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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Igros Moshe’

Rav Ovadia: Women who Wear Talit Are Transgressors

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

The spiritual leader of the Shas movement, Rav Ovadia Yosef, on Saturday night attacked the women of the Reform movement who pray at the Kotel.

In his weekly post-Shabbat class, Rav Yosef said that women who wrap themselves in a talit transgress Jewish law: “There are those Reform, they come to the Western Wall clad in a talit. They’re not performing a mitzvah, they’re transgressing, because of ['A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this' (Deut. 22:5)].”

Rav Yosef explained further that “Women are absolved of saying the Shma Israel – they needn’t make the blessing, much more so to wear a talit and make a blessing over it. A woman must not wear men’s clothing – if she puts them on, she transgresses. Women, even righteous ones, do not put it on.”

A 2001 Knesset law says that “no religious ceremony shall be held in the women’s section near the Western Wall that includes taking out a Torah scroll and reading from it, blowing the shofar, or wearing tallitot or tefillin. Violators shall be imprisoned for seven years.” But the law, as well as the 2004 Supreme Court decision that permitted women to pray as they wish at the Robinson Arch, next to the Kotel, did not refer to the actual wearing of talit as being contrary to Jewish law.

Rav Moshe Feinstein would side with Rav Ovadia’s opinion, based on his answer to the halachic inquiry (Igros Moshe – OC 4:49): “Can a woman wear a Talit? Answer: No. The Shulchan Aruch rules that it is Yuhara – religious arrogance (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 17:2). And if it is a Talit of men, there is a problem of Lo Tilbash – the prohibition of cross-dressing.” (source: ravaviner.com).

The Talmud (in Eruvin 96a) says that Michal, daughter of King Shaul and wife of King David, put on Tefillin. However, the Yerushalmi Talmud (B’rachot 2:3) says that the Sages objected to her practice.

As to the stories about Rashi’s daughters putting on teffilin, Ari Z. Zivotofsky, writing in the OU’s Jewish Action, suggests there is no evidence that Rashi’s daughters wore teffilin. Other sources say they may have, indeed, put on teffilin, but privately.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Dear Readers,

This column recently featured a letter written by a reader who expressed concern about the alarming rise of marijuana abuse in our frum communities by those with the “mistaken notion that the use of marijuana is, firstly, not against halacha, and secondly, not harmful to one’s health.” (Chronicles Aug. 10)

The writer cited the position of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (as documented in Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. 3, Siman 35) who held that smoking marijuana is in violation of many of the basic laws of our Torah since it causes physical harm to the user and is detrimental to the mind and thus affects one’s performance of mitzvos.

The following letter was submitted by a young man in response to Concerned…

Dear Rachel,

Rabbi Moshe’s teshuvah is, I believe, addressed to yeshiva students who need to keep their minds sharp, though I’ll admit the reasons stated for prohibiting marijuana would apply equally to most Jewish teens. To note: The Torah does not forbid marijuana use, but Reb Moshe does — based on the reason that it is disruptive to a healthy Torah lifestyle. If the reasons underlying that assumption fall, then the issur falls.

The argument that marijuana disrupts kavanah, thereby rendering a user unable to study Torah or perform mitzvos, is highly contentious and something that ultimately only good medical research, that unfortunately does not yet exist, can set straight. A parent’s aggravation is unfortunate, but the fact is that many teenagers – probably not unlike their parents before them – engage in behavior their parents often find disappointing.

In the case of marijuana, the degree of concern warranted is not clear, but one thing is: the more you fan a flame, the stronger the fire gets. Marijuana will not destroy you child’s brain. Most Americans have smoked marijuana and the American who has not ever done so is the exception to the rule. Good or bad, it’s a fact.

Parents who say “We are Jewish, this isn’t our way…” are completely right, but smell the coffee; it’s 2012 and we’re in America. If you can raise a child away from marijuana, away from a computer, and away from a TV, more power to you. If your child has been exposed repeatedly to television, computers, and cholov akum then taking a puff and chasing the dragon fits right into that list.

That’s not to say marijuana can’t be a detriment. It can, and with an unhealthy person, especially one with the usual instability of a teenager, it is a real concern. Many people say marijuana is not addictive. That’s a lie. Maybe not like heroine, but it most certainly can and often does develop into an addiction, and no addiction – besides maybe a Torah addiction – is healthy.

Even here the real concern is not so much the effect the marijuana has on the body or mind but more so the affect it may have on the person’s behavior. Most people in America smoked marijuana and most are not addicted by any measure. Often the person experimenting with marijuana, especially the teenager, is of a fragile nature and will likely respond to conflict by fighting back and digging deeper into the cycle of experimentation.

Better not to fuel that fight and to focus on positive goals. In my opinion the subject of marijuana should be addressed only as far as goals and an otherwise normal lifestyle have been impacted by its use. I humbly advise parents who would like help in dealing with what they believe is a problem, namely a teenager engaging in marijuana smoking, to take the issue to a doctor and rabbi (trusted by both parent and teen) to openly discuss it, with the teen and without. If you don’t have a rabbi and doctor, this could be the first problem and certainly is your first step to reconciliation.

If your teen is smoking marijuana you may think it is a big deal and you may be right, but it probably didn’t start here, it won’t necessarily end here, and you can overreact and make things worse. Try to create a real connection with your child. Take joy in simple things, like preparing food for Shabbos together and eating together. On Shabbos let your worries melt away. Indulge in family togetherness, good food and wine, and read the parshawith the commentaries. Even your estranged teenager is apt to join you in such an environment. Shabbos is an ideal time to reignite the light of love and friendship. Be patient but resilient and see if your problems won’t slip away.

A Frum Realist

Dear Frum Realist,

My Machberes

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Mikveh Magic

In contrast to the reported 1,500 mikvehs in Israel, the United States has approximately 300. Interestingly, a good number of mikvehs in America date back more than one hundred years.

The first mikveh built in what is today the continental United States was that of Congregation Shearith Israel in approximately 1655 in lower Manhattan (then New Amsterdam). Rabbi David and Tamar De Sola Pool, in their An Old Faith in the New World (Portrait of Shearith Israel 1654-1954), write that “In the early days, it was the synagogue alone which had the ritual bath to which the Jewish woman could go.” The authors note the kehilla in 1791 was making use of five buildings, one of which was the ritual bath.

Presently in Israel, the Vaad Hamikvaos, literally the “Committee on Mikvehs,” oversees the design, construction, and maintenance of mikvehs. The Vaad, under the direction and scrutiny of universally acknowledged Torah giants in Israel, is staffed by eighteen kollel members who devote themselves exclusively to the study and implementation of hilchos mikvaos.

The disparity between the number of mikvehs in Israel and the United States is discomforting. Traveling long distances to use a mikveh, though accepted in America as a fact of life for those who live outside major Jewish population centers, is just not tolerated in Israel. Every community in Israel with observant Jews – even communities populated by “traditional” Jews – strives for and demands to have a kosher mikveh within reasonable walking distance.

The kashrus of older mikvehs, such as those found outside the Jewish population centers in the U.S., are assumed kosher in accordance with poskim such as the Rosh and the Rema, who maintain that mikvehs are built only by those who have expertise.

However, the Satmar Rav, zt”l, in his Divrei Yoel, suggested that principle is not applicable in the U.S. since individuals not proficient in the relevant laws could easily have played significant roles in the building of mikvehs here. And with the passing of time (sometimes a century or more), the maintenance and repair of mikvehs may well have become the province of local handymen unfamiliar with hilchos mikvaos.

Mikveh Discussions, 1920

As an interesting footnote to this discussion, I searched through my library and found a rare copy of a Yiddish pamphlet titled Mikveh Yisrael, published in about 1920 (available on hebrewbooks.org), authored by Rabbi Dovid Miller, zt”l (1869-1939), then residing in Oakland, California. Ordained by leading European rabbis, including Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spector, zt”l (1817-1896), chief rabbi of Kovno and author of Be’er Yitzchok, Rabbi Miller came to this country in around 1890 and served as rav at congregations in New York City and Providence, Rhode Island, and later resided in California.

The learned and innovative author recommends, and provides detailed plans on, building home mikvehs with what might well be called Yankee ingenuity. In a space slightly larger than two feet wide, four feet long and four feet high, a mikveh, according to the author, can easily and discreetly be built in a bathroom or closet, in a basement or on a high-rise floor. All necessary supplies are listed and specific instructions on how to fill the mikveh are furnished, as well as instructions on how to release the water from the homemade mikveh.

Home mikveh blueprint

The author felt that with the immediate availability of home mikvah use, Jewish marital laws would be more widely and more carefully observed. Modesty would be maintained by keeping mikveh use private. The cost of building such a mikveh would be inexpensive, giving every family the opportunity to have its own in-home mikveh.

The concept received written approbations from Rabbi Sholom Elchanan Yaffe, zt”l (1858-1923), rav of Beis Medrash Hagadol of New York and a leading scholar; Rabbi Gavriel Zev (Wolf) Margolis, zt”l (1848-1935), chief rabbi of Boston and later a rav in New York City; and Rabbi Zvi Shimon Elbaum, zt”l, a rav in Chicago.

In addition, the author describes a meeting at the Chicago home of Rabbi Elbaum at the time he received the written approbation. On that occasion, he writes, he also obtained the consent of Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Silver, zt”l (d. 1925) of Minneapolis, Rabbi Horowitz of St. Paul, Rabbi Deidtzik of Des Moines, Iowa, and Rabbi Kordon of Chicago.

The idea was great. There was, however, a “catch” – namely, the question of using tap water. The author maintained that city tap water comes from reservoirs fed by rivers and/or springs and is therefore acceptable for use in a mikveh. Despite the approbations he received from the aforementioned great scholars, the author’s proposal was not accepted by the overwhelming majority of poskim of the time, nor by those of subsequent generations.

Parking Spot

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Yankel drove with his wife to the yeshiva’s annual dinner. “I hope we’ll be able to find parking,” she said.

When they arrived, Yankel circled the block twice looking for parking, but had no luck. “I’ll wait on the block until a spot opens,” he said. He pulled up by a driveway in the middle of the block and waited there.

Ten minutes later, a car toward the front of the block started to pull out. “There’s a spot!” his wife said excitedly.

Yankel waited for the car to pass and then began backing up to the spot. While he was reversing, he saw another car round the corner. The other car stopped at the vacated spot and started parking.

Yankel got out. “I already claimed that spot,” he said to the driver.

“What do you mean you claimed the spot?” the man responded. “I got here first.”

“I’ve been waiting on the block for ten minutes for a spot to vacate,” Yankel said to the man. “I claimed the spot when I saw the car pulling out.”

“I’m also looking for a spot,” said the man. “What makes this spot yours more than mine?”

“I’ve been waiting on this block the whole time,” said Yankel, “You weren’t here and just came.”

“What’s the difference?” said the man, unimpressed. “Since when can you lay a claim to an entire block? You don’t own the street!”

“I saw the car pulling out first, though,” said Yankel. “I had my eyes on the spot before you.”

“That’s your tough luck,” said the man. “Sometimes, sitting on the block works better; sometimes, circling works better. I got to the spot first.”

“But I was already backing up the block and heading to the spot,” Yankel protested, “even before you turned the corner into the street!”

“Backing up toward the spot doesn’t make it yours,” said the man. “I don’t see why I should move.”

Just then, Yankel noticed Rabbi Dayan walking by with his family. “That’s Rabbi Dayan,” he said to the man. “Let’s ask him!”

“Hello, Rabbi Dayan,” Yankel said. “I’m glad you chanced by. We’re having a disagreement over this parking spot.”

“What about it?” asked Rabbi Dayan.

“I was waiting on the block for ten minutes for a spot to open,” Yankel told Rabbi Dayan. “I was already backing up to the spot when this man turned the corner and started pulling in. Who’s entitled to the spot?”

“This relates to a concept known as ani hamehapech bachara,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “If a person is scavenging for a loaf of bread and someone else comes and grabs it – the intruder is called a rasha, wicked.” (Kiddushin 59a)

“So it seems that I’m entitled to the spot,” said Yankel.

“There is a well-known dispute between Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam regarding this concept,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “Rashi explains that it applies also when the person was scavenging after a loaf that was ownerless [hefker]. Rabbeinu Tam, however, cites a number of sources indicating that ani hamehapech does not apply to something hefker, but only to something offered for sale or rent.”

“Why should there be a difference?” asked the man.

“A rental or sale item can be acquired elsewhere, as well,” explained Rabbi Dayan, “Therefore it is immoral for the second person to intrude upon the efforts of the first person. However, he may not be able to find a hefker item elsewhere, so he does not have to forego this opportunity in deference to the first person.”

“Whom do we rule like?” asked Yankel.

“The Shulchan Aruch cites both opinions,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “The Rama sides with the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam that ani hamehapech does not apply to a hefker item.” (C.M. 237:1)

“Is a parking spot considered hefker or a rental?” asked the other man.

“If parking is readily available on a nearby street, it is similar to rental,” replied Rabbi Dayan. However, if parking is difficult to find, it is comparable to hefker, even if there is a parking meter or charge. Therefore, although Yankel waited on the block and was heading toward the spot, he cannot repel the intruder.”

“Nonetheless, a God-fearing person should consider Rashi’s opinion,” Rabbi Dayan said to the other man. “There is also common decency, v’asisa hayashar v’hatov – you should do what is proper and good, even if not legally required.” (Igros Moshe, E.H. 1:91; Pischei Choshen, Geneivah 9:30)

“What if I had already positioned myself adjacent to the spot while the parked car pulled out?” asked Yankel.

“Then presumably you would have rights to the spot even according to Rabbeinu Tam,” Rabbi Dayan concluded. “Since you made a concerted effort to claim the spot, the practice is to respect this to avoid fights.” (See P.C., 9:13 [30]; 268:2)

Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to subscribe@businesshalacha.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail ask@businesshalacha.com.

Daf Yomi

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

A Bride And Groom On Their Wedding Day
‘Except For The Day After Yom Kippur’
(Kerisos 25a)

The mishnah on our daf tells of a pious custom practiced by Bava ben Buta who brought an asham talui every day for fear that he had committed a transgression. In his opinion, an asham talui is an asham chassidim, as the mishnah terms it, and a person may donate a sacrifice every day to atone for unwitting sins that he is unaware of. Bava ben Buta would offer his sacrifice every day aside from the 11th of Tishrei, as he figured that he surely did not commit a transgression on the day following Yom Kippur.

Omit The Yehi Ratzon

The Shulchan Aruch states: “It is good to say the parshah of the Akeidah and the parshah of the manna and the Ten Commandments and the parshah of the olah, minchah, shelamim, chatas and asham, and say afterwards, ‘May it be His will as though I sacrificed….’ ” The Shav Yaakov (I, 2) writes that on the 11th of Tishrei, one should not say “Yehi ratzon…” after saying the verses of the asham talui since we do not suspect a person of sinning within one day of Yom Kippur (and the doubtful sins he perhaps committed before Yom Kippur were already atoned for and forgiven on the Holy Day itself).

To Fast Or Not To Fast?

A couple who were to be married on the eve of the 12th of Teves asked Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:167) whether they should fast on the day of their wedding as is customary (to atone for their sins). Perhaps since they already fasted on the 10th of Teves, there is no reason to fast again on the 11th on the assumption that they would not have sinned within such a short span of time.

The Efficacy Of A Fast

Rav Moshe Feinstein replied that not only must they fast but even a chasan marrying on the 11th of Tishrei must fast (see Magen Avraham 573:1). Rav Moshe writes that we do worry that a person will commit unintentional sins on the day after Yom Kippur. However, the fast of the bride and groom also atones for intentional sins and for those, it is fitting to fast even on the day after Yom Kippur.

Meoros Hadaf Hayomi Newsletters are published by the Sochachover Kollel of Bnei Brak, led by Rabbi Chaim Dovid Kovalsky. Meoros Hadaf Hayomi Newsletters in Hebrew and/or English are available for dedications (simchas as well as yahrzeiten, shloshim, etc.) and are distributed by e-mail, dafyomi@hadaf-yomi.com.

My Machberes

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Igud Rosh Chodesh At Kingsbrook

On Monday, Rosh Chodesh Teves – the sixth day of Chanukah, December 26 – more than thirty member rabbis convened at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn to participate in the Rosh Chodesh Conference of the Rabbinical Alliance of America-Igud Horabbonim. Speakers included Rabbi Noach Bernstein, Rabbi Michoel Chazan, Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, Rabbi Yehuda Levin, and this writer.

Rabbi Chazan, chaplain of Kingsbrook, described the invaluable work being done by the chaplaincy staff. He told of a volunteer who attended to elderly patients at the hospital, particularly in helping them with their tefillin for daily prayers. The volunteer sought the blessing of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt”l (1886-1979), Satmar Rebbe. The Rebbe encouraged the volunteer to continue his good work and blessed him with long life. The volunteer lived into his late 90s. His work is being continued today by his son. Rabbi Chazan also noted that the greatly respected Bikur Cholim of Satmar began its citywide mission and operations at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center.

This writer, in his capacity as Igud director and rav of B’nai Israel of Linden Heights, called for the re-staffing and re-empowerment of New York State’s Kosher Law Enforcement under the direction of Rabbi Luzer Weiss. New York has become synonymous with kosher food, and kosher consumers today include vegetarians, the lactose intolerant, Hindus, observant Jews and others. Any erosion in the perception of kosher quality will hurt New York’s kosher food production as well as its economy.

A resolution was unanimously approved urging the governor and the state legislature to embolden and increase the office of Kosher Law Enforcement, led by the universally respected Rabbi Luzer Weiss, thus ensuring that the state’s kosher food industry would continue to grow – a critical consideration in this time of increasing unemployment.

Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, rav and rosh kollel of Ashyel Avraham in Monsey as well as a columnist and radio and TV commentator, focused on the dangers of smoking. In 1964, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (1893-1986), author of Igros Moshe, did not prohibit smoking “in particular because a number of great Torah sages, in past generations and in our own, smoke” (see Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:49 [1964]; Yoreh Deah 3:35 [1973]; and Choshen Mishpat 2:76 [1981]).

This, plainly, was because those venerable sages did not yet know that smoking was dangerous. On the contrary, smoking tobacco was perceived as beneficial and healthful. Indeed, when Rabbi Israel Meir Hakohen, zt”l (1838-1933), author of Chofetz Chaim and Mishnah Berurah, heard from doctors that smoking was dangerous for those who are “weak,” he ruled that, even if one is addicted, it is necessary to stop.

Rabbi Spivak stressed that no one is permitted to begin smoking – especially young yeshiva students. Rabbi Spivak called on Torah leaders to take the initiative in stopping smoking by our youths.

Students who earned their semicha at Kollel Ashyel Avraham and are now Igud member rabbis presented Rabbi Spivak, their Torah mentor, with a plaque expressing their deep appreciation of his Torah leadership and guidance. Rabbi Spivak and the other rabbis present were moved by the expression of deep, heartfelt appreciation.

Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center is located at 585 Schenectady Avenue in the East Flatbush section of central Brooklyn, moments away from Crown Heights. It was founded in 1925 as a chronic care facility to serve the Jewish community within a cultural context.

As the community has evolved and diversified, Kingsbrook has expanded its services and programs to meet the needs of the area’s large, culturally diverse communities. The rabbis met in the Chaim Albert Synagogue, which serves as a full service synagogue as well as the Jewish chapel for the hospital. The high vaulted ceiling and tall stained glass windows with more than 7,000 memorial name plaques adorning its walls, some dating back to 1873, confirm the shul’s status as an emblem of the community’s rich Jewish history, recalling the time when great rabbis lived in a thriving Jewish neighborhood.

Kosher Chaplains

In 2006, a number of observant Jewish chaplains serving at medical facilities throughout the United States and Canada joined to participate in the first Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) course specially tailored for observant Jews.

Successful completion of the CPE course by chaplains is desired by hospitals and medical establishments. However, since the regular presentation of the course does not address issues that affect observant Jewish patients, who are dealt with by observant chaplains on a daily basis, a special presentation was organized by Rabbi Chazan. Rabbi Chazan is also director of the Central Council of Rabbinical Chaplains (CCRC). In these capacities, Rabbi Chazan is the dynamic leader of observant chaplaincy services throughout the United States.

In 2008, CCRC held a gathering at Kingsbrook’s aforementioned chapel. More than 30 rabbinical chaplains from the tri-state area participated. Keynote speaker at the event was Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski, renowned spiritual leader, psychiatrist, therapist, and author. Rabbi Twerski addressed many issues and concerns that confront hospital rabbinical-chaplains daily.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/my-machberes/my-machberes-6/2012/01/04/

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