Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Poverty in Israel

The government came out with the annual poverty statistics and as usual there is a lot of hand wringing going on about how there are so many more poor people in Israel then in other OECD countries.

The fact is that these numbers are very skewed by the Charedim and the Arabs (I will not address the issue of the Arabs). The Charedim are almost 15% of all the poor in Israel and almost 50% of Charedim are living in poverty. However, Charedi poverty cannot be laid at the governments doorstep. Charedi poverty is by choice/idealogy.

There is no other subgroup in the developed world (that I know of) which believes in the following 3 ideas:
1. No secular education
2. Every adult male should ideally be sitting and learning Torah all day and not working
3. There is a mitzva to have as many children as you possibly can, financial consequences be damned

When you put these 3 together, it is a wonder that the level of poverty is not higher. If adult males do not work, that is asking for poverty and cannot be blamed on the government. Even if they do work, in the modern world, without higher education it is very difficult to make a living, period.

Therefore, if you take out the Charedi factor from the poverty statistics poverty in Israel would be very much in line with Western Europe.

The Charedi world wants to have its cake and eat it too. On one hand, have as many children as they can, teach their children no secular studies, and sit and learn and not go out to work, while on the other hand crying foul when the government decides to cut back the subsidies for that lifestyle. The Charedi world cannot expect the average Israeli taxpayer to subsidize their life.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The 13 Middos used to expound the Torah

Every day we say the ברייתא of R' Yishmael which lists off the 13 middos used to expound the Torah. These are the fundamental tools that Chazal use to derive halachos from the written Torah. In essence these are teh basis of the oral torah.  Given that, you would think that everyone would agree on what these 13 middos are. However, there is a fundamental dispute among the Tannaim about the 13 middos.

R' Yishmael has

  1. כלל ופרט
  2. פרט וכלל
  3. כלל ופרט וכלל
As 3 of the 13 middos. R' Akiva on the other hand replacesd these 3 with 3 different middos
  1. ריבוי ומיעוט
  2. מיעוט וריבוי
  3. ריבוי מיעוט וריבוי
The Rishonim and Acharonim point out that these are mutually exclusive. You either use 1 set or the other with very different results.

The obvious question is how can this be? The 13 Middos were given to Moshe to use to expound the written torah. How can there be a fundamental dispute about what they are? You can't answer אלו ואלו דברי אלוקים חיים because they are mutually exclusive. What happened to the mesora? How can there be a dispute about such a fundamental issue?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What are the really important Mitzvos in Judaism?

The Gemara in Makos (24a) states that there are 613 mitzvos but that the Prophets boiled them down to a much smaller number of important Mitzvos.

Michah gave three Mitzvos for people to focus on - "Asos Mishpat..."
  1. "Asos Mishpat" is monetary laws;
  2. "Ahavas Chesed" is bestowing Chesed;
  3. "V'Hatzne'a Leches Im Elokecha" is escorting the dead and bringing a Kalah to Chupah;
Yeshayah later gave two primary Mitzvos - "Shimru Mishpat va'Asu Tzedakah." 

It is fascinating to see what the Prophets listed as their critical mitzvos and what they left out.

The Mitzvah of Talmud Torah is not mentioned in any of these lists. In fact, these lists are all interpersonal mitzvos, there are no mitzvos bein adam lamakom listed. 

It is unbelievable how far orthodox judaism has strayed from these principles.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What is the significance of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year?

Matzav posted the following yesterday:
In the Sefer Bris Menucha (which the Ari HaKodosh said was written with Ruach HaKodesh), he states that the 9th year of the yovel and the 9th month of the year and the 9th day of the month and the 9th hour of the day/night is a time that is mesugal for an auspicious time for hatzlocha and brocha.
According to most poskim, the times are approx. 1:41 – 1:50 (AM & PM). It’s a time to utilize tefillah, learning and tears to our Father in Heaven.
May HaShem grant all your tefillos, l’tova, Amen!!
This is such a joke. This year is not the 9th year of Yovel because Shemitta was 3 years ago in 5775. In any case Yovel hasn't been observed in thousands of years and we have no idea when yovel is supposed to be.

What is really funny is that 6 years ago in 2011 the Charedi press made the same announcement

(if you look closely you can see the date at the bottom of the ad to be תשע"ב)

which just proves what a fraud it is as the 9th year of the Yovel cycle can't come twice in 6 years.

Someone tried to "answer" the question as follows:

This makes it into an even bigger joke if any 9 is good.

Monday, November 27, 2017

אין אדם דן גזירה שווה אלא אם כן קבלו מרבו

This is a Gemara in Nidda (19) as well as other places. Rashi adds on קבלה מרבו הלכה למשה מסיני, that he needs to have a tradition from his Rebbe going back to Moshe Rabenu.

However, this principle doesn't stand up. The Gemara in many places has a dispute about a gezera shava, one Tanna learns a gezera shava and one doesn't. How can that be if every gezera shava comes as a tradition from Moshe? The Gemara states in some places that Tanna A had one gezera shava and Tanna B had a different gezera shava and neitehr one accepted teh opthers gezera shava. Does that make any sense if every gezera shava is from Moshe? It gets worse. The Gemara in Nidda (22) states rules about gezera shavas. The Gemara says thaif it is מופנה מצד אחד למידיון ומשיבין  and if מופנה משני צדדים למידין ואין משיבים. The obvious question (asked by Rishonim and Acharonim) is these rules make no sense. If there is a tradition about a gezera shava (going back to Moshe) then everyone should accept it no matter what and if there is no tradition no should accept even if it is מופנה משני צדדים. The Rishonim and Acharonim give various difficult answers:

1. The Ramban in the second shoresh on the Sefer Hamitzvos explains based on the questions above that we can't accept the simple explanation of gezera shava. Rather he says the following. The Rabbis had a tradition that there was a gezera shava with a given pair of words (e.g. שחט) רקךשאקג אם ש בקראשןמ גןמ but didn't know which iteration of the word in the Torah is part of the gezera shava. Therefore there are dispoutes about gezera shavas.

The difficulty is obvious. The Gemara enunciates a clear principle and the Rishonim emasculate the principle so that it is basically meaningless. 
2. Tosafos Shabbos 97a states that the Rabbis knew that there were a certain number of gezera shavas and therefore they couldn;t just accept every gezera shava from every Rabbi because they had to make sure that they had the right number of gezera shavas. The weakness and difficulty of this answer is obvious. 
  1. Why didn't chazal tell us this number anywhere? Chazal tell us how many mitzvos there are how many melachos, etc. but this important point is left out. 
  2. If all Moshe got was the number of Gezera Shavas then אין אדם דן גזירה שווה מעצמו doesn't make any sense, every gezera shava is מעצמו
3. The הליכות עולם gives a similar answer to the Ramban but he states that sometimes they got more information then other times. Some gezera shavas had the words and the halacha and the place. Some had just the words, some had the words and the halacha. 

The bottom line is that the Gemara enunciates a very broad strong principle, however, in parctice this is contradicted all over the place and teh Rishonim/Acharonim need to give weak farfetched answers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Charedi hashkafa (ideology) takes away independent thought and decision

My wife and I were recently involved in a situation involving a family member and we had to make a difficult decision. The decision had nothing to do with a halachic issue at all, but was personal. My wife who is a smart well educated woman had 2 reactions to the situation which drove me crazy.

  1. No one has to take any responsibility for the situation because this is where Hashem wants us to be. In other words, she has adopted the Charedi maximal position of hashgacha that not even a leaf falls without it being from heaven. Therefore, our actions and everyone elses actions are a basically meaningless, a facade, and don't matter anyway. This drives me crazy because this is not even the authentic Jewish/Halachic opinion (see my post on Hashgacha Pratis) let alone a rational one.
  2. We need to ask a Rav for Daas Torah. The situation under discussion was not a halachic issue but a personal one, IMHO a Rav has no more insight then we do, and in fact, given that this was a personal family situation he would have much less insight into the situation. But, he has Daas Torah
Basically, if you are Charedi, nothing you do matters because everything is from Hashem, and you can't make any decisions independently because you have to ask Daas Torah. On one hand it makes life really easy, nothing is your fault, this is what Hashem wants, therefore you don't have to take any responsibility for the situation, and every difficult decision is made by someone else with Daas Torah. In a sense it makes life realy easy, but what kind of life is that really? Do you want to live your life with someone else making all the important decisions? Taking no responsibilty for the situation you are in because this is what Hashem wants? 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

How many Jews were slaves in Egypt?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (111) makes a startling statement about the numbers of Jews in Egypt. It says only 2 out of every 600,000 made it out, all the rest died. When you do the math (600,000 actually came out) it comes out to an unfamothable 180,000,000,000 (180 billion) Jews were slaves in Egypt. Given that the world population in 2017 is only 7.6 billion and the population only rreached 1 billion in 1804 this number is so ridiculous it is silly.