Monday, August 20, 2018

Fooling the health insurance company to get back money

The following question came up in a Charedi forum that I read (https://forum.otzar.org/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=38047). In Israel the Kupot Cholim (health insurance) will reimburse new mothers when buying breast pumps (2). Can you do the following, buy 2 breast pumps, then return them and get the money back, and then send the receipts to the insurance company and get reimbursed for the pumps and buy a baby carriage? There was a heated discussion, with many saying it is simply stealing and others coming up with various heterim as to why it is permitted.

One fascinating heter is that non-profit corporations (which is what the kupot cholim in Israel are) are simply not recognized by the Torah and any money the company has is considered ownerless and therefore there can be no issur to steal from them.

One person wrote back in the name of some dayanim, that saying that is an embarrassment to the Torah. It is basically saying that the Torah cannot deal with modern corporate concepts and of course the Torah system deals with corporations.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Another Beis Hamikdash conundrum

Yetserday's daf (Zevachim 88) states that you are not allowed to launder the bigdei kehuna. The kohanim were also not allowed to wear dirty bigdei kehuna. There is no way that a kohen can do avoda, slaughtering the animal, being mekabel the dam, carrying the parts to the mizbeiach etc. without getting dirty. This leads to the conclusion that the bigdei kehuna could only be worn once. However, the implications of this are quite difficult. They would have had to be constantly making new bigdei kehuna. We don't find any source saying that the bigdei kehuna were only worn once adn we don;t find any sources that they were constantly makiing bigdei kehuna.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Performing מליקה in the Beis Hamikdash

When bringing a bird as a Korban, the bird is not schechted, rather מליקה is performed. The Gemara in Zevachim (64b) describes how מליקה was done.
In Melikah of Chatas ha'Of, the Kohen holds the wings in two fingers, and the legs in two fingers, and stretches the neck over the width of his thumb, and cuts it with his thumbnail.
(Beraisa): The bird faces outside. He holds the wings in two fingers, and the legs in two fingers, and stretches the neck over the width of two fingers, and cuts it with his thumbnail;
This is the difficult Avodah in the Mikdash.
Can you imagine a Kohen nowadays doing this? Killing a bird with your bare hands, actually with the fingernail of your thumb. As opposed to shechita I don't think this is a painless  or quick death. I wonder how the apologists will explain מליקה?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Was all the עבודת הקרבנות done in the first Beis Hamikdash invalid?

Yesterdays daf (זבחים ס"א) seems to imply that was the case. The Gemara says that the mizbeach in the first beis hamikdash was 28x28 amos and in the second bees hamikdash was 32x32 amos. Rabin explains the difference as follows:
In the first Mikdash, Nesachim would flow into Shisim (a pit south-west of the Mizbe'ach) down the wall of the mizbeach. They enlarged the Mizbe'ach in order that the Shisim would be within (under) the Mizbe'ach and they made the corners of the mizbeach hollow so that they could pour nesachim in them. At first (during the first Beis Hmikdash), they learned from the words "Mizbe'ach Adamah" that the mizbeach has to be completely solid. In the second beis Hamikdash they thought that drinking ('consumption' of libations) should be like eating (Korbanos that are burned, i.e. within the boundaries of the Mizbe'ach) and therefore made the holes to pour the Nesachim as part of the mizbeach. Therefore, they understood that Mizbe'ach Adamah" teaches that the Mizbe'ach cannot be built over domes or tunnels (that are not needed for the Mizbe'ach).
What comes out is that according to the way they understood pesukim and halacha, the way they did Nesachim in the first beis hamikdash was pasul.

 This ties in to the general dispute about what was received at Sinai and if there is one halachic truth. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Disputes about the Beis Hamikdash

Daf Yomi is now learning Zevachim and the Gemara there is starting to get into disputes about the Beis Hamikdash. So far we have a few (Zevachim 53-59):

  1. Was there a base around the whole Mizbeach or only on 2 sides? 
  2. Was the whole Mizbeach fully in the north or half in the North or fully in the South?
  3. Where was the כיור?
  4. What was the size of the מזבח הנחשת?
Here are some diagrams with the various opinions about the location of the mizbeach and kiyor.



Here is a diagram showing the dispute about the size of the מזבח הנחשת.


We see clearly that the Tannaim who lived not long after the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed were missing important information about the Beis Hamikdash and simply did not the details of how the Beis Hamikdash was laid out. If they didn't know this basic information what else didn't they know? 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The 13 Middos used to expound the Torah Part 2

The Gemara in Zevachim (50-51) has a long discussion about whether something learned out with one of the 13 middos can be used again with the 13 middos to learn something else out. For example can a halacha learned out from a gezera shava be used to learn a gezera shava to another halacha to learn a second halacha. For some middos the Gemara has a dispute for others the Gemara leaves it as a תיקו. Here is a nice chart from the Artscroll Gemara summarizing things:


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 how they are used? 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?

Here is a link to Part 1

Monday, May 14, 2018

Don't learn first aid so that disasters won't happen?

This was a question raised in the same Otzar Hachochma forums. Sounds very strange but this is a point of view expressed by many Charedi leaders.

They claim the following. If someone learns first aid then Hashem is free to punish someone because the person who learned first aid is there to mitigate the damage.

R' Shteinman made a similar point regarding life insurance. He is reported to have said, life insurance is not worth it, as the merit of giving tzedaka to the widows and orphans is what is saving this generation from destruction. Others have claimed the following. What happens if a husband does not have the personal merit to guarantee longevity, while his wife and children do have the merit or the mazel (fortune) to live financially secure lives? In a case like this, the husband would live a long productive life as their provider. By purchasing life insurance, which guarantees their sustenance even without his presence, he jeopardizes his life, since his dependents are now provided for should something bad happen to him.

R' Dessler made a similar claim about medical research. Man cannot do anything in this world, what looks like cause and effect is actually a test for man. Man is supposed to see through cause and effect and recognise that Hashem is actually the only cause and effect. Hishtadlus/man's effort, is only a tax. It has no effect, it is simply there so that the charade is kept up. According to R' Dessler, a person should do the minimum hishtadlus that is required because it doesn't help anyway. Anything more then the minimum is simply a waste of time and effort and if the person thinks that it helps is actually kefira. Therefore, medical research not only doesn't help, no one is cured by medicine, they are cured by Hashem, but it makes things worse. Medicine is just another test from Hashem and since medicine makes it look like there is cause and effect, it takes away from peoples emuna and causes more kefira in the world. Additionally, now that medicine has become common and accepted, everyone must do it to fulfill their minimum hishtadlus. In other words, nowadays, we have to waste time and money on medicine that doesn't work anyway because it has become accepted and therefore falls under hishtadlus. In other words, every time we come up with a new medical procedure, we are in essence increasing our hishtadlus tax.

If we think hard about the above opinions it is clear that they are simply taking the Charedi hashkafa to it's logical conclusion. It is also clear that these opinions are ridiculous and make life into a joke. All you have to do is look at life expectency to see how ridiculous this idea is. Life expectancy until about 1850 was between 35-40 in Europe. Since 1850, life expectancy has gone up to about 80 (see https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy/). The explanation would seem to be quite simple. Modernization and industrialisation (especially the advances in medicine) improved the health of the population dramatically and caused the dramatic rise in life expectancy.

However, according to R' Dessler how can we explain this dramatic increase in life expectancy? If modern medicine has no effect and it's just a charade/tax and everything is only from Hashem why the change? When you couple this with the idea of yeridos hadoros, that every generation declines spiritually and is on a lower level then the previous generation, the question gets even stronger. Why should our generation which is on a lower spiritual level then the generations a few hundred years ago, live so much longer?