Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shidduchim VI - Change? Yes we Cam!


Many moons ago, I announced on this blog that I intend to write another post about the Shidduch crisis. Thus far, I have not delivered.

In truth, I did draft a partial post long ago but I have neglected to follow through and complete it. Many other topics have taken front page headlines of late. No need to drag out a dead horse.

Nevertheless, over the weekend I was inspired to make one more attempt to publish this evasive post in honor of two things:

1.      We are at the eve of Tu B’Av – the traditional day of Shidduchim in our culture.

2.      The most recent issue of Mishpacha magazine is running a feature about a devoted askan from California – one Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz – who is trying to lend a helping hand.

It seems from the article that R’ Shlomo Yehuda understands the crux of the problem: the natural age gap between when girls enter the shidduch market to when boys enter the shidduch market ensures that, on a yearly basis, more girls enter than do boys. As long as this trend continues, there will always be a shortfall of boys. In conjunction, for boys that linger a bit, with each passing year they have the option to check out the younger inventory and overlook the veterans from the girls’ side. Unfair, but such is life.

This is a vexing problem and there is no true solution for it. Nothing can fix this in the short term. I wrote about this at length in previous posts (see HERE).

Unfortunately, the best that R’ Shlomo Yehuda does to help out is to advocate a remedy that is neither original nor a true solution. Though it may reduce some of the symptoms, it won’t cure the disease. He proposes to narrow the gap by encouraging boys to enter the shidduch market close to the same age that girls do. This is prevalent in Chassidic circles and, to a lesser extent, even in “Litvish” circles in Eretz Yisroel.

The theory is that if boys enter the market at about the age of 20, there will be more boys around to capture the young girls and less unmarried girls will pass the “23” year mark. As an added bonus, it will reduce the market of younger girls for older boys who will then be more amenable toward more mature prospects. 

This is bound to be an uphill battle. And here is why:

·         First and foremost, as I said, this is not a short term solution. Even if it were to be implemented tomorrow it will only help מכאן ולהבא – from now on. It will do absolutely nothing to help the thousands of past due young women who are stranded in limbo. If it becomes a new trend, perhaps it will help the next generation after the current dor hamidbar passes on.

·         In terms of the age gap and what it causes, this plan – if successful – would only narrow it to some degree but not eliminate it entirely.

·         Moreover, I think that even R’ Shlomo Yehuda recognizes that the chances of this becoming a new norm are extremely daunting. The article discusses the great challenges to learning development that must be overcome. It totally makes no mention about the financial challenges that must be overcome. Every young family needs income to exist. More income than single people need. And young families quickly grow. The sooner they start out, the sooner they grow. This income must come either from the couple themselves or from their parents. My assumption is that neither one is going to be in a big hurry take on this financial responsibility. More so in this current beleaguered economy.

·         Further, as a trained Shalom Bayit counselor, I have enough insight to know encouraging boys to marry when they otherwise would not is playing with fire. Yes, the article very optimistically states that young people can mature quickly when they have to, but they don’t always do. And when they don’t, it’s a recipe for disaster.

·         Not to mention that most girls are not so comfortable with younger boys. While those unfortunates in the 24+ category may be flexible out of necessity, the younger 19-21 year olds who are not yet hard pressed will still seek out older fellows.

·         And my last point is that this plan would only work if the 20 year old boys actually marry – like the Chassidim do. If they only use it as an early starting point for dating but don’t “hit it off” quickly and linger around, there is nothing accomplished.

All told, IMHO, this plan has too many limitations to be truly effective although it may help reduce the extent of the catastrophe to some degree.  Of course, I think that any remedy, even if it only helps a little, is worth trying out for the sake of those that it may help.

That said, I want to expand on the idea of modifying current trends to help alleviate the Shidduch catastrophe (albeit not solving it) by implementing a new trend that I have been advocating for over 5 years. This is to make the shidduch process easier, faster and cheaper – and therefore more efficient – by encouraging young singles to start the dating process using web cams and online video such as Skype. I railed at length about the advantages of this idea in THIS POST.

Now, I wasn’t the only person to come up with such an idea. A fellow named R’ Jeff Cohn who started Make-a-Shidduch Foundation also saw the benefits of web cam dating. But since he didn’t think he would get adequate Rabbinic support for a cost efficient Internet based system, he invested a lot of time, money and energy in a very clumsy, costly, and inefficient Point-to-point cable system. I recognized up front that this PTP cable system cannot be workable and I wrote a post devoted to explaining why (see HERE). I knew it would bomb but I gave it a chance.

Sure enough - it bombed! Although there was a highly celebrated launch with the blessings of several American Gedolim and some prominent shadchanim including the renowned Rabbi Shlomo Lewenstein from Lakewood, it never took off. And all the time, energy, and money was lost.

Well, if the Rabbanim thought it was a good idea and the shadchanim thought it was a good idea, how about doing it right – so that it works? Sure, it won’t solve the Shidduch catastrophe but shouldn’t we do anything sensible that can alleviate it to some extent?

And now I want to get a bit more personal.

Currently, I have three children on the auction block (all available to the highest bidder), two of whom are of the male persuasion and one is female.

The first of the three is my oldest boy Yaakov who has made a few appearances in my posts. Yaakov turned 25 in March. He is pursuing a Masters degree at Bar Ilan U. As you can surmise, he is more of a Torah Im Derech Eretz advocate(chareidi-lite) and he is searching for his barshert in those circles.

The third of the 3 is my 21 year old daughter – the only female in this bunch. She is now 3 years post high school and is facing the same trials and tribulations as everyone else. On the plus side (for us, at least), it does not seem to me that this crisis is as acute in Eretz Yisroel as it is in America. Perhaps we have a bit of an advantage because American born FFB girls who are proficient in English are at a premium here. So we get many suggestions. On the flip-side, there is a dearth of American born FFB guys who are proficient in English, so many of the suggestions are non-starters.

The one I want to focus on in this post is my 23 year old full blown hard core black and white Yeshiva bochur who I will call “Yossi”. He’s a serious, down-to-earth, genuine article type of guy (tall, slim, dark blond and blue-eyed, too, in case that means anything to anyone…) As you can imagine, we get a ton of suggestions for him. Never a dry moment. He probably would have been long gone except that he’s a bit fussy on three things: Location, location, location.

“Yossi” was born in the US of A and was about 6.5 years old when we moved to the Holy land.  Although he attended mainstream Israeli Yeshivas in his formative years, he hasn’t been interested in dropping the “Red’ from the Red, white and blue. Incidentally, in his mainstream “Israeli” cheder, there were so many Anglo parents at every parents meeting that I thought the Hebrew speaking parents must feel like foreigners. After he completed his “Brisker” Yeshiva ketana, he immediately set out for the Anglo Yeshiva gedolahs. And so, he spent 5 years in Yeshivas Birkas Mordechai (under R’ Yaakov Friedman son-in-law of R’ Yosef Tendler Z”L of Baltimore) and then Yeshivas Yagdil Torah (R’ Avrohom Teichman from Long Beach), and, finally, he pitched his tent (almost literally) in the almighty Mir of Jerusalem by R’ Nissan Kaplan, Shlita. For the summer, he is a learning rebbe at Camp Adirim.

He walks American, talks American, learns and socializes with the Americans, and…he wants an American girl.

To be sure, there are numerous American families just like ours living here in EY. Accordingly, we’ve gotten many suggestions from the progeny of these families and, some of which developed into actual shidduch “parshas”. So far nothing clicked for him and in some cases, despite the young lady’s RW&B pedigree, he still felt that they were “too Israeli”. Call it a mishugoss (I do), but his first preference is a girl who actually currently resides in the USA.

The problem is: we live here. And these kinds of girls are very scarce on this side of the ocean (because they live there). Most American seminary girls are not dating (rightly so). The exceptions are the second-year sem girls or those that just happen to be visiting. Not a very large pool.

So if the most suitable prospects for my “Yossi” are oceans away how do we bridge this gap?

One obvious solution is simply to send him to learn in the US. A plausible solution, but rather a bit too costly for my meager finances. We need “the next best thing to being there”.

Enter Skype. Yep, for the cost of a doughnut hole, my Yossi could date any prospect anywhere in the US or Canada without missing a shiur. Of course, if something really looks promising, we may need to dip into the meager finances and ship him overseas but the foundation will already be dug out.

Interestingly enough, my Yossi has personally met the renowned Shlomo Lewenstein (yes, the one mentioned on page 69 of the Mishpacha issue) and, upon my instruction, told him point blank that he prefers a true American girl and is willing to Skype for it. I believe he mentioned it to some others as well. Among other pluses, this would be a great opportunity to pioneer an unused method and open up a new frontier for North American girls who are open to living in Eretz Yisroel.

Yet, to date, we have gotten no response from the American officials. Not a nibble. Can it be that the seminary graduates of today are so overwhelmed with Shidduch proposals cramming their email boxes that they have no forbearance for a long distance b’show a la Skype?

Not from what I just read in Mishpacha magazine.

I don’t know if the resistance to a new method is due to ignorance or apathy (I don’t know and I don’t care), but if currently available low cost web cam dating is something people won’t want to experiment with, how would we expect a more monumental change like getting serious boys to want to marry en masse at substantially younger ages?

Kol haKavod and hatzlacha rabba to R’ Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz but I don’t see this Shidduch crisis catastrophe getting better any time soon.
 
Post script – Although it may not look this way, the purpose of this post is NOT to market “Yossi”. It is to market web cam dating. My “Yossi” does not need marketing and currently we are blessed with numerous prospects from the local talent, B”H. That said, if any reader is seriously interested in Yossi or in our other two children who are currently in the Parsha, feel free to email me at: 1a7b.author@gmail.com
 

Related posts:

Original Achas L'Maala post describing the severity of the Shidduch crisis catastrophe in mathematical terms (Oct.1, 2009):

http://www.achaslmaala.blogspot.co.il/2009/10/good-news-more-it-gets-better-more-it.html
 
Original Achas L'Maala post promoting Web Cam dating (Nov. 26, 2008):
 
Original Achas L'Maala post examining ShidduchVision (Jan. 28, 2009): 

 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Parah Adumas - New and Old

The Temple Institute of Jerusalem seems to be making a big fuss over a potential Parah Adumah that was discovered in the United States. Assuming that it is a kosher Parah Adumah – and it very well may be - it is definitely something worth watching.

The YouTube video that shows it is embedded here.  (If you receive my emails and the video is not embedded – HERE is the link.)
 




The interesting thing is that if you are as old as I am, this may not the first time you have heard about a real live Parah Adumah. In the late 70s, as I recall, there was an announcement of one being born at Moshav Komimius in E”Y.  Some time later I asked somebody whatever became of it and I was told that it “turned black”.

I heard about another one in E”Y about the time I made Aliyah in the late 90s.

The obvious conclusion is that just like every generation has its “Moshiach” and Eliyahu HaNavi on “standby”, there is also a Parah Adumah hanging around somewhere on standby.

Yet it makes quite an impression to know where it’s hanging around. Hey, from all of the reported Parah Adumahs of the past, this is definitely the first one to make it onto YouTube!

I just want to focus a bit on what I just wrote that there is a Parah Adumah in every generation. I mean that in more ways than one. This is because there are two kinds of Parah Adumahs.


The real one has four legs, a tail, a head and an udder and a pure reddish brown coat. It is all but impossible to find.

The philosophical one has many blurry lines and is everywhere we look. It is all but impossible to avoid.

Both are metaher temayim and metamei tehorim and both are here in every generation.

Please see my post on this from September, 2008 – HERE.

We truly need both Parah Adumas. Only the real one can purify us from tumas meiss. But only the philosophical one can help us understand the world we live in.

 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Upon 3 Things the World Stands...

על שלשה דברים העולם עומד, על התורה ועל העבודה ועל גמילות חסדים


A still life photo by my son Nesanel Dov - 10 yrs old.

Note - The photo may not be visible to those who view this post in their email. Click HERE to view.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Emes V’Emunah Blames G-d


I have seen no shortage of posts from the mighty pen keyboard of Rabbi Harry Maryles that I would deem despicable. One of his most recent ones is a contender for the all-time (so far) trophy!

The post was posted on May 4, 2014 and is titled: Who is to Blame for the Divisiveness? He goes on to lead his post with: The chareidim are at fault.

For the record, let me first say that I wouldn’t mind taking the blame. I am more honored than insulted. And I will explain myself presently. What is truly despicable is not only Harry Maryles’s obsessively jaundiced view of chareidim, but also his poisonous approach to sociology and Judaism.

Why does anybody have to be “at fault”???

The minute there are multiple viewpoints on any given construct, those who maintain one viewpoint will preach and behave accordingly and those who have a differing viewpoint will preach and behave accordingly. The differing viewpoints are due to nature and nurture, indoctrination and education. It goes without saying that when the various viewpoints conflict, there will be inevitable divisiveness.  So be it. That’s how the world turns. This is why the Rambam felt that Hilchos Deyos (Laws of Personality Divergence) is the second most important topic to cover in Mishna Torah. Diferent people think differently.

So, why does a self-righteous preacher like Rabbi Harry Maryles need to keep some kind of a scorecard and apportion blame to anybody??

Utterly despicable.

But once he broached the subject, it calls for a bit of discussion.

Harry is basing his post on a recent feature article in Mishpacha magazine which did an analysis on what “They” - the secular/traditional world - think of “us”. Harry says that "anybody who read the article would come to the same conclusion."

Well, I read the article and I did not come to the same conclusion. (Hattip Rambam – Hilchos Deyos!)

You see, the article was missing a number of things that would enable somebody to make such a conclusion. Primarily – while the article displayed figures about what percentages of secular/traditional people have positive opinions or are more accepting of chareidim, it does not display any figures on what the chareidim think they think of us. In other words, it does not tell us if these numbers are higher or lower than what we expected the numbers to be.

Now, many of us, and certainly Rabbi Harry, would assume that most chareidim would expect much more negative results and  so we ought to be surprised. But, who is to say that if the analysis included our expectations, the numbers won’t reflect a more optimistic mindset in the chareidi camp itself? Hey, if we found a pleasant “chiddush” in one area, who says there won’t be a pleasant chiddush in another area?? Thus, how can this assumption be justified?

The second issue is: aside from a lack of data on how we think they think of us, if you want to play a “blame game”, there needs to be a mirror study done about what we think of them.  Perhaps our numbers of being positive or accepting of the secular/traditional chevra will top their numbers of acceptance of us? And, if so, the inevitable conclusion would be that they are to blame!!

So, in addition to the fact that it is pointless folly to blame anybody, we anyway do not have the necessary data to make a scientific conclusion at all.

That’s 2 strikes on Harry for being despicable.

But here comes my final pitch.

Rabbi Harry is shooting the messenger.  If you need to blame Somebody for “divisiveness” at least Harry should be man enough to cut out the middleman and go straight to the Source.

You see, we chareidim are chareidim l’dvar Hashem. We are following a script. The script is clearly written in Parshat Bechukosai (just one more week to go). In this Parsha, HKB”H himself sets up 2 camps and draws line. One is Im Bechukosai Telechu – the One Above camp. The second is V’Im Bechukosai Timasu – the Seven Below camp.

G-d made this division – not any “chareidim”. G-d told every Jew which camp to stand in (Devarim 30:19). The chareidim obey because G-d said so. The non-chareidim do not obey.  I wrote this all very clearly on page 228 of the book that most non-chareidim and especially Rabbi Harry Maryles, would not dare to read. And this is exactly what I wrote:

It is not my desire or intention to make distinctions or categories within observant Judaism. We are all the children of G‑d the Father. He says so Himself, “Sons are you to Hashem your G‑d; you are not to make leagues…” [1] This can be understood not as two distinct statements but as one relational statement - because we are all equally the sons of G‑d the Father, we, therefore, have no business dividing ourselves into separate “leagues”.

But G‑d does designate two camps. He says Im b’chukotai telechu which He calls “et haChaim v’et haTov[2] (the source of life and all that is good) and he says V’im b’chukotai timasu which He calls “et haMavet v’et haRah[3] (the source of death and all that is evil) and he tells us, all of us, where to stand – “u’bechartem b’Chaim![4] (And you shall choose life!) He does not make distinctions between His children, but by our choosing to stand in different places, we segregate ourselves.
 

The chareidim are not divisive. We do our best to follow G-d’s script and we encourage all other Jews to do the same. We distance ourselves from those who refuse to follow the script because G-d tells us to.

Case in point, observe the ludicrous nonsense in this “Emes V’Emuna” post (edited for brevity):

MK Yaakov Asher says pretty much the same thing. For Charedim, the isolationism is intentional, he says. Charedim dare not be exposed to what he calls ‘ the defilement of Israeli society’! 
 
The secular interviewees are on the exact opposite track. They want to integrate Charedim into their world and value their contributions. They point to Charedim who have made the jump into the workplace and note that they are among the most reliable and ethical workers and have a very strong work ethic.
 
So there you have it. I wish it weren’t so.

What Orthodox Rabbi Harry Maryles is doing is bemoaning that chareidim refuse to expose themselves to a Seven Below (V’Im Bechukosai Timasu) lifestyle –despite the fact that the Torah tells us to and admonishes us that we should be ashamed of ourselves owing to the fact that some “secular” (i.e., mechalelei Shabbos and tznius) Jews are actually willing to expose themselves to One Above (Im Bechukosai Telechu).

And this man (Harry Maryles) calls himself a Rabbi and a Torah Jew!!

So when Rabbi Harry blames us for playing up to Im Bechukosai Telechu and not kowtowing to V’Im Bechukosai Timasu he is really blaming the One who made the rules - not the ones who are playing the game. G-d - not we - calls for divisiveness when some (most?) Jews are not playing His game.

So, intrinsically, it’s G-d’s fault. But we chareidim don’t mind taking the blame. We are really taking the credit. But for Rabbi Harry for whom it is a mitzvah to find blame – he is really blaming the One who drew the line.

That’s 3 strikes on Harry.

Utterly despicable!



[1] Deuteronomy 14:1. This verse is being interpreted in accordance to the exegesis of the Talmud in tractate Yevamot 14a.
[2] Deuteronomy 30:15
[3] Ibid.
[4] Deuteronomy 30:19

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Pnei Hador have told the nation/They won't stand for segregation...

We may think that the three most influential leaders of the State of Israel, the “Pnei Hador” (shown below carrying the whole world on their shoulders) are not looking out for our best interests.






Pnei Hador (from left): Curly Bennet, Larry Lapid, Moe Netanyahu

Our musical spokesman, Asher V’Chaim, knows otherwise.

Who is Asher V’Chaim?

Well, nobody really knows. He has not gone public with his true identity. So he calls himself Asher V’Chaim.

Why?

Because in some earlier statement, Yair Lapid used the names “Asher V’Chaim” as a reference to the paradigm chareidi man in the street beis-midrash. (Like we say “John Doe” or “Tom, Dick, and Harry”). So this fellow calls himself "Asher V’Chaim" to be representative of the paradigm chareidi a la Yair Lapid.

He seems to be a young fellow but he is also well acquainted with 1960s antiwar songs. I am duly impressed because I am indeed a child of the 60s and a true red-white-and-blue American and I had never heard the original Tom Paxton anti-Vietnam song that he is parodying. Incidentally, Tom Paxton in his much later years put out a sequel to this song with regard to the second Iraq war.

The Paxton songs are definitely the perfect choice for a source song because they express the exact same sentiment as the new chareidi parody:
The government is enacting compulsory laws to satisfy its own agenda and is justifying it as saving the “victims” from… themselves.

The protesters didn’t buy it then and we don’t buy it now.

In any event, this song is going viral in Chareidi circles here in E”Y. You may not consider 3,800+ hits viral, but considering the fact that it had only 650 hits a mere 2 days ago and the limited market it addresses, it’s pretty active.

For convenience, the lyrics for this parody are readily available on the YouTube post. Unfortunately, they are in Hebrew and the English speaker may not readily grasp the full meaning. So, as one of my many public services, I am presenting a linear translation of the lyrics. The translation is meant to preserve the Hebrew flavor so it may not be conversational English.  I also apologize that I was unable to poeticize it with rhymes and a steady meter (though I tried). 

So, here is the song.

 

And here are the lyrics.

“In just a short time will arrive the order
that will clarify the situation
that “equality of burden” is already here.
No non-compliance will be forgiven
and to the prisons they will be driven
to be an avreich (kollel fellow) here will be hazardous.”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for you the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
we will conscript you, my brother
and there, we will give you a new education.”

“If your name will be left out
to what can you hope to amount?
One who hampers the development will adversely affect the product.
You have not acquired higher education
you do not comprehend economics
the most that you will ever be fit for is…to be Minister of Finance.”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for you the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
we will conscript you, my brother
and there, we will arrange for you a new education.”

“You are amazed and ask with urgency
if this “burden” is in truth necessary.
Why do we currently need obligatory enlistment?
Arise from your delusions, and awaken
they have built careers around this “equality” slogan
Why ruin an effective battle-cry?”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for you the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
your enlistment is imperative
so that we can give you a new education.”

“If you will shout throughout the kingdom
‘Where are the emperor’s clothes?’
Just look at how silly you are.
If the army would hire and train
only the amount of soldiers that it really needs,
how would this country manage to produce any shesh-besh (backgammon) champions?”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for you the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
we will conscript you, my brother
and we will hand you down a new education.”

“Many have already stood against you
[to challenge] your ‘goodly tents’ (of learning and praying)
to uproot Torah learning from the Jews.
They all failed in their endeavors
and did not accomplish their missions
yet we will [succeed to] actualize a first-of-its-kind law!”

Yair, Bennet and also Bibi
they are concerned about you, my dear one
[although] they are destroying for the third time the sanctuary.
“To the army that is like none other
we will conscript you, my brother
and, we will transform you to a new chiloni (secularist).”

“and, we will transform you to a new chiloni (secularist).”

And so... 

The Pnei Hador have told the nation/they won’t stand for segregation…

…and they will fix our education.

פרעה לא גזר אלא על הזכרים – אבל לב"נ ביקש לעקור את הכל.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Three Years of Parnassah…Up Front!

Firstly, I do want to apologize for not following up on my Shidduch Crisis post that I launched last spring. I do hope to get to it eventually but for now, I need to digress. I hope to follow the crude advice of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to "never let a crisis go to waste".

The Yomim Noraim of 5774 have come and gone. What did we daven for?

Well, if you are like me, a heartfelt entreaty for parnassah was probably at the top of the list. After all, the world economy in general and Yechezkel Hirshman's economy in particular are what we call here al hapanim (the pits). I mean really bad shape. My own trade deficit (income vs. outgo) rivals that of Uncle Sam. My income cannot cover my basic day to day expenses and I have been forced to supplement my meager earnings with reserve money to the point of near total depletion. Cutbacks and mounting short term debt have taken their toll. I have IOU notes in my cookie jar. Not to mention at least 3 offspring on the Shadchan's sights (getting back to the Shidduch crisis…)

Of course, the Yad Hashem is always evident. About six months back I calculated that I have enough reserve to keep me afloat until June. When June came around, a long overdue and hard fought payoff came through and I revised my calculation that I now have enough to hold me until Rosh Hashannah. To me this was quite significant because every Rosh Hashannah is another chance to reset the tables. I saw that HKBH's plan for me for 5773 was fulfilled. But what's in store for 5774?

So when the Days of Mercy came around three weeks ago, like so many others, I poured out my heart for financial salvation.

But it struck me recently that perhaps, we who live here in Eretz Yisrael didn't have to. For us, there is no need to worry about parnassah this year. For 5774, parnassah is guaranteed. GUARANTEED!

And not just one year of parnassah. Three years. Three whole years of parnassah to be dealt out in 5774. GUARANTEED!

Where is it guaranteed?

Right here in my chumash. In Vayikra 25:20,21. Here it clearly states:
וכי תאמרו מה נאכל בשנה השביעית הן לא נזרע ולא נאסף את תבואתנו: וציויתי את ברכתי לכם בשנה הששית ועשת את התבואה לשלש השנים:

Free translation:
And should you ask "What shall we eat on the seventh year? Alas, we cannot sow and we cannot gather our produce?" And I will order My blessing on the sixth year and it will yield its produce for the amount of three years.

That's right, for those who intend to uphold the laws of shemitta, we have a guarantee that on the sixth year the GDP will do a threefold performance and we'll pull in enough to keep us afloat for three whole years. What a deal!!

Of course this probably won't apply to everybody. There are those Jews who rely on the Hetter Mechira and by so doing, treat the seventh year like every other year.

In a previous post (see my post about Ki LiHaAretz - Eminent Domain), I wrote at length that the validity of the Hetter Mechira needs to be reviewed because some of the key factors that were used to justify it in the first place are no longer applicable. But regardless of whether it is still Halachically valid it may not be a good idea to rely on it.

Why?

Because it probably voids the guarantee.

You see, this guarantee is earmarked for people who ask: "What shall we eat on the seventh year? Alas, we cannot sow and we cannot gather our produce?"

G-d is making this guarantee for those who intend to follow the basic laws and not to sow and not to gather the produce. For those who will use Halachic loopholes to circumvent the prohibitions, I am sure G-d can find some loopholes in His guarantee.

So now, 5774, the sixth year of the cycle, is the time for all of us Jews living in E"Y to decide how we intend to keep the upcoming Shmitta year. The genuine way that comes with a three year guarantee or the convoluted way that doesn't.

Remember: הטורח בערב שבת הוא יאכל בשבת.

Now, I personally identify with the follow-the-rules-as-written (WYSIWYG) clan so I do hope that the guarantee applies to me. Of course, one may argue that this guarantee is only applicable to those who actually work the land, not to those who get their sustenance from Technical Writing or the benefits of a US based family business.

This may indeed be so. But since 5774 is indeed the sixth year of the cycle, people like me can always fall back on preservation plan B…

…5774 is a Maaser Ohni year!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Anticipating the Geula

Wel-l-l-l, it's the third day of Nissan and, although the Pesach rush makes things hectic at home, it is actually quieting things down a bit here at the Har Chotzvim office. This gives me a long overdue opportunity to write.

Now, there have been occasions over the past year that I considered to finally come out of hibernation and post something, but it just didn't happen. One of the main urges came around the issue of the Great Internet Satan and the great Kennes that took place in CitiField last summer.

One reason I didn't take it up is that to some extent I have been worshipping the Great Internet Satan myself (of course I have filters) so perhaps my perspective would wax thin. Another reason is that I really did not have much to add to the outspoken pundits who were already on record.

My overall position has always been that the Internet is just another one of many Para Adumos that we must suffer along our treacherous journey to Destiny. This was totally reflected by the banner slogan that graced the event: We can't live with it; we can't live without it. Of course, I do think it is a great Kiddush Hashem that so many frum yidden took the time and congregated to face up to the hazards of this issue. Yet, I don't think it is especially prudent for anybody in today's generation to pompously declare who does or doesn't get a share in Olam Haba. This is not salesmanship and not the way to win friends or influence people.

Another crucial event was the expose' and trial of various sexual offenders. Primarily the one from Williamsburg. Though I have not been privy to all the details of the case, I am personally of the opinion that the fellow is guilty as sin.

Why?

Because there does not seem to be any dispute that he violated the Halachos of Yichud l'mehadrin min ha'mehadrin. And when basic ABC yichud is so blatantly and wantonly violated, not only is there no chezkas kashrus to the perpetrator, but there is actually a chezkas tumah as we know from the laws of Sotah.

Still, I try to stay away from discussing the sexual issues because, more than not, they are a discussion of human behavior inside of a religious framework rather than a discussion of hashkafa. My game is hashkafa. In other words, I may preach "Being of the chareidi hashkafa is the best because we have the morality laws and only we have the halachos of Yichud to safeguard ourselves and others." Invariably, the kvetchers will point out how much of our morality laws and laws of Yichud are brazenly violated by my fellow chareidim. To which I can only respond, "It's not a problem with the rulebook, it's a problem with the players!" (That's ye olde "Don't judge Judaism by the Jews" defense.)

Of course, the hottest issue of the day is the power struggle in Eretz Yisroel and the mishugoss of "Equalize the Burden" and the resulting coalition crisis.

Now, this should not be an issue in the eyes of any Orthodox Jew because, as I wrote clearly in Chapter 6 of my book, Orthodox Jews are expected to live within the precepts of Pirkei Avos. Pirkei Avos (3:5) tells us:

רבי נחוניא בן הקנה אומר: כל המקבל עליו על תורה מעבירין ממנו על מלכות ועל דרך ארץ; וכל הפורק ממנו על תורה נותנין עליו על מלכות ועל דרך ארץ.


 

Those who carry the burden of Torah are relieved of the burden of government. Those who throw off the burden of Torah are exacted the burden of government.


 

In short, we have our burden and the secular have theirs. They don't carry ours – we don't carry theirs. Seems pretty equal to me. We have nothing to apologize for. Especially to those who are not familiar with Pirkei Avos and do not even recite Krias Shma (or even Modeh Ani) at least once a day.


 

Notice the word כל which means Everyone. Not 400 students and not 1800 students. It means Everyone who accepts the yoke of Torah, whether it is 600, 6000, 60,000, 600,000, or 6,000,000 .


 

It is sad but not surprising that even some "Orthodox" Jews do not respect the words of Pirkei Avos (as well as do not recite Krias Shma twice a day). These may include such notables as Naftali Bennet.


 

In any case, my observations are that the sincere Torah oriented religious Zionists (RWs) are not currently at odds with the chareidim. Ever since the disengagement they learned that the post-Zionist establishment is not their ally. What comes out is that this army issue is really a religious/secular (believer vs. non-believer) issue rather than a chareidi/NCOJ (beliver/believer) issue. My work is to deal with the latter.


 

With this, to express my feelings about the army issue, I refer you to my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Moshe Averick, who has taken up the believer/non-believer cause and has written a poignant and well researched essay that speaks for all of us. (Click HERE for the essay – just don't forget to come back!)


 

So, if I didn't come out of retirement to discuss the Internet, sexual deviance, or Israeli politics, what did bring me out of the deep freeze?


 

It is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart and to those of many others --- the Shidduch crisis!


 

As I knew it would, it hasn't gotten any better. There is no reason for it to have.


 

Unfortunately, I have already used up almost all of my window of time for this winded introduction, aside from the fact that this post is already as long as a post should be. Thus, I will sign off from this post and bare my thoughts in the next post which I hope should come out before Rosh HaShanna, bli neder.


 

In the meantime, Chodesh Nissan is here. It's time for a real geula.


 


 


 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Autistic Speaks (or Writes)

Although I obviously don't have much time to devote to my blog, it is nevertheless still up and running. And people still find and read my posts. my site meter tells me this.


My posts also get numerous comments a day. Almost all of them are spam comments that are mass generated and ID as "Anonymous". 


Well, yesterday, for the first time in quite a while, I received a comment to an existing post - a three year old post, actually - that seemed to be genuine albeit a bit "heretical" and disturbing. The commenter identified himself (I assume it is a male) as Collin Merenoff and called himself "an autistic Jew who can speak and type on my own". He was commenting  to one of the posts I had written advocating the "writings" of the "chareidi" autistics using a technique known as Facilitated Communication (FC). 


You can see the post and the comments with my response HERE.


For those who did not check out the link, I will reprint both his comment and my response in this post.


Since this person identifies himself as an autistic, it seems he has some authority on the mind of an autistic and the authenticity of FC. So here is his comment:



Collin Merenoff said... 
That last poster is absolutely right about FC. I'm an autistic Jew who can speak and type on my own. Many of my family members have/had some aspects of autism. I have grown up with the wisdom of an agnostic grandmother from Vilnau, and a religious and Kabbalistic grandfather from Chorzhel, who got along perfectly despite their differences, because they were each autistic in their own way, and they shared the wisdom of autistic Judaism. And that wisdom would be total anathema to any cult, for my grandparents (y'hei shalama raba...), my parents, and I all agree that the Torah is deeply flawed, that Halacha is mostly irrelevant, and that the real word of G-d is in secular ethics and scientific truth.
JUNE 19, 2012 1:09 AM
This comment has taught me many things. The main thing is that even autistics have bechira and they can choose for themselves whether to be a maamin or not. This one prides himself on a long yichus of skeptics all of whom were blessed with a variant of autism. 


Another thing that I learned is that there is a brand of Judaism called "autistic Judaism" that has a special "wisdom". I also learned that this "autisitc Judaism" with its own brand of wisdom cannot be considered a "cult" because its hahkafos are "total anathema to any cult". Only those who believe in FC are branded (by an earlier commenter and confirmed by this one) as a "cult".


As for the authenticity of FC, this commenter is not specific in any way. He just seconds the opinions of the previuos poster. He probably did not see my subsequent post (available HERE) where I took on his challenge head on. One important point I made in the beginning of that post is that FC is used for autistics who cannot commnicate by themselves and thus we cannot gage FC based on autistics like Collin who can.


So now, I wish to present the response that I wrote to my friend Collin:


To Collin 

Thank you for your comment. 

>>I'm an autistic Jew who can speak and type on my own.  

It seems to me that most people in the blogosphere are autistic [Jews] who can speak and type on their own. 

>>my parents, and I all agree that the Torah is deeply flawed 

You are implying that if it was up to you, you could produce a "flawless" Torah. The Torah is a constitution, or a set of rules for a vibrant society. Society is made up of Human beings with many Human shortcomings (including autism). Humans are full of "differences" and "flaws" and any constitution that can effectively regulate a society of Humans is beyond flawless. It is remarkable and magnificent.
From all known constitutions and religious dogma, the Torah has the best track record for viability and vibrance, bar none. 

>>that Halacha is mostly irrelevant 

Perhaps. But recent polls in Eretz Yisrael have established that the members of society who adhere to Halacha (hareidim in particular but not exclusively) have considered themselves to be "happy with their lives" to a percentage greater than any other sub-community.  

>>and that the real word of G-d is in secular ethics and scientific truth 

Yes, indeed. Both "secular ethics" and "scientific truth (???)" have made themselves into religions of their own. And so, those who stray after them see them as the "real word of G-d". "Secular Ethics" has brought us Naziism, socialism and communism and pro-abortion and homosexual marriage. If this is the word of G-d then you and I are definitely worshiping 2 different "G-ds".

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Accepting Kids or Excepting Kids – Phishing for a Psak

I wrote in my book that there are basically two “grades” of chareidim: the Rabi Shimon ben Yochai grade and the Rabi Yishmael grade. 

In general, the two grades interact rather well but on some issues there may need a bit of arbitration. Here is how I wrote it in the book: 

The inevitable result is the emergence of two main categories of chareidim – the [Rabbi] Shimonists and the [Rabbi] Yishmaelists. These two strains co-exist within every chareidi community and often within chareidi households. In most aspects, there are no substantial adverse effects to this phenomenon. The Yishmaelists admire the Shimonists for maintaining a higher standard and the Shimonists appreciate that the Yishmaelists are ‘doing their job’. Essentially, they carry out a teamwork program (in the spirit of the Yissachar – Zevulun partnership) as, typically, both groups gain from the achievements of the other. 

Problems do arise when Rabbi Shimonist chareidim expect or demand other chareidim who may lean toward the Yishmaelist school of thought to maintain their stricter standards. These problems tend to flare up in relation to community issues which collectively affect all of the chareidim in a community and where a common policy must be adopted. Here, these two conflicting schools of thought make it difficult to determine a single policy to serve the entire spectrum. In some cases, a rift within the community is unavoidable. This occurs mostly within the education system as that is one crux of the initial debate – should young chareidim be educated exclusively toward the higher Shimonist standard or not? Does the presence of the Yishmaelists make those standards harder to achieve? On occasion this disparity comes to the fore in family relations, mostly between fathers and sons (though sometimes even between husbands and wives or in-laws), sometimes with tragic consequences. This issue demands further study which I hope to provide. 

To rephrase the question: Is it justified for a “high class” chareidi educational establishment to except potential students who do not fully fit their preferred profile, or are they beholden to accept them? 

Well, listen to the opinion of one of the finest arbitrators in the business, L’orach yamim v’shanim tovim.

In the ensuing video, two school officials from Beit Shemesh are consulting with the "Rosh Yeshiva" Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlit"a. It seems that a local Beit Shemesh man is on the verge of remarrying to a widow from Bnei Brak who has two sons. As they are looking to settle in Beit shemesh, they want to enroll the two boys in this particular Talmud Torah.

The officials of the TT somehow feel that this widow is too "open minded" for their tastes and are seeking the Rosh Yeshiva's approval to not except accept the two boys.

The Rosh Yeshiva will have none of it! And he says so in no uncertain terms.
Oh, and pardon the English.


(Note - For email recipients who do not get the embedded video, you may access it HERE)




Note - Although this video was just recently published on YouTube, I am told that this incident occurred over a year ago.