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The Somewhat Litvshe Yid

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Just a bit of teaser...
Last night I sat to interview a neighbor of mine. His name is Shimon Rachamim and he's quite a character. The reason I've embarked on this project is because Shimon comes from a very prominent Rabbinic family. For instance, his grandfather was a talmid chaver of the Ben Ish Chai and is mentioned repeatedly in R' Yosef Chaim's s'forim. His uncle (his father's oldest brother) R' Yechezkil Ezra Rachamim was considered one of the g'dolei Bavel at the age of 15 and the Ben Ish Chai would go over difficult p'sakim with him before giving a final answer. Another uncle (a younger brother of his father) was the Rishon L'Tzion R' Yitzcham Nissim. His father was also a well known Rav, the acknowledged expert in limud gemara as well as minhagei Bavel. A cousin on his mother's side was the Chief Rabbi of Argentina and his older brother is the Av Beis Din of the Eidah Chareidit of the S'faradim in Yerushalyim. He grew up two doors down from the Beis Yisroel, the 4th Gerrer Rebbe and personally new the majority of the G'dolei Yerushalyim of the last 50 years.
I will occasionally post the raw interview files here, when possible. They are in Hebrew for those who understand Lashon HaKodesh and they are very interesting.

You can listen to the interview from here.

You can also subscribe to the podcast here. Though you'll get audio ads as well, because meanwhile, I'm a cheapskate. Though you can subscribe and humor me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Why am I not shocked.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Religious World View

I know, our revered teacher, The Godol, has stopped blogging, sort of. Though not really, since he seems to be posting fairly regularly and is getting thousands of hits a day. Which is cool.
Anyway...he is, I understand, a serious Rambam kinda guy when it comes to Hashkofo. Which I can relate to. So...with that in mind, I'll mention something that I heard this week.
My Rav gives a small shiur in Rambam on Motzei Shabbos. Not Halachos, rather Hakdamos. We finished the Hakdamo L'Pirush HaMishnayos a month an a half ago, so moved on to the Shmoneh Prakim (hopefully we'll do Perek Chelek afterwards...). We went off on a bit of a tangent this week talking about the parts in the Moreh Nevuchim where the Rambam takes the Mutazila to task(1:71 for starters). The Mutazila was a sect of Islam that took a religious outlook and tried to explain science based on that outlook, coming to all sorts of absurdities. The Rambam even mentions how this became the M.O. became the accepted stance amongst certain groups of our Coreligionists.
Needless to see, he holds no truck with it. To quote his summation of his stance on the issue:
"I shall say to you that the matter is as Themistius puts it: 'That which exists does not conform to the various opinions, but rather the various opinions conform to that which exists.'"(The Guide to the Perplexed, translated by Shlomo Pines, University of Chicago Press, pg. 179)
That is to say, the Rambam held, given a small set of immutable basic tenants (13 principles) one needs to perceive the world as best he can and then build a coherent philosophical stance based on that. He holds that ignoring/trying to discount/discredit modern science is absurd and even worse, intellectually dishonest. One will never reach truth if one predicates what the truth is before he goes looking for it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The belly button ring post

Appropos to my last post on the Kashrus of swimming pools here's my post on going to the mikve with your belly button/ear/nose/lip/eyebrow/other rings in.

Subject: navel piercing
Message: if a woman gets a navel ring:

1. is that considered a chatzitza, or can she dip with it on?

2. if technically allowed, would you know if the average mikve lady would still insist its removal?


Reply: 1) If she never takes it out, it's Ok to leave it. Must be tough going through the metal detectors at the airport.
2) ...joke...

We don't hold like that l'halacha. There are two main sources for not holding this way.
1) The Rem'a in the first sa'if in YD 198 says: לכתחלה לתטבול אפילו בדברים שאינן חוצצין (ואינן מכסים רוב גופה) גזירה אטו דברים החוצצין
Though I personally don't understand the Rem"a since that is mamish a gezairah l'gezairah, but that's the accepted p'sak.
2) This is based on whether or not women are makpid on their jewlery. The baseline for this is rings and whether or not women remove them when kneading dough. The Ra'avad (see Ta"Z 23, Be'er Heitev 24) holds that since most women take their rings off to knead dough, jewlery in general is Chotzetz. This comes out l'halacha in YD 198:23 where the Mechaber says any jewlery that is closely attached (which would be piercings, by definition) are chotzetz. (See also Chidushei R' Akiva Eiger 6 and 7 and Pischei Tshuva 13 and 14 which goes into detail about rings/jewlery with gems as compared to without).

B'dieved if a woman goes to mikveh with this or that type of piercing and already returned home, she has al mi l'smoch and doesn't have to go back to tovel.

My personal opinion on belly button rings will have to wait for another post.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

It's not safe to go back in the water

Ok…hopefully I’m back with some serious posting. I will be the first to admit that I enjoy a good lomdishe shiur and that few things give me as much pleasure as chapping a good svara, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m personally not very good at it. I can generally come up with some good questions but I’m not so good at working out good answers. Halacha on the other hand, I can deal with. Give me a topic and I’m pretty good at working from point A to point B and putting together the chain of psak from the gemara to the achronim, and it happens to be I enjoy it very much. So I’m going to try a few halachic postings this week.
Last week Jameel sent around a psak from the site Kashrut.org, run by the Abadi family, formerly of Lakewood, NJ. If I understand correctly, and someone please show me if I’m mistaken, R’ Yitzchak Abadi was a well known posek/dayan in the Lakewood community. In any event one of his sons made some mention about eating in non-Kosher restaurants, what’s allowed and such. It sounded very maikil and some of the folks in the email circuit thought it somewhat ridiculous. Though I wouldn’t follow it myself, the majority of kulas therein seemed pretty sound to me, though I don’t know the state of lard use in baking these days.
Anyway, I went looking through the Kashrut.org archives and came across a couple p’sakim that I just couldn’t let pass, since, well…as far as I can see they pretty much go against the halacha. The first one is the whether or not a swimming pool can be used as a mikveh.

Kevod horav shlite,

I'ven seen a lot of statements here that seemed reasonable to me, concerning both haloche and "hashkofe". Then I encountered allusions to jacuzzi/swimming pools being kosher as a mikve under certain circumstances. Would you explain these circumstance, please? I'm asking leshem limmud, not in order to fabricate a blank hetter.

Thanking you in advance,


Reply: The basic idea is that piping does not render a Mikveh not Kosher these days, since our piping is attached to the house and/or ground.
There are however issues that need to be addressed. The water must have come from a river, a resevoir, an ocean, a lake, or anything other than "drawn water." If the first few hundred gallons come from a hose that comes from your home piping, that comes from the local water supply, then the pool is fine. The problem will be if it is initially filled by a tank truck, which in the present days it is a common practice in order to fill it with pre-cleaned water and allow you to use the pool immediately, that would be a problem.

The fact that we do not use a regular swimming pool as a Kosher Mikveh for women is an added "Chumra." (an extra restriction).
It is not based in Jewish Law. The Ra"sh is very clear about it being Kosher (Hilchot Mikvaot #12). The Shulchan Aruch and the RAM"A are clear that it is fine (Yo"D 201:48). Even the Nodeh Beyehuda who is the strictest in this issue would agree that the pool is good in our scenario where the piping is attached to the house &/or the ground, since it is made to be attached that way.

The process that makes water not Kosher for a Mikveh is if the first waters contain water drawn by a "Keli." This would include a pail or a cup or a tank. It would not include piping that is attached to the ground.

But there are some other issues.

A Mikveh must have the ability for a person to go completely under water at one time. The ideal is to have the water level at a height of one foot above the person's navel. This could be 48" to 56" or so. However, if the pool is wide enough, it can be fine at a lower height. In any case this is not enough of an issue to make it not Kosher. If the water is high or wide enough to fit into it and be able to be completely submerged without even any hair sticking out of the water and without needing to bend into abnormal acrobatic positions, then it is OK. The fact that a person will have such a pool available to them but will wait a day or so in order to go to a so-called "more Kosher" Mikveh, that in itself is against the law. Most people outside Brooklyn do not live close enough to a Mikveh to be able to go on a Shabbat or Holiday, so they push it off till afterwards. If they can go to a pool that is Kosher, then they are required to go. One of our biggest Mitzvot (Commandments) is the requirement to reproduce. This is our contribution to the continuity of the planet, and thus the continuity of God's master plan. Playing with our ability to observe this Mitzvah is a dangerous game. Adding any extra restrictions to people will have a direct negative result toward this master plan.
…some hashkofic points not relevant to the discussion…

In light of all this, I think it is essential for us to know how and when a pool is a Kosher Mikveh. Here are the basics.

You need to know how it was initially filled with water after the last time it was emptied. If it was by hose and attached piping, it is OK.

Then it must be large enough to fit into completely.

A woman can go into a Mikveh with her bathing suit. Any clothing can be worn into a Mikveh, as long as the water still reaches the body. (Shulchan Aruch YO"D 198:46)

…some other tangential points…

It's relatively easy. Allow us to help you.

It all seems pretty straightforward and well sourced. Except one item is missing, which we’ll get to.
Just a bit of background information for those unfamiliar with the laws of mikveh:
1. From the Torah (D’oraisa) standpoint, any standing body of water is a kosher mikveh, it doesn’t matter if it drawn water or not. As long as it is enough to get your whole body in, then it’s good.
2. Chazal set the size of a mikveh at 40 se’ah, based on the fact that a general person is 1 amah x 1 amah x 3 amos, or 3 cubic amos, each being 13 1/3 se’ah.
3. Chazal also set that drawn water (מים שאובים) is posul for immersion.
The question then is, what is considered drawn water. The basic answer is any water that is brought in a vessel (כלי). And that is where we hit the sticky wicket.
R’ Abadi correctly brings down the halochos of pipes and other things that are connected to the ground that they are not considered vessels for the determination of whether or not the water is considered drawn or not. What he doesn’t take into consideration is how water is filtered and that halocho is brought down in maseches Mikvos, perek 4 Mishna 3.

החוטט בצינור לקבל צרורות--בשל עץ, כל שהוא; ובשל חרס, רביעית. רבי יוסי אומר, אף בשל חרס, כל שהוא: לא אמרו רביעית, אלא בשברי כלי חרס.

If one where to dig out a hole in a pipe to gather stones, if it’s made from wood, even the slightest receptacle, if from clay, enough to hold a revi’is. R’ Yossi said even clay the slightest amount and where it said a revi’is is talking about clay shards.

The Ra”Sh (ad. Loc.) explains that since pipes are note made to hold water, like a vessel, since they are open on both ends, therefore they are not intrinsically vessels and don’t disqualify the water, but if some sort of receptacle would be carved into the pipe before it was attached to the system then it would render the water unfit.
According to the Rambam (Hilchos Mikvos, 6:6) says a similar thing in a more direct way.

החוטט בצינור מקום לקבל בו הצרורות המתגלגלין במים, כדי שלא יירדו עם המים--אם היה הצינור של עץ וחפר בו כל שהוא, פוסל את המקוה: שהרי כל המים שיורדין באין מתוך כלי שנעשה לקבלה--ואפילו קבעו אחר שחקק בו, הואיל והיה עליו תורת כלי כשהיה תלוש. אבל אם קבעו בקרקע, ואחר כך חקק בו בית קיבול--אינו פוסל. ואם היה צינור של חרס, אינו פוסל עד שיהיה בחקק כדי לקבל רביעית.

That is to say, if you attach a vessel to the system of pipes, in such a way that water flowing through the pipes goes through the vessel, then the water is no longer fit to immerse in. This is brought down in the Shulchan Aruch 201:36.

Due to the modular way we do plumbing in the modern day and age, anything that could be considered a vessel at any point in the water system would render the water unfit for use as a mikveh. I’m not sure how things are done in Chu”l, but here in Israel pretty much every house is fitted with an external water filter even before it gets to one’s water meter (or sometimes directly after the meter). This is, according to anyone with a bit of intelligence, a vessel, that the water goes through specifically לקבל בו הצרורות. That is even if one posits there is no other water purification system between the main water source and the final destination. One could also, without stretching, conclude that the very existence of a tap at the end of the pipe, renders the pipe itself into a vessel, since the hetter of the the Ra”Sh is only based on the fact that the pipe is open on both ends.

Next time, belly button rings!

Update by request:
A woman can go into a Mikveh with her bathing suit. Any clothing can be worn into a Mikveh, as long as the water still reaches the body. (Shulchan Aruch YO"D 198:46)

Sort of. My only issue with this is that it only works with loose clothing (רפוי), and as far as I recall, bathing suits aren't too loose. One could say, that since baithing suits are water permiable then that counts as loose since water gets to the skin. I wouldn't personally rely on that. The commentators specifically mention the issue of loose clothing, (Sha"Ch 46, Be'er Heitiv 44, Pischei Tshuva 4) and specifically say not tight clothing. I'm not sure if they were wearing latex body suits back in the Ra'avan's time, but I'm assuming he's talking about wool/cotton/linen clothing which will get the skin wet, yet still no good. So, bathing suits are out according to the poskim and you could probably include most undergarments as well, except boxers which should be ok.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's true...

Though they are mighty tasty...not that I've had one in more then 15 years.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gone daddy gone...the blog is gone.

Well, as everyone knows, the Godol HaDor has left the building. So a call went out amongst his loyal (and not so loyal) chassidim, to make a fitting tribute. We wanted to be able to show that even in this time of hester ponim we still blog with emunah p'shuta. So the following his been created...this limited edition, digitally mastered teudas kashrus, signed by Ateres Rosheinu, Tiferes Blogeynu: The Godol. You too can have this simple reminder on your blog, to prove that your dayos are not(too) krum. So, pick it up now, and show the world that you're blog is tachas hashgachas BaDaTz HaGadol.

With thanks to Jameel for beta testing.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Back...sort of.

Well, it's been a couple weeks since I last had a chance to blog. That's because one of the kinder came into the room one night complaining of a stomach ache. Thinking nothing of it, we let him get his blanket and pillow and lie down on the floor next to the bed. Next thing we know he's throwing up. No big deal...not the first time something like this has happened. At least it wasn't in the middle of the night on Shabbos and the Shabbos clock has just shut off all the lights and I'm barefoot, because, well that's happened. Anyway, we get everything cleaned off and get him calmed down enough to fall back into a fitful sleep. Next day he's kind of out of it, throws up a couple more times, very low fever. It gets chalked up to a bit of flu and he stays home from Talmud Torah. Same thing next day. Except late in the afternoon there seems to be some blood in it. So, off to the family doctor, who conveniently lives a few houses down the street and is married to my Rav. And with that the lovely wife bundles him up and heads off to the emergency room. I'm on my way home from work and I get a call. "We'll meet you half way...we're off to the hospital". Great.
We arrive at the Emergency room and the yingle is complaining and kvetching. The test start. Poking, prodding, looking at vomit, blood test, urine tests. The only thing conclusive is that there's some sort of infection somewhere. So, it's off to do an ultrasound. Nothing. Chest x-ray's. Nothing. Guess what...we get to spend the night. Around 11 my wife goes back home and I stay. About 1 am we get admitted to the hospital and head up to pediatrics. Next morning more tests and questions and prodding and such. Meanwhile, I've spoken with my father, who happens to be a pediatrician. He says, don't bother...it his appendix. At about 10 am the senior pediatric surgeon walks in, takes one look, and says "Next opening in the operating room, appendix is coming out". So, at about 4 pm we head down to the operating room. I hold his hand while they administer the anaesthetic and then go out. And promptly collapse from lack of sleep. My wife wakes me up 45 minutes later, the surgeon has walked into the waiting room. As expected, appendix was inflamed. That was Thursday evening. Anyway we ended up spending a wonderful Shabbos in the hospital with a kvetchy kid (understandably so, but doesn't make it anymore fun) who hasn't had anything to eat since Monday and is going out of his mind even thinking of us eating Shabbos meals. At least we had good company in the room. Motzei Shabbos my brother-in-law came to stay with him so we could get home (I hadn't been back to the house since Wed. morning when I left for work). As a matter of fact, the only time I left the hospital was to go the mikveh on erev Shabbos (last time I go to a Yerushalmie mikveh...can you say...personal space? Didn't think so.) and to crash on the couch in someones apartment (my wife slept in the hospital).
Suffice it to say we were let out on Monday. Only to go back Wed. night with stomach pains, stiches open, dead skin removed and sent home (while there were Arabs rioting outside...I got a faceful of tear gas running to the car). More pain next morning...back to the hospital. Seems to have picked up an infection. So, we're in the hospital until Tuesday. Fun.
I was zocheh to meet some very interesting people though and see some amazing acts of chesed. There's a family who comes to the hospital every shabbos, sets up Badatz meals for everyone who has to be there. Including preparing them so they can be brought up to the various departments. A group of boys from Brisk volunteer, helping set up and organize the show. So special thanks to Dovid. And all the Sem girls who came to stay the night so we could go home. Girls from Darkei Binah and Orot. Of course they spoil my son rotten, but that's because he has the most angelic smile and makes everyone melt.
Also, there was a very special family next to us. Gerrer Chassidim. The father, I understand, is a chashuv rav in the community, teaches yoreh deah for ba'alei hora'ah. Lots of chassidim coming in and out to visit. Unfortunately their 3 year old had Tay-Sachs and passed away last night. Sh'yiyeh Nishmaso Tzarur b'Tzror HaChayim.
So...that's why I haven't had much time to post in the last few weeks.

Update: We're all home. Things are getting back to normal. Hopefully he'll be able to go back to Talmud Torah on Sunday. Very much looking forward to having a nice quiet Sabbos at home.