Forum Replies Created
MorahRach, I’m sorry to hear about what you’re going through — may Hashem bless your (extended) family with peace and abundance.
Practically, I wonder if maybe your husband should ask again for money? Even a “loan”? (That’s how my dad would do it with his dad, who would say OK, it’s a loan but don’t be in a hurry to pay it back.) Maybe somehow they will say yes this time. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Spiritually, we are taught that our income is determined on Rosh HaShana/Yom Kippur. So there’s no reason to be angry at other people about their role in our income because it’s all up to Hashem, based on what he’s already decided. It may sound like unusual advice, but chassidic rabbi and bestselling author Shalom Arush would advise to spend several minutes every day in personal prayer in your own words, thanking Hashem for giving you this challenge, because like everything it must be for the very best, and asking Hashem to help you with it (to not be angry with your in-laws, to have more income, to be happy and thankful for what you have, etc.) In his book on the subject he gives numerous examples of miracles that have occurred after people resolved to start giving thanks for their troubles. It may sound weird but you can understand how it’s a way to build emunah/bitachon. It’s like King David said: “He who trusts in Hashem, kindness will surround him.” (Tehillim 32:10).
Most Americans support Israel against the Palestinians. The Senate issued a unanimous resolution in the last week fully supporting Israel. Even the President has refrained from any real criticism. Americans are more pro-Israel than any country in the world outside Israel (except maybe India). So things are really not that bad here.
But it’s true, there are still a lot of haters. On the far left (left of the Democrats), many people actually support Hamas and PLO suicide attacks. I know some of these people personally, but I can’t talk or email with them about it because I get too worked up. It’s really disgusting and sickening. Some of it, for sure, is due to anti-Semitism.
However, most of it, I think, is caused by these people naively believing the version of the facts (really a bunch of lies and a few half-truths) vigorously asserted by Palestinian nationalists. They really believe that objectively the Palestinians are so cruelly and unjustly oppressed that the rocket fire and suicide attacks are justified. The far left has a psychological tendency to support the “underdog” no matter what, so they only listen to the supposed underdog’s side of the story.
Because they have such a twisted version of reality, there is no point at all arguing with them! Seriously. For the vast majority, there is zero chance your comments will make any difference. I think the only thing that may possibly change some people’s minds is to be exposed to very good pro-Israel websites and blogs (like Elder of Ziyon). So it may be worth it to try to get people to read those.
But I still think it’s a waste of time, and really not worth it if it makes you upset. It’s not worth reading online comments anyway, because people tend to express more extreme opinions than they really believe anyway. (Don’t even try reading the comments on Huffington Post!) All we can do (besides general things like tehillim and mitzvos) is pray for the haters, that they see the truth, and give some tzedakah to good pro-Israel organizations who are changing people’s minds.
Jews have been drinking coffee and tea for numerous generations with few problems. I believe coffee was popular and available from about the time of the tsfat kabbalists 500 years ago. In Eastern Europe tea was more popular. On this subject, does anyone have any anecdotes about gedolim of today or the past drinking coffee or tea?
Perhaps you could allow your son to drink two cups of coffee or tea a day if he needs energy, as long as he doesn’t drink the second cup past noon or 1pm?
However, he thing about caffeine is that it can easily disrupt sleep, and teenagers need way more sleep than they get. Teenagers are biologically programmed to want to stay up late and sleep in late. But the school schedule forces them to get up early. So what they really need to do is go to bed really early, like 9pm, even though they don’t feel like it.
There’s also the possibility that stimulant use (such as caffeine) can lead to anxiety or other psychological or behavioral problems. After all, teenagers are moody and their brains are still developing.
A better way to have more energy and concentrate very well is to get aerobic exercise. Studies show it’s more effective and longer-lasting that caffeine, and it increases mood (not to mention making you healthy and preventing obesity). Teens should get up and run around every hour or two to get their energy levels up, and maybe have a quick snack to compensate for the calories they burned.November 16, 2012 4:04 am at 4:04 am in reply to: "Your not mechuyav to do it altz hishtadlus but you can do it if you want to…" #911455
I don’t know if there’s a real answer to your question — it’s more a question of hashkafah that depends on who you ask. I would think about it this way. If this is something you really want, ask yourself why? If you don’t think you have improper motives, and your gut is telling you really want it, then there’s nothing wrong with being persistent and trying again and again. It’s not a coincidence that yidden gave the world the concept of chutzpah. You should also of course daven for guidance — Hashem will give you hints about what you should do.
Join a shul wear most or all men wear black hats, wear a black hat yourself, wear white shirts and a black kippa only (velvet or non-knitted cloth), base your halachic practice and hashkafic views on those of yeshivish gedolim, adopt the minhagim of people at your new community, etc. But there’s a lot of variation and there’s not one set of practices you need to adopt.
“Charedi” is a general term for Orthodox Jews who are not MO. That includes Yeshivish, Chassidim, and some Sephardim like those associated with the Shas party in Israel. Outsiders refer to all non-chassidic charedim as Yeshivish but in “Yeshivish” circles people mean something slightly different and more specific by Yeshivish. So I know people who I and most people would call Yeshivish but they don’t call themselves that. As someone mentioned charedim is a term used mostly by outsiders.
“The heart of a king is in the hand of Hashem” (Mishlei 21:1.) What a ruler actually does while in office is up to Hashem. So we should pray, do teshuvah, do other mitzvos, etc. And try to influence government policy the best we can, though without wasting time on activism that won’t make any different.
We should also try to influence American society to get closer to Torah values and practices — all of them (that are relevant to non-Jews), not just the ones Republicans seem to care about. That’s how we’re supposed to be a light to the nations — spreading the truth of the Torah to everyone (see Horeb by Rav Hirsch).
Israel is not “finished.” The status quo continues: Obama, and the rest of the world, advocate for a Jew-free Palestinian state, and Israel makes slight concessions but does what it wants, knowing that the two-state solution is never going to happen. The hearts of Israel’s rulers are in the hands of Hashem too.
MorahRach and Medium Sized Shadchan: Thanks for sharing! Very interesting.
Mods: Why are you letting through comments claiming that MO is apikorsus? Do you want this website to make frum Jews look like ignorant xenophobes who think everyone who isn’t just like them is a heretic? That’s what I asked in the last thread that was removed. Like someone else suggested, if there’s anything that’s going to make people go OTD it’s that kind of comment.
Medium sized shadchan: Just wondering, do/did some of the MO singles you deal with go to college at places other than YU/Stern?
Disturbing, but every study needs to be evaluated on its own terms. Many studies are flawed, and don’t accurately reflect reality.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if many MO teens go off the derech once they go to college. Even the college has a sizable Orthodox community, the anti-religious ideology of many courses and non-Orthodox students will inspire many MO kids to go OTD, no matter how strong their upbringing. The key, I think, is to send them to YU/Stern (or even Touro), where the “normal” thing is to stay on the derech.
Hmmm…why am I not surprised that the first person to (falsely) claim MO is apikorsus is supposedly a “Y.U.” type. Moderators, why do you let such a comment through? Is one of the purposes of the CR to trash any Orthodox Jew who doesn’t fit into your definition of charedi?
Aurora: You may be right. It depends on how the law is structured. Policymakers may be hesitant to give doctors all the authority, because the vast majority of doctors are pro-choice. (Pro-life medical students report being harassed and ridiculed for their views). So perhaps the doctors will make a recommendation and then have a civil servant from some new government agency give a thumbs up or thumbs down? That could be a problem.
Regardless, the pro-lifers will never be happy with an amorphous law that allows abortions for “health” reasons (whether of the mother or fetus) if the mother’s life isn’t at stake. So those following more lenient halachic opinions would be denied the freedom to live according to Jewish law. But if they just left it up to the doctors, and they weren’t afraid of being criminally prosecuted for questionable abortions, then it might work out OK.
If Rowe v. Wade is overturned, I think a bunch of states will pass sweeping anti-abortion laws without much deliberation. The content of the laws will probably vary widely, depending on the nature of the pro-life movement in each states. I highly doubt many legislatures would take the concerns of Orthodox Jews into consideration.
By the way, I’m an attorney too (though I don’t practice in an abortion-related area). 🙂
Agreed, MorahRach! May Hashem have mercy on us and give us the best possible government, regardless of who wins. I don’t think people like us should get too carried away with our political opinions anyway — instead, let’s work on middos like patience and humility and learning from every person. After all, Hashem decides who gets elected and what policies they carry out.
MorahRach, I never said Romney would end all welfare. However, every serious analysis of his budgetary and tax proposals concludes that he would drastically cut spending for the needy. That shouldn’t be surprising, because that the mainstream Republican position at this time, touted by everyone in the leadership of the party, is to cut taxes for the wealthiest and pay for it with deep cuts to social spending. Look at the bills the House Republicans have proposed or passed, including Ryan’s budget plan, and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.
I don’t think it’s the case that there are loads of people laying around living off your dollar. Benefits in this country are generally much lower and less available than they are in other Western industrialized countries, including Israel. Food stamps and other benefits aren’t a huge amount of money. Most of them go to people who are working, but whose salaries are so low that they are under the poverty line. Most of the poor are the working poor. For those who aren’t working, often the problem is that they are taking care of children, are uneducated and have no job prospects, are sick or disabled, or have psychological or addiction problems. Lots of people need more help than they’re getting, especially more education, job-training and treatment for health and addiction problems. So our system certainly needs reform, but that’s not going to happen by drastically cutting everything.
MorahRach, working off the books is illegal — I certainly don’t approve of that. The law of the land is the law of the land, and we are ethically and halachically bound to follow it. And I think there should be some kind of relief for people like yourself who are double-taxed.
By the way, I don’t rely on the NY Times. I only cited a news story that quotes Romney’s ad about abortion. You can find the same news story in numerous sites on the Internet, including on pro-life and conservative sites.
There’s an interesting article on this topic on Ohr Somayach’s website, called “Jurassic Judaism.” Definitely worth reading.
You’re welcome, Aurora — I enjoy your posts too. There was an article on the NY Times yesterday about Romney’s abortion views. Apparently his campaign just released an ad on this topic. The ad says he supports abortion “to save a mother’s life.” In the past, he may have said he supports it for the mother’s “health.” But now, it seems to be just to save the mother’s life.
My problem is with who makes the decision. According to halacha, abortion is required if it would save the mother’s life. Only rabbi is qualified to decide when the halachic requirements are met. Sometimes what is considered a lethal condition in halacha is different from what is considered a lethal condition in secular terms. I’m sure this isn’t replicated in the abortion context, but even some seemingly minor conditions are sometimes considered a life-threatening condition for the purposes of violating the laws of Shabbos. For example, a charedi rabbi recently told me that there is no halachic problem with removing a splinter on Shabbos (even if it involved prohibited activities like squeezing), because it’s an internal injury that might become infected (of course, consult your local rabbi for a ruling on such issues). This is an extreme example — I’m sure most differences of opinion on abortion would be more subtle. The point is, what the government or a doctor will consider life-threatening is not necessarily the same as what a rabbi will.
Keep in mind that many pro-lifers in America, especially Catholics (since this is the Church’s official position) believe that abortion is wrong even if it would be necessary to save the life of the mother. If the doctor or bureaucrat involved in deciding whether the mother’s life is at stake is one of these hard-core pro-lifers with views diametrically opposed to the Torah position, then I wouldn’t exactly trust that person to make the decision.
This danger, I assume, is what halachic authorities such as Rav Moshe Feinstein opposed pro-life legislation. Nowadays, there are some Orthodox rabbis, such as R’ Yehudah Levin, who wholeheartedly support the pro-life movement. Yet just because some people are apparently convinced that the standard Republican positions are necessarily the Torah positions, doesn’t mean that’s the case.
If pro-lifers consistently gave us assurances that our rabbis would be allowed to make the final decision on whether an abortion is permissible, then that would alleviate my concerns. But they will never do so (it would be unconstitutional because it would only apply to Orthodox rabbis — many non-Orthodox rabbis believe abortion is often permitted and the approval of a rabbi is not required).
MorahRach, it’s not exactly accurate to say that Obama ended the work requirement. He issued guidelines which gave states more flexibility in deciding upon work requirements. This is a reasonable thing to do, because the strict requirements of welfare were in many cases (based on social-scientific studies I’ve read) making people’s lives miserable.
For example, did you know that women receiving TANF benefits are often forbidden from going to college or taking job training courses? Instead, they’re often forced to take dead-end minimum-wage jobs that will never allow them become self-sufficient or rise out of poverty.
According to Rambam, the highest level of tzedakah is helping someone become self-sufficient. So why should the government prevent poor people from doing the only things they can (getting job training or a college education) to become self-sufficient? Certainly, people who are able to work should do so, but that doesn’t mean that, in every case, impoverished women need to put their 6 week old baby in a low-quality daycare so they can work a minimum-wage dead-end job, in order to keep their (temporary) government benefits.
More generally, Romney/Ryan promise to make huge cuts in social spending, including such things as unemployment insurance, food stamps and health insurance for poor uninsured children. That will certainly make a lot of people’s lives worse. As has been noted by others in the CoffeeRoom, all the gedolim in Israel support parties that always oppose cuts to government spending on the poor. That spending needs to be done intelligently, of course. But Romney’s plan to just slash it like crazy (to finance huge tax cuts for the rich no less!) is just not acceptable, in my view.
About Israel, you may be right, but I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to vote for someone whose domestic policies are so bad. Anyway, there’s so much pressure among policy elites for the president to push Israel around and tell it what to do that I think Romney would still end up playing the same general role (as did Bush).
Oomis, I don’t understand how you can say that not voting at all is a vote for Obama. I guess that assumes I would be voting for Romney if it weren’t for his problematic abortion stance. But that’s not the case.
A few of each side’s positions, as I mentioned above, arguably violate the Torah. But most of them don’t. Though there are Torah sources that pertain to things such as taxes, environmental protection, health care, employment regulations, education, the criminal justice system and anti-poverty policies such as food stamps or job training (see a recent Chabad video series exploring these issues), there’s not necessarily a clear Torah position on these topics. It can go either way, depending on how you interpret the Torah, on which competing considerations are most important to you, and on which approach you believe is most effective, based on your view of the evidence.
In my view, the Democrats’ positions on most domestic policy issues, such as social spending, environmental protection, and health care, are based on a more correct understanding of the facts, and more likely to improve people’s lives. So I actually hope Obama wins.
Even though I oppose Obama’s Israel policy, it’s not much worse than Bush’s (he was responsible for the Gaza pullout, for example), and I doubt Romney’s would be much better in practice. I also think Democrats are naive when it comes to terrorism and “moderate” Islamists, but I don’t trust the Republicans on foreign policy either. Bush campaigned on a promise to stop “nation-building” but started a totally unnecessary and bloody war with Iraq to impose democracy on the country (Democracy, you might note, is a nice thing but it’s not exactly mentioned in the Torah, much less as a motive for war.)
Even so, I can’t bring myself to vote for someone (Obama) who believes Jews should be ethnically cleansed from East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (to make way for the Palestinian state, where Jews won’t be allowed). Just because the whole world believes that, doesn’t make it right — it’s always wrong to ban a religious or ethnic group from a country or area.
Morarach, you didn’t address the substance of my comments. It may sound fine if they outlaw abortion but allow it if the mother’s life is in danger. But that interferes with the practice of our religion, for two reasons. First, in at least some cases the doctor will think the mother’s life is not in danger, or not in enough danger, but the rabbi looking at the same situation may say she is enough danger for the abortion to be not only permitted but required. So there would be situations where halacha, as interpreted by a rabbi, would mandate an abortion, but it would be illegal. And if the rabbis are right, women could die. For this very reason, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein opposed pro-life legislation, even though he was very much against abortion. Second, if you follow the Tzitz Eliezer, it is halachically permissible to abort a fetus with certain abnormalities or conditions. In both ways, pro-life laws would interfere with our freedom of religion.
It’s not true that Romney is for the Torah and Obama is against it. I can only think of two ways in which Obama’s positions are contrary to the Torah. First, toevah marriage, but unlike in the abortion case, that doesn’t interfere with freedom of religion. Second, he disapproves of Jews living or building in East Jerusalem. For the latter reason I’ll never vote for him. So I’m not voting at all!
There is another quote in rabbinical literature, I don’t remember by whom, saying that people shouldn’t complain about having daughters because often the daughters end up bringing the parents more nachas than the sons.
Rashi had three daughters and no sons. So did the second-to-last Lubavitcher Rebbe. You didn’t hear them complaining. We should be happy with whatever Hashem gives us.
I read an article recently by someone who heard a father say, I don’t understand why my kids are so serious and somber. The author of the article had noticed this too — the father’s kids seemed withdrawn and never laughed and played like other children. The author asked the father, Do you ever tell them stories? He said, Yes, I tell them stories about gedolim. The author suggested he treat them like kids, and tell them stories about princesses and kings and such. Like someone said above, kids need to be kids.
On the other hand, it can be positive for kids to hear stories about gedolim and tzaddkim. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who was the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, attested that hearing stories about tzaddikim as a young child inspired him to put in the effort in Torah study and prayer to become what he became.
Oomis, I don’t think you understood my comment. Romney’s position IS against the Torah’s teachings. According to the Torah, abortion is permitted in some circumstances, if the life of the woman is at stake. Rabbis decide whether the life of the woman is at stake, according to halacha. If Romney’s position is enacted, Rabbis won’t be able to make that decision — instead, some government bureaucrat who knows nothing about the halacha will decide whether the woman’s life is at stake. So it will keep us from deciding on abortion based on halacha and rabbinic authority.
I agree that abortion is murder, at least unless it’s halachically mandated. That doesn’t mean the government should outlaw it. Restricting it, as pro-life people have managed to do so far, is fine, but outlawing it unless some bureaucrat approves it, gets in the way of the halachic process.
Romney believes that the government should prohibit abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is at stake. Who would get to decide whether the mother’s life is in danger? The government of course. So their policy would take the power to decide away from the mother (who if she’s frum will decide based on what her rabbi says) and gives it to the government. The policy would interfere with the practice of Judaism by giving government, not the rabbis, the power to decide when abortion is appropriate. I’m sympathetic to the pro-lifers and detest abortion myself, but doesn’t Romney’s policy interfere with our freedom of religion? The ultimate decision should be up to the rabbi, not some bureaucrat.
To follow up on my last comment, the explanation is in paragraph 224 (Ch. 31) in Horeb.
In the section on Sukkos in Horeb by R’ S.R. Hirsch, I believe he says it has something to do with encouraging humility.
They don’t naturally go together — the Republican party has always been the party of big business, but since the 1980s used social issues to get poor whites to vote for them.
Against state regulation on social issues and economic issues: Libertarian. No countries are like this. Just a small minority of hard core ideologues.
Conservative on social issues and liberal on economic issues: Religious parties in Israel. The Democratic party before the 70s. Center-right parties in Europe. Probably most parties in Third World countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Even within the two-party system there is room for variation. They are many Republicans who are moderate or liberal on social issues. There are some pro-life Democrats and still some who oppose toeva marriage. Many Democrats are pretty conservative on economic issues because of big business donors and lobbyists and the rightward shift in policy ideology since the 1980s.
Yes, it’s an aveira. The law of the land is the law, and breaking it is a sin.
From an article by R’ Shlomo Brody in the Jerusalem Post (which is worth reading and has many other sources):
“Other decisors, however, accept this principle in broader terms to include most matters of monetary and civil regulation (Beit Yosef CM 369). Consequently, Halacha mandates respecting traffic laws as well as intellectual property rights, including copyrights on music and videos.”
From another interesting article:
On the question of “real” Kohanim and Levites, I’m not an expert on the halachic issues, but as I see it there are too ways to think about it. One is that there is such thing as a “real” Kohen or Levite, and when Moshiach comes he will (assuming he has ruach hakodesh) determine who is a real Kohen or Levite. Another perspective is that “the Torah is not in heaven,” as they say, and Hashem considers anyone who has inherited the status of a Kohen or Levite to in fact be a Kohen or Levite, regardless of whether genetic tests shows them to have the DNA signature. It’s kind of like the situation with mamzerim — unless I’m mistaken, even if one “objectively” should be a mamzer, halachically one is not a mamzer until people actually investigate and determine that one definitely is a mamzer. (For that reason some, including major poskim, have in some cases advised against investigating mamzer status.) One place to start for the halachic issues is Berachos 47b, which I believe discusses the concept of a “pasul” Levite with a Levite mother but non-Jewish father — I’m not sure where else to look.
Aurora: Thanks for the info — sounds interesting. I never meant to suggest that most Ashkenazim are descended from converts — only that, according to the studies I’ve seen, a certain amount of conversion has taken place and measurably affected the Jewish gene pool over the generations (which shouldn’t be surprising since Jews have nearly always accepted converts and they can’t have all been killed or failed to reproduce). The idea, popularized nowadays by the anti-Israel crowd, that most Ashkenazim are descended from the Khazars or other converts has certainly been debunked.
YehudahTzvi: Genetic studies have shown that all Jews share common distinctive ancestry, so the majority of present-day Jewish genes are not from converts. However, it is clear that some conversion has occurred over time, to the extent that nearly all Jews must have at least some ancestors who are converts (and not just Avraham Avinu and the Imahos…) One genetic study estimated that 4% of the Ashkenazic population per generation were converts (that seems too high to me, even though I’ve read about some stories of entire gentile villages converting in the 19th century and earlier.) The paper “Multiple Origins of Ashkenazi Levites: Y Chromosome Evidence for Both Near Eastern and European Ancestries” claims to show that over half of Ashkenazic Levites have Eastern European Y-Chromosome (R1a1a) (which is much different than the case of the Kohanim, who clearly have a common Middle Eastern origin). Interestingly, the paper notes that the Gemara discusses the possibility of someone whose father is not Jewish becoming a Levite. (I wish they had cited the source.)
Frummy in the tummy, you may well be correct. Yale statistician Joseph Chang recently published a paper claiming that basically all of humanity is descended from every major historical figure. It may seem impossible, but (if I understand correctly) he claims that everyone of European ancestry is descended from Mohammed, and that virtually everyone in the world is descended from Egyptian pharaohs. If that’s true, we’re also all descendants of both Yaakov and Yishmael.
Think about it this way. Let’s say someone lived 1,000 years ago. That person had two descendants, and each of his descendants had an average of two descendants. Let’s say the average age of parenthood is 25. So that’s 40 generations. 2 to the power of 40 would be the number of his descendants. That number (one trillion) is many times larger than the present world population (about seven billion). This suggests that, for any person alive more than 1000 years ago, who has ancestors alive in the present day, most of humanity is that person’s descendant.
Although it may make sense mathematically, I think Chang’s argument doesn’t recognize that there are closed groups separated from the rest of humanity–to some extent Jews, even though a certain number of people have converted in every generation, but especially isolated indigenous peoples living in the Amazon rainforest or the New Guinea highlands.
Regardless, I think Chang’s work shows it doesn’t make sense to worry about who exactly is whose descendant. The approach cited above, to consider anyone living in an Arab country to be an Ishamaelite, makes the most sense.
Shein, there is no obligation to eat meat on Yom Tov. See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 529:1; Magen Avraham 696:15; and Darkei Teshuvah 89:19. See also Shaagat Aryeh 65.
Kosher Ham: Omegas are types of fats, not proteins. Though you’re certainly right that there are no protein problems with being a vegetarian.
TGC: R’ Dovid Sears is a real chosid alright. He has written loads of books on chassidic and other topcis, and I think he runs the Breslov Center. I believe he’s a follower of Rav Elezar Kenig, the leader of the Breslov community of Tzfat.
There is no obligation to eat meat on yom tov — this is a common misconception, as has been shown above (and in numerous other places on the internet, if you care to investigate.)
Yekke2, it is wrong to be vegetarian because you think humans have no right to ever eat animals, but there is no problem in avoiding meat because of tzaar baalei chayim problems that occur before shechita. See the previous discussion on this thread.
I’m sure all frum vegetarians would have no problem in eating the korbanos when that becomes possible (and required.)
TCG: Thanks for sharing. Not to be nosy, but I strongly suggest you take a B-12 supplement. Even many meat-eaters are deficient, but rates of deficiency are somewhat higher among vegetarians (particularly vegans). It’s also important to eat iodized salt or take a multivitamin that contains it — many people who use non-iodized salt end up deficient in that important mineral.
Because “chassidic” is in your screen name, I recommend reading the book A Vision of Eden by the vegetarian chassidic rabbi Dovid Sears. It’s available online for free as a pdf. I haven’t read the whole thing but what I’ve read is fascinating. It gives all the sources on animal and vegetarian-related issues, including both historical Jewish arguments for and against vegetarians.
“And God will give you mercy, and show mercy to you” (Deuteronomy 13:18). God will instill in you the trait of mercy and compassion; then He will “show mercy to you.” If one has mercy upon living creatures, Heaven will have mercy upon him (Shabbos 151b). However, if a person lacks mercy, there is no difference between him and a beast, which is not sensitive to the suffering of other creatures (Rabbi Yehudah HeChassid, Sefer Chassidim, 87).
“One should respect all creatures, recognizing in them the greatness of the Creator Who formed man with wisdom. All creatures are imbued with the Creator’s wisdom, which itself makes them greatly deserving of honor. The Maker of All, the Wise One Who transcends everything, is associated with His creatures in having made them. If one were to disparage them, God forbid, this would reflect upon the honor of their Maker.” (Ramak, Tomer Devorah, ch. 2).
We are forbidden to kill or to cause pain to any living creature unless it is necessary.
As Ramak (R’ Moshe Cordovero) says in Tomer Devorah (ch. 3), one “should be a father to all the creatures of the Holy One, Blessed is He,” and one’s “mercy should extend to all creatures, neither destroying nor despising any of them. …In this way man’s pity should be extended to all the works of the Blessed One just as the Supernal Wisdom despises no created thing for they are all created from that source.” One “should despise no created thing, for they all were created in Wisdom. He should not uproot anything which grows, unless it is necessary, nor kill any living thing unless it is necessary.”
Rabbiofberlin: Romney’s plans are not very specific but he has said he is going to cut $7 trillion in spending, which goes even farther than Ryan’s plans. Policy analysts looking at these proposals conclude that, given Romney’s statements about what he would and wouldn’t cut, millions of people would have to lose Medicare and Food Stamp benefits (among many other programs for the poor) to achieve that level of cuts. All current Republican budgetary plans (including Ryan’s) include massive cuts to programs for the poor and equally massive tax cuts for the highest earners. That’s just the reality in Washington right now.
I would agree a psak din to vote for Obama is out of the question, but consider than in Israel, all of the religious parties in Israel (both charedi and dati leumi) support a strong safety net and oppose cuts. It’s too bad we don’t have a party in the US that is conservative on social and cultural issues but more liberal on economic policy. In my opinion, the government’s biggest economic priority should be making sure people can make ends meet while working part-time (so we can finally fulfill Avos 2:2), without getting fired for insisting on part-time work (as in the Netherlands where there’s a right to work part time and get full benefits). Unfortunately that isn’t on any party’s agenda.
Something else to think about:
Humility is the among the highest of all virtues. The polarized American political discourse systematically encourages us abandon humility and arrogantly judge and attack those who disagree with us on our party of choice or political opinion. It also encourages us to hate our brothers in our hearts — and that’s an aveira. The left and right are equally guilty of it.
Of course, we should be informed about political issues and seek to apply reason, evidence and Torah perspectives to politics. But we should do so humbly, calmly, patiently and without doing anything to shame anyone else or hurt people’s feelings. If we can’t do that, we shouldn’t talk about politics at all. It’s much better to be completely ignorant about politics and be kind and respectful to everyone than to vote for the “right” party but treat people poorly, commit aveiras and foster negative middos.
All the ideologies in contemporary politics — Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, Green, Settlers, anti-Zionists, etc. — are compelling to a lot of intelligent people. People tend to be fooled by the falsehood that surrounds them, and we should respect and have compassion even on people with bizarre or false ideas (while responding to them appropriately). We shouldn’t identify too strongly with any party or ideology because none of them are perfectly compatible with Torah. Complete identification leads to arrogance, overconfidence and unwillingness to learn from every person (see Avos) and objectively evaluate evidence.
I would never vote for Obama because of Israel. But it’s easy to understand why so many do vote for him:
1. 90% of Blacks vote democratic and have for decades; it’s only slightly increased with Obama.
2. Obama’s Israel policy is bad but it’s not much worse than Bush’s; remember the disastrous Gaza pullout? Wouldn’t have happened without Bush’s imperialistic meddling.
3. The idea that Democrats are fiscally irresponsible is a myth. Federal spending actually grew more under Bush and Reagan, and Romney’s plans would in fact increase the deficit and take longer to balance the budget than Obama’s plans (because of all Romney’s tax cuts for the wealthiest).
4. Similarly, the idea that Obama is somehow leading us toward communism is beyond ridiculous. Communism is defined as an authoritarian government with no free elections, government ownership of all media and industry, etc. With the exception of the temporary US/Canadian government majority stake in GM, Obama’s policies have no similarities at all with Communism. Bush spent tons of money on new social programs like Head Start but no one called him a communist. Every other democratic Western country has universal health care that goes way beyond Obamacare — that’s not communism, any more than the fact that the Post Office is owned by the government is communism.
5. Misguided economic policies have bankrupted much of the middle class, such that the benefits of economic growth go to the rich but not the other 90%, whose wages stagnate or fall (see the book Winner Take All Politics). Romney’s policies will only make this worse, while Obama’s have some chance of making the middle class better off.
6. Judaism places abortion decision-making with rabbis, not the government. If pro-life legislation was passed it could interfere with this. I’m sympathetic to pro-lifers but an actual ban on all abortion would be against halacha.
I’ve heard that according to brain science research, many times people make a decision impulsively or intuitively, and then think of reasons to explain why they did that, even though those weren’t really the reasons. So AZOLIS may be right in a sense — people make a gut decision and then justify it. I think many people would never consider believing that the Torah (particularly the Oral Torah) is true and binding because they just can’t imagine that’s what G-d wants, because they have negative stereotypes about what Orthodox Jews are like, or because they think it would be impossible or extremely unpleasant to “have to follow all those rules.” But under the right conditions they can change their minds about what they’ll allow themselves to believe. Sometimes “proofs” may help nudge them in that direction, sometimes not.
I second what was said above — you can certainly thank Hashem for and pray to Hashem for your pets in your own words. Few people know much about it nowadays, but in fact there is a ton of rabbinical literature on the importance of treating animals with compassion and such, and many beautiful stories of famous rabbis who went out of their way to help animals. Rabbi Dovid Sears wrote a fascinating book exploring this topic (among others), A Vision of Eden, a draft of which is available online for free. I’m sure other books and articles have been written as well.
Sterilizing animals has traditionally been forbidden by most poskim, though there are some exceptions. Rabbi Shmuel Wosner and Rabbi Shlomo Amar, for example, have approved letting a non-Jew sterilize your pet. Many poskim hold that non-Jews are not forbidden to sterilize pets.
If you see an abandoned animal, one good option would be to give it to an animal shelter that identifies as a no-kill shelter. Most animal shelters euthanize a large proportion of the perfectly healthy cats and dogs they have, because there aren’t enough people who want to adopt them. No-kill shelters are run by people who think that is wrong, and only euthanize them in very rare cases (if they are about to die or are extremely dangerous and aggressive). Since these places are mainly run by non-Jews I don’t think it would be a problem if they would spay or neuter them — it would seem more important to save them from suffering or death. That said, I don’t know whether the life of an average stray or feral cat is all that bad.
Simcha, I don’t think that the video meant that we should treat all Jews exactly the same in every way, no matter what “category” they fit into. The point is that we should treat them all with kindness and compassion and greet them with a cheerful countenance. How can we shun a fellow Jew and refuse to even look at him or talk to him? Every time that happens it’s a big chillul Hashem, making people think frum Jews are less kind than chilonim.
CRuzer, I see what you’re saying. But if we truly loved Hashem, then we should love all his creatures, and especially all the members of his people, right? While if we’re just scared of being punished, then we may not love our fellow creatures and Jews will all our hearts, and with all our deeds.
You’re welcome! The book I was thinking of is Eye to the Infinite by R’ Aharon Rubin. I haven’t read it but it get good reviews (including the chassidim blogging at Mystical Paths). There are many other books on meditation written by frum Jews. R’ Aryeh Kaplan’s book on Jewish meditation is definitely worth reading. R’ Dovber Pinson has also written books on Jewish meditation.
When people think of meditation, they think of sitting there silently or repeating a phrase or something, but that’s only one of many different ways of Jewish meditation. Ideally, davening should be a form of meditation. Personal prayer, hisbodedus, is also an important form of meditation (in fact, in Likutei Eitzos hisbodedus is often translated as meditation). Brachos should also be meditations, making us aware of G-d’s greatness and kindness and the fact that everything we have comes from Him. Many people have written about these topics.
Tehillim, too, is a great form of meditation — it’s not just for praying for people who are ill or whatever. It is good to say a few chapters of tehillim a day, applying the words to your own life (references to evil people and battles and such can be understood as referring to your own evil inclination or negative character traits and struggles in life). I prefer the interlinear Tehillim myself, even for praying in English — the translation’s not bad, and it slows you down so you have better kavanah.
Meditation is neglected by many nowadays but it is important for many reasons. We are supposed to love Hashem, and serve him with every fiber of our beings, all parts of our mind and heart. How can we do this if our davening and learning is only in our heads? To really achieve simcha, emuna, bitachon, kavanah, some form of meditation is necessary.
Rabbi Gutman Locks has a ton of interesting suggestions in his book on meditation (he also blogs about his kiruv activities at the kotel; a frum meditation book was recently reviewed there, I think).
Although Breslov is best known for hisbodedus in the sense of talking to Hashem, there are also Breslov teachings on silent meditation (see The Tree that Stands Beyond Space and also Rabbi Ozer Bergman’s book book about hisbodedus). This can involve, for example, closing your eyes and mouth and simply meditating on the concept of Ein Od Milvado or the fact that everything G-d does is for the good. (On that note, the Yerushalmi says we should always be saying, Lord of Hosts, Happy is the Man Who Trusts in You (a pasuk in Tehillim).
Quotes illustrating various historical Jewish views on meditation are collected on the blog solitude-hisbodedus, maintained by blogger Dov ben Avraham and Breslover rabbi Dovid Sears.
I don’t know the sources (perhaps Tanya?) but Chabadniks often talk about meditating on the greatness of Hashem.
The Bilvavi seforim, which are available to read online for free in English, have some interesting suggestions about feeling the presence of Hashem.
Try this: breathing in, visualize your soul extending upwards or outwards to Hashem in yearning and love (“to You, Lord, I lift my soul” — Tehillim 25) and when breathing out, visualize and feel Hashem’s love descending upon you.August 23, 2012 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm in reply to: Where to start becoming Jewish when family roots discovered #991065
A couple additional things on the topic of reading. When reading Guide to the Perplexed, keep in mind that the hashkafa (theology) of that book is not really representative in some respects to what people believe now, because it was a reaction to the dominant non-Jewish philosophical trend of the time, Aristotelianism. Regardless, I highly recommend reading the book Horeb by Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, including the introduction by Rabbi Isadore Gruenfeld. It’s an amazing work. The introduction in particular is very helpful for understanding the history of the differences between Reform and traditional Judaism (which became known as Orthodoxy after the creation of reform).August 23, 2012 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm in reply to: Where to start becoming Jewish when family roots discovered #991064
You’re welcome, Aurora! To answer your earlier question, yes, it definitely does happen that people are inspired to convert after finding out about Jewish ancestry. I’ve heard of Hispanic people converting after finding out about Jewish roots, for example — though I’m sure it happens with other ethnicities/countries of origin as well.
Here are some examples of Litvish gedolim saying positive things about Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and his works (taken from a Breslov website):
Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaCohen, author of “Chofetz Chaim”: “If you wish to draw close to Chassidism, draw close to Breslov. They keep and follow the Shulchan Aruch.”
The son of the Chofetz Chaim acustomed himself to praying with Breslover Chassidim in Warsaw.
Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon: “This book (Likutey Moharan) stirs me to fear of Heaven. And, I see that if there is a day that I don’t learn this book, I feel lacking in Heavenly fear.”
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Mir: “Through (learning) Likutey Moharan, the mind is opened.” He also said “We work on trying to solve problems (in scripture) and they (Breslover Chassidim) work constantly on ‘fear Hashem and love Him all your days.'”
Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, author of “Chazon Ish”: “The light of lights of truth…” Rav Ben Tzion Apter said that here and there the Chazon Ish would speak to him about the strenght and greatness of Rebbe Nachman and each time would say “tell over a teaching of the Rebbe.”
Rabbi Elya Lopian on Rebbe Nachman’s books: “These are real books of ethics.”
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, author of “Michtav M’Eliyahu”, quotes from Rebbe Nachman in his books. In a letter to his children, he encouraged them to learn Breslov works in order to merit fear of Heaven.August 23, 2012 8:07 pm at 8:07 pm in reply to: Where to start becoming Jewish when family roots discovered #991056
Welcome to the Coffeeroom, Aurora! If I were in your position, the first things I would do are 1) join the Orthodox Conversion to Judaism yahoo group, 2) acquire a copy of the Gerus Guide by the group’s moderator Rabbi Aryeh Moshen, and 3) contact your local Orthodox rabbis (including Chabad and non-Chabad) and attend their services. I encourage you to continue your genealogical research (mainly because I love genealogy myself), but keep in mind that you don’t have to be able to prove Jewish ancestry to convert.
I would also read books on Judaism from an Orthodox perspective, as well as websites (such as outreach-oriented sites such as Chabad, Aish, Simpletoremeber, and Breslev Israel). At some point you might be interested in reading the book on converts (gerim) in chassidic thought by Dov ben Avraham (who himself is a convert with some Jewish ancestry).
I agree with yichusdik’s suggestions, with one caveat. From the way he phrases it, it sounds as though abandoning the observance of mitzvos will invalidate the conversion. This would suggest that you can convert, be an Orthodox Jew for a few years, and as soon as you get tired of it you can stop being observant and poof, your conversion is invalidated and you’re no longer obligated in the mitzvos.
It doesn’t work that way. When you convert to Orthodox Judaism (the only real way to convert to Judaism), you make a commitment to be observant for life. If soon after the conversion you are not living a completely observant life, that will be taken as evidence that the conversion was not valid, because you did not accept the mitzvos. That is the only way a conversion can be nullified.
WIY, I recommend reading the Garden of Peace by Rav Shalom Arush. Within the first chapter or so he discusses how important it is for a man to get married (there’s a woman’s version of the book too — I haven’t read it since I’m not a woman). I’ve read many of Rav Arush’s books, and I think this is probably the most important one for people to read (although all the rest are great too), even before marriage.
Sam2, if you’re wondering about Rav Aviner’s reading of that Gemara, I encourage you to email him through his website. His assistant usually responds with an answer from the Rav within a few hours.
Rav Shlomo Aviner, a major posek of the Chardali (charedi-leaning dati leumi) community, recently answered this very question, in one of his mini-teshuvos. He’s not known for leniencies himself, as far as I know. Here’s the quote from his website:
“Q: In theory, is it permissible for me to always search out a Rabbi who is lenient?
A: Yes. One who wants to follow Beit Shammai may do so, one who wants to follow Beit Hillel may do so. Eruvin 6b. But not leniencies which contradict one another.”
I meant *Shabbos* Tisha B’Av, not Tisha B’Av.
It is common misconception that Jews are required to eat meat. If you do research you’ll see this is not the case. I’ve already posted about Shabbos above.
It is not required to eat meat on Yom Tov. From an article I found by R’ Ari Enkin:
 However, most contemporary authorities argue that since the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, meat does not arouse the same level of joy that it once did. 
 Pesachim 109a, Rambam Yom Tov 6:18
 Kaf Hachaim O.C. 529:28
 Biur Halacha 529 s.v. Keitzad, Kaf Hachaim 529:22
As for Tisha B’Av, it is not required to eat meat, just permitted.
Curiosity, when he was alive, I don’t think his chassidim’s wives visited him on Rosh Hashana. He wanted the husbands to instruct their wives in chassidus. This is explained on the website I previously quoted from.
Regardless, your argument doesn’t work. Gedolei Breslov, not Litvishe and Sephardi poskim, are the ones Breslov chassidim should listen to, regarding how and whether to follow Breslov minhagim. If it were otherwise, Breslov chassidus (and for that matter all the other streams of chassidus) would not exist.
Rebbe Nachman believed in following the Shulchan Aruch, and criticized other chassidim for not following it (such as those who davened after zman tefilah). He also spoke strongly against unnecessary chumros. The Shulchan Aruch does not say men should always be with their families on Rosh Hashana.
In any event, it makes no sense for non-Breslovers to come forward and say, but Rebbe Nachman would have wanted you to do X, not Y. Breslov traditions have been passed down faithfully from generation to generation, and the leaders of each generation of Breslov chassidim are necessarily empowered to determine how minhagim are to be followed.
I personally think it would be nice if women and children could come with their wives to Uman on Rosh Hashana, but 1) the presence of large amounts of women and men together in the same place would be unacceptable because of tznius, and 2) who am I to argue with the consensus of gedolei Breslov?