Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shaved heads and Sheitels

Interestingly enough yesterday's (Shabbos) daf (נזיר כ"ח) discussed both women shaving their heads and wearing sheitels.

There is a din that a husband can annul his wife's vows including a vow of נזירות. The Mishna discuses until what point can he annul the vow and has a dispute between R' Meir (or Rebbi depending on the girsa) whether he can annul the vow after she brings her korbanos but before she shaves her head (a נזיר after he completes his נזירות has to bring a set of korbanos and then has to shave his head). R' Meir says that the husband can annul the vow even after she has brought the korbanos because he can say that he doesn't want his wife to have a shaved head (because he doesn't like it). The Gemara explains that the Tanna Kama disagrees with R' Meir because the wife can wear a wig (פאה נכרית) and the מפרש explains and that it looks like her head isn't shaved and therefore the husband has nothing to object to. R' Meir says that the husband can object to a wig that he doesn't like it.

Form this Gemara we see a number of very important points regarding both shaved heads and sheitels:

Shaved Heads

1. It is clear that married women didn't shave their heads, otherwise the husband would have nothing to object to.
2. The Gemara assumes that a woman with a shaved head does not look good and is not pleasing to her husband.

Based on the above I don't see any way to claim that a married woman must shave her head as many Chassidic groups require. In fact, we see just the opposite, that at the time of Chazal married women did not shave their heads and a woman with a shaved head was considered not attractive to her husband.


The Gemara allows a married woman to wear a shaitel and in fact according to the Tanna Kama the shaitel was relatively realistic and looked good. This would seem to support those Rishonim and Acharonim who permit shaitels.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

How does פרוזבול work?

As we approach the end of Shemitta now is the time to write a פרוזבול so that any loans that you made don't become cancelled by Shemitta.  To many people a פרוזבול seems like magic, you sign a document and poof your loans don't become cancelled. However, this is not the case. פרוזבול works within the halachic system and uses well established halachic principles.

The gemara in Gittin 36a states:
הלל התקין פרוסבול וכו': תנן התם פרוסבול אינו משמט זה אחד מן הדברים שהתקין הלל הזקן שראה את העם שנמנעו מלהלוות זה את זה ועברו על מה שכתוב בתורה (דברים טו) השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל וגו' עמד והתקין פרוסבול

Hillel saw that people were not lending money and therefore created פרוסבול so that the loans would not be canceled by shemitta.

The gemara asks on Hillel
ומי איכא מידי דמדאורייתא משמטא שביעית והתקין הלל דלא משמטא

How could Hillel be מתקן פרוסבול when the torah says that the loan is canceled?
The gemara answers:
אמר אביי בשביעית בזמן הזה ורבי היא

Abaye answers that פרוסבול only works if shemitta is d'rabbanan. The gemara then asks the reverse question:
ומי איכא מידי דמדאורייתא לא משמטא שביעית ותקינו רבנן דתשמט

How could the chachamim make shemitta derabbanan, min hatorah he has to pay back the loan? The gemara answers
רבא אמר הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר

Beis Din has the power min hatorah to take away your money.

The simple reading of the gemara is that פרוסבול only works if shemitta is d'rabbanan. In other words, the Rabbis don't have the power to what they want, if shemitta is min hatorah they can't do anything. In fact, this is how the Rambam (הלכות שמיטה ויובל פרק ט) paskens ואין הפרוזבול מועיל אלא בשמיטת כספים בזמן הזה, שהיא מדברי סופרים; אבל שמיטה של תורה, אין הפרוזבול מועיל בה

The Raavad there argues on the Rambam and has a different interpretation of the gemara, Rashi also learns like the Raavad.

They explain the gemara as follows. Rava's answer of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר answers the original question as well. What is the machlokes the Rambam and the Raavad? Here are 2 possible explanations:
1. There is a famous machlokes what is the power of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר min hatorah? Is it A) the simple translation of the words that beis din can declare your property ownerless or is it more then that, B) they can take your property and give it to someone else.

One case where this comes up is where a man is mekadesh a woman with a kinyan d'rabban, is she married min hatorah? Kinyanim d'rabban work based on הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר if we hold like A, then a kinyan d'rabbana only works m'drabbanan, min hatorah the woman has not yet received the money and therefore min hatorah is not yet married. However, according to B, a kinyan d'rabbana works min hatorah and she is married min hatorah.

Based on this we can understand the machlokes the Rambam and the Raavad. The Raavad holds like B, that Beis Din can take from a and give to b, that is how a פרוזבול works, Beis Din takes the money from the borrower and gives it to the lender before shemitta, therefore there is no loan for shemitta to cancel. the Rambam on the other hand holds like A, Beis Din min hatorah can only take away your money but they cannot give it to me and therefore it doesn't help for shemitta, by shemitta they need to give you the money and they can't, and therefore shemitta cancels the loan.

The gemara there brings 2 sources from where הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is learned out. דאמר ר' יצחק מנין שהפקר ב"ד היה הפקר שנאמ' (עזרא י) וכל אשר לא יבוא לשלשת הימים כעצת השרים והזקנים יחרם כל רכושו והוא יבדל מקהל הגולה רבי אליעזר אמר מהכא (יהושוע יט) אלה הנחלות

The Rashba seems to say that the above machlokes depends on what the source is. The pasuk in Ezra is like A, Beis Din can take away your money, while the pasuk by nachala is like B (they took from 1 and gave to another). The Rambam when he brings down the din of הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר quotes the pasuk in Ezra as the source, the Rambam lshitaso that הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is like A, and doesn't work for shemitta min hatorah.

2. How does shemitta cancel a loan? A) Does it cancel the monetary aspects of the loan or B) does it NOT affect the monetary aspects, rather it prohibits the lender from collecting. The Rambam holds like B, it is an issur, therefore הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר is not relevant it can't be matir issurim, the Raavad on the other hand holds like B, and therefore הפקר ב"ד היה הפקר can restore the monetary aspects.

The gemara later on daf ל"ז has the following strange din
המחזיר חוב לחבירו בשביעית צריך שיאמר לו משמט אני ואם אמר לו אע"פ כן יקבל הימנו שנאמר (דברים טו) וזה דבר השמטה אמר רבה ותלי לי' עד דאמר הכי

If the borrower wants to return the money after shemitta anyway, he can, but the lender must first refuse. Raba says that ותלי לי the borrower can do this to the lender until he says that he wants to pay back. What does ותלי לי mean? Rashi explains the gemara literally, the lender can string the borrower up on a tree and force him to say that he wants to pay back the money. The Rosh asks how could that be? This destroys the whole din of shmitta. We can explain the machlokes like 2 above. Rashi holds that shemitta doesn't cancel the loan, the borrower is still obligated, however, the lender cannot go and collect the loan. Therefore, he can force the borrower to pay as the gemara says. The Rosh holds that the loan is cancelled and therefore how can he force the borrower?

To conclude, we see that פרוסבול is an example of chachamim working within the halachic system and not just waving their magic wand. In the area of money the chachamim have more powerful tools to work with and may be able to do more, but in the end, they need to work with the halachic tools available.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Parnassah knife - what have we come to?

The following ad was in this past weeks Mishpacha magazine

This is most probably an issur d'oraysa but they have no problem printing this ad, but a chas v'shalom to print a picture of a woman. This really makes me sick.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Kollel wife is insulted by a positive article about men who work and learn seriously

Mishpacha magazine published a very positive article about Charedi men who left kollel to go to work but are still very much involved in learning and learn a few hours a day. The wife of an Avreich was insulted by the article and wrote the following response:

מיהו אברך

רבקה ח ירושלים

אני לא קוראת קבועה של העיתון, אבל קניתי אותו בגלל הכתבה על אנשים שתורתם אומנותם במובן שגם הם לומדים שעות וגם עובדים

אני נשואה לאברך חשוב - אנחנו חיים, שורדים, ומתחתנים ילדים, והכתבה הזה השאיר אצלי טעם חמוץ. אינני יודעת למה, אבל אולי כי הרגשתי שיש בה משום זלזול בתלמידי חכמים אמיתיים כמו בעלי שמוסרים את הנפש לתורה,שלומדים כל החיים, שנשארים בכולל והם אברכים אמיתיים
אני לא יודעת להסביר בדיוק, כי מובן שזה תופעה מבורכת אבל לא על חשבון אנשים כמו בעלי וחביריו

אני כותבת לכם בסערת נפש. אני מורה בסימנר מספר שעות בשבוע, ואני תוהה מה לומר לתלמידות בעקבות כתבה כזו אם השאלה תעלה

אשמח לשמוע דעות בעניין הזה ומה אומרת דעת תורה על זה

I am not a regular reader of the magazine but I bought it because of the article about the people who "their profession is torah", in the sense that they learn hours a day while also working.

I am married to an important Avreich - we live, we survive, we are marrying off children, and this article left a bitter taste in my mouth. I don't know why, but maybe because I felt that there was disrespect for real Talmidei Chachamim like my husband who gives his soul to Torah, learns his whole life, and stays in kollel and these are the real Avreichim. I don't know how to explain this exactly, because it is clear that this a good phenomenon but not on the backs of people like my husband and his friends.

I am writing to you with a lot of trepidation. I am a teacher in a high school a few hours a week and I don't know what to tell the girls about this article if the subject comes up. 

I would be happy to hear other opinions on this subject as well as what "Daas Torah" has to say about this.

A few comments about the letter:

  1. I don't understand why it is disrespect to her husband to show respect for people who work and learn. Respect is not a zero sum game.
  2. She states that her husband and his friends are the real Talmidie Chachamim implying that people who work are not Talmidie Chachamim and can't become Talmidei Chachamim. While in most cases this is true, there have been people like the Chayei Adam, R' Kehati (Kehati Mishnayos) , and others who worked and were still Talmidei Chachamim. 
  3. Her husband has been sitting in Kollel for more then 20 years (they are marrying off kids) and is an important Avreich, and yet his wife doesn't consider his opinion Daas Torah. You would think that an important Avreich who has been sitting and learning for the past 20+ years and gives his soul to Torah would have "Daas Torah", otherwise what has he been doing this whole time?
Where does this attitude come from? I think it is comes from fear of the slippery slope. If people realise that you can leave kollel and still be a Talmid Chacham, still learn seriously, then they are afraid that the kollels will empty out. Why stay in kollel when you can work and make a living and still learn? Therefore, no respect can be given to people whole left kollel even if they are worthy of respect because of the slippery slope.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Kollel to Work: The Transition

Binah magazine this past week had a cover story about couples transitioning from the husband being in kollel to the husband going out to work and the difficulties in this transition. There was 1 particular part that really caught my eye where a wife talked about the sacrifices that they are having to make while her husband works and that it is a much bigger sacrifice to work then be in kollel. My comments are in [brackets]:

I was always taught to feel like it's something special to sacrifice for Torah. Well, you leave kollel and you realise that almost EVERYONE has to make sacrifices for life. It is a fact of life that the world is set up for hard work, its the way God made it, but somehow in the kollel mentality you forget that [that is part of the whole educational system which teaches to look down at working men].
One might even start to look with cynicism at the yeshiva families who are so proud of their sacrifices, now that you realise that they actually have it pretty good. ... compared to the life of the person working up from the bottom tier, kollel life is nice [this applies to people who are not in the bottom tier as well].
Of course the objective is that after a few years of clawing our way through college and entry level, we will end up in a more relaxed life, please God [unfortunately this is a complete fallacy see my note 1 below]. My husband will still be working full time hours with none of the sweet family schedule stuff [this is a bigger deal then she realises see note 2 below], but hopefully money will be less tight [see note 1]...    

Note 1: Unfortunately money does not become less tight as time goes on, if anything it becomes more tight as I will explain. Lets take a typical example, 28 year old married 5 years with 2 kids and a third on the way leaves kollel. He gets an entry level job paying $30k. Money is definitely tight but his expenses are pretty low, minimal tuition ( pre-school) and only 2 kids. Fast forward 10-12 years later and he is very successful and more then tripled his salary to $100k. Sounds great, however, not only did his income triple but so did his family and now he has 6+ plus kids many/most in Yeshivas. Tuition + summer camp is easily $10k per school age kid and taxes are higher. Living in a high tax state like NJ or NY 1/3 goes to taxes, that leaves about $70k, if $50k goes to tuition then you have basically have no money left. This is all without the regular kids expenses such as clothing (weekday and shabbos), shoes (weekday and shabbos), food, etc. all for 6 kids. Additionally, health insurance for a large family can be very expensive even if your employer provides coverage. The fact is, being a middle class frum Jew is the worst of both worlds, the government and the schools classify you as rich because you make a nice salary but you pay so much in tuition that you are really poor. The kollel families benefit from all kinds of government programs (health insurance, food stamps, section 8 housing, etc.) while you are considered rich so you get nothing from the government. In America it is very difficult to make ends meet working with a large family unless you make a whole lot of money.

Note 2: The Kollel schedule is so much easier then a work schedule it is not even comparable. The average employee in corporate America starts out with 10 days of vacation and if they are lucky can get up to 15 days after a few years. However, in America, Yom Tov is 7-12 days that you must take off. Then you have Purim and Tisha B'Av which to experience the spirit of the day you must take off, and then you have 5-7 days of Chol Hamoed. That leaves basically no days off to take a real family vacation or even to take off on Chol Hamoed (depending on the year). Contrast this to the kollel schedule. 1 month off for Nisan, 3 weeks off after Tisha B'Av and 3 weeks off after Yom Kippur. Add in short Fridays where for 2 months you need to leave work at 2:30 to get home for Shabbos, there is no comparison.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hamodia and the Hubble Space Telescope - Cognitive Dissonance

Hamodia published an interesting feature in this weeks English newspaper about the Hubble space telescope. Of course they emphasised the "wonders of Hashem" and talked about far off galaxies and nebulas and how they show the greatness of Hashem's creation.

However, those same far off galaxies and nebulas also "prove" another fact, that the universe and the world is billions of years old which is something that much of today's Charedi world does not accept and calls kefira. It is fascinating how they can use and praise science when it fits their agenda but suddenly when science contradicts their agenda (e.g. Chazal got their science from Sinai and never made a mistake in Sinai) suddenly the scientists don't know anything etc. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Only in Israel can the Attorney General say that from a legal standpoint Deri can be a Minister but he will have a hard time defending it

What on earth does that mean? If legally Aryeh Deri can be appointed a minister (he fulfils all of the criteria set out in the law), what is there to defend? It is an open and shut case. The answer is that the Supreme Court in Israel has decided that it has the last word on judgement, and therefore if in the Supreme Court's judgement he is not "worthy" to be a Minister, then he can't be appointed.

There is no way to describe this except as judicial dictatorship. The elected government makes a decision based on their judgment of what is best and comes the Supreme Court and substitutes it's judgment and says that the decision was unreasonable. Why should the opinion of unelected judges hold more weight then the man elected and charged with the responsibility?

One of the fundamentals of representative democracy is that the people elect representatives who are supposed to use their judgment in running the government. Basically what the petitioners are saying is that based on our judgment we think he is a bad candidate and we would not have appointed him. The problem is that Netanyhau was elected to apply his judgment as to what is best, not you, and not the Supreme Court, if you don't like it run for the Knesset.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Yated takes the money for the ads but assumes no responsibility

Basically what it says is that while Yated Neeman publishes advertisements for various investment/real estate schemes they takes no responsibility for the trustworthiness of the people involved nor do they take any responsibility for the issurim of taking interest etc. that may be violated. The responsibility rests on the investors to investigate.

Imagine what would happen if Yated would take such an approach to restaurants or food products, or women's clothing. Imagine if they said the restaurants that advertise here may be treif, it is up to the consumer to check them out. There would be such an outcry that they would be forced to stop taking such ads until they checked them out. Yet in monetary matters, no one cares.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Have you ever wondered how all of the money change places make a living?

I have and this weeks Mishpacha magazine answered my question. Mishpacha interviewed 2 businessmen who lost everything due to the change places and the article explained how they worked. Changing money is a very low profit business with a margin of maybe 1.5%. This means that if you change $1 million a month you only make $15,000 gross and then you need to pay rent, workers, other expenses, etc. Given that, how can the change places in Charedi neighbourhoods, where there are 3,4,5 or more within blocks possibly all make a living? It is hard to imagine that so many millions of dollars are being changed very month. The answer that the Mishpacha magazine gave was loan sharking. The change places have become de-facto banks giving out loans to people who are desperate for money at ridiculously high rates. The businessmen who were interviewed spoke of taking a 20,000 shekel loan for a week at an interest rate of 5% for the week. Over a year that comes out to over 200% interest. Of course when after a week you can't pay back, they roll it over for another week taking another 5% interest etc. You end up using up all your money just to try to pay the interest.

Of course, these kinds of loans are both illegal under Israeli law as well as under halacha but it doesn't stop anyone. Unfortunately, many in the Charedi world are desperate for money and get sucked in.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The electoral system is even more broken

All you have to do is look at the difficulties Netanyahu is having making a coalition and the deals he has to make to do it. These deals are a disaster for the country. My post from 9 years ago The electoral system in Israel is broken ... is unfortunately more relevant then ever.