Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Religious Scientists

The New York Times (registration required) has an article (free registration required) on scientists who are now beginning to speak out about their religious beliefs.

This is on the heels of a study asking scientists about their belief in God.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Closeness Hurts

When the child of religious Jews intermarries, the result is disastrous. Communications are cut off, people ostracized. The impact is much greater with a child than a neighbor, or even a cousin. The same if a child or relative goes off the derech.


The closer the person, the bigger the "slap in the face." That's why the battles between MO and UO are so fierce. We're so close to one another that the differences are magnified. How can you *not* look at the medinah as the beginning of redemption? How can you? How can you not wear a hat, how can you look at secular studies so positively? Without these we agree on everything, but it's that miniscule amount that causes the problems. Its why Conservative and Reform are a bigger threat to Orthodoxy than secularists.

That's why I can't stand the Neturei Karta. That's why, at the Israeli Day Parade, I have to restrain myself from barreling through the police and throttling those poor bast-- miseducated souls. If I was part of a minyan with them I'd probably walk out. If there were only ten people I'd question if there was actually a minyan.
That a Jew who says he is religious vehemently denies what I look at as an open miracle hurts. That they take the steps of the Neturei Karta makes me nauseous.

It is with that in mind that I point you to this article in Ha'aretz, to Yisroel Dovid Weiss, who wants a Palestinian state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.

Spring in the Air

Don't you love when you walk outside and can smell that Spring is approaching? The smell of change.

I smell change.

Late last week, Godol Hador posted a psak halacha from a number of poskim (R. Elyashiv, R. Karelitz, R. Wosner, R. Shteinman, R. Auerbach, R. Kanievsky and R. Lefkowitz) on using computers for movies and video games. Why do I think its a big deal?

They could have just banned computers. That would take care of using them for movies (in lieu of a TV) and video games. But they didn't. Implied in this is that computers can be used for good (just like cellphones) and that its ok to keep them. Being that the vast majority of work on computers involves the Internet (else you could just buy a typewriter), I think we're very close to an implicit, if not explicit, muttaring of the Internet.

Then again, I don't know how often these big psakim have reasons laid out or are so specific, though the Slifkin and other bans lead me to believe that nuance is not always present.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


For the last several days I haven't blogged much. Hopefully that will change in a week or so. I'm in the midst of moving and getting ready for school, which have taken up much more time than expected.


R. Lichtenstein's letter to R. Shapira, in English:

BS"D 11 Menachem Av, 5765

Question Sent to HaGaon Rav Avraham Shapira, shelita

To the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav
HaGaon Rav Avraham Shapira, shelita:

A halakhic ruling issued a few days ago by His Honor has been brought to my attention. With His Honor's permission, I wish to raise several questions of clarification, so that I may understand His position more clearly. Let me preface my remarks by saying that I come not, God forbid, to provoke, nor in the role of one who feels insulted or offended. May Heaven be my witness that were it not for the importance and urgency of the matter – many see it as bordering both on a breach of the honor of God's name and on issues of life and death – I would have remained silent. My objective is merely to clarify positions and draw people closer together.

I have questions regarding a number of specific points, and I hope, towards the end of my remarks, to relate to several examples. My primary bewilderment, however, relates to the general line that characterizes the aforementioned ruling. Many of the assertions found in the ruling are clear and obvious to any schoolboy – that one is forbidden to steal, to demolish a synagogue, to assist in the commission of a transgression, and the like – and they are equally accepted by men of learning who oppose refusing orders. As for the relevancy of these directives to our case, however, two arguments may be raised, which, to a certain degree, have a common denominator.

1) With respect to values and principles that divide Israeli society, regarding which there is no agreement that defines a particular initiative as patently illegal or immoral, selective refusal of orders is impossible. Refusal on the right invites refusal on the left, and vice versa. The result is a divided and disjointed army, part of which dissents and abstains from an initiative in one direction, and the other part from an initiative in the opposite direction. The damage to the unity and cohesion of the army and to the readiness for mutual dedication and sacrifice is clear. And as a result, the I.D.F.'s ability to carry out its missions and its power of deterrence become eroded. One need not be a great general or statesman to understand the significance of the possible consequences. In short, argue the proponents of this position, when we consider the issue from a wider perspective, in depth, and in the long-term – and let us not forget, they warn, Rav Chayyim permitted the performance of biblically forbidden labors on Shabbat in order to save a person from being sent to jail because of which he is liable to die in another twenty years – we are dealing with a concern about the loss of human lives and the weakening of the state and its army.

2) At the same time, argue the proponents of this position, there are military and political professionals who maintain that there is a reasonable chance that the present government's plan will save – again, in the long term – human lives, and/or it will preserve the Jewish demographic character of the state. There is no certainty regarding these issues, but in the opinion of many, there is also no certainty in the opposite direction. It is difficult to predict the future, and only a few days ago we read of prophets who saw "vain and foolish visions," and, as opposed to Yirmiyahu, fed the public, who thirsted for their words, "burdens of falsehood and deceit." In any event, according to this argument, we should define the present decision as one involving the possible saving of lives (they obviously admit that there exists a danger to lives in the opposite direction, that in the short term the disengagement might put people's lives in greater danger, but, according to them, the matter remains uncertain), and examine every halakhic ruling connected to the matter accordingly.

The ruling that His Honor has issued totally ignores these arguments. Thus, I come to my first question: Does His Honor simply reject, in absolute manner, the possibility of these scenarios, he being convinced, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that rightness and logic are to be found exclusively among the professionals with whom he has consulted? And if so, here the son asks, what is the basis for this absolute certainty – a realistic appraisal of the situation, faith and trust, or God's secret revealed to those who fear Him? Or, alternatively, does His Honor agree that the dangers exist, but they do not suffice to tilt the balance when deciding the Halakha - either because of the severity of the prohibitions, that does not allow them to be set aside by the possibility of saving lives, or because of the importance of preserving the integrity of the Land of Israel, the weight of which is greater than that of saving lives.

In a similar context, a parallel question arises. His Honor asserts that whoever fails to obey His ruling "will not be cleared" (lo yenake). This expression is exceedingly harsh; it is what moved our Sages to include the prohibition of taking a false oath, because of the prohibition of taking God's name in vain, among the severe transgressions, even though it is a simple negative commandment. What are the principles and sources, on the basis of which even the evacuation of a settlement in the Land of Israel is included among the severe transgressions, when both the Sages and the Rambam mention only the prohibition of taking God's name in vain as being exceptional in this regard? From one point to another, but within the same general topic, I assume that His Honor's ruling was given to someone who regards himself as subordinate to His authority. Does He think that the ruling is valid, and to the same degree of severity, for members of other communities, whose leaders have not expressed themselves in the spirit of His Honor, and perhaps have even ruled in the opposite manner? For example, what advice would His Honor give to a disciple of my revered teacher, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, ztz"l, who resolutely asserted that there is no prohibition to hand over portions of the Land of Israel to the nations of the world when there are considerations of saving lives, and even said that when we come to define these considerations, we must take into account the views of military and political leaders? And if someone thinks that, from a purely political perspective, the prospects of removing the settlements are greater than the dangers, and he anticipates that it will contribute to the saving of lives, and he wishes to participate in the initiative relying on the Rashba (Responsa, I, 413): "And even the most pious of the pious are not permitted to do their work by way of trust [in God], but only in the manner of the world" – does His Honor think that such a person may be granted an allowance?

I am aware that His Honor presumably rejects this appraisal of reality, and I too am not convinced that it is correct. But is it so simple to say that anyone who adopts it and acts accordingly "will not be cleared"? Is there no room to clear him, even according to the assumptions of His Honor's ruling, in line with the Rambam (Hilkhot Shabbat 2:16): "If a person heard that a child drowned at sea, and he spread out a net to rescue him, but he only caught fish, he is exempt from all liability" – that is to say, that in cases where a person's actions are motivated by the desire to save lives, he is exempt from liability because we take into account his motivation? Or perhaps a distinction must be made between a failure in execution and a mistake in appraising reality?

In conclusion, with His Honor's permission, I wish to receive clarification, with respect, for example, to two specific points:

1) His Honor opens with the assertion that removing Jewish settlements is forbidden by Torah law because of the prohibition of "Lo techanem"? However, it is common knowledge that His Honor permits the sale of land in the Land of Israel in order to deal with the problems of the Sabbatical year, and that He even encourages people to rely on this allowance. The problem of "Lo techanem" also arises in connection with this sale, and as is known, the leading halakhic authorities have discussed the issue since the days of Rav Kook, ztz"l. Among the arguments in support of the allowance, it has been suggested that the prohibition only applies to the seven Canaanite nations, or, at the very least, that it is limited to idolaters, a category that does not include Moslems. I believe that some authorities maintain with respect to allowing non-Jews to acquire property as do the Ramban and others with respect to a gift, that there is no prohibition when the donor is motivated by his own needs and benefits as opposed to the needs of the recipient. Does His Honor reject these positions outright, and allow the sale of land for the Sabbatical year for different reasons, or does he rely on them only in a case of dire need – and were he to believe that a security need exists in the present situation, he too would rely on these positions to resolve the problem of "lo techanem"?

2) His Honor asserts as obvious that someone who demolishes part of a synagogue building or its accessories violates a biblical prohibition. This appears to be the position of the Rambam, as noted in his count of the mitzvot (though this point is omitted both in Sefer ha-Mitzvot and in the Mishne Torah, as has been discussed at length by the Acharonim). But many Acharonim have suggested that according to some Rishonim we are dealing here with a rabbinic prohibition. This is especially true according to those who maintain that the very sanctity of a synagogue is only by rabbinic decree, but perhaps it is so even according to those who think that a synagogue's sanctity is by Torah law. For the Gemara only mentions one who demolishes one of the stones of the Sanctuary or of the Temple courtyard, or burns consecrated wood; and minor sanctuaries, i.e., synagogues, were not explicitly added. Does His Honor ignore these opinions because He accepts the view of the Yerei'im that the sanctity of a synagogue is by Torah law? Or is He of the opinion that while the sanctity of the synagogue building itself is only by rabbinic decree, demolishing a synagogue is forbidden by Torah law, because it is intended for Divine service, and its destruction involves an insult, as it were, to God - this being precisely what is forbidden according to a close reading of the verse, "You shall not do this to the Lord, your God"?

Furthermore, the Rambam clearly states, both with respect to demolishing a stone of the sanctuary or the courtyard and with respect to burning consecrated wood, that a person guilty of these offenses is not liable to lashes – and, presumably, does not even violate a biblical prohibition – unless he acted "with destructive intent" [derekh hashchata] (Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah 6:7). This expression appears in several areas of Halakha, and its precise definition is unclear. Does His Honor think that it comes only to exclude one who demolishes in order to build? Or perhaps, whenever there is no malicious intent to inflict damage, it is not called "with destructive intent"? If we adopt the second understanding, is it unreasonable to suggest that a soldier who destroys a synagogue, innocently thinking that his action is part of a positive mission, is not defined as acting "with destructive intent," even if in objective terms, he is in fact mistaken, so that the halakhic conclusion on this point as well revolves around one's appraisal of reality?

Despite Chazal's assertion that at the time of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, God performed an act of lovingkindness with the Jewish people when he spilled His wrath on wood and stones, limiting thereby the loss of human lives, there is no doubt that in our case the fate of the synagogues is especially painful – both because of their own sanctity and because they symbolize the social and communal fabric that is liable to be destroyed as a result of the evacuation. The problems stems especially from the fact that on the face of it, according to all opinions – including those who maintain that the disengagement will in the long term have a positive outcome – the desired results can be achieved even if the synagogues remain standing. From here there arises halakhic and emotion confusion that is not simple. If the disengagement plan is indeed executed – a scenario that His Honor obviously prefers not to consider – and if we assume that the future of the synagogues of Gush Katif has no security ramifications or political significance, where is the way that light dwells and which of the two difficult options, each like wormwood and gall, is to be preferred? From a purely halakhic perspective, if there is no third alternative (for example, agreement regarding the fate of the synagogues after they are transferred, similar to what is stated in Megila 27b regarding the sale of a synagogue), and there exists a reasonable danger that if they remain standing they will turn into mosques, in which will be sounded words of incitement and blasphemy against God and His anointed one – is it preferable to destroy them – and especially so that "they tell not in Gat" and "lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph"? Or perhaps, because of the fear of violating the prohibition of demolishing a synagogue, mentioned by His Honor, it is preferable to adopt a sit back and do nothing (shev ve'al ta'ase) approach, despite the emotional difficulty of seeing the entry of desecrators, which, especially in this area, pushes us towards a scorched earth policy? And what is the weight to be given in this situation, one way or the other, to the view of the Ramban that a synagogue that no longer serves its purpose loses its sanctity, like an etrog after the holiday of Sukkot, and other things used for mitzvot that may be thrown away after their time has passed? From His Honor's ruling regarding the prohibition of demolishing synagogues in our case, I understand that he did not take this position into account. It is not clear to me, however, whether this is because He maintains that this view was not accepted as normative law, or because His Honor thinks that even according to the Ramban, the matter depends upon the will of the townspeople, and not cruel reality. I do not know the extent to which the decision-making process regarding this matter rests today in the hands of the halakhic authorities. I do, however, see importance, both halakhic and ideological, in voicing the Torah's position on this complicated and painful matter.

I conclude in the same manner as I began. I have not come, God forbid, to provoke, but to clarify and seek elucidation. In the event that His Honor will agree to relate to my questions and is able to take the time to answer them, it will contribute to the understanding of a complicated issue that deeply touches our very souls. Would that the Master of the Universe grant us to discuss more joyful and heart-warming issues, in an atmosphere of calm and tranquility, both personal and communal.

With the blessing of Torah and mitzvot,
And with amity and esteem,

Aharon Lichtenstein

(Translated by David Strauss. This translation has not been reviewed by HaRav Lichtenstein.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Question from R. Lichtenstein to R. Shapira

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, one of the Roshei Yeshiva at Yeshivat Har Etzion (Gush) has sent a question to Rav Shapira, Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz HaRav.

I will post a link to the letter online as soon as I find it, as well as the english translation once someone posts it. For now, the next post has the text. Unfortunately blogger does not have an upload feature. If anyone would like a copy of the letter (DOC or PDF), please E-Mail me at and I will forward it to you.

Update: The letter can be found here (PDF)


Text of the letter to R. Shapira:

ב"ה, י"א מנחם-אב תשס"ה

מכתב שאלה לגר"א שפירא שליט"א

ראש ישיבת מרכז הרב
הג' ר' אברהם שפירא שליט"א, שוכטו"ס

הופנתה תשומת לבי לפסק הלכה שפירסם כת"ר לפני כמה ימים; וברשות כת"ר, הנני בזה להעלות כמה שאלות הבהרה, כדי להבין את הדברים על בוריין. פתח דבר, אקבע כי אינני בא בזה, חלילה, כדי לקנטר ואף לא על תקן נפגע או נעלב. סהדי במרומים, כי אילולא חשיבות ודחיפות הנושא – רבים רואים אותו כגובל בכבוד שם שמים ובדיני נפשות כאחת – החרשתי, ואין מגמתי אלא ללבן עמדות ולקרב לבבות.
בפי כמה שאלות אודות מספר קביעות נקודתיות; ואני מקווה, לקראת סיום דברי, להתייחס לכמה דוגמאות. ברם, עיקר תהייתי נוגעת לקו הכללי העובר כחוט השני דרך הפסק הנ"ל. חלק גדול מקביעות המסמרים שבפסק פשוטים וברורים בעיני כל בר בי רב – שאסור לגזול, לנתוץ בתי כנסת, לסייע לדבר עבירה וכו' – והם גם מקובלים על ידי בני אוריין המתנגדים לסרבנות. אולם אשר לזיקת הוראות אלו למקרה דנן עולים שני טיעונים, אשר להם, במידה מסוימת, מכנה משותף:
א) ביחס לנושאים ערכיים ועקרוניים החוצים את החברה הישראלית, לגביהם אין הסכמה המגדירה יוזמה פלונית או אלמונית כבלתי-חוקית ובלתי מוסרית בעליל, אין אפשרות לנהוג בסרבנות סלקטיבית. סרבנות מימין מזמינה סרבנות משמאל, ולהיפך. התוצאה הינה צבא מפוצל ומפולג, אשר חלק ממנו מסתייג ומינזר מיוזמה לכיוון אחד ומשנהו מיוזמה לכיוון הפוך. הפגיעה באחדות ולכידות הצבא, ובנכונות להתמסרות ומסירות נפש הדדית, ברורה. ובעטייה, כושר הביצוע ועוצמת ההרתעה של צ.ה.ל. מתכרסמים; ולא צריך להיות מצביא או מדינאי גדול כדי להבין משמעות ההשלכות האפשריות. בקיצור, הם טוענים, בראייה בהיקף, לעומק, ולטווח ארוך – ואל נשכח, הם מתריעים, כי ר' חיים התיר עשיית מלאכות דאורייתא כדי להציל אדם מכלא אשר בגינו הוא עלול למות בעוד עשרים שנה – מדובר בחשש לאבדן חיי אדם והחלשת איתנות המדינה וצבאה.
ב) במקביל, הם טוענים, ישנם בעלי מקצוע, צבאיים ומדיניים, הגורסים כי יש סיכוי סביר שתכנית הממשלה הנוכחית תציל – שוב, בראייה לטווח ארוך – חיי אדם, ו/או, תשמור על אופייה היהודי הדמוגרפי של המדינה, אין ודאות בכך, אך לדעת רבים וטובים, אף אין ודאות הפוכה. קשה לצפות, והרי לפני ימים ספורים קראנו על נביאים שחזו "שוא ותפל", ובניגוד לירמיהו, הלעיטו את הציבור, שצמא לדבריהם, "משאות שוא ומדוחים". בכל מקרה, לטענתם, יש להגדיר את ההכרעה הנוכחית בספק פיקוח נפש (הם מודים, כמובן, שאף קיימת סכנת פיקוח נפש הפוכה, שדווקא ההינתקות היא שבטווח הקצר תסכן, אך, לדבריהם, מידי ספק לא יצאנו) ולבחון כל פסק בנידון בהתאם.
מן הטיעונים האלה הפסק שפורסם מתעלם כליל. ובכך, כאן, שאלתי הראשונה – האם כת"ר פשוט כופר, החלטית, באפשרות התרחישים האלה, בהיותו משוכנע, מעבר לכל צל של ספק, שהצדק וההגיון אך ורק עם אנשי המקצוע המייעצים לו. ואם כך, כאן הבן שואל, מה יסוד הודאות המוחלטת הזאת – הערכה מציאותית, אמונה ובטחון, או סוד ה' ליראיו? או, האם, לחילופין, כת"ר מסכים שהסיכונים שרירים וקיימים אלא שאין בכך כדי להכריע את הכף להלכה, אם מפני חומר האיסורים, שאינם נדחים מפני ספק פיקוח נפש, ואם מפני חשיבות השמירה על שלימות ארץ ישראל, אשר משקלה עולה על של נפשות.
בהקשר דומה, מתעוררת שאלה מקבילה. כת"ר קובע כי כל מי שלא יציית לפסקו "לא ינקה". ביטוי זה חריף למדי, והוא שהניע את חז"ל לכלול איסור שבועת שקר, מפאת אזהרת לא תשא, בין החמורות, אף שאין בו אלא לא תעשה גרידא. מה היסודות והמקורות, על פיהם אף נכלל פינוי ישוב בארץ ישראל בין החמורות, כאשר חז"ל והרמב"ם בפירוש רק ציינו את לא תשא כחריג בהקשר זה? ומעניין לעניין באותו עניין, אני משער כי פסק כת"ר נמסר לשואל שנמנה על עדת הכפופים למרותו. האם, לדעתו, הפסק תקף, ובאותה רמה של חריפות, לגבי בני עדות אחרות, אשר מנהיגיהן לא התבטאו ברוח כת"ר ואולי אף פסקו להיפך? למשל, מה ימליץ כת"ר לאחד מתלמידי מו"ר הגרי"ד סולוביציק זצ"ל, אשר קבע נמרצות ונחרצות, שאין איסור במסירת חבלי ארץ ישראל לאומות העולם במקום שיקולי פיקוח נפש, ואף קבע שבהגדרת אותם שיקולים יש להתחשב בדעות אנשי צבא ומדינה? ולמי שחושב שמבחינה מדינית צרופה, סיכויי הפינוי עולים על סיכוניו, ושצפוי שיתרום להצלת חיים, ומבקש להשתתף בו בהסתמכו על דברי תשובת הרשב"א (א:תיג), "ואפילו החסיד שבחסידים אין להם רשות לעשות במלאכתן דרך הבטחון רק כדרכו של עולם", האם סבור כת"ר שניתן להתיר לו?
אני מודע לכך כי כת"ר מן הסתם שולל הערכה זאת, וגם אני אינני משוכנע בצדקתה. אך האם פשוט לקבוע כי המאמץ אותה ופועל לאורה, "לא ינקה"? האם אין כאן מקום לנקותו, גם על פי הנחות פסק כת"ר, לדעת הרמב"ם (שבת, ב:טז), " שמע שטבע תינוק בים ופרש מצודה להעלותו והעלה דגים בלבד פטור מכלום" – דהיינו, שבמקרים של מניעי פקוח נפש, ניתן לפטור מצד בתר מחשבתו אזלינן? או שמא ניתן לחלק בין כשל בביצוע לבין טעות בשמועה והערכתה?
לסיום, ברשות כת"ר, ברצוני להשיג הבהרה ביחס, לדוגמא, לשתי נקודות ספציפיות:
א) כת"ר פותח בקביעה כי הפינוי אסור מדין תורה מפאת "לא תחנם". ברם, מקובל בציבור כי כת"ר מתיר למכור קרקעות בארץ ישראל כדי להתמודד עם בעיות השמיטה, ואף מעודד לסמוך על היתר מכירה. גם לגבי מכירה זו מתעוררת בעיית לא תחנם, וכידוע, דנו בה גדולי הפוסקים מימות הרב קוק זצ"ל ואילך. בין הטיעונים שהוצעו להיתירא, הועלו הצעות כי אין האיסור חל אלא לגבי ז' עממין או, לפחות, שהוא מוגבל לעובדי עבודה זרה, שאין המוסלמים כלולים בהם. ודומני שישנם הסבורים, לגבי חנייה בקרקע כלשיטת הרמב"ן ודעמיה לגבי מתנת חנם, שאין איסור כשהמוסר מונע על ידי טובתו וצרכיו לעומת צרכי המקבל. האם כת"ר שולל סברות אלו מכל וכל, ומתיר מכירה לשמיטה משיקולים אחרים, או האם הינו סומך אף על דעות אלו רק בשעת הדחק – ולו היה סבור שקיים צורך בטחוני, היה אף הוא סומך על הדעות הנ"ל כדי לפתור בעיית "לא תחנם"?
ב) כת"ר קובע כדבר פשוט כי הנותץ חלק מבנין בית כנסת או מאביזריו עובר איסור דאורייתא. זו כנראה דעת הרמב"ם, כמצויין במניין המצות (אם כי נקודה זו הושמטה ב"ספר המצות" וב"משנה תורה" גם יחד, וכבר רבו דיוני האחרונים בכך.) ברם, הרבה אחרונים שיערו כי לפי כמה ראשונים אין כאן אלא איסור דרבנן – במיוחד, לדעת הסוברים כי כל קדושת בית הכנסת אינה אלא מדרבנן, אך אולי גם לדעת הקובעים כי הינה מדאורייתא, שכן בגמרא רק מוזכר נותץ אבני היכל או עזרה או שורף עצי הקדש, ולא נתרבו מקדשי מעט. האם כת"ר מתעלם מדעות אלו מפני שהוא מקבל כדבר פשוט את שיטת היראים שקדושת ביהכ"נ מן התורה; או שלדעתו אף אם קדושת החפצא אינה אלא מדרבנן יתכן איסור נתיצה מדאורייתא היות והוא מיועד, סוף סוף, לעבודת ה', ויש בנתיצתו, אם כך, פגיעה, כביכול, בקב"ה, וזה מה שנאסר על פי דיוק בלשון הפסוק, "לא תעשון כן לה' א' "?
עוד בענין זה, ברמב"ם הרי מבואר, הן לגבי סתירת אבן היכל או עזרה, והן לגבי שריפת עצי הקדש, שאין אדם לוקה – ומן הסתם, אף אינו עובר איסור דאורייתא – אלא אם כן פעל "דרך השחתה" (יסודי התורה, ו: ז). מונח זה מופיע בכמה תחומים בהלכה, והגדרתו קצת מעורפלת. האם, לדעת כת"ר, זה רק בא למעט סותר על מנת לבנות? או שמא, כל שאין כוונה זידונית לפגוע ולהזיק, לא מיקרי דרך השחתה? אם נאמץ את ההבנה השנייה, האם לא מתקבל על הדעת שחייל שהורס בית כנסת בחושבו, לתומו, שזה חלק ממבצע חיובי, אינו מוגדר כפועל דרך השחתה, אפילו אם, מבחינה אובייקטיבית הוא, לאמתו של דבר, שוגה, באופן שהקביעה ההלכתית בנקודה זו אף היא סובבת סחור סחור להערכת המציאות ואופייה?
אמנם, חרף קביעת חז"ל כי בשעת חורבן בית המקדש חסד גמל הקב"ה עם כנסת ישראל בכך ששפך זעמו על עצים ואבנים, וצמצם בפגיעה האנושית, אין ספק כי במקרה דנן שאלת גורל בתי הכנסת כאובה במיוחד – אם מפאת קדושת עצמם ואם בהיותם מסמלים המרקם החברתי והקהילתי שעלול ליהרס בגין הפינוי. הבעייתיות נובעת במיוחד מכך שלפום ריהטא, לכל הדעות – כולל הגורסות כי לטווח ארוך מעז יצא מתוק – ניתן להגיע להישגים שלהם הם מייחלים אף אם יישארו בתי הכנסת על כנם. ומכאן שמתעוררת, לכאורה, מבוכה הלכתית ורגשית לא פשוטה. אם תכנית הפינוי אמנם תתבצע – תרחיש שכת"ר כמובן מעדיף שלא להעלותה על הדעת – ואם נניח שאין לעתיד בתי הכנסת שבגוף קטיף שום נפקא מינה בטחונית או מדינית משמעותית, איזה דרך ישכן אור ואיזו משתי אופציות הקשות, כל אחת מהן, כראש ולענה, יש להעדיף? מבחינה הלכתית צרופה, אם לא תהיה ברירה שלישית (כגון התניה בהסכם לגבי יעוד בתי הכנסת אחרי שיעברו ידים, ומעין המבואר בסוגיה במגילה כז: לגבי מכירת בית כנסת), ואם קיים סיכון סביר שאם יעמדו על תלם ייהפכו למסגדים, בהם יישמעו דברי הסתה ונאצה על ה' ועל משיחו, האם עדיף להורסם – ובפרט שלא יגידו בגת ולא תעלזנה בנות הערלים? או שמא, מתוך חשש לאיסור הנתיצה שציין כת"ר, עדיף לנקוט בשיטת שב ואל תעשה עדיף, חרף הקושי הרגשי בראיית כניסת פריצים המחללת, הדוחפת, בתחום זה במיוחד, להותרת אדמה חרוכה? ומה המשקל שניתן לתת בנידון, לכאן או לכאן, לשיטת הרמב"ן שבית כנסת שאיננו אמור לשמש יותר לייעודו מאבד את קדושתו, ודינו כאתרוג לאחר חג הסוכות, כתשמישי מצווה שנזרקים לאחר זמנן? מפסק כת"ר לגבי איסור הנתיצה במקרה דנן אני מבין כי לא התחשב בה, אך לא ברור לי האם זה מפני שלדעתו היא לא התקבלה להלכה, או האם מפני שכת"ר סבור כי גם לפי הרמב"ן הדבר תלוי ברצון בני העיר ולא בתעתועי מציאות אכזרית? אינני יודע באיזו מידה הכרעה בנידון נתונה כיום ביד גדולי הפוסקים. אך אני רואה חשיבות, הלכתית והשקפתית כאחת, בשמיעת דעת תורה בסוגיה סבוכה וכאובה זו.
אני חותם כפי שפתחתי. לא באתי בזה, חלילה, לקנטר אלא ללבן ולחפש הבהרה. במידה וכת"ר יאות להתייחס לשאלותיי ויוכל להתפנות לענות עליהן, יתרום הדבר להבנת נושא סבוך אשר בדמנו ובנפשנו הוא. ומי יתן ויזכנו אדון כל לדון בסוגיות יותר מרנינות ומלבבות, מתוך שלוה ונחת, אישית וציבורית.

בברכת התורה והמצווה,
ובידידות ובהערכה,

אהרן ליכטנשטיין

Mar'as Ayin

Disclaimer: I have yet to go through this sugya, but I have been thinking about it lately. This post contains some of my a priori thoughts on the matter.

"Don't go into McDonalds because it's mar'as ayin." I'm sure everyone has been told that at some time, with the usual caveat that its if on a long highway trip out of state (that means NY to you non-NYers) where no frum Jews are around. But, wouldn't
anyone who knows a Jew shouldn't be in McDonalds realize there must be a reason? Or, alternatively, shouldn't they?

Why place the onus on the individual who is and not violating halacha? Why do we absolve the curious bystander, who, because he is *not* being dan likaf z'chus, fears the worst about the guy who sits next to him in shul.

But perhaps that is a partial answer. The two, dan likaf z'chus and mar'as ayin are mirror obligations. The general public has a requirement to judge each person favorably and to assume the best, while the individual has the obligation to avoid "tempting" the public to judge him harshly (that mar'as ayin is used as an excuse by some to get out of dan likaf z'chus is for another day).

Alternatively,instead of protecting against unwarranted assumptions, mar'as ayin might protect against behavior. Most are familar with the Ramban at the beginning of Parshas Kedoshim. There, the Ramban says that someone should not be
naval b'rishus haTorah, a la (get link) Glatt Kosher Hedonism, its letter-of-the-law ok but still suspect.
When dealing with shady business practices which are literally halachically ok but ethically suspect, one might be tempted to get away with it. Society hasn't conditioned us to steer clear of such practices, cheating on taxes is but one example. So mar'as ayin is that middle ground protection from naval b'rishus haTorah, a way to keep you from acting in suspect manners.

Nothing to do with how society sees you (but is called mar'as ayin because of the peer pressure, others seeing you and saying "he cheats on his taxes"...?)

Ironically, McDonalds would not fall into this category. One doesn't suspect a frum Jew to walk into McDonalds and eat a cheeseburger. But on the lesser actions, those which many do but shouldn't, that's where maras ayin has a role. Perhaps according to this view, a ba'al teshuva or ger (convert) would run afoul of mara'as ayin if they walked into McDonalds...

Thoughts? Comments?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Double Standard

There was an interesting change in the reporting of this latest Jewish terrorist incident from that other one two weeks ago.

In the first attack, where an AWOL Israeli soldier opened fire while on a bus, reports were filled with information on the killer's newfound religiosity. With this latest attack...not a word. Why?

On the one hand, the first terrorist murderer was a Kachnik (or at least under the influence of), an organization outlawed in Israel. On the other there a double standard at work?

Update: Ha'aretz is reporting that the killer is a settler from the West Bank and that the IDF has act rabbis in the West Bank to condemn the killing. Not sure this is needed, everyone, rabbi or layperson, religious or secular, should be condemning the attack

Chabad - Tefillin in Gaza

Wherever you go, there's always Chabad asking people to put on tefillin.

Don't know about you, but I find it funny.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"You're not a rabbi, you're a dog"

An anti-semitic remark by someone who hates Jews, right? No, just some youths in Gaza.

R. Shlomo Aviner, in response to tire slashings and window breakings, tried to calm a bunch of youth protestors.

"You can't wage this struggle with two heads; we can't fight among ourselves. There are rabbis in these settlements who decided against puncturing tires, so don't puncture tires. If you won't listen to rabbis, then do you expect the state's leadership to listen to rabbis? Please, let this vehicle pass."
The reply?
"My rabbi told me not to move." I'm sure his rabbi was fast asleep while the "talmid" was involved in this "kiddush" Hashem.

Shockingly, R. Aviner was also called
a dog, after a shoving match with youths on one side and R. Aviner, orange ribbon in hand, on the other. With talmidim like these...

Lamedzayin is right. The first line has been breached. But it hasn't been the only one.


In his (in)famous letter, R. Feldman argues R. Slifkin is wrong to rely on views of the Rambam and various Gaonim, as those views have been rejected by later generations.

Ignoring the fact that the view obviously hasn't been rejected (the uproar over the ban is evidence of that), I still don't buy it.

To reject something, you actually have to, well, reject it. Lack of comment, discussion or statement is not rejection, in fact, it could be construed as agreement, shtika kihoda'ah.

If the majority of poskim and rabbonim had rejected that approach, then R. Feldman's assertion would be true. Not that his argument would be correct, but it would have more weight.

But I get the feeling that most rabbonim *didn't* have an opinion on the matter. They didn't discuss it. That doesn't mean they rejected it. Yes, many did, but many did not as well.

The same holds true for the nation as a whole. The hamon am, the common folk, didn't reject the view of the Rambam, or the view of Slifkin. They just didn't comment.

It's nice to base your arguments on those of a previous generation. It makes it harder to attack, makes for good rhetoric, and lets get away without giving a reason. But lack of agreement is not rejection.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Terrible Time?

In a recent post, DovBear touches on something that I've been wondering about for the last few days.

These last few weeks I've heard "This is a terrible time, even for those who agree with the Disengagement." But I hear that mostly from those who are opposed to it.

Is it true? Do people who view the disengagement as a good idea look at it as a terrible time, a necesarry evil? If you believe Israel is being made more secure, that lives will be saved, that its a good it a terrible time?

I'm inclined to say yes, or at least to say it is a rough time (which speaks more to objective circumstance than something like "terrible"). What do you think? Is there anyone out there that thinks this isn't a terrible time?

Tomorrow Mourning

The day after Tisha B'av was always a pretty happy day in sleep away camp. Campers and counselors ran to the pool, music blared, and BBQ's were dusted off and lit up. For the last couple of weeks of summer, everything was normal and fun.

But this year is different.

In recent years, Jews were not being removed from their homes against their will. The country, though split by political discussion, was not split by Rabbis differing on whether soldiers should evict their brethren. The government was not beseiged by those protesting the seperation fence on the one hand and the disengagement on the other.

So tomorrow, when you get the urge to listen to music, what will you do? Will you just turn up your speakers or will you stop and realize that, right now, some of our fellow Jews are spending the last night in homes they have built a life in, for some, the only homes they've ever known.

"Next Disengagement in Jerusalem"

As we sit and say kinnos, Ha'aretz is reporting, that our cousins are repeating their own version of "Lishana Haba'ah BiYerushalayim".
"From here, from this place, our nation and our masses are walking toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."--Mahmoud Abbas

And an image of Palestinian celebration.

This shouldn't surprise us. That's why the Disengagement is "unilateral." This actually makes a lot more sense. Why bother talking to the Palestinians if they won't follow through? Just do what we think is in our best interest and forget about them.

Click here to see a kinnah for the evacuees in Gaza, by AddeRabbi.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Childhood Innocence

Ha'aretz is reporting that Tzvika Bar-Hai is telling people to march on Gaza and bring their children with them. Very disturbing. It is one thing for the world to see pictures of children being removed from their homes. That engenders sympathy.
But if they see hundreds of children, holding signs and dressed in orange, protesting and being dragged by soldiers it will backfire. People will see the children as being exploited. No sympathy, rather, outrage.

There is an added dimension of parental irresponsibility. Children are more prone to act out emotionally. How hard will it be for a child, or a group of three or four, to lose their cool, pick up a rock and stone a soldier? Perhaps on a dare, perhaps from the pent up emotions. And what happens if that soldier, cs"v, shoots back? Has Bar-Hai thought about that?

Additionally, both
Bentzi Lieberman and Bar Hai want new elections, "We will cling to the ground until the prime minister faces the people and tells them he will hold new elections." There have been elections, and Sharon won. Do they really think more elections would make a difference? Or is it just a delaying tactic?

It seems with a deadline looming around the corner desperate measures are being taken and rhetoric is rising. I just pray it doesn't explode.

Scientists Believe in God

A new study by Rice University (on the heels of a Univ. of Chicago one from June) shows that belief in God amongst scientists varies by discipline.
Nearly 38 percent of natural scientists -- people in disciplines like physics, chemistry and biology -- said they do not believe in God. Only 31 percent of the social scientists do not believe.
Of course, I'm not sure social scientists count as scientists, but....

What's amazing is that the study of nearly 1,700 faculty members at research universities found that 62% of natural scientists do believe in God (or, rather, 38% do not). That's pretty high (note how they mention 38% don't believe as opposed to 62% who do).

Makes the whole Creationism/Intelligent Design/Evolution debate take on a different twist.


With the Gaza Disengagement rapidly approaching I find myself struggling to form an opinion. I don't buy into the argument that, as someone not living in Israel, I shouldn't have an opinion or should keep it to myself. If there's interest I'll explain why later.

Pro Disengagement
The demographic angle merits strong consideration, and is the most persuasive to me. At some future point the Palestinians may stop demanding a two state solution and ask for a one state solution, with themselves as full citizens. Once that happens the Jewish majority would rapdily evaporate. For that reason alone it makes sense to keep the Palestinians away from Israel. Since transfer is not a viable option (for a number of reasons) the alternative is to pull out.

The thousands of soldiers deployed to protect the settlements could be used for other duties. Its much harder to protect a wall and a few checkpoints than it is to protect settlements around the clock.

Despite not being a security expert, I don't believe the situation will change much if Israel withdraws. If they want to they can send the tanks and helicopters back in. If the Palestinians launch rockets, well, they do that now anyway.

One (cold hearted) argument against withdrawal is that the settlers in Gaza are acting as a buffer. Instead of rockets raining down elsewhere, they fall in Gaza (similar to creating a place in Iraq for terrorists to go, and dispatching them before they can do harm elsewhere). The 8,500 in Gaza are the bait for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to focus on.

Another is that its being done unilaterally, we're not getting anything from the Palestinians. But what can we really get from them? A promise to end attacks? To change their textbooks? Shut down camps where they train children to kill Israelis? We were promised that in Oslo.
In fact, my father's solution is to unilaterally cut off from them. Build a wall, in the West Bank and Gaza. Tell the Palestinians that they can't come into Israel. We hate you, you hate us. In 50 years we can sit down and talk, but for now, you're on your own.

The democratic argument is phooey too. Whether or not a majority of Israelis support the disengagement, Sharon was elected to lead the country. In America you can only remove the President through impeachment. In Israel the premier can be removed every day with a no confidence motion. If the people were that upset over it they could bring enough pressure to topple the government. All that aside, I'm pretty sure the majority of Israelis support Sharon's plan, even if they don't voice it.

Something within me cringes at the idea of uprooting people against their will. I'm not sure why, but its not because the settlers are mostly religious. It bothers me enough that I still can't say whether I support the plan or not. All I do know is that next week will be a very hard week. Tisha B'av notwithstanding.

Over the next couple of weeks I hope to have posts that are more focused. I also plan on putting up links to other blogs and recommended books, so if things seem out of whack for a bit, now you know why.

Gedolim vs. Sanhedrin

I was discussing, at a classmate's wedding, whether land can be given back. Reuven stated that "The Gedolim say its yaharog vi'al ya'avor." When I cited Rabbonim who disagreed he was silent. They weren't Gedolim, or at least not his. I realized I was banging my head against a wall. So I showed how his arguments were contradictory, not for him, but for the others at the table.

Using an ill defined term like "The Gedolim" allows the community to insulate themselves. Your Gedolim aren't mine, you're not part of my community. The amorphous, always changing group, allows you to invalidate any opinion you disagree with.

A well defined term, Rabbi X, OU, the Agudah, etc. allows for a broader discussion, a difference of opinion. You know who the members are or who the opinion belongs to. But when you say The Gedolim, all conversation ends. After all, who has the gall to argue with the Gedolim.

Its a defense mechanism and a poor one at that.

And it has to go.

Oh, and the Gedolim said I was right.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Mr. Orthodox Rabbi

Being involved in the secular world leads to many interesting scenarios. When in yeshiva you are surrounded by (mostly) like minded individuals. You don't represent Orthodoxy, you're just one of many.

But in the secular world (think graduate school or job) you're confronted daily. Gentiles and Non-Religious Jews abound. You aren't just a member of Orthodoxy, you're the Rabbi, whether you've spent years learning or sleeping.

I've been asked what makes pizza kosher, and if the bad taste is a pre-requisite; why some women only wear skirts while others walk around wearing hats; why do some men wear black hats and have long hair behind their ears. Those are the easy ones, the hanging curveball that you can slam out of the park.

What do you do when a sensitive issue comes up? Example: Someone whose mother isn't Jewish, but father is. The question hasn't been posed to me, though at least one acquaintance of mine is exactly that. I’m still not sure how I’ll word my response.

When answering you take into account the feelings of the other person. You don't want to embarrass them or make them think that Orthodox Jews are backward. You don't want to distort halacha. So you give the same answer you'd give in a conversation with your chavrusa, but your wording has to be different.

You are Orthodoxy. You are the Rabbi.


The goal of this blog is to have discussion on topics that interest me within the Jewish community. I'll probably upset some of you (myself included), but I hope this will prove to be a fruitful experience for all involved, the hottest fire makes the strongest steel and all that.

By way of introduction, I am an Orthodox Jew. I am still conflicted, but nontheless have decided to remain anonymous. I prefer to have discussions on the merits, which can be damaged when parties preconceived notions. Additional reasons to be posted later.

Over the next few days I'll be placing links and (hopefully) figuring out how to enable comments.

More to follow...check back soon