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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Gedolei Torah’

The Internet, Halacha, and Olam HaBah

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

It’s simply not possible. I don’t believe it. Nonetheless it is being reported as fact. Rafi’s blog, Life in Israel, has linked to the Hebrew language website B’Chadrei Charedim that quotes Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s response to a question about smart-phones.

There is a Gemarah in Brachos that tells us that a man will lose his portion in Olam HaBah if he walks regularly behind a woman down a river. Rav Kanievsky was asked if this applies to someone who has in his possession an I-phone or the internet. His one word answer according to Chadrei was ‘ B’Vadai’ – absolutely! Anyone who uses an I-phone or the internet is in a category of losing his Olam HaBah – his heavenly reward in the world to come!

If this is true, then yet again, I think we all ought to all just go over to MacDonald’s and have a cheeseburger… or violate any other Miztvah in the Torah we want to violate. Why bother observing Halacha if you’ve lost your Olam Habah?

I happen to know Gedolei Torah and Roshei Yeshiva  who use I-phones and the internet. Are they all doomed?

Once again we have what appears to be a huge dis-connect between what a great Torah sage supposedly said – and reality. Either Rav Kanievsky does not know the extent of internet use among a great number of devoutly observant Jews, or this is a gross distortion or mischaracterization of his views. I think that both things are true. I don’t believe he said it and meant it to be interpreted as simply as that one word answer indicates.

I would not be surprised if this is yet another instance of Kanoim – religious zealots twisting the views of a elderly rabbinic leader to fit their agenda. I’m sure his position is far more nuanced than the one word answer (B’Vadai) he supposedly gave to a simple question.

The Agenda is obvious. There are people who are eager to destroy other Jews in a fit of self righteousness. They do not have these devices and do not want anyone else to have them either. So they make sure to twist the words of Gedolei Yisroel to assure it.

They may think they are doing the right thing. But they are by far doing far much more harm than good. They may in fact be responsible for pushing more religious Jews out of observance than saving them from using the internet.

By putting people who have smart-phones into a category of losing their Olam Habah, it is not too difficult to see many frustrated Frum people who have so often been put upon with comments like this say, ‘the heck with it!’ I may as well live a life of ease and not worry about violating Halacha. I won’t make to Olam HaBah anyway.

The Gemarah upon which this one word response attributed to Rav Kanievsky was based upon does not forbid the incidental following of a woman down a river. The loss of Olam Habah  that the Gemarah speaks of is only to those who purposely do so with lascivious thoughts and the intent to sin in that regard. And even then only if it is done on a regular basis.

I would add that even if someone regularly does things like that and has some sort of sexual addiction, he can get help… and do Teshuva. I find it very difficult to believe that the Gemarah’s intent is that someone loses his Olam HaBah permanently if he does that. It is also known that the Gemarah sometimes exaggerates to make a point. Which may be the case here.

If there is any comparison to be made between following a woman down a river and the world of the 21st century and the internet – it is in the area of purposely viewing pornography on it. The problem is not the internet. It is the websites one frequents… if those websites are pornographic. That is the comparison that Rav Kanievsky no doubt meant – if he said anything at all.  Accidentally accessing a pornographic website is not a cause for losing one’s Olam Habah.

But the Kanoim who publish stories like this do not want to be confused with the nuances of truth. They want convey the message that I-phones and any other device that can access the internet is so evil that one should not even touch it! For if they do, their Olam HaBah is at stake.

The Proper Performance of Bris Milah

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: The following post was submitted to me by someone who is close to Rabbi Zuriel. It is a footnoted and well sourced Halachic analysis of the Mitzvah of Bris Milah and Metzitza B’Peh.

Rabbi Zuriel lives in Bnei Brak and was a close talmid of Rav Ruderman famed founder and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. He has written well over 30 Seforim on subjects ranging from Shas to Tanach to Mussar to Kabbalah.

After moving to Israel, Rabbi Zuriel learned with – and became very close with many Gedolei Torah including Rav Sraya Deblitzky, Rav Shmuel Toledano, and Rav Friedlander – the famed mashgiach of Ponovezh.

He also learned with Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook, and was the Mashgiach in Shalavim. He is very knowledgeable in all areas of the Torah, and very well informed regarding current events and history . His approach is an independent one and is solely guided by his understanding of the the Torah.

His words follow. 

It is always sad to see dispute and bickering amongst brethren. It is even more aggravating to see anger and emotional outbursts, bitter accusations and personal attacks in the public domain. The present controversy regarding how to do the metzitzah of blood during Bris Milah, if by mouth or by tube, is a case in point.

If we check the Gemarah source[1] and so too the Rambam[2] , and the Shulchan Aruch[3] , we see no mention of the “Peh,” the mouth. The Hebrew word for suction is “motzetz” and this can be performed also by the use of a tube using mouth suction. It is important to precede all discussion on this topic by “putting everything on the table”. We are not discussing a Biblical Commandment, nor are we referring to a Rabbinical enactment from the Gemarah’s time. We are referring to a hallowed Minhag from days of yore to use the mouth only.

Certainly the withdrawal of blood is a Rabbinical enactment, but the direct application of the mouth is only a Minhag. Beyond that, using a tube by mouth suction is also a utilization of the mouth and should not to be considered as abolition of the use of the mouth[4]. This understanding is important to know before we clarify what a parent should decide in cases of doubt.

The world famous Chasam Sofer wrote a responsum to permit using other methods than the mouth (“Bris Olam”, page 216)[5]. The great Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsh permitted the use of a short tube (Shemesh Marpeh, page 70). Rabbi Yitzchok Herzog wrote[6] that since the medical experts claim that there is a danger of infection in many cases, it is advisable to use a tube. He adds that those who insist adamantly that the withdrawal should be done by direct application of the mouth “are mistaken and so too cause others to make a mistake”.

The illustrious Rabbi Avraham Kook permitted the use of a tube when in doubt of infection (Da’as Kohen, 142) [also, see the words of the Aruch Hashulchan[7] and Rabbi Chaim Berlin[8]]. Rabbi Zvi Pesach Frank claimed[9] that since the entire purpose of the Rabbinical enactment of withdrawing the blood from the wound is to avoid infection, this act being done by the tube is part and parcel of that healing process. May we add that this would even be a “hiddur Mitzva” since this is even safer than the personal physical contact of the Mohel to the open wound.

But why is there such a vehement outcry against the usage of the tube? The answer is that for nearly two hundred years there is fear of Gentile government intervention making the essential circumcision ritual illegal. This started in Paris in 1843, reached Germany and Poland and today in California a small group of “humanists” appealed to the State Legislature to ban the practice. This move was defeated.

The fear is that if we ourselves admit that this mitzvah could be damaging to the child, the Department of Health might make capital of our admission. The second cause of the great emotional outbursts of resistance to any change in the ceremony is the worry to keep intact all of Jewish way life, to stay as close as possible to the customs of our forefathers; to forestall all reforms.

What Happened To Faith?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

As an Orthodox rabbi living and working on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I’m thrilled to see so many single men and women actively involved in Torah and mitzvot. This is also the case in Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, and wherever else singles are found. Whereas in the not so distant past the observance level of many Orthodox singles dropped the longer they remained single, today there are more scrupulously observant single men and women than ever before.

Sounds great, but let me qualify what I’m saying.

When it comes to ritual observance, there’s a tremendous amount of attention paid to even the most minute details and stringencies. But here’s one religious area, probably the most important, that seems to have gotten lost in the unrelenting quest for the perfect shidduch: faith – better known in the frum world as bitachon.

I recently tried to set up a man I’ve known for years. He’s 38, good looking, successful, and earnestly frum. I had just met a very attractive woman I was sure he would be excited to meet. I started off my pitch and he was interested. Then I told him she was 33.

“Sorry, but 32 is my limit.”

“But she’s only 33, that’s just one y…”

“No, I’m very sorry but I need to stick to my rules.”

“OK, best of luck to you!”

This is not an isolated incident. In my role as a Sawyouatsinai matchmaker, I read through dozens of profiles of men in their late 30s to 40s (and yes, even 50s) who are very blunt in demanding to only be matched with women below a specific age, usually ranging from 32 to 35. The reason they give always relates to childbirth. They want to have big families and they’ve determined that women past a certain age are not biologically qualified.

I’m not going to attempt to debate the scientific factors regarding childbirth and aging because I’m neither a doctor nor a scientist. The large number of women on the Upper West Side, clearly in their 40s, pushing sets of twins and triplets in fancy buggies is obviously not the kind of empirical evidence one brings into the lab. As a rabbi, however, I do think I’m qualified to speak about bitachon. When I hear or read the age and family planning requirements of an older single man who is scrupulous in all areas of halacha my response is, “What happened to bitachon?”

You don’t know what Hashem’s plan is for you. No one does. Do you know how many younger couples are struggling to have even one child? Do you know if you’re even meant to have more than one or two children? Do you realize that the years you are spending in search of someone you believe can bear you a large family are years during which you could actually be enjoying the amazing blessing of a precious child of your own? If you finally do have children, are you going to be young enough to be able to play with them? What about your second child? How old will you be at the bar mitzvah? The Wedding? When grandchildren come along?

The answer to all of these questions is that it’s all in Hashem’s hands. Bitachon. We don’t have ultimate control over our destinies – and when we think we do, we usually learn the hard way that we don’t.

I wonder how many single religious single men above 30 have asked ask a rav whether it’s better to marry a woman they connect with and are attracted to who is 37 – or spend another few years (or more) single in the hope of marrying a 32 year old.

Having gotten married at age 41, I know what my answer is, but I’d like to know what our Gedolei Torah would say. My guess is they would agree with me, especially knowing the range of potential issurim waiting to ensnare even the most scrupulously religious unmarried man and all of the mitzvot, joy, and blessings that these men are missing out on without a spouse and family. Perhaps by clearly articulating their position, our rabbinic leaders could make a significant impact on the decisions of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of single men.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-happened-to-faith/2011/03/30/

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