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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Shulchan Aruch’

The Morality of Accepting Charity from Immoral People

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Many charities and non-profit organizations have received donations from Donald Sterling (owner of the Clippers). According to public records, his foundation has distributed less than $1.5 million in the last 6 years. That’s a lot of money, but not a lot of money for a billionaire.

The $1.5 million was given to worthy organizations. Sterling didn’t give his charity to the Ku Klux Klan, he helped good organizations that helped good people. Money is useful, no matter who signs the checks.

Much has been made of Sterling’s concerted effort to control his public image using his charitable donations to paint himself as a philanthropist who genuinely cares about others. He would take out full page ads in the LA Times announcing his gifts accompanied by photos of himself. Some have even called Sterling’s charity an effort to cleanse himself of his sins by through philanthropy. As if he thought his good deeds would counterbalance his bad deeds. This might be an accurate description of his intentions. It also might not be accurate. Either way, those organizations have his money, and he has their accolades and appreciation.

Wealthy people with well known character flaws are often accused of using their charitable giving to whitewash their sins. The organizations that take their money are often accused of aiding and abetting this faux altruism and are often accused of hypocrisy.

But what should organizations do? Should they turn away donors with compromised values? Should criminals be banned from giving charity? Should immoral people be blocked from helping others? Is it moral to take money from immoral people?

As an Orthodox Jew, Halacha is the first step of analysis when I have a question of ethics like this. Jewish law actually touches on this issue and provides some guidance. The Shulchan Aruch prohibits accepting charitable gifts from Idol Worshipers. The Rema limits this prohibition to cash and allows objects to be donated by Idol Worshipers. But he concludes that it is prohibited to accept charity from a mumar (habitual sinner). Presumably, the reason for the prohibition is due to the standing prohibition against deriving any benefit from Idol Worship.

However, other authorities permit accepting charity and gifts from a mumar. The Mabit is quoted in the commentaries to the Rema as allowing us to accept charity from a mumar.

The Maharam Shick agrees with Mabit. He even says that Rambam would disagree with Rema and allow us to accept charity from a mumar. Maharam Shick cites Rambam’s permissive position regarding accepting sacrifices from a mumar, ostensibly because it may arouse the mumar to repent. Jewish law always errs on the side of assuming one’s best intentions. Similarly, Rambam famously holds that a court can physically coerce a man to say he wants to give a get because we assume his intentions are pure. He concludes that Rambam would also allow charity from a mumar for the same reason as long as the person maintains basic belief in God and Judaism. After all, maybe this charitable act will inspire the giver to become a better person.

There are also opinions that hold there is almost no such thing as a mumar nowadays. In other words, no matter what the person says or does, their charity would be accepted.

So while the Rema was reluctant to accept gifts from a mumar, others did allow it. It seems to me that according to this permissive view it would be perfectly okay to accept charity from anyone, even people who say and do despicable things. It would even be okay to accept Donald Sterling’s charity.

I think the rationale of the Maharam Shick is quite powerful. We should always assume the best intentions when people are doing good things. Charity is a good thing. It’s possible there are ulterior motives, we may even think we are certain that the motivations for the gift are not altruistic, but it does not matter.

Orthodoxy and Physical Contact between the Sexes

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

It happened again. A religious Jew has made public that he refuses to shake a woman’s hand. From Matzav:

Shneur Zalman Odze, a prospective MEP for the North West of England, has told party members his Orthodox Judaism forbids him from physical contact with women other than his wife.

This is not entirely accurate. There are exceptions in Halacha based on differing interpretations of the Shulchan Aruch. And the exceptions vary among different segments.

Halacha forbids physical contact between the sexes. But unlike Mr. Odze’s assertion Halacha permits contact not only between a husband and wife – it permits it between a parent and child, too. This is accepted by all segments of Orthodoxy. But as one examines the legitimate practices of other segments of Orthodoxy – one will find other exceptions.

For example most Poskin allow physical contact between brothers and sisters, too. There are also some Poskim that freely permit platonic (none sexual) physical contact between all men and women. I have been told by members of the German/Jewish community that their Poskim had always allowed even social kissing!

Most of the Yeshiva world where many customs are based on the traditions of Lithuanian Jewry – have a different exception. It’s kind of a compromise between the two extremes. They too do not permit physical contact of any kind – even platonic. But they do permit something like a handshake – and even encourage it – if not doing so would embarrass someone. The practice that is usually followed is that if someone of the opposite sex extends their hand in a friendly handshake, you take it so as not to embarrass them. Especially if this is in public. I believe this was the stated position of Gedolim like R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky.

Chasidim are the most rigid. They make no exceptions at all. Satmar Ger, Chabad and other Chasidic groups do not permit ever shaking the hand of a member of the opposite sex under any circumstances. So that even if a someone innocently extends their hand – they will just leave it hanging there – which can embarrass that person. Now it’s true that they might explain that the reason they refuse to do so is not personal. That their religion forbids any physical contact between a man and a woman unless they are married – as did Mr. Odze. But in some cases the damage is done anyway. Especially if the person ‘left hanging’ has been in similar circumstances where a religious Jew did shake their hand.

Now before I am accused of bashing Chasidim again. I am not. I am simply stating the facts – which have been played out again here. But at the same time, I must admit that I do not understand why they are Machmir on something that may cause a Chilul HaShem if practiced.

In defense of Mr. Odze, however, there should not have been any embarrassment by anyone. It seems he made clear up front that this is a religious belief and nothing more so as to prevent any future embarrassing circumstances. There were no prior embarrassing moments. The political leadership of his party backed him up. But that did not stop a few members of his party from making an issue out of it.

What is the matter with those people? Can’t they understand what their political leaders clearly understand? I can only conclude that there is a bias against any religion that counters their beliefs about male female equality, regardless of the reason. And that supersedes any sense of religious tolerance.

In an interesting contrast, Racheli Ibenboim, a member of the Ger (sometimes referred to as Gur) Chasidic community adopted the policy of the Yeshiva world. If there is any Chasidus that is obsessed with male female interaction, Ger is it. The extent to which this community goes is so extreme that husbands and wives do not walk together in public. The husband will always be a few paces ahead of his wife. And there’s more. From an article by Tuvia Tenenbom in the Forward:

The Gur people, for one reason or another, are ever busy with ever more rules forbidding more and more “sexual temptations” of whatever kind. For example, not long ago a new prohibition was announced: A father shall not dance with his little kids at public events. Kids, apparently, have been declared to be sexual temptations. In the old days, only women were the “temptation”

Having met Mrs. Ibenboim, Tenenbom relates the following:

A man, God has said long ago — in case you didn’t know — shall never talk with a woman who is not his wife or mother. In addition: A woman, as every child of God knows, never shakes hands with men, unless he is her husband and she is not on her period. Yet, when we meet and I offer Ibenboim my hand, she takes it.

She explained her reasons which pretty much amount to the same reasons the Yeshiva world makes these exceptions. It is truly an amazing bit of courage for someone who comes from a society where the subject of sex is so taboo that women only learn how to make babies shortly before they are married. Until then all talk of sex is forbidden and never spoken about. This was illustrated by Judy Brown who explained this custom through the experiences of the fictional main character of her book, ‘Hush’. Judy Brown was raised in the Ger community.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Left a Kosher Empire

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Overlooked in the eulogies and praise of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is the role he played in the development of the kosher certification, Badatz Beit Yosef, under the leadership of his youngest son Rabbi Moshe Yosef.

The Beit Yosef kosher standard meticulously follows the standards of Rabbi Yosef Caro, the author of the codification of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch.

The Beit Yosef certification is widely used amongst Sephardic and other Jews, and an estimated 70 percent of Israeli restaurants follow the Bet Yosef standard as do many eating establishments in France and several in the United States.

In one of his weekly broadcasts, Rabbi Ovadia lamented that some were abusing the Beit Yosef standard, so coveted by Sephardi Jews and not as widely accepted by Ashkenazi Jews.

Chabad Emissaries: Torah Forbids Surrendering Land to Enemies

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Chabad-Lubavitch “shluchim” (emissaries) have issued a statement at their 34th national conference in Israel that “negotiating with Israel’s enemies of Israel concerning Israeli borders in itself constitutes an ominous danger to the lives of Israel’s residents, men, women and children.”

Following is the complete statement:

By the Grace of G-d

Statement By The Shluchim To Eretz Israel Issued At 34 National Shluchim Conference In Israel

Motzei Shabbos Parshas Ekev 5773uulcWe, the personal emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to the Holy Land – including Rabbis of cities and neighborhoods in Israel, heads of Yeshivot and Kollelim and social welfare institutions, who were sent to Israel by the Rebbe himself over 35 years ago in order “to arouse and encourage Jews to observe Torah and Mitzvot and help build the Jewish land physically and spiritually” – from the depths of a pained heart protest against the Israeli government’s decision to resume negotiations with Palestinian murderers on withdrawal from territories of the Holy Land, G-d forbid.

Negotiating with Israel’s enemies of Israel concerning Israeli borders in itself constitutes an ominous danger to the lives of Israel’s residents, men, women and children. This ruling is explicit in the Jewish Code of Law, section 329:6: “Even if they are only demanding hay or straw, we take up arms and violate the Shabbat.” Hundreds of prominent rabbis in Israel have ruled that withdrawal from territories is a matter of life or death for tens of thousands of people

Anyone who can put two and two together can see that every time Israel has agreed to concede and withdraw, this has made matters worse. It has only accelerated terror and bloodshed, G-d forbid.

We support the tireless efforts of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace (the Pikuach Nefesh Committee) which for the past 20 years has been vigorously combating the policies of withdrawal and concessions by Israeli governments. The Committee has repeatedly publicized worldwide the definitive ruling in the Shulchan Aruch that such concessions are a matter of life or death.

Many Jews, and not only Chassidim, reverently recall the numerous public addresses in which the Rebbe expressed his pained concern for the well-being of the Jewish nation in Eretz Israel.

We now call upon every individual, in Israel and the world over, to support and assist the above Committee in every way possible. Their vital mission is to save the lives of the Jewish people in Israel – to forestall any territorial negotiations with Israel’s enemies over its borders, by bringing the public and the decision-makers to the realization that the only way to achieve peace and security in the Holy Land is by standing firm by the integrity of the Holy Land. Only thus will we see the fulfillment of the Biblical promise that “I will grant peace in the land…and lead you upright.”

We pray that Almighty G-d have mercy and put an end to our suffering. May we merit the Final Redemption by the righteous Moshiach – now

Rabbi Riskin Permits Women to Read Ruth for Men in Orthodox Shul

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Tomorrow, on the holiday of Shavuot, in one of the synagogues of the town of Efrat in Judea and Samaria, two women will come up to read the Megillah of Ruth as both the men and women of the shul will be listening. This will not be taking place in a Reform or even Conservative synagogue, but in the Zemer Hazayit Orthodox synagogue of the town’s most prominent rabbi, who is one of its founders, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.

“The initiative for the Megillah reading by women began with a constraint,” Dina Mann, one of the two Shavuot readers, told Maariv. Last Purim, the shul was looking for a man to read the Esther Megillah, and when none was found, the women of the community, many of whom have been reading the Esther Megillah for women for years, posed an halachic query to Rabbi Riskin, asking if they could read Esther in the absence of a qualified man.

The Efrat Rabbi answered that while men cannot keep the mitzvah of hearing the Esther Megillah by listening to a woman’s reading, it would be allowable with other megillahs (Ecclesiastics, Song of Songs, Ruth and Lamentations).

“One of the principles of our synagogue is the integration of women within the framework of halacha,” Mann said, “under the guidance and decisions of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.”

“This point is deeply ingrained in the core idea of our synagogue,” she added.

The women will be reading the Megillah from the women’s section.

Mann said she expected the men of the synagogue to be very accepting of the new custom.

Rabbi Riskin told Maariv that he sees no problem in women’s reading behind a mechitzah. He said that the only reason he had not allowed women’s reading of the Esther Megillah had to do with the fact that some Ashkenazi rabbis are explicitly against it – while the Sephardim support it.

The Shulchan Aruch follows the Gemara Megillah in stating that it is permitted for women to go up to the Torah—which included reading allowed one’s assigned portion—but at the same time discourages actually letting them fulfill the mitzvah because it might offend the congregation.

It appears that Rabbi Riskin’s congregation is not easily offended.

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.”

The One Chapter Book – Ovadiah

Friday, November 30th, 2012

I always wonder about Jewish names. Some make it and some don’t. Some have mazel and others don’t. Some Biblical personalities’ names are very popular amongst the members of Klal Yisrael and then there are those personalities whose names never seem to be used.

Know anyone named Merari? Neither do I. But why should one of the sons of Levi, Gershon, be popular, and another remain ignored? I don’t know. It’s all hashgacha.

But I do have a sense that if not for this week’s haftorah, and the amazing fact that it is an entire sefer of its own in Trei Asar, the book of the Twelve Prophets, though it is a one perek sefer, my sense tells me that the name Ovadiah would not be the semi-popular name in Klal Yisrael that it is now.

Who was Ovadiah? Chazal tell us, as brought in the first Rashi, that Ovadiah was a convert to Judaism from the nation of Edom, the descendants of Esav. Actually, he was not only a righteous convert but a person who reached such as to amazing spiritual heights that he become a navi, a prophet in Klal Yisrael!

Rashi wonders about the phenomenon that is Ovadia. He prophesizes just once in Tanach—in our haftorah. HaKadosh Baruch Hu sent him to deliver a message to the nation of Esav, Edom, that because of their spiritual failure as a nation, manifested by their being a thorn and sword in the side of Bnei Yisrael, Hashem was going to punish them.

This is the basic thrust of our haftorah. Ovadiah is a person who came from a wicked nation and grew up in an evil environment, saw the light and came close to Hashem and Torah. This is the type of person who can go out and lecture his former nation about their failings.

As mentioned, sefer Ovadiah is but one perek.

Question: Why did Chazal give Ovadiah, with his one perek-long nevuah, the status of a complete sefer in Trei Asar? It could easily have been a perek in one of the other sefarim? Why have a one chapter sefer?

This question is reminiscent of another similar phenomenon.

Rav Yosef Karo spends an entire siman, an entire section in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 300) describing the concept of Melava Malka. Now, it could be because of the length of information the mechaber wanted to discuss. But there is only one se’if, one sub-section, and only one sentence in that section! For those of you who do not know, there are many simanim in the Shulchan Aruch which are very long. Sometimes there are 30-40 different se’ifim, sub-sections, all in one siman. The Shulchan Aruch could have easily put the brief halacha of Melava Malka at the end of the siman about Seudat Shilishis. Yet, despite its brevity, Rav Yosef Karo decided to give Melava Malka its very own siman. Why?

Explains Yalkut Gershuni (brought in Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa, Volume 2, Chapter 63), Rav Karo understood that already in his times, people were not careful iin fulfilling the mitzvah of Melava Malka. It was for this reason that he gave the mitzvah its very own siman in the Shulchan Aruch so it would get “prime-time” attention.

The same can be said about the mitzvah of seudas Rosh Chodesh which also has its own siman (419) and is also a very brief one sentence. Whenever the Shulchan Aruch felt that there was a weakening of a particular important mitzvah, he would give that mitzvah its own siman no matter how short it would be.

In B’Mechitzas Rabeinu, brief Torah thoughts and anecdotes from the life of Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky z”tl, (page 127), Rav Yaakov mentioned a sharp statement (derech tzachus) in relation to this. The pasuk says (Melachim 1, 18:21) “Ad masai atem poschim al shtei hase’ifim, for how long will you jump between two ideas.” In that pasuk Eliyhau HaNavi is criticizing Bnei Yisrael, asking how long they will continue to go from Hashem to worshipping the idol Baal. But, Rav Yaakov says, it can also refer to these two se’ifim, the se’if regarding Melava Malka and the se’if of Seudas Rosh Chodesh. How long will you Jews skip over these two mitzvos which the Shulchan Aruch hoped to focus attention on by giving each one its own siman?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-one-chapter-book-ovadiah/2012/11/30/

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