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 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?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Charedi forum participant asks tough questions in Emuna and gets no good answers

I read the Otzar Hachochma forums every so often, they are a fascinating insight into what is going in Charedi world and many of the participants are very learned. The forum is also run along Charedi lines so certain questions can't be asked and non-Charedi opinions are basically censored. I was very surprised to see someone ask basic questions in emuna and get no good answers (click here to read the whole discussion). He asked the following 3 questions:

  1. On one hand the gemara in Sota 2a states that ארבעים יום קודם יצירת הולד בת קול יוצאת ואומרת בת פלוני לפלוני on the other hand the Gemara in other places states that a person can even get engaged on Tisha B'Av because we are worried that maybe someone will swoop in before him. How do these 2 go together?
  2. The Gemara in Rosh Hashana says that a persons income is fixed on Rosh Hashana. On the other hand there are halachos of hasagos g'vul etc. which allow you to take someone to Beis Din for taking away your income. If your income is fixed on Rosh hashana then his hasagas g'vul should not affect you and therefore why can you take him to Beis Din and collect?
  3. When a person dies his relatives are sad and are chayav to be noheg various dinim of availus. However, the fact is that the person who died finished his task on Earth and went to a better place. Why should we be sad? Why are there dinim of aveilus?
The truth is that these are not new questions and really boil down to one point. If Hashem runs the world and everything that happens is b'hashgacha pratis then why try, why take someone to court, run around for a shidduch, etc.? It's all useless. The answers are shockingly poor and/or non-existent. I posted about this in the past Hashgocha Pratis, what does it really mean? and this is one of the biggest reasons I have for losing faith. I can not accept that the whole world is one big fake and nothing that human beings do has any purpose or meaning.

What amazes me is that the Charedi answers are so poor. As people pointed out to the questioner tehse are very obvious questions, and yet most Charedim don't think about them and the answers given are simply not credible. To say that it's all a bluff, a fraud, that hishtadlus is a tax and it just looks like it works is simply not believable. And the truth is, the Charedi world doesn't believe it either. When R' Elyashiv needed to have heart surgery anumber of years ago, they flew in the top cardiac/blood vessel surgeon from Cleveland (a religious Catholic) to do the surgery. This completely contradicts the Charedi view. After all, Hashem is doing the healing not the surgeon and once we have done our השתדלות, going to the doctor and having the surgery, why should it matter whether the surgeon is the best in the world or simply Joe surgeon who is competent? As long as we do our השתדלות to avoid requiring a נס, the rest is a גזירה מן השמים. If the גזירה is that the surgery will be successful, then it will be successful even if done by the average surgeon, and if the גזירה is that it won't be successful then it won't help that you have the best surgeon. The same goes for politics and government money. The Charedi press and people got apoplectic when Lapid cut the budget for the Yeshivas. They blamed him personally, Yet, according to their hashkafa, it's not him, it's hashem. He has no power to do anything. The money doesn't come from him it comes from hashem, on Rosh Hashana HAshem decided how much money each Charedi family would receive so why get upset?

In fact, what does it actually mean that someone is considered the best surgeon? After all, הכל בידי שמים, our success is actually an illusion to make it look like it is our skill. In fact, our success in worldly matters is simply a גזירה מן השמים so the fact that he successfully operated is not due to his skill but due to the גזירה מן השמים. So when you really think about it, there are no experts, it is all an illusion, no doctor is better then any other doctor, Lionel Messi is not better then Joe soccer player, it's all an illusion and it's only because Hashem wills it that Messi scores a goal.

When you put it that way, it sounds absolutely ridiculous. but that really is the logical conclusion of this hashkafa. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Why does the Gemara give outlandish explanations for Mishnayos? Part 4

Yesterday's daf (Zevachim 22) has another doozy.

R. Yosi b'Rebbi Chanina states if the Kiyor does not contain enough water to be Mekadesh four Kohanim, it is invalid - "v'Rachatzu Mimenu Moshe v'Aharon u'Vanav."

The Gemara asks a question from the following Baraisa: One may be Mekadesh from any Keli Shares, whether or not it contains a Revi'is of water! (a Reviis is much less then the water needed for 4 people)

Rav Ada bar Acha answers: The case is, the Keli Shares was carved into the Kiyor (so the water comes from the Kiyor, which contains enough water to be Mekadesh four Kohanim).

Really??? The Bariasa is talking about a Kli Shares that was carved into the Kiyor? This is a crazy ukimta which does not provide any novel explanation. What principle is the Baraisa with this ukimta teaching us?

Previous posts:
Why does the Gemara give outlandish explanations for Mishnayos?
Why does the Gemara give outlandish explanations for Mishnayos? A possible explanation
Why does the Gemara give outlandish explanations for Mishnayos? Part 2
Why does the Gemara give outlandish explanations for Mishnayos? Part 3

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Kohanim had to go "commando" when they worked in the Beis Hamikdash

No underwear allowed. The Gemar in Zevachim 17-18 makes it very clear that any piece of clothing over and above the 4 bigdei kehuna is absolutely not allowed when doing avoda in the Beis Hamikdash. This would certainly include underwear, undershirts, socks, etc. In the time of the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash this was not a big deal, no one wore underwear, but today this would be quite a burden for the kohanim.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Lag Baomer a new holiday

Tonight is Lag Baomer and in Israel it is a huge event with more then half a million people making a pilgrimage to Meron and thousands of bonfires being lit.

However, this is all a new invention. No less of an authority then the Chasam Sofer wrote we do not go along with the making of a new Yom tov not mentioned in Shas and poskim. We don’t go along with making a holiday of the day a tzaddik passed away (aka hillulah) , when the gemara mentions such a day as a day of fasting. In the mesorah of Ashkenaz that is called a yohrzeit, and is a day of fasting and introspection. We don’t make a small village in northern Eretz Yisroel the focus of a giant pilgrimage, more than ירושלים עיה”ק.

The claim is that the celebrations on Lag Baomer are in honor of Rav' Shimon Bar Yochai. The most well known explanation to the connection between Rashbi and Lag Ba-Omer is the claim that Rashbi died on that day, and he was one of the students of R. Akiva. However, this is quite strange that we would celebrate Rashbi’s death. We don’t celebrate the yarzheit of Avraham Avinu, Moshe Rabbeinu, David HaMelech, or any other great people with bonfires. Rather, halakha states the opposite, to fast on a yahrzeit, especially on those days that great people died.

More problematic is that neither Chazal nor any of the Rishonim mention Rashbi dying on Lag Ba-Omer. This was pointed out by the Chatam Sofer in his teshuvot (Y.D. 233) and because of this, he was very skeptical of the way Lag Ba-Omer is celebrated. In fact, the main source for Rashbi dying is R' Chaim Vital in the Pri Eitz Chaim, however, this is actually a printing mistake. The Pri Eitz Chaim actually wrote the Rashbi was שמח on Lag Baomer and the printers mistakenly turned the ח into a ת and wrote שמת., that he died on Lag Baomer.

It is amazing to me how the Charedim truly believe that they are traditionalists and are doing exactly what the Rishonim, Amoraim, Tannaim, etc. did when in fact many of the popular Charedi minhagim like Lag Baomer bonfires and Meron, etc. are new inventions and have no basis in earlier sources.

See my post Why do we celebrate on Lag Baomer and what is the connection to Rashbi? for more information.