Hagaon HaRav Edelstein Recuperating Following Surgery

March 24th, 2016

edelHaGaon HaRav Yaakov ben Miriam Edelstein Shlita has reportedly come out of surgery that took longer than five hours and taken to recovery. The tzibur was asked to be mispallel for the rav as he had surgery on Thursday, 14 Adar-II.

A son, Rav Shaul Edelstein and the rav’s aide Rav Shimshon Yehuda Engel reported on Thursday afternoon the rav is still in need of Rachmei Shomayim, asking the tzibur to continue being mispallel for his well-being.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Shooting Incident in the Heart of Downtown Jerusalem Early Thursday AM

March 24th, 2016

mishAt about 5:00AM Thursday morning 14 Adar-II, two Jewish youths got into an argument on Jerusalem’s King George Street. One pulled a handgun and fired at the second, wounding him moderately. The injured youth was transported to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.

A bystander, a 15-year-old girl was also wounded by the gunfire, albeit lightly. She was transported to Shaare Zedek Hospital. Police are investigating. The shooter was taken into custody and the gun used was recovered by police.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

A Deeper Look at Matanas L’Evyonim

March 24th, 2016

matanosqBy Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

The picture posted above has some serious money being transferred. But that is how it should be – at least according to the Rambam and Mishna Brurah. We should be spending more money on this Mitzvah than all the others. That includes the seudah, shalach manos and the costumes. But let us start at the beginning.

THE MITZVAH AND ITS SOURCES

The mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim on Purim is discussed in the Gemorah at the bottom of Megillah 7a, Tani Rav Yoseph. The Mitzvah is to give at least one gift to two different poor people on the day of Purim. The plural form of the word “L’Evyonim” teaches us that it must be given to two people.
There is also another Gemorah in Bava Metziah 78b that discusses the charity plate of Purim. It is a debate among the Rishonim whether or not this Gemorah is discussing the Mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim, or whether it deals with a separate Mitzvah of providing for the Purim needs of the poor.

NATURE OF MITZVAH

There seems to be a debate among the Rishonim as to the nature of the Mitzvah. Is it a Mitzvah of Tzedakah, or is Matanos L’Evyonim its own special Mitzvah of the day of Purim – a Mitzvah associated with creating happiness?

We will see that this issue is a matter of debate among the Poskim. On account of this debate, there are a number of differences in halacha as to the nature of fulfilling this Mitzvah.
• Can you fulfill the Mitzvah with Maaser funds? If it is Tzedaka – yes. If it is a happiness Mitzvah then not.
• Is an ani – a poor person obligated to fulfill this Mitzvah? If it is Tzedaka then no. The obligation of an Ani to give Tzedaka is once per year. If it Simcha, however, then he must give the matanos l’evyonim.

Even a poor person who himself has reached a financial state that he must ask for charity, must still give.

PREAMBLE

The Yesod v’shoresh HaAvodah (12:6) recommends that one should recite the following preamble before fulfilling the Mitzvah:
L’shaim ichud kudsha brich hu, hareini muchan l’kayem mitzvas assei shekasuv besorasainu hakedosha shetzivani yotzri ubori “Nason titian” u “pasoach tiftach” vegam mitzvas assei shel kaballah “umatanos l’evyonim.”

It is clear that the Yesod v’Shoresh HaAvodah understands that this Mitzvah is Tzedakah.

The Ramban (Bava Metziah 78b) explains that the main purpose of this Mitzvah is to spread Simcha – joy and delight.

HOW IT MAY BE FULFILLED

This obligation may be fulfilled through any type of gift — money, food, drink, or clothing. One should, however, try to give a substantial monetary gift. If one does use money, ideally it should be enough to buy bread weighing at least three eggs — five slices, approximately. At the very least, however, one must give a perutah or its equivalent value to each of two poor persons. A perutah is 1/1244th of an ounce of silver.

Many Poskim, however, are concerned that giving the minimal amount no longer causes the feeling of Simcha to the poor. When these minimal amounts were calculated the value of silver was significantly higher.
Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita, thus rules that the minimum amount should be $1. The Shaarei Teshuvah rules that it should be the equivalent amount of the cost of a meal for a poor person. In modern times this amounts to approximately five dollars (Rav Shmuel Fuerst).

SPEND MORE ON MATANAS L’EVYONIM

The Gedolei HaPoskim (See Mishna Brurah 694:3) tell us that it is preferable to spend more on the Mitzvah of Matanos l’Evyonim than on the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos. The calculation, of course, includes the food items, the packaging, and the time value of the effort placed into making the Mishloach Manos. For many people, all of this amounts to several hundred dollars. Thus we should give this amount for Matanos l’Evyonim as well.

WHEN GIVEN

These gifts should be given in the daytime, after the Megillah is read. Matanos la’evyonim should be above and beyond maaser. Therefore Maaser money should not be used, but it may be added to it.
Some Poskim hold that technically, Matanos la’evyonim may be given before Purim. However, because of the concern that the recipients will spend it earlier, it is preferable to give it on Purim itself. Others write that one should make sure that the funds are only given on Purim itself and that when an intermediary is used it should be held as a package for the poor person and not received on behalf of the poor person.

If one thought to give to a specific poor person but was unable to facilitate it, one may give it to another as long as one did not verbalize it. If one verbalized that he wishes to give to that specific person, he should follow up (BaLailah Hahu p. 16).

THE MONEY ITSELF

Money set aside for matanos la’evyonim should not be changed to another tzedakah without a ruling from a posek. This is based upon the Gemorah in Bava Metziah (78b), according to those Rishonim that learn that the Gemorah is dealing with Matanos l’Evyonim. Other Rishonim learn that this Gemorah doesn’t deal with Matanos L’Evyonim at all, and therefore there is room for a Posek to be lenient.
One is not overly strict with the poor on Purim to determine whether they are really poor or not. Whoever puts his hand out — we give him. According to leading poskim, this does not apply to organizations, however. Why is that? Perhaps because there is no simcha in regard to making organizations happy – I is only making people happy that makes the Simcha.

WOMEN AND CHILDREN

Women are also obligated to give gifts to the poor on Purim. A married woman may fulfill the mitzvah through her husband. Ideally, however, the husband should inform his wife that he has given matanos la’evyonim for her, as well.

Children who are dependent on their parents’ table should still give matanos la’evyonim on their own (Aruch HaShulchan 694:2). Even though they may be exempt from Tzedakah, there is still the idea of Simcha.

TO WHOM ONE GIVES

Originally, the Mitzvah was to give to a poor person who did not have enough money to have a meal on Purim. Nowadays, such a definition is indeed rare. The Poskim have thus ruled that it may be given to any poor person who is eligible to receive Maaser funds. The Chazon Ish (Trumos UMaasros cited in Balailah Hahu p.12) has written that it may be given to anyone who is not “mesudar beparnasaso” to the extent that he can sustain himself and his family.

CHECKS

Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, ruled that one may fulfill the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim with a check. This is true even if the check is post-dated. This is also the opinion of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (cited in Halichos Shlomo 19:23) and of Rav ELyashiv zt”l, cited in Yismach Moshe (p. 140).

Rav Nissin Karelitz Shlita, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the check must be negotiable on Purim itself in order for one to fulfill the Mitzvah. This may present a difficulty when Purim falls on a Sunday. In inner cities where they have check cashing facilities open on Sundays, it would, of course, not be a problem.
There are those who have questioned whether these rulings in Israel are applicable in America where one may place a stop payment on checks. The truth is that both in Israel and in England a stop payment may be placed on a check as well as long as there are funds to cover it.

MOURNER

Although generally speaking one does not give gifts to an Avel, a mourner, one may give him Matanos L’Evyonim because it is considered Tzedakah.
A mourner within twelve months must, of course, give Matanos L’evyonim too. This is true also for a mourner within the seven days of Shiva.

An Onain may give Matanos L’Evyonim in the merit of the Neshama of the deceased, according to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

One may fulfill the mitzvah of matanos la’evyonim by giving the money even to a young child who is considered poor.

Matanos la’evyonim may be given anonymously. This is the ideal form of fulfilling the mitzvah.

SMALL AMOUNT TO MANY OR MUCH TO FEW

There is a debate as to whether it is preferable to give many poor people a minimum amount of matanos la’evyonim or to give just a few people a significant amount of matanos la’evyonim. The Bach (siman 695) writes that it is preferable to give more people the lesser amount. Rav Elyashiv, shlita, is quoted (Shvus Yitzchak 8:2 as cited in Kovetz Halachos, p. 92) that it is preferable to give fewer people a more significant amount. Rav Elyashiv seems to be emphasizing the Simcha aspect of the Mitzvah. Since either way one fulfills the mitzvah, one should perform it in the manner in which one feels most inspired toward dveikus Bashem.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

Stabbing Attack in Hebron, Near Admat Yishai [UPDATED 8:57AM IL]

March 24th, 2016

main

[PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE] 08:34: A female terrorist stabbed and wounded an Israeli  a short time ago near Admat Yishai (Tel Rumeida) in Hebron. The victim’s  condition is described as light-to-moderate. More to follow.

08:51: Magen David Adom reports the wounded man is in his 20s and he remains conscious and alert. He was wounded in a hand and shoulder and is enroute to a Jerusalem hospital in a paramedic unit.

A female terrorist has been eliminated.

08:57: The victim in the attack is an IDF soldier, who appears to be in moderate condition.

It is now reported there were two terrorists who attacked the victim with knives. He fought them off and another soldier fired at them, killing them both. The soldier was transported to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem.

 

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(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem/Photos: Media Resource Group)

Cruz Emboldened, But Needs A Near Miracle To Catch Trump

March 23rd, 2016

trcrWhile Ted Cruz decried “gutter politics” against him, former Republican presidential contenders gave him a boost Wednesday, casting the Texas senator as the party’s last best chance to stop Donald Trump. The long and bitter 2016 campaign shifted to a new Midwestern battleground.

Ahead of Wisconsin’s April 5 primary, Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the race last fall, declared that only Cruz can catch Trump as time runs short in the primary season. And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave Cruz his endorsement — a step perhaps designed to hurt Trump more than help the unpopular Texas senator.

“For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena,” said Bush, who was knocked out of the 2016 contest last month. “To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that.”

Indeed, as Democrat Hillary Clinton addressed rising national security concerns, the Republican contest was hit again by personal insults — this time involving the candidates’ families. Cruz slammed Trump during an appearance in the front-runner’s hometown for making a vague threat on Twitter the night before to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife.

“Gutter politics,” Cruz said. Trump’s warning that he would disclose something about Heidi Cruz came in response to an ad by an outside political group that featured a provocative photo of Trump’s wife, Melania, when she was a model and before they were married. Trump misidentified the Cruz campaign as the source of the ad.

Heidi Cruz addressed the situation directly during an appearance outside Milwaukee. “The things that Donald Trump says are not based in reality,” she said.

The Republican infighting came the day after Cruz scored a win in Utah and Trump claimed Arizona. Despite modest signs of strength, the first-term Texas senator needs a near miracle to catch the billionaire businessman.

The day-after delegate math laid bare the challenge: Cruz needs to win 83 percent of the remaining delegates to overtake the front-runner. And further complicating Cruz’s path, Ohio Gov. John Kasich vowed to stay in the race at least until the next primary.

“There is zero chance that we would drop out before Wisconsin. And there’d be no reason for us to,” Kasich told reporters as he campaigned in the state, acknowledging his only hope to secure the nomination lies at a contested convention this summer in Cleveland.

Kasich did not earn a single delegate in Tuesday’s contests, but suggested he would do “fine” in Wisconsin’s upcoming primary and would excel in late-April elections across the East.

A frustrated Cruz charged Kasich with playing “spoiler” by taking votes that could have gone to him. And in an interview, Cruz suggested that the Ohio governor’s political future could benefit from a speedy exit: “I think he’d be a tremendous addition to an administration,” Cruz said on CNN’s “New Day.”

Things were decidedly less contentious on the Democratic side.

Clinton won in Arizona on Tuesday, maintaining a lopsided advantage over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic race despite his wins in Utah and Idaho on the same night. The former secretary of state is now almost three-quarters of the way to the Democratic nomination.

As the world grapples with a new wave of overseas violence, Clinton engaged Trump on national security with a California speech painting him as a misfit as potential commander in chief and laying out what she’d do to keep America safe in perilous times.

“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership,” she said.

Trump’s win in Arizona gave him a little less than half the Republican delegates allocated so far. He needs to win 54 percent of those remaining to claim his party’s nomination before the July convention.

Candidates signaled they would spend a lot of time in Wisconsin over the next 12 days.

“It’s pivotal for all three candidates,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, the former state chairman of the Wisconsin GOP. The state’s voters, he said, “are going to find themselves at the center of the political universe.”

Walker, whose run for president ended in September after a 90-day campaign, has yet to endorse anyone in the race. But he made his analysis clear.

“Senator Cruz is the only one who’s got a chance, other than Donald Trump, to win the nomination. My friend Governor Kasich cannot,” Walker said in an interview with WTMJ-AM broadcast on Wednesday.

Cruz also won the first-ever presidential endorsement of the political arm of the conservative Club for Growth, a group that engaged the billionaire in a war of words earlier in the year.

“Their records make clear that Ted Cruz is a consistent conservative who will fight to shrink the federal footprint, while Donald Trump would seek to remake government in his desired image,” said Club President David McIntosh.

(AP)

Obama: US Will Go After ISIS Aggressively

March 23rd, 2016

obama-air-horn-apA day after bombs ripped through Brussels, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that fighting the Islamic State is his “No. 1 priority” and blasted Republican calls for surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods as counterproductive and contrary to U.S. values.

Obama took on presidential candidate Ted Cruz directly, comparing his proposal for a crackdown on Muslims to the restrictions on religion and free speech in communist Cuba, the nation Cruz’s father fled and Obama visited Tuesday.

“I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance, which by the way the father of Sen. Cruz escaped for America, the land of the free,” Obama said. “The notion that we would start down that slippery slope makes absolutely no sense. It’s contrary to who we are.”

Obama showed no signs of altering his policies in the battle against the Islamic State group, which has claimed credit for the Brussels bombings. He described calls for more aggressive action as ill-conceived and said Republican talk of carpet bombing in Iraq and Syria is “inhumane.”

“That would likely be an extraordinary mechanism for ISIL to recruit more people willing to die and explode bombs in an airport or in a metro station. That’s not a smart strategy,” Obama said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State group.

The president spoke at a news conference in Buenos Aires, where he flew from Havana to meet with Argentina’s new president, Mauricio Macri. Obama’s historic trip, the first for a sitting president to Cuba in 90 years, was jarred but not interrupted by the bombings that killed at least 34 people and left some 270 injured. The president didn’t change his schedule, attending a baseball game Tuesday and continuing on to the second leg of this trip.

Obama argued that shifting his plans would show weakness to the terrorists, and he sought to show he was unfazed by the campaign-season blitz of criticism at home. He vowed to stick to the strategy in Iraq and Syria.

“I’ve got a lot of things on my plate, but my top priority is to defeat ISIL and to eliminate the scourge of this barbaric terrorism that’s been taking place around the world,” Obama said. “There’s no more important item on my agenda than going after them and defeating them. The issue is how do we do it in an intelligent way?”

As Obama traveled, Republican candidates put forward their own alternatives. Cruz said Tuesday that law enforcement should be empowered to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

He also echoed similar statements from GOP front-runner Donald Trump, calling for an end to the flow of refugees from countries where the Islamic State militant group has a significant presence.

Obama said the strategy of a U.S.-led air campaign and special operations missions was evolving, but only in response to results on the ground, not GOP rhetoric.

“We are approaching this in a way that has a chance of working. And it will work,” he said. “And we’re not going to do things that are counterproductive simply because it’s political season. We’re going to be steady. We’re going to be resolute, and ultimately we’re going to be successful.”

(AP)

Vowing To Defeat ISIS, Clinton Takes On Donald Trump

March 23rd, 2016

hilHillary Clinton is doing what Republican rivals now say they took far too long to do: Taking Donald Trump seriously.

In interviews and foreign policy addresses this week, the Democratic front-runner has worked to undercut Trump’s credentials in the wake of deadly bombings in Brussels. Her goal is to transform the voters’ vision of the bombastic reality TV star into a potential commander in chief with his finger on a nuclear trigger — an image her team believes will repel voters in November.

Clinton is casting herself as a calm harbor in a stormy world, frequently mentioning the need for “steady hands.” The comment is a clear reference to Trump with the implication he’d never fill that need.

In a speech Wednesday Stanford University, Clinton called for “strong, smart, steady leadership,” arguing that recent comments from Republicans Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz show they are not up to the task of combatting Islamic militants.

“Turning our back on our alliances, or turning our alliance into a protection racket would reverse decades of bipartisan American leadership and send a dangerous signal to friend and foe alike,” she said, referencing a call by Trump to lessen U.S. involvement in NATO. “Putin already hopes to divide Europe. If Mr. Trump gets his way, it will be like Christmas in the Kremlin.”

Clinton also assailed Cruz’s call for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods.

“When Republican candidates like Ted Cruz call for treating American Muslims like criminals and for racially profiling predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, it’s wrong, it’s counterproductive, it’s dangerous,” Clinton said.

Trump quickly dismissed her speech on Twitter and insisted he’s better prepared to take over the country’s fight against Islamic State militants.

“Just watched Hillary deliver a prepackaged speech on terror. She’s been in office fighting terror for 20 years — and look where we are!” he wrote, adding: “I will be the best by far in fighting terror. I’m the only one that was right from the beginning, & now Lyin’ Ted & others are copying me.” That last was a reference to a Republican rival. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Political strategists in both parties admit to being slightly baffled by the coming general election, acknowledging they have few clear expectations for a match-up between candidates with such high negative ratings and vastly different personal styles.

But there is on prediction they all agree on: It will get ugly.

Though there are still months of primary contests to come, the two front-runners have already begun trading heated attacks.

Trump has accused Clinton of being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands across the globe. Clinton, in turn, has accused him of inciting violence and likened his rise in the polls to “dark chapters” of history like the Holocaust.

Her aides see foreign policy as an area that allows Clinton to highlight both Trump’s unpredictable temperament and lack of international experience.

Democrats say those points, coupled with his controversial statements about women, Latinos and Muslims, will help their party woo moderate independents and even Republican voters — and of-set potential losses among the white, working class men attracted to Trump’s candidacy.

One day after the Brussels attacks, Clinton stressed adapting to take on a sophisticated opponent, strengthening alliances abroad and not using “bluster that alienates our partners.” The United States, she said, must intensify the air campaign against Islamic militants, support local Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground, take on extremism online and “harden defenses” at home.

She said the Brussels attacks showed the need for a “harder look at security protocols at airports and other sensitive, so-called soft sites.” Referencing the conflict between the FBI and Apple over an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers, Clinton said the technology community and government must find ways to work together, calling for an “intelligence surge” in the United States and with allies.

Like Clinton, Trump, sees international instability as offering advantages to his campaign, repeatedly pointing to the November 2015 attacks in Paris as a turning point that boosted his poll numbers and helped win him voters.

“Whenever there’s a big problem_national security type problem_I go up because people view me as much stronger. And they actually think that I_I think they feel I’m much more competent,” Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg television.

He’s offered a flurry of inflammatory — and frequently vague — policy proposals to tackle terrorism. In the wake of Brussels attacks, he for the U.S. to “close up our borders,” start widespread government surveillance on Muslims and expand international laws to permit forms of torture like waterboarding.

And he’s increasingly trying to recast Clinton’s tenure as America’s top diplomat as one of failed leadership, blaming her for continued chaos in the Middle East.

In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, he branded Clinton “Incompetent Hillary,” saying “the woman has been a disaster” and every foreign policy conflict she’s been involved with has turned out badly.

(AP)

YWN Wishes All Readers a Freilichen Purim!

March 23rd, 2016

purimPlease note that YWN will be updated throughout Purim with any major news stories, and will resume normal postings after Purim.

Please be aware, that the NYPD will have zero tolerance for intoxicated drivers, and other irresponsible driving. Extra officers have been places on the roads in heavily populated Frum communities, and although officers are fully understanding as to the festivities of the day, they will be strictly enforcing all vehicle and traffic laws.

The NYPD is also on the lookout for any groups collecting in box trucks or pick-up trucks. Any truck seen on the streets with a group of Bochrim in the back will be impounded by the NYPD – no questions asked.

Please take a moment to read the following few important safety tips – courtesy of Hatzolah:

With Purim here we must remind ourselves that, though this is a Yom Tov of fun and good will to others, it is also a time when we must be extra diligent about our safety. Unfortunately, due to careless behavior and thoughtlessness, Purim often ends in tragedy. By being aware of circumstances and taking a few precautions, we can have a safe and happy Purim.

*On this day there are many inexperienced drivers on the road. Teenagers and boys home from Yeshiva, who may have licenses but very little driving experience, are all too happy to do the family driving.

*Be extra careful about obeying traffic regulations. In our rush to distribute the Mishloach Manos we often make serious misjudgments.

*Be alert to the fact that, in their excitement, children may not be careful when crossing the street. Always be on the lookout for youngsters jutting out from in between cars.

*Being that we are constantly in and out of the car, we may be less careful about buckling up. Remember – most accidents happen within close proximity of our homes. Even if you will be driving only a short distance, all occupants of your vehicle must be seat-belted!

*If you suspect that someone has been drinking alcohol, by no means should you allow him to drive. Never permit your children to get into a car that will be driven by someone who may have been drinking, no matter how it may inconvenience you.

*If your son is going to be collecting Tzedaka on Purim, please do your homework. Make sure that the group he will be going out with will be carefully monitored and will follow a specific set of rules that will ensure his safety. This should include strict prohibitions about drinking alcohol, a responsible adult to make sure that the boys are not reckless when darting through traffic, positively no standing in the back of trucks or vans with open doors and no riding on the outside of vehicles.

Wishing all of Klal Yisroel a happy, healthy and safe Purim. And remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

YWN Editor and staff.

Purim the Way It’s Meant to Be – Leibedik And Safe: A Joint Message From LCSW And Hatzolah Of Lakewood

March 23rd, 2016

lWith the Purim season starting in earnest, children and adults alike are gearing up to deliver mishloach monos, attend mesibos and seudos, visit family, Rabbeim and teachers and all the excitement that goes with it. Purim, besides for holding the status as the most freilich day in the Jewish calendar, can also be the most dangerous day of the year.  Increased traffic, uninhibited behavior, and hectic scheduling combine to place a tremendous amount of stress on a town such as Lakewood with a very large frum population.

LCSW and Hatzolah would like to highlight some of the most common Purim related problems and offer solutions and suggestions to help keep adults, teens and children safe.

Theft

Shuls, organizations and individuals should be extra vigilant about possible theft of funds from pushkas or homes. Unscrupulous individuals are very aware of the large amounts of money circulating on Purim and in the past there have been many instances of large thefts on Purim.  LCSW is urging extra caution in this area in shuls, yeshivas and homes:

Tips to avoid theft:

  • Keep tzedakah money hidden or locked away until needed
  • Make sure Pushkas are left in a secure location
  • Ensure that homes are locked when leaving for even a short period on Purim
  • Report strange  or unusual behavior immediately to proper authorities

Pedestrian Safety

On Purim the whole community is out and about delivering Misholoach Manos and visiting friends and family, all within a span of a few hours. The increased number of pedestrians, many of them children, and traffic can be chaotic and even dangerous at some junctions.

Please note, crossing guards risk life and limb to help ease the congestion and increase road safety on Purim.  Please give the guards the respect they deserve and follow their instructions for your own sake and to ensure the safety of your fellow Lakewooders.

Tips for pedestrians:

  • Only cross at corners
  • Make sure to be visible to traffic by wearing a reflector etc.
  • Walk in groups
  • Don’t text while walking
  • Walk on sidewalks when possible, not in streets

Driving Safety

Thousands of vehicles will be on the road on Purim all trying to accomplish the same thing in a short window of time; creating a real-life nightmare. It is imperative to avoid the temptation to rush as urgent as the errand or task at hand may be.  Please be extra careful, allowing pedestrians to cross and watching out for wild drivers.  Please remember to leave more time than usual to get from point A to Point B, due to definite high volume of Purim traffic.  In addition it is imperative to follow all crossing guard instructions for the safety of the whole town.

Tips for drivers:

  • Consider using a  delivery service to distribute your Mishloach Manos.
  • Do not send young and inexperienced drivers out on Purim! This is not the day for them to test their skills.
  • Team up! Travel  with a responsible child or adult to make deliveries on a block and circle rather than double park.
  • Plan a route      using a street map of Lakewood to avoid unnecessary traveling and use alternate routes to major arteries, (New Hampshire or Hope Chapel instead      of Route 9, etc.).
  • Consider davening k’vasikin and doing deliveries early.

Underage drinking

Underage drinking and excessive drinking by adults are the cause of numerous emergency room visits each Purim.  If you are drinking please realize that drinking too much is very dangerous.  If you are a non-drinker responsible for drinkers, please monitor those drinking to ensure it is within safe levels.

Tips for parents or those hosting drinkers:

  • Speak to your children before Purim about the dangers of overdosing and alcohol poising.  This is a real danger.
  • On Purim, monitor the amount of alcohol consumed by a drinker/at a specific seudah
  • On Purim, keep open bottles within arms-reach of a responsible adult
  • If a drinker/party seems to be at unsafe level please seek emergency assistance  right away

Teen Safety

Purim is a day where teenagers are participating in seudahs and parties without parental accompaniment.  The level of supervision that would be wise on Purim is not simply not practical for obvious reasons, however parents need to remember that they are still responsible for their teen’s safety even on a day like Purim.

Tips to ensure the safety of teenagers on Purim:

  • Make sure the teenager is going around with a partner or with a group
  • Make sure there is a non-drinker to drive your teen around
  • Know a basic schedule of where and when they expect to be throughout the day and have him/her check in with you throughout the day
  • If your teenage seems to be too drunk or in an unsafe environment see to it that he is brought to your home or another safe place
  • If your teenager seems very unwell, seek emergency attention immediately

Dangerous Shtick

Some of our community’s children have been using Purim as a day to experiment with dangerous and illegal shtick such as fireworks.  Without a doubt, this behavior has brought much suffering and heartache to many who have become injured or maimed when ‘playing with fire’ so to speak.  In Israel, there already has been a case of a child who has lost an eye due to use of such a substance in early celebration of Purim this year.  Please make sure that your children understand that they must never use these types of shtick and stay far away from anyone who is using it.

If we as a community join together to adhere to the above guidelines, we will be sure of a very leibedik and safe Purim – the way Purim is mean to be!

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

Prosecutor: No Prison For NYPD Oficer In Stairwell Shooting

March 23rd, 2016

aguProsecutors say they won’t seek jail time for a New York City police officer convicted of manslaughter for accidentally shooting an innocent man in a Brooklyn stairwell.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said Wednesday that he believes a prison sentence isn’t necessary for Peter Liang, the rookie officer who has since been fired. The 28-year-old Liang was convicted in February in the death of Akai Gurley.

Gurley was killed in 2014 after Liang accidentally fired a shot into a stairwell while on routine patrol. Prosecutors argued Liang’s actions were reckless and he shouldn’t have had his gun out. Liang’s lawyer said Gurley’s death was tragic, but not a crime.

Thompson says justice will be served if Liang serves five years’ probation. He also will recommend home confinement and community service.

(AP)

Hiddush Survey: Growing Support for Civil Marriage in Israel Amid Growing Distrust for Chief Rabbinate Batei Din

March 23rd, 2016

unnamed (1)The Hiddush organization has released a survey which shows growing support for civil marriage in Israel. In addition, the poll shows a growing lack of trust in the Chief Rabbinate of Israel batei din among respondents.

75% of the Jewish public supports the introduction of civil divorce in Israel, including 58% who favor civil divorce for all, and 17% who favor civil divorce for those who were married in civil ceremonies. 69% of Israel’s Jewish public does not trust the state rabbinical courts, of which 35% have no trust for them at all, and 34% are disinclined to trust them. However, 52% of respondents also have no trust for the civil family courts.

The survey was conducted for International Agunah Day by the Rafi Smith Polling Institute for Hiddush – For Religious Freedom Equality, the Center for Women’s Justice, and Mavoi Satum. It was conducted last week via an Internet panel among a representative sample of 500 adult Israeli Jews. Many other surveys have examined the levels of support for civil marriage in Israel, but surveys dealing with matters of divorce in Israel are relatively rare.

Head of Hiddush Rabbi Uri Regev said in response that “The survey is a tremendous vote of no confidence in the Orthodox establishment’s monopoly. The public has resoundingly rejected the state rabbinical court system, which discriminates against women, traps many women seeking divorce in loveless and sometimes abusive marriages, and empowers their husbands to bribe them for their freedom. All successive Israeli governments have sold off the public’s freedoms of marriage and divorce to the fundamentalist establishment; until Israel recognizes civil marriage and divorce, it will remain among the most regressive countries in the world in this realm.”

Executive Director of Mavoi Satum Batya Kahana-Dror, Esq. explained, “The data indicate that the rabbinical monopoly is losing its legitimacy. Alienation from Israel’s religious institutions is growing among Orthodox and traditional Jews.” Dror added, “This damages not only the democratic character of the state, but also its Jewish character. Israeli law should reflect the public’s will, and permit freedom of choice in marriage and divorce.”

Director of the Center for Women’s Justice Dr. Susan Weiss, Esq. stated, “The right to marry and the right to divorce are fundamental human rights. Israel’s imposition of Torah law on its citizens is a violation of human rights, and it unnecessarily causes more women to become agunos. Officially adopting civil marriage and divorce in Israel will significantly reduce the number chained women, and would be the first and necessary step towards a comprehensive solution of this terrible phenomenon.”

unnamedSurvey Details:

Support for civil divorce (75%) is greater than support for civil marriage, which consistently polls at approximately 65%. Among the secular public, 99% supports civil divorce, including 88% who support civil divorce for all, and 11% support civil divorce for those who were married in civil ceremonies. However, 66% of Zionist Orthodox Israelis oppose this, as do 93% of the ultra-Orthodox. 79% of women favor introducing civil divorce, compared to 71% of men.

Among the opposition parties’ voters, support for civil divorce approaches 100%: including 97% of voters for the Zionist Camp and Yesh Atid parties, and 100% of Israel Beitenu and Meretz voters. Even among the non-Orthodox coalition parties’ voters, 74% favor civil divorce (including 53% who support this measure for all Israelis), including 90% of Kulanu voters. Perhaps most surprising: 52% of the Bayit Yehudi party’s supporters favor civil divorce, likely representing the large faction of non-religious voters for Bayit Yehudi.

69% of respondents do not trust the state rabbinical courts, including 93% of secular Jews and 60% of traditional Jews. However, 65% (almost two-thirds) of Zionist Orthodox Jews and 82% of the chareidim trust the rabbinical courts.

Interestingly, 18% of chareidim, 27% of Shas party voters and 17% of voters for Yahadut Hatorah do not trust the rabbinical courts. Neither do 100% of Israel Beitenu and 67% of Likud voters.

52% of the Jewish public are disinclined to trust the civil family courts, leaving only 48% who have confidence in the non-religious courts to deal with matrimonial matters. There is no difference in this regard between men and women. Of the 52%, 40% expressed no trust whatsoever in the family courts, and 12% said they were disinclined to trust them. This nearly 1:1 ratio of Jews who trust the family courts to those who do not can be found across three sectors of Israeli society: among secular Jews, 51% trust the family courts, as do 56% of traditional and Zionist Orthodox Jews. However, only 24% of the chareidi community trusts the civil family courts.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Hagaon HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky Shlita: ‘It is a Sin to Say it is a Mitzvah to Get Drunk on Purim’

March 23rd, 2016

ravshmuel kamenetsky[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times]

For those who doubt the headline, here is the link to his words. The Rosh Yeshiva begins speaking at 5:58.

What follows is this author’s view of a halachic rationale of the Rosh Yeshiva’s words.

There will generally be two types of readers of articles on drinking on Purim. Those that are appalled at the excess drinking, the car accidents, the ER visits, the stench of vomit and the genuine desecration of G-d’s Name when all this debauchery is witnessed by civil servants and goyim alike.

There will also be those who will think, “Calm down. People need a bit of a break and there is nothing wrong with getting drunk a little bit. It is only once or twice a year, anyhow.”

There will also be a third type who will be perhaps a bit more inquisitive and observe that this particular ruling of Chazal is generally not like other rulings. They will question what exactly happened here. I would like to present a possible theory.

The oft-quoted Shulchan Aruch derives the halacha from a statement of Rava in Megillah 7b. There are variant texts of this Gemorah – the examination and explanation of which are for another time. Let us direct our attention to another Gemorah.

THE YERUSHALMI AND THREE INTERPRETATIONS

Elsewhere, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Tractate Shabbos 8:1) explains that Rabbi Yehudah Bar Illai would only drink wine from Pesach to Pesach. The implication is that Rabbi Yehudah Bar Illai did not drink wine on Purim. The Talmud Bavli has a similar statement in Nedarim (49b).

There are three possible understandings of this passage of the Yerushalmi. The first is that indeed, this is the case, but the halacha is not in accordance with Rabbi Yehudah Bar Illai. The second possibility is that we are misreading the import and implication of this Yerushalmi. The third possibility is that Rabbi Yehudah Bar Illai had a perfectly valid reason not to consume wine on Purim and was in complete accordance with our statement in the Gemorah which is cited by the Shulchan Aruch.

The Shaarei Teshuva (695:2) writes clearly that we should interpret the Yerushalmi in this third method. This third understanding of the Yerushalmi understands that Rabbi Yehuda Ben Illai had a weaker constitution and that drinking wine would actually damage his health, body or general welfare.

WE ARE ALL LIKE RABBI YEHUDAH BAR ILLAI

A very good argument can be made that in contemporary times we all share the status of Rabbi Yehudah Bar Illai.

How so?

According to the National Institute of Health [See http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body ], drinking too much – even on a single occasion, can take a serious toll on your health. Here’s how alcohol can affect your body:

Brain:
Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. This is even on a single occasion.

Heart:
Drinking a lot, even on a single occasion, can damage the heart, causing problems including:

Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle
Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
Stroke
High blood pressure
Liver:
Heavy drinking, over time, can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:

Steatosis, or fatty liver
Alcoholic hepatitis (single occasion)
Fibrosis
Cirrhosis
Pancreas:
Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.

Cancer:
Drinking too much alcohol can, over time, increase the risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the:

Mouth
Esophagus
Throat
Liver
Immune System:
Drinking too much can weaken the immune system, making it a much easier target for disease. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

According to “Alcohol Use and Abuse,” a Harvard Health Publication, the use of alcohol nowadays is fraught with danger, and is often quite damaging to the body. Among the effects are:

Alcohol has some very harmful and permanent effects on developing brains and bodies.
For adolescents ages 15 to 20, alcohol is implicated in more than a third of driver fatalities resulting from automobile accidents and about two-fifths of drowning, r”l.
Drinking interferes with good judgment, leading young people into risky behavior and making them vulnerable to all sorts of other problems.
Teenagers who use alcohol and tobacco are at greater risk of using other drugs.
Teenagers who drink are more likely to develop behavioral problems, including stealing, fighting, and skipping school.
Underage drinking is illegal, and there are and have been some serious consequences and repercussions of arrests.

OTHERS CERTAINLY ARE IN THE RAV YEHUDAH BAR ILLAI STATUS

Let us not make the tragic error that we are above any of these problems. They exist in our communities and often under our very noses. Even if it was not true that alcohol consumption constitutes a “Rabbi Yehudah Bar Illai risk” to a particular individual, the very fact that new and more dangerous technologies have developed in the past century that can greatly increase dangers to other around us, the status of Rabbi Yehudah Ben Illai would apply to others around us. Automobiles did not exist in previous times and cars plus alcohol endanger the welfare of others. In our communities, not one year has gone by in recent years where alcohol consumption did not cause a major tragedy or accident.

As far as the Mitzvah itself is concerned, the opinion of the Ravya (564) and the Mordechai (Megillah Chapter 2) and the response of the Maharil (#56) is that even back in the time of Chazal it was not obligatory, rather it is a “Mitzvah b’almah” – an ideal that is no way obligatory. The Ramah cites these views as halacha.

Some will invariably make the argument that drinking large amounts of alcohol was always the practice. How can we now, all of a sudden, assume that it is a health risk and declare that we all share the status of Rabbi Yehudah Bar Illai?

The answer to this question rests within an answer to yet another question. According to the National Vital Statistic Reports of 2004 (52 #14), the life span of Americans has nearly doubled since 1900. What modern innovation contributed the most to the increase in human longevity? The answer is most likely, the refrigerator and the decline in the use of salt as a preservative. Salt kills. We have lowered our consumption of it and now we live longer. The same is true with alcohol.

It is my contention that the Shaarei Teshuvah’s understanding of the Yerushalmi is the one that is halachically most cogent (as it does not posit a contradiction of sources). It is also my view that all of us fall within the rubric of the exemption of Rabbi Yehudah Bar Illai, and should not drink to the point of anywhere near drunkenness – even according to the Poskim that do not agree with the Ramah’s reading.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

UN Peacekeepers to Return to Syrian Side of Golan Border

March 23rd, 2016

unThe United Nations peacekeeping force on the Syrian side of Israel’s northern border is scheduled to return to the area. The force left in the middle of 2013 as the Syrian civil war continued to escalate. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently instructed President Reuven Rivlin to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence towards bringing the international force back, as was reported by YWN-ISRAEL. Rivlin met with the Russian president in Moscow recently.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) soldiers are from five countries which agree to serve on the force. When the force left in 2013 it numbered about 900 soldiers.

Commanders and soldiers from the force visited the border area in recent weeks as they prepare to resume maintaining a presence as a buffer between Israel and Syria.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)