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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.

Blotting out women


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I have a little “shiur” each Sunday with my grandsons. I looked for a set of books which were considered better than “little midrash says”. Short enough to keep their attention and informative. It’s been fine, and I notice that the pictures are a great incentive for their concentration.

One grandson today, after I mentioned that Sarah was hidden in a box by Avraham, (Sorai, Avram), asked me “where is Sarah”. I said she’s in the box in the illustration. He persisted but where is Sarah. There are pictures of Avraham, Moshe and Yehoshua etc and admittedly the illustrators tended to not show faces of these people, but it dawned on me that women seemed to have disappeared from every Parsha as far as illustrations were concerned. Now Sarah was good looking. That’s why she was hidden. That’s essential to the story. How you capture that in an illustration is not my problem.

The solution however is heavy-handed. The other ridiculous aspect is that everyone seems to have peyos. From where  do they know this? Ironically the evil people during Noach’s time, look like common criminals in our time.

I’m very strongly attached to the truth. That doesn’t mean to say that one needs to breach Torah Law to tell the truth or draw the truth. They did illustrate idols, ironically! It reminds me of wedding invitations where the female is lowered to the level of רעיתו and her name has disappeared into thin air. Let me note, that R’ Chaim Brisker (Soltoveitchik) signed his son’s wedding invitation as

Chaim and Lipsha Soloveitchik. He didn’t even call himself HoRav, even though he was undeniably one the Torah geniuses of all generations.

Picture from vos is neias

Tzitzis in the Urinal, Part 2


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I had previously written a blog post without looking anything up (not a good idea) but anyway, I had a hunch it was a reasonable question.

In the comments section, there is an interchange between myself and a Choshuve Rav on what I had written. On Shabbos morning, I went for the ערוך השלחן who was the prime Posek for both Lithuanian and Polish Jewry (in terms of an Acharon who had put together a smaller version of the Shulchan Aruch). There was much politics about two of his rulings which caused him to be “abandoned”. He shouldn’t have been, but that’s our crooked society. The Chayei Adam was also important, and for Chassidim, especially Chabad, the Shulchan Aruch HoRav was the decisive Shulchan Aruch (the latter sadly has parts missing due to a tragic fire).

Either way, the style of the Aruch Hashulchan is not for the masses. He usually starts from the Gemoras and Rishonim and ends up with his Psak. He is, in my opinion, far more decisive that the Mishna Brura who  tends to list important Acharonim and in the end often concludes according to the majority, even though you can “tell” from the gist of what he holds that he might disagree with them. That’s my opinion anyway. Your mileage may differ.

So, I was rather uplifted to see the Aruch Hashulchan (who started off as a Rav in a Lubavitch town of all places) write as follows

סימן כא סעיף ו

וכתבו בסעיף ג:

מותר ליכנס בציצית לבית הכסא, וכל שכן לשכב בהן דשרי. ויש שכתבו שנהגו שלא לישכב בטלית שיש בו ציצית, גם שלא ליתנו לכובסת כותית לכבס. והכל שלא יהיו מצות בזויות עליו. אך נוהגים להקל לשכב בהם.

עד כאן לשונו. ואינו מובן טעם האוסרים לישכב בטלית: אטו גריעא שכיבה ממרחץ ובית הכסא?

ונראה לי דטעמם: דכבר בררנו דהכל מודים דדבר של בזיון אסור אף כשנפסלו הציצית, וקל וחומר בכשרותן. ולכאורה הכניסה לבית הכסא ולמרחץ הא הוי דרך בזיון. וצריך לומר הטעם כמו שכתבתי, שכן דרכם של בני אדם ואי אפשר באופן אחר רק בטורח מרובה. ולכן השכיבה, שדרך בני אדם לפשוט בגדיהם – אם כן הוה בזיון כשישכוב בטלית. אך רבינו הרמ”א הכריע שנוהגים להקל לישכב בהם. והטעם: דלא חשבינן זה לבזיון כלל.

(ואדרבא האר”י ז”ל שכב בטלית קטן, כמו שכתב המגן אברהם סעיף קטן ב’.)

ויש מי שכתב דכל זה הוא בטלית קטן. אבל בטלית גדול העשוי רק להתפלל בו – אין ליכנס בו לבית הכסא (ט”ז סעיף קטן ג’). ובוודאי כן הוא, שהרי אין טורח לפושטו, ואם כן נחשב בזיון כשילך בו לבית הכסא או למרחץ. ונכון להקפיד להפשיט הטלית גם בעת יציאתו לקטנים. וכן אנו נוהגים, והכל מטעם שבארנו.

He discusses the practice of people sleeping in Tzitzis, and says how could this be forbidden if one says its permitted to go into the toilet (they didn’t have urinals) with Tzitzis, surely the latter is a bigger issue. He then says that in essence everyone agrees that it’s not respectful to take the Tzitzis into a toilet, even if the Tzitzis became Posul, and how much more so if they are Kosher. (Note: he isn’t talking about the Tallis for davening which everyone says one should take off). The Aruch Hashulchan then boldly says (and in my opinion it is logical and correct) that really if we think about it, taking Tzitzis into a Toilet (or smelly Urinal) really isn’t an honourable thing. The same applies to a bath house (I have heard that Chassidim leave their Shtreimels outside the Mikvah). We must conclude that “this is what people do, and it’s a real hassle to remove your Tzitzis each time you need to go the toilet”

Now, returning to my original question, one could argue (and I repeat, I am not a Posek) that simply tucking the Tzitzis in and going to a urinal, is preferable to leaving them hanging out. I would argue that this is not a major undertaking.That being said, IF I was a Posek, I think my answer to someone who asked me, would be that since you asked, I suggest that you tuck them in. You obviously have the sensitivity and it is the correct thing to do.

Interestingly, R’ Shea Hecht told me this morning that the famous R’ Lazar Doovid Freedman, used to take his Tallis Kotton off completely, before he went to the Beis HaKiseh. Now, I can’t recall, but I think he wore it OVER his shirt, at any rate, R’ Shea asked him why, and he answered that he has reasons.

I started to look into the Mishna Brura and elsewhere on Shabbos afternoon (I hadn’t had a shloof) and then found myself asleep with my head in the Mishna Brura. At any rate …

PS. I asked Rabbi Telsner on Shabbos morning if you could take a Shofar into the Beis HaKisei (I’m talking about perhaps in Marcheshvan where you aren’t using it) and mentioned to him that I’m not asking a klotz kasha. He answered that it was a good question.

Do elevators “need” a Mezuza?



[Hat tip MD for Hebrew Source]

This is in Hebrew and seems ambivalent about the concept. It’s yet another thing which seems unnecessary but those who want to be concerned for all opinions, can be strict (a sort of Mishna Brura approach or a R’ Moshe approach for a B’aal Nefesh)

I found this from R’ Sholom Klass.

Q. Do elevators require a Mezuzah?

A. There is a debate among authorities as to whether elevators require a Mezuzah. Most authorities feel that since the elevator is not stationary it is exempt from a Mezuzah. Thus an elevator or a door leading into an elevator does not require a Mezuzah.

The authorities that do require a Mezuzah on elevator doorways that are stationary write that it should be affixed on the right side as one enters the elevator on the bottom floor. On the other floors it should be affixed on the right side as one exits the elevator and enters the hallway.

From R’ Elchanan Lewis

If he could explain us, where should mezuzah be affixed by the entrance of elevator in multilevel building.
The door of elevator opens inside the wall (and does not turn around)
Is there difference between floors of the building?

There is more than one opinion on this issue.

The Responsa Minchat Yitzchak (4, 93) holds that the elevator itself requires a mezuzah from the inside and not in the entrance of every level.

Others require a mezuzah on the right side of those who enter the elevator apart from the main entrance of the building in which the mezuzah should be placed on the right side of those leaving the elevator. (Chovat Hadar p.43)

Some exempt the elevator all together from a mezuzah. (Be’er Moshe 2; 88, 90)

The last opinion I found is to place the mezuzah in all levels on the right side facing out of the elevator. (Pitchei Shearim p. 190)

Most elevators I have seen do not have any mezuzah and those whom have, followed the last opinion above. (though I haven’t seen many buildings in religious neighbourhoods…)

In any case because of the doubt the mezuzah will be placed without a Brachah.

Note that Chacham Ovadia Yosef discusses this issue in the aforementioned chapter (p. 300), and he concludes that we do not consider the time spent on a boat a permanent residence, and thus it does require Mezuzot. This principle applies as well to other rooms that are not intended for permanent residence, such as elevators, buses, airplanes and jetways leading from airport terminals to planes. In all these situations, even if there are rooms of a size that normally obligates a room in Mezuza, no Mezuza is required, given the temporary nature of the use of these structures.

Summary: One who returns home after an extended absence does not recite a new Beracha over the Mezuzot in his home. One need not affix Mezuzot to the doorposts of boats, elevators, buses, airplanes or other structures that are not used for permanent residence.

Revach L’Neshoma writes:

Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fischer and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach – Mezuza On The Elevator Door?

In Even Yisroel (9:100), Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fischer is asked if when he paskened that one is required to put a Mezuza on the entrance of the elevator, he had seen Rav Shlomo Zalman’s psak in Minchas Shlomo. Rav Shlomo Zalman says that in principle an elevator is patur from a Mezuza but you should put a Mezuza on the right side of the door when coming out of the elevator without a bracha.

Rav Shlomo Zalman’s reason, as brought down in the Even Yisroel, is that since when the elevator is not on that particular floor the doorway serves as an entrance to an empty pit, it cannot be considered a doorway since you cannot come in and out unless the elevator is there. Only in the case where there is a doorway to a ladder that is fixed in its place to go up and down, is there a requirement for a Mezuza.

Rav Fisher says that he hadn’t seen the Tshuva but after studying it now he doesn’t change his psak. Using Rav Shlomo Zalman’s analogy, Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher argues and says that if each person on the floor had his own doorway for the ladder that they all shared, and the ladder could be moved from one doorway to the other, each person’s doorway would definitely be required to have a Mezuza. The fact that the ladder is not always there. and then the doorway leads to a long drop down to the courtyard, does not take away the obligation for a Mezuza. Similarly the fact that the elevator is not always there does not exempt the doorway from requiring a Mezuza.

And perhaps the “best” answer from the folks at Eretz Chemda

This a fascinating question from the perspective of applying classical halachot to new situations, which can and does prompt varied conclusions in this case. As far as the bottom line l’maaseh, our response will be somewhat more straightforward. We will refer to a residential building. The status of mezuzot in commercial settings, even in normal rooms, is a major issue in its own right (see Living the Halachic Process, G-4).
The Rambam (Mezuzah 6:9) says that there is no need for a mezuzah on a sukka or on a house on a boat because these are not permanent places of living. Similarly, an elevator does not have a usage in a set manner because, from the perspective of any specific floor, one cannot access it when it he wants. Rather sometimes it is here and sometimes it is there (B’tzel Hachuchma III, 80).
On the other hand, there is a concept that a beit sha’ar (a hut that serves as a gateway) that is open to a house does require a mezuzah (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 286:7). This is the case even when the beit sha’ar does not have the regular requirements of a room that would require a mezuzah. Thus, for example, the Chamudei Daniel (cited in the Pitchei Teshuva, Yoreh Deah 286:11) says that a beit sha’ar requires a mezuzah even if it does not have the usual size of 4 amot (approximately 6 feet) by 4 amot. In some ways then, an elevator is more likely to require a mezuzah than a sukka. While it moves around from place to place, it serves a function on behalf of a building where people live on a permanent basis (Minchat Yitzchak IV, 93, based on the aforementioned Chamudei Daniel). Yet, this is far from a simple matter. Firstly, the approach that an area can require a mezuzah just because it serves an area that requires one is not necessarily accepted (Minchat Yitzchak, ibid.). Secondly, the elevator does not even serve as a set beit sha’ar for any floor’s elevator shaft but is a roving beit sha’ar.
Those poskim who do recommend placing a mezuzah for an elevator, for the most part say to do so without a beracha because there does not seem to be more than a doubt that it is required (see some opinions in Pitchei She’arim 286:220-222). These poskim also have another issue to contend with: where would one put it. On one hand, you might want to put it on the entrance from the corridor into the elevator shaft. This would require a mezuzah on each flight. One posek said that on the first floor, where one enters the building, it would be on the right side going in, whereas on other floors, where one first and foremost, exits the elevator, it would be on the right side from the perspective of one leaving the elevator (Chovat Hadar 5:11). On the other hand, some say that the elevator shaft is just a dangerous hole that is sealed except when the elevator opens up next to it. Therefore, one would put a mezuzah on the elevator’s entrance. That way, whenever one would move from the corridor to the elevator shaft, one would meet an elevator in the entrance (Minchat Yitzchak, ibid.).
In any case, what is most important in such a matter is that the minhag ha’olam (the accepted practice) is to not put a mezuzah anywhere around an elevator. While we have seen some reasons to explain why one might want to place one, we have not found close to a consensus of poskim to require it. In such a case, it is not positive to start a trend to contradict an accepted practice based on doubt, which almost automatically, in our days, starts off a chumra (stringency) race to have the most halachically advanced building. In many circles, this could be seen as casting aspersions on others, actually on the masses, and the disadvantages of the chumra outweigh its advantages.

There is probably a good answer to this but …


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On Shabbos, while in the male urinal, I stood next to a guy who was wearing his gartel. I admonished him and said that the gartel was a הכנה for davening. I don’t believe it is necessary today, but I wear one because my Zayda Yidel HaCohen Balbin ע’’ה did (and on Yom Kippur I wear his Gartel, as he passed away on Yom Kippur)


ר׳ יהודה הכהן בלבין before WW2

The guy thought and said, “you know, you’re right”

Anyway, when I was younger and devoted some time each day to Mishna Brura, I remember being inspired by his words regarding wearing Tzitzis out, as opposed to in. I don’t include the uncouth manner of some who wear their shirts out of their pants as well today, something I don’t understand unless one wears a Kapote covering it (I see boys from the local Yeshiva all dressed like that, and personally I don’t agree with that practice).

Getting back to the Mishna Brura, in his usual way (not Litvish) of quoting all opinions he wrote very strongly that one should wear the Tzitzis out, as if he was a proud member of Hashem’s army. That was when I was in Kerem B’Yavneh. From that time on, I followed the Mishna Brura. (Ironically, the major Posek was actually the Aruch Hashulchan, but he was then considered controversial for very bad reasons by Hungarians, but in Lita and elsewhere they followed the Aruch Hashulchan).

Anyway, to my question. I don’t wear a suit jacket to work. My Tzitzis have always hung visibly at University. I am sure it didn’t help, but I don’t and didn’t care. I wear a shirt and pants, generally. In winter its warm and in summer it’s cool. It’s natural.  I walked into the bathroom, and went to the urinal to do what men do. In Universities, they don’t exactly smell “wonderful” once the students are in season. I left the Urinal and asked myself for the first time (I don’t know why) whether I should have tucked in my tzitzis before entering. At the end of the day, although the Mitzvah of Tzitzis is not a Chovas Gavro but a Chovas Cheftza, the Tzitzis themselves are M’aaseh Mitzvah. I haven’t looked to see  if this has been discussed anywhere (many Poskim/Haredim wear jackets and Yibitzes which cover the Tzitzis).

For Sephardim who follow the Zohar and Ari, this isn’t a question because they aren’t allowed to wear their Tzitzis out from memory because it’s considered Yuharo (showing off).

Am I asking a silly question?

PS. I’ve also mentioned to Meshichisten who have the advertisement on their Yarmulka that they should turn it inside out before entering a bathroom in my opinion.

What score did your Shule achieve for the Shabbos Project


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I was thinking today about the reason(s) the Chief Rabbi of South Africa chose Parshas Noach as the week that Jews consider uniting in keeping Shabbos together. It’s a great concept and I together with many are fully behind it.

No doubt there is a “real reason” and someone from South Africa may be able to advise me. I heard a Rav today suggest that immediately after Bereishis, its is logical to go into action. We’ve just finished The Yomim Noroim, God has created the world, society made errors, and this is a logical Shabbos to commence Shabbos observance.

My mind, however, wandered to Noah’s ark itself. I felt the words, “Go out of the ark” the command to Noach to rebuild a humane society. This was a time of post-destruction, a time of building, a new beginning, and what better way than to observe the idea that we don’t work 7 days a week. We devote one day to the spiritual, to the level above the rat race of the week, and try to share that with others.

To be sure, there are some who have never left the ark nor do they want to. Hungarian ultra orthodox types no doubt are still in the ark. They don’t interact with the Jewish world unless they can make a buck. Accordingly, I wouldn’t have expected much emanating from the likes of some Haredi places. I heard the tired refrain that they didn’t want someone to drive to their house for a meal, but I’d like to suggest that almost all of them who work for a living and interact with such people know some within walking distance whom they could invite. But, they have the problem of not wanting their kids to see “sinful” people, so I imagine (correct me if I’m wrong) they couldn’t take part meaningfully in this exercise (except come and see what this Havdala ceremony was all about at the Park, although they usually keep Rabeinu Tam’s Tzeis Shabbos time. South Africa is void of Hungarian extremists and is Litvak/Chabad focussed so there is no problem of interaction potentially. That’s why they have comparative unity and almost no reform or conservative or conservadox (Shira Chadasha) movements, unlike Melbourne, where I hold Orthodoxy responsible for the existence of these aberrations.

Then there  are  the Shules who in my opinion should re-examine carefully their outreach or general Rabbis and boards if they didn’t take part. I know of one Shule that did zero out of the ordinary. They had their usual kiddies pre-shabbos function, which is nothing out of the ordinary. The Rabbi didn’t even mention the concept in his drosha, not that there was a single person new in attendance at the Shule. There was a “lunch/cholent” in a back room which actually had less people than the usual paltry few (I guess there were better functions at other Shules). What they might have done is find every Jewish person in the area (and there are plenty) and invite them to a free shabbos lunch (even in a marquee at the park if there were many), find a dynamic speaker or three, sing songs, use some ingenuity etc. You don’t have to be Einstein. But, if you are a comparatively disconnected internet Rabbi, many would argue that your days are numbered. Perhaps, get another job and get off the gravy train.

Kudos to the organisers, but next year the men might become more involved as they don’t generally bake challah :-)

I regret that personally we didn’t invite a few of our neighbours, but my mind has been somewhat not where it should be.

Next year, God willing, hopefully in Yerusholayim Ir HaKodesh.

The “solution” to the Bris conundrum


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The Torah can be pesky can’t it? It makes us give a Bris to a male kid who is eight days old, without asking the kid, and then you have the arguments between Chassidim and Hungarians against the rest about Metzitza B’Peh. There have been tragic rare cases of kids dying from this and חמירא סכנתא מאיסורא

Now we have the western world attacking us that it’s also barbaric.

Ah, but the Torah has all the answers in it. We just have to be big halachic “authorities” with broad shoulders and use our brilliant minds and we’ve got the solution.

We know that the Halacha also states that someone who is born circumcised, doesn’t need to have a Bris. This is an unusual situation if you follow a normal world, with normal outcomes and have a normal mind. But we are modern now, we can do many things.

We have now isolated the gene that can cause a child to always be born in a way that they don’t need a bris. We can genetically perform a simple procedure even before marriage and dispense with the Bris Mila! All male kids will be born without the need for a Bris. Wow. How innovative. It’s sort of like dispensing with Shechita by making sure you create factories of Bnei Pekuah. Genius level.

Let’s find some entrepreneurial rabbis (to charge for overseeing the process and ensuring that we) eradicate the need for the concept of Bris Mila from our community over time so that every male child doesn’t need to have to have a Bris. Problem solved. Left wingers would love it. How brilliant, and you can make money from this by investing in the technology and then charging. Even Hatofas dam bris doesn’t cost much and nobody would worry about that small fee.

Imagine how popular you’d be with the left. You would not need to wait 8 days. The child wouldn’t cry. Mummy wouldn’t cry. Daddy wouldn’t squirm. Which genius rabbi will be behind this new technology? Did I hear you say that you can be נבל ברשות התורה. Well you can, but you are then described as a נבל.

Ah, big deal. As long as you can make a buck and pervert עולם כמנהגו נוהג. It’s rather easy to come up with nonsense. It’s harder to deal with the bearded ones who peddle it.

Don’t give them oxygen.

R’ Meir Deutsch on Shmitta: Guest Post



This year is according to our Mesora a Shmitta year. Much has been written, and is being written, about Shmitta. There are different opinions how it should be observed today, as Shmitta today is only MIDRABANAN, and therefore l’Kula.

In Israel the Chief Rabbinate issued a ruling:

בשבוע שעבר הוציאה הרבנות הראשית נוהל עוקף רבנויות מקומיות בנושא שמיטה. על פי ההחלטה של הרבנות הראשית הרב יעקב אריאל והרב אברהם יוסף יוכלו לתת לעסקים בערים בהם הרב המקומי לא מאשר היתר מכירה תעודת כשרות.

I will not elaborate on the subject, but would like to share with you some of my thoughts. How was Shmita observed, if it was observed at all, in the past? We do remember Shmitta nowadays, but no Yovel. Doesn’t this distort the dates of the Schmitots?

מַה נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִית?
מאיר דויטש© כל הזכויות שמורות

בשמיטה ודאי לא הייתה כוונה לרושש את החקלאי היהודי היושב על אדמתו.

התורה שואלת את שאלתה: (ויקרא פרק כה פסוק כ)
וְכִי תֹאמְרוּ מַה נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת הֵן לֹא נִזְרָע וְלֹא נֶאֱסֹף אֶת תְּבוּאָתֵנוּ:
ומשיבה: ” (ויקרא פרק כה)
(כא) וְצִוִּיתִי אֶת בִּרְכָתִי לָכֶם בַּשָּׁנָה הַשִּׁשִּׁית וְעָשָׂת אֶת הַתְּבוּאָה לִשְׁלֹשׁ הַשָּׁנִים:
(כב) וּזְרַעְתֶּם אֵת הַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁמִינִת וַאֲכַלְתֶּם מִן הַתְּבוּאָה יָשָׁן עַד הַשָּׁנָה הַתְּשִׁיעִת עַד בּוֹא תְּבוּאָתָהּ תֹּאכְלוּ יָשָׁן:
הייתכן כי זאת התניה – אם הברכה תהיה בשנה השישית כאשר ציוויתי – יבול לשלוש שנים, אז שנה שביעית שמיטה. ואם לא יהיה יבול לשלוש שנים בשנה השישית, מה אז?

יש לנו דעות מדעות שונות על שמיטה בעבר הירדן המזרחי. האם יש בה קדושה פחותה מזו של ארץ כנען? הניתן ללמוד מביכורים, ששם נאמר “אשר נשבע לאבותינו לתת לנו […], דהיינו רק בארץ המובטחת ולא חל בעבר הירדן המזרחי?
הדעות השונות הם של דיוני החכמים והפירושים שלהם של הנושא. מה היה למעשה, מתוך ההיסטוריה, אין אני יודע אם היה הבדל בין שני עברי הירדן, ואם היה – מה היה ההבדל. כנראה היה הבדל, אם כן, הרי ניתן היה לקבל אספקה בשנת השמיטה מהשבטים שהתנחלו ממזרח לירדן. זה גרם לאפליה בין שתי האוכלוסיות, זאת במזרח שיכלה לעבוד את האדמה ולצרוך יבולי שביעית, וזאת במערב שלא יכלה. ייתכן ואפליה זו היא שגרמה לכך שבני ישראל לא שמרו על שמיטה ונענשו בגלות.

כיצד נספרות השנים לקביעת שנת השמיטה?

היובל חל כעבור שבע שבתות שנים, אחר שבע שמיטות. יוצא מכך שבזמן היובל לא זרעו השדות שנתיים רצופות. ראינו למעלה כי התורה מבטיחה ברכה בשנה הששית ליבול לשלוש שנים, לשנה הנוכחית, לשנת השמיטה ולשנה שלאחריה כי לא זרענו בשמיטה. לכאורה, לקראת שנת היובל, צריך יבול בשנה הששית לארבע שנים, אבל אין כל ברכה לשנת היובל המבטיחה יבול לארבע שנים.
ישנה מחלוקת בין ר’ יהודה וחכמים: האם שנת היובל היא השנה הראשונה של המחזור הבא של שמיטה – כך סובר ר’ יהודה, או שהיובל עומד בפני עצמו ורק לאחריו מתחילים לספור את מחזור השמיטה הבאה – סברת חכמים. במחלוקת זו נפסק כחכמים וגם הרמב”ם (הלכות שמיטה ויובל פרק י’, ז’) מאמץ שיטה זו.
הרמב”ם אומר כי בזמן בית שני (שם ג’): “ומנו שבע שמיטות וקדשו שנת החמשים, אף על פי שלא הייתה שם יובל בבית שני מונין היו אותו כדי לקדש שמיטות.” זאת אומרת היובל עומד בפני עצמו ואינו חלק בספירת שנות השמיטה, הרי עלינו להוסיף לספירת שנות השמיטה שנה אחת בכל 49 שנים, כמו שאומר ה”כסף משנה” : “דאם לא היו מונים יובלות היו מונים אותה שנה לחשבון השמיטין והיו השמיטין שלא במקומן.”
כך היה בבית שני. היום, כנראה, אין אנו מקפידים שהשמיטה תהיה במקומה, ואין אנו מוסיפים את שנת היובל למניין, כמו שאומר הרמב”ם (שם ה’): “משחרב [בית המקדש] באחרונה לא מנו שנת החמישים אלא שבע שבע בלבד מתחילת החורבן, וכן עולה בגמרא בעבודה זרה חשבון זה שהוא קבלה.” ומוסיף: “שהקבלה והמעשה עמודים גדולים בהוראה ובהן ראוי להתלות.”

מה שאנו רואים מכאן כי בימינו יש שבע שמיטות בכל 49 שנים, בזמן שבבית השני יש שבע שמיטות בכל 50 שנים.
הרמב”ם בהלכות שמיטה ויובלות (פרק י הלכה ד) אומר כי שנת 4936 לבריאת העולם היא שנת שמיטה ושנה 21 ליובל.
אם נוסיף 120 פעמים 7 שנים = 840 שנים נקבל שנת חמשת אלפים תשע”ו שהיא שנת שמיטה לפי חישובו, דהיינו לפי חישוביו של הרמב”ם שנת השמיטה היא השנה הבאה לאחר השמיטה כפי שאנו מונים.
מעניין כי הרמב”ם מחשב וקובע את השמיטה בזמנו, אבל אומר כי חכמי ארץ ישראל סבורים כי השמיטה היא שנה אחת לפני השנה שהוא קובע.
(רמב”ם הלכות שמיטה ויובל פרק י):
“ושנת השמיטה ידועה היא ומפורסמת אצל הגאונים ואנשי א”י, וכולן לא מנו אלא לשני חורבן משליכין אותן שבע שבע, ולפי חשבון זה תהי שנה זו שהיא שנת שבע ומאה ואלף לחרבן מוצאי שביעית, ועל זה אנו סומכין, וכפי החשבון זה אנו מורין…”
למרות קביעתו את שנת השמיטה אומר הרמב”ם כי יש לקבל את דעת חכמי ארץ ישראל שחושבים אחרת.
כי מציון תצא תורה.

נבדוק מה היא שנת שמיטה בימינו.

התוספות במסכת גיטין אומרים: “דהשמטת קרקע לא נהגא בבית שני כדאמרי’ בירושלמי בפרקין מנין שאין שמיטה נוהגת אלא בזמן שהיובל נוהג שנאמר וזה דבר השמיטה שמוט אחת שמיטת יובל ואחת שמיטת שביעית כו’ ובבית שני הואיל ולא נהג יובל שלא היו כל יושביה עליה לא נהגא שמיטה מדאורייתא.” (תוספות מסכת גיטין דף לו עמוד א)

היובל נוהג רק כאשר השבטים יושבים במקומם.
בזמן שאין היובל נוהג אין שמיטה נוהגת, כך שכבר בימי בית שני לא הייתה שמיטה מדאורייתא. האם לאחר גלות עשרת השבטים השמיטה בבית ראשון הייתה גם כן רק מדרבנן? הרי כבר אז לא ישבו כל השבטים במקומם?

אם אנו רואים כי כבר בזמן בית שני השמיטה אינה מדאורייתא, לא כל שכן בימינו. השמיטה היום מדרבנן היא ” כדי שלא תשכח תורת שביעית מישראל” (שו”ת קול מבשר חלק א סימן ס ד”ה בש”ע חו”מ), דהיינו רק לזכר.

שאלתי את עצמי: האם לא הייתה מסורת שעברה מדור לדור בעניין היובל – האם הוא בנוסף למחזורי השמיטה או שהוא הראשון לספירת שנת השמיטה הבאה? האם בכלל יכלה להיות מסורת בנושא?
ננסה לבדוק האם בכניסתם לארץ ובבית ראשון, שהשמיטה הייתה מדאורייתא ונהג גם היובל, נשמרו שמיטות ויובלים על ידי בני ישראל.

בדברי הימים ב פרק לו נאמר:
(יט) וַֽיִּשְׂרְפוּ אֶת־בֵּית הָאֱ-לֹהִים וַֽיְנַתְּצוּ אֵת חוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלִָם וְכָל־אַרְמְנוֹתֶיהָ שָׂרְפוּ בָאֵשׁ וְכָל־כְּלֵי מַחֲמַדּיהָ לְהַשְׁחִֽית:
(כ) וַיֶּגֶל הַשְּׁאֵרִית מִן־הַחֶרֶב אֶל־בָּבֶל וַֽיִּהְיוּ־לוֹ וּלְבָנָיו לַעֲבָדִים עַד־מְלֹךְ מַלְכוּת פָּרָֽס:
(כא) לְמַלֹּאות דְּבַר־ה’ בְּפִי יִרְמְיָהוּ עַד־רָצְתָה הָאָרֶץ אֶת־שַׁבְּתוֹתֶיהָ כָּל־יְמֵי הָשַּׁמָּה שָׁבָתָה לְמַלֹּאות שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָֽה:

גלות בבל באה כתוצאה מאי שמירת השמיטות והיובלות בארץ באותה תקופה.
לפי רש”י שם מדובר על 430 שנים שלא קיימו ישראל שמיטה ויובלות, מכניסתם לארץ ועד חורבן בית ראשון. לפי צורת החישוב שלו שנת יובל הייתה בפני עצמה – שנת החמישים ורק לאחריה התחילו לספור את מחזורי השמיטה הבאים.
נראה מכאן כי גם בתקופה עד חורבן בית ראשון, כאשר המצווה הייתה עדיין דאורייתא, לא הקפידו לשמור על שמיטה ויובל. יוצא מזה כי שמיטה לא נשמרה כנראה כלל בתקופת בית ראשון ולפניה, וחטא זה גרם לגלות. בתקופה שלאחריה כבר לא ישבו כל שבטי ישראל בארץ ישראל, ולכן כבר לא נוהג לא יובל ולא שמיטה.

החקלאים שעיבדו את אדמותיהם בשנת השמיטה ודאי שיווקו חלק מהסחורה לשווקים בירושלים ובערים אחרות. חיפשתי ולא מצאתי כי הנביאים, השופטים או ההנהגה היהודית יצאה במחאה נגד צריכת הפירות והירקות שגודלו אז בשנת השמיטה.

היהודים צרכו את גידולי השדה של שנת השמיטה שגידלו אחיהם. מעניין הסיפור בירושלמי:
תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת שביעית פרק ט דף לט טור א /ה”ו:
“חד בר נש הוה חשיד על שמיטתא אמ’ לאיתתיה אפקין חלתה אמר’ ליה ההוא גברא חשיד על שמיטתא ואת אמר אפקון חלה אמר לה חלה מדבר תורה שביעית מדרבן גמליאל וחביריו.”

אנו רואים כאן כי בזמן התלמוד (ירושלמי) סחרו ביבולי שביעית וצרכו את הגידולים. למרות שהקמחים היו מגידולי שנת השמיטה הקפידו להפריש חלה גם מעיסה זו.

שמעתי דבר נפלא מהרב דרוקמן. הוא אמר בשנת השמיטה הקודמת:
שמיטה היא לכל היהודים. וכדי שכל היהודים יוכלו לשמור שמיטה יש לאפשר היתר מכירה, אחרת רק מעטים יוכלו לשמור שמיטה.
בהתבסס על דברי הרב דרוקמן; עלינו לשאוף כי יותר אנשים יזכרו כי זו שנת שמיטה, שלא תישמט מישראל. השמיטה היום היא מדרבנן כדי שנזכור שבכל שבע שנים יש לנו שנת שמיטה.

נתאר לעצמנו מה יקרה השנה.
עקרת בית יהודייה יוצאת לקניות בסופרמרקט או לירקן המקומי. הירקן מציג בפניה את התוצרת המשובחת.
האישה שואלת אותו: “מהיכן הפירות והירקות היפים האלה?”
הירקן עונה: “הם מיובאים מישראל”.
האישה, מאוכזבת, ואומרת: “מישראל? אז איני קונה”.

האם לא מספיק לנו החרם של העולם על תוצרת ישראלית? האם עתה גם יהודים בכל העולם “יחרימו” את תוצרת הארץ?

כולנו מכירים את הסיפור של קמצא ובר קמצא (תלמוד בבלי מסכת גיטין דף נו עמוד א).
מה גרם לחורבן הבית?
כאשר הביאו הקורבן שהוטל בו מום. “ואמרי לה בדוקין שבעין, דוכתא דלדידן הוה מומא ולדידהו לאו מומא הוא. סבור רבנן לקרוביה משום שלום מלכות, אמר להו רבי זכריה בן אבקולס, יאמרו: בעלי מומין קריבין לגבי מזבח! […] אמר רבי יוחנן: ענוותנותו של רבי זכריה בן אבקולס, החריבה את ביתנו, ושרפה את היכלנו, והגליתנו מארצנו.”

לדעתי עלינו להיזהר במה אנו קובעים לשמיטה דרבנן. שלא נזרוק את התינוק עם המים.

Tamar Ariel: an inspirational humbling young lady


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I’ve struggled with understanding the myriad of Israelis who after their army service make their way to Nepal, and India, then sometimes down to Australia. Nepal and India have their significant risks. I’ve only been able to understand it in terms of a need to “come down” from the psychological experience of being in the army. In this regard, I think that whilst having Chabad Houses to support these Israelis is great, the IDF needs to do lots more to develop their post IDF program, especially given the spiritual vacuity that so many seem to experience as soon as they are confronted with life after training and/or combat.

Tamar Ariel is a hero though. I don’t know why she went to Nepal, and I don’t fit her shoes so am hardly in a position to proffer opinion, but a frum girl, who was a pilot, wore a skirt to her ankles, didn’t even shake hands with commanders, is someone who had much more to her than the Chitzoniyus of Tznius. This was a lady who internally was probably more modest than her external fidelity to Halacha. She was one of a kind.

יהי זכרה ברוך

Tamar Ariel ע’ה (picture from Yediot Achronot)

The article can be found here, by Mitch Ginzburg. I reproduce it below.

Cpt. Tamar Ariel, Israel’s first female religious air force pilot, a rear-seat, F-16D navigator, was buried on Tuesday, several days after she died high in the Himalayas. Hundreds of people, including dozens of IAF pilots and commanders, accompanied her on her final journey. Ariel was 25 years old.

She loved motorcycles and fighter jets and wore an ankle-length skirt to her IAF Flight School graduation in December 2012. When Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, the commander of the air force, came down the line of new graduates, he nodded her a greeting, rather than clasping her hand; she nodded vigorously in return and beamed him a smile.

She was a modest and unassuming woman who resented being put on a pedestal. Her aunt, speaking over her grave, said that she did not want to pose for the photo op with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the flight school graduation ceremony because she felt it overshadowed the achievement of her fellow pilots. And though in her life she went to great lengths to state that she was not a role model, she will likely be remembered as such by many in the modern Orthodox community in Israel, which is split by the competing values of army service for all, particularly among the younger generation, and the deep-seated social conservatism that spurred rabbis to press the state, since its inception, to grant all religious Jewish women the right to bypass army service with an oath of Orthodoxy.

Ariel was raised on a cooperative farming community, Moshav Masuot Yitzhak, in a home on the edge of an avocado orchard. She was the third of six children, born to a father who was second generation on the moshav and a mother who made Aliya from Puerto Rico, Yedioth Ahronoth reported in 2012.

She went to a co-ed local school as a child and to an ulpana, or yeshiva for girls, as an adolescent. In 11th grade, she received her first army summons and was found suitable for flight school. After taking several preliminary tests, she decided, in 12th grade, to fall in line with what most of the ulpana girls were doing – national civilian service. “I was afraid of ‘becoming rotten’ from a religious perspective,” she told the Yedioth daily. “I thought that serving within the framework of religious institutions was more protected and safe in that regard.”

She stated that she was Orthodox, received an exemption from army service on the spot, and served for two years as a Bnei Akiva youth leader and a counselor in her former school.

Upon completion, she decided that she still had not fulfilled her potential and turned back to the army, rescinding her earlier statement. In April 2009 she passed the week-long physical exam and was accepted to the prestigious course.

Nighttime navigation drills, when paired off with a man, were awkward, she said, but not “something that anyone dies from.”

After several months in the course and after being placed in the combat fighter section of her class, she flew her first solo flight. As she lined up the landing, wheels already on the tarmac, she felt that she was losing control of the plane and that it might spin off the runway. She pulled the eject cord, according to protocol, was rocketed skyward, and broke a vertebra in her back.

After months in an elastic body cast, the army took her back to the course but moved her into the navigator track.

In December 2012, she graduated, making history. “I don’t think that women need to go to flight school — I think that they can,” she told The Times of Israel at the time. “I recommend that any woman, religious or not, give it a shot. If they call you in, if you pass the tests, it means that the army thinks you can do it. So go ahead — try.”

During Operation Protective Edge this summer she flew the most combat missions in her squadron, her commander said earlier this week.

And then, seeking some R and R, she went, along with another pilot, to vacation in Nepal, to walk the Around Annapurna circuit at what is considered the optimal time of the year. “I didn’t worry during the trip to Nepal,” her mother, Anat, told Army Radio. “The trip was planned to the minute and I had faith in her and in The Holy One, blessed be He.”

Last week, though, a highly unusual storm blew through region, pelting the high mountain passes with snow. Ariel and dozens of other trekkers encountered the brunt of the storm on the Thorong La pass, the highest point on the circuit. Sapped of strength by the altitude and the cold and the fast-accumulating snow, Ariel could no longer walk as afternoon turned to evening and the clusters of trekkers tried to make their way down from the pass to safety.

She died in the snow along with Agam Luria, Nadav Shoham, Michal Charkesky, and 36 other people, half of whom were Nepali.

“You became a public leader,” moshav rabbi Meir Nehorai reportedly said at the funeral, “the object of admiration from all around.”

That admiration is likely to endure and to serve as a beacon to many young Orthodox women charting their path in life.

Guest post from R Meir Deutsch on Simchas Torah


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מועדים לשמחה, חגים וזמנים לששון

מתן תורה
מאיר דויטש כל הזכויות שמורות

It is שמחת תורה We finish reading the last Parasha and start again from BERESHIT. In the meantime we dance with the Tora scrolls.
I want to share with you my thoughts about two topics. The first: in what language was the Tora written, and the second: on what was it written.
The deliberations, except the quotes, are my thoughts, you do not have to agree with them or accept them, but would appreciate hearing your thought on the topic.

בדברים בפרק לב פסוק טו נאמר: “ושני לוחות העדות בידו, לוחות כתובים משני עבריהם, מזה ומזה הם כתובים”.
יש דעות שונות מה הפירוש משני עבריהם, לא אכנס לכולן אולם זו שבמסכת שבת (קד, א) הפליאה אותי.
אמר רב חסדא: מ”ם וסמ”ך שבלוחות בנס היו עומדין. ואמר רב חסדא: כתב שבלוחות נקרא מבפנים ונקרא מבחוץ, כגון נבוב – בובן, (רהב – בהר) וכדומה. בצד אחד נקרא כסדר ומהצד השני כתב מראות.
מה שאני למד מברייתא זו הוא כי בבבל, לפחות בתקופתו של רב חיסדא, שהיה דור שני של אמוראי בבל (225-250 לספירה), העברית נכתבה בכתב אשורי, דהיינו הא-ב של ימינו.
כמאה שנים קודם, בתקופת מרד בר-כוכבא (132-135 לספירה), שימש הא-ב העברי (העתיק) בא”י בכיתוב על המטבעות שטבעו בשנות המרד.

לאור האמור בפסוק אני שואל: האם לא נראה לפי הפשט כי הכוונה בנאמר “מזה ומזה הם כתובים” הוא כי בשני הלוחות לא היו שני דפים כתובים מצד אחד בלבד, אלא ארבעה עמודים, כתובים משני עבריהם של הלוחות, שניים שניים בכל לוח כמו שכתוב: “לוחות כתובים משני עבריהם, מזה ומזה הם כתובים”. מדוע רבותינו מפרשים משני עבריהם ככתב חלול? הרי גם לפי רב חסדא לא הייתה אפשרות לקרוא הכתוב מהצד השני כי הוא נכתב בצורת מראה.

באיזה כתב ניתנה התורה?
האם היה בזמן מתן תורה כתב אשורי? האם הלוחות נכתבו בכתב אשורי? אולי הם נכתבו כמו שנכתבו חוקי המורבי, שהם היו חרוטים על לוחות אבן? זו הייתה צורת הכתב והכתיבה באותם ימים. או שמא בכתב עברי? האם היה קיים הכתב העברי בזמן מתן תורה? אם בכתב עברי, אז לא היה צריך נס לאותיות מם (סופית) וסמך, אבל היה צריך נס לאותיות אחרות.

דבר הכתב נדון על ידי רבותינו והרוצה יעיין בכתובים. אביא רק מאמר, אחד מהתלמוד הירושלמי והשני מהתלמוד הבבלי.
מהירושלמי (וילנא) מסכת מגילה פרק א נאמר: ר”נ אומר ברעץ [כתב עברי] ניתנה התורה ואתייא כר’ יוסה רבי אומר אשורית ניתנה התורה וכשחטאו נהפך להן לרעץ וכשזכו בימי עזרא נהפך להן אשורית [זכריה ט יב] […] תני רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר משום רבי אלעזר בן פרטא שאמר משום רבי לעזר המודעי כתב אשורי ניתנה התורה ומה טעמא [שמות כז י] ווי העמודים שיהו ווים של תורה דומים לעמודים אמר רבי לוי מאן דאמר לרעץ ניתנה התורה עי”ן מעשה ניסים מאן דאמר אשורי ניתנה התורה סמ”ך מעשה ניסים (לא השתמשו באותיות הסופיות של מנצפ”ך)
ואזכיר ברייתא אחת מהבבלי (סנהדרין כא, ב):
אמר מר זוטרא ואיתימא מר עוקבא:
בתחילה ניתנה תורה לישראל בכתב עברי ולשון הקודש,
וחזר וניתנה להם בימי עזרא בכתב אשורית ולשון ארמית,
ביררו להן לישראל כתב אשורית ולשון הקודש,
והניחו להדיוטות כתב עברית ולשון ארמי.
כאן מקשים:
1. לפי דעת מר זוטרא שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי, קשה הרי לכתב עברי אין תגין.
חלק מן האותיות בכתב סת”ם מעוטרות בתגים. התיוג נועד בעיקר ליפות את האותיות אם כי יש לו גם משמעות דרשנית ולפי הגמרא, רבי עקיבא היה לומד דרשות ממיקום התגים באותיות. חוסר תגים באותיות אינו פוסל את הכתב.
2. לפי ברייתא זו קשיא, דאיך אפשר לומר שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי? דהא אמרינן (שבת ק”ד א): אמר רב חסדא: מ”ם וסמ”ך שבלוחות בנס היו עומדין. ודבר זה לא תמצא רק בכתב אשורית.
3. ועוד הקשו על זה, דאיך אפשר לומר שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי, ועזרא היה משנה הכתב? ואיך אפשר זה, והלא כתיב אלה המצוות, ואמרו ז”ל (שבת שם) שאין הנביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה, ואפילו אותיות מנצפ”ך?
עד כאן הברייתא והקושיות עליה.
אבל גם הברייתא עצמה מפליאה! לפי הגמרא היו שני מתן תורה, זו של משה וזו בימיו של עזרא. ומפליא יותר שבני ישראל לא אימצו לא אף אחת מהן אלא “ביררו להן לישראל כתב אשורית [מתורה שניתנה בימי עזרא] ולשון הקודש [מתורת משה]”.
לפי רבי בירושלמי אשורית ניתנה התורה אבל הכתב שונה לכתב עברי כשחטאו, ובימי עזרא חזר הכתב לאשורי.

לאחר הדיון על הכתב בו ניתנה התורה, נראה על גבי מה היא נכתבה. ידוע כי עשרת הדברים נכתבו על לוחות אבן. זה היה הנוהג באותה תקופה – חריטה על אבן או ציפוי האבן בטית וכתיבה על הטית הרך כמו שנצטוו בעברם את הירדן: […] והקמת לך אבנים גדלות ושדת אותם בשיד. וכתבת עליהן […] (דברים כז, ב-ג). הפפירוס היה קיים במצרים באותה תקופה אבל הוא יוצר רק שם מצמח הפפירוס ((Cyperus papyrus. הקלף עדיין לא היה (התחילו לכתוב על קלף רק בערך במאה השנייה לפני הספירה).

בגמרא מובאת מחלוקת בדבר זמן כתיבת התורה: “אמר רבי יוחנן משום ר’ בנאה, תורה – מגילה מגילה ניתנה, שנאמר ‘אז אמרתי הנה-באתי במגלת-ספר כתוב עלי’ (תהלים מ, ח). רבי שמעון בן לקיש אומר, תורה – חתומה ניתנה, שנאמר ‘לקח את ספר התורה הזאת’ ” (דברים לא, כו). רש”י מסביר: “מגילה מגילה ניתנה”: “כשנאמרה פרשה למשה היה כותבה, ולבסוף מ’ שנה כשנגמרו כל הפרשיות חיברן בגידין ותפרן”. “חתומה ניתנה”: “לא נכתבה עד סוף מ’ שנה לאחר שנאמרו כל הפרשיות כולן, והנאמרות לו בשנה ראשונה ושניה היו סדורות לו על פה עד שכתבן”.
אם התורה נכתבה על לוחות אבן מתקבלת יותר דעתו של רבי שמעון בן לקיש שהיא נכתבה בסוף ארבעים השנים, לפני כניסתם לארץ. אחרת היה על בני ישראל לשאת את הלוחות הכבדים בכל מסעיהם במדבר. דבר זה גם לא מזכירה התורה. כאמור, גם בני ישראל נצטוו לכתוב את התורה בעוברם את הירדן על אבנים גדולות מצופות בסיד (בשיד).
הפירוש של רש”י, לדעתו של רבי יוחנן דאמר שהתורה ניתנה מגילה מגילה, אומר כי חיברו את הפרשיות השונות על ידי תפירה בגידין. אין רש”י אומר על מה נכתבו. אם עלינו להניח כי התורה נכתבה על פפירוס, נצטרך להניח כי בני ישראל גידלו את צמח הפפירוס במדבר. האם היה יכול לצמוח שם במדבר? (ודאי לא ייבאו אותו ממצריים). האם הצליחו בני ישראל לגדל את צמח הפפירוס במדבר ולייצר ממנו את הפפירוס? הפפירוס הוא מאוד עדין ולכן גללו אותו כמגילה. האם ניתן היה לתפור אותו בגידין או לקפל אותו?

העליתי את שאלותיי בנושא השפה בה נכתבה התורה ועל מה היא נכתבה. איני קובע עובדות רק מביא מספר דעות של רבותינו. אשמח לקבל דעותיכם בנושא.

אסיים בקרובה לשחרית של שבועות מאת ר’ אלעזר קליר: “אז בכתב אשורית ובלשון עברית ובדיבור מצרית הנחלת לבת עברית.”


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