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Feb 28, 2011

Interesting Psak: Chessed To Palestinians

Rav Yuval Cherlo was asked an interesting question that deals with doing chessed and providing assistance to Palestinians.

The question asked was a clinician in the audio department of Tel HaShomer Hospital. She said there is a project they are embarking on to install hearing aids to those in need in the Palestinian Authority. She wants to know if she can be a part of the project.

Her doubt is because she does not know if it is right to help out people who are the enemy of Israel, while on the other hand her participation would give a tremendous amount of experience in this field. As well, the project will be publicized, and she does not know how it will be accepted among the Israeli public.

Rav Cherlo responded to each point:

  1. Do we want to deepen the level of hatred? Can we not perform a humanitarian act to people who suffer, even in the Palestinian Authority?
  2. Being aware of the fact that they are the enemy, I am also aware, Rav Cherlo says, that an absurd situation could come of this where these hearing aids will be installed in someone who performed acts of terror against Israel. Not ignoring that fact, from a practical perspective, it is our duty to try to accomplish 2 things at the same time - fighting against terror, defending ourselves, attacking those who wish to kill us, and at the same time search for a way to bring down the level of hatred. This act will not decrease our ability to fight against terror, but it will possibly plant other seeds.
  3. The question of how it will look to the Israeli public is secondary. There is no such thing as the "Israeli public". There are those who will attack you for cooperating with the enemy, and there are those who will embrace you and call you a seeker of peace and bring you to their fold of people willing to destroy the settlements. Both are very upsetting - those who will praise you and those who will attack. The most important thing is to do the right thing, to go with your truth, even at a heavy public price. 
Rav Cherlo says as a caveat that this answer is only a general set of principles, and the person must be sure she is not being taken advantage of for some other purpose of which she might not be aware of.

The New York Times On Tekhelet

The New York Times has an article on the resurgence of the t'chelet (also sometimes spelled t'khelet and sometimes tekhelet).

The New Yorks Times:
One of the mysteries that scholars have puzzled over for centuries is the exact shade of blue represented by “tekhelet,” which the Bible mentions as the color of ceremonial robes donned by high priests and ritual prayer tassels worn by the common Israelite.

Though scientists and scholars are still debating the exact shade of the ritual blue, the dye used is modeled after a 2,000-year-old textile, above, and is produced from sea snails found in Israeli waters.
What was known about tekhelet (pronounced t-CHELL-et) was that the Talmud said it was produced from the secretion of the sea snail, which is still found on Israeli beaches.

Traditional interpretations have characterized tekhelet as a pure blue, symbolic of the heavens so that Jews would remember God. Not so, according to an Israeli scholar who has a new analysis: tekhelet appears to have been closer to a bluish purple.

The scholar, Zvi C. Koren, a professor specializing in the analytical chemistry of ancient colorants, says he has identified the first known physical sample of tekhelet in a tiny, 2,000-year-old patch of dyed fabric recovered from Masada, King Herod’s Judean Desert fortress, later the site of a mass suicide by Jewish zealots after a long standoff against the Romans.

“It really is majestic,” Dr. Koren said of the shade, which he said remained close to its original hue and appeared to be indigo.

Dr. Koren is scheduled to deliver a paper on Monday at a conference here at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, where he heads the Edelstein Center for Analysis of Ancient Artifacts.

Dr. Koren, originally from Staten Island, described his work as “Indiana Jones meets C.S.I.” He said that when he first photographed the fabric scrap with the tekhelet dye, “the L.C.D. on my camera literally radiated.”

Until now, the limited number of blue or purple dyes found on textiles from the period in this region have been derived from plant material, he said.

The fabric he examined was one of many items discovered at Masada in the 1960s and stored at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It came to his attention when a British historian, Hero Granger-Taylor, who specializes in ancient weaves, asked him to analyze some textiles. Dr. Koren said he was the first researcher to make the connection between the fabric and the snail dye.

He found that the dye used in the Masada sample, a piece of bluish-purple yarn embroidery, came from a breed of Murex trunculus snail familiar to modern Israelis. Such shades on textiles are rare finds since they were typically worn exclusively by royalty or nobility.

Determining what exactly tekhelet would have looked like in its day has been the subject of conjecture and curiosity among rabbis, religious commentators and scientists for centuries; it is considered the most important of the three ritual colors cited in the Bible. The other two are argaman, a reddish purple, and shani, known as scarlet.

“It’s especially exciting for religious Jews who place great importance on this color,” said Daniella E. Bar-Yosef Mayer, a University of Haifa archaeologist specializing in mollusk shells.

Some time after the Jews were exiled from Israel in A.D. 70, the knowledge of how to produce the tekhelet dye was lost. The dye was also prohibitively expensive to make: hundreds of snails were used to make even a small batch, and some in ancient times claimed it was worth 20 times its weight in gold.

The question of tekhelet’s appearance was later taken up by rabbinic scholars who had never seen it. Most of them settled on some form of blue, comparing it at various times to the color of the sea, the sky and sapphires.

Adding to the confusion, two of the most important Jewish authorities offered conflicting opinions: Maimonides, considered perhaps the greatest Jewish legal authority, said it resembled the color of the sky on a sunny day. But Rashi, another celebrated Middle Ages commentator, gave two different accounts: one, that it was green, and the other that it resembled a darkening evening sky.

In modern Hebrew, “tekhelet” is the word for light blue, mirroring the consensus of scholars that the ancient color was most likely sky blue. The blue of the Israeli flag was inspired by tekhelet.

Because the textile from Masada was locally made from snails, and bluish, Dr. Koren concluded that it represented the first modern-day encounter with the authentic biblical tekhelet.

Even though it is not cerulean, Dr. Koren said, the traditional notion of tekhelet — meant to serve as a reminder of the heavens — still fits.

“Tekhelet is the color of the sky,” Dr. Koren said in his laboratory. “It’s not the color of the sky as we know it; it’s the color of sky at midnight.” He paused and added, “It’s when you are all alone at night that you reach out to God, and that is what tekhelet reminds you of.”

Twenty years ago, a nonprofit organization, P’til Tekhelet, which means “tekhelet string,” was formed to raise awareness of the color. Volunteer divers collect ink from snails off the coast of Israel and produce sky-blue tekhelet to dye string that is woven into the ritual prayer tassels known as tzitzit, hoping to reclaim an ancient tradition.

Baruch Sterman, a P’til Tekhelet founder, said that new scientific findings were unlikely to change the tradition his group had reintroduced: using the sky-blue color for ritual tassels.

“Probably in ancient times, what was most important to the Jews was that the color is a beautiful color and it comes from the snail,” Mr. Sterman said. “The minor distinction — sky blue, turquoise, lapis or purple blue — were probably not of significance to them.”

Yuval Sherlow, a prominent rabbi in Israel’s modern Orthodox circles — where wearing tekhelet in ritual fringes has become increasingly popular, as it has in American ones — agreed.

“Tradition is not so interested in science,” Mr. Sherlow said. “There is a type of denial of science and new information.”

The Sunday-Less Work-Week

One of the big issues in the anglo "community" in Israel is the lack of "Sundays" like back in the old country. Many of us would love a day off like Sunday, a day to get together with family, relax, sports, go out for tiyulim, and enjoy. The issue generally comes up around election time, with a couple politicians paying lip service to the issue in an attempt to garner a few more supporters, but doing nothing about promoting it after elections are over.

As of right now, 2011 is not an election year, yet Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom is promoting the issue of making Sunday into a non-workday.

From Israel National News:
Cabinet Minister Silvan Shalom, who has headed both the Finance and Foreign Ministries, is promoting an official 5-day workweek; Sundays will be off.

The proposal will require a change in the Work and Rest Hours Law, which currently calls for workdays of no longer than 8 hours (not including breaks) and a workweek of no longer than 45 hours. Shalom’s idea is to give Sundays off, and add a half-hour of work to each day Monday through Friday. Work will end at 2 P.M.on Friday afternoon during the summer, and an hour earlier during the winter.

The Sabbath and Sunday will both be deemed official days of rest.

It has been reported that Interior Minister Eli Yishai of the Sephardic-hareidi-religious camp has expressed interest in the idea, because it would release public pressure to keep stores open on the Sabbath and would thus decrease Sabbath desecration.

Shalom, who is currently Vice Prime Minister, is still in the planning stages regarding meetings with the head of the national Histadrut Labor Union, representatives of the employers, and other market elements. He is optimistic, however: “A long Saturday-Sunday weekend will change the country from one extreme to the other,” he says. “It could bring about calm; the feeling of freedom will enable people to come to work on Monday more calmly and with more motivation. In addition, by adding hours to the day, there will be more production… The banking and economic systems will be more synchronized with the world.”

A change in the work week will also bring about changes in the educational system – longer school days, with lunch programs, and no Sunday classes.
The discussion of whether Sunday should be a workday or not always reminds me of the joke of the ministers who were discussing moving to a 4.5 day workweek - Monday through Thursday with a half Friday, to which a minister responded first we have to get the Israelis to work 2 days a week, then we can move up to 3 days, then 4, and then we will be able to move to a 4.5 day workweek.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky Makes A Shidduch

This is a great story about Rav Chaim Kanievsky. I am not sure why suddenly we are hearing all these miracle stories about Rav Kanievsky, but perhaps he is just a miracle worker.

Anyway, here is the story, as reported on the haredim WAP site:

Several months ago, a yeshiva bochur went to visit Rav Chaim Kanievsky in his house in Bnei Braq, in order to receive a bracha for finding a shidduch.

When he got in to Rav Kanievsky, he explained that when he was younger he had performed a chessed that caused a large and ugly scar on his cheek. He felt that this scar is harming his ability to find a shidduch.

Rav Chaim told the fellow that at his next date he should tell the girl exactly what had happened, what he had done and how he got the scar. Rav Kanievsky said not to hide it from anybody any longer. He then gave the bochur a bracha to quickly find his soul mate.

Soon after, he went out on a date. He decided he would tell her right away about his scar. He told her that when he was younger

The fellow related that when he was younger he had seen an Arab man chasing a haredi family in Jerusalem, in one of the neighborhoods. The fellow said he tried to help, but the Arab attacked him instead. As a result, he ended up with the large scar on his face.

To his surprise, the girl he was dating told him, right when he finished, that she had been the daughter of that family that was being chased at the time. They reviewed the details of the story, and she told him that she even remembered the name of the boy who had chased away the Arab.

Just a few days later, the two got engaged to each other.

After their engagement, they went to Rav Kanievsky to inform him of the engagement, and to thank him for the bracha.

When people asked Rav Kanievsky about the amazing shidduch, he responded that the wys of Hashem are hidden.

I have nothing to add. This is a great story.

“Charedi Shuckeling Causes Myopia”

A Guest Post by Mark

Beneath their hats and locks they had a scholar’s pallor. Many, one noticed, wore spectacles. It was once assumed that it was strain brought on by the long hours of study in the yeshive, or Torah schools, that affected the eyesight of so many Haredi men. However, a study in Israel suggested that much of the blame lay with shockelling - the fervent rocking backward and forward motion that students make as they read the texts, and which causes an incessant change of focus in the eyes leading to myopia.”
The play on words is delicious!

Quote Of The Day

The Israel Police that allows protests against the State of Israel in Jaffa under the Palestinian flag, gives a prize to terrorists and prevents the parade with Israeli flags across Yefat Street. Whoever says the Israeli flag, in the State of Israel, is a provocation, his place is in jail or in a different country.

  ---- MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union)

Feb 27, 2011

The Wig And The Wind

This is an incident I would have liked to witness. It seems to be pretty amusing, though I am sure it was very troubling, and distressing, for the woman involved.

A woman was walking in Jerusalem, and the strong winds blew the sheitel right off her head (I always say thumbtacks would work better than just those clips they use).

That alone is every womans nightmare in bad weather - either the head covering blowing off, or the skirt blowing up Marilyn Monroe style... I once, many years ago saw an old woman getting on the bus in a storm and her sheitel fell off. Wasnt such a big deal - she was embarrassed for a moment and then everyone went on their merry way.

If that was not bad enough, the issue was compounded when one of the Mea Shearim thugs saw it happen, he ran over and grabbed her sheitel. Instead of returning it to her like a nice guy trying to help her get her head covered as quickly as possible, he ran away with it calling her a shiktza, saying the rabbonim said wigs are prohibited.

Bechadrei reports that a bunch of people tried to chase the thug down, including somebody on a hatzolah moped and some yeshiva boys. Eventually, the thug threw the sheitel aside and disappeared.

She must have run home in her embarrassment, because by the time the sheitel was recovered she was nowhere to be found.

As I said, thumbtacks work best, and would prevent problems like this from happening.

Police Academy In Bet Shemesh (video)

After a long period of planning and discussion, the deal has finally been signed and finalized. The national police academy is be going to be building its largest complex in the country in Bet Shemesh.

The complex of the police academy will include classroom buildings, housing for staff, athletic and training rooms, and more. The academy complex will be built in West bet Shemesh, on the other side of Highway 38. However, they might also build a new neighborhood for policemen and families who will want to live in the area.

Whenever I hear, and read the updates and progress of this deal in the local papers over the past couple of years, about the police academy, I cannot but help think of the old movie series form the '80s, "Police Academy". Bring these guys to Bet Shemesh for the groundbreaking ceremony, or the grand opening, is what I say.

(sorry, but the better clips all had the embedding disabled)

What was amusing in the announcement is the perspective published by the local rag. It mentioned that, and I am only paraphrasing from memory because I no longer have the paper to quote from exactly, the rabbonim of the city are very concerned about the plan, as they are worried that bringing in this troubling element into a haredi city will have a seriously negative impact on the lifestyle and atmosphere of the city.
  1. concern because some people who are not haredi might come to the city? That will destroy the atmosphere of the city?
  2. Perhaps someone like Tackleberry is just what the local police need to become a little more effective at tacking crime and targeting violence.
  3. Again, reading about the police academy always cracks me up.

Your Arnona At Work

3 weeks ago, Bezeq came to my street, in front of my building, and tore up the sidewalk. They dug down, dealt with the cables, and installed this communications box you see in the images above.

They replaced a few of the bricks they had ripped out, and then abandoned the site. Three weeks later, they have not yet returned to fix the sidewalk.

The sidewalk is dirty, unkempt, dangerous as people have to go into the street or kids who play with the bricks, muddy in the rain, an annoyance to pedestrians who have to walk by especially those with strollers.

Today I called the city municipal line for residents to report problems. I described the problem. Their response was that I need to call Bezeq, as Bezeq has dug up 60 different sites around the city and are conducting the work.

To which I asked, does the city not supervise the work and require them to fix the sidewalks? Their response: yes, we supervise, and have even issued a couple warnings, but you have to call Bezeq.

Of course, it is impossible to call Bezeq, as you easily spend 20 minutes getting transferred around, as no specific desk is the one that deals with such issues...

I wonder how much longer it will take for the sidewalk work to be completed..

Your arnona at work.

Taking Credit For Overthrowing Tyrants

Something about the world involvement in the uprisings in the Muslim countries disturbs me. The European countries and the US are finally making strong statements denouncing the violent suppression of the protests. They make statements in a way that show they expect to be listened to - their statement with a veiled threat of repercussions should be enough to stop madmen like Moammar Qaddafi or other dictators from doing what they do best.

What bothers me is, where were you the past 3 decades? Where were you when he suppressed his people, or they suppressed their people, and killed, and tortured them? Now you want to show leadership? After the protesters have risen up and done almost all the work? Now you want to make it look like you are sickened by the violent and dictatorial regimes?

If you were not willing to show leadership and step in and intervene until now, you should continue taking a back seat. Let the people do the job they started. Don't take credit for an uprising because of your "bold" statements. Until now the western countries have propped up these dictators for a variety of interests, and suddenly they turn on them when the wind changes.

Keep quiet, support the protesters quietly, do the diplomatic work in the UN and pressure in the back channels and whatever other way you can help. But dont start stealing the credit now for overthrowing these tyrants, after years and decades of propping them up, sending them money and arms. It was the people who did it almost completely on their own - not the United States, Germany or any other country.

Chilean Miners In Israel (video)

The Chilean Miners who were stuck in a collapsed mine for over 2 months recently just came to Israel for a visit. While they refused to visit the Kotel Tunnels, because of their fear of confined spaces, they did visit the Kotel..

Chilean Miners - We Kept our Faith Like the Jews

Jon Stewart: Libya Uprising (video)

Feb 24, 2011

Madonna And The 500 Bottles Of Water

What would you do with 500 bottles of water? What about 500 bottles of kabbala water?
Madonna/Esther - no longer the Material Girl

Reports have it that Madonna was recently in Berlin for a day, and upon locating a hotel to her liking, her people insisted that the hotel must renovate and paint her room or else she wont stay there.

From The Holy Scoop:
Her camp told the hotel that Madonna was going to be in town for one night and wanted to stay at the hotel, but she “doesn’t want to sleep where other people have slept.” Seriously. They actually said that.

“Madonna doesn’t like to sleep where other people have slept,” a hotel source told Closer magazine. “She needs all new things – a new bed, fresh paint, new lights. So we renovated the whole room. We have never had a request like this before.”

The total cost of renovating the room? £15,000! Keep in mind it probably cost the hotel more money to renovate the room than she actually paid for the room for the night.

And that’s not all. “We also had to provide 500 bottles of Kabbalah water [which is blessed by a rabbi] for Madonna and her entourage,” the source added. What the hell do you do with 500 bottles of water when you’re only in your room for one night?

She spent most of the day in and out of her room so unless she was showering with the water (I wouldn’t put it past her) there’s no way she could have gone through all of it.
What would you do with 500 bottles of kabbala water? Maybe she is making a business out of it and selling the bottles. Maybe she bathed in the water, or passed them out as gifts to the people in "her camp" for them to drink.

I never understood how people can be so picky and specific. I mean, one night in a hotel and she insists on them renovating and painting the room a specific way? With food I kind of get it - people are on special diets or certain foods are more agreeable with someone than other foods, they want something familiar and not have to worry about how their body might react to new foods when they have meetings and events to be part of. But to insist on a hotel room being painted a specific way for a one night stay? It says the renovations cost more than what she paid for the room - so they didnt even charge her for fulfilling her requests!

Rabbonim Discuss Current Events

Why did the citizens of the Muslim countries suddenly start rioting and revolting against their governments? What can we learn from it?

Ynet reports from the WAP site "Haredim" (late addition: I have also seen this now reported in the edition of Mishpacha newspaper that I got delivered today) that a number of rabbonim have discussed these issues.

Supposedly, Rav Ahron Shteinman, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, and Rav Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz have all recently commented on these issues.

Rav Shteinman: Rav Shteinman suspects the lack of stability in the region is because of the attempts to shock and disturb the "olam haTorah" by harassing the kollels and avreichim - when people try to disturb the torah world, Hashem disturbs the whole world.
Another thing Rav Shteinman suggested is that strange and major events have been happening around the world in order to distract them, so they will not pay attention any more to the "torah world". If they don't learn their lessons, the events will continue getting closer and closer to us.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky: We see many things are happening in unnatural ways. We dont understand them. People come and say that these events are Gog and Magog - we are nto able to know if that is so or not, but definitely Hashem is showing us that Mashiach is getting closer, and we must do what we can to strengthen ourselves and prepare for that day. Whoever ignores these signs is a fool/

Rav Lefkowitz: Hashem shakes up the world to put people back in their places. Hashem is knocking down the "Kochi V'Otzem Yadi" that exists. First there was a small fire here, and the country that thought it is so great and strong, suddenly it has to go requesting assistance from countries around the whole world - not even for a war, not for anything special, just a small fire.
Then, they still think they are great, and Hashem goes and messes up the countries, and suddenly everyone is scared because they were not able to predict these monumental events would happen, and they dont know what to do about them. Hashem is laughing at them, watching to see when they will figure it out that He controls the world, not them.
Through everything that happens in the world, one can see and sense the faith. You can see how there is a leader, and it is His wish to confuse the nations and do what He wants. Those who close their eyes and ignore it - he is not evil, rather he is a fool.

This reminds me of a story I read about Rav Mendel Kaplan zt"l who used to read the daily newspapers to his students in yeshiva. He would say that it is important to learn how to read the news from a torah perspective, to find the messages from Hashem.

A Soldier's Journey Through Christianity, Islam, and Judaism (video)

Ice Hockey In Israel (video)

Shiksa (video)

Feb 23, 2011

Quote Of The Day

This is very grotesque. It is unimaginable that there is someone who kills and bombards his own people. I strongly advise them to let nations have their say and meet their nations' demands if they claim to be the officials of those nations

-- President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the violent suppression by Qhaddafi of the protests in Libya. This is a perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black.

Interesting Psak: Moving Bodies

Rav Eliyahu Zein, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Ohr V'Yeshua in Haifa, was asked a question in light of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, a family wants to move the body of a deceased relative buried in Algeria. is it halachically ok to do so, and being that the body is buried already for 70 years, is there a point - would there be anything left to move anyway?

Rav Zeini responded that if the person was not a great talmid chochom (who measures that and how?) then we already know Chazal have said in the gemara that bringing the bodies of such people defiles the land. Therefore, there is no mitzva to bring a regular Jew's body to eretz yisrael for burial, and for sure not since the expense is great in both the host country and in eretz yisrael.

Instead, the family should donate money to support torah and mitzvos in the memory of, and for the merit of, the deceased relative. This will provide the deceased with great merit of building the Land of Israel even posthumously. (source: Srugim)

It seems a bit strange as the haacha discussing the details of when reinterring a body is allowed grants the reinterrment of the body to Eretz Yisrael as the one time you can do it with no questions asked. To move a body anywhere else in chutz la'aretz, it requires a very good reason, a great need. To move the body to eretz yisrael is always allowed. if it was a defilement, why would the halacha give such carte blanche allowance?

There are also other benefits, such as kavod ha'meis to be buried in Eretz Yisrael. Also the concern of the seforim regarding having the pain of the body "rolling" to eretz Yisrael in the future, in the time of techiyas hameisim, also gives burial in Eretz Yisrael halachic preference. We don't find in halacha, that i am aware of, a limitation that this only applies to the great talmidei chachomim.

Regarding the expense, I am in agreement with Rav Zeini, that it might be considered excessive. I would suggest though that such a decision is in the hands of the family - only they can decide if it is something affordable or excessive, and how much priority this has. People do plenty of things, and waste plenty of money on trivial things when they could be using it to support torah. This seems better than many of the other things.

Smuggler Without Borders

In 1947, the Haganah gave him the mission of a lifetime: help the Holocaust survivors stranded on the Exodus. Professor Meier Schwarz, scientist, historian, and former Haganah member, was no stranger to secret operations. Already an orphan when he fled from Germany to Eretz Yisrael at age thirteen, he helped smuggle thousands of refugees into the Holy Land, learning his lesson early on how to be self-reliant and how to place duty before emotions

Libi Astaire

“There were Torah-observant Jews in the Haganah?”

Professor Meier Schwarz stares at me, as if to ask, “What's the question?”

What's the question, indeed? There's an old saying that goes, “History is written by the winners,” and the history of the modern State of Israel is no different. Therefore, when most people think of the Haganah -- the paramilitary organization that defended Jewish settlements during the British Mandate and brought tens of thousands of Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors to Eretz Yisrael illegally -- the image that comes to mind is not that of a frum yungerman from Nuremberg.

But on a wintry day in Jerusalem, which just happens to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Professor Schwarz, eighty-five, sets the record straight: “Everyone on my kibbutz joined the Haganah. We helped them and they helped us.”

“Us” were the members of a religious kibbutz that later became known as Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim. Its members were mostly young people who had fled Nazi Germany alone, as children -- people like Meier Schwarz. And so before we talk about the dramatic events that took place during those twilight years between World War II and the founding of the State of Israel, Professor Schwarz -- who was part of the clandestine operation to run illegal immigrants against and around the British blockade -- puts his German childhood into the perspective of his future brush with history.

If Only … “I was born in Nuremberg, in 1926,” says Meier Schwarz -- current head of Beit Ashkenaz, a historical research organization dedicated to preserving the memory of Germany's destroyed Jewish communities -- describing a childhood that was cut off in the middle. “My father was an officer in the German army in World War I. He was also one of the heads of our synagogue, Adas Yisrael, which was burned down on Kristallnacht. My mother came from a little village not far from Nuremberg. I had an older brother, Yosef, who was five years older than me.

“Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in January 1933, and it took just a few days to realize that something was different. But most German Jews didn't leave. They said, 'I have a business here. I have money. My family has lived here for hundreds of years. What can happen to me?'”

The Schwarz family found out in September 1937 -- a full two years before World War II began. Ludwig Schwarz, Meier's father, was on his way to work when he was pulled off the train by some Germans and killed.

Yet despite the deteriorating situation in Germany, Meier remembers taking a walk with his brother on a Sunday morning, intending to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. The atmosphere became tense when they spotted an official-looking limousine. “In the front seat was a chauffeur. In the backseat was Hitler. No one else was around -- no one. If only my brother or I had had a gun, we perhaps could have changed history.”

But they didn't have a gun, and so the diabolical plans of the Nazi regime continued. Meanwhile, Meier's mother became ill and was taken to a hospital, where she was refused medicine because she was Jewish. And then came Kristallnacht. The two brothers were alone when five Nazi soldiers stormed inside their family's apartment at two in the morning and smashed everything in sight. Yosef, as the acting head of the family, decided that the time had come to get Meier out of Germany.

Goodbye Forever By this time, the Kindertransport was sending Jewish children to England, but Meier wasn't eligible since children who spoke some English were given preference. “In my school, we learned French. So I wasn't accepted.”

Meier also didn't qualify for the Aliyat HaNoar (Youth Aliyah) program that was sending Jewish children to Eretz Yisrael. Children had to be at least fifteen, and he was only thirteen. But then a new program -- Aliyat HaYeladim (Children's Aliyah) -- was started for children who were thirteen or younger and Meier was accepted. Somehow Yosef came up with the 25,000 German marks needed for all the paperwork and train and boat tickets, and Meier packed his suitcase.

“I said goodbye to my mother, who was in the hospital. Then I went with my brother to the Munich train station. He put me on the train.”

That was the last time Meier saw his family. His mother died in the hospital in 1940. Yosef, who was the head of a hachsharah institute -- an agricultural school that trained young people for life in Eretz Yisrael -- refused to leave Germany unless everyone in the institute could emigrate as well. He was deported to Auschwitz in 1942 and died a year later.

Meier, alone in Jerusalem, studied at the Horev School, dorming with other children who were refugees from Nazi Germany. It was a lonely time, but it was there that he learned qualities that would serve him well later on: how to be self-reliant and how to place duty before emotions.

He left Horev when he was fifteen and joined an Aliyat HaNoar group that became the nucleus of a new religious kibbutz that later became Chafetz Chaim. There was no water amusement park back then -- just a lot of hard work; the young men spent half a day in the fields and half a day learning Gemara.

“We didn't know what was going on in Europe,” Meier explains. “On the kibbutz there was one newspaper, which we all had to share. News about Europe was never on the front page. No one could believe that so many Jews were being killed.”

While Meier was living on the kibbutz, he received one letter from his brother, which was delivered to him by the Red Cross. “A person was allowed to write twenty-five words, and you couldn't complain. In my brother's letter he wrote, 'Tomorrow we are going to the East.' From that I understood that he was being sent to Auschwitz.”

Professor Schwarz is silent for a few moments, but he is not someone who dwells in sadness. Already he is moving on to the next stage of his life, which began after the end of the war: “I decided that I wanted to help Jewish people come to Palestine.”

For the full article, buy the current edition of Mishpacha.com

He Who Believes, Eats Cholent (video)

Musical Prodigy, Jay Greenberg (video)

Feb 22, 2011

Interesting Posts #246

1. Tznius And Modern orthodoxy

2. Gan For English Speakers

3. Matrimonial Economics

4. What Watson Can Teach Us

5. Interesting Shaitel Ad

6. I Remember When

7. Supporting A Son-In-Law In Kollel

8. Jaffa-Tel Aviv

9. Canyon Derech Burma

A Deadly Machlokes.. Or Not

There is a man in Modiin Ilit who is very sick (daven for Reuven ben Dina), with cancer in his head. This man is the founder of a chain of gannim, or kindergarten/nurseries in Modiin Ilit.

Sice his illness was recently discovered, his family and others have been doing all in their power to help - learning in his honor, davening, brachos and advice from gedolim, good deeds, etc.

Bechadrei reports that when this fellow was first establishing his chain of gannim, a few years ago, the iryah had allotted to him a plot of "land" above a shul for his gan. At the time, the rav of the shul asked Rav Nissim Karelitz if it is ok to put day care centers above a shul. At the time, Rav Nissim Karelitz said that a maon should not be put there, but a gan for girls would be ok because gan does not have the status of a talmud torah. As well, since the gan had existed already before the shul was active, it is ok, whereas putting a new maon, day care center, would be a problem.

And based on Rav Karelitz's psak, they put the gannim there above the shul.

Now that he got sick, people went back to rav Nissim Karelitz to ask again if perhaps there was something wrong with the arrangement. Rav Karelitz again told them that everything is fine and there is no halachic problem.

Some of the parents were not satisfied. They went to rav Chaim Kanievsky and asked the same question. Rav Kanievsky told them that the gannim must be immediately removed and relocated elsewhere.

Bechadrei says they found an alternate location and immediately moved the gannim. Yet, despite that, the choleh remains ill and his condition is still deteriorating further.

1. I wonder why they thought that the gan issue was a problem? if a few years prior they had been told it was fine, why did they suddenly suspect that as being the problem?
2. If Rav Karelitz said it is ok, why did they insist on it not being ok, and continuing to ask, including others?
3. The halacha is that if you ask a rav a shailoh you are not allowed to ask another rav, as if you are fishing for a specific answer, unless you tell him that you already asked. Did they tell Rav Kanievsky that they already had an answer from rav Nissim Karelitz?
4. Refuah Shleimah to Reuven ben Dina)

He Never Put Tefillin On

There was an interesting story in the Mishpacha newspaper this past week, about someone who never put on tefillin over the course of his whole life. He didn't think so, as he attempted to put on tefillin every day, it just did not work out so well for him retroactively. And his son didn't put on tefillin either for many years.

45 years ago a pair of tefillin was written for a young men reaching the age of maturity, turning bar mitzvah. This boy, eventually turned man, donned the tefilling for 13 years, until he died at the unripe young age of 26 from an illness. Upon his death, the tefillin were put away and saved for the bar mitzvah of his then 6 month old orphan son.

The boy grew up and upon his bar mitzvah he began wearing his dead father's tefillin. A month before his marriage he decided to send his tefillin in to be checked by a sofer. The sofer found that these tefillin, that had never been checked since the day they were written, in 1965, had some serious flaws, including missing a whole word and another word that had an extra letter.

The math doesn't work out so well for me. The article says 45 years, as the tefillin had been written in 1965. He wore them until he died at age 26, which is 13 years (unless they got the age of his death wrong). Then his son waited 13 years to wear them. That makes the tefillin 26 years old at th time of the boys bar mitzvah. He checked them before he got married - that would be another 8-15 years, unless he got married at the  unusually old age of 43. Either way, let's assume they got the date wrong, and maybe the tefillin were less than 45 years old, this fellow retroactively never put on tefillin, and the son spent 13 years not putting on tefillin.

At least get your tefillin checked once after you buy them to make sure they had been written properly.

Qaddafi Makes Aliyah

With Libyan president Moamar Qaddafi having disappeared among the riots, with his son speaking n his behalf about killing more protesters, burning oil fields, etc. people are wondering, and spreading rumors, about where papa Qaddafi has disappeared to, and where he is hiding out.

The best of the rumors is that Qaddafi has filed paperwork requesting permission to make aliyah to Israel. He is supposedly invoking the Law of Return, since his mother was Jewish (supposedly).

I wonder, if he did, what would Nefesh B'Nefesh's response be, and what would Israel say?

Zionism and Har Habayit

Some people accuse those who ascend Har HaBayit nowadays of doing so for Zionistic and political reasons, rather than for the mitzvah of morah mikdash, for the opportunity to pray in the holiest of places.

This video, of an excerpt from the wedding if the daughter of Rav Elboim, proves otherwise. Rav Elboim is a Belzer chassid, and he is one of the leading promoters today of aliyah l'har. He arranges groups, schedules groups from different cities, ensures that jews go up just about every day possible that it is open to Jews, and tracks it all along with trying to arrange better access.

The video clip is of his daughters recent wedding, and it is playing the famous anti-zionist song of בשלטון הכופרים אין אנו מאמינים - in the rule of the infidels we dont believe. Also interesting is that MK Dr. Michael Ben Ari is there and continues dancing through the song. But that Rav Elboim is the leading promoter of aliyah l'har and plays this music shows that the 2 don't necessarily have anything to do with each other.

Matisyahu: Live At Stubb's Vol.2 (video)

I think this is far better than the first...

Kids Laughing (video)

Feb 21, 2011

Those Killer Comments

There is a new English, free, newspaper being distributed around a number of cities of Israel, called the Voice. The paper is part of the 5 Towns Jewish Times family of newspapers. I picked up a copy of the first edition this past week, and it was pretty interesting, with good articles.

There was one article in particular that caught my attention, and I have since found it on the 5 Towns Jewish Times website. It is the article by Rav Aryeh  Z Ginzberg entitled "Those Killer Comments". In the article Rabbi Ginzberg calls to task anonymous bloggers and commenters (he uses the word "commentators" - I am not sure if someone who leaves a comment on a blog is a commenter or a commentator), for writing with a "level of hate" and even outright cruelty. He says they hide behind their anonymity and take advantage of it to speak harshly, in a way that Jews by nature do not speak. He calls them (us?) digital rotzchim, and while he admits that there are surely bigger issues in Judaism to worry about,  this is an embarrassing and hurtful phenomenon that must be abandoned.

Some people have taken great offense at Rav Ginzberg's article. They look at it as if he is trying to shut everyone up so they can continue running the show, so to speak, and being the one's to determine what is discussed and how it is discussed in the public forum, ensuring that nothing against the establishment and authority figures will be said with any strength.

There might be something to this, but I don't think he is calling for anything so sinister. And even if that is his intention in his greater picture, I think we can take his micro point in the article and improve ourselves. Just because there are greater issues in Judaism that need to be fixed, and surely there are, that does not mean that we should, that we must, ignore the lesser issues. They are not mutually exclusive, and one can work to improve and solve both the greater issues and the lesser issues. There is no obligation to only focus on the greater issues.

Yes, bloggers and commenters have done great things, exposing corruption, sex offenders, abusive personalities, denouncing criminals that get a free pass in general society and discussing issues that much of the mainstream frum media is not willing to touch and discuss. And perhaps most importantly, a forum has been created allowing the people to talk, to discuss, to grapple with the issues, the questions, explore the possibilities and the answers, at an unprecedented level.

However, Rav Ginzberg is correct at a certain level. People do hide behind anonymity, and take advantage of this anonymity to talk in ways they never would if their identity were known. Personally, I think anybody anonymous, anybody not willing to put their name to their opinion, can and should be ignored. I believe if a person has a belief that he wishes to express, he should put his name to his opinion, put his credibility behind his words. I do understand why some people don't - they feel they cannot say what they want as their will be repercussions if they do - but i don't think that it is right. People should put their name behind their words, or keep it to themselves. This is not an attempt to stifle discussion, but to broaden the discussion - to have people discuss the issues in appropriate language and tone, while voicing credible opinions.

With the reality being that anonymous comments and blogs are here to stay, we must bear some responsibility for our words. Just because nobody knows who I am, as I am commenting with an anonymous name, does not mean I can hide behind that to talk in ways that are hurtful. Asking that of people does not have to be stifling the conversation.

Perhaps in the broader sense Rav Ginzberg's ultimate goal is to stifle the conversation  - I don't know. if that is his goal, I reject it. I believe there is a place for the blogger and the commenter, hopefully with their names behind their opinions, but even without. Not only do I believe it, today's world is changed because of it - people are becoming more aware that what they do that they used to think was easy to hide and keep secret, no longer can be done so easily. Hopefully it forces people to improve their behavior, to be more true to the public they supposedly represent, to the ideals they espouse. However, the open forum provided by the internet could bear some cleaning up, by the people themselves, and writing should be done more responsibly, with respect for each other and their opinions. Disagree respectfully. Expose responsibly.

Sports, Faith, and Discipline

Joel Northrup. That is the name of a person who made a decision, a tough decision, that is awfully similar to decisions that must be made every single day, albeit in different settings, by people across the spectrum, whether moral decisions, religious decisions, and/or lifestyle decisions.

Northrup is a high school wrestler in Iowa who was on the verge of winning the championship, and was headed to the state tournament to do just that. When he found out that his first opponent in the tournament would be a female freshman, he made a tough decision and decided to pull out of the tournament. (Hattip: Fanatic Rabbi)

From ESPN:
"Wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times," Northrup said in a statement released by his high school. "As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa."

His father, Jamie Northrup, told The Associated Press later Thursday that his son struggled with the decision.

"He's poured his heart and soul into wrestling and into being the best in the state," Jamie Northrup said. "He's never won a state championship, so he's certainly looking forward to that day. So it's agonizing, from all the work and the effort and the hope.

"But it's easy in that, he, a long time ago, drew a line and said 'I don't believe it's right for a boy to wrestle a girl."'

There were several thousand fans at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday, but many were watching other matches when the referee raised Herkelman's hand to signal her win. There was a smattering of cheers and boos from the crowd before Herkelman was whisked into the bowels of the arena.

Northrup's decision to default put Herkelman in the quarterfinals in the 112-pound weight class, and it put her name in the record book as the first girl to win an Iowa state tournament match. But it deprived her of the chance to show the skills that earned her a 20-13 pre-tournament record.

Tournament organizers declined to make Herkelman available for questions. But her father, Bill Herkelman, told The Associated Press via text message that he understands and respects Northrup's decision.

"It's nice to get the first win and have her be on the way to the medal round," Bill Herkelman wrote. "I sincerely respect the decision of the Northrup family especially since it was made on the biggest stage in wrestling. I have heard nothing but good things about the Northrup family and hope Joel does very well the remainder of the tourney."

Because he defaulted and didn't forfeit, Northrup was allowed to compete in the consolation rounds, and he won his first match later Thursday by major decision.

He was spared any chance of meeting up with Black -- who also wrestles at 112 pounds and was 25-13 entering the tournament -- when she was eliminated after being pinned in both of her matches. But Northrup and Herkelman would be matched up again if both were to make the finals in the consolation bracket.

Northrup's father, Jamie Northrup, is a minister in the Believers in Grace Fellowship, an independent Pentecostal church in Marion that believes young men and women shouldn't touch in a "familiar way," said Bill Randles, the church's pastor.

"We believe in the elevation and respect of woman and we don't think that wrestling a woman is the right thing to do. Body slamming and takedowns, that full contact sport is not how to do that."

Randles said Joel has been involved in wrestling for many years, and he and his family have discussed before the possibility of girls getting involved in the sport.

"It's totally his choice. He's a young man now and he's worked hard to get where he's gotten. It's up to him, and it was his conviction" not to wrestle Herkelman.

Black said Northrup refused to wrestle her three years ago, and that she respects him for adhering to his beliefs.

"If it's his religion and he's strong in his religion, then I just respect that," Black said. "Obviously, everyone can be pointing fingers at him. He, at least, is true to his beliefs and you have to respect that. It takes a lot for a 15- or 16-year-old boy to do."

Marth Stetzel, a mother from Perry who had two sons in the tournament, said she had no problem with Northrup's decision.

"We're really raising kids that are going to be bigger than wrestling, and if it's something that he believes strongly in -- which is not necessarily what I would do -- you've got to respect a kid like that," Stetzel said.
Yes, there is not really a need to look to non-Jewish role models, as we have plenty of Jewish role models who make tough decisions every day to do the right thing, to live according to their moral and religious beliefs despite the difficulty of doing so, the loss incurred by doing so. However, we can and should  take lessons from wherever they come, and this one is very clear and poignant.

I find it highly unusual that they would pit male against female in this fashion. Sports has, for the most part, kept the segregation of men and women, having them compete against their own gender, each staying in their own field of play. Man against man, woman against woman. Sports has recognized that while socially there is equality between men and women, while women are perfectly capable of competing against men, and performing on par with (or even better than?) men in the intellectual, academic, social, business and other realms, physically there is still a large gap between the levels in which each competes. There is no sport in which man and woman compete together, because the physical abilities remain at vastly different levels (obviously with exception). So the whole situation in which the Iowa State Tournament pits man against woman is highly unusual.

However, with it happening that way, Northrup was willing to give everything up, cancelling, or at least seriously delaying, his plan to be champion. And he came to the decision himself.

And they all respect him for it, for living according to his beliefs. No criticism that he is old fashioned, sexist, holding archaic beliefs. They accept him, and admire him, for living true to his beliefs.

There are two sides to this lesson. Northrup standing true, and the way those around him accepted and respected his decision.

The Beautiful Shomron (video)

Hazzanut and Opera pt2 (video)

Feb 20, 2011

Driving Under The Influence (video)

This is just too funny. I did not want to wait until tomorrow to post it...

Driving Under The Influence..of cholent

Dont Sit Under The Holy Dove

Many websites and blogs have already posted this story, which would normally mean I would see no reason in posting it. This story is just too funky to pass up. I have left it open on my screen in its tab since Thursday, and I have finally decided to post it anyway and close the tab.

The story is that of the 'Holy Dove' Drives Yeshiva Wild from Ynetnews:
Jerusalem yeshiva students view new classmate as 'a sign from God'
Akiva Novick
Published: 02.17.11, 07:42 / Israel Jewish Scene

"It's a real wonder," one of the students at the haredi Kamenitz Yeshiva says about his new classmate – a white dove. "This holy bird just listens to full lessons."

Several weeks ago, during a Torah lesson in the Jerusalem yeshiva, a white dove entered the house of study, sat on the window sill and flew out at the end of the lesson.

The following days, the bird would arrive at the yeshiva and stand in the corner for the entire lesson – prompting the excited yeshiva students to view it as a sign from God.

They created a "studying circle" around the bird and began reading Talmud verses and begging forgiveness from the soul which they believed "wandered" into the dove. Surprisingly, these actions did not help send the mysterious bird away.

Rumors about the righteous bird became the talk of the day in Jerusalem, and students watching the dove with binoculars discovered that it would visit the rooftop of the nearby Vizhnitz yeshiva as well.

The yeshiva students tried to test the bird once again and sealed all the entrances to the yeshiva, but it "miraculously" managed to get in and attend its regular class on time.

"A few days ago," haredi newspaper Bakehila reported, "one of the yeshiva students, who could not bear the great waste of time that could be spent on studying Torah, went over and kindly took (the bird) to his home, where he fed it."

The yeshiva student even took the dove to a slaughterer, but it turned out that the magnificent bird does not meet the rules of kashrut and the yeshiva is now contemplating what to do with it.
Who hasn't experienced first-hand the story of cricket, the cockroach, the mouse, the pigeon who would come out regularly at the time of the daf yomi shiur, or during chazarat ha'shatz, or the rabbis speech, and stayed there until someone either caught it, stepped on it, or the daf yomi cycle finished?

It's a common enough story. Maybe it just means we need better exterminators, better cleanliness to not attract animals into the shuls and yeshivas. Or maybe the bird/squirrel/mouse/cat was trying to escape the cold and found a regular open window into the warm shul. Or maybe the bird/cockroach/cricket was really a gilgul that was returning for a tikkun of sorts. But then why did they try to eat it?

Either way, make sure your seat in the beis medrash is not under the bird, no matter how holy it is (though my mother always says getting pooped on by a bird is a good omen - though I dont know for what). But if you do, maybe you can make coffee from the droppings...

Cat Poop Coffee Error Lesson

A good example of why you should always try to find the actual source, the original response, and not just rely on someone quoting something, is the cat poop coffee post that preceded this post.

I originally saw the article regarding Rav Efrati's psak on Ynet, referencing the original on Moreshet. Had I not searched for the original on Moreshet, I would have thought that Rav Shach allowed the drinking of urine, as that is how the Ynet article quotes one of Rav Efrati's references.

Looking at the original on Moreshet, I saw that Ynet made a mistake, as Rav Efrati qas quoting the Shach, not Rav Shach. The Shach was one of the preeminent commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch, and he lived about 380 years ago. Rav Shach was one of the gedolei hador and leading rosh yeshivas of the past generation.

The mistake was probably the error of an ignorant journalist who saw an interesting article, and the name "Shach" was familiar, so he wrote Rav Shach. He probably even thought that Rav Efrati was being disrespectful by saying "Shach" and not "Rav Shach"!!!

Another mistake I was just  made aware of was something I did not catch at first. The ynet article talks about the coffee being passed through the zeved ha'bar, from the chatuliya family. I looked it up and got a translation of Felidae, and the info on that from wikipedia. In the original Moreshet article it talks about the nemaya, which is a mongoose, I am told by the Zoo Rabbi, and actually the animal is a civet cat.

It does not seem like it would make a difference as far as the halacha is concerned, and perhaps there are different types of coffees being passed through different types of animals, but again we see how the article bastardized the original.

Whenever possible go to the original source.

Interesting Psak: Cat Poop Coffee

Sometimes I wonder how people think of these things...

really? you want to drink this?
Someone asked Rav Baruch Efrati about the kashrut status of a new type of coffee on the market. He says a new company has started making coffee from beans that have been extracted from the feces of a Felidae - a carnivorous member of the cat family, similar to a panther or a tiger. Supposedly this coffee is very good, and it is extremely expensive, but is it kosher?

Rav Efrati  responded by first saying that regarding the question of kashrut, only the Rabbanut is authorized to say whether it is kosher or not, therefore this discussion is only a perusal of the sources and theoretical.

To be brief and only pick out the salient parts (for the full response see Moreshet):
really really?
Rav Efrati discusses the sources of things that come out of a tamei animal being non-kosher and references the gemara, shulchan aruch and poskim that discuss whether it is allowed to drink the urine of a non-kosher animal or not. Many of the poskim say it is not allowed, but some are lenient for a sick person, even one not in any life threatening danger.

the difference in this case is that the coffee beans are not really manufactured by the animal, but they are from an external source and simply passed through the digestive system of the animal. With the discussion of urine focusing greatly on whether or not it is clear, with fecal matter that is not really an issue, and therefore some poskim say it would be not kosher. Others say that despite that, this is not part of the fecal matter, because it is clear that people eat it, and therefore would be kosher.

Another reason to refrain from eating it is the fact that it is disgusting and not normal to eat feces, as the Shach says that one should refrain from drinking human urine, even though halachically it is allowed.

After further discussion Rav Efrati says that taking the beans form the fecal matter is clearly not the same as eating fecal matter itself. Furthermore, you dont even eat the beans themselves, but you extract from them the juice/flavor. Even the fact that the animal feces has added flavor to the coffee bean, thus making it an unusually tasty coffee, that is also not considered eating a product of the animal, as the feces is also considered external to the animal and not a product of. And, possibly it loses the status of "food" by going through the digestive system, and then it happens to return to good standing afterwards, but is not considered food.

Rav Efrati concludes that theoretically drinking this coffee would be allowed, but is not recommended [as it is considered disgusting].

However, again, only the Rabbanut is authorized to say something is actually kosher, and there may be other ingredients and additives to consider, so this discussion is only theoretical.

I wonder who first picked the beans out of the droppings of a tiger and made a cup of coffee from them, and then decided to mass market it. How do they come up with these ideas?

CNN also discussed the "cat poop coffee", also known as Kopi Luwak.

The #Twedding

A Guest Post By Mrs. G

I recently had the honor of attending quite an unusual affair. It was a wedding in Jerusalem. That in itself was not unusual – there are weddings in Jerusalem all the time. What was unusual – I think- was the guest list. Every guest at the wedding aside from the Rabbi and his family, had never met the chassan and kalla before the night of the event (or at least not until this trip to Israel). All the guests 'follow' the bride and/or groom on twitter – and that was how they knew each other. The whole wedding was organized, from afar, over twitter. This seemed to be an amazing thing and references to twitter were made from beginning to end. The Twabbi officiated and the Twittnesses twittenessed….The whole thing was one long twitter success story and the wedding that took place at the beautiful location, in the manner that it did all because of Twitter. And isn’t that amazing?

I would like to argue that while twitter was the medium – it was not the reason the wedding was so beautiful, it is NOT the reason that the guests attended a wedding of someone the never met, it was NOT the reason the wishes were heartfelt and the chuppa was so moving, it was NOT the reason behind the success story.
Years ago I attended a wedding. WAY before twitter. The bride and groom knew one family in the neighborhood. The wedding took place in their home. None of the guests knew the bride and groom – and if I remember correctly there was something like a 2 day warning to those guests to attend. The catering was all done by the people of the neighborhood- the chuppa was moving the guests were enthusiastic and the event was a success. Some of the main aspects of these two weddings were the same – but wait then there was no twitter – so how did it happen?

I would like to argue that it was the Jewish people that were behind it. The Jewish people who love each other, come through for each other and in a perfect example of true Ahavas Yisroel, help pull together a wedding for a couple. The guests may not have ever met the bride and groom , in reality or in the virtual world of cyberspace – but when there is a simcha to be made – they come through to make it a Simcha in every meaning of the word.

Mi k’amcha yisroel!

Interesting MBD Interview (video)

Crazy Medley (video)

Feb 17, 2011

Interesting Psak: Shutting Car Alarms On Shabbos

To begin, I feel it is important to mention that this psak was given in a b'dieved situation - after the fact.

Rav Yuval Cherlo was asked by a person who wanted to know if he did the right or wrong thing when his car alarm went off on a Friday night at 2 AM and they didnt hear it, the police came having been called by a disturbed neighbor. The police told them to shut the alarm, but they said they cannot as it is Shabbos. The police suggested they give over the keys and the code to the car, and they the police would shut it off. The person then handed over the keys and said "do what you want".

The person then asked a two part question:

  1. in retrospect was that the right or wrong thing to do?
  2. in the future, if it should happen again, if there is no non-jew around to enlist his services, would he be able to shut it off right away himself to prevent the Jewish neighbor from calling the police?
Rav Cherlo responded that the question is a complicated one. As it involves damage being done to others by this person, one could not prevent him from taking the keys himself and shutting off the alarm, especially in light of the fact that according to many opinions the issues of electricity are not issurei d'oraisa. Furthermore, we are obligated to try and do things in the correct way, b'hetter, meaning if no non-Jew is available it would be better to shut it off using a shinui or a gramma, or any other possible way.

From a halachic perspective, we have here the serious issur of preventing others from sleeping (which, Rav Cherlo says, is not "gezel" as is commonly thought but is an issue of damages) against the issur d'rabbanan (of handling electricity), and in such a case, this is the proper way to respond. (source: YPT)

Seems pretty radical to me, but the logic makes sense. I definitely would have liked that to be the accepted psak when my neighbors car alarm went off not too long ago, and also that of a Mehadrin bus that was parked at the end of my block a little while back...

The Proposed Dress Code Bill

An MK from Shas is trying to promote a new law that would require all State employees to dress in a uniform that is respectable and modest.

MK David Azoulai says that by establishing a uniform the government offices will broadcast a level of seriousness and trust, preventing employees from coming to work in clothing that is too exposed or other dress inappropriate for work.

According to Azoulai, the issue is not just "tzniyus" but also respectable and presentable appearance. or at least he is using that to promote the issue because tzniyus concerns alone would not help the bill pass. According to Azoulai men would have to wear a jacket and tie, and he is not defininf what a woman would have to wear - he is not saying long sleeves or short sleeves, but he leaves it up to each government office's manager to determine what that office's dress code would be. Of course he adds a caveat that the dress code would have to be one that would be appropriate for all the employees, including the religious employees. (source: NRG)

Azoulai says that there is no reason government employees should not have a dress code, just as El Al stewards and stewardesses do, just as postal employees do (they do? I never noticed a dress code), just like bank employees do (they do? at most they wear a pin with the name of the bank clipped to their shirt. I never noticed a uniform).

It is pretty standard today for offices to have dress codes, and often they even have uniforms, providing the shirts or some other article that bears the name of the company. Israelis are particularly casual and bold with how exposed they are willing to go out in public and to a work environment, and a uniform dress code is something that can make plenty of work places more presentable. This will be seen though as a form of religious coercion, as a way of forcing everyone to dress according to Orthodox standards. In concept it is not a bad idea.

Palestinian Lawsuit Against Israeli Employers

Some Palestinian workers decided to sue their former Israeli employers for severance that was never paid upon termination of their employment. They sued in Israeli court. The circumstances, though, were not really so clear cut. These Palestinians were employees of an Israeli owned factory in a yishuv in Gush Katif. When the yishuv was forcibly shut down with the residents forcibly evicted during the Disengagement, the factory was also shut down. At that point, these Palestinians lost their jobs, yet they were not paid any severance.

The regional labor court ruled that the former employer does not need to pay them severance, as he did not fire them, but his factory was forcibly shut down by the state.

Upon appeal, the national labor court upheld the original decision saying the employer never fired his employees, and he actually never wanted to stop the work arrangement. The arrangement was forcibly canceled by an "act of the State", against the will of both parties. As well, this is not similar to a factory closing down, because here the owner was removed from his factory with no ability to prevent it.

Of course there had to be at least a minority opinion supporting the Palestinians that would have liked the employer to pay up. If anything really the State should pay, if at all, though the court said there is no method for them to have the State pay such severance, so there is nothing left to do. But to try to make the employer pay for this?

The minority opinion said this is comparable to a factory shutting down, where the employer would be obligated to pay severance. The fact that he did not want to shut down the factory has no bearing on the issue. Because the factory was in the Gush Katif region, he should have taken into account the eventual possible forced closing of his factory, and therefore should have to pay. (source: Srugim)

It sounds like a ridiculous opinion to me.

The whole claim seems ludicrous and should have been thrown out of court. The court should have responded that they received severance in the form of all that land and buildings and they even got the whole factory!

Gafni Vetoes Unkosher Taxes

Interestingly, the finance committee in the Knesset was voting yesterday on the internation tax agreements for international business. UTJ MK Moshe Gafni, director of the Finance Committee, vetoed a couple interesting points in the package.

One of the items being voted on was the tax for fish. There was a dual issue with fish - they wanted to increase the tax on kosher fish, and were planning on decreasing the tax on non-kosher fish.

בשר ודגים וכל מטעמים
Gafni vetoed both of the adjustments on fish. His explanation was twofold - one for ideological reasons and the second for financial reasons. Gafni said he would not agree to allow the State to lower taxes on non-kosher fish and raise taxes on kosher fish - ideologically. Secondly, this is another example of raising the taxes on items that are basic and consumed by a majority of families in Israel. Some sensitivity in deciding these things would not be so bad.

The second issue Gafni had was the item about levying a tax on non-kosher meat. Gafni said that that item must be removed form the tax law. Gafni's reason is that since it is illegal anyway to import non-kosher meat into Israel, as is a Basic Law in Israel, there is no reason to mention it in the tax law. Normally this tax law is approved "as is", as it is an international arrangement that is being signed on, but there is no reason to sign on a tax for an item that is illegal to be imported. For symbolic reasons it is worth removing the item from the document, even though there is no ramification to it being in. (source: The Marker)

Sounds good to me! even if it does not actually change anything in the tax structure, at least it will appear more "Jewish" and fitting for a Jewish state.

Hazzanut And Opera (video)

Bar'Chu (video)

Feb 16, 2011

Mall Night In RBS

Come one come all!

Lemaan Achai presents "Mall Night" showcasing over 35 local businesses/ services of Ramat Bet Shemesh/ Bet Shemesh

This Sunday February 20th at Beis Tefillah Hall

Amazing prizes to be won including:
Laptop computer, Artwork by Moshe Braun and more…

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