict our own freedoms for the sake of peace. Can you think of another nation that would make this compromise? Can you think of another religion that would make this sacrifice?

Today, Jerusalem under Israeli authority is united for Muslims, united for Christians, and united for Jews. As Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated this week (and I quote), “We are maintaining the status quo and allowing everyone access to the holy places, and we will continue to do so.”

Israel is doing everything in its power to minimize tensions. Even when riots break out, Israeli security forces, acting in coordination with the Jordanian government, refrain from entering the mosque and its courtyard unless there is an imminent threat to the site and its visitors.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, are doing everything in their power to inflame tensions. The Waqf has violated the status quo agreement by restricting access to Judaism’s holiest place – the place where we believe that God began the act of creation, where Abraham brought his son Isaac, and where Jacob fell asleep and dreamed of angels.

Today a Jew who wishes to visit this sacred site is threatened with violence. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Earlier this month, Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that allowing Jews to visit the Temple Mount is a “declaration of war against Islam.”

There are the irresponsible words of a person trying to ignite a religious war. You don’t have to be a Catholic to visit the Vatican. You don’t have to be a Jew to visit the Western Wall. But the Palestinians would like to see the day when the Temple Mount is only open to Muslims – and that will not take place.

• It is time for the Palestinians to realize that the children of Abraham – all the children of Abraham – Jews, Christians and Muslims alike – are not doomed to live together in war, but rather destined to live together in peace.

• And so today I issue this promise from the people of the Promised Land – under our watch, Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, will remain a free and open city for all people and for all time.


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