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Free The Hostages! Bring Them Home!

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Oct 31, 2007

the newest Yigal Amir video (video)

About 2 weeks ago it was announced that supporters of Yigal Amir's release were beginning a campaign to raise awareness and support for Amir's release from prison. As part of the campaign they said they would be releasing 150,000 copies of a cd that would explain why the situation..

I got hold of a copy of the cd and present it to you here. Let's hear your opinion!

Shmitta: a story indicating the state of affairs

The editor of the Mishpacha magazine (Hebrew edition) related a story that happened to a friend of his this past week.

This Rabbi is a teacher and travels once a week from Tel Aviv to a city in Southern Israel to teach there.

He frequently fills his tank of gas at the same gas station on his way down south and often the same twenty-something female attendant is there filling his tank.

She asked the Rabbi that she noticed he comes down and fills up often on Mondays. Where are you from?

Rabbi: from Tel Aviv

GA (gas attendant): Why specifically here?

Rabbi: I am travellign to a nearby yeshiva where I teach on Monday's. This is on the way.

GA: What do you teach?

R: Today I will be teaching a class about the shmitta year. Do you know what shmitta is?

GA: Don't make fund of me. I do not know much but I know what shmitta year is.

R: Tell me what you know..

GA: Just like every week has one day of shabbos, so once in seven years there is one full year of shabbos.

R: Wonderful! You know more than many other people. Do you also know what you do during the shmitta year?

GA: Yes. The religious people sit at home the whole year, just like on shabbos. They do not travel, don't work, don't buy things. They sit home and daven the whole year!

R: And how do they support themselves for the whole year, if they do not work?

GA: You guys are religious. You have agreements with the government and they give you enough money to live for the entire year.

R: If so, why am I here filling up my gas tank? Isn't it desecrating the year of shabbos?

GA: Either shmitta did not yet begin or you are not really religious...

That is the story, and that gives us an indication of what the general. non-religious public really understand about shmitta..

Maybe we need to stop fighting in public about the nitty gritty and money involved and work more towards educating the general public about what shmitta really is. Maybe then they will be more understanding of the needs of the religious public and the requirements of shmitta that must be adhered to.

Maybe we need to act in general with more integrity so we do not allow the impression that maybe the religious Jews are not really religious (i.e. they only act religious when it is convenient)

Oct 30, 2007

innocent childs question

I was just reading my 6 year old son a book. The topic of the book was a girl and her mother. The girl feels bad she has no father and she davens and sure enough her mother tells her that next week she will have a new tatty (that is the story in very brief).

When the book first mentioned that she had no tatty, my son asked me "How could she come out of the mommy if there is no daddy?"

It took me a moment to realize what he was asking... I then stammered and said "no, she had a daddy but he died and now she is sad because she has no daddy anymore..."..

Man, who thinks up these stories for kids??!!

The ultimate chutzpah

If this is not chutzpah, I do not know what is... considering the Israelis Syria is responsible for holding whom we do not even know if they are alive, dead in good condition, bad condition or anything else about them...

Shmitta: Otzar Beis Din

In my initial post on shmitta I described Otzar Ha'Aretz as OBD.

In reality, Otzar Ha'Aretz is one form of OBD. It is just one (of numerous) organization running a version of OBD.

OBD is a system by which, more or less, Beis Din takes control of the produce growing in a field. They then hire the farmer to harvest the produce and they deliver and distribute the produce. When you buy OBD produce, you are not paying for the vegetables, which are in essence free, rather you are paying for the expenses the Beis Din incurs in the process of getting you your cucumbers. Technically the OBD produce should be cheaper than normal, but sometimes the Beis Din has inefficiencies (after all they are no in the vegetable selling business) which lead to higher costs, along with the extra expenses of more mashgichim and other various expenses.

The vegetables sold under the OBD system have limitations. First of all, they are limited by amounts. There is an additional issue by vegetables that they need to be replanted every year. That is prohibited in the shmitta year. If vegetables are planted in the shmitta year they are prohibited from being eaten. The issur is known as the issur of sefichin.

The fact that one cannot plant veggies in the shmitta year means any veggies being sold under the OBD system are remaining from plantings that took place in the 6th year, and they only finished growing and were harvested in the shmitta year.

That means, these veggies run out and will not be available as soon as that 6 year crop is finished. vegetables (at least "greens" such as cuces, tomatoes, lettuce, etc.) do not have much of a shelf life and therefore cannot be stored for months in storage to be used during shmitta. They are picked and sold. As soon as all the 6th year produce is finished being picked, that is it. There is no more planting and no more vegetables (under this system).

(disclaimer: by 6th year produce I am referring here to the produce planted in 6th year and harvested in 7th year. I am not referring to the classical 6th year produce being sold in the stores that are sold from storage, such as potatoes, carrots, etc.)

I have tables detailing the various vegetables and when they are expected to run out of 6th year produce and the issur of sefichin would begin.

Once this happens, a person eating OBD veggies will have to find another source. He will either buy veggies imported from Europe (there is very little of this available and the costs are fairly high and restrictive), from Arab produce (another post will discuss this issue), from hetter mechira, or refrain from eating vegetables.

Most vegetables will be completing this cycle and no longer be available under OBD right about now (within the next couple of weeks for the most part).

What will I do about eating veggies? I am not yet sure.

Vegetables consumed under this OBD system have to be treated with respect and holiness of shmitta.

That means one cannot waste them. Peels and waste cannot be disposed of in the regular garbage can because their spoiling process is being hastened by mixing with other spoiling food.

One must keep the waste of OBD veggies separate and allow them to spoil on their own. Once they are considered spoiled you can then throw them into the regular garbage.

Many people have a pach shmitta (special garbage can only for shmitta produce). We never bothered buying a separate can, but keep the peels and waste in a bag which we put into a large jar. We add bags of peels and remove older bags of peels as necessary.

There is a debate among the rishonim whether there is an actual mitzva to eat produce of shmitta. Some say yes and some say no (like by anything else in Judaism). But regardless of whether there is an actual mitzva, everybody agrees that the preference and ideal of the Torah is to be eating such produce. The passuk says so very clearly that this produce should be eaten (unless one says it was just a reality as markets back then were not global and if you did not eat this produce you would have nothing else to eat as you could not import from other places).

Many people prefer to not eat OBD produce. They say that the restrictions on it are too difficult to deal with. They do not know what to do with the peels, what happens if you throw something out by mistake, how can you stop the kids from wasting the food, and all sorts of other issues that make it difficult to deal with OBD produce. They say it is easier and simpler to just buy non-shmitta produce (a.k.a. Arab produce) and not have to worry about all that.

On the one hand, there is a debate and differing customs on whether Arab produce (grown in Israel) is free from these restrictions. Some people say these restrictions apply equally on Arab produce. Clearly these people are not going to prefer Arab produce to solve the difficulties, as they have not solved anything.

They will be buyinh Arab produce mostly because of availability. OBD is very limited, as I mentioned above, and stops about 6-8 weeks into shmitta, while Arab produce is always readily available.

Regardless, most people do not keep the same restrictions on Arab produce and buy Arab produce because of a) availability and b) no restrictions.

The restrictions on what can be done with shmitta produce do make it difficult. One has to know what to do, and must have a Rabbi available to call when a question arises that he does not know the answer to. However, we have not found it so difficult that we find a reason to not use such produce.

It has been a learning experience for us. My kids know to ask if the cucumbers (or whatever) have kedushas shviis. They know that if the answer is yes that means they take smaller portions so as to minimize the waste.

Just last night I served at dinner a plate of cut up, lightly salted cucumbers (which my kids love). As my son reached out with his hands to grab a bunch (no, shmitta does not help in teaching kids to eat with forks and having manners. that is a separate work in progress) he turned to me and asked if they have kedusha. When I responded in the affirmative, he took less than he had planned to take and when he finished with what he took, he then took more.

It does create some difficult scenarios. Like when my daughter was making a salad and forgot the vegetables had kedusha. It just slipped her mind. She knew when she took them out, but she got distracted and forgot. She threw the peels into the garbage by mistake and she realized right afterwards. She and her uncle (who was there at the time) had to root around in the garbage and extract the peels. It was not so bad as they were mostly piled together, but it was still uncomfortable.

One more thing worth noting: I do not know how long in a regular year the produce is held in storage before it is sold in the stores. I do know that the cucumbers and peppers I purchased from OBD almost 2 weeks ago (and am running out of) are still fresh in my refrigerator. They are firm and of good quality. In a regular year, 3-4 days after I buy the cucumbers they are already soft and beginning to get mushy. Another day or two and they start getting moldy. I do not know if that means in a regular year they store it for longer before they sell it, or if it is grown lower quality, but the OBD produce I have bought has been far superior in that regard.

Oct 29, 2007

interesting psak of the week

The Mishpacha newspaper (hebrew) reported on a story that occurred this past week that drew a psak from rav Chaim Kanievsky.

A yeshiva bachur from Bnei Brak went to learn in a yeshiva in Yerushalayim. He told his mother he was having a hard time getting used to the food being served and he was hungry. She decided to send him food from home.

The mother packed up a home cooked meal. His father took the package to the bus station, found the bus that goes to Yerushalayim and stuck the package of food in the luggage compartment under the bus. He called his son and told him when to expect the bus to arrive and that he should be waiting by the station in Yerushalayim to remove the food.

The plan worked, the kid got the food, satisfied his hunger and all was good.

The father was going to do this again and became concerned there might be a problem with this plan. He was concerned it might be considered bassar she'nisalem min ha'ayin - meat that is left open in public and unsupervised is rabbinically considered not kosher because it might have been switched for non-kosher meat.

The father went to Rav Zilbershtein, a Rav in Bnei Brak, to ask if the meat is ok or not. Rav Zilbershtein said the meat is fine as far as his concern of unsupervised meat goes. However, Rav Zilbershtein added, there might be a different problem that he is stealing from Egged by sticking the package under the bus without paying for the transport.

The father was shocked. He assumed it was ok because of the concept of zeh ne'he'ne v'zeh lo chasser - one person benefiting while not causing any loss to the other person.

Rav Zilbershetin suggested it does not qualify for the zeh ne'he'ne status because if it became public knowledge one could do this, many would send packages like that causing Egged a loss because the luggage compartment would be full with, theoretically, no room for luggage. Rav Zilbershtein directed the question to his brother in law Rav Chaim Kanievsky.

Rav Kanievsky considered the question and paskened that one would be prohibited from sending packages in this fashion unless he paid Egged for the service. His logic was fairly simple - when you use a bus service for anything - either a trip or a delivery, you have to pay. If, however, a person travellin on the bus would be willing to take the package under his responsibility, then he would not have to pay. But just to stick it in the luggage compartment requires full payment. He also said the father has to pay for the packages he had already sent in this fashion.

Olmert has prostate cancer

PM Olmert convened a press conference a short while ago to reveal that he has prostate cancer. It was recently detected and is in the very early stages. This, he and his physicians say, gives him full chances of recovery. He will have to have surgery within the next 6 weeks so as to not allow it to grow more serious.

Refuah Shleimah.

Oct 28, 2007

Shmitta: Who is minding the store???

Ynet is reporting that nobody is minding the shmitta store in the Rabbanut right now.

There was a committee of 15 Rabbis, 2 of whom were named are big name Rabbis Veitman (a.k.a. the Tnuva Rabbi) and Avraham Yosef (one of the sons of Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Chief Rabbi of Holon and very involved in kashrut supervision) in charge if shmitta issues, most specifically dealing with the HM (heter mechira).

The whole committee was just sacked. Not because of policy or wrong-doing. Rather, the PMO (Prime Minister's Office), under whose purview they work, failed to transfer the money that was budgeted for the committee. No reason was given. Money was allocated and approved, just not transferred. The manpower company running the committee has employed the Rabbis for a month on the promise of the money, but since it still has not come in, they had to shut it down.

Being just 6 weeks into Shmitta, with 10.5 months still ahead of us (really much more becuase fruit are affected by shmitta a few months into next year), this creates a big problem for anybody relying on heter mechira and the Rabbanut. There is no supervision as of right now and nobody can be sure of where anything is actually coming from until this situation gets resolved.

"Somebody connected to the committee" indicated that they suspect that the Haredi politicians are responsible for the situation. They suspect that these politicians and askanim have pressured the government to fire the committee and delay funding. The reason for this would be the conflict between the Haredim and the Rabbanut over the Hetter Mechira situation.

They provide no actual reason to suspect the Haredim for this situation other than being conspiratorial. I do not think, without reason to at least, that the Haredi politicians would have gotten involved like this. I suspect it is really just the indifference of the PMO. The same way they are allowing the teachers strike to go on and not working at getting involved and finding a solution, they just allowed this to happen and did not bother coming through with the promised monies.

Anyways, we will be following this situation and hope it gets resolved soon. In the meantime, it could mean a lot of trouble for a lot of people.

Mazel tov! It's a boy!

I have stayed completely away from this whole topic until now, as I have had nothing constructive to write on the topic (even when I was recently told that I murdered Yitzchak Rabin), but now I just could not resist....

Yigal Amir's wife, Larissa Trimbobler, just gave birth to a baby boy. I understand Shimon Peres is being invited to the bris and will be given the honor of the sandek position because they are going to name the baby Yitzchak after the late Prime Minister who worked closely with Mr. Peres. :-)

Quote of the Day (qotd)

Israel has finally decided to take some serious steps in trying to halt the barrage of Kassam rockets on Sderot and the surrounding villages. Whether it helps or not remains to be seen, but at least some steps are in the process of being taken.

The government has approved the shutting down of electricity flow, fuel and other things to Gaza. If they shoot rockets at us, their lights will go off for a while (up to an hour per rocket supposedly). It has not happened yet, but the Arabs in Gaza are already kvetching about the fact that it might happen.

Anyway, today's Quote of the Day goes to Matan Vilnai who said, "the government's decision to periodically cut the flow of electricity to the Gaza Strip is another step in Israel's disengaging from responsibility for the area, and is not part of a policy of collective punishment."

I do not understand why we supply them with fuel, electricity, cigarettes or anything else. The whole point of the disengagement was marketed as "we are here and they are there". Yet since the disengagement happened, we have been as connected to Gaza as ever before.

Once we left Gaza, we should have shut everything down. Let them get there electricity from Egypt, or let them build their own electric company. That did not happen, but at least once Israel declared Gaza enemy and hostile territory we should no longer have been supplying them with their needs.

Let their Egyptian brothers to the south of them help them out.

Haveil Havalim #138 is up!!

Soccer Dad has the latest edition of Haveil Havalim (#138 if you are counting)... head on over...

Oct 25, 2007

Shmitta: the Hetter Mechira

This is a very difficult aspect of shmitta observance. It is also very detailed and the subject of much debate, great nuance, and much misunderstanding. I would be remiss in giving you the impression via this post that I understand all the issues properly. I do not, yet I feel like writing the post anyway. Maybe some of you can correct my mistakes in the comments and/or fill things in.

Some background: In the late 1800's, Jews were returning to the Land of Israel. The society at the time was largely agrarian based. With the shmitta year of 1889 approaching the jews were very concerned that the yishuv (the settlement of the Land) would collapse if they stopped working for a year +. It would destroy the little sustenance they had and would force many to leave Israel.

The settlers approached the Rabbonim pleading with them to find a solution that would allow them to work and earn a living.

The Rabbonim met in Vilna and came up with a solution of the Hetter mechira in which the land of the farmers would be sold, temporarily, to a non-Jew. By doing so, the land need not lay fallow and the farmer can work (as an employee of the non-Jew) the land and sell the produce.

The hetter was approved for use by one of the gedolim of the time; Rav Yitzhak Elchonon Spektor.

For the following three shmitta years, the settlement used the hetter mechira.

The use of the hetter had opposition by other gedolim such as Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, the Beis HaLevy, the Netziv and others.

Leading up to the shmitta year of 1910 Rav Kook came out in support of using the hetter mechira, despite having previously opposed it (before he arrived in Israel in 1904).

Rav kook explained why he supported it. he said that when he came to the Land of Israel and saw the great difficulty in living here and in working the land, he understood that there had to be a solution or it would mean the end of the settlement of Israel.

There are a lot of details I am leaving out, and many I am not familiar with, but generally speaking that is the story.

There were many reason why Rav Kook used this leniency. Issues such as Shmitta being only Rabbinic nowadays, not being sure of the correct counting of the years and cycles, sha'at ha'dchak, issues of who actually owns the land (at the time it was all owned by the Turks and the farmers were only like sharecroppers), and other reasons some of which Rav Kook did not publicize.

The opposition to the use of the hetter mechira was great and increases every shmitta year.

The opposition to the use of the hetter mechira is basically based on the fact that we are no longer an agrarian society and even though some farmers are affected, it would not bring about the collapse of Israel or the economy. The original hetter was a one-time thing and had to be re-evaluated for each subsequent shmitta so it cannot be automatically applied every time. There are other issues such as a debate whether the Land of Israel can be sold to non-Jews, fro a halachic standpoint, and even if it can does such a sale help in removing the shmitta regulations from the Land. Other issues such as questioning whether the sale was done properly, who has the right to sell the land (who has ownership status), whether the sale is taken seriously or is just a legal fiction, and more.

I am not taking sides in this issue and I will not be defending one position over the other. As I was quoted in the name of Rabbi Gold - this debate has been going for over a hundred years by gedolei olam and I will not be able to add anything that has not been used in the argument already.

As Jameel posted the other day with an article by Rav Lichtenstein on the topic, we must bemoan the fact that we are not keeping shmitta properly regardless of whether or not you use the hetter. Either by using the hetter or by buying non-Jewish produce, you are not keeping shmitta the way the Torah wanted. Rather you are using ways of getting around the problem.

Rav Lichtenstein also wrote how whether you use or oppose use of the hetter, you should not use your position as a base of superiority and a way of putting down others.

We should realize both sides of the debate have gedolim to rely upon and while you might not agree with the other position, you should at least respect it.

The impetus for this post is actually the following. All the above was just the background.

I saw a letter from Rav Aviner, one of the leading Rabbonim of the Dati Leumi (National Religious) community, on the topic of why he supports the hetter mechira. Some of the reasons were very interesting. I will translate (broadly) it here.

Rav Aviner: It is preferable to purchase (produce) from Jews and not non-Jews. The hetter mechira is not an issur or even a leniency. Rather it is an allowance that has been based completely. The hetter mechira should not be debatable as it has been based in Halachah for over 119 years with the support of great Rabbonim such as; Rav Yitzhak Elchonon, The Maharil Diskin, Rav Yehoshua of Kutna, the Aderet, the Admor of Sochotchov, Rav Yaakov Elisar, Rav Yosef Engel, Rav Kook and others. Nobody in our generation has the ability to come in their place and change the status.

As Rav Kook wrote, if one does not wish to rely on the hetter mechira, it is considered a middas chassidus and a hiddur mitzva.

It is well known that regarding a middas chassidus one must be especially careful not to allow it to be ruined by allowing other leniences or prohibitions to result from the stringency.

Many leniences and prohibitions have come from rejecting the hetter mechira:

1. Harming the livelihood of fellow Jews (quotes passuk)

2. One should always prefer to buy from fellow Jews (quotes passuk)

3. Scorning the earlier generations. If one rejects the hetter and says it is prohibited to rely upon, he might be suggesting that those who relied upon it in previous generations (with support of gedolim) were acting in a prohibited fashion.

4. Shaming others. One who is careful in middas chassidus should not shame or embarrass other jews (by saying the hetter is really prohibited, people who rely on it might become shamed)

5. rejecting the authority of the Rabbis.

6. Lo Techanem. This is a passuk in the Torah that says one cannot give a foothold in the Land of Israel to non-Jews. One cannot sell parts of Israel to non-Jews. If we help support the non_jews living in Israel, we are strengthening them and giving them a foothold. As an aside, this is a major point used by those opposing the hetter, as they say Lo Techanem means one cannot sell the land to non-Jew. According to this explanation it is exactly the opposite; by selling the Land we are weakening their foothold in the Land and strengthening ours.

7. Supporting terrorists. if you reject the hetter mechria and buy produce from non-Jews you are supporting terrorism.

8. The land might not actually belong to the non-Jews. Someone buying produce from non-Jews assumes the land belongs to them and shmitta does not apply. However this is a very problematic issue. How did the Arabs attain so much property in the Land of Israel? They did not buy it. After we were banished from our land it remained desolate for many years. Over the generations they took over our lands. The percentage of lands that were actually sold by jews to Arabs is very small. 99% of the lands owned by Arabs are from having squatted on Jewish owned land. This was the law under the Turkish rulers that allowed squatters to take ownership of desolate land. So many of these lands really belong to Jews, not Arabs, and shmitta would apply (and those buying from Arabs think they do not have the issues of shmitta). Even more so, according to halacha conquering the land acquires ownership. So when the Jews returned and won back the lands in the various wars, all lands reverted to being owned by jews. This is agreed upon by everybody. Even the Admor of Satmar (a great opponent to the State of Israel)agrees that ownership of the lands has been acquired. This creates a great paradox. Arab owned lands in Israel are really Jewish and have a shmitta problem, while Jewish owned lands are sold to Arabs and have no problem with shmitta.

To summarize, with there being one problem of the hetter mechira, which was decided upon by the gedolim and has been used in 17 shmitta years since, in the rejection of this hetter there is a sea of very difficult problems, which makes it difficult to call it a stringency rather it is really a leniency 9to reject the hetter mechira).

Rav Aviner goes on more and mentions some problems with using OBD produce, which I will not get into now.

Rav Aviner concludes; Therefore, we will securely rely upon the hetter mechira which was founded in halacha by gedolei olam, and used for 17 shmittas. We will strengthen the agriculture of our Jewish brothers.We will strengthen our hold on the Land of Israel. And we will strengthen our belief and reliance on the great Rabbinic poskim.

Again, this post does not mean I support use of the hetter mechira. My Rav has spoken against the hetter mechira and says it cannot be relied upon. Personally I do not feel such produce is assur, even if I choose not eat it, as it has the support of great Rabbonim in both this generation and previous generations. And we should remember the words in the letter by Rav Lichtenstein (and this applies to all application of chumrohs and kulas) that one who is machmir or one who is meikil should not look upon others as though they are doing something wrong or that they are better or worse than others.

another story laden with irony

This story was reported today in the Yisraeli newspaper.

Three criminals broke into the house of a Diamondaire. They knew the Diamondaire and his family were traveling abroad. They came to the house and got past the security guard by saying they were elevator technicians.

After pocketing the valuables, they got to work on removing the safe. They used a dolly to get the safe into the elevator (they were on the 9th floor of a building). As soon as they put the safe into the elevator, the elevator collapsed from the weight and they got an express ride to the bottom in a freefall.

They escaped leaving the safe in the elevator.

Ironic that they posed as elevator technicians.... God must have a sense of humor.

Oct 24, 2007

funny ad (video)

This is a funny ad depicting the Exodus from Egypt with a GPS system.... enjoy

and while I am at it, I will remind you of the ad that was running for a GPS rental in Israel if you should so need one. If you mention Webads sent you, dadyGPS will give you a significant discount on your rental....

how ironic and funny

This story was reported this morning in the newspaper (I saw it in Yisrael Ha'Yom, maybe it was in others as well).

Some guy went to a mall in Rehovot to make some purchases. After driving around the parking lot and not finding any available parking spaces (my note: he probably did not find a spot within a certain range and did not want to walk from a more distant parking spot. There are almost always spots available) he decided to risk parking in a handicapped spot. He saw someone loading their car in a handicapped spot and waited for the driver to leave so he could park there.

When the driver finally pulled out, another car hurried to park there and got into the spot before the waiting car.

(let's call waiting car driver A and hurried car parker driver B)

A started screaming at B that he had been waiting for the spot. A verbal battle began. After some moments of screaming at each other B began to beat up on A. B hit A a few times until he knocked him to the ground. When A fell to the ground he began to kick him and hit him in a particularly cruel fashion (according to the witness).

At one point B's sandal fell off. He picked it up and began beating A (still lying on the floor) in the face with it.

The witnesses did not try to separate them and did not call the police or an ambulance. A security guard who noticed something happening at some point called the police.

A was sent to the hospital unconscious and badly bruised.

A and B, the two people fighting over a handicapped parking space, are both healthy men in their early thirties.

Looks like Driver A might even qualify now for a handicapped parkign space, after the beating he received.

Oct 23, 2007

Shmitta: an interview with the Badat"z about their policy

Arutz 7 conducted an interview with the head of the Badat"z Shmitta department. It is very interesting and I suggest anybody interested in shmitta issues should read it. I will give a rough English translation below for those who might have a problem with the original being in Hebrew.

The interview was conducted with Rav Meir Bergman, head of the Shmitta department of the Badatz Eidah Chareidis. The last thing the Eidah wants to do, he says, is to harm the Israeli farmers. Purchasing produce from Arabs is the least preferential of all the options.

Bergman differentiates between practical possibiities and halachic possibilities. He says, fro a halachic viewpoint the greatest preference is to purchase vegetables imported from abroad where there are no issues of shmitta and they have very little checking to do. All they would have to do with such produce is make sure no other produce got mixed in once the boat comes into the port. That is the easiest from all aspects.

The problem with that option is that it is not practical. the government does not let them import as it upsets the Israeli farmers, and "we have no interest in harming the Israeli farmers". Also the prices of imported vegetables is very high.

The next level of preference is attaining produce from the Arava region. The Arava region is part of Israel but has no halachic status of Israel regarding shmitta issues (my note: this issue is a can of worms and there are different opinions on this). From this region we do not deal with Arabs, it is all Jewish, there is little deceit and trickery going on so it is the best for us.

The problem with the Arava region is the produce is limited and does not grow all year round and not every type of vegetable is grown there.

That leads to the third level of preference, Rav Bergman says. Arab produce. This is the least preferable option for a few reasons. The whole issue of whether an Arab purchasing/owning land in Israel removing the kedusha of the land for shmitta is a machlokes. Aside from that, there are security concerns. Aside from that, it is difficult to supervise this produce due to their deceptions and trickeries (which sometimes force us to stop working with certain farmers after they are caught).

When asked how the Eidah can justify supporting farmers in Gaza (hostile to Israel; supporting terror), Rav Bergman responded that in a regular year 80 percent of Israel's produce comes from Gaza.

So in a regular year when you go to the supermarket and buy veggies, chances are very high that you are buying produce from Gaza. "You have to remember", Bergman says, "stopping imports from Gaza completely would be a terrible blow to the economy. It could be on a micro level importing hurts the Israeli farmers, but overall on a macro level it is good for the Israeli economy."

Bergman also responded to the claim that the Eidah causes security problems by importing veggies from these areas. He says they have no desire to cause security problems. Since a ban was declared on Gaza by Israel, there are no imports from there. They are not even pressuring Israel to allow them to import from there. The Eidah brings produce from Arabs in Judea and Samaria, from where most of Israel's produce is coming right now anyway. He repeats that we must remember that in a regular year the merchants prefer Arab produce as well because of the price.

During shmitta this is the lowest option in order of preference (but the most prevalently used).

Rav Bergman added that in stores that sell Eidah produce, everything is specifically marked (e.g. Arab produce, from abroad, Arava, etc.)so the buyer knows where things comes from and can choose what to buy.

Regarding OBD produce, he says the Eidah does not deal with OBD produce. It is too difficult to supervise this produce and most people do not know how to treat it properly and therefore it is not practical to deal with in large amounts.

Bergman concluded that there are problems with supply and there are chances that certain vegetables might have a shortage, such as beetroot, however the main vegetables are in supply. He also added that if you check, the prices of Eidah produce is only slightly higher than non-Eidah produce.

Shmitta: the source of miracles (story)

This story was recently reported in the frum news.

A shmitta mashgiach from the Machzikei Ha'Das (Belz) kashrus organization was supervising in the fields of the Bika Al Gerbiya area.

The Machzikei Ha'Das organization provides shmitta kosher vegetables for many supermarkets around Israel including chains such as Zol Po and Shefa. It sends mashgichim every day to Arab owned fields to ensure the produce being purchased from those fields really come from there and are not being transferred through third parties from other fields (as is known to often happen as a way of selling shmitta prohibited produce). Machzikei Ha'Das sends its mashgichim to the fields before the produce is picked to make sure they know which fields are producing how much crops and that other produce is not being mixed in from other sources.

The masgiach stopped his car on a path in a field. He got out of his car to check something. Suddenly he felt something on his body. He noticed a venomous snake slithering up his leg. He was going to try to shake it off and realized that might aggravate the snake. He stood perfectly still, not even reaching for his cellular phone to call for help.

He stood there for 15 minutes trembling and breathing heavily thinking these might be his last moments alive. In the meantime the snake was slithering up and down and around his body..

After 15 minutes, the snake disembarked from the mashgiach and found its way into the car. The mashgiach, relieved, called his boss at the kashrus organization. The boss called the Arab who owns the field and told him what happened.

The owner got a snake catcher who came a few minutes later and caught the snake.

The head of the organization said, after hearing the story, that this is another proof that those doing mitzvos do not get harmed. He added, the difficulty to acquire and supply fruits and vegetables with the mashgichim putting their lives in danger on a daily basis in order to ensure that people can keep the laws of shmitta in a mehudar way is the guarantee for their returning safely.

only time for narishkeit

You have probably read about the story of 5 Hareidi men beating up a woman the other day on Egged bus #497 from Bet Shemesh to Bnei Brak. She sat down in the front of the bus, they requested she move to the back of the bus. She refused. A soldier sat down next to her thinking it would deter them from making trouble. They did not care but proceeded to beat her and the soldier and disappeared before the police arrived.

If you missed it on the news sites, you could not have missed it on the blogs. Many of the various jblogs have written about it.

I delayed writing about it because the only details I knew were the ones mentioned above which came from the various media outlets.

I wanted to get more details. I posted on various neighborhood and social forums and asked around.

Nobody responded with any more information than that which was printed in the media.

This kind of stuff happens because the Rabbonim and askanim are busy making life difficult for the simple people. They are busy finding things to ban and posting signs about using only kosher cellphones, no computers and internet, no higher education, no army, no reading this book or that book, no this or that. All the narishkeit in the world has to be banned with signs declaring the protection of the sanctity of the community and speaking in the name of God.

But when incidents like this happen there is only deafening silence. Not a word from the Rabbonim banning such behavior or such beasts. Not a sign on the wall that this is not the way of our camp.

No - our camp does not use unapproved cellphones or eat from hetter mechira. We do not surf the internet or go to concerts that have men and women present even with separate seating. We only beat women who do not acquiesce to our selfish requests. How holy we are.

There is only time and energy for narishkeit.

The Navi says many times in the times of the Kings of Israel that anarchy reigned as "people did what was right in their eyes". There was no authority. The top brass was busy with narishkeit.

That leads to incidents like this. The top brass are busy with narishkeit and not with leading the people properly and providing what the people need.

Oct 22, 2007

death in the mikva

The Mishpacha Hebrew newspaper this past week reported of a tragic incident that happened in yerushalayim last week.

A mikva attendant (male) collapsed on Friday while at work in the mikva (I don't think it happened in the water but while he was attending).

Hatzalah came quickly and found him unconscious. They tried to resuscitate him to no avail and they had to bring a doctor to pronounce his death.

Not to make light of his tragedy, but I can't get the image out of my head of a bunch of guys in the mikva trying to resuscitate someone...

interesting psak from Rav Elyashiv

It is clear that in a life threatening situation one would be allowed to use his GPS system to navigate quicker to get a sick person to a hospital. In a life threatening situation every moment counts and therefore the GPS can be used because it helps you get to the hospital that much quicker.

The question arose when it is not a life threatening situation, such as a woman in labor (early stages let's say) or other examples where you have to get the person to the hospital but another couple of minutes will not make a difference.

Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rav of Ramat Elchonon in Bnei Brak, was unsure of how to pasken. The question is can you use the GPS in order to minimize the driving and the "chilul shabbos" or can you not use it because that is an extra form of chilul b'yadayim - you are, in other words, performing one chilul shabbos that might not be necessary in order to minimize a second chilul shabbos that is necessary.

Rav Zilberstein sent the question to his father in law, Rav Elyashiv.

Rav Elyashiv, after weighing the options, paskened that one could use the GPS even in the situations where it is "pikuach nefesh" without the urgency (and a matter of minutes will not make a difference). His rationale was that because it is still a life threatening situation, even though it is not critical, it is still important to get to the hospital as fast as possible.

Ever hear of this minhag?

I am a yekke (and am proud of it). I do most of my minhagim according to the German custom.

That means I wash before kiddush, wait three hours after meat before eating dairy, do not wash mayim achronim, wear tallis after a minha aliya until after kedusha, etc.. (among many others).

The thing is, I did not grow up in a yekke community and did not grow up in a yekkish shul. I am therefore lacking in my knowledge of many minhagim related to the prayer services. It is not such a big deal because I still do not daven in a yekke shul (there is none where I live) so it probably would not work out anyway.

My brother told me that my Opa (grandfather for you non-yekkes out there) used to say that we (Yekkes) do not say "Baruch Hu U'Varuch Sh'mo" during brachos.

I never heard of this minhag to not say it and am curious if there is such a minhag and what the reason for it is.

I do remember being surprised when I learned that one should say it because I never said it as a child and only began doing so when I went to Yeshiva High School (which in America has become identified as the greatest cause of people not knowing their own minhagim and taking on other peoples generic minhagim).

Sometimes I thought we did not say things just because we did not know better, but over time I have found that a number of the things we did not say were because of minhag (such as the bracha at maariv said in America before shmoneh esrei for the latecomers), though there were also some that were not said probably out of laziness (such as "V'Yiten Lecha" on Saturday nights).

Anybody hear of such a minhag?

Oct 21, 2007

they had no blood on their hands

It turns out that some Fatah people (I do not call them terrorists because the Israeli government insists that Fatah is more moderate than Hamas and a partner). tried to attack the Prime Minister's convoy when passing near Jericho on the way to a meeting with Abbas way back in August.

The article does not say how the attack was averted, but it does say the militants were arrested.

Israel is upset because the militants were recently released. They issued a "harsh protest" to the PA..

I do not see what they are so upset about. These are terrorists who do not have blood on their hands. The attack was averted. The Israeli government themselves would release such "militants" without a second thought, simply as a way to bolster the standing of the weak Abbas.

Haveil Havalim 137 is live

Ben-Yehudah did a great job on Haveil Havalim #137... Go check it out..

Oct 20, 2007

the baby has a name

The baby now has a name.

It is (drumroll please..)

Chaviva Chaya (or of you are pedantic about the transliteration spellings from Hebrew to English that might be spelled Khavivaw Khayauo - correct me in the comments... :-)

Chaviva means beloved.
The Midrash says that all 7's are beloved (to God I guess). It goes through a whole list of 7's such as the 7th day being shabbos, the 7th month being tishrei (containing rosh hashana, yom kippur, sukkos..), the 7th land being Tevel (Eretz Yisrael) the 7th year being shmitta, etc..

This baby is our 7th child and she was born in a shmitta year, so Chaviva is appropriate.

Chaya was (one of) my Bubbys name(s).

The only question remaining is how to actually spell the name on the birth certificate and id card.. should it be Haviva Haya (as I prefer) or Chaviva Chaya (as my wife prefers)...


Oct 19, 2007

Shmitta: a lively Yahoo discussion group

For those of you who might be interested in joining discussions, or following discussions, on various aspects of shmitta, there is a group under Yahoo Groups called Shmitta. It is active and there is some great lively discussion going on.

It is great for keeping up with the latest shmitta news and speculation...

Head over to the Shmitta group page and register to join the group (and get the postings by email..)

Shmitta: OBD produce and pricing

I mentioned in the comments of a previous post about a lead I had in procuring OBD veggies at a very reasonable price.

Tonight I received my first "shipment" of OBD veggies. They are OBD from Moshav Kommemiyut (not Otzar Ha'Aretz). I received 3 kilo of cucumbers and 3 kilo of red peppers. You have to purchase in 3 kilo bundles. The cost was 3 NIS per kilo, and I paid 19 NIS (not sure why not 18, but the guy who brought it to me said 19).

The quality is excellent, though I am not 100% sur what I am going to do with 3 kilos of red peppers. They did not have tomatoes available today.

To compare, I stopped off in Aleph and at Shefa Shuk this evening to check the prices they were selling these veggies at. Aleph and Shefa are both large Haredi supermarket chains selling produce from "yevul Nochri" (Arab produce).

The price for red peppers in each of the two stores was 8.79 NIS and 8.91 NIS respectively.
The price for cucumbers in each of the two stores was 6.90 NIS and 6.99 NIS respectively.

The quality looked fine but I did not pay too close attention to that.

Clearly the savings of OBD are significant. I am not sure why the prices of Otzar Ha'Aretz OBD are so much higher than this other OBD. Otzar Ha'Aretz prices are very similar (give or take a bit) to the Arab produce being sold in the supermarkets.

I do not know if it is price gouging or if they simply have a shortage of produce or extra expenses due to their system or whatnot.

Anyways, this is another blip in the shmitta saga and series..

Oct 18, 2007

destruction of rabbanut is almost complete

The Haredim have systematically been taking over the Israeli Rabbanut (Chief Rabbinate). Almost all new jobs open, be it in dayanus, mashgiach supervision, Rabbis, etc., have been going to Haredi applicants. This has been happening for a few years now, as the Haredi influence in the Rabbanut sphere has increased.

A prime example of this is how Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was chosen. While his background is one of having studied in National Religious yeshivot, over the years he has become very close with Rav Elyashiv. His whole candidacy was pushed by Rav Elyashiv and his main contender at the time was Rav Ariel (Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan) who is a major figure in the National Zionist Rabbinate. Rabbi Metzger won the position with the help of Rav Elyashiv's pressure on the system.

The same is happening in many realms within the Rabbinate. The majority of jobs are going to Haredi candidates. They apply for these jobs because they pay decently and there is little else for many of these people to do. They are not trained for work after many years in yeshiva, so they become a mashgiach (for example) after a short course and then get a job in the Rabbanut.

The thing is that most of these people, and the Haredi public in general, do not rely on Rabbanut as a Rabbinic body. They will not rely on it for kashrut, because the Rabbanut uses lighter standards in its kashrut supervision (as it is making kashrut for the masses). They will generally not use the Rabbanut battei din, will not get married under the authority of the Rabbanut, etc., rather are using the services of the various stricter authorities, such as Badat"z and the like.

So they are taking over the Rabbanut but do not trust and use its services.

The National Religious, the natural public who always used the services of the Rabbanut, are starting to move away and form their own organizations. They are disturbed by the apparent takeover by the Haredim. They are disturbed by the changes in policy that make the Rabbanut follow stricter standards, which make it difficult on the general public to follow them.

An example of this is the recent debacle regarding shmitta and the use of the hetter mechira produce. The Rabbanut always allowed the use of Hetter mechira produce, while the haredi public eschewed such produce and during shmitta even stayed away from the Rabbanut more than usual because of it. The claim is that this food is not at all kosher and therefore in such instances the Rabbanut must be completely avoided (not just being lenient and I prefer to be more stringent - in this case it is not kosher at all).

Now that the Rabbanut has become more Haredi, the Rabbanut has decided while it generally accepts hetter mechira produce as kosher, each local authority would have the right to choose and set its own policy regarding hetter mechira. So we have a situation in which Rabbanuts in areas with few religious people who care are rejecting the use of hetter mechira. A result of this is many people in those areas are eating non-kosher. The restaurants refuse to pay the extra expense of non-hetter mechira produce, so they prefer to not get kosher supervision and then they buy whatever they want, unsupervised, and who knows what is happening and what produce, or meats, are being used.

As a result of this, last week we read in the news about a large group of Zionist Rabbis who are leaving the Rabbanut and setting up their own alternative organization to offer kashrut and other services.

Another example of this was announced today. The Rabbanut over the past two years has made conversion requirements much stricter, and has even come to loggerheads with Rabbinic organizations abroad over their standards (such as the RCA) and has even refused to accept conversions performed by them.

A group of 45 Zionist Rabbis has decided to set up their own alternative court for deciding on conversions. They will use more relaxed standards, as they claim that the standards have become increasingly strict and make it very difficult for very many people.

So the Haredim never relied on the Rabbanut and now the Zionist Rabbis are abandoning the Rabbanut.

The general public has always relied on the Rabbanut because they provided the services that were required without making life too difficult for them. The Rabbanut was really there to make kashrut and Judaism available for people who otherwise would likely not bother. The used relaxed standards, but they did so as a way of helping millions of Jews eat kosher food, when they would not if it was too difficult or expensive. They used relaxed standards when it came to everything, because they were dealing with a large public who otherwise would not look for an alternative. The place of the Rabbanut was, and remains, very important for the general public.

The general public however is become increasingly disenfranchised with the Rabbanut. As the haredi Rabbis take over more and more within the Rabbanut and the standards are being raised and made stricter in various aspects, many people are deciding to forgo the whole thing.

An example of this is Hertzliya. Because the local Rabbanut in Hertzliya decided to not accept hetter mechira produce, many stores and restaurants elected to drop their kashrut supervision completely. They prefer to eat non-kosher rather than go through the extra expense of stricter supervision. The job of the Rabbanut was always specifically for these people precisely. It was for those who would otherwise not eat kosher, but now will because the Rabbanut makes it accessible and reasonably priced.

So the Haredi public avoids the Rabbanut, the Zionist public is beginning to abandon the Rabbanut, and the general public is abandoning the Rabbanut.

I have friends in the National Religious community who have told me that this was precisely the goal of the Haredim when taking over the Rabbanut. They say the whole purpose was to destroy the Rabbanut and render it irrelevant.

That is a bit too conspiratorial for me to accept completely, but it might have some truth to it.

The destruction of the Rabbanut is almost complete. Soon there will be serious clashes between the various organizations sprouting up to fill the void the Rabbanut is creating. The confusion will be great, as people will not know what standards the various organizations are adhering to.

This can only be bad for klal yisrael.

Shmitta: a great rundown

Check out Mother in Israel's post describing her trip to a shmitta store and how they deal with shmitta in her area.

I am very impressed with the shmitta store - by us it is the small fruit and veggie section in a local makolet. We have nothing like the size of the carts that she displays...

Oct 17, 2007

Mazel tov!

Mazel tov! It's a girl (they switched the blanket to the pink side only later, well after this picture was taken).
Another ugly member of the G family has come into the world at 4 am this morning (Israel time)!
Thank God she and Mrs. G are both healthy and doing well.

Oct 16, 2007

info on Ron Arad's fate

Yesterday's deal of a body swap for a missing dead Israel civilian for two dead Hezbollah and one sick Lebanese also included other information not yet made public.

Rumor has it that the information includes information on Ron Arad's fate.

While the info is still not public so we have no idea what it is or how reliable it is, today marks a special day. Today is the 21st anniversary of Ron Arad's captivity.

I hope that this day brings us closer to knowing what happened to Ron Arad and bringing him home, alive or dead.

Oct 15, 2007

the shabbos elevator (video)

This is the latest model of the Shabbos elevator....

two health segulahs

I am a fan of segulahs. I enjpy finding out about segulahs I have not previously heard of. I am curious as to how the various segulahs develop and how they become popular.

That being said, I do not do that many segulahs. There are some of the basic ones that everyone does, such as the simanim on Rosh Hashana, Tashlich, etc.. but most segulahs, even though they interest me, I will not perform.

I just heard about two new segulahs. They are both associated with Rav Chaim Kanievsky. (both of the following are culled from the recent Mishpacha newspaper (Hebrew edition).

1. Employees of a bank recently had been suffering with various problems with their feet/legs (regel in Hebrew). One employee went to Rav Kanievsky to ask about the phenomenon.

Rav Kanievsky asked if they work during the holiday (also regel in Hebrew)?

When the employee responded that they work as usual during the holiday, Rav Kanievsky said if you will not work during the regel, you will not have pains in the regel.

The employees decided that during the upcoming holiday, while they had to work, they would only do actions that were required for the holiday, and nothing extra. They encouraged customers to do as much as possible from their homes (via internet or telephone banking). Other customers who had to come in to perform transactions were encouraged to only do those which were necessary for the duration of the holiday and anything that could be pushed off until after the holiday was.

As an aside, the report goes, most customers happily acquiesced to the request to delay any unnecessary transactions. Some did not and felt they came in to perform a transaction and even though it was not urgent, they wanted it performed. The clerks performed these transactions, as they were obligated to, but were surprised when asking the customer to sign the slips, those same customers refused claiming it was not necessary for the holiday.... (I guess sensitivity to the holiness of the holiday goes only oneway..)

2. Somebody approached Rav Kanievsky asking for his blessing for a new project. The project was suggested during the Second Lebanon War. The project was to work with the electric company to spread out the risk of a missile/rocket landing on and destroying a power station. To minimize the risk, he recommended they establish many small power stations spread out around the country, rather than just having the large stations.

He recommended the project be paid for in conjunction by the Electric Company and by the Haredi public who would also use these smaller stations as shabbos generators.

Rav Kanievsky gave him his blessings. (Rav Kanievsky is very much in favor of using generators for electricity on shabbos and not electricity from the regular power stations).

He then mentioned that if there would be a fault and one of these stations would go down on shabbos, the residents affected by it would have to be automatically switched over to the general grid.

Rav Kanievsky said that it is unacceptable and he would not agree to it.

When asked what about sick people who need medical equipment and the like? We cannot leave them with no electricity?

Rav Kanievsky responded that there would no longer be any sick people.

The fellow left astounded. he later asked a different Rav to explain what Rav Kanievsky meant.

The Rav told him the following story: A resident of the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood of Jerusalem approached Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and asked him - I see you use the generator for your electricity on shabbos. On the other hand in the street you benefit form the electricity of the city (non-generator) and in shul as well. Does that mean i can deduce from this that one could rely on the electricity from the Electric Company because they are producing electricity for sick people in the area as well, such as hospitals or people who need medical equipment?

Rav Auerbach responded that he cannot deduce that. he explained that hospitals each have their own generators. Once there is a problem with the electricity and the hospital transfers to the generator, one would no longer be able to rely on the general electricity (because the hospital no longer is).

So, the fellow continued, how does the Rav rely on the electricity in shul and in the streets?

Rav Auerbach responded that it is not because of the hospitals, but there are sick people in the neighborhood who need medical equipment;inhalers, oxygen, dialysis machines, etc. Because they require the electricity for their equipment, based on that one can be lenient and use the electricity.

The Rav concluded based on this story we can understand Rav Kanievsky's statement (above). Hashem put sick people in the various neighborhoods in order to save us from transgressing the prohibition of using electricity on shabbos. Because of them we are able to use electricity. However, once the whole problem is resolved (by creating these smaller power stations), there will no longer be a need for these sick people.

So if the problem with electricity on shabbos is solved, there will be no more sick people.

Oct 14, 2007

HH #136

Haveil Havalim #136 is up at the founder SoccerDad...

was Moses a Hassid? (video)

Was Moshe Rabbeinu a hassid or misnaggid, and what brand of hassid? here is one opinion on the great debate....

One Rabbi, six hundred soldiers, a Torah and more

I just received (from Naomi Ragen's email list)the following article of a story that happened during the Lebanon War last year. It is a fascinating story and well worth your reading it.

A Light in the Darkness of War
Original article written by Shula Weissfer

A year has passed but First Lieutenant M. has not forgotten about the activities of Migdal Ohr which had been discreetly accomplished. With minor changes, we publish here for the first time in English, Lieutenant M's written recording of his experience.

"I remember the two weeks of near face-to-face combat, the confused orders and insufficient combat gear, the intense hunger, physical and emotional exhaustion and toughest of all, the self-imposed silence and disassociation with our surroundings."Now is not the right time to complain, but when it is over," we thought to ourselves, "when the air raid sirens stop and we are out of these fatigues, we can talk and the truth will be known."

When the news came that we were receiving a day off, our hearts soared. We suffered so much stress and hardship. Where would we go? How should we take full advantage of this gift? Rumors begin to circulate that we were going to some school in Migdal Ha'Emek. "This must be a joke! Who ordered ten buses tobring us to some yeshiva with some Rabbi who is just going to try and brainwash us?"

Then, a few of the guys remembered. "Rabbi Grossman, that's the Disco Rabbi right? The guys all give him great respect." But what do they know? He is still some rabbi. Tired and emotionally drained, we got off the buses and stood face to face with an old-world looking Jew, complete with a white beard, side locks and long jacket.

"So here it comes," I thought, "the push to put on tefillin or to say prayers together. Some day off." "Boys," the rabbi's words thundered, "I suggest that first thingyou do is take a dip in the pool and freshen up. In the meantime, we will make you something to eat."

In amazing simplicity, Rabbi Grossman heard in passing that the brigade was looking for a home for a day, and he immediately volunteered his campus. "What's the problem? 600 soldiers? They should all come, of course we have room!"

With the echoes of war from the battlefield still in our ears, it seemed like a mirage or hallucination. Soft music came from everywhere and flowing water and greenery surrounded us. Within minutes, the tables were set with cold refreshing watermelon, cakes, and beverages, followed by cheeses, fresh vegetables, and soft rolls.

Then we heard, "Out of the pool, get dressed and eat something."We saw piles of new undergarments. 600 new undershirts and underwear appeared as if out of nowhere, laid out on tables for our choosing.

Rabbi Grossman sat with us and laughed, "Have a good time boys! Have a great time! This evening, I will put on the most spectacular performance you have ever seen."

I am not a religious person by any means, but I can't help but envision the first Jew, Avraham, standing and personally serving his guests perfectly naturally and without the slightest hint of condescension. He respected each individual and cared for all their needs. Like Avraham, Rabbi Grossman saw in this an obvious act of kindness, a mission of a Mitzvah that had fallen into his hands.

As the evening continued, we learned quickly that this was the essence of who Rabbi Grossman is and what he is all about. He loves everyone and accepts everyone as they are with all his heart and soul. "Tell me friends," Rabbi Grossman said, "I heard you are lacking different pieces of equipment. Do me a favor. Here is a pencil and paper, just write down everything you are missing and leave the paper on the table."

That night, we enjoyed the entertainment and afterwards, slept in soft beds and air-conditioned rooms. Like in a fairytale, we awoke in the morning and could not believe our eyes. Mounds of gear which we so desperately needed had arrived at Migdal Ohr. Attached, was a small note from Rabbi Grossman, "To my dear solders, from all my heart!"

Rabbi Grossman personally and immediately raised over $60,000 worth of equipment from friends literally overnight! The essential equipment included ceramic bulletproof vests, helmets, canteens, knee pads, backpack water canteens, night vision goggles, toothbrushes, socks and more.

Interestingly, a few months before the war broke out, a special friend of Rabbi Grossman from France was interested in donating a new Torah scroll to the main Migdal Ohr Beit Midrash (studyhall).

For some reason, Rabbi Grossman requested to postpone the event until an unspecified later date."Now is the right time!" Rabbi Grossman realized. He immediately made arrangements and in an early evening ceremony, we participated in the completion of writing the Torah.

While the scroll was carefully laid on the table next to a special pen and ink, Rabbi Grossman addressed the soldiers. "My holy ones! I am going to bestow upon you the merit of a holy mitzvah, which can be considered a once in a life time opportunity. Each one of you will complete a letter in the Torah scroll. While you are executing this holy task, each one of you should pray the prayer of his heart and request from G-d that the merit of the letter he has completed will protect him in battle. Holy sparks will emanate from these sacred letters and disperse around you, creating a protective shield which will keep you safe and bring you home safely.

"Those moments were the most exciting and emotional ones in my life. Shaking from the intensity of the immeasurable experience,still not believing, we held the edges of the Torah scroll while our hearts beat rapidly. There was complete silence all around. One after the other, we dipped the quill in the ink and completed a letter in the Torah scroll.

A bystander would have seen a breathtaking scene of incredible elation and spiritual exuberance. The world seemed as if shrouded in silence. The strings of our heart felt strummed and the tears flowed freely down our cheeks.

"Mother!" cried one of the soldiers into his cell phone, "you wont believe what I have done! I have written a letter in a Torah scroll! Mother, are you there? Can you hear?! Me, a Shmutznik (a member of a non- religious Kibbutz), who can't differentiate between Shabbat and the rest of the week, who has not seen tzizit(ritual garment) in my life. Me, I wrote a letter in a Torah scroll! I can't believe it. I can't believe it. "

After the completion of the Torah, the ceremony continued. Leading the procession was a decorated car with multi-colored lights strung all over it and with a crown of lights spinning around on its roof. Following the car, bearers of a decorated canopy marched while people danced around it. Under the canopy, others held the Torah scroll, which was clothed in white and crimson with a silver crown at its top. 600 soldiers and thousands of the town residents marched and danced in the procession, a loud speaker accompanying them, playing traditional Jewish music.

As the ceremony came to a close, Rabbi Grossman approached every soldier and kissed him while placing a half-shekel coin in his hand and said "shliach mitzvah aino nezok," messengers of a mitzvah are not harmed. Rabbi Grossman concluded, "When you return, G-d willing, healthy and unharmed, you will fulfill this mission I am placing upon you, and you will donate this money to charity.

"The night came. Twelve buses made their way atop the Galilee Mountains. Heavy darkness engulfed us, yet behind, in the growing distance, a bright flame pierced the night sky. In the midst of war and violence, we found love and unending human compassion at Migdal Ohr, the educational center established in Migdal Ha'Emek by Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman. Rabbi Grossman speaks "This was an immense "Kiddush Hashem."

For a long period of time, I cried and was very emotional." Thus Rabbi Grossman recalled the moment when he first read the words above written by First Lieutenant M.Rabbi Grossman has what to add to the end of this exciting memoir. "A moment before they returned to Lebanon, I told the soldiers, 'in the merit that you said "shema" and put on tefillin, wrote a letter in the torah, and are messengers of a mitzvah, I promise you, that you will all return safe and sound. None of you will be wounded or killed.'"

"Wasn't the Rabbi scared to commit to 600 soldiers that they would return home safe and sound?" asked Shula Weissfer, a journalist. "That is what came out of my mouth word for word," he replied. "This was a moment of exuberance."

"I continued and told them," Rabbi Grossman relates, "if this does actually happen that you come back safely, the first place you must come back to - before you go home - is Migdal Ohr. We will thank G-d together and from there we will say goodbye." I told them, "think of this as an emergency call-up. Do you accept?" The commanding officer replied in the affirmative.

Two weeks later, around midnight, Rabbi Grossman received a phone call. "Rabbi, your blessing has come true!" exclaimed the commander over the phone. "Everyone is safe and we are on our way to you. We will be there by two 'O clock in the morning"

Rabbi Grossman immediately contacted the kitchen staff and asked them to prepare a meal while he worked to organize a band. People asked him 'You need a band at 2 a.m.? Is Moshiach here?'

"At 2:30 a.m. the soldiers disembarked from the buses, each one carrying 60 kilo of equipment on his back. The band started playing music and the soldiers approached Rabbi Grossman, each one lovingly received with a hug and a kiss. This continued for two hours.

"I felt as I had never felt before," recalls Rabbi Grossman. "Each one told me his personal miracle. "One soldier, a kibbutznik and a lawyer in civilian life, relayed an incredible miracle. A group of soldiers were gathered in an empty house in a Lebanese village when one of them forgetfully lit a cigarette. Hezbollah terrorists immediately noticed the light and fired an anti-tank missile at the house. Coincidentally, two horses from the village ran in front of the house and were hit and killed. The missile, deflected by the horses, veered away from the house, landing elsewhere. Incredibly, the horses miraculously saved the soldiers inside the house.

After the warm reception, the soldiers recited "birkat hagomel,"and together with Rabbi Grossman, sang and danced until daybreak.

"To this day," says Rabbi Grossman, "we maintain contact with each soldier and have thus become one family."

Rabbi Grossman is a recipient of the "Award of Recognition for his Actions on Behalf of Soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forcesand the Second Lebanon War"

Original article written by Shula Weissfer

Oct 12, 2007

two letter word with seven spelling mistakes

This week is the custom for a fairly fun exercise. The Torah portion for the week is No'ah. In Hebrew that is spelled with two letters - נח.

The exercise is to try to spell the two letter word with seven spelling mistakes.

My Rav alerted me to this phrase in conversation when commenting on a few mistakes someone made in a very short piece of writing. He said how many mistakes can a person make in such a short piece - No'ah mitt zaiben graiben. Which he then explained to me to mean "Noah with seven mistakes" (I do not speak yiddish).

After doing some research it seems this is a fairly common exercise enjoyed on the week of Noah, to try to see how many ways you can spell the two letter word of Noah.

The source for this exercise seems to actually be from the Russian Czarina, Catherine the Great. She was of German descent and her Russian was fairly weak. She spelled Shchi, some sort of cabbage soup with a two letter Russian spelling, with 8 letters.

Somehow this became an exercise for two letter words, and Noah is the Jewish version of this game.


now American Football is in Israel!!

While rumors abound about whether or not the Israel Baseball League will be opening for a second season or shutting its doors, another American sport is trying to find its way in Israel.

American Football. That's right - tackle football.

The Israel Football League will be trying to draw the attention of fans and players who enjoy the hard hitting, bone snapping game and considered baseball too complicated and boring.

The Messiah did not come at the end of the Israeli baseball season, so he must have been waiting for an American football league to open up...

Oct 11, 2007

supermodel suing Israeli paper

Bar Rafaeli, the Israeli supermodel who lives abroad and recently chose to malign Israel in a couple of interviews in the foreign press, has come out swinging.

In reaction to her interviews in which she spoke harshly against Israel, the local papers wrote articles describing the interviews. Yediot Acharonot, Israel's largest paper, wrote such an article with the headline stating, "Bar Rafaeli against the State of Israel".

Rafaeli decided to sue the paper for damages claiming that such an inflammatory headline set off a fury of hate and animosity towards her.

I think Israel should counter sue her right back for the way she maligned Israel in the world press.

I am sure that her statements against Israel in major newspapers in Europe received much more exposure than a local Israeli papers reaction did. She probably did much more damage than the newspaper did.

learning in your underwear

----------This is a paid advertisement-------------------

This is really cool. The first hi-tech yeshiva! It was bound to happen eventually, and now it has.

Rav Chaim Brovender has differentiated himself from the pack of online yeshivas. They all offer shiurim for download, either in audio format for in text format. You can learn a lot from the various yeshiva programs that are online.

The Web Yeshiva, however, is the first fully interactive online yeshiva with classes that can be watched and participated in, live and online.

It is probably not appropriate, but I guess you could sit in your underwear at your computer with a beer and chips (not that I am recommending this of course - this is not an appropriate way to learn Torah or any discipline, but you could) log on to the WebYeshiva and get your full yeshiva program!
You can't really do this, because, if I understood correctly, you are on video as well. So you would have to do it like those online interviews where people sit in their underwear but also wear a shirt, so as long as they do not have to get up from their seat nobody can tell the difference!
Doesn't matter - you should be wearing underwear when you learn, but you should also be wearing outerwear!

The only question I have is what does it mean when he says "Separate men's and women's programs"? You and your wife cannot sit in the same room when you log onto the system? They are concerned about mingling between the sexes during class?

Anyways, I just got a note of their press release that was just released, and they are offering a free 14 day trial..

So, go check it out and learn some Torah..

----this was a paid advertisement-----------

Shmitta: some of the basics and Otzar Ha'aretz

I have decided to finally write about shmitta. I am going to make it into a series of posts, each will be regarding a different aspect of shmitta. Hopefully this will help me clarify my thoughts and resolve some of my issues.

Briefly, Shmita is the 7th year of a 7 year cycle. On this 7th year we are commanded in the Torah to let the land lie fallow. No work can be done, no plowing, planting, etc. The farmer must allow anyone who wants to come eat from any crops that might grow.

The purpose of this (on a basic level) is to ingrain in the farmer trust in God, that it is not his own efforts in working the land rather (while they help and are necessary it is really..) Gods control. God promises that He will provide enough crops for those who keep the shmita and do not work the land.

There is a debate among the poskim whether the mitzva is to not work the land or if there is more to it than that. Some are of the opinion that aside from not working the land, there is another mitzva to eat produce grown in shmita with "kedushas shviis" - holiness of the 7th year. According to these opinions, priority should be given when purchasing fruit/veggies to those grown with the holiness over imported produce or other.
Others are of the opinion that there is no such mitzva, rather one must not work the land, one must treat any fruit/veggies with extra care, but there is no actual mitzva to eat such produce. one could just as well import vegetables from other places or not eat veggies at all or whatever, but they say there is no priority to these veggies.

Any fruit/vegetables that grow during the shmitta year can be eaten but they are imbued with a level of holiness due to the special shmitta year. They have to be treated special. All food must be treated well - not wasted or abused, but with shmita produce one must be extra careful.

because of the great detail involved in dealing with produce from shmita, it is very expensive and consuming. Not only that but there are many debates on what can be eaten and what cannot be eaten at all! It is prohibited to do business with such produce, making it difficult to buy/sell. There are innovative solutions to this problem, one of which is called Otzar Beis Din. This is a solution in which beis din sort of takes control of the produce and they sell it at "cost of production" with no profit.

Otzar beis din generally deals only in fruit and not vegetables because vegetables have some added problems (called sefichin) in growing them past certain dates. The timeframe in which it is a viable solution (for veggies0 is fairly small, and most Otzar Beis Din (OBD) solutions therefore choose not to get involved, as the effort is too great for too little return.

There is one organization that chose to deal with vegetables in this fashion, despite the difficulties. It is called the OBD of Otzar Ha'Aretz.

While other kashrut organizations get around the problem of not having vegetables by importing from Arab areas which do not have that holiness (a debate on its own whether this is true or not and how it works), this Otzar Ha'Aretz chose not to use those solutions.

Otzar Ha'Aretz prefers to not use Arab produce. Much of the proceeds of such produce is assumed (and in some cases proven) to end up supporting terror and terror acts against Israel. This is a very sensitive issue and will be discussed more in future posts. Otzar Ha'Aretz prefers to use Jewish produce that is grown in an acceptable manner. Using Jewish grown produce is a way of supporting the Jewish farmers, who financially have a very difficult year, aside form not supporting terror.

Because Otzar Ha'Aretz is a new system, they requested people register with them. They did this so they could gauge how much of a demand there would be for such produce. This would help them calculate how much they needed (so there would not be too much or too little in the stores) and it also gave them leverage with the farmers when trying to convince farmers to work through their system.

I signed up for Otzar Ha'Aretz. I liked the concept they used, and my Rav supported it and urged members of our community to join Otzar Ha'aretz.

I got my vouchers very late, just at the end of sukkos. I did not want to buy Arab produce, and I was too lazy to go to the store selling Otzar Ha'aretz produce, at least without the vouchers, so from about 2 days after Rosh Hashana (when shmitta began) until now, I had not bought fresh vegetables.

Let me add that not everything has a problem yet. Many types of produce are still being sold from 6th year produce (out of storage), such as potatoes, onions, carrots, etc.. but cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, etc are a problem now and I had not bought them since Rosh Hashana.

Because I finally received my vouchers, I decided to head out to the local Otzar Ha'aretz distributor and buy some. They had nice looking produce (much nicer than the Arab produce being sold int he supermarkets) and the prices were more or less the same, on some things lower and on others equal.

I still have not bought my "pach shmita". I will try to do that tonight. the special garbage can for shmita produce is necessary because the veggies cannot be disposed of in the regular garbage. Due to their holiness, it is considered disgraceful to mix them in the regular garbage can. This is in addition to the problem of putting into the regular garbage would cause the spoilage process to speed up, which would mean you caused their spoilage in a sense.

This is the first installment of my shmita series. Because shmita is a year long, even more because certain fruits extend into the following year, you can look forward to a lot of posts on the shmita topic.

Oct 10, 2007

suicide on the side of the road

Last night at about 10:45 pm I was in a car home from a softball game, when we noticed unusual activity on the side of the road. We were approaching the entrance to bet Shemesh and just on the opposite side of the road there were about 20 or so Hatzalah guys searching in the woods and in the area of Nahal Soreq with flashlights. They had a number of cars and ambulances parked on the side of the road.

I called a friend of mine in Hatzalah (not Jameel, but somebody in Hatzalah Bet Shemesh) and asked what was going on. He told me that someone had called in to the police that they were in that area and they were going to be committing suicide. So Hatzalah and the police went down to look for them.

I do not know what happened (I might see him tonight in a little bit, if I do I will ask him).

I do not understand why people make such calls to announce these things. Do they really want to commit suicide? If they really did, they would just jump/shoot/hang/whatever and maybe leave a note. The fact that they called the police in advance sounds to me like they are really just looking for attention, and hoping somebody will say something nice to them to try to talk them out of it.

My guess would be that this person had no intention of committing suicide and just wanted the attention. It was probably a massive waste of Hatzalah/police resources.

The coolest part of it was that Hatzalah had a cool dune buggy at the scene. I wonder which volunteer gets the right to drive that thing around..... It is worth volunteering just for that!!!

seizure on the train

There was a guy on the train (sitting not too far from me) this morning who had an epileptic seizure during the ride. He was smashing his head into the wall next to him. The person sitting near him called out for a doctor. People went scouring the train looking for a medic or a doctor.

None was to be found. They made an announcement over the loudspeaker but still nobody came forward. Plenty of people went over to help out with what they could. I preferred to stay in my seat because there was pretty much nothing I could to to help more than the 7 or 8 people who were already standing around him. I preferred not to stand around in the crowd because I do not like making these things into circuses with the poor victim as the sideshow, so I watched from afar (about 30 feet away).

After his seizure he went unconscious for a bit. When he came to he answered a few questions about who he is. He seemed kind of out of it.

The usher on the train called Magen David Adom in Ramle (the upcoming station), so they should be prepared with a team at the station ready to check him and take him to a hospital.

When we pulled into Ramle, MDA for some reason was still not there. They were just a couple of minutes away. When they came, they spoke to the guy. He answered one or two questions then went unconscious again. When that happened, they decided to take him off the train to a hospital.

He was a pretty big guy and they had a tough time carrying him off.

I hope he is ok. It seems this (having seizures on the train) has happened to him a number of times before, based on what other people said.

Kol hakavod to the kindness of all the people who did get involved and helped look for a doctor and those who tried to help in other ways.. There were all types of people helping out;men, women, religious, not religious.

The best thing of the whole story was that our train was "green lighted" all the way through our normal stops and delays. I think because of the incident we were a bit off schedule so they gave us priority through the various stops so as not to cause bigger scheduling mess-ups with other trains. This means our train came in today to the station only 8 minutes late instead of the normal 22 minutes late!

Oct 9, 2007

post on my mind

Sorry for the dearth of posts. The one thing, aside from politics which I have been trying to post less and less of, that I keep thinking about nowadays, especially when thinking about posting, is a shmitta related post.

Shmitta is at the forefront of my thoughts right now and I really want to write a comprehensive post on the topic. The problem is I still have a bunch of issues that are unresolved and questions that bother me regarding shmitta. I am doing a lot of research and trying to come to some answers. When I do, I will write the post.

In the meantime, my blogging might be spotty, or even worse, weak.

Oct 8, 2007

Olmert manipulated us all

When Ehud Olmert agreed to set up a commission to investigate the failures of the Lebanon War part II, he was under tremendous pressure to establish a State Commission of Inquiry. A full blown State Commission has teeth to implement decisions and recommendations.

Olmert was obviously against that because it threatened him and his job the most. He withstood the pressure and established an investigative commission called the Winograd Commission. He claimed he would allow it to have the power to implement recommendations, though by law it does not have that power, so I think he was only saying that in order to be able to deflect criticism.

Olmert justified his decision with the rationale that a full blown commission would take too long to investigate because of legal issues and bureaucracies. Olmert " was concerned" that delays in the investigation would mean delays in implementing improvements to the system and resolving the failures.

By establishing a lesser body of inquiry, they would be able to come to their conclusions within just a few months and the country could move on, with the government fixing the problems.

So now we have the Winograd Commission still not having given its final report, with no date for it yet to be announced. It is assumed to be expected sometime in December/January. That means the "few months" of efficiency to investigate quickly and implement recommendations will have taken, in the best case scenario, about 1.5 years.

There have already been numerous delays. Most of these have been due to politicians and army people being concerned they would be named at fault in the report for various levels of failure. they took the Commission to court a number of times to force them to change their methods, to not name anybody, to send warning letters, etc.

The Commission said in its interim report that it would not name anybody but would leave it up to the public to decide who to blame and what to do with them and the politicians should be able to figure out how to take responsibility. The main person to blame avoided any responsibility, so Winograd announced that in the final report it would name names and make recommendations, due to certain people obviously not having gotten the message.

Yet today the Winograd Commission announced that it would not name names. It would not make personal recommendations. It would be up to the Israeli public to decide whom to blame and what to do with them.

All that for this? All those trips to court to finally give in and not name names or make recommendations? So what were all the delays for if you were not going to name names anyway?

Everybody thought that when Olmert named his buddies as the people who would investigate him, that he was making a mockery of the system.
When the Winograd Commission came back with its harsh interim report, people were surprised and thought the Commission figured out how not to be beholden to Olmert and that they would actually work independently.

Now it turns out the whole thing was a bluff. Winograd had no intentions of making waves. They have been beholden to Olmert. They delayed as much as they could to get people to forget the importance of the issues. And Olmert comes out having manipulated the whole system.

national religious need haredi approval?

A lot of people are upset. They feel the honor of their Rebbe has been slighted. And if he was not their Rebbe, he was still a great man and deserved better.

Rav Avraham Shapira, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel, one of the founders and heads of Religious Zionism, the Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz HaRav, a tremendous talmid chochom and brilliant mind, passed away last week.

The Yated Ne'eman wrote about his passing. They called him "Ha'Gaon Rav Avraham Shapira z"l".

People are upset about that title. They are upset the Yated Ne'eman wrote z"l and not ztz"l.
Z"l is an acronym for "zichrono l'vracha" his memory should be blessed.
Ztz"l is an acronym for "zecher tzaddik l'vracha" - the memory of the righteous should be blessed.

They feel that the Yated Ne'eman was slighting Rav Shapira's honor by writing z"l and they did so only because he not "one of ours" (from the perspective of the Yated). Because he was a Nationl Zionist Rabbi he could not have been deserving of the title tzaddik.

I say they should get over it.
First of all the Yated did call him "ha'gaon".
Second, the Yated is an ultra-Haredi newspaper, the mouthpiece of super-Litvish Haredi Judaism.
Sure, it would be appropriate for them to show proper respect to great people of other streams as well. However they showed him respect and it is not unusual that they would give him one notch lower than their own people. That is the nature of politics and social wars.

Get over it. Stop looking for the approval of the Haredi mouthpiece.

Oct 7, 2007

Haveil Havalim #135

HH #135 is up hosted by SoccerDad. Check it out.

Get rid of Aramis Ramirez!

With two men on and two outs Aramis strikes out looking. Again. He is still 0 fer playoffs. Get rid of his big fat contract.

Oct 5, 2007


I just added Blogrush to my blog. It is supposed to drive up traffic to my blog. We will see if it really works.. If you want to try it for your blog, sign up here...

Oct 3, 2007

It is my son's penis

There has always been a movement against circumcision. Most Jews tended to ignore it and would continue circumcising their male children. Bris mila is something that Jews throughout history were steadfast in continuing despite being under great threat and danger.

It seems like that is no longer true. Circumcision is on a decline and it seems that among the Reform community many are opting to not circumcise their children.

I never understood the argument that is often mentioned when attempting to ban circumcision, or at least to explain why someone chose not to perform it on their child. The argument is: (quoting the end of the linked to article) "Hey, it's my son's penis, it's not mine to discuss in the same way it's not mine to cut."

This is an argument that is commonly stated. What right do I have to cut my child, to cause him pain, to choose a path for him, etc.

As parents, everything we do is choosing a path. We cause pain all the time.

We send our child to the dentist to pull a tooth - what right do you have to do that? Did you ask the child first what he thinks about it?
You sent a child to the school you thought would be best for him - you have chosen a path for him. You did not let him choose his life quest. You decided he should get this type of education rather than that type of education. What right do you have to do that?
You give the child medicine, or vitamins. Did you hold a meeting with the child first to discuss the pros and cons and then let the child make the final decision?
You gave birth to the child - what right did you have to bring him into the world? Did you ask him? Maybe he would have preferred you use birth control?
Do you let your child set his own bedtime? Can he choose how much television he wants to watch and whether he can stay home from school or not?
Did you pierce your daughter's ears?

As parents it is our job to make decisions that affect our children and their paths and directions in life. We cannot abstain from making a decision with the argument that I have no right to decide for him.

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