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February 22, 2017 / 26 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘halachah’

Why Don’t We Celebrate Two Days of Purim in Jerusalem?

15 Adar 5773 – February 24, 2013

While the rest of Israel celebrates Purim this Sunday (the 14th of Adar), Jerusalem celebrates on Monday (the 15th of Adar).

Why?

Well, the easy answer is “because Jerusalem is a walled city from the time of Joshua.”

Which is partially right.  Jerusalem was a walled city in the time of Joshua, but the walls we see today were built in the 1500s, in the Ottoman Era.  From the early 13th century and until the mid-16th century, Jerusalem was not a walled city at all.  And indeed, it was unclear to the Jews of that time when they should celebrate Purim.

Rabbi Eshtori Ha-Parchi of the 14th century tells us that when he came to Israel, he was told that in Jerusalem they celebrated on both the 14th and 15th of Adar, as they were uncertain which one they were obligated to keep.  Rabbi Eshtori brings an entire Halachic discussion about what should be done, and adds that he wrote his rabbi, Rabbi Matityah in Bet-Shean, to ask him what he should do.

Rabbi Matityah wrote him back: If I would be in Jerusalem on the 14th of Adar, and they would read the Megillah, I would leave the synagogue.  Otherwise they could say about me “The fool walketh in darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2, 14).  And the same is true for Tiberias.

Rabbi Eshtori finished by saying that Rabbi Matityah is right.

We don’t know what changed the minds of the Jews of Jerusalem, but today there is no doubt – and we celebrate Purim in Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar.

Visit the Muqata.

Menachem Elon: The Sweet Revolutionary

11 Adar 5773 – February 20, 2013

Justice Menachem Elon, who passed away on February 6, revolutionized the study of Jewish law, Mishpat Ivri. He personally took the Choshen Mishpat – the hornbook of Torah laws on interpersonal relations – out of the closet of the yeshivas, where it was the specialized expertise of rabbis given the honorific accolade of Yadin Yadin, into the modern courtroom.

Scores of leading American law schools now emulate Elon and offer courses in Jewish or Talmudic law. Israeli lawmakers in the Knesset now look proudly to our traditional teachings when they enact laws that govern a contemporary society because Elon taught them that the wisdom of centuries of rabbinic study and debate can guide a modern society.

He was an intellectual revolutionary, but unlike most historic figures who have broken new paths, he had no ego. All who knew him were struck by his humility, personal grace, compassion, and sweetness. Lawyers are a contentious lot, but Menachem Elon – a mentor to hundreds of lawyers – had no sharp elbows. Though he differed frequently with colleagues on the Israeli Supreme Court – and particularly with Aharon Barak, who served as president of the court for much of Elon’s tenure – he never was heard to utter an unkind word about those with whom he disagreed.

As a frequent guest in the Elon home and one who was in tune with virtually all his views, I expected expressions of acrimony from him over issues on which his opinions were rejected by less traditionally oriented colleagues. I never heard what I expected. Dissenting judges frequently say, “I respectfully disagree,” not truly meaning the respect that the words express. Justice Elon truly respected even those who disagreed or did not comprehend his own commitment to Torah and Halacha.

A remarkable feature of Elon’s scholarship was his insistence on personally doing the work that bore his name. When I first met him, the English translation of his monumental Ha-Mishpat Ha-Ivri was being crafted by American lawyers and scholars Bernard Auerbach and Melvin J. Sykes. Elon happily confided in me how much he enjoyed his many sessions with the translators, reviewing punctiliously the remarkable work they did in making his landmark treatise understandable (and even enjoyable) to English-speaking readers.

In their Introduction to the Jewish Publication Society’s four-volume translation, Auerbach and Sykes observed that they had benefited from “the many hours we have spent with Justice Elon” and said that the product was “more than just a translation, our work has been a collaboration with him.”

Justice Elon encouraged me to file friend-of-the-court briefs in cases pending in the United States Supreme Court to transmit to the American justices the wisdom of Jewish law on issues that came before the court.

In 1999 and again in 2007 the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of execution methods that were excessively cruel. A brief I wrote and filed in 1999 on behalf of Jewish groups appended 30 pages from an English translation of the Talmud in Sanhedrin. My friend-of-the-court brief concluded with the observation that “if execution by the electric chair, as administered in Florida, results in unnecessary pain and disfigurement, it would be unacceptable under the principles underlying the traditional Jewish legal system applied 2,000 years ago, and should also be unacceptable under the Eighth Amendment today.”

To top off more ancient authorities, I cited and quoted Justice Elon’s conclusion in an opinion he wrote for the Israeli Supreme Court in State of Israel v. Tamir:

According to Jewish law, a death sentence must be carried out with the minimum of suffering and without offense to human dignity. This is based on the biblical verse, “Love your fellow as yourself,” and the rule is, “Choose for him a humane death.” From this we declare that even a condemned felon is your “fellow.” The justice gave my brief – which I sent him in draft form before I filed it – the personal attention and critical review I had hoped for, and he even considered seriously (but wisely rejected) my request that he formally attach his name to it.

He was, of course, a master of the Hebrew language, and he wrote lovingly and poetically not only about the law but also about Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. He came within a hairs-breadth of being selected Israel’s president, and no one could have filled that position with greater elegance than Menachem Elon.

The Ketubah as a Prenup

1 Adar 5773 – February 10, 2013

I was just reading an article in The Forward about a “Jewish prenuptial agreement” being upheld in the American courts.

For the first time, a state court has affirmed the constitutionality of a Modern Orthodox-sponsored prenuptial agreement meant to protect agunot — Jewish women “chained” by husbands who refuse to grant them a religious divorce. Read more.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have always considered the Ketubah, Jewish Marriage “contract” to be a prenup of sorts.  Actually, it’s not a contract; it’s more of a signed pledge by the husband to give financial compensation to the wife if the marriage must end.

The main purpose of the ketubah is to prevent a husband divorcing his wife against her will, which, in talmudic times, he had the right to do. The knowledge that he had to pay his wife her ketubah would serve as a check against hasty divorce.

The wife promises nothing in return.  The Chabad site adds more information:

The ketubah is a binding document which details the husband’s obligations to his wife, showing that marriage is more than a physical-spiritual union; it is a legal and moral commitment. The ketubah states the principal obligations of the groom to provide his wife with food, clothing and affection along with other contractual obligations.

If the Ketubah would be taken seriously, as an enforceable legal document then there would be fewer agunot, “chained” women awaiting Jewish divorce from their husbands.  And maybe some men would think a lot more before threatening their wives with divorce.

What’s interesting is that the Ketubah actually gives the wife the upper hand in marriage.  It lists what the husband must do and basically takes for granted that the wife will do whatever is expected.  She doesn’t sign the document.

It’s too bad that the Ketubah isn’t taken more seriously in courts, both in Israel and abroad.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Telling it Like it is – Publicly

29 Tevet 5773 – January 10, 2013

There is a thoughtful and challenging post by Dr. Yoel Finkelman on CrossCurrents that discusses an issue I touched upon in aprevious post. Therein – among other things – I bemoaned the fact that a Torah personality of renown chose to remain anonymous about expressing some very strong feelings he had. He was disappointed and even shocked at how members of his own Charedi world reacted to a Kiddush HaShem done by an Orthodox Boxer.

I don’t know who it is, but I applaud that Rabbi’s concern. However I still question why he chooses to remain anonymous about it. I felt then, as I still do that had he put the power and prestige of his own name behind his feelings instead of asking a prominent writer (Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein) to write about it, the impact would have been much greater.

Dr. Finkelman uses this as a jumping off point to ask why this Torah personality felt he had to hide his identity from the truth. If he truly felt he was espousing a Torah viewpoint, why not come out and say so? What was he afraid of?

Dr. Finkelman provides us with an answer: The infamous Kanoim (religious zealots). We all know about them by now. These are people who ride roughshod on rabbinic personalities and try and manipulate them under the guise of standing up for Torah values. There are consequences when a given Gadol doesn’t listen to them.

I recall an instance where a Torah personality said something similar to Jonathan Rosenblum about another important issue. He was afraid of being called a ‘Fake Gadol’ by stating his opinion on the matter. He therefore chose to not address the problem personally and allowed Jonathan to do it in his stead.

I have said it before and I will say it again. No matter how altruistic one is – if he is afraid to speak the truth out of fear of being attacked, that is not leadership.

Now I am sympathetic to someone that fears the consequences from a zealous group of ‘defenders of the faith’. If someone is not in a position of leadership that is one thing. But if he is, then he is required to stand up and to lead.

Although I do not hide behind an alias, I am not in a position of leadership and do not face the kind of zealotry that these Rabbinic leaders must face. However with a relatively large readership that spans the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy and beyond – I have certainly experienced some of that zealotry. It is not pleasant when it happens. And it affects my family. I almost stopped blogging a while ago because of it. But I feel it is important to speak the truth as I see it and understand it.  Occasionally I have suffered the consequences for that and have been attacked (verbally) on more than one occasion.

Whatever pressures I have felt, multiply that exponentially for a Torah personality of national or international repute. I therefore completely understand when a rabbinic leader fears the repercussions of his words. So even though our situations are similar, they are not comparable.

Perhaps it is easy for me to judge, not being in his shoes. But the truth is that if one is a leader one must rise to the occasion and overcome the fear. If we are to be a people of the highest morals, values, and ethics, it behooves our leaders to be unafraid to teach us what they are… even if it upsets a few zealots.

I would go a step further, if I were in his shoes. I would condemn these Kannaim and put them in their place publicly and de-fang them. They should be identified and told to cease and desist from the overly zealous pressure they put on their leaders. On the pain of excommunication (or something akin to it) by a Beis Din.

All of this begs the question about the actual value of Daas Torah as the Charedi Rabbanim teach it. The fact seems to be that there are issues they believe in which are not publicly addressed. And yet at virtually every Agudah convention at least one speaker, talks about the importance of listening to Daas Torah and hammers away at it.

Daas Torah defines what Agudah is all about. But if their rabbinic leaders cannot express their Daas Torah fully and freely out of fear, what is it really worth anyway? Partial Daas Torah is not Daas Torah. It behooves the membership of the Agudah Moetzes and other rabbinic leaders of prominence to reassess their fears and stand up for their beliefs. And not fear telling the people the word of God as they understand it.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

My Machberes

9 Heshvan 5773 – October 24, 2012

Satmar Shidduch

In the midst of preparations for the grand Satmar chassunah held on Wednesday, October 17, another grandchild of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe, became engaged. On October 15, Zvi Hersh Meisels was engaged to the daughter of Rabbi Naftali Meir Babad, Tarnopol Rav in Kensington and Tartikov Rosh Beis Din; son of Rabbi Asher Aleksander Babad, zt”l (1910-1985), Tartikover Rav, and son-in-law of Rabbi Kalman Pinter, zt”l (d. 2009), Sulzberger Rav.

The chassan is the son of Rabbi Shimon Zev Meisels, Rav of the Beirach Moshe district of Kiryas Yoel and author of Sefer Binyan Shimon. The chassan is the grandson of Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Meisels, Seagate Rav, as well as of Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe. The engagement was formalized in the home of the kallah’s father in Boro Park. In Kiryas Yoel, long lines led to the home of the Satmar Rebbe where well-wishers gave their joyous mazel tovs.

Women And Hatzolah

Rachel Freier, an attorney representing women in the greater Boro Park community, had long felt there was a need for emergency services for women in labor to conform to our community’s level of modesty. The idea “has nothing to do with feminism, it has to do with the dignity of women and their modesty,” said Mrs. Freier.

Though turned down by Hatzolah, she was careful to avoid framing the proposal as a critique of the widely praised organization, whose work she respects greatly. Instead, she said it was a matter of reclaiming a “job that has been the role of women for thousands of years [that of a midwife].” We are proud of Hatzolah,” she said, adding, “Hatzolah leaders do not fully understand what a woman feels like when she is in labor.”

Ezras Nashim, Hebrew for “women’s section,” the name of the new organization, is modeled after a program created two years ago in New Square. Hatzolah’s four-member rabbinical board released a memo for members saying they would not engage in discussions on the matter. A similar proposal had been rejected some 25 years ago.

Mrs. Freier had attempted to reach Hatzolah’s leaders to arrange a meeting. “The initial plan was for me to meet with Hatzolah and explain the need for women to join,” she said. “However, I was told that the policy of women not joining Hatzolah was set years ago…. We’re just trying to make a great organization even better. We’re not filing a complaint. We’re coming with a suggestion.”

On February 26 of this year, Mrs. Freier opened a recruitment drive for Ezras Nashim and a number of women indicated strong interest in joining. In total, Ezras Nashim had at its outset more than 200 women with various levels of medical training in its ranks. Mrs. Freier continued discussions on the matter with rabbinical leaders in the community. The new organization has the blessing of several rabbis.

Women And Burkas

In Israel, small groups of women living in some observant neighborhoods have chosen to wear burkas (a loose garment covering the entire body worn by Muslim women) in order to achieve maximum tznius. Not one recognized rabbi has endorsed burkas for Jewish women. On the contrary, several leading rabbis have strongly expressed their opposition to the strange behavior.

On Sunday, October 14, one of the “shawl women” was in the throes of childbirth and refused to be taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital for fear of chillul Shabbos.

The story began when a man rushed into the shul on Avraham Ben-David Street early Shabbos morning calling for assistance for his pregnant wife. A member of Ichud Hatzalah of Bnei Brak went with the man. As they were running to the apartment, an ambulance was summoned.

The husband, however, told the Hatzolah member to cancel the call, explaining that his wife would refuse an ambulance since it was Shabbos.

The husband and the Hatzolah member were met by a second the Hatzolah member when they reached the apartment. They tried persuading the mother to travel to the hospital by ambulance, but she refused.

The first Hatzolah member called his mother, a midwife, and the delivery took place at the apartment. After the delivery they again attempted to persuade the new mother to be taken by ambulance but she remained obstinate.

Just Say No… to the Nonsense of the iPhone Smashing Rabbis

29 Elul 5772 – September 16, 2012

Stories like the one in a Jerusalem Post article about the public smashing of an iphone by a Bnei Brak rabbi are so common place that reporting on them is no longer news worthy. And commenting on them has become an exercise in redundancy. In fact I just wrote about a story like this. This story takes it step further though. It is not only about how evil smart-phones are. It is about how vile and disgusting the people who own them are!

I am beginning to find that the more I see a story like this, the more I just want to fold up my tent, and go home. No matter how much one wants to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus and judge people and their actions favorably, a story like this comes along which makes it extremely difficult to do so. Here is an excerpt:

During his tirade, given from behind a table with an iPhone sitting on it, the rabbi inveighed against anyone possessing the popular smart phone. “A religious person who owns this impure device is an abomination and a disgusting, vile villain,” (Rabbi Lior) Glazer said.

OK. We all know about it. We all know that improper use of a smart-phone can lead to a disaster:

(Rabbi Lior) then gave an account of a man who had purchased an iPhone, which “ruined his life” and on account of which he got divorced from his wife.

Of course Rabbi Lior fails to take into account the very likely fact that this fellow probably had ‘issues’ that led him to “ruin his life” in that way. Issues that mentally healthy people do not.  That was the real cause of the problem.  As was the case with a Charedi principal who published his own story (in the now defunct Jewish Observer) of how he got caught up with child pornography on his computer.

As I recall him telling it, he said he never had any issues with child porn until he accidentally chanced upon it one day. Which led to him being caught in a police ‘sting’ operation. (Right!  He wanted us to believe that he was never a pedophile. As if the computer made him become one. Does anyone believe that?)

Nonetheless, Rabbi Lior, like virtually every other Rav in the very right-wing Charedi world of Bnei Brak blames such things on the technology. And not the abnormal psychology of the individual.

This is not to say that there aren’t problems for normal people. Of course there is. Especially for children whom we want to protect from these images. But this community sees a problem and uses the nuclear option to solve it! It is tantamount to killing a patient that has cancer in order to destroy the cancer.  Obvioulsy they see absolutely no value in smart-phones.  Which is why the following happened:

At the end of his sermon, the rabbi recited a brief prayer requesting that God defeat the nation of Amalek, an ancient enemy of the Israelites and Jewish people used as a catchall for evil in general. He then proceeded to smash the offending iPhone with a hammer in front of his audience until it was left in pieces on the table.

I need not mention how absolutely ridiculous this is. Or how much ignorance this shows about the value of iphones. Or how futile this gesture is. Or the possible Chilul HaShem this may be because of how ignorant it makes our rabbis look.

I also seriously doubt there are too many people who bought an iphone who will be moved to rid themselves of it by hearing of this.  Nor do I believe that of those Charedim who do own iphones would ever access pornography – except for those like that elementary school  principlal that have some sort of psychological problem.

One of the things that I believe to be driving this mentality is the idea that it is only a problem for religious Jews. And that the non Jewish world is evil by nature. Or just doesn’t care about it. We are not like the Goyim. We are a holy people! We must separate ourselves from them!  And THIS  is how a Torah Jew deals with it!  THIS is how we are Mekadesh Shem Shamyim – sanctify God’s name!

Really? That is another big mistake they make. There is not a decent parent in the civilized world – Jew or gentile – that isn’t concerned by what goes on in the dark corners of the internet. Pornography is available at a single click of a mouse.Chat rooms abound with pedophiles trying to lure victims into their net all the time. They are good at what they do. They can entice even the nicest and most innocent young girls or boys from the best of homes to come and see them under the most innocent sounding pretext.

This happens every day. Hundreds of times. These rabbis are not the only ones who know that. Everyone does. It is not a secret. We are all in this together – Jew and gentile alike. The Torah world is not unique in its very legitimate ‘fear’ of the internet’s very accessible dark side. That’s why there are filters. Filters –  and guidelines of internet use for children – that were created by non Jews.

No rational person should do to an iphone what Rabbi Lior and many others like him did, smashing it to pieces as though he was destroying Amalek… and treat anyone who uses an iphone as though they were the most vile people on earth!

A far better example for us is the non Jewish “First Family”. From the Daily Mail Online (May 12th):

Barack Obama has revealed that he made his eldest daughter wait until she was 12 before allowing her to have a cell phone. The President said that he finally agreed to give 13-year-old Malia a mobile last year – but banned her from using it during the week. His youngest daughter Sasha, nine, has been told she must wait before being given the same privilege.  During the week neither of the Presidential daughters can use their computers or watch TV for anything except homework either, he added.

This may not be the exact way we should handle it. But it is a lot closer to that than what Rabbi Lior did. I think most rational people realize that smashing iphones is not the way to solve the problems of the internet.

Or do they?

I wonder just how many people are affected by something like this. It isn’t like Rabbi Lior just decided out of the blue to smash an iphone in public. This technology was after all banned by another Bnei Brak Rabbi, whom many consider the Posek HaDor.  And he was not the only Charedi Rav in who banned it! Rabbi Lior and others like him are simply taking their cues from them.

Is it just a few extremists or are there actually mainstream Charedi Jews who so shun the internet that they would resort to smashing them when they find them – as if they were destroying Amalek?  Is this how the world of the right sees it?

Is this the issue they think will destroy the Jewish people more than any other? If that is the case, how are they going to treat the vast majority of Jews who will no doubt ignore this event and the edicts that generated it.  It isn’t only Modern Orthodox Jews that use smart phones. It is the Charedi world too. Like Agudah Executive Director, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, who pulled out his Blackberry during a speech he gave about the evils of the internet at the last Agudah convention!

Is there now going to be a new divide among Charedim themselves – the “evil” Charedim who are as vile as Amalek for having an iphone and those who think iphones should be smashed?

I almost hope that is the case. Because if that happens, I welcome the “evil” ones.  Because they are NOT evil.  They are normal. They will survive into the future. Those who smash iphones will isolate themselves into extinction. We should honor those who stay on the rational side of this new divide. And for their courage in just saying NO! to nonesense.

To Inform or Not to Inform – That is the Question

28 Elul 5772 – September 14, 2012

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has just come out with a statement joining Agudah in opposition to the proposed NYC legislation requiring  “informed consent” before going ahead with Metzitza B’Peh (MbP). This is in spite of the fact that they do not recommend the procedure for their own constituents.

I assume the reason for this is that they believe this to be a church state issue. And that they believe that even signing a consent form about a religious practice is a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to practice one’s religion freely. And that it may be a slippery slope to further – more serious intervention in religious rights.

I don’t want to re-hash the whole argument here. But I have to admit being conflicted about it – because both sides have valid issues.

Every time an argument is made by one side which all seem like good arguments – the other side comes out with an equally good argument for their side. Here are the questions:

Where do you draw the line between protecting your citizens and freedom of religion?

On the other hand – how does signing a consent form interfere with religion?

On the other hand -when the risk is so low, is there really a need for a consent form?

On the other hand – why not inform even if the risk is low – if it is really there?

On the other hand – if informing the public about this is the main concern, why not simply require that parents be informed? Why require government documentation?

On the other hand –  will a policy of informing the public actually be implemented without the government requirement to document it?

On the other hand – if one segment feels that MbP is a religious requirement and the risk is so low, maybe those people should not be required to sign a consent form – since it might scare people away from it unnecessarily?

For me, preventing the mouth from coming into contact with an open wound makes a lot of sense. Even if there never was a single case of herpes ever reported – doing something like that seems like the height of folly!

With all the bacteria a mouth is known to contain – and the possibility that it might contain bacteria or viruses that are very harmful to a vulnerable 8-day-old child while an adult carrier might not even be aware of it – it is not exactly rocket science to know that putting your mouth on an open wound is not a good idea. Add to that the recent cases of Herpes that government health agencies like the CDC believe to be caused by MbP – opposition to it seems like a no brainer.

But then there are the arguments put forth by others based on different medical experts who say the statistical probability of contracting a disease from the mouth of a Mohel is so low and that reported cases of MbP infection by a Mohel remain unproven, that any regulation at all – even signing a consent form is an unnecessary infringement by the government on the religious rights of its citizens.Add to that the fear of the ‘slippery slope’ argument and all the tumult in the world about circumcision in general (e.g. the ban on it by a German court in Cologne until the age of consent) – and it seems like that is a good argument to fight that proposed legislation.

So after taking another look at it – at this point I am just not sure. I still tend to side with not opposing the legislation because I don’t think there is a slippery slope here. Nor do I think that interferes with the right of a parent to go ahead with MbP if he chooses to. All it does is inform him about the possible dangers.

Will it scare him away? If he is a Chasid, probably not. If he is not a Chasid, let it scare him away. What is lost if he does Metzitza in a more hygienic way without direct oral contact? [Note:  an overview of how metzitza b’peh is not halachically required previously on this blog].

I can actually hear both sides of the argument. But it may be a moot point. It appears the city of New York has just approved the legislation.

The Emes Ve-Emunah People

27 Elul 5772 – September 13, 2012

Frankly, I did not expect anywhere near the discussion that ensued here yesterday about my poll. Even though I asked for input as to why people responded as they did, I never expected a response like this.

The poll is now closed. There were are 352 people who responded. Based on my daily average of about 1000 unique visitors (not factoring in Shabbos and Yom Tov) that is about 1/3 of my readership. (Actually, it’s probably less because there are many people who visit this blog regularly but not daily – so they may have missed this poll.) But for purposes of analysis let us say that out of the one thousand people who visit my blog, about a 1/3 participated.

One of the biggest criticisms from some who responded was that my categories were inadequate for a variety of reasons. To an extent I concede the point. It is absolutely true that these categories are too broad. It was also pointed out that I did not list enough of them. Those I listed didn’t fit their definition of themselves.…or they straddle one or more of them. True again.

Some people said that these categories are no longer applicable and that entirely new categories should have been designed. Very possibly the case.

Others said they hate labels. I completely understand that. The argument has been made that labels can have a divisive effect. Without them we would all be in the same boat and get along much better. Not sure I entirely agree with that one. But let’s move on.

The biggest flaw in this poll is that I did not define each category well enough – or not at all. One poster referenced an Avi Chai segmentation as described by Professor Marvin Schick. It had an entirely different meaning for the term Modern Orthodox than I give it. Professor Schick defines it the way I define Left-Wing Modern Orthodox. Although he defined Centrist Orthodoxy in the same way I did- to me Centrism is really a part of Modern Orthodoxy too – the right wing of it.

There are also clearly identifiable groups – like Moderate Chasdim or Lubavitch – that did not have a category. In my defense, I meant to include the former into the category of Moderate Charedim and the latter into Charedi-Chasidic. But that may not fit them exactly either. In any case I didn’t specify any of that so it’s my fault.

Yet another difficulty here is the very unscientific nature of a poll like this. There are many things that can affect the results here so that in the end the numbers do not reflect the reality, thus skewing the numbers unfairly in favor of one demographic. Besides – even the most carefully designed polls have a margin of error. 352 people responding means that 648 people did not. Who knows what they really think?

So if one takes all of these criticisms in the aggregate, one has to wonder if there is any validity to this poll all!

That said, my gut feeling (and take that for whatever its worth) is that there probably is a degree of validity to these numbers. I believe that most people responded honestly and that it probably does reflect the proportions of each demographic I listed. Before I report those numbers, I am going to address some of the concerns expressed in the comments.

First – why the great big response (212 as of this writing)? I think the content of those comments themselves speak to that. They are in part an explanation for the success of this blog. People care passionately about their beliefs – or lack of them. Belief is one of the topics I explore here (although perhaps not often enough).

Given the opportunity to talk about them as this post did, enables people to actually put their beliefs down on paper (virtual paper at least) and organize their thoughts; to compare and contrast their own beliefs with those of others. It clarifies and refines those beliefs. This is the back and forth I noticed in some of the comment trails.

While labels can have a divisive effect, they also have a defining effect. By examining your beliefs against those of others it helps your understanding of who and what you are. I believe it enables one’s belief system to grow and mature. Even if one ends up finding that “none of the above” fits best.

As for the poll itself, I agree that thinking people are hard to peg. Thinking people tend to define who they are not by picking a pre-existing category, but by studying various ideas; accepting some and rejecting others; and then arriving at who they are. This usually means that they do not fit neatly into any one category. As more than one commenter said, they see themselves in X to a certain degree and in Y in another.Some people said that they grew up one way and still feel comfortable in that environment but that hashkafically find themselves in another category. In short, the most thoughtful people did not find an exact match. Some chose not to respond at all because of that. Others responded by picking the one closest to their beliefs but not really reflective of their views.

I am somewhat of an enigma myself in that respect. While I define myself ideologically as a Centrist (RWMO) I find that I am more comfortable socially in a moderate Charedi setting. In fact the community in which I live and the people I Daven with on Shabbos are mostly moderate Charedim. I should add (as one commenters said about himself) that in some areas I tend to be a bit more to the left and in others I tend to be bit more to the right of my Centrist colleagues.

Now to the numbers. 352 people responded. Here is the breakdown:

Charedi Chasidic – 21 (6%)
Charedi Yeshivish – 15 (4%)
Charedi moderate – 59 (16%)
MO Centrist – 132 (37%)
MO Left Wing – 36 (10%)
Orthoprax – 58 (16%)
Non Orthodox – 24 (6%)
Not Jewish – 7 (2%)

It seems like those who tend to fit into the Centrist camp comprise the largest percentage of my readership by more than double of any other segment. That should not be a surprise. We are all kindred spirits seeing the world in the same way and seeking the same goals – for the most part.

The next largest group is Moderate Charedim. Again no surprise, they too agree with many of my views. That is good to know. As I always say, these two groups are the wave of the future and have an almost identical lifestyle. I believe that they comprise the largest segment of Orthodox Jewry.

What surprised me is the number of Orthoprax that read this blog. The same percentage as Moderate Charedim at 16%. Not sure what to make of that. I hope it means that I am trusted to treat everyone fairly.

I am happy that Orthoprax Jews find value here. Their 16% translates to 160 Orthoprax Jews reading my blog on average every day. I am grateful that they respect the views expressed here enough to stick around and read the posts and – for at least some – the comments too.

10% of my readership is LWMO. Even though the issues that divide us are pretty “hotbutton” – our differences are far smaller than what we share as observant Jews. I think that in most cases they respect my views because I respect theirs.

I am also happy that non-Orthodox Jews read this blog. Especially since I am very critical of Heterodox movements. But they seem to forgive me and understand where I am coming from. At least I hope that’s the case. I honor them for that.

I also fully respect non-Jews that come here. At 2% that isn’t much. It means that about 20 non Jews read this blog on average daily. I welcome them and hope that I do my religion justice in their eyes and express our beliefs well.

Not too surprising at all is the number of Charedim and Chasidim who do not consider themselves moderate. A combined percentage of 10% of my readership is Charedi. That means about 100 Charedim on the average every day. Not too bad if you consider that so many of my posts are critical of their community or their leaders

I welcome them too… especially those among them who respond in the comments. The only thing I don’t welcome is the disparagement and ridicule of a few of them that occasionally accompanies a comment.

This pretty much sums up my analysis of the polling results- given space and time considerations. Of course there is a lot more to say, but I’ve already exceeded my usual post length. So I now turn it over to readers to make their own analysis – and if so inclined to post their views in the comment section.

Visit the Emes Ve-Emunah blog.

The Proper Performance of Bris Milah

17 Elul 5772 – September 4, 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.

Running For Judge With An Orthodox Background And A Universal Perspective

13 Elul 5772 – August 30, 2012

Just days before the entire world stands before the great Judge on Rosh Hashanah, Democrats of the 5th district of Brooklyn will be casting their votes in the primary election for civil court judge. Shlomo Mostofsky, private attorney and former president of the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI), is currently campaigning to secure the post as judge.

“I always wanted to be a judge,” Mostofsky told The Jewish Press, “[and now] was the best opportunity to do so.” Mostofsky explained that there was a seat that had recently been vacated and that because there was virtually no Republican opposition, winning the primary would effectively mean winning the general election as well. Additionally, Brooklyn’s 5th District encompasses “key areas” in which he could serve the local communities, neighborhoods such as Boro Park, Kensington, Bay Ridge, and Sunset Park. Recalling his 11 years as president of NCYI, Mostofsky said that he believes his previous projects and experiences would help him in his new position.

He also said that he’s confident his countless meetings with politicians and citizens from countries around the world would provide him with a larger, more wholesome perspective on the diverse ethnic, religious, and immigrant groups that are in the district than those of the traditional attorney or judge. Additionally, Mostofsky met the chief justice and the associate justices of the South African Supreme Court and of the International Court of Justice. “These are [unique] life experiences to bring to the court that others may not have,” Mostofsky said. He also mentioned that during his tenure as president, he succeeded in “taking the [NCYI] from the red to the black.”

“Brooklyn is the melting pot of New York City,” Mostofsky said. Although many people have endorsed Mostofsky, some are hesitant to elect an Orthodox Jew to the court system. Mostofsky, however, believes that becoming judge will benefit both the Jewish community and the Brooklyn community as a whole. “I’ve worked in court for 12 years and many of my clients have been Orthodox Jews.” Although halachah allows and requires Jews to go to court under specific circumstances, Mostofsky doesn’t “believe that our community is comfortable in court.” He hopes that a “Jewish presence” in the court, although it won’t affect the court’s decision, will help Jews become less wary with the American justice system. He stressed that the civil courts, known as “the peoples’ court,” is usually a person’s “first contact” with the courts.

Additionally, Mostofsky explained that he would “have the opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem” working as a judge. A single courtroom is filled with judges, court officers, litigants, and lawyers. He hopes that when people see a Jewish person treating every person, regardless of his or her background, fairly and equally, they will carry that image with them as they “move on to other places [in life].”

Originally, the primaries were supposed to be held on September 11, but were postponed to September 13.

Conservatives to Ordain Gay and Lesbian Rabbis in Israel

28 Nisan 5772 – April 19, 2012

The Board of Trustees of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary voted Thursday night to accept gay and lesbian students for ordination beginning in the next academic year.

Affiliated with the “Masorti” movement in Israel and with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Schechter trains educational and spiritual, non-Orthodox leaders for positions in Israel.

“The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary views the serious process leading to this decision as an example of confronting social dilemmas within the framework of tradition and halachah,” Hanan Alexander, chair of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “This decision highlights the institution’s commitment to uphold halachah in a pluralist and changing world.”

Students are ordained by a rabbinical court, made up of three members of the Rabbinic Advisory Committee of the seminary, all of whom are members of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Masorti/Conservative movement. The court members are chosen by the candidate and subject to the approval of the seminary’s dean. They have different opinions regarding the ordination of gay and lesbian students, according to the seminary.

“This unique mechanism is an expression of halachic pluralism, one of the founding principles of SRS,” the seminary said in its statement. “The Seminary is a religious institution of the Masorti/Conservative Movement, bound by Halacha, whose inclusive approach allows for a variety of Halachic opinions.”

A Shoe, Handkerchief, and Pen

25 Sivan 5769 – June 17, 2009

What do a shoe, handkerchief, and pen have in common? For English buffs, they all contain an “e.”

Let’s try in Hebrew: What do na’al, sudar, andeit have in common? They all begin in alphabetical order: Nun, Samach, and Ayin. OK, but better…. in Choshen Mishpat, these are the classic items for “Kinyan Chalipin.”

A fundamental principle of Jewish monetary law is that a transaction must be accompanied by kinyan, an act of acquisitionto be valid. Verbal arrangements, while they should be upheld, are usually not enforceable as binding transactions. (There are a few exceptions, most notably charity pledges.) Even payment does not always make a transaction legally enforceable if not accompanied by an appropriate kinyan.

There are many different acts of kinyan that relate to different kinds of transactions, as described in the first chapter of Maseches Kiddushin. For example, small movable items, such as books, are acquired by raising (Hagba’ha), large items such as furniture by dragging (Meshichah), and real estate through payment, contract or taking possession (Kesef, Sh’tar or Chazakah). Perhaps the most versatile kinyan, which works for both movable items and real estate, and also to create personal obligations and debt, is Kinyan Chalipin.

Towards the end of Megillas Ruth, which we read on Shavuos, Boaz took off his shoe to acquire rights to Ruth. This act smacks of Yibbum, particularly in the context of reestablishing the household of the deceased relative. However the verse clearly is not dealing with Yibbum, but rather with the transfer of legal rights: “Formerly this was done in Israel in cases of … exchange transactions to validate any matter: One would draw off his shoe and give it to the other” (Ruth 4:7).

Handing over a shoe or other functional item (k’li) symbolizes an exchange, chalipin, and expresses full intention of the parties for the transaction. Boaz handed over his shoe to Ploni Almoni (usually understood as Mr. So-and-so), and received from him, in exchange, the legal rights to redeem the fields and take Ruth.

This was commonly done to validate any transaction; the buyer would hand the seller an item as chalipin, a symbolic exchange. It was a quick and easy means of making transactions and agreements immediately enforceable and legally binding.

Consider the following scenario: Shmuel and Rina were engaged and shopping for furniture to outfit their apartment. Some stores were too expensive and others weren’t quite their taste. At Frankel’s Furniture they finally found a bedroom set that was just what they wanted. Because it was a display item they received a 35% discount, making it affordable. They paid for the item and received a sales invoice, with delivery slated for three days, and went happily along their way.

According to the classic rules of Kinyan this sale is not yet finalized! Neither payment nor a contract is a valid act of kinyan for movable items, only picking up or dragging them. Both sides still have the legal right to renege, although they are strongly discouraged from doing so. However, if Shmuel were to hand his pen to Mr. Frankel as Kinyan Chalipin, the sale would be finalized and the bedroom set would be theirs, with no possibility of reneging.

In practice, Halachah validates sales completed in the prevailing customary business manner, based on Kinyan Situmta (to be discussed at some later date, IY”H). Thus, nowadays, after paying and completing the sales invoice in the customary manner, it would not be possible to renege, unless the prevalent practice allows returns.

During the time of Ruth, the favored item of chalipin was a shoe. In the Gemara, the shoe gave way to the sudar, a cloth or handkerchief. It is not even necessary for the seller to take the entire cloth from the buyer, but to grasp a significant portion of it (3×3 inches) and then return it. In recent decades, as handkerchiefs gave way to insignificant paper tissues, the ever-available pen is typically used to perform Kinyan Chalipin.

With decreased awareness of Jewish monetary law and the standardization of commercial practices, Kinyan Chalipin is rarely used in day-to-day business transactions and is mostly utilized in halachic transactions. Thus, we usually encounter Kinyan Chalipin when selling chametz, writing the kesubah at weddings, accepting binding arbitration in beis din, and preparing a halachically valid will (to be discussed next month, IY”H). The concept of Kinyan and the effectiveness of Kinyan Chalipin are also important foundations for future discussions.

With the world going paperless, pens are also going out of vogue. The up-and-coming item for Chalipin is … a cell phone. English buffs – no worry; it also has an “e.” Hebrew lovers, no worry – it also begins with the next letter, peh – pelephone!

Rabbi Meir Orlian is a halachah writer for Machon L’Choshen Mishpat. The Machon, which is headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, is committed to providing awareness, education and services in all areas of monetary issues that arise in our daily lives. For more information visit www.machonmishpat.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/a-shoe-handkerchief-and-pen-2/2009/06/17/

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