Derech HaMelech

The Weekly Raid From Galus

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The New Mall in Gaza

The Elder of Zion has a review of the new mall in "poverty-stricken, war-torn" Gaza. Here's a photo, but it's worth checking out the article which you can see here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Going Postal

"Do your kids want some candy, sir? Don't worry, it's kosher."


I've come to the conclusion that the workers at the Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh post-office are rabid anti-Semites. I watched how they treated customers, and by two separate people on two separate days, I was talked down to and today, one fo them called me "strange" under her breath. Yesterday, another one laughed at my wife and I IN OUR FACES because we were missing a document for a passport renewal and refused to make a photocopy of it so that we didn't have to return later with all of our kids, who have to be present when getting a passport, along with the parents. In fact, she told me that they didn't have a photocopier. In the post office? And I should believe that. 

There are many other examples, but I don't have the  koach or desire to dwell on them Erev Shabbos.  


I know this is not a chidush (Amar Rebbe Shimon Ben Yochi: Halacha he biyaduah sheEsav soneh l'Yaakov" brought down by Rashi Breshis 33:4; and he even married Yishmael's daughter, hence Amalek, but to discuss Yishmael is for another day; also see the Baal HaTanya on "Chessed Le'umim Chatas"), but it is especially glaring during this time period of the 9 days. 


On a positive note, it might actually be better when they are open about it, so we know who not to trust or take our business to. Kind of reminds me of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.


Probably just another benefit of the Obama era (error) - people see the President openly expresses his hate for Yidden, so why can't they follow his lead?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What really happened on the Mavi Marmara

What really happened on the Mavi Marmara: "IDF releases (with English subtitles) the official IDF investigation video from general Giora Eiland's team of experts -- what transpired on the Turkish Terror boat, the Mavi Marmara.

Part 1

Part 2

Special thanks to the hard working New Media Unit of the IDF spokesman.


What really happened on the Mavi Marmara

What really happened on the Mavi Marmara: "IDF releases (with English subtitles) the official IDF investigation video from general Giora Eiland's team of experts -- what transpired on the Turkish Terror boat, the Mavi Marmara.

Part 1

Part 2

Special thanks to the hard working New Media Unit of the IDF spokesman.

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Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dying to Recover: The Life and Loss of Avi Pincus z"l

A must read from the Michtavim blog:
While this is not along the lines of the routine at the Michtavim blog, I think that if you are a communal leader/educator, rabbi, parent, or sibling, then you will find this essay particular powerful and important to read and share with others. My friends Noah and Nava (Pincus) Greenfield co-authored this essay together with Nava's parents and siblings following the shloshim, earlier this week, of Avi Pincus z'l, who died last month of a drug overdose at the young age of twenty-six.
Dying to Recover: The Life and Loss of Avi Pincus

By Rabbi Dr. Gershon and Kirbie Pincus, Rabbi Dr. Elie and Aliza Feder, Noah and Nava Pincus Greenfield, and Chaviva Pincus
This past Monday, we marked the shloshim of our beloved son and brother, Avi Pincus ע''ה, who just a few weeks ago – at the tragic young age of twenty-six – died of a drug overdose. Death by overdose is not uncommon in the Orthodox community, but when it does occur families often cover up the cause of death due to denial, shame, and perceived social pressure. This denial, shame and its subsequent whitewashing is not limited to the death of the loved one, but often extends also to that person's life. And it is not only something of which the families of the addict are guilty. Our Jewish community as a whole looks down with derision and disgrace at the addicts among us.

We believe that this outlook and attitude are the wrong ones to take. We believe that such ostracization is a mistaken, destructive and often fatal force. We are not ashamed of Avi. We take deep pride in his life; we sympathize greatly with his pain; and we stand in awe of his heroic struggle to overcome his addiction.
Read the entire essay here.

Click here for a PDF of the version that appeared in this recent Hamodia weekend edition, on page C32. Note, as well, the important addendum (on the bottom of the page) by the world-renowned expert on addiction, Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, entitled: 'Is Addiction Genetic?' where he begins with:
'The Family of Avi has done an immense favor to the community by disclosing the tragedy of his condition and that people who recover from addiction may be thought of as 'baalei teshuvah who may stand higher than even complete tzaddikim.'
May the Pincus family be consoled amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and, as they conclude the essay:
'If only the Jewish community would learn a little from the life and loss of our dear son and brother, Avi – to be more caring of others, more sensitive to the pain around us, and more appreciative of the difficult circumstances in which so many find themselves – perhaps we would lose fewer of our sons and brothers.'

Thursday, July 8, 2010

One of the Many Reasons Why I Love Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky, shlita

Letter to the editor in the Five Towns Jewish Times:

The letter below, from the Philadelphia Rosh HaYeshiva, appears in the current issue of the Five Towns Jewish Times

Dear Editor:

It has come to my attention that a recent article published in this paper by Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg has resulted in much negative reaction. Several rabbonim encouraged Rabbi Ginzberg to write his article, and he wisely chose not to state their names and expose them to the anger he feared might result from his words (though they were respectful and measured words throughout). As one of those who encouraged him, and to whom he submitted his article to ensure that I approved of it, I would like to publicly commend him for what he wrote.

The subject of Rabbi Ginzberg’s article was an invitation by an Orthodox shul to a speaker who is prominent because she received an “ordination” from an Orthodox rabbi. The invitee was asked to address the entire congregation as a “scholar in residence” and Rabbi Ginzberg correctly saw that fact as a subtle but clear embrace of what her “ordination” represents – an erosion of mesoras avoseinu, the holy Jewish heritage that governs the lives of all believing Jews.

That mesorah does not allow for women to fill certain roles of men, and rabbanus is one of those roles. This is not a matter of prejudice against women. It is a matter of recognizing that Hashem created men and women to serve different roles in life. Nor it is a matter of any dispute among recognized poskim. It was not only the rabbonim of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah who drew that line but rabbonim who are looked up to for direction by Orthodox Jews outside the haredi world as well.

Knowing Rabbi Ginzberg as I do, I am certain that he does not, cholila, have any ill will toward the speaker. What motivated him to write what he did was a rightful obligation to defend the integrity of our mesorah – an issue larger than the invitee, larger than her rabbi, larger than the differences between various Orthodox shuls and their respective standards.

An Orthodox shul, whatever “stripe” it is, has a responsibility to avoid promoting, even unintentionally, departures from our mesorah. Rabbi Ginzberg saw the invitation here as inconsistent with that responsibility. And I feel, as I felt when he approached me, that he is absolutely right.

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Drinking Wine During the Nine Days and the Authority of the Shulchan Aruch

From the blog "Hirhurim - Musings"

Drinking Wine During the Nine Days and the Authority of the Shulchan Aruch: Guest post by Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz

The Shulchan Aruch records a tradition to refrain from drinking wine during the period of the nine days leading up to Tishah be-Av. In a recent lecture delivered in Teaneck, Prof. Daniel Sperber argued that the entire passage in the Shulchan Aruch is based on a faulty interpretation of a passage in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Sperber’s full analysis of this issue appears in his monumental work, Minhagei Yisrael).In light of this supposed error, Sperber concluded publicly that the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling can be considered a מנהג טעות, although Sperber added that it is advisable to observe this specific מנהג טעות as a mean of identifying with the mournful nature of the time period.

What was the supposed erroneous basis for the ruling in the Shulchan Aruch? A passage in the Yerushalmi in tractates Pesachim and Ta’anit reports the custom of certain women to refrain from certain activity (למשתייא) from Rosh Chodesh Av until the fast of the 9th. Sperber demonstrated that the Shulchan Aruch understood the Yerushalmi to be reporting that these women refrained from drinking wine during this time period, and based on this understanding the Shulchan Aruch codified his ruling. However, Sperber pointed out that the word למשתייא in Palestinian Aramaic means “to weave,” not “to drink,” which would be למשתי. Moreover, he noted that if the custom was to refrain from drinking, it is not clear why this custom would be specifically attributed to women, and not men.

Therefore, Sperber quoted the view of an early North African Talmudist, R. Nisim Gaon, quoted in Or Zarua, who maintained that the custom reported in the Talmud was to refrain from weaving. This understanding explains both the language למשתייא as well as the attribution of this custom to women specifically. The above discussion led Sperber to conclude, quite matter-of-factly, that the Shulchan Aruch’s recording of a tradition not to eat meat or drink wine was faulty and based on a string of errors.

This conclusion is startling for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Sperber failed to articulate clearly that the different explanations of the original custom was due to two separate versions, girsaot, of the Yerushalmi passage. The alternate girsa actually reads, “to drink wine” (למשתי חמרא). In fact, this alternate girsa even predated R. Nisim, and was quoted by no less of an authority than R. Hai Gaon, an older contemporary of R. Nisim.

That an alternate girsa existed is apparent in many Rishonim. Take for example, Machzor Vitri (#263), which states explicitly that the girsa of the Yerushalmi reads, “to drink wine.” The same is true with Ravyah’s recording of this custom (#882). In fact, R. Nisim’s reading was in the minority (Although it is the text in printed editions and in the Leiden manuscript), as most of the major Rishonim had the girsa that reads, “to drink.” This includes significant Rishonim from a wide spectrum of halakhic cultures. From the Baylonian Gaon, R. Hai, to the Spanish codifier, Rambam, to the Ashkenazic codifier, Tur, who records both girsaot, to the Catalonian Talmudist, Ramban, all of the major medieval Talmudists ruled in accordance with the girsa that states “to drink wine.”

Additionally, R. Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, was himself aware of the variant girsaot of the Yerushalmi passage. In the Shulchan Aruch, both the custom to refrain from drinking wine, and to refrain from weaving are codified. The commentators on the Shulchan Aruch note that both customs appear in the Shulchan Aruch due to the fact that the Rishonim quote two different versions of the Yerushalmi text. See, most notably the Be’er ha-Golah, who refers to the version that reads “למשתייא” as a variant text of “some” of the Rishonim (see also Biur ha-Gra). Apparently, R. Karo who was aware of both girsaot, didn’t feel confident enough to conclude that the girsa of the majority of Rishonim was in error. Why then was Prof. Sperber so confident?

Conclusion: The opening question of Sperber’s lecture—what is to be done when the Shulchan Aruch contains a ruling that is based on a mistake?— is not relevant to the issue at hand. The Shulchan Aruch’s quoting of the custom to not drink wine was not based on a mistake. Rather, it was due to two different girsaot in the Yerushalmi. Whereas most Rishonim ruled in accordance with the view that the recorded custom was to refrain from drinking wine, there was a minority view that the recorded custom was to refrain from weaving.

Instead of arguing that the Shulchan Aruch was in error for quoting the view of the overwhelming majority of Rishonim, the opposite could have been argued: Even though the girsa of R. Nisim was only represented in a very small amount of sources, the Shulchan Aruch still included it because of the strengths mentioned by Sperber (such as the fact that the woman were specifically singled out).

In the end, it is appropriate to note that the custom to not drink wine during this period was observed by the Rishonim, and was accepted by the Jewish nation for centuries before the Shulchan Aruch. The very Or Zarua, who quoted the girsa of R. Nisim, rules (2:414 and 415) that one must not violate this important custom. Also the Rashba, in his responsa (1:306, qtd. in Beit Yosef 551:11), has very sharp words to say about one who violates this custom. It is appropriate to end with a quotation from the Aruch Ha-Shulchan (O”C 551:23) who writes that a Biblical prohibition is violated by one who drinks wine during this period:
Hundreds of years ago, our forefathers accepted upon themselves not to eat meat or drink wine from Rosh Chodesh Av until after Tishah be-Av…Nowadays, in our many sins, many people are mezalzel this prohibition. Besides the fact that they are in violation of a Biblical prohibition of neder, for our forefathers accepted this custom upon themselves and it is therefore a neder of klal Yisrael… Their punishment is very great.
As a final note, I would add that the tone of Sperber’s entire presentation was troubling to this listener. What type of message is appropriate for a Shabbat afternoon shiur in a community shul? The material was fascinating and the potential for a positive educational learning experience was ripe. Sperber could have engaged the sources, and used this example to demonstrate the nature of transmission, as seen through the different traditions of the Yerushalmi text. Instead the event contained a tone that likely undermined the authority of the Shulchan Aruch in the eyes of some of the listeners. Indeed, the smirks, and occasional laughs from the audience that accompanied Sperber’s declarations that the Shulchan Aruch erred, and that the “passage in the Shulchan Aruch is based on a faulty interpretation,” were reflective of this lost opportunity.*

* A note regarding censorship. My words here should not be misunderstood as a militant call to “hide the truth from the masses.” When the truth is apparent, we need to reverently address it. However, because in this case it is far from apparent where the truth lies, it appears to me that a bit more prudence and respect could have been exercised.

The Rebbe Reb Mailech says: Sperber is one of the טועים who gave "semicha" to "Rabba" Sara Hurwitz.