Thursday, December 08, 2011

Interesting Posts and Articles #253

1) Bluke mentions Rav Shteinman's statement that life insurance is not worth it, since it is the merit of tzedakka that sustains the generation, and if this intends to replace it, it is not good  -- Bluke has a scan of the article, and a discussion. See also this Orthonomics roundup post, which briefly discusses it. I think that there are plenty of good reasons to disagree with Rav Shteinman, including whether the entire system of support will implode.

However, here are a few words in support of his idea, in order to explore the other side. At present, the average kollel avreich receives a small amount of money from the kollel and from the government. That small allotment has to cover all household expenses for an entire large family. And most people in such a situation are already living below the poverty line. 30 shekel a month for life-insurance sounds like a pittance, but take it away from what is already a pittance, and we are speaking about depriving one's children of something real. And maybe they should also spend another pittance for other expenses for various services, which the government can negotiate with them. Thus, as Rav Shteinman writes, ולא לנהל עמם משא ומתן להפחתה כספית לצרכים כאלו ואחרים שכן אין לדבר סוף, "and one should not conduct negotiations with them regarding reductions of monies for purposes such as these and others, for there is no end to the matter".

But what, then, about support for widows and orphans? How can a chareidi fellow, or a kollel avreich, in good conscience, not worry about this future eventuality, where he will in effect be casting his widow and orphans upon the community at large? Well, whose responsibility is this? He is living the virtuous life, and being supported for his Torah learning. Does he really need to be concerned for the remote eventuality of dying young and leaving behind a widow and children? Consider what happened in such a situation for a poor person in Medieval Jewish France. Wouldn't the immediate family, or extended family, or else the community, step in to make sure that the widows and orphans did not starve? They did not have life insurance companies back then.

So similarly here, one could say this. He does not have the income to buy life insurance, and the community is the one responsible for supporting widows and orphans. And it is a big merit for the community to do this. And if the community wants to take out life insurance policies on individuals so as to support the widows and orphans, perhaps the community can do this.

Of course, there are counter-arguments one could make, especially about the social construct and about how the tzibbur is already strained, since everyone is poor, as a result of an insistence upon nobody working. But it is not (necessarily) a statement of "Let us make certain widows and orphans will be poor, so we can gain the merit of giving them tzedakka."

2) He also asks about the segulah of nines -- prayer at the ninth minute of the ninth hour of the ninth month of the ninth year -- and specifically, how this could be the ninth year since Yovel? By closely reading the pamphlet, he discovers the answer -- that it is NOT the ninth year, but it does not matter, because there are still a bunch of nines involved. Here are some posts from this year and previous years about this. Yeranen Yaakov now and two years ago. And to cite the old Yeranen Yaakov post:
Bluke noted a Kupat Ha'ir poster about the concept. Josh Waxman notes this and links to the source of this idea - the Berit Menuha, bringing information about its author. 
Nava adds that the Hesed LeAvraham and the Ramban have mentioned this idea too.
3) Vos Iz Neias excerpts a blog post from Yahoo News, about Rubashkin, though they messed up the link to the source. I understand it is an excerpt, and so many paragraphs are missing. But see what sentence they omitted:
This improbably diverse rural town of about 2,000 people in northeastern Iowa suffered a near-fatal shock more than three years ago when a federal immigration raid scooped up 20 percent of its population in a single day. An ultra-Orthodox Lubavitcher Jewish family from Brooklyn bought the town's defunct meatpacking plant in 1987 and attracted workers from Israel, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. The plant became the largest producer of kosher beef in the world. When the plant was raided one spring morning in May 2008, most of the workers on shift were Guatemalan and Mexican, and undocumented. Many workers later said they had been physically or sexually abused at the plant, and at least 57 minors were illegally employed there, some as young as 13.
4) At On The Main Line, the next entry in the Shadal series: on alienation from his teachers, and a public retraction. And he also discusses the Golem of Chelm, linking as well to the Hebrew blog, Yekum, about this Golem (link goes to a Google translate of the blogpost).

5) At Beyond BT, how spinning dreidel shows how Torah and play do go together:
According to many traditional accounts, the Dreidel was used as ruse to cover up the studying of Torah when Greek soldiers would come upon groups of children with their teachers. Rather than observing Torah study, they would see a bunch of children playing with a top.
See this parshablog post about the origin of dreidel, and how this traditional account is a pretty recent one, and most probably adapted from another story, where shooting arrows was meant as a cover-up for learning Torah:
Another reason offered for the bows and arrows custom is in order to recall the Roman decree which prohibited all Torah study. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his students would trek to the forests equipped with their bows and arrows in order to study Torah there. When confronted and questioned by the Roman policeman as to what they were doing in the forest they would answer that they were simply on a hunting trip. Similarly, the military nature of bows and arrows are intended to recall the revolt against the Romans in 135 C.E. This revolt was led by Rabbi Akiva who was the primary teacher of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai which further strengthens the connection between Lag Ba’omer and bows and arrows.
Even if the dreidel story were true, I am not really convinced that it would demonstrate the importance of having a hobby. The Syrian-Greeks, in the dreidel story, or the Romans, in the arrow story, might regard these hobbies as good and natural. But perhaps from the Jewish perspective, this was meant to highlight the vast difference in cultures. Those other cultures valued leisure time and playing games, while the Jews were really focused on performing mitzvos such as learning Torah.

6) At Voice of Lincoln Square Synagogue: Elder Abuse – Distorting Judaism and Shaming the Avos.

7) Rav Hershel Schachter with a shiur about "When Science Contradicts The Talmud". And a post at Rationalist Judaism about it.

8) Here at parshablog, check out Vayishlach sources. And a question for the Taliban women.

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