Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Were the Amoraim/Tannaim paragons of virtue? Part 8

 The Gemara in Taanis 24a has the following story about Rav Yosi from Yokrat:

בְּרַתֵּיה מַאי הִיא? הַוְיָא לֵיהּ בְּרַתָּא בַּעֲלַת יוֹפִי, יוֹמָא חַד חַזְיֵאּ לְהָהוּא גַּבְרָא דַּהֲוָה כָּרֵיא בְּהוּצָא וְקָא חָזֵי לַהּ. אָמַר לוֹ: מַאי הַאי? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: רַבִּי, אִם לְלוֹקְחָהּ לֹא זָכִיתִי — לִרְאוֹתָהּ לֹא אֶזְכֶּה? אֲמַר לַהּ: בִּתִּי, קָא מְצַעֲרַתְּ לְהוּ לִבְרִיָּיתָא, שׁוּבִי לְעַפְרִיךְ וְאַל יִכָּשְׁלוּ בִּיךְ בְּנֵי אָדָם. The Gemara asks: What is the incident involving his daughter? He had a very beautiful daughter. One day Rabbi Yosei from Yokrat saw a certain man piercing a hole in the hedge surrounding his property and looking at his daughter. Rabbi Yosei said to him: What is this? The man said to him: My teacher, if I have not merited taking her in marriage, shall I not at least merit to look at her? Rabbi Yosei said to her: My daughter, you are causing people distress. Return to your dust, and let people no longer stumble into sin due to you.

Imagine he killed his own daughter because she was too beautiful and men were looking at her. Talk about blaming the victim!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Are some people born good and some born bad?

Daf Yomi just learned the Gemara in Yoma 82b-83a. The Gemara has a din that a pregnant woman that has a craving for a certain food is allowed to eat on Yom Kippur. The Gemara then relates the following 2 stories:

הָהִיא עוּבָּרָה דְּאָרַחָא, אֲתוֹ לְקַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבִּי, אֲמַר לְהוּ: זִילוּ לְחוּשׁוּ לַהּ דְּיוֹמָא דְכִיפּוּרֵי הוּא. לְחוּשׁוּ לָהּ וְאִילְּחִישָׁא. קָרֵי עֲלֵיהּ: ״בְּטֶרֶם אֶצָּרְךָ בַבֶּטֶן יְדַעְתִּיךָ וְגוֹ׳״. נְפַק מִינַּהּ רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן.

הָהִיא עוּבָּרָה דְּאָרַחָא, אֲתוֹ לְקַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא. אֲמַר לְהוּ: לְחוּשׁוּ לָהּ, וְלָא אִילְּחִישָׁא. קָרֵי עֲלֵיהּ זוֹרוּ רְשָׁעִים מֵרָחֶם״. נְפַק מִינַּהּ שַׁבְּתַאי אָצַר פֵּירֵי.

The Gemara clearly states the Rav Yochanan was already a tzadik in the womb and that שבתאי was a Rasha in the womb. 

How does that fit in with the fundamental principle of free will, that every person can choose whether to be good or bad? What choices can a child possibly make in the womb? In fact the Gemara states there is no יצר הרע until a child is born. It sounds like some people are born good and some bad. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Charedi view of how people make money

Mishpacha magazine has an interview with a famous Sefardi Rosh yeshiva. One of the questions he discussed is money. He was asked about people working and answered the following:

"If you’re meant to become rich, you’ll become rich anyway. It doesn’t depend on many hours and killing yourself working. The biggest batlanim can become billionaires. How do they become rich? Me’ashpos yarim evyon. Hashem gives them the mazel and they become rich."

This is so ridiculous it's silly. He is just showing his complete ignorance of how the world really works. Batlanim become billionaires? No one gets rich being a batlan. Self made millionaires or billionaires worked day and night to be successful. Starting a business and making it successful requires 100% dedication.He is just deluding himself.

Then he says:
"And who works for them? All the professionals, with their diplomas from the most famous universities — and they are barely earning a wage. It doesn’t depend on crazy hishtadlus. In other words, you can learn most of the day, serious learning, like a talmid chacham learns, and grow, and you can work a little bit."

Barely earning a wage? Many of the people who went to university are the ones who are the ones who are supporting his yeshiva. They are also the ones who pay full tuition in America to yeshivas subsidizing all of the people who didn't go to university. Again he is living in a dream world. There are very few jobs that pays a decent wage that will let you learn most of the day and only work a few hour. They just don't exist.

I would ask him a few simple questions. 

1. Look around at the people who are going schnorring because they can't support their family, marry off their children, etc. How many of them went to university? 

2. Every survey of income shows that people who went to university make ore money then people who didn't? Why is that?

This quote really blew me away:

"Because when you use your brains, you lose money. When Hashem is running your business for you, you make money, you don’t lose. And they say, you know, Rabbi, you’re right."

This is the charedi hashkafa today, everything is from Hashem, there is no cause and effect, and hishtadlus is just a tax.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The charedi response to the practical impossibility of bringing the korban pesach

Someone from Lakewood published a fascinating Sefer about bringing the korban pesach and to my great surprise actually dealt with the issues that I raised. In fact he raised some additional issues. For example, the din is that when you leave the עזרה you have to walk backwards. You are not allowed to turn your back. Imagine how much more difficult it makes moving large amounts of people in and out. 
So what is his answer. His answer is very simple. 
1. Since chazal said that they brought 1.2 million korbanos it must be true. 
2. It was all miracles.

The problem is that nowhere are these miracles actually mentioned. Let’s list off some of the great miracles that had to have happened. 
1. They had to process 6500 korbanos a minute. 

2. 530,000 people had to squeeze into an area that can hold a maximum of about 5000 people. 
3. 1.2 million people needed to get in and out of the azara and bring 1.2 million korbanos in 3 hours. 

The author cannot find a single specific source for any of these. And yet, if chazal said it had to have happened. 

Given the above there is no common ground for a discussion. In the charedi view whatever is impossible was simply a miracle. The same would apply to the mabul and to any other question. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The practical impossibilities of actually bringing the Korban Pesach

Korban Pesach is one of the most important mitzvas, one of only 2 mitzvos that if not done you are chayav kares. Yet, it is impossible to understand how the Korban Pesach was actually ever brought by a large group of people.

I will start with listing a set of facts based on the Mishnayon/Gemaras in Pesachim and other places:

  1. All times listed in the Gemara are based on a 12 hour day 6 to 6 (שעות זמניות)
  2. The first Mishna in the 5th perek of Pesachim (48a) states that on Erev Pesach they would start bringing the תמיד של בין הערבים at 1:30PM (7.5 hours) and finish at 2:30PM (8.5)
  3. They started bringing the Korban Pesachs only after they finished with the Tamid, meaning they only started at 2:30PM 
  4. Korbanos can only be brought until sunset which is 6PM (12 hours)
  5. The time alloted to bring all of the Korban Pesachs was 3.5 hours (2:30 PM until 6PM)
  6. The Mishna states that the Korban Pesach is brought in 3 groups
  7. The Gemara (Pesachim 64) states that they said Hallel while they were bringing the Korban pesachs and they never repeated Hallel more then 2 times
  8. The animals were suspended and flayed in the azara
  9. King Aggrippas counted the Korban Pesachs one year and came up with 1.2 million
  10. The Azara in the Beis Hamikdash was 135x187 Amos
  11. The entrance into the Azara was 10 Amos wide
According to the Gemara (9 above) they brought 1.2 million korbanos one year. That means that 1.2 million people needed to go into the Azarah with their sheep to sacrifice it. Lets do the math now.
  1. 3.5 hours is 210 minutes, 12600 seconds
  2. That is 95 korbanos per second, 5714 per minute. Note: To bring the Korban means to slaughter it, collect the blood, sprinkle the blood on the mizbeach, etc.
  3. The size of the Azara is approximately 25,000 square Amos
  4. Assuming a large Amah (2 feet) that is 50,000 square feet, Note: part of the azarah was the Kodesh Hakodashim which can not be entered and  there are also the Keilim
  5. A loose crowd, one where each person is an arm's length from the body of his or her nearest neighbors, needs 10 square feet per person. A more tightly packed crowd fills 4.5 square feet per person. A truly scary mob of mosh-pit density would get about 2.5 square feet per person.
  6. Based on the above (5) 
    1. Loose crowd - the maximum number of people is 5000, 3 groups would only get us to 15,000 people, we are 1.185 million people short
    2. A more tightly packed crowd - the maximum number of people is 11,111 3 groups would only get us to 33,333 people, we are 1.167 million people short
    3. A truly scary mob of mosh-pit density - the maximum number of people is 20,000 3 groups would only get us to 60,000 people, we are 1.14 million people short
  7. The entrance to the Azarah is 20 feet wide, meaning at most 8 can come in simultaneously. For 1.2 million to come in would require 150,000 rows of 8. This would require 12 rows to enter a second
  8. All the people who come in need to go out the same entrance
Even if we radically reduce the number of korbanos to 100,000 the numbers are still ridiculous

  1. That is 8 korbanos per second, 476 per minute. Note: To bring the Korban means to slaughter it, collect the blood, sprinkle the blood on the mizbeach
  2. Based on the crowd numbers above (5) 
    1. Loose crowd - the maximum number of people is 5000, 3 groups would only get us to 15,000 people, we are 85,000 people short
    2. A more tightly packed crowd - the maximum number of people is 11,111 3 groups would only get us to 33,333 people, we are 67,000 people short
    3. A truly scary mob of mosh-pit density - the maximum number of people is 20,000 3 groups would only get us to 60,000 people, we are 40,000 people short
  3. The entrance to the Azarah is 20 feet wide, meaning at most 8 can come in simultaneously. For 1.2 million to come in would require 150,000 rows of 8. This would require 12 rows to enter a second
  4. All the people who come in need to go out the same entrance
Now if we think about Pesach in the Midbar things get even worse. 
  1. The population was 600,000 men over the age of 20, giving us a population 2.5. -3 million people
  2. If we take teh Gemaras number of 10 people per Korban that would be about 250,000 korbanos
  3. The Mishkan was only 30x10 Amos with part of that the Kodesh Hakodashim. 
  4. There were only 3 Kohanim to bring 250,000 korbanos
What we see from here is that there is no way that massive numbers of Jews could have ever brought the Korban Pesach. It is simply not feasible. The whole thing makes no sense at all. The Gemara describes what has to happen, yet pays no attention to the sheer impossibility of it all. 

Some will answer, it was all miracles. There are 2 answers to this claim:
  1. The Gemara (Pesachim 64) has a dispute between Abaye and Rava if they relied on a miracle to lock the doors of the Azara or not. Abaye says yes and Rava says no. In all disputes between Abaye and Rava (except for 6) the Halacha is like Rava. If Rava says that we can't rely on this small miracle to close the doors, then certainly we can't rely on much greater miracles to allow us to bring the Korban Pesach
  2. There is absolutely no source for this. Nowhere does the Gemara say that the bringing of the Korban Pesach was miraculous. And in truth, these would be great miracles indeed.
The bottom line is that based on the numbers it is absolutely impossible for a large group of people to ever bring the Korban Pesach. The short time span plus the small Beis Hamikdash simply does not allow it to happen in any way shape or form.

Update 4/5

There are 2 more issues that I would like to raise:
  1. For every Korban that you are Makriv you need to burn the אימורים, the organs on the mizbeach until the next morning. To throw them all on the mizbeach requires 28 per second for the whole night. Of course after throwing on the first n the mizbeach would be covered and there is also the time needed for the אימורים to actually burn. Of course a pile of 1.2 million sets of organs would probably fill up a large part of the Azarah all by itself.
  2. In addition to the Korban Pesach everyone who comes to Yerushalayim is required to bring a korban reiyah (Olah) on the first day of the chag. While Korban Pesach applies to a Chabura these korbanot apply to every male, over the age of 13. This means many more Olas Reiyah were brought in comparison to Korban Pesach so if there 1.2 million Korban Pesachs there were at least 4-6 million olas reiyahs that needed to be brought on the first day of Pesach. Again it is absolutely impossible to bring that many Korbanos in a few hours. Additionally, you were supposed to bring Shalmei Simcha as well which adds even more korbanos.
Important note: All the dimensions I gave for the Azarah assumed for simplicity's sake that it was empty and could be completely filled with people, this is of course not true at all. For example, the Kodesh HaKadashim ws 20x20 amah which could not be entered. Additionally the mizbeach was 32x32 amah not including the ramp. So in fact, a significant part of the Azarah was actually not usable space for people greatly minimizing the amount of people who could actually fit into the azara.

Some will try to answer as follows. The Rambam paskens that many people can partake from one Korban Pesach. 
יב [יד] עַד כַּמָּה נִמְנִין עַל הַפֶּסַח, עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בּוֹ כַּזַּיִת לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד. וְנִמְנִין עָלָיו וּמוֹשְׁכִין אֶת יְדֵיהֶן מִמֶּנּוּ, עַד שֶׁיִּשָּׁחֵט; כֵּיוָן שֶׁנִּשְׁחַט--אֵינוּ יָכוֹל לִמְשֹׁךְ אֶת יָדוֹ, שֶׁהֲרֵי נִשְׁחַט עָלָיו.

A sheep has approximately 30,000 כזיתים so for 2 million people we only would need about 60 sheep. However, there are insurmountable halachic and logistical problems with this idea. 
1. the חבורה needs to eat it together in one house. How would thousands of people do that? In the time of the Beis Hamikdash and the mishkan a building that could hold thousands even hundreds did not exist. See rambam korban pesach chapter 9. 
כָּל הָאוֹכֵל מִן הַפֶּסַח אֵינוֹ אוֹכֵל אֶלָּא בַּחֲבוּרָה אַחַת וְאֵין מוֹצִיאִין מִמֶּנּוּ מִן הַחֲבוּרָה שֶׁיֹּאכַל בָּהּ. וְהַמּוֹצִיא מִמֶּנּוּ כְּזַיִת בָּשָׂר מֵחֲבוּרָה לַחֲבוּרָה בְּלֵיל חֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר לוֹקֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות יב מו) "לֹא תוֹצִיא מִן הַבַּיִת מִן הַבָּשָׂר חוּצָה". וְהוּא שֶׁיַּנִּיחֵנוּ בַּחוּץ. שֶׁהוֹצָאָה כְּתוּבָה בּוֹ כְּשַׁבָּת לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ עֲקִירָה וְהַנָּחָה כְּהוֹצָאַת שַׁבָּת. וְאֵין מוֹצִיא אַחַר מוֹצִיא בְּפֶסַח שֶׁכֵּיוָן שֶׁהוֹצִיאוֹ הָרִאשׁוֹן נִפְסַל. מִן הָאֲגַף וּלְפָנִים כִּלְפָנִים מִן הָאֲגַף וְלַחוּץ כְּלַחוּץ וְהָאֲגַף עַצְמוֹ שֶׁהוּא עֳבִי הַפֶּתַח כְּלַחוּץ. הַחַלּוֹנוֹת וָעֳבִי הַכְּתָלִים כִּלְפָנִים. הַגַּגִּים וְהָעֲלִיּוֹת אֵינָן בִּכְלַל הַבַּיִת:
So tell me where would 30,000 be able to eat the korban pesach in one house? Where would even 3000 people do it? Therefore the practical upper limit for a Chabura is tens of people. 
2. The logistical problem is also insurmountable. Who is butchering the sheep into 30,000 kezaysim? How long does that take? And then you have to distribute the 30,000 kezaysim where and how would that be done in the small amount of time allotted?

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Were the Tannaim/Amoraim paragons of virtue part 10

 The Gemara in pesachim 112b states

אָמַר לוֹ: אִם בִּקַּשְׁתָּ לֵיחָנֵק — הִיתָּלֵה בְּאִילָן גָּדוֹל.

Rashi explains

אם בקשת ליחנק - לומר דבר שיהיה נשמע לבריות ויקבלו ממך:

היתלה באילן גדול - אמור בשם אדם גדול

Rabbi Akiva says that if you want your opinion to be accepted say it in the name of a great person. This quoted להלכה by the מגן אברהם in סימן קנו. In other words, you are allowed to make up/lie in order to have your opinion accepted. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

What happened to פיקוח נפש? Why aren't charedim keeping the covid rules?

 The concept of פיקוח נפש is a central one in Judaism and in fact is דוחה כל התורה כולה except for the 3 עבירות. Every shabbos Hatzalah goes on hundreds of calls being מחלל שבת to save lives. Given this, why do so many in the charedi world not follow the corona guidelines which are there to protect peoples lives? 

I believe the answer is based on the dominant charedi hashkafa. The dominant charedi hashkafa holds the following:

  1. Hashgacha is absolute. A leaf doesn't fall without it being decreed in heaven
  2. השתדלות doesn't work, it's just a tax, something to be done, but it doesn;t actually acommplish anything
  3. Everything is decreed on Rosh Hashana, whether  person will live or die, how much money they will make etc.
  4. Torah learning holds up the world. If torah learning stopped even for a second the world would be destroyed.

Based on the above, Charedi spokesman always say, it's not the doctor who heals it's hashem.

 There is a concept in halacha called עת לעשות לה הפרו תורתיך, which means in certain dire circumstances we can disobey the torah in order to save it. The gemara uses this principle to explain how תורה שבעל פה is allowed to be written down. The Gemara (Gitin 60a) learns out from a pasuk that there is a prohibition to write down תורה שבעל פה. The Gemara then asks how did the Amoraim write down תורה שבעל פה the Gemara answers עת לעשות לה הפרו תורתיך. The same idea was applied to girls education (Beis Yaakov) in the early 1900s and to the kollel system after WWII. 

IMHO, this along with the Charedi hashkafa is the reason charedim are not keeping the guidelines. Charedi society is a very communal one. Everything is done in groups. You learn with a chavrusa in a beis medrash. You daven in a shul. You go to a shiur in public. You go to a tish. There is constant peer pressure to conform. To close these institutions down for any lengthy period of time means destroying charedi society. As Rav Chaim Kanievsky said, closing the תלמודי תורה is dangerous, it is מבטל the torah of the תינוקות של בית רבן which holds up the world. Therefore, it is an עת לעשות לה הפרו תורתיך, yes פיקוח נפש overrides everything in normal times but these are not normal times. A world without yeshivas, without public torah studies, without תפילה בציבור, is not worth living in and therefore overrides even פיקוח נפש.

Then you add in the hashgacha aspect, that hishtadlus doesn't work anyway and a person's fate was decided on Rosh hashana. Given this, it is very easy to rationalize that no one is really dying from not following the rules, they were decreed to die anyway. This is a really important point. Many charedim I have talked to expressed this. They said yes, we have to do our hishtadlus, but, bottom line it was decreed on Rosh Hashana whether I will live or die. Wearing a mask will not save me if I was decreed to die and not wearing a mask won't kill me if I was decreed to live. They view hishtadlus as a tax, and therefore just like no one wants to pay more taxes then necessary and people try to avoid taxes, so too, they don't want to do more hishtadlus then necessary. Hishtadlus for corona is annoying, wearing masks, social distancing etc., and therefore they minimize (or eliminate) the hishtadlus (tax).

There is an additional factor that leads to Charedim not following the rules. Rav Aryeh Kaplan wrote the following in an essay:

Another approach is that which many Chassidim have. They say, “What do scientists know? Do they know what’s happening? Do they know what’s going on? They’re a bunch of phonies, a bunch of bluffers, a bunch of stupidniks! Do they really have a way of finding out the truth? They find a bone and they think it’s from a monkey.” But, I think to somebody who knows what science is, this is a very unsatisfactory approach. We have some idea of what is involved in paleontology. We have some idea what is involved in geology and in radioactive dating. We have some idea of what is involved in astronomy. We can casually speak about a star being a million light years away, and we do not stop to think, “Well, that’s a bit too much!” So I would say that if someone feels that science is ignorant and false, all well and good. Many people refer not to accept science as a worthy challenge. But I think that for many of us here, such an approach would be totally unsatisfying.

Times have changed and most of the Charedi world has adapted the viewpoint that he ascribes to the Chasidim, that dismisses the opinions of scientists. Therefore, they are very skeptical of everything about corona including the rules. They say what to do the scientists know? A year ago they said not to wear masks, now they say to wear masks. Why should we listen to them?