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 neither one accepted the others 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 that if 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 שחט) but didn't know which iteration of the word in the Torah is part of the gezera shava. Therefore there are disputes 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 critical 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 the Rishonim/Acharonim need to give weak farfetched answers. What we see is that the mesora even on something as simple as gezera shavas is non-existent.

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.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Does Judaism believe in Reincarnation?

Reincarnation (gilgul) has become a common belief in today's orthodox Judaism. However, this was not always so. Daf Yomi just finished the last chapter of Sanhedrin which deals with the principles of faith including, Messiah, World to come, reward and punishment. One thing noticeably missing is reincarnation.  In fact, reincarnation is not mentioned anywhere in the Talmud, or Midrashim. R' Saadya Gaon said the following about reincarnation:
Yet, I must say that I have found certain people, who call themselves Jews, professing the doctrine of metempsychosis (reincarnation) which is designated by them as the theory of “transmigration” of souls. What the mean thereby is that the spirit of Ruben is transferred to Simon and afterwards to Levi and after that to Judah. Many of them would go so far as to assert that the spirit of a human being might enter into the body of a beast or that of a beast into the body of a human being, and other such nonsense and stupidities.
"Who call themselves Jews", "Nonsense and stupidities" this goes beyond just saying he had a lack of tradition and "was not convinced". Rav Saadia Gaon denies it even deserves a place in a discussion of Judaism:
I was wary about my words to mention their opinion, and they are worthy of such [neglect] because of their severe flaws, if I were not afraid of the foolish.
The Gemara in Bava Metziah (107a) comments on the pasuk ברוך אתה בבואך ברוך אתה בצאתך that it is teaching us that just like a person enters the world without sin he should leave the world without sin. The רש"ש there comments that this contradicts gilgulim. The reason being, that the premise of a gilgul is that a nefesh that already sinned comes into the world to be מתקן that sin. However, the gemara states explicitly that a person comes into the world without sin. 

So why does everyone now believe in reincarnation. The answer is that reincarnation is an important concept in Kabbalah. The Zohar and related literature are filled with references to reincarnation, addressing such questions as which body is resurrected and what happens to those bodies that did not achieve final perfection, how many chances a soul is given to achieve completion through reincarnation, whether a husband and wife can reincarnate together, if a delay in burial can affect reincarnation, and if a soul can reincarnate into an animal. The acceptance and proliferation of Kabbalah has cause spread this concept and caused it to be widely accepted.

This dispute raises a number of very difficult questions:

  1. How is it that such a fundamental concept like reincarnation is not mentioned anywhere in the Talmud?
  2. How can there be a dispute about such a fundamental point, whether souls reincarnate?
  3. How could such a great Gaon like R' Saadya Gaon not know about reincarmnation and deny it's existence?
We can only conclude that reincarnation, like many other ideas, has no ancient mesora and in fact Reincarnation is a foreign idea, imported into Judaism from other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, where reincarnation really is a major tenet of the faith.