Ahhh, DST

It’s 13 minutes before licht bentschen. The kids are bathed and playing nicely. The guests have settled in. Everyone’s showered and dressed. That content exhaustion that comes at the conclusion of a week of hard but productive (and, alas, sometimes hard but futile) work has begun to set in.

And there was no mad rush, no forgotten lights or timers, no heading to shul with a 5 o’clock shadow.

I love Daylight Savings Time.


Covering Up More Than Just Skin

The Beit Shemesh Burka lady was arrested recently, as was her husband.
The news blogs have picked it up and are going nuts with it. I don't have anything to contribute, other than a quasi-psychoanalytic observation-in-hindsight that when a person goes this far in trying to desexualize herself, she must have some very deep-seated guilt about something.
I can't get int
o the head of a person who exhibits such incredible extremes of behavior.

Just a friendly reminder (applicable t
o far more cases than just this one): the mitzvah is to RAISE kids, not just HAVE them.


This is Where I Work

They do good things there.

US volunteers become 'big sisters' to J'lem children in need | Jerusalem Post


Ethical Dilemma

I know it's been a while. I've been super busy. Which is good.
At the same time, I have not really missed blogging all that much. For whatever reasons.

Something happened today, however, that I simply much get off my chest.

I got a translation job on Thursday. It's a 20 page series of documents. Suffice it to say, that after completing about 60% of this job (I get paid by the word), I noticed that the documents had been tampered with. Dates had been changed in a manner that works out to the bearer's advantage (I cannot go into any more detail). I know this to be the case because some dates were in a slightly different font, and, more incriminating, the documents contained records of purchases in Israel when the VAT rate was 18%, well before the dates on the documents.

To make a long story short, I told my client (who is not the perpetrator of the fraud, and in fact is at least 2 degrees separated from the tamperer) that I could not, in good conscience, participate in this. I had spent the whole freaking day working on this project, which would have earned a decent chunk of change (but it this way - 2 or 3 projects like this every week, and I'm making a very good living by Israeli standards). My readers know that I have struggled to make a living in this country. Forfeiting this job, and possibly this client, was one of the hardest things that I have done in a very long time.

I was not concerned about getting into legal trouble. A disclaimer (i.e. "I'm translating the document, not vouching for its authenticity", or some such) takes care of that. I could easily find a halakhic loophole as well (I do not want to get into it because it would necessitate revealing too many details of the case). It's just the wrong thing to do. It's unethical to be involved with fraud. End of story.

At a different stage in my life, I would have taken solace in the fact that God would somehow pay me back, right here in this world, for my behavior. I don't think like that anymore. I tend to think, rather, that "No good deed goes unpunished." So where's the comfort? I spent a whole day working on a project, and ignoring my kids who, like me, had the day off.

I wish to make it perfectly clear that this decision has not given me some type of inner peace. I do not feel good for having "done the right thing." If anything, it has made me very agitated. I wasted a day and pissed away about $350. And I am not blessed with the gift of absolute certainty that, in this case, would at least have granted me the confidence that I am doing what is right in the eyes of God and man. No such luck.


Hilchos Child Abuse

From a recent Yated Neeman article. I would like to point out that, as a parent, I do believe there to be occasions when a 'potch' is warranted. At the same time, I find the idea of a teacher hitting a student to be absolutely horrifying (Hat tip: Lookjed Digest):

Rules About Hitting Children and Talmidim

1) One is forbidden to hit children when angry (which usually happens). "An angry person is compared to one who worships avodoh zorah."

2) We are also forbidden to hit children if done with cruelty, even if we are not angry.

3) The above is true also if a person hits a child or talmid who has done something wrong. Hitting children unjustifiably causes immense harm to their Torah education.

4) When a child is acting wildly and disrupts the class we must look for ways to restrain him. When no other way helps we should hit him with love and not with hatred. We should surely not hit him cruelly. Only on condition that the father or educator can control himself and is not at all angry is he allowed to punish in such a way.

5) We must hit the child in a place on his body where he will definitely not be harmed and it should be done with rachamim. I heard from an educator that he would wait five minutes before hitting a child so that he would be convinced he was not angry. The smallest mixture of anger forbids hitting a child.

In conclusion, a father and teacher must give the child the feeling that he loves him and is concerned only with his good (and not concerned with cooling down his personal anger, etc.). The child must be convinced that he has truly acted out of line so that even if severely punished he will accept it with understanding and justify it. He will only love his father and teacher more because of it.

This is what the posuk means "Someone who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him . . . (Mishlei 13:24)." Hitting a child while feeling real love for him is called proper disciplining through corporal punishment.


Mishenichnas Adar...

If you haven't heard the news yet, go to any source of news from Israel.
Hashem Yishmor...


You are invited to join us
for a unique opportunity to hear

President Richard M. Joel
in conversation with
Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein

As they discuss key issues facing the philosophy of Torah Umadda L'chatchila.

Jerusalem Great Synagogue,
Thursday March 13, at 8:00pm.

We invite you to submit in advance questions that you would like to hear discussed at this event.

So, can we think of any questions we'd like to ask?

(Hat Tip: Elli S.)



מדרש תנחומא (ורשא) פרשת פקודי סימן ז

אמר משה יודע אני שישראל רוגנים הם הריני עושה להם חשבון מכל מלאכת המשכן, התחיל לעשות חשבון עמהם אלה פקודי המשכן והוא נותן להם חשבון על כל דבר ודבר לזהב ולכסף ולנחשת וכסף פקודי העדה מאת ככר ואלף ושבע מאות ויהי מאת ככר הכסף לצקת ונחשת התנופה שבעים ככר, עם שהוא עושה חשבון והולך על כל דבר ודבר שעשויין כסדר בתוך המשכן שכח אלף ושבע מאות וחמשה ושבעים שקל שעשה מהן ווין לעמודין ולא היו נראין, התחיל עומד תמה ואומר עכשיו ימצאו ידיהם של ישראל עלי לומר שאני נטלתי אותם והוא חוזר לבוא על כל מלאכה ומלאכה, מיד האיר הקב"ה את עיניו ותלה עיניו וראה שהיו עשוין ווין לעמודים, התחיל להשיב להם בקול רם ואת האלף ושבע המאות וחמשה ושבעים עשה ווים לעמודים באותה שעה נתפייסו ישראל, מי גרם לו על ידי שישב ועשה חשבון אלה פקודי המשכן, ולמה עשה חשבון הקב"ה מאמינו שנא' (במדבר יב) בכל ביתי נאמן הוא ומשה נתן חשבון, אלא מפני ששמע ליצני הדור שהיו משיחין אחריו שנאמר והיה כצאת משה וגו' והביטו אחרי משה, ומה היו אומרים ר' יצחק היה דורש לשבח (וכו' כדאיתא לעיל סדר כי תשא סימן כ"ז) וחברו משיבו ריקה אדם שנתמנה על מלאכת המשכן על ככרי כסף ועל ככרי זהב שאין לו חקר ולא משקל ולא מנין מה אתה רוצה שלא יהיה עשיר, כששמע כן אמר חייכם משנגמרה מלאכת המשכן אני נותן להם חשבון כיון שנגמרה אמר להם אלה פקודי המשכן.

“Moshe said: ‘I know that the Israelites are malcontents. Therefore, I will audit the entire construction of the Mishkan’. He began making an accounting: ‘These are the records of the Mishkan’ and he began reporting everything, the gold, silver and bronze, and the silver of the public census 100 kikar of silver and 1700 [shekel]. 100 kikar went to cast…and 70 kikar of bronze for crafting…. He continued reckoning each item in the Mishkan in order, but forgot 1575 shekels from which the hooks on the pillars were fashioned, but which were not generally visible. He stood bewildered and said: ‘Now they will lay their hands on me, saying that I took it’, and he went back to recalculate. Immediately, God opened Moshe’s eyes and showed him that the silver was used in the hooks on the pillars. He began to reply to them, saying: ‘and 1575 were fashioned into pillar hooks’ and the Israelites were immediately appeased. What enabled this? The fact that he sat and made an accounting.

‘These are the records of the Mishkan’ - But why did he make an accounting? Did not God trust him, as it says: ‘He is trusted in all My house’, yet Moshe made an accounting? It’s only because he heard the cynics talking behind his back, as it says ‘And when Moshe left…they looked back at Moshe’. What did they say? R. Yitzhak said that people spoke positively. Then others would chime in: ‘Imbecile! He’s the one who controlled the entire enterprise of the Mishkan – kikarim of gold and silver that were not counted, weighed, or numbered! Wouldn’t you expect that he be rich?’ When Moshe heard this, he said: ‘My word! When the Mishkan is completed, I will make an accounting’, as it says ‘These are the records of the Mishkan.’”

Several years ago, I had a bit of a debate with another rabbi about the meaning of this Midrash. He contended that its message is one of perception and the care that one must take to make sure that his actions are not misinterpreted. I believed – and still believe – that this Midrash is about transparency and the need for meticulous documentation whenever one controls other people’s money.

The issue of perception – which my colleague more or less understood as ‘mar’it ayin’ – is something else. I cannot control how people view my actions, though I should not do anything that looks like the wrong thing to do. Transparency, on the other hand, means not leaving anything to the imagination. All actions are above-board; there are no closed doors or black-boxes behind/inside of which whatever happens is left exclusively to the imagination.

There really are no ‘halakhot’ of transparency, but some areas are suggestive. There’s a halakha that ‘gabba’ei tzedakah’ should present reports of their distributions, though the community has no right to demand it without cause. Furthermore, I believe that the laws of Yichud can be understood as a form of sexual transparency – there is no opportunity for ‘he said, she said’ if there was always an open door or window. More recently, Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner has issued a report of Benevolent Fund expenditures to his community.

Parshat Pekudai is one long laundry list that repeats a lot of the preceding parshiyot. According to this Midrash, the purpose of this repetition is to demonstrate the value of transparency – every last bit of material collected was accounted for and duly reported. Everything was done in accordance with God’s ‘specs’. If we expect transparency from Moshe Rabbeinu for a massive, complicated building project, we can certainly demand it of anyone else.

Must have been Missing Letters



Mishpat Echad Yihyeh Lachem Ve-lager...

In this post, Menachem Mendel compares the declared values by which Obama would nominate Supreme Court justices with the role of the poseik as described by Prof. Sperber. I think it's right on the money (and didn't even need Prof. Sperber to tell me so). The greatest poseik is the one who combines knowledge of the law with sensitivity to the plight of the petitioner.

In many recent halakhic issues that have been heavily debated (Shira Hadasha-style minyanim, conversion, etc.) the two sides tend to pit these as the issues - the liberal side contending that the conservative side lacks compassion, and the conservative side contending that the liberal side lacks fealty to halakha.

Ultimately, though, both sides are vital. The greatest poskim understood that, implicitly if not explicitly. There are many of them out there today as well, but they are unfortunately not as visible as the ones on one side of the debate or the other.