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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘halacha’

Well Intentioned, but Wrong to Condone Homosexuality

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

It seems that the gay marriage is becoming ever more acceptable in society. From an NBC news website:

In a move described by one scholar as “inconceivable” just two years ago, 75 Republicans have signed the brief to be filed in the case of Proposition 8, a California law banning same-sex marriage, The New York Times reported. The nation’s high court will hear arguments on the law in late March.

Four former governors, including Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, and members of President George W. Bush’s cabinet, such as former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, signed the brief, the Times reported. Some of those, such as Meg Whitman, who ran for California governor in 2010, had once opposed same-sex marriage.

I have stated my position on this issue many times. Even though it seems inevitable that it will become the law of the land – I am opposed to legalizing gay marriage. This has nothing to do with how to treat people who have same sex attractions. My position on that is clear. They should be treated as equals among us. And there ought not be any discrimination or disparagement of them. Nor should we judge them. It is not our job to judge what other people do in the privacy of their own homes. Even if we suspect sinful behavior. What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is between them and God.

When it comes to interacting with openly gay people, we have an obligation to treat them with the human dignity that every one of God’s creations deserve. They are no less created in God’s image than people who are attracted to the opposite sex. Who we are attracted to does not define who we are. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, we ought to judge people by the content of their character. Being gay is not a character issue.

But that does not make gay sex permissible or excusable. The Torah is very clear about that too. It is a very serious violation of biblical law. There is no way around that no matter how compassionate we try to be. It is for this reason that I oppose gay marriage. Because the implication of that is to place a public imprimatur on behavior that is sinful. It is in effect koshering a forbidden lifestyle. Making gay marriage not just value neutral but something positive.

This ignores the underlying sinful behavior – completely removing it from the category of sin. By definition marriage gives a societal blessing a gay couple implying that that gay sex is as moral as heterosexual sex. We are saying via legislation that we approve equally of both types of behavior. Gay marriage does not only permit gay sex – it virtually endorses it as a completely legitimate alternative to heterosexual sex.

I don’t blame gay people for wanting to be treated as completely normal in every way possible. No one likes to be stigmatized – even a little bit. The homosexual community wants the world to look at them in the same way as they look at heterosexuals. As complete equals living a sin free lifestyle – same as heterosexual.

Much as I feel for their plight and their desire to be treated as normal, treating gay sex a sin free sex is not what the Torah intended by forbidding it.

This has nothing to do with how to treat gay people. But it has everything to do with how we treat gay sex. We cannot say it’s OK to have gay sex when it is not.

I know there are people who disagree with me on both sides of the issue. I have little patience for bigots who would deny human rights to a gay person and refuse to grant them any human dignity. But on the other side of the issue – sometimes one can have too much compassion and end up completely rationalizing away sex between two men. There is no doubt in my mind that it is a biblically forbidden act no matter what the circumstances are.

And yet well intentioned people are trying to rationalize the sin away entirety. This is the case with Rabbi Zev Farber. About a year ago he wrote an essay wherein he came up with a novel approach to gay sex that would completely take away any culpability for sin by two gay men engaging in it.

While acknowledging that there has been an evolution of sorts even among Haredim with respect to treating gay people with compassion, he felt that both an Agudah Statement as well as an RCA statement fell short of treating gay people fairly. The implication of both statements is that gay sex is still forbidden and that they must live celibate lives to avoid sin. Here is how he stated his problem:

I once suggested the following thought experiment to a colleague: “If, for some reason, it became clear that the Torah forbade you to ever get married or to ever have any satisfying intimate relationship, what would you do?” My own reaction to this question is: although part of me hopes I would be able to follow the dictates of the Torah, I have strong doubts about the possibility of success, and I trust that my friends and colleagues would be supportive of me either way.

His point of course is that it is unnatural if not impossible to ask a human being to deny his sex drive no matter what his sexual orientation is. And yet gay sex is a forbidden act according to the Torah. The vast majority of educated opinion is that gay people cannot change their sexual orientation. His solution is to apply a Halachic principle called Oness (pronounced Oh-Ness) Rachmana Patrei. If one is forced to commit a sin, the Torah exempts him from any culpability. The obvious question is, why should a voluntary act of sex (of any kind) at any given moment be considered forced?

Rabbi Farber argues that when there is no Halachic outlet at all to satisfy one’s natural sex drive then at some point that drive takes over and must be satisfied. That makes it an Oness – forced. When a gay person succumbs – he therefore is absolved of any guilt. He is in effect forced by his own God given nature to act in a way that would be forbidden to heterosexual men.

The problem is that this argument eliminates the sin of gay sex in it’s entirely. Heterosexual men would hardly violate that law. And gay men are exempt from it. So why would the Torah even mention it? Furthermore this argument can be used for pedophiles too. It is well known that pedophiles too cannot not control their attraction to children either. Oness Rachmana Patrei! There are of course reasons to forbid sex with minors. But the Onesss is still there… and we should not discriminate based his sexual orientation. Is there a soul anywhere that would agree with that?!

To Rabbi Farber’s credit, he does not advocate gay marriage in Judaism:

To be sure, calling something oness does not make the action halakhically permitted; it is not. Moreover, adopting the oness principle does not mean that halakha recognizes same sex qiddushin (Jewish marriage) – it does not.

The bottom line for me is that I think he errs in his use of the Halachic device of Oness Rachmana Patrei. And I also believe that he errs in suggesting we encourage “exclusivity and the forming of a loving and lasting relationship-bond as the optimal lifestyle for gay Orthodox Jews who feel they are oness and cannot be celibate.”

It is completely wrong to encourage a lifestyle that is conducive to sinful behavior. But I agree that we ought not be judgmental about it when we see it.

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Respect for Rabbis in the Political Sphere

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

In debates with their Haredi peers, national-religious youths will often be heard to demand why the Haredim do not respect national-religious rabbis. “What about our great Torah scholars!”

But why should the Haredim respect national-religious rabbis if those rabbis’ own community does not?

A letter released this week by deputy mayors belonging to the Jewish Home in the most public way possible—it was published on all the usual sites, including Haredi ones—asks the parties’ rabbis not to interfere with political decisions made by the party’s negotiating team or by the party’s Knesset members, even on the topic of yeshiva students’ military service.

Would a Haredi ever release such a letter?

The settlement movement, it is important to remember, was not the work of professionals and businessmen. It was the work of national-religious rabbis holding discussions at the home of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook through the wee hours of the morning. Hanan Porat and Yehuda Hazani are no longer with us, but we still have rabbis: Moshe Levinger—we’ll return to him—Yaakov Levin, Yaakov Novick, Yohanan Fried, Yoel Bin Nun, Menachem Felix. We still have great Torah scholars: Benny Katzover, Yehuda Etzion, Mati Dan, David Be’eri (of Ir David), Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever (of Amana). All of them participated in creating the settlement enterprise from their book stands at their respective yeshivot. That is what gave rise to the settlement revolution. The revolution in national-religious education, for that matter, was likewise the work of wise and devout rabbis, including Hayim Drukman, Dov Lior, Eliezer Melamed, and others.

And now they come and tell us that when it comes to truly important questions of morality and policy, decisions are to be made without the rabbis. Period.

How are they going to distinguish between what is permissible in politics and what is forbidden? How are they going to strike a balance between what is desirable and what is presently available? No problem. That’s the job of the new halakhic decision-makers: the “professionals.”

True, they never imbibed the Torah as did those rabbis, who for their entire lives have dedicated themselves to the Torah (in the vernacular: they put their heart and soul into it day and night. No movies. No Shlomo Artzi concerts). But apparently it makes no difference. Apparently the Torah does not rub off on its students. Apparently it is not in any way reflected in how they live their lives …

It’s all very strange to me. The Haredim, who regard the State of Israel as an entirely secular phenomenon lacking any and all sanctity, consult their rabbis about such matters. Yet the national-religious community—the community that burst forth into the world of national practicalities and leadership with the message that the State of Israel is the beginning of the redemption, that our country is God’s throne, that the politics of Israel is the politics of holiness—sends the rabbis home, the better to leave decisions to politicians and interested parties.

In a recent emergency meeting of Haredi rabbis in Bnei Brak, I saw precisely the opposite. The Knesset members stood at the rear with modesty and obvious veneration. They maybe even have been posing a little. But one way or another, it was moving. Respect for the Torah. A RECENT conversation with a young national-religious activist made clear to me that this is a deep-seated phenomenon among the younger generation. He sees the change as a positive development. “The rabbis don’t understand politics. Let them leave it to professionals.”

It’s not that he doesn’t respect the rabbis. He just leaves them out of the equation. In a debate with a Haredi he would go straight for the line about “our great Torah scholars,” but deep down he doesn’t in fact believe that Torah study improves a person.

Like him, I am not a Torah scholar. So why do I see things so differently? Is it just a matter of age?

Many of today’s young religious people have grown up in a culture that is more in touch with the media and secular literature than with rabbis, and may even be hostile to the latter. In an effort not to be different from the other guys on reserve duty, they run away from their rabbis. Is it realistic to demand they respect rabbis when their role models are businessmen and their commanders in the army? I received my initial education about respecting rabbis from my late father, an Auschwitz survivor. Once he took me to see the rebbe of Gur. Abba stood opposite the rebbe wearing a belt that one of the Hassidim had given him (“You go in to see the rebbe wearing a gartel”)—and burst into tears. The rebbe asked why he was crying. And my father answered: “Excitement.” I was nine years old, but I remember it as if it had happened yesterday.

Another One Rides the Bus

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Here we go again. Last week there was yet another ‘Mehadrin (sex segregated) bus story’ in the news.

Ynet reported that a young 22-year-old woman by the name of Miri Bleicher got onto a Mehadrin (sex segregated) bus. (It is not clear whether this was known to her – although from the description, it seems she was not at first aware of it.) She was promptly verbally abused by some of the passengers. Among the names they called her was “Shkisa” which is a pejorative often used to describe an irreligious and immodest Jewish woman. She was even spat upon by one passenger.

When she first boarded the bus she did not get off and re-enter the bus at the rear – as is required by Mehadrin buses. I say ‘required’ although if I recall correctly Israel passed a law against Mehadrin buses. But in the real world Mehadrin buses are going to happen whether anyone likes it or not. When the majority of a community desires it – that is the way it is going to be. Most people have learned to live with it when in those neighborhoods. But I digress.

While not bending to custom and re-entering the bus in the rear, Ms. Bleicher did quickly pass by the men sitting in the front and went to the rear.

This was not a short ride across town but an hour and a half trip to the city of Arad. Long story short – Ms. Bleicher said she was insulted the entire time and was brought to tears.

I can just hear all the “defenders of the faith” reactions. “She asked for it.” “She absolutely was confrontational.” All she had to do was re-enter the bus and sit in the back.” She was trying to make a statement – a feminist statement.” “She was a provocateur.” “She had an agenda.”

The truth is I don’t know what her agenda was or if she had one at all. My own feeling is that she did not know what kind of bus she was getting on to. She simply wanted to go from ‘here to there’. Once she realized what the situation was she refused to play along. I doubt that she got on the bus to make a point about ‘The big bad Haredim”. There were no cameras or microphones.

But even if she did have an agenda, what right did they have to harass her? One can see from the picture that she was as Tzanua (modestly dressed) as could be. There was no need to yell at her except for them to make their own point. Which is apparently that they are not going to let anyone interfere in their way of life on any level – no matter how innocuous such ‘interference’ may be. Accordingly – insulting a young woman to tears for the duration of an hour and a half bus trip is a perfectly legitimate way to make their point – as is spitting on her.

Unfortunately this is not a new story. Just a recurrence of similar ones. Only with a new victim. I realize that the majority of even extreme Haredim do not act this way. But there are far too many incidents like this for it to be an aberration.

I have no clue how to teach those who spit on others how to act in a civilized society. I’m not sure it is even possible. In my view the best way to handle a situation like this is to just give in to it. It is not worth the fight. They are not going to give up their way of life. The only thing I would fight is if they tried to extend their influence beyond their own borders and inflict their standards upon everyone else in Israel.

I bring this up to dismiss any thought that would blame Ms. Bleicher for her own troubles. There are always people who in cases like this will cast the victim as a provocateur. Even if they concede that the passengers were wrong. But even if I were to grant that she provoked these Haredi passengers (which I do not) the greater sin is not that she was a provocateur but in the way a fellow human being – not to mention a fellow Jew – was treated.

Lest anyone say that the passengers were exercising their natural right to freedom of speech just as she was exercising her right to enter the bus from the front – free speech does not include harassing or spitting on people.

Nor do I accept blaming the so called biased messenger as is so often the case. There are always those who will say the secular media is biased against Haredim and they therefore doubt the veracity of the story. I do not believe that Ynet made up the story. I believe it happened.

Then there are those who say that the reverse story of Haredim being mistreated by Hilonim (secular Jews) never gets reported. And they will give ample examples of it.

Perhaps that’s true, but it is irrelevant. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Let us examine that side of the coin for a moment. Are Hilonim naturally pre-disposed to bashing Haredim for no reason at all? As outrageous and wrong as their behavior toward Haredim sometimes is, it is not happening in a vacuum – out of the blue. They react to their prejudices the same way Haredim do.

The fact is that Hilonim and Haredim live segregated lives. So that each segment has no other frame of reference other than what they have been indoctrinated to believe (in he case of Haredim) or what they see reported in the news media (in the case of Hilonim). Unfortunately it is human nature to paint an entire group with the broad brush of prejudice in such circumstances. I think that’s true for both communities.

For Haredim – their views are skewed by their teachers who constantly bash the Hiloni community as “out to get them.”

For Hilonim – they take their cues from the constant news reports about Haredi misdeeds that seem to be a staple of daily life. Like the one in this post. Need I mention the many others that they are infamous for? To mention just one of the more egregious ones that come to mind is when a few of extremist Haredim in Ramat Bet Shemesh B screamed “whore” an assorted other indignities at 8 an year old girl on her way to school last year. There are so many incidents like this one – and worse – that it would take up far too much space in a relative short blog-post to mention them all. On top of that, there is resentment at how Haredim view the army and seem to extort the government for funding in exchange for their vote.

When a Hiloni sees someone who looks Haredi – these thoughts could very well be on his mind. And the more aggressive ones might be moved to attack him at least verbally. Not because he did anything wrong. But because he sees a Haredi as a member of a group that represents all that. That of course is does not justify it at all.It is painting them all with a broad brush. But it does explain it.

I believe all this could change if the two communities would integrate rather than isolate. Sadly that is highly unlikely on both sides. There is too much water under the bridge.

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Are the Ultra Orthodox Incapable of Seeing God Fearing in National Religious Jews?

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Last Friday, Cross Currents published an essay by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein that I consider to be of seminal importance. It is illustrative of one of the biggest problems impeding the future of Judaism. It involves the way the Charedi world is educated and the reaction of at least one of their rabbinic leaders to it. It is almost as if he had an epiphany.

The article itself involves a Kiddush HaShem that was done by Akiva Finkelstein, an 18-year old Dati Leumi honors student in Israel, and in and of itself is not anything we haven’t seen before. From Cross Currents:

An honor student in a dati Leumi school, he trained for eight years, and became Israel’s welterweight champion, and representative at an international competition in Armenia. Scheduled to fight motza’ei Shabbos, a change in the rules demanded that he be weighed in on Shabbos itself. His father flew in to help argue the case for him, and convinced the powers that be that Akiva could not get on the scale, but it would be OK if the officials lifted him on to the scale. At the appointed hour, the overall boss balked at this in a monumental act of small-mindedness, and told Akiva that he would either step on the scale himself or be disqualified. The secular Israeli coach urged him to do it. Akiva refused; in a single instant, he sacrificed eight years of training.

It was indeed a tremendous sacrifice and a true Kiddush HaShem. Unfortunately, the story does not end there. Rabbi Adlerstein goes on to tell how an unnamed Torah personality contacted him about the reaction by some members of his own Charedi community. He was extremely upset by it. What upset him? Again – from Cross Currents:

These comments gave Akiva no credit for the decision, but denigrated the eight years of training. Think of all the Torah he could have learned in the time he spent outside the Bais Medrash! Akiva was a loser, and so were his parents.

If I were to say that this reaction sickened me and ask what is becoming of the Yeshiva world – I would be called a Charedi basher. That is in fact how I have reacted many times to this kind of thinking.

But it was not me reacting to it this time. That was precisely the reaction this Torah personality had. In fact if one goes on to read the rest of Rabbi Adlerstein’s description of that personality’s reaction it could have easily have been me saying it. Bottom line is that he asked Rabbi Adlerstein to write about it.

That is the silver lining of hope for change in Charedi education.

It was very revealing that what many if us have known for years about the attitude of some on the right, is apparently proven to be a fact. It is also gratifying to know that a Torah personality is now aware of it and is pained by it.

I have written extensively in the past about correcting this erroneous Hashkafa that Charedi students have somehow incorporated into their thinking. At least there are now Charedi leaders that see this too. And saying so. At least anonymously. But the fact that this leader refuses to both be identified or personally address the problem in his own words and instead asks that a surrogate do it for him is part of the problem too.

I can attempt a guess at who it might have been. I know two members of the Agudah Moetzes personally and one by reputation and all three could have had this reaction. But it could have been anyone – including those who are not on the Agudah Moetzes.

I’m glad that there are Charedi leaders on the same page with me on this. But the fact that they refuse to make their views public and put the power and prestige of their own names behind it is one reason the problem will no doubt be perpetuated. This silver lining therefore contains a cloud.

What will it take to make this Charedi Rabbinic leader come out of the closet on this? I would be willing to bet that he is not the only one among his peers that feels that way. Being pained is not enough. Even making it known in an anonymous way is not enough. If the pendulum is to swing back sooner rather than later on this it’s going to take a lot more than expressing pain anonymously.

I don’t know why he refused to be identified. My hope is that he reads my comments or others like it and reconsiders. It is only then that a community that views the concept of Daas Torah as embodied by their Gedolim as defacto infallible that things have any chance of changing.

A word about criticizing Charedi rabbinic leaders.

There are some people that will see this post as a jumping off point for bashing members of the Agudah Moetzes and other Charedi rabbinic leaders. That would be terribly wrong in my view. I know there is a lot of anger out there about the reactions of the right about issues affecting the Jewish people. Good and well-intentioned people are perplexed by it.

But just as there are reasons that good and sincere people are upset, does not make those they are upset at bad people, God forbid. Charedi rabbinic leaders like those on the Agudah Moetzes are sincere too. They too have integrity. I firmly believe that they are as truthful and devout as their reputations indicate. They firmly believe that everything they do and say in the public arena is in the best interest of the Jewish people. And they have a lot more Torah knowledge that most of us.

That they can and sometimes do make mistakes is because they are human. It is also true that differing Hashkafos will sometimes lead to different interpretations of what is seen as a mistake. It is therefore entirely wrong to denigrate them in any way. What we may do is respectfully disagree with them. Which is a standard I try and maintain when I do it. I ask that if people comment on this – that they do the same.

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Whose Judaism is it Anyway?

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: Every once in a while I will receive a request from one of my readers to publish an essay they have written. My response usually is to send it and if I like it, I will publish it. These essays do not necessarily have to agree with me lock stock and barrel. They can be opposition pieces to what my stated views are. But they cannot advocate positions that I am diametrically opposed to. More often than not, these submissions are rejected for a variety of reasons – among them: they may not measure up to my publishing standards; or they may not be appropriate subjects for my blog; or are so off the wall that they are embarrassing. But every once in a while a submission not only meets my minimum standards,they supersede them. Usually those submissions are from a professional writers who have either published books or articles before. But not always. Sometimes I receive a submission out of the blue that is quite exceptional in both style and content. Today’s guest post is by one such individual. He is all of 15 years old. Here in part is the bio he submitted:

My name is Michael Weiner, I am 15 years old, and currently live in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. I go to school at Kohelet Yeshiva High School. I moved here from Northern California just a few months ago, in order to go to a religious high school. I went to a Jewish community school from K-8, where I and my brother were 2 out of 3 religiously observant kids. It was, to say the least, quite an experience! I have gone to a Moshava summer camp for the past 4 years, and am currently involved in Bnei Akiva. I consider myself to be Modern Orthodox, and a Zionist, although I don’t hesitate to criticize Israel if I feel it’s necessary.

I am a huge admirer of the Rav, and his writings. Reading ‘The Lonely Man of Faith’ greatly changed the way I view God, Judaism, and life in general. Today, I am most likely going to go to YU, but secular college is not out of the window, because I believe that a secular collegiate experience has many important positive aspects.

However, regardless of one’s lifestyle choices, they must always remain a Jew above all else. This entails being Kovei’ah Zman Ittim, and infusing all that you do in your daily life with a perspective filtered by halacha and Jewish values (however you define that, be it Tikkun Olam or Talmud Torah).

One word. Wow! He also has his own blog. His post follows unedited in its entirety:

Whose Judaism is Anyways?

The title of this post is a question that has no one answer. The tragedy that we face today is that everyone thinks they are the sole possessors of the answer, and that their way of practicing Judaism is undoubtedly more meaningful, more traditional, and ultimately more authentic. This, in my opinion, is the greatest barrier to achdus in the frum community, and general Jewish community at large.

Simply stated, it’s an inability to recognize that Judaism is multi-faceted, halachah is not monolithic, and that for thousands of years, Jews have looked, ate, talked, and sometimes even behaved differently then each other. This is historical fact. During most of the current galus from Israel, we have been different. These differences however, are not the obstacle to unity. The obstacle to unity is the failure to recognize that these differences are normal, and trivial.

In the early years of the 20th century, Agudas Yisroel was formed. This was one of the very first organizations where Chassidim and Misnagdim worked together to find creative solutions to community problems. The Gedolei Yisrael, and laymen of that generation understood that the powerful Haskalah movement was a force that needed to be reckoned with. It presented dangers that made it necessary for a wide variety of Jews to come together and decide how best to respond to such a threat.

The Chafetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Radzhiner Rebbe, and Rav Chaim Ozer Gradzinski decided that enough was enough. Achdus within the religious community was the only way to stand a chance against the roaring fire of modernity that was quickly consuming all of Europe, eventually reaching even the closeted Pale of Settlement, and other Jewish ghettoes.

Stop Citing Halachah

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

One can well imagine the ”danger” facing a Rabbi walking into a room of very tired and overworked Jewish women just days before the onset of Pesach. And yet, perhaps in a moment of temporary amnesia, I agreed to a lecture on the topic of Chametz at that very moment.

Needless to say, the women in the room were not the greatest fans of Rabbis/Jewish Law that week. While listening attentively to the multitude of tasks these fine women were doing during the prior weeks, it was hard for me to find Jewish law as the cause of their justified fatigue and frustration. After hearing about the many windows cleaned, together with closets of clothing and bookshelves that were dusted, I felt compelled to state; “Ladies, you have been working very hard. I am sure that you have more on your list this coming week and I wish you luck to reach your objectives. But please, don’t blame Halacha. If you have decided to engage in Spring cleaning days before Pesach, don’t fault Jewish law that doesn’t obligate it. It’s not the accepted and established Halacha governing the abolishment of Chametz that is obligating the cleaning of windows and bookshelves, but rather your own agendas for your homes!”

While the statement above didn’t go very far at changing their cleaning plans, even after an entire lecture as to what exactly Jewish law demands of a home prior to Pesach, the distinction above between the dictates of Jewish law versus one’s personal or communal agenda seems to have been once again misused during these past few weeks.

Certain parties running for Knesset have stated that having women run on their ticket is “against Halacha.” Another organization recently stated that only men would be speaking  at their upcoming conference as “women speaking before men is against Halacha.” Going a step further, a prominent leader stated that forming more parties within the limited religious world “is against the Torah.”  From the above examples, all occurring within the recent short period of time, it seems that there are endless outright violations of Halacha that it would be a challenge to form a minyan of non-Sinners in a typical religious neighborhood!

Halacha” has colloquially been understood and utilized as the term that stands behind the obligations of what a Jew must do and those that a Jew must never do. When utilizing this term today, we should be speaking about those areas in Jewish law where there is no or hardly no controversy. Such obligations are those directly commanded by G-d, in addition to the many later enactments of the sages that Maimonides clams ”Hiskimu Alehem kol Yisrael,” meaning “the entirety of the Jewish people have acquiesced to their obligation.” [See Rambam, Introduction to the Yad-Hachazaka.]

But the above examples are a far cry from the definition. No matter how important private or public policies and agendas G-d fearing Jews would like to see advanced, even those items that have certain bearings of Jewish law, they are far from being “the Halacha“! While halachik sources are, and sometimes should be quoted, when speaking of the character of the public thoroughfare, how can an opinion of what it should look like be the unequivocal Halacha?!

I wouldn’t bat an eyelash if one would state that, based on their understanding of Jewish law, or based on the Rabbinic leaders they adhere to, women should not be on a Knesset ticket. I would greatly respect those that buttress their respective point of view on sources from our Torah. But stating that this or that view of Jewish hashkafa (Jewish Thought) is the Halacha, is creating three drastic consequences in the Jewish community.

Firstly, it delegitimizes opposing views. While there is no dispute that eating meat and milk together is forbidden, and there will not be a controversy on the fact that the Sabbath day has restrictions, machloket (controversy or a difference of opinion) is almost synonymous with Jewish law in so many areas, and much more so when dealing with Jewish lore, thought and public policy. It would be virtually impossible to find one cohesive point of view within the Gemara on how our sages viewed working for a living, women, sexual relations and so much more. Sources exist various sides of the coin, and we should be prepared that a difference of opinion will exist within the legitimacy of adhering to Jewish law.

Moreover, using Halacha as the term to promote a point of view is placing all that don’t agree, relying on their own Rabbinic leaders, in a camp of those that don’t adhere to the dictates of Halacha. While I respect anyone that has a personal, communal or national agenda to promote, using the term Halacha places all those not in favor in an anti-Halacha camp. Aside from this being a false and destructive submission, this creates a terrible feeling amongst wonderfully, G-d fearing Jews that their point of view is against Jewish law, and thus they are, at best, second rate Jews!

When One Forgets To Say Vesein Tal U’matar

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The Jews living outside Eretz Yisrael began reciting vesein tal u’matar in the Shemoneh Esrei this week. If one does not say vesein tal u’matar (instead continuing to say “vesein berachah”) and finishes the Shemoneh Esrei, he must repeat the Shemoneh Esrei. If one accidentally does not daven at all, he must daven two Shemoneh Esreis during the following tefillah. If one did not say vesein tal u’matar and finished davening and only remembers this fact at the time of the next tefillah, he must daven two Shemoneh Esreis at the next tefillah.

If one does not recite ya’aleh veyavo during Shacharis and only remembers to do so during Minchah, he must daven two Shemoneh Esreis during Minchah. Tosafos, in Berachos 26b, says that if one forgets to say ya’aleh veyavo at Minchah on Rosh Chodesh or on any other day that we recite ya’aleh veyavo, he does not repeat Shemoneh Esrei during Ma’ariv. This is because at Ma’ariv he can no longer say ya’aleh veyavo since Rosh Chodesh is over, and he already davened the 19 berachos of Shemoneh Esrei. As the only reason why he would repeat the Shemoneh Esrei would be to say ya’aleh veyavo, he should not repeat the Shemoneh Esrei at all since he cannot recite ya’aleh veyavo during Ma’ariv (which is the next day).

Reb Chaim Soloveitchik (stensils 1) says that the halacha of Tosafos does not apply to one who forgets to recite vesein tal u’matar on Friday by Minchah. For even though he will not be able to say vesein tal u’matar by Ma’ariv (since it is Shabbos), he must nevertheless repeat the Shemoneh Esrei. He explains that this is because when one fails to say vesein tal u’matar it is different than when one does not recite ya’aleh veyavo. Even if one forgets to say ya’aleh veyavo, he has fulfilled his obligation in davening – except that he lacks having recited an external prayer, namely ya’aleh veyavo.

On the other hand, when one fails to mention vesein tal u’matar he lacks having said the actual berachah of “bareich aleinu” and has therefore not fulfilled his obligation in davening. Vesein tal u’matar is not an external prayer that we insert into the Shemoneh Esrei; rather, it is part of the actual berachah. So when one does not say it he has not fulfilled his obligation in davening and it is as if he had not davened at all. As a result he must daven two Shemoneh Esreis at Ma’ariv on Shabbos, even though he will not be reciting vesein tal u’matar in those Shemoneh Esreis.

Many have asked the following question on Reb Chaim’s halacha: The Gemara in Berachos 29a says that if one does not mention vesein tal u’matar in its proper place (in “bareich aleinu…”) he can say it in “…shomeia tefillah.” The halacha follows this Gemara, as it is found in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 117:5. If vesein tal u’matar is indeed part of the actual berachah of “bareich aleinu,” how can one say it in a different berachah?

If one only remembers that he forgot to mention vesein tal u’matar after he has already passed the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” but before he has finished Shemoneh Esrei, there is a machlokes Rishonim as to where he must return to in the Shemoneh Esrei – “bareich aleinu” or “shomeia tefillah.” Tosafos, in Ta’anis 3b, says that one should return to the berachah of “shomeia tefillah.” The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 10:9) and the Shulchan Aruch say that one must return to the berachah of “bareich aleinu.”

It seems that the Rishonim who opine that one should return to the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” do not believe that vesein tal u’matar is part of the actual berachah of “bareich aleinu” They believe that it is an added request (bakashah) that can either be inserted in the berachah of “bareich aleinu” or “shomeia tefillah.” Therefore, when one realizes that he did not say vesein tal u’matar and has already passed “shomeia tefillah,” he should go back to the nearest berachah where he may recite this request.

The Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, who both say that one should return all the way back to the berachah of “bareich aleinu,” seemingly hold that vesein tal u’matar is part of the berachah of “bareich aleinu” Hence they say that one should return to “bareich aleinu” even though the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” is closer. The reason why we allow one who forgot to say vesein tal u’matar in “bareich aleinu” to recite it in the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” (if he remembers before he gets there) is because the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” serves as a tashlumin for all the middle berachos of Shemoneh Esrei. Similarly, if one forgot to say any of the integral parts of any other middle berachah, he would be able to make it up in the berachah of “shomeia tefillah” (see Be’er Halacha 117:5 d”h im). But when one forgets to mention it even in the berachah of “shomeia tefillah,” the halacha of tashlumin no longer applies and he must return to the berachah of which it is a part – namely “bareich aleinu.”

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Words Of Thanks

I am a resident of Sea Gate and a victim of Sandy.

Our community was hit hard. No house was spared, and while some sustained more damage than others, all our basements were flooded and had to be completely demolished, with everything torn out and disposed of. The magnitude of this disaster cannot be fathomed unless you experienced it.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the New York City sanitation and police departments for their wonderful work. To Shomrim and Hatzolah and all the many individual volunteers who joined in the cleanup and recovery efforts: there are no words.

We are so grateful. May Hashem repay all of you.

Machi Spitzer
Brooklyn, NY

Two Very Special People (I)

Naomi Klass Mauer’s yahrzeit tribute to her mother, Irene Klass, and her husband, Dr. Ivan Mauer, was beautiful and moving (“Two Years Ago – Two Very Special People,” op-ed, Nov. 30).

I was privileged to know them both, and she captured their essence perfectly.

Barbara Gilor
(Via E-Mail)

Two Very Special People (II)

Naomi Klass Mauer’s article about her mother and husband was very touching.

Irene Klass was the embodiment of chesed and creating a Jewish household. Ivan Mauer was very smart and loved opening up a sefer or book, digesting it, and sharing it at the Shabbos table. Though his wit was sharp, his heart was soft.

Naftali Armon, Esq.
New York, NY

Halacha And Female Kosher Supervisors

There was something very crucial lacking from “The Mashgiach Wore a Dress: The Fight over Opening Kosher Supervision to Women” (news story, Nov. 30) – namely, what the halacha on this matter happens to be.

I would therefore like to note the opinion of Reb Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, who clearly writes in Igros Moshe (Yorah Deah 2:44, 45) that a woman may not serve as a mashgiach for kashrus. The prohibition has nothing to do with the idea being “new,” as Emunah chairwoman Liora Minka maintains, nor does it have anything to do with the halachos being beyond the comprehension of women.

Of course we should assume that the people involved are all working l’shem shamayim. However, I do not understand why Minka is ready to take her female kashrut supervisors case all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court. If the Chief Rabbinate says it is not in accordance with halacha, why is she seeking government intervention? Does she honestly believe she knows better than the Chief Rabbinate or Reb Moshe? It seems there is another objective here

Max Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

U.S. Support For Israel

I was fascinated by Walter Russell Mead’s front-page essay last week (“Why Americans Support Israel”). Like many of my fellow Jews, I have always feared the existence of widespread latent anti-Semitism in America and especially its coming to the fore in times of economic crisis.

In some ways this fear was largely irrational inasmuch as there has never been a country as hospitable to Jews and their religious practices as the United States. Professor Mead seems to point to American traits of realism and fundamental honesty as underlying the broad support in this country for Israel.

Perhaps it takes European-style sophistication for Israel to always be perceived as wrong.

David Perlmutter
(Via E-Mail)

Polish Court’s Ruling On Shechita

I view the anti-ritual slaughter decision in Poland as an ominous sign (“Polish Court Rules Against Ritual Slaughter,” news brief, Nov. 30).

While it is true that the elected government sought to protect both Jewish and Muslim religious slaughter, and it was a court that disallowed it, I am afraid the prohibition will nevertheless gain traction throughout Poland. The court found that exempting religious slaughter from the general stunning requirement in order to accommodate religious practice was arbitrary and therefore unconstitutional.

Since stunning is usually a means of ensuring the humane treatment of animals during the slaughtering process by eliminating the possibility of pain, the court ruling effectively declared and underscored that religious tenets that prohibit stunning during animal slaughter are inhumane. That does not bode well for kosher slaughter.

Shimon Geller
Los Angeles, CA

Rice And Libya

Re “Some Questions for Ambassador Rice” (editorial, Nov. 30):

While I do think Ms. Rice is not really responsible for her misleading statements concerning the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, I also think she might be able to shed important light on how she herself was initially misled and whether there was a larger cover-up of the failure to provide protection to American personnel there.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-229/2012/12/05/

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