Monday, March 19, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Echad Mi Yodea in Ladino

Based on the mesorah of the Turkish Jewish community.  Even though I am Ashkenazi, I learned this song and sing it every ליל הסדר. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thoughts on the latest Klal edition dealing with working mothers
There are some very interesting articles, and the issues raised should be considered by every frum family.  I notice a difference of opinion among the authors as to whether the kollel culture should be changed to allow more mothers to stay home.  Rebbetzin Twerski, wife of Rabbi Michel Twerski from Milwakee, comes out strongly in favor of altering the current culture, so th at more husbands work and more wives can stay home and properly take care of their families (p.32).  Rabbi Aisenstark rejects this view and argues that if we would just be less focused on gashmiyus, we would find that there is no need for families to have a second income (p.74).  Apparently Rabbi Aisenstark thinks that families can survive with the husband learning in kollel and the wife staying at home with the kids, if only we were less focused on gashmiyus.  Based on my knowledge of typical kollel stipends, such a family would not have enough money to afford the rent of even a one-bedroom apartment, nor to feed a family.  Is this what Rabbi Aisenstark means by not focusing on gashmiyus?  Of course, there are many young couples who survive like that because their parents support them.  But if Rabbi Aisenstark thinks that parental support will solve the financial problem, he's living in a dream world.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, beholden to his Five Towns shul and community, could not possibly make the brazen statements that Rabbi Aisenstark makes.  But he is not willing to support Rebbetzin Twerski view either.  Instead, he does an interesting dance where he basically side-steps the issue altogether.  He recognizes there is a problem but is unwilling to suggest the obvious solution.  Of course, in his affluent shul, the option of the husband learning in kollel and the wife staying at home is quite viable for most of his congregants.  But he knows better than to openly support such a view to the general frum public.  Instead, he suggests women focus more on ruchniyus while maintaining their jobs, and by trying to strengthen their homes as well. 
I do applaud Rabbi Weinberger for taking up two very delicate issues.  1) He addresses the problem of couples having too many kids for them to handle.  While he does not advocate reducing family size, he does suggest meeting with a Rav to discuss whether limiting family size is a good option.  2) He takes a direct stab at the members of his community's tendency (without mentioning his own community) to spoil their kids, which prompts women to want to work in order to maintain their lifestyle.  Kudos to you, Rabbi Weinberger. 
Zlata Press has interesting perspective.  The principal of the most moderate Bais Yakov in Brooklyn, she seems to acknowledge that encouraging more young men to work might solve the problem.  But she dismisses that proposal, saying that it would be absurd for yeshivas to try to produce solid baalei batim (!?!?) (p.83).  I must give my RWMO yeshiva in EY credit for one thing.  They produced excellent baalei batim.  Why?  Because the yeshiva was geared for serious bnei Torah who they knew would be getting jobs.  And lo and behold, it works!
Dr. Pelcovitz's article is excellent, as his articles usually are.  A very important read for parents trying to decide how much time they should spend away from their kids. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

You don't have a tv and none of your friends do either? Here, let me make fun of you

All I wanted was to have a nice Super Bowl, and none of my friends have a tv.  Apparently that makes me super frum and crazy.  Below is the response I got to my KGH Shuls post. 

I am responding to this post..

ISO Place for Super Bowl Party

Posted by: "mimamakim"

Wed Feb 1, 2012 9:31 am (PST)

Are you going to someone else's for a Super Bowl Party? Will your tv be alone for the Super Bowl? A group of guys with no tv is looking to rent the living room of someone's house/apartment to watch the Super Bowl. Please let me know if interested.


I live in KGH, mamesh 4 minute walk from Lander College. I will be watching the game by my inlaws who arent so frum so i will not be home all day on sunday. I have a 42 in tv in my bedroom. I dont have it in my living room because I dont want my children to know we have a tv in the house, chas v'shalom even see me watching it. I only watch sports anyways.

I have no problem with a few guys renting my apartment to watch the game. There are just a few conditions I need to make %100 sure will be kept.

1) Any food brought into my house must be Cholov Yisroel (even thought no shtark bocher is going to be eating dairy during the big game). Most importantly, every thing must be Yashan. I take it very seriously. Some Yidden are of the opinion that that Yashan is just a chumra. Thats fine, those are the same people that dont wear hats and jackets while they are davening. Its pashut to me that Yashan is not a chumra, but im not going to get into the details right now.

2)If my wife is still in Niddah, then you can probrally fit about 5 to 6 folding chairs between our beds. Ill make sure to move the night table that separtes our beds into the living room. If she baruch hashem is not in Nidda anymore, then you can probrally fit 3 to 4 chairs between out beds. Oh, and please dont eat in my bedroom.

3) I know this doesnt need to be said but I cant resist. THE TV MUST BE TURNED OFF DURING THE HALFTIME SHOW! I heard there was a mysa a few years back where one of the woman involved in the show had a "wardrobe malfunction." Well not in my house.

Ahh but you might say that Madonna is a real masmid of Kabullah and she is on such a madreiga that the moment wont get to her. I hear the vort, but "safek d'orysa l'chumra" so I insist on that the half time show is not to be watched in my home.

4) Hats and jackets MUST be worn to and from my apartment. Once you get inside you can dress however you want. You can even wear a brooks brothers light blue shirt for all I care. I cant have my neighbors see people coming in and out of my apartment that dont look like b'nei toyrah.

5) Absolutely no gambling on the game in my house. Gambling is for modern orthodox people who think its "ok" as long as im not sitting at a card table with another jew. Wrong! Not in my house. I dont need the pictures of my Rabbeim on the wall to see bochrim gambeling in my apartment.

I am charging $36.00 dollars a head, two times chai, per person who comes to watch by me.

If there is serious interest, please email me back soon so I can figure out an excuse to tell my wife why we have to sleep by her parents house sunday night.

I will tell you my exact address and the place i will leave the keys at a later time.

Tizku L'mitsvos and LETS GO GIANTS!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ponovitcher Rosh Yeshiva Takes a Heroic Stand Again

My hero, the Ponovitcher Rosh Yeshiva, is at it again.  He says the kannaim are making a mockery of the gedolim and are not acting leshaim shamayim.  And if people want to attack him, he says, bring it!  I say we make him the next godol hador.  See the article here.
He was previously attacked for saying that even secular soldiers who risk their lives to save Jews have a chelek in olam haba.  He was branded a friend of Zinoism and IDF soldiers (how awful a thing to be branded).  But he fought back and said that everything he had said was based on the gedolim. 
Go Rav Edelstein!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is it a 2-way Street?

To recap for those have trouble understanding Israelis who speak at 300 miles an hour: 2 secular journalists dress up as Chasidim and try to rent an apartment in a secular neighborhood. Here are some things that happen:
  • One of the landlords tells them a price for the rent which is almost double what is posted online, and is very evasive when they try to get him to admit that he raised the rent on them because they're Charedi.
  • Another woman shows them her apartment, gets very evasive and says she's just the tenant. She tells them she'll speak to the landlord and get back to them, but she never does. They later found out that the woman didn't call them back because they were Charedi.
  • Most of the other landlords were not as direct, but seemed generally skeptical about their interest in the apartments, wondering why they would be interested in living in a secular neighborhood, in an apartment with a single sink, etc. 
  • One of the journalists takes a half hour bus ride on a bus full of Chilonim, and several people choose to stand rather than sit next to him. 
I have mixed feelings about this, but I just wanted to throw it out there.  Are Chilonim just as hostile to Charedim as Charedim are to Chilonim?  Obviously they don't attack innocent girls, but neither do most Charedim.  Do Chilonim have a legitimate reason to exclude Charedim from their neighborhoods? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

What is Tznius Really All About?

With all this talk of what tznius is not about, I thought I should take a shot at explaining what tznius actually is all about.  And I figure I should start with the problem I have with the Charedi attitude toward tznius, in the way they educate girls.  Tznius in most Bais Yakov schools is just a bunch of extreme rules that the teachers over-emphasize at the cost of actually teaching girls what tznius is really all about.  It's about skirt lengths and thick stockings, and about getting yelled at for not complying with what they claim are the halachic requirements of tznius, when they are really just chumras. 
So what is tznius really about?  I think what tznius is really all about is focusing on the internal aspects of a person, not on the external aspects.  The purpose of women dressing modestly is so that when you see the woman, you are not distracted by her appearance, but instead can focus on her internal qualities.  This I believe is the meaning of the statement "kol kvuda bas melech pnima," that the honor of a woman is in her ability to draw attention to her internal qualities, not her outer appearance. 
So what is the result of Bais Yakov schools teaching that tznius is all about these stupid rules and nothing else?  Just have a look around Flatbush and the 5 Towns, veha-mayvin yavin (no pun intended).  And if you are not so fortunate, I will fill you in.  Basically, many women follow the rules, but still manage to dress extremely provocatively.  This is of course the result of being taught that tznius is just a bunch of rules.
So how do you teach girls what tznius is really all about?  Maybe teachers can be role models themselves of how to act tznius.  Maybe they could focus on the internal qualities of their students, instead of their skirt lengths. 

Response to Rabbi Israel's Article on Tznius

In this article,, Rabbi Israel basically argues that: 1) the halachic restrictions on contact between the genders is sufficient and no additional restrictions are necessary; 2) that the Charedi tendency to add additional restrictions results from their seeing women solely as sex objects, and thus necessitating a complete removal of women from the public sphere; and 3) that halacha does not restrict the mixing of the genders.  I agree fully with Rabbi Israel on the first point, and I partially with him on the second and third points, but with some qualification.
First, it is inaccurate to say that halacha does not restrict the mixing of genders, as there are certain situations where it is prohibited.  Of course there's the obvious restriction of separating men and women for davening.  But it's also explicit in the gemarah and Rambam that during yom tov celebrations the genders were separated.  This separation was due to the joy of the occasion, which might cause frivolity, which might lead to inappropriate contact with the opposite gender.  In addition, Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in Igros Moshe that it is absolutely assur for Jewish day schools to be coed starting in middle school.  He also recommends separating genders even from first grade, so that kids of the opposite gender will not retain their relationships once they become teens.  When coed youth groups were started, teshuvos were written by the Sridei Aish and Tzitz Eliezer to justify the practice, ostensibly because social interaction among teens was generally considered inappropriate. 
However, nowhere is there mention of separating genders on buses, in the workplace, or in any other public sphere, where the concern is simply not wanting to see or be in close proximity with a woman.  That is where Charedim take it too far.
Rabbi Israel also suggests that it is a Charedi thing for men to look at women only from a sexual perspective.  I think that Charedim are not much different than the rest of Western society in this respect.  The difference is that the rest of Western society has no problem with viewing women this way, and those that do have a problem with it don’t care enough to try to fix it.  The Charedim see it as a problem, but take extreme measures to remedy it.  Instead I suggest, and I think Rabbi Israel concurs, that halacha contains the correct balance between permissiveness and restriction.
Now as far as Rabbi Israel's contention that the halachos restricting the mixing of genders are sufficient, I fully agree with him on this point.  Looking at Shulchan Aruch Even Ha'ezer Siman 21, you will find that if you follow the restrictions listed, you will be more than adequately protected from any possible aveirah.
The question is in situations where halacha is not absolutely clear, for example when it comes to seating at weddings.  I have mixed feelings about separate seating at weddings.  While I happen to find it very annoying when I have to attend a separate seating wedding when our only connection to the chosson and kalla is on my wife's side, I also understand why you would want separate seating.  Firstly, if men are seated on the women's side, they will likely watch the women dance.  Secondly, the potential frivolty associated with a wedding seems to resemble that of a yom tov celebration and might warrant separate seating for that reason as well.  Of course the real reason some people make their weddings separate is just to show everyone how frum they are, even though they themselves find separate seating annoying.  I had separate seating at my wedding just to show how frum I was, and now that I am married I realize how annoying separate seating is. 
Luckily, I have grown out of that stage in my life, but I have also discovered something else that Charedim in Israel might try following:  keep all of halacha, no more and no less, bein adam leMakom and bein adam lechavero, master all of that, and then start thinking about taking on chumras. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovitch Says What Desperately Needed to be Said

Stop blaming the media and start blaming ourselves, says Rav Edelstein.  The secular media incitement is a message from Hashem that we should stop with sinas chinam.  Thank you Rav Edelstein for standing and taking the lead on this issue.  As it says in Pirkei Avos 2:5, bemakom she-ain anashim, hishtadel lih'yos ish.  You, Rav Edelstein, are the ish when there is nobody else being an ish.  Read his full speech here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Krula Rebbe visits Kew Gardens Hills

The Kew Gardens Hills community will have the zechus this Shabbos of welcoming the Krula Rebbe.  The Krula Rebbe, also known as the Cruel Rebbe, is known for his charifus in giving mussar to those who seek advice from him.  He will be available for personal meetings on Motzai Shabbos.  Meet with the Krula Rebbe at your own risk.