Monday, July 24, 2017

Showering during the 9 days

In recent years, this topic has become more controversial in the Charedi world. The din in the shulchan aruch is that tyou are not allowed to wash your whole body during the 9 days. Therefore, people didn't take showers during the 9 days. However, recently, this has come up for debate with the mekilim claiming that times have changed along with standards of hygiene and people simply can't go 9 days without a shower. There is a famous quote from R' Shach who said that no one asks for a kula when sitting shiva so why should we be meikil during the 9 days? IMHO the answer is clear and obvious. When you sit shiva you go nowhere and do nothing. You sit in your house all day for 7 days. In contrast, nowadays the 9 days are regular work days and people go ut in the heat of the summer etc. Additionally, if you work with non-religious Jews or non-Jews it is disgusting to come in to work or anywhere else smelling.

In truth, I don't understand why anyone would be machmir. It is absolutely clear that hygiene standards are completely different nowadays then they were in the days of Chazal and even 100 years ago in Eastern Europe. The advent of running hot water at any time of day has completely changed how we look at bathing. Someone who doesn't shower for 9 days nowadays is considered not normal and probably mentally ill.

This is another example of the Charedi world stuck in time following the dictum חדש אסור מן התורה. What is interesting is that the change is coming from the people. My impression is that more and more Charedim are simply taking showeres during this period.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Orthoprax Chasidim

I was away for Shabbos and therefore went to a local Shteibel to daven on Friday night. Even though I know that there are orthoprax Chasidim it still was a shock to see them. In my home town, Mincha on Friday is davened 20 minutes before sunset. I figured in a shteibel they mght be a little later so I got there 10 minutes before sunset. The place was deserted. Around the time of sunset they finally got a minyan and started davening. The Chasidim rolled in late and davened in record time. One Chasid in particular fascinated me. He walked in after Mincha sat down in the back and started talking. He didn't daven a single word, he just talked and talked and talked. Other Chasidim came in even later and by the time Maariv rolled around, there was a whole group standing out in the hall shmoozing instead of davening.

I can understand how a Modern Orthodox person can be orthoprax as MO doesn't impose much on them or limit them much. You can have a TV, go to movies read books etc. You can also just take off your yarmulke and blend in. But to be an orthorpax Chasid sounds crazy to me. Chasidus imposes so many restrictions starting from the dress that it must be really stifling if you don't believe. You can never blend in and if you want something like a TV you need to hide it very well. I understand the social penalties of leaving are very high, but the price of staying seems very high as well.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Quality of life

Judaism believes that life is sacred no matter what the quality of life is. I have never thought that much about this until now. My father who is quite elderly, is in the hospital on a ventilator. When he first had breathing problems the people in the hospital asked about a DNR and talked about quality of life etc. I am really torn about this. I can see both sides. On one side is the argument that what value is there in life on a ventilator where you may be living but you can't communicate or do anything. Their is a financial aspect as well. Society has limited resources and spending hundreds of thousands to milions of dollars to keep an elderly man barely alive may not be the best use of resources. On the other side is the idea that every second of life is precious and we need to preserve it no matter what and who are we to decide what is quality of life. 

Truthfully, I believe that the Jewish position was founded in a completely different time and needs to be updated. In the time of Chazal, these issues basically did not exist. People either lived or died, no one lived with chronic illness and certainly no one lived for years in a a non-responsive state. In the time of Chazal my father would have been long dead. Chazal never imagined a state where we could keep someone alive for years with something like a ventilator. we have a similar problem with brain death. It is clear that Chazal did not understand the human body and therefore their discussions of death should be irrelevant. Of course halacha doesn't work that way and everyone tries to reinterpret various statements to support their position. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Charedi women speak

Mishpacha magazine published a whole set of letters from Charedi women in response to the column by R' Besser (see a discussion here and here). I will quote the letters as is and add in my comments in [brackets].

Letter #1

... as a frum regular (top) graduate from a regular (top) Beis Yaakov with absolutely no "progressive" feminist agenda, [why does she need to say she was a top graduate from a top Beis Yaakov, sounds very defensive] I"d like to make a suggestion ... to anyone who found this piece confounding.

Realize that not all of us in the Ezras Nashim have been blessed with the ability to so easily "feel real" in our "positions in yiddishkeit". [because their position is as second class citizens and in the modern world that is hard to swallow, where women can basically do anything]. Thank Hashem everday for granting you this gift of serenity and joy,  [which really means you are either clueless or completely brainwashed]which many sincere ovdei hashem sturggle to achieve, epsecially on Yomim Tovim.

I am thrilled for my husband and son on Simchas Torah, and love watching the joy on their faces as they dance with the Sefer Torah.  But there is a small part of me that yearns to actually express my deep joy, too. instead of sitting squished over, under, and in between the masses -- quite literally unable to move [this is a completely legitimate feeling, why shouldn't women have the opportunity to express their joy just like the men].   During Aseres Yemei Teshuva I of course aspire to reach the level of "the specter of din being so imposing so that I honestly do not notice where I am" [and yet the men are in shul and clearly do notice where they are, only the women are supposed to have this great sense].
But until I get there, I think that it's actually pretty normal to occassionally have some thoughts like I wish I were able to daven a full shacharis and mussaf in shul with a tzibbur, and hear all the tekios clearly instead of an abridged 19 minute shacharis on my couch and 30 tekios that are losing a competition with crying babies. Or, it would be nice to actually watch the paroches being pulled aside and see teh aron kodesh opened to reveal the sfirei torah, instead of reading Artscroll's "The ark is opened" in the machzor. 

Megillas Esther is leined in an early morning slot at my house so that I can take car of all my, kein ayin hara, beautiful children as well as prepare for the other mitzvos hayom [that is a big ppart of the problem, when you have 8-10 kids it i really a full time job for many many years]. I am so happy to be busy wth that, but I still do feel that pang when I think about how beautiful it would be to hear leining with a tzibbur (and at a time of day when I"m not half asleep [this is very sad. Her husband can't help her out? Why can't her husband get up ear;y daven vasikin and then watch the kids so that she can go to a later minyan?].

And Rabbi Besser didn't mention this part, but the singing .... Whether at a regular Yom Tov seuda (with my brothers-in-law) or at thevery load and hartzig Purim version, or the personal highlght of my year,  at the very end of the seder.... The singing is so beautiful that it physically hurts to keep my mouth closed and not to join as the men express their thanks to Hakodosh Baruch Hu for al of his blessings [This is so sad. I know that their is a halacha of kol isha but to apply it in this case seems ridiculous]. I know, I know, that's not what He wants from me -- that's why I am not doing it! But, it's hard.

To clarify, I am a regular,frum, (usually happy!) woman -- not remotely "religiously marginalized " or even bitter or resentful of teh position Hashem has chosen to put me in [but clearly you are, you just can't admit it because that would make you a feminist]. And yes, I do work hard on being truly content and deeply content with my role. But until allo f us who feel that way reach that madreigah it is refreshing and validating to hear some acknowledgment of our struggle from the other side of the mechitza

Name Withheld [this says it all]

IMHO what this letter shows best is the great brainwashing that Beis Yakkov's do. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Another source that the Torah was forgotten by the masses

IMHO, the best answer to the Kuzari proof is to deny the underlying assumption, that there is a mass mesora about Matan Torah.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin (21b) discusses whether Ezra changed the alphabet of the Sefer Torah from Ivri to Ashuri. The Ran there says the following:

ובאמת כי כשגלו ישראל לבבל כבר הלכו להם עשרת השבטים בחלח וחבור ונשארו מתי מעט ושנו את לשונם ואת כתבם ונשתכחה מהם התורה הלא תראה בימי עזרא שנשתכחה מהם התורה ואפילו המצות המפורסמות כסוכה כשקראו להם המצוה היתה להם כחידוש גדול ואז עזרא האיר עיניהם בדיני התורה ומצותיה והוא החזיר להם את כתבם שנשתכחה מהם

In Truth, when the Jewish people went into exile in Babylonia, the 10 tribes were already lost and there were only a small number of Jews left, they changed their language and alphabet and they forgot the Torah. We see that the Torah was forgotten in the time of Ezra and even the famous mitzvos like Succa [were forgotten]. When [Ezra] read the mitzva [of Succa] it was a big surprise to them. Then Ezra opened their eyes to the laws of the Torah and the Mitzvos and he restored the alphabet that had been lost.

The Ran says that they forgot even famous mitzvas like Succa and had no recollection whatsoever of it. They also forgot the alphabet and couldn't read it. In short, they completely forgot the Torah and Ezra restored it.

We see from here not only that there is no mass Mesora about Torah but a refutation of the fundamental principle of the Kuzari proof, namely, a charismatic individual came and reinvented the Torah for the masses and even restored a long lost alphabet.