Thursday, December 22, 2011

Testimony if you Recognize Someone's Voice

Can people testify based on recognizing someone's voice without seeing them (tevias eina dikala)?

See Chullin 95b-96a Rava says I know Tevias Ayin is greater than a siman, for if not, how could a blind man be allowed to his wife (maybe it is not his wife, but he cannot see her), and how can any man be allowed to his wife at night [when he cannot see her, maybe it is not his wife], the answer is teviyas ayin of [recognizing their] voice.

Ketzos 81:13 from Chullin, (the continuation is:
אמר רב יצחק בריה דרב משרשיא: תדע, דאילו אתו בתרי, ואמרי: פלניא דהאי סימניה והאי סימניה, קטל נפשא - לא קטלינן ליה, ואילו אמרי: אית לן טביעות עינא בגויה - קטלינן ליה
However, he brings Rashi Sanhedrin 67a - if eidim are hidden and they hear someone being meisis others to avodah zarah, he is not put to death if they only identified the meisis through his voice.  You need a light so the eidim can see the person's face (even though he doesn't see the eidim).  Therefore Ketzos says tvias eina of kol does not work for dinei nefashos, and if ti doesn't work for dineo nefashos, it doesn't work for dinei mamonos either.  Then he quotes Shiltei Giborim Sanhedrin Ch 3 (8a in Rif) that tevias eina of kol only works for issurim - to recognize your wife, for example - not for mamonos or nefashos.

Nesivos 81:7 argues and says for mamonos, tevias eina dikala does work because Bava Metzia 20 regarding Simanim, isur is stricter than mamon, so if it is accepted for isur it is accepted for mamon, but dinei nefashos needs re'iah and yediah.  (It is pretty clear that recognizing someone through their voice is yediah but not reiyah.)

Meshoveiev Nesivos rejects this because if so, umdena should work - but it doesn't from the case where Shimon ben Shetach saw someone chase aperson into a deserted building and Shimon ben Shetach followed them in and found one man dead and the other brandishing a bloody knife and no one else in the building.  Shimon ben Shetach knew the guy killed the other guy, but said "al pi shnei eidim yumas hameis" prevented him from killing him (what about the fact that there only would have been one witness - Shimon be Shetach himself; it does not say anyone was with him?).  This is on Sanhedrin 37b.  (Regarding umdena see Rav Elchanan koveitz shiurim 2:38) but, conludes the Ketzos in Meshoveiv Nesivos, we see we need re'iah mamash.

Now I'm not sure this Ketzos is right.  In an umdena, we didn't actually see the murder or event take place in front of our eyes, we can only infer it.  But in our case, the Nesivos is talking about where they hear it happening as it happens.  That very well might be yedia without rei'ah, but it is much stronger than an umdena!

One very surprising nafka mina comes up according to this Nesivos in a case where we have yediah and it is sufficient for dinei mamonos but not for dinei nefashos.  Haghos Ashri, Bava Kama chapter 4 says if Ruvein kills Shimon, even though he's put to death, he is chayav to pay his (probably Shimon's, but it probably depends on the machlokes on Makos 2b if kofer is dmei mazik or dmei nizak) value to Shimon's heirs, but because of Kam Lei bidiraba minei, Beis Din cannot force him to pay it.  If Shimon's heirs grabbed the money from him we don't take it away from them.  But in this case, where we are sure Ruvein killed Shimon because we hear Ruvein in the room with Shimon saying I'm going to kill you and we hear an attack and Shimon crying out and later we find Shimon's corpse, we have yedia, more than umdena! - that Ruvein did kill Shimon.  But without actually seeing it, we cannot put Ruvein to death.  So, Beis Din should obligate Ruvein to pay Shimon's heirs, because the yedia eidus is good enough for dinei mamonos, according to the Nesivos.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Neemanus of a Midwife

In Vayeishev, when Tamar's twins were born, the one baby stuck his hand out during labor, and the midwife tied a string around it to show that that was the firstborn (see 38:28).  (The baby actually stuck its hand back inside Tamar and the other baby came out first.

It seems that this pasuk is hinting to a certain halacha.  See Kiddushin 74a: "Rav Nachman says: Three people are beleived to tell us which child is the firstborn: the widwife, mother and father.  The midwife is believed [only] immediately [after birth], the mother for seven days [as Rashi says until the Bris] and the father forever."

Here the midwife immediately took steps to identify the firstborn - because, as midwife, that is the only time she has neemanus to do so.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chodosh Guide Update!

Yasher Koach to R' Yoseph Herman.

Chodosh Guide 5772 Pt2

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Using Oz VeHadar Makes You Think Less

While newly re-typeset books are much easier to read, your cognition decreases compared to reading the same words in a less clear font.

[P]erformance was better with the bad font.  Cognitive strain, whatever its source, mobilizes System 2, which is more likely to reject the intuitive answer suggested by System 1.
      - Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, page 65

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Voice and Erva, part 1

This post is not about Kiddushin 80 - kol b'isha erva, but we will end up there in this series.

Parshas Vayeitzei 29:25, see Rashi.

Bava Basra 123a says Rachel gave the simanim to Leah, and Eicha [Rabasi] Pesichta 24 says Rachel hid under the bed and gave them to Yaakov.  What is the difference between the two midrashim?  Sanhedrin 38 says everyone is unique in three ways: appearance, voice and thoughts.  Appearance and voice for Erva purposes - so you can recognize your spouse.  Therefore the midrash said Rachel hid under the bed so it was her voice - which Yaakov knew - answering Yaakov with the simanim.  What would the Gemara Bava Basra (that Rachel told the simanim to Leah, so Leah gave them to Yaakov) do with the Gemara in Sanhedrin - Yaakov should have realized the voice did not belong to Rachel?

Maybe, as siblings, Rachel and Leah had similar voices and could not be distinguished accurately.   Maybe that they didn't have too much to do with each other until the marriage so they didn't know each other's voices too well (Torah Shlayma Breishis 29:25:84 cites this possibility in the names of Ri miVina, Riva in Drashas ibn Shavib and Baalei HaTosfos).  And maybe the siman was not verbal, but was an amulet (Torah Shlayma brings such a possibility) so voice never came into play.  And see Maharsha, Bava Basra 123a s.v. Vehaynu.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel - Vayishlach 5760

These are my notes of the Schmuess delivered by the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir Yerushalaim, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, for Parshas Vayishlach 5760.  Rav Nosson Tzvi's shloshim is this week.

First, Yaakov Avinu sent a message to Eisav: im lavan garti.  Rashi  has two peshatim.  The first pshat is Yaakov telling Eisav that he lived as a stranger, not as an important person and Eisav should not hate him for receiving the brachos.  His second pshat is while he lived with Lavan harasha, Yaakov kept all the mitzvos.

Secondly,  we see Yaakov said Katonti mikol hachasadim.  Rashi says his zechuyos were decreasing in number and shema nislachlachti bechait.  The Ramban and Sforno say Yaakov wasn't deserving of the chasadim.  The Rashbam says a third pshat.  Hashem did chesed and Yaakov did not fulfill his duties to Hashem.  This is really a machlokes in midrash.  Rabi Abba said aini kedai, Rabi Levi said kedai, but katonti mekol hachasadim.  The meforshim explain Rabi Abba like the Sforno and the Ramban, and Rabi Levi like Rashi.  The pshat is that it's not a machlokes, it's just two dargos.  He said I'm not fitting but if I am, maybe I used the zechuyos up and even so, maybe I'll do a chait.

Thirdly, vayei'aveik ish imo ad alos hashachar.  It was vayivaser Yaakov levado - a chisaron:  since he went alone, the saro shel eisav attacked him.  From here we learn it is asur for a talmid chacham to go somewhere alone at night.

The midrash says just like it says venisgav Hashem levado, also by Yaakov - vayivaser Yaakov levado.  The Midrash brings down levado is one of the middos of Hashem.  So levado is a ma'aleh in Yaakov, not a chisaron.  What is the ma'aleh of  levado, and ho does one reach it?

From the three things we mentioned, Yaakov reached vayei'aveik ish imo.  I'm not saying pshat, but to reach each of the three dargos lies in a Mishnah in Avos 1:14.  Im ain ani li mi li uchshe'ani le'atzmi ma ani ve'im lo achshav masai.

Im lo achshav aimasai.  As it says in Chazal, one shouldn't say I'll learn when I have time because maybe he won't have time.  Don't push it off as it says if you leave it, it will leave you.  If you push it off one day it will turn into two days.  Im lav garti was Yaakov's first taina - the entire time he was oseik betorah umitzvos.

Keshe'ani le'atzmi ma ani.  I think one pshat is - I know there are several peshatim - a person succeeded.  But if he thinks he will pat himself on the back and think he did it himself, he is missing middos tovos and is a ba'al ga'ava.  Keshe'ani le'atzmi a ani - if you think you did it all yourself, ma ani - what's it worth?  You must have middos- anava, chessed - all the middos tovos.  How do you reach this?  Only by learning Mussur.  As the Gaon says it's the hardest thing in life is to break a middah ra'ah.  Besides taryag midos shamarti, you need good middos.  Without them you can't succeed.  If a person doesn't know how to treat his friend, his roommate, his chavrusa, his family, he is lacking in his Torah. Im ain ani li mi li.  Baruch Hashem, in our gashmiyosdike world, a person can have everything he wants.  Today luxury has become neccesity.  But a person can have gashmiyos also.  You can have chavrusos, sefarim, what's missing?  Im ain ani li mi li. One can have everything, but if he doesn't work onhimself, mi li? Who will think of him if he doesn't think of himself?  How does a person get to levado?  Ameilus - im brchukosai teileichu - ameilus batorah.  This week's parsha teaches us exactly what a shiv is all about.  Taryag mitzvos shamarti, middos tovos (katonti mikol hachasadim), and ameilus batorah (levado).  If a person doesn't work on himself and doesn't rely on anyone else to feed him,if t to grow in learning or middos tovos, become a gadol batorah, have

When  is the matziv of levado?  Why does the Torah say here that Yaakov reached the darga of levado?  The pshat is simple.  First it says vayomer lo ma shimech vayomar Yaakov.  Vayomer lo Yaakov yai'omair od shimcha ki im Yisrael.  First his name was Yaakov - Veyaakveini zeh paamayim, and after this fight with saro shel Eisav he was zoche to be named Yisrael.  He reached a higher level.  To reach this higher level of Yisrael, he had to reach the darga of levado.  What is the name Yaakov?  Veyaakveini zeh pa'amayim.  Because of his desire for shleimus, he fooled Yitzchak and received the berachos.  It's a maaleh that he did it to become shaleim.  Because of this desire to become shaleim, he was zoche to the name Yisrael.

How does a person reach levado?  He must have a desire to be shaleim, to be a complete person in all respects - Torah and mitzvos, yiras Shamayim and middos tovos.  If a person's desire is to be partial, halevai he will get up to being partial.  If he wan to get complete, he can be complete.  It doesn't have to do with brains or how smart you are or how quick you are - it's only dependant on your desire.

Klal Yisrael needs gedolim and shleimim that are shaleim in all his avodas haBorei.  If a bachur strives for shleimus, he will get there.  And that's all dependant on im ani li mi li:  if he has a small goal, maybe he will reach it.  If he has a bigger go , he can reach it, but you need ameilus.

In this lies another nekudah.  Sometimes one feels all alone; he feels lost.  It could be it's the opposite - Hashem gives him a test to see if he can pass that test.  That's one of the dargos of levado - that he can pass the tests.  He doesn't need any help.  If he does it alone, he can be zoche to become Yisrael.  How does he do that?  His desires.  Hashem should help the zechus of ain ani li mi li that we should all be zoche to taryag mitzvos shamarti, katonti mikol hachasadim and lo Yaakov yai'omair od imcha ki im Yisrael.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Child Abuse - Chicago Program

On Sunday, Nefesh Chicago, the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children and the Decalogue Society sponsored an event about child sexual abuse entitled "If You Know Something, Say Something." 

Harry Maryles summarized the event.  (Note - I see he updated it since I read it, it was accurate before, and I don't know what he changed.)

Here are sources that Rabbi Schwartz quoted.  From Nishmas Avraham, volume 3:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Parshas Vayeira and Jerry Sandusky


On every radio station this week, discussions were about the heinous crimes allegedly committed by former Penn State assistant football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.  The timing of the release of the grand jury report fits in perfectly with this week's Parsha.  Chazal were ever prescient when they said that the events of the week are related to that week's Parsha.  The scary part, however, is the need to be vigilant and supervise our venues and children to do everything in our power to make sure that events like this do not happen even within our own communities.  This week's parsha tells us that, as well.

Take two stories: visitors arrive in a city, the entire city converges at the front door of the host's home and demands the visitors with whom they want to perform evil acts.  The host offers to placate the mob by presenting his daughters for their amusement, but the mob refuses and remain insistent.  The visitors, who are really angels in disguise, strike the mob blind and escape.

In another city, a man with his concubine were out of town, seeking lodging but finding none.  After dark, a man takes them in.  But neighbors demand the visitors for their amusement, and they are given the concubine, who returns to the doorstep near dawn, still alive, though barely.  When she died soon thereafter, the man sent a graphic version of the story around the country which led to a bloody civil war.

The first story is the story of the angels visiting Lot in Sodom, in this week's parsha.  The second story is from Shoftim, the book of Judges, chapters 19-20, and is the incident known as Pilegesh B'Giva.  Looking at them side by side, my head burst: how is it possible for Jews in shevet Binyamin to act in an almost identical manner to the residents of Sodom, one of the most evil groups of people in the history of mankind?  It is mind-boggling how Jews acted so similarly to the people of Sodom.  Ramban mentions a few differences (in Sodom the entire city showed up and in Giva only some of the city; in Sodom they were homosexuals and in Giva they were not; and the entire culture of Sodom was anti-guest so as to not share what they had with anyone else, but such a culture did not exist in Giva), but it is still hard to digest.

About the residents of Sodom not allowing visitors because they did not want to share the beauty and riches of their hometown with others, one opinion in the Mishna in Pirkei Avos says "one whose attitude is 'what is mine - is mine, and what is yours - is yours' - this is the trait of Sodom," because of an unwillingness to share their bounty with others.  Unfortunately, the evildoers of today are not identifiable by this trait.  Instead, they take a personal interest in underprivileged youth, or kids from broken homes, and shower them with attention and gifts.  Others say "what a great guy  he is," but he does it to gain the trust of an innocent, unsuspecting youth, and, Heaven forbid, performs atrocities on these children, and lo aleinu, scar them for life.

This is the pattern that happened to Pinny Taub.

How can it happen?  Sefer Chasidim says: : מנהג היהודים, הטובים שבהם כמנהג הגויים שבתוכם הם
יושבים.  This did not apply to the people of Givah.  But still it happened.  We in our own time are certainly not immune to these same issues,  Hashem Yerachem.

Friday is Veterans Day.  One reason Veterans Day is observed on November 11th is because November 10th is the birthday of the Marine Corps.  Marines are unique among the armed forces because while soldiers and sailors are such while in uniform, out of uniform they are regular people.  Marines, however, whether not in uniform while still in the service or even when retired, are always Marines.  There is a code of dress that Marines keep for life that distinguishes them as a Marine, and there is always a special comeradarie between any two Marines, even if they had never met before.  In that regard, religious Jews are like Marines.  We dress differently that everyone else.  If we see another Yid while travelling, a certain connection immediately springs up.  When people see us, they say to themselves, "those are Jews over there," and they hold us to a higher standard, just as seeing two guys who stand straight and are dressed neatly are identifiable as Marines.

The end of the first stanza of the Marine's Hymn - a hymn, not just a song - states:
First to fight for right and freedom / And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title / Of United States Marines.

At Penn State, there are many who have not kept their honor clean.  In Jewish communities, there are, unfortunately, those who have not kept their honor clean.  But the issue isn't only that they did not fight to keep their honor clean, it is that by not treating the issue with the full seriousness it deserves, more innocent children were harmed.  More than that, some are even proud of their not becoming involved!  The GA, McQueary, was horrified by what he saw and told his father, but apparently did not call the police.  I even heard a former Penn State football player wonder - on the radio - if this GA's appointment as a coach the next season was a payoff to buy his silence.  But the bottome line is, when confronted with scenarios like this, Hashem Yerachem, you have to contact the authorities who have procedures and experience  in dealing with these issues.  Telling well-intentioned but inexperienced people is not enough.

Public Service Announcement (for those in Chicago)
The second annual "Jewish Week for the Prevention of Child Abuse" presents the author of "Hush", whose topic is "If You Know Something, Say Something", Sunday, November 20, 2:00 pm, at KINS, 2800 North Shore.  CEUs available.  Sponsors: Nefesh Chicago and JBAC.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Goy Haba Al Bas Yisrael Part 7

Previous posts on this topic: see here

Sorry this is sideways.

Goy Haba Al Bas Yisrael Noam 14

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Negotiating for Prisoners

תלמוד בבלי מסכת גיטין דף מה עמוד א מתני'. אין פודין את השבויין יתר על כדי דמיהן, מפני תיקון העולם; ואין מבריחין את השבויין, מפני תיקון העולם; רשב"ג אומר: מפני תקנת השבויין. גמ'. איבעיא להו: האי מפני תיקון העולם - משום דוחקא דצבורא הוא, או דילמא משום דלא לגרבו ולייתו טפי? ת"ש: דלוי בר דרגא פרקא לברתיה בתליסר אלפי דינרי זהב. אמר אביי: ומאן לימא לן דברצון חכמים עבד? דילמא שלא ברצון חכמים עבד.

 תוספות מסכת גיטין דף מה עמוד א דלא ליגרבו ולייתו - והא דתניא בפ' נערה (כתובות נב.) נשבית והיו מבקשין ממנה עד עשרה בדמיה פעם ראשון פודה שאני אשתו דהויא כגופו יותר מבתו דהכא ועל עצמו לא תיקנו שלא יתן כל אשר לו בעד נפשו ור' יהושע בן חנניא דפרקיה לההוא תינוק בממון הרבה בהניזקין (לקמן דף נח.) לפי שהיה מופלג בחכמה אי נמי בשעת חורבן הבית לא שייך דלא ליגרבו.

ר"ן על הרי"ף מסכת גיטין דף כג עמוד א או דילמא דלא ליגרו בהו ולייתו טפי. כלומר כדי שלא ימסרו עובדי כוכבים נפשם עליהם לגנוב מהם הרבה מפני שמוכרין אותם ביוקר ונפקא מינה אם יש לו אב עשיר או קרוב שרוצה לפדותו בדמים הרבה ולא יטילהו על הצבור. ואמרינן. תא שמע דלוי בר דרגא פרקא לברתיה בתריסר אלפי דינרי. אלמא דמתני' משום דוחקא דצבורא הוא ודחי אביי מאן נימא לן דברצון חכמים עבד דילמא שלא ברצון חכמים עבד הילכך בעיין הכא לא איפשיטא וי"א דאפ"ה מיפשטא מדתניא בפ' נערה שנתפתתה (דף נב א) נשבית והיו מבקשין ממנה עד עשרה בדמיה פעם ראשונה פודה מכאן ואילך רצה פודה רצה אינו פודה רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר אין פודין את השבויין יותר על כדי דמיהן מפני תקון העולם אלמא לרבן שמעון בן גמליאל אע"ג דליכא דוחקא דצבורא כי התם דבעל חייב לפדותה אין פודין כי היכי דלא ניגרי בהו ופסק שם הרי"ף ז"ל כרשב"ג ונראה שפסק כן משום דסתם מתני' דהכא כותיה וליכא למימר דת"ק דהתם נמי מודה כסתמא דמתני' אלא דאיהו ורשב"ג בטעמא דתקנתא פליגי דת"ק סבר דמשום דוחקא דצבורא הוא ומשום הכי אמר דפעם ראשונה פודה אפי' עד עשרה בדמיה כיון דליכא הכא דוחקא דצבורא דהא בעל חייב לפדותה ורשב"ג סבר דמשום דלא ניגרי בהו הוא. דלא משמע הכי דמתניתין דהכא ודרשב"ג בחד לישנא מיתנו ומדטעמיה דרשב"ג כי היכי דלא ניגרו בהו משמע דטעמא דמתני' נמי משום הכי הוא ות"ק דהתם לית ליה מתני' כלל הילכך בעיין מיפשטא מההיא אע"ג דלא איפשטא הכא ואשכחן דכוותיה בעיא דלא מיפשטא בדוכתא ומיפשטא מדוכתא אחריתי דלעיל בגמ' [דף מב ב] איבעיא לן (מחוסר) [מעוכב] גט שחרור אם אוכל בתרומה אי לא ובמס' כריתות בפרק המביא אשם תלוי (דף כד ב) אסיקנא דרשב"ג סבר דאוכל בתרומה ומשמע התם דהלכתא כותיה וכ"נ דעת הרמב"ם ז"ל שכתב בפ"ח מהלכות מתנות עניים אין פודין את השבויין ביותר על דמיהן מפני תקון העולם שלא יהיו האויבים רודפין אחריהם לשבותן וכי תימא אם כן תקשי לן ההיא דאמרינן לקמן בפ' הניזקין (דף נח א) דר' יהושע פדה לאותו תינוק בממון הרבה יש לומר דמפני שהכיר בו שהוא תלמיד ותיק עשה כן שתלמיד חכם אין לנו כיוצא בו ולא חיישינן לפדיונו כלל אלא פודין אותו בכל מה שיכולין לפדותו וקודם לפדות למלך ישראל כדאיתא בהוריות (דף יג א) ול"נ דבעיין מהתם לא מפשטא דכיון דחיישי' לדוחקא דצבורא כ"ש דאיכא למיחש לדוחקא דבעל שלא לחייבו בתקנת חכמים לפדותה יותר מכדי דמיה ואם איתא דהוה מיפשטא מההיא ברייתא הוה להו בגמ' לאיתויי הכא. אבל נראה שדעת הראשונים ז"ל היה דכיון דלא מיפשטא ואיכא למיחש לתקלה אין פודין דשב ואל תעשה שאני ועוד דכיון דבגמ' פשט לה מההיא דלוי בר דרגא לא שבקינן פשטין דתלמודא משום ספיקא דאביי דאמר מאן לימא לן:

 This Ran leads to an interesting discussion about where there is a baya dlio ifshita in one place and there is a maskana in another place. For example this Milchamos that Rabi Akiva Eiger cites: מלחמת ה' מסכת ברכות דף יב עמוד א ואל תתמה שיש כיוצא בזה בתלמוד בעיות שלא נפשטו במקומן ובמקום אחר מתברר עיקרן שתים מהן בפרק השולח דאבעיא להו אין פודין את השבויים יתר על כדי דמיהן מאי טעמא אי משום דוחקא דציבורא אי משום דלא נגרי בהו ולא אפשוט בדוכתא ואפשיט מההיא דתניא במסכת כתובות נשבית והיו מבקשין ממנה עד עשרה בדמיה וכו' וכן כתבו הגאונים שם ואחרת באותו הפרק מעוכב גט שחרור אוכל בתרומה או לא ולא אפשיטא כלל ובמסכת כריתות אמרו קסבר מעוכב גט שחרור אוכל ועוד בפרק החובל ביישו ישן ומת מהו ולא איפשיטא ובפ' אלו הן הנחנקין אמר רב ששת ביישו ישן ומת פטור וכך היא גרסתו של רבינו שלמה שם ובפרק אין בין המודר אבעיא להו כהני שלוחי דידן הוו או שלוחי דרחמנא הוו ולא אפשיטא ובמסכת קדושין ובמקומות אחרים אמר רב הונא בריה דרב יהושע הני כהני שלוחי דרחמנא נינהו ולא אפשיטא מינה בדוכתא ובגמ' עצמה בפ"ק דערכין דמי ראשי לגבי מזבח מהו נדון בכבודו תיקו והתם אתמר בשמעתא דלעיל והא מבעי מבעיא לך כי אבעיא ליה מקמי דשמעית להא מתניתא השתא דשמעית להא מתניתא לא אבעיא לי וכיוצא באלה סתומות ומפורשות רבות במקומות אחרים כ"ש בכאן שאין פשטא של בעיא זו אלא מסוגיות השמועות ודברי תורה עניים במקומם ועשירים במקום אחר: But that is slightly off topic.

 תוספות מסכת גיטין דף נח עמוד א כל ממון שפוסקין עליו - כי איכא סכנת נפשות פודין שבויין יותר על כדי דמיהן כדאמרינן בפרק השולח (לעיל דף מד. /מז./) גבי מוכר עצמו ואת בניו לעובדי כוכבים כ"ש הכא דאיכא קטלא אי נמי משום דמופלג בחכמה היה.
Shulchan Aruch does not mention the heter to redeem the captive when the captive's life is in danger. שולחן ערוך יורה דעה הלכות צדקה סימן רנב סעיף ד ד אין פודין השבויים (ד) יותר (ה) מכדי דמיהם, מפני תיקון העולם, ה ו] שלא יהיו האויבים מוסרים עצמם עליהם לשבותם. ז] אבל אדם יכול לפדות את עצמו בכל מה שירצה. ח] וכן לת"ח, או אפילו אינו ת"ח אלא שהוא תלמיד חריף ואפשר שיהיה אדם גדול, פודים אותו בדמים מרובים. (ואם אשתו כאחר דמי או לא, עיין בטור אבן העזר סי' ע"ח

One may ask on this, what if the captive's life is in danger, but the danger is less than during the seizure? What I mean is that a soldier is in sakana, see
 מנחת חינוך מצוה תכה ונוהג מצוה זו בכל איש ישראלי הן אנשים ונשים כמבואר בש"ס דמלחמות מצוה אפי' כלה מחופתה וכו' וכתב הרהמ"ח ועובר ע"ז ובא לידו ויכול להורגו מבלי שיסתכן בדבר וכו' וצ"ע נהי דכל המצות נדחים מפני הסכנה מ"מ מצוה זו דהתורה ציותה ללחום עמהם וידוע דהתורה לא תסמוך דיני' על הנס כמבואר ברמב"ן ובדרך העולם נהרגים משני הצדדים בעת מלחמה א"כ חזינן דהתורה גזרה ללחום עמהם אף דהוא סכנה. א"כ דחוי' סכנה במקום הזה ומצוה להרוג אותו אף שיסתכן וצ"ע:
As a prisoner of war, he is in much less imminent danger. True, being held by a group of terrorist that do not adhere to the Geneva convention (I think Israel never signed it either but they respect international law) may still be big sakana, v'tzarich iyun. Also, we think of "dmeihem" as money. Barter for goods, in place of money, would probably be the same din. In fact, Ben Hecht in his book "Perfidy" says that Hitler yemach shemo offered to trade the lives of a million [Romaninan] Jews for trucks, soap, tea and coffee (but no one met his offer, maybe no one even considered it). Goods would most probably be the same as money. But is there an allowance for an exchange of "prisoners" or people? What if you are exchanging murderers with blood on their hands?

There are many cheshbonos to make and it is very difficult. Vehu rachum yechaper avon velo yashchis.

Rabbi J. David Bleich in Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Volume 1:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rav Ahron Soloveichik's 10th Yahrzeit

In Memory of my Rebbi, Hagaon Harav Ahron Halevi Soloveichik zt"l on today, his tenth yahrzeit.

In a teaching that he gave many times, including at the hesped for his mother, Rav Ahron explained the midrash which says that Iyov did not find comfort after all the trials that he suffered until G-d showed him a sukkah. What was so special about the sukkah that it eased Iyov’s mind, after all of the lengthy addresses of his friends failed to do so? Rav Ahron explained that a sukkah is halachically valid even if it has only two complete walls and a fraction of a third wall. The halacha provides for the use of our imagination to create virtual walls. Imaginary walls, said Rav Ahron, can be as real as actual walls, just as imaginary numbers in mathematics are as valid as real numbers. Iyov realized that despite the loss of his children, he could imagine them and in that way their void was not as noticeable.

With the petirah of our rebbi, his students felt a tremendous void. How can we go on without being able to ask Rebbe our shailos? How should we act, without the cogent advice he readily and patiently bestowed to us? The answer is that the Sukkah still has four walls. Rav Ahron imbued all of his talmidim with kochos and a connection to the mesorah of Brisk. By reviewing the shiurim we heard from him, and by recalling the many inspirational acts of chesed he did, he is still with us. May his memory be a blessing.

Below is a brief biographical sketch of Rav Ahron I was asked to write for a magazine. They decided not to publish it, so I present it here, and I reiterate, it is very brief.

Rav Ahron Halevi Soloveichik Article Revised

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Re Hesped for HaRav Rivkin

I have a recording of the hespedim of Rav Rivkin zt"l but there quality is not high enough to post. I listened and was able to hear everything but it was in controlled conditions with high volume. So I apologize that although it was my intent to post the hespedim, I will not because the sound quality is not good enough.

UPDATE: The Young Israel of St. Louis posted the hespedim here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Baruch Dayan HaEmes

After Shabbos Shuva, Harav Sholom Rivkin, Chief Rabbi of St. Louis, MO, passed away after a lengthy illness.

UPDATE (10:30 am) The levaya will take place at 4715 McPherson Ave, St. Louis, today at 5:00 pm.

more UPDATE (1:45 pm) The levaya has been changed and will take place at 8:30 pm at the Young Israel. May the entire community show proper Kavod Hatorah and may their doing so be a zechus for them during these Aseres Yemai Teshuva.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chodosh Guide

It's that time of year again.

Chodosh Guide 5772 Pt1

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Levels of Znus according to R' Saadia

ibn Ezra Shemos 20:14

Rav Saadia Gaon said that znus has many levels.
The most lenient is with an unamrried woman or widow,
and the level above that is a man with his wife while she is a nida, for after a few days she will be permitted to him.
Above that is with a married woman; if her husband would die she would be permitted to him.
Above that is a non-Jew who is not [a follower of] the Torah...If she would convert, ti would be permitted.
Above that is mishkav zachar which is never permitted.
Above that is extra-species, like man with a beast.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Is Nida Yehareg v'al Yaavor?

In Parshas Emor we read "venikdashti besoch bnei yisrael," the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem. See Yesodei Hatorah Ch 5. If one would be forced to be boel a nida would one be required to forfeit his life, or may he be boel her? Nida is a chiyuv kares but it is different that other chiyuvei kareis, because kiddushin are not tofsin in chiyuvei kares except nida.

Shulchan Aruch E"H 195 and Shach ibid. 9 sayone would be required to forfeit his life. This is also the opinion of the Ritva (in the name of the Ra'ah), Pesachim 25a s.v. Ki Asa Ravin.

However, the following authorities say one is not required to forfeit his life and can be boel the nida:
Shu"t Pnei Yehishua II 44 (based on Rashi in Sanhedrin perek Ben Sorer)
Tosfos Sanhedrin 37 s.v. Hatorah
Gemara Temurah 29b
Sefer HaChinuch 296 (yehareg v'al yaavor is only for arayos if there is no tefisas kiddushin)
Rambam Igeres Kiddush Hashem (he says "bishas hashmad livol nida," implying nida is only a problem bishas hashmad.

Some sources that discuss this:
Encyclopedia Talmudis Vol. 22 columns 72 and 83
Perach Mateh Ahron, Mada p. 26
Od Yisrael Yosef Bni Chai siman 22

Friday, April 22, 2011

Living in the Present: Yahrzeit of Rav Yoshe Ber

Chol Hamoed Pesach is the yahrzeit of the Gaon Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik. zt"l, my rebbie's oldest brother. I remember in 1993 the hesped which we heard at the old Brisk building on Peterson from a phone hookup from Boston (that is on the yutorah website; I think it is a tape from Chicago because I'm pretty sure I know the voice telling someone where to sit during the tehillim before the hesped). I never saw Brisk so packed.

The characteristic of the Rav I have been thinking about recently is his ability to put everything aside and focus on the Gemara in front of him right now. There is a famous story how he asked a question in Shiur, a talmid gave an answer, and the Rav said it was a terrible answer. "But the Rav gave that answer in Shiur yesterday!" said the talmid. I heard 2 versions of what happened next; perhaps they happened on different occasions. One is "That is no excuse for a bad answer." The other way I heard it was that the Rav replied "I'm not interested in what the Rav said yesterday." Rav Yoshe Ber was able to forget (he probably didn't, but pretended he did) his previous explanations and learned the sugya as if he never saw it before. He really fulfilled "Tamid yihyu b'einacha chadashos," and he captured the excitement of Aharon Hakohen who lit the menora every day as if it was his first time doing that mitzvah. (L'havdil, some call this process of having this open mind about an issue beginner's mind.)

The Rav wrote in Halakhic Man that when someone makes a chiddush, he becomes a partner with Hakadosh Baruch hu in maaseh Breishis. There is no living as when you reach this level. L'havdil, last week in the WSJ golfer Greg Norman described what it felt like when he was performing at his peak: "When everything is in sync, you feel like you're gliding through space. Things happen in slow motion. The wind feels different, the light is different, your eyesight is more acute. Each blade of grass seems to pop out. You've pushed yourself to the very maximum of your finely tuned ability to play. That's why you're leading the tournament." You see everything in super-clarity; it is hard to describe. But it is just as true in the world of ideas when learning Torah as it is for sports figure playing his sport.

Yet some might question this because the Rav described that when he gave shiur , the Rambam entered the room, thew Raavad entered the room. Rabbeinu Hakadosh was in the room; Abaye and Rava were in the room. The Rashba and Ramban were in the room, and Rav Chayim was in the room. You may ask, that is closed mindedness, you are thinking about other things? But that is precisely what the focus and open-mindedness is. It was taking the Torah from the baalei hamesorah and understanding it. Instead of, for example, saying shiur in front of a mirror and thinking, this is what shiur is - it's about my brilliance in explaining it, he did the opposite, the only true way to give shiur: as a process of the mesorah. Moshe Kibeil Torah misinai umasrah liYehoshua, v'Yehoshua l'Neviim etc. This is the Torah we received by Moshe Rabbeinu. It went through the Chachmei Hamesorah, through Rabbeinu Hakadosh, up to and including Ravina and Rav Ashi. And then the Rishonim explained the Torah Shebal Peh of the Gemara, and all we are doing is understanding what they said, which is really what the Amora'im said.

In succeeding at that, the Mesorah came alive. Yaakov lo mes. When we learn the mesorah not when trying to shoehorn a great thought we had about it into it, but by trying to find the simple peshat of what the amoraim and rishonim were saying, and making ourselves small in comparison to them, that is the only time we actually are great. When our perspective is proper, we can achieve great heights. Rav Yoshe Ber became a shutaf with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

Rav Yoshe Ber lo mes. As Rav Ahron said at the hesped, do not give up to the keys of the great edifices [of Torah] Rav Yoshe Ber built. If we remember this need to keep an open mind- a simple idea but extremely difficult in practice - we can acheive great heights. To only say over his peshatim is very good, but he didn't only teach us Torah, he taught us how to learn Torah. To really learn Torah is an experience unlike any other; it is fusing together the great Shalsheles Hakabalah. And when we do this, using the keys Rav Yoshe Ber gave us, we are not living in the past; not in Washington Heights in 1975, not in Brisk, not in Vilna; not in Alexandria, Spain, Aragon or Provence; not in Sura and Pumpedisa; not in Yavneh or Usha or Tzipori, not even in the Lishkas Hagazis. We are back at Har Sinai. And Har Sinai wasn't something that happened 3300 years ago. It is still happening. If only we have the focus and concentration to realize it. L'havdil we are like a radio who need the proper antenna to receive those waves. When we fuse ourselves with the chachmei hamesorah, as Rav Yoshe Ber did, we are truly living in the present.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Double Ring Ceremonies

If you Google "Prince William Ring" you will see that Prince William will not wear a wedding ring after his marriage. For example, see this ABC story.

Rav Moshe Feinstein has a teshuva about 2-ring ceremonies in Igros Moshe Even Ha'ezer III 18. (See here for a copy of the teshuva.) Briefly, he says that either it's chukas ha'akum, and if it's not, it's asur because you're changing things and it will lead c"v to forgetting halachos.

I am not aware if Rav Moshe discussed if a man may wear a wedding ring if it was not given at the ceremony. My feeling is that it's not asur. In certain situations it would probably be beneficial for a man to wear a wedding ring, depending the types of people he interacts with. For example, a man in kollel probably has no reason to wear one. If a man is married and spends a lot of time on a college campus - whether as a student or teacher - I think it would be a good idea to wear one (though there is absolutely no obligation to do so).

Once I'm mentioning an Igros Moshe, I saw a teshuva over shabbos that really got my attention: YD III 91: he didn't want someone to translate part of his Teshuvos into English.
This is undated and was written to his grandson R' Shabsi [Rappaport]. I suspect, but have absolutely no specific facts, that this was in regard to a particular book. Why do I say this? Because Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler published a book of Rav Moshe's Teshuvos in English. Also, he wrote a Teshuva (OC IV 74) on common questions in Hilchos Shabbos to Rabbi Shimon Eider, which were probably included in Rabbi Eider's English book on Hilchos Shabbos which have a haskama from Rav Moshe (and he did publish the teshuvos in Hebrew in the back). There are probably many other examples like this. That's why I assume he was writing about a particular book.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In the News...Mamzer

Shades of the Langer case? Details are very sketchy. Link Here. Notice they call it mamzerah and not mamzeres. I guess that's modern Hebrew for you.

בית דין רבני ביטל אשה ממעמד של ממזרה

צעירה מבאר שבע שנולדה כתוצאה מרומן בין גבר נשוי לגיסתו עתרה לבית הדין הרבני כדי שזה יבטל את הקביעה שהיא ממזרה

שמעון איפרגן | 8/3/2011 13:33 הוסף תגובה הדפס כתבה כתוב לעורך שלח לחבר
בית הדין הרבני בבאר שבע החליט להתיר אשה שהוגדרה כממזרה כדי שהיא תוכל להינשא כדת משה וישראל. תחילת הפרשה לפני 22 שנה - תושבת דרום הארץ נישאה לבחיר ליבה ויחד איתם, בדריתם הקטנה גרה אחותה הקטנה של האשה שסייעה להם בעבודות הבית.

בשלב מסוים פרח רומן בין הבעל לבין גיסתו והיא נכנסה להיריון, אלא שהיא סיפרה לכולם כי האב של א', הילדה שנולדה לה, הוא פועל ערבי שאותו היא הכירה באקראי. כאשר א' גדלה ורצתה להינשא היא הגיעה למועצה הדתית על מנת להירשם לנישואין. לתדהמתה התברר לה שהיא מוגדרת
כממזרה שלא יכולה לבוא בקהל ישראל. הצעירה פנתה באמצעות הטוען הרבני הרב יוסף חיים-כהן לבית הדין הרבני בבאר שבע בתביעה לקבל היתר נשואין.

הרב כהן הציג בפני הדיינים פסקי הלכה רבים ומורכבים במיוחד אשר במיקרים מסויימים מתירים לבחורה כמו מרשתו להנשא ולבטל את ממזרותה. הדיינים התלבטו ולבסוף ברוב של שניים נגד אחד החליטו לקבוע שא' איננה ממזרה ולאפשר לה להינשא כהלכה לבחיר ליבה.

Friday, February 25, 2011

History and Politics: Geirus for Service to Your Country

See below for an interesting article about a sad and unique situation. What could Rav Goren's reasoning have been? On a halachik basis, I can't think of any. And in reading the story, the details are sketchy. Were the wives converted and the children not? That seems hard to accept. Meilah, to convert the kids and not the wives I could understand - the children will be living among Jews, but the wives, who were living a lie spun to them by their husbands, it would be hard to believe they would have proper attitude towards converting, so I can understand, if not condone, not converting them. But to say the children do not need conversion and consider them Jewish - I hope the details are incomplete.

Is there a political motive for this story getting out? i.e., because these children were born out of their father's service to Israel they shouldn't need conversions? Is it related to the current issue of IDF conversions - if these people serve in IDF they should have conversions even if they don't meet the regular Rabbanut standards for conversion?,7340,L-4031176,00.html

60 years later, spies' lives revealed

In 1952, Shin Bet agents were sent undercover to spy inside Palestinian villages. Keeping their real identities secret, they married Arab women, with whom they had children. Decade later, truth came to light. 'They tried to forget, but never could,' mission leader says
Akiva Novick

"Your husband is not who you think he is. He is not Arab. Your husband is a Jew who was sent into your village on a mission by the defense establishment."

This was the news a few Israeli Arab women received from the head of the Mossad

mission in France in 1964. This was how they discovered that the fathers of their children were serving in a top secret Israeli unit sent to spy in their villages.

Ten Jewish men assimilated into Arab communities in the early 1950s, marrying local women and starting families with them, all the while serving in the Shin Bet as "mistaarvim," (literally, masqueraders) - undercover agents posing as Palestinians.

The goal of the unit, which was established in 1952, was to have men on the inside in case a war breaks out, and the Israeli Arabs join the enemy. Shumel Moriah, a senior Shin Bet officer who came to Israel from Iraq, and had plenty of experience smuggling Jews into Israel, led the unit. He recruited 10 other Iraqi-born men for the complex mission.

The unit was disbanded over a decade after its establishment, which was when the wives were informed of the deception. Most of them converted and lived in Israel as Jews. Their children were recognized as Jews without undergoing an official conversion procedure.

Double life, cover story

The training process took one year; the men learned the Palestinian dialect, studied the Koran and espionage techniques in an Intelligence Corps base near Ramla. With a new identity and a detailed cover story, they were sent into Palestinian villages and cities. They pretended to be refugees from the 1948 war returning home. Their real families in Israel were kept in the dark about their whereabouts and activities; they were forbidden from trying to discover where their loved ones served.

After integrating into Arab life, village elders expected them to find a match, as per tradition. Senior Shin Bet personnel thought that the men should get married for the operation to succeed, but agreed to leave the decision up to the agents. Most of them did marry young Arab women.

"Our guys just didn't have a choice," Moriah says. "It seemed suspicious that young vigorous men would stay alone, without a spouse. When we sent them on the mission we didn't order them to marry, but it was clear to both sides that there is such an expectation, and that it would do the job better."

Shimon, the brother of one of the agents, Meir Cohen (their real names remain confidential), says that for many years, a Shin Bet representative would arrive on his parents' doorstep to personally give them Meir's paycheck, without giving them any information.

"When suddenly everything was revealed, Meir came to me and told me everything," Shimon remembers. "He told me about his cover story and about the double life. We were shocked."

Meir was sent to Jaffa, where he worked as a teacher and where he met Leila, a beautiful young Christian Arab with amazing black eyes, Shimon recalls. Meir presented himself as a Muslim. Leila was studying to be a nun when they met; they fell in love and got married. A short while later their son was born.

Leila's choice

As time passed, the pressure on the Shin Bet to return the double agents home intensified. It was becoming clear that the intelligence benefits achieved by the mission were marginal. When the Shin Bet decided to dismantle the unit, Moriah was faced with a dilemma: To leave the women and children in the Arab villages, or ask them to convert to Judaism, and raise their children as Jews? The agents themselves refused to leave their families, which is why it was decided resettle the families into Jewish areas.

The wives were brought to France, where they were finally told the truth.

"Leila realized that she was cheated, and had to undergo psychiatric treatment for a few months," Shimon says. "Only after she recovered Meir presented her with the most difficult choice that exists: To accept him as he is – a Jew and a Shin Bet agent – and raise their son as a Jew, or to leave Israel for any Arab country that she chose."

'They tried to forget, but couldn't'

Three rabbis were then brought to the Israeli embassy in Paris, including Chief IDF Rabbi Shlomo Goren, to convert the women to Judaism. Considering the special circumstances, the rabbis ruled that the children can be accepted as Jews even though their mothers were not. Their story was first told in Israel Defense, a magazine edited by Amir Rappaport.

Most of the families chose to return to Israel, and began a slow recuperation process.

"Once they returned, problems started surfacing" Moriah recalls painfully. "We tried to rehabilitate the people, but we weren't really successful. The agents' kids experienced serious trauma in their childhood. They tried to recover, to forget their past, where they come from, but they couldn't.

"A few of the kids succeeded in life, but most of them were left behind. They still suffer from problems."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Surrogate Mother in the news

According to Rav Moshe Feinstein's psak about surrogate pregnancy (discussed here), this case would be pretty problematic: a son-in-law father and mother-in-law mother.,0,2864196.story

Woman, 61, gives birth to own grandchild

Her daughter had tried for years to have a baby

By Deborah L. Shelton, Tribune reporter

11:22 PM CST, February 11, 2011

Almost 39 weeks ago, Kristine Casey set out on an unusual journey to help her daughter and answer a spiritual calling.

Her goal was achieved late Wednesday when she gave birth to her own grandson at age 61.

Casey, possibly the oldest woman to give birth in Illinois, served as a surrogate for her daughter, Sara Connell, who had been trying for years to have a baby. Connell and her husband, Bill, are the biological parents of the child Casey carried, which grew from an embryo created from the Chicago couple's egg and sperm.

Crying and praying, Connell and her mother held hands as Finnean Lee Connell was delivered by cesarean section at 9:47 p.m.

When the baby let out a cry, "I lost it," said Sara Connell, the first family member to hold him. "It's such a miracle."

The doctor who delivered Finnean said there wasn't a dry eye in the crowded operating room.

"The surgery itself was uncomplicated, and the emotional context of this delivery was so profound," said Dr. Susan Gerber, obstetrician and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Childbirth remains a rare event for post-menopausal women, but the number of such births has risen in recent years due to wider use of in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technologies. According to state health department records, the oldest woman to give birth in Illinois was 58 when she had her baby in 2006. But data on births after 2008 are not yet available.

Older women face greater risks during pregnancy and delivery, and experts say many women would not be good candidates.

"It's going to be more risky for somebody who's got underlying conditions," said Dr. Alan Peaceman, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, one of Casey's doctors. "Because of that, we recommend that patients have a cardiac evaluation."

The Connells decided in 2004 to try to have a baby, but Sara, now 35, soon discovered she wasn't ovulating. After undergoing infertility treatment at the Reproductive Medicine Institute in Evanston, she got pregnant but delivered stillborn twins, and later she suffered a miscarriage.

Casey's previous three pregnancies — her last was 30 years ago — went smoothly, resulting in three daughters. After Casey retired in 2007, she filled her time walking, meditating, taking classes and socializing with friends. But she felt she had a deeper calling.

"At the beginning of 2009," she said, "I decided for once in my life to take some time to think about my life and find something that seemed right for me — where there was no pressure to do a specific thing."

During a visit to Chicago — she lives in Virginia — Casey participated in a workshop led by Connell, a life coach, writer and lecturer on women's empowerment. In one class exercise, she used pictures cut from a magazine to create a collage depicting a life's goal. One picture grabbed her attention: an ostrich with an expression of wonder and joy.

Casey wanted to experience the exuberance captured in the picture.

Around the same time, a walking partner mentioned a story she had read about a post-menopausal woman who gave birth.

"I thought, 'Wow, three of the happiest days of my life were giving birth to my daughters,' and I thought I could choose to do this for someone I love," Casey said.

Casey later wrote a letter to the Connells offering to be Sara's surrogate.

"I found something that would make me feel like that ostrich," she wrote. "What do you think of this?"

She suggested that they forget about it if they found the idea repulsive.

"I won't do this just to make me happy because, believe me, I could find other things to do," she remembers writing, laughing at the recollection. At the time, she was 10 years past menopause.

Several months later, the family discussed the idea with experts at the Reproductive Medicine Institute, where they had sought help six years earlier. The couple said they had considered adoption but preferred to have a biological child.

"The idea of having a family member being open to doing this for us was so extraordinary for us," Sara Connell said.

Bill Connell said he appreciated his mother-in-law's offer, though he didn't think it was doable at first. Any further reservations evaporated when he saw she was serious, he added.

"I just wanted to make sure the science was there," he said. "I didn't want us to subject ourselves to another very risky, possibly devastating, scenario. Infertility is one thing, but putting your mother-in-law in danger kicks it up to another level altogether."

At first, Casey's husband also wondered if it was even possible for his wife to have a baby in her 60s. Then he worried that a pregnancy could jeopardize her health or even her life. But he set aside most of his concerns after she cleared medical tests and doctors gave a thumbs-up.

"What made the difference for me was when Kris said it was a calling from deep within herself," Bill Casey said. "You can't get any more compelling than that."

Casey underwent multiple tests to evaluate her medical and psychological health, as required by Illinois law on surrogate births. The family also drew up a mandatory legal agreement.

The risks of genetic abnormalities were low because Connell's egg would be the one fertilized. But if any such issues were detected later, Casey said she and the Connells agreed that she would carry the baby to term regardless.

Then she took hormones to prepare her uterus for pregnancy. She got pregnant on the second cycle of in vitro fertilization with an embryo transfer.

"If you give the uterus hormones, it will act like a young uterus," said Dr. Carolyn Coulam, a reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medicine Institute. Coulam's oldest patient was in her late 60s at the time she had a baby. She lived in another state.

"It usually is a function of the age of the egg, not the uterus, whether or not the pregnancy will be successful," Coulam said.

Still, some fertility programs have age limits for gestational surrogates. At the University of Chicago Medical Center the upper limit is 55, said Dr. David Cohen, chief of reproductive medicine.

"The issue comes up because as a woman gets older, the risks she takes in pregnancy clearly go up — everything from high blood pressure and diabetes to premature delivery and infant death," Cohen said. "So one has to be clear about what those risks are."

The medical center evaluates cases involving older surrogates in an ethics consultation.

"It's not written in stone," Cohen said. "One is left with deciding each case individually, and those decisions are made after a very serious discussion with everybody involved. I personally would not throw stones at somebody who decided to go ahead in this situation as long as she clearly understood her risks."

Peaceman described Casey's health as excellent throughout her pregnancy, but he emphasized: "It takes a significant commitment to be a surrogate in any circumstance. To take on this type of physical burden at this age is not anything anybody should take lightly."

After her C-section, Casey had a complication with her kidneys.

"After delivery, her urine output was lower than we expected and there was no discernible cause," Gerber said. "We wanted to be extra careful, given her age, so we gave her close attention. With relatively little intervention, it turned around."

Josephine Johnston, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute, had no ethical objections to the idea of a 61-year-old having a baby, as long as she had undergone a thorough medical and psychological evaluation.

"It seems like an unquestionably loving and generous thing for a family member to do," she said.

"It's a great story to tell the child," Johnston added. "It's one of those situations where outsiders might wonder if it's OK or healthy. But the experience of that child and his family will be that it's good. … If they treat it as good, it will be experienced that way."

Casey, who has a quick wit and laid-back manner, plans to return to her Virginia home with her husband in about two weeks, where she is ready to adopt a more conventional grandmother role. Finnean is her first grandchild.

"From the very beginning, the moment I've wanted is the moment the baby is in their arms," she said at her daughter and son-in-law's home weeks before the birth. "I've been clear since after my third child that I didn't need to have any more children, and as much as I will be delighted to be a grandmother, I don't want to take a baby home."

Sara Connell said she was grateful for her mother's loving, generous spirit and what she called "her special gift."

"It grew beyond the two of us having a child," Connell said. "It was about the closeness with my mother, and our family having this experience that was unique and special."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Rav Yoshe Ber's Words

13.11 Surrender to Halakhah

Related by the Rav in his address on Gerut (Conversion) to the Yeshiva University Rabbinic Alumni, Yeshiva University, June 19, 1975

The Torah summons the Jew to live heroically. We cannot allow a married woman, no matter how tragic the case is, to remarry without a get [divorce document]. We cannot allow a kohen to marry a giyoret [convert]. Sometimes these cases are very tragic. I know this from my own experience.

I had a case in Rochester of a gentile girl who became a giyoret hatzedek [righteous convert] before she met the boy. She did not join our nation because she wanted to marry somebody. Then she met a Jewish boy from an alienated background and had no knowledge of Yahadut [Judaism]. She brought him close to Yahadut and they became engaged. Since he was now close to Yahadut, the boy wanted to find out about his family, so he visited the cemetery where his grandfather was buried. He saw a strange symbol on the tombstone - ten fingers with thumbs and forefingers nearly forming a triangle. So he began to ask - he thought it was a mystical symbol - and he discovered that he was a kohen.

What can we do? This is the halakhah. A kohen may not marry a convert [Shulhan Arukh, Even ha-Ezer 6:8]. We surrender to the will of the Almighty. On the other hand, to say that the halakhah is not sensitive to to problems and is not responsive to the needs of people is an outright falsehood. The halakhah is responsive to the needs of both the community and the individual. However, the halakhah has its own orbit, moves at a certain definite speed, has its own pattern of responding to a challenge, and possesses its own criteria and principles.

I come from a rabbinical house - the bet ha-Rav. This is the house into which I was born. Believe me, Reb Chaim used to try his best to be meikil [lenient in his halakhis rulings]. But there were limits even to Reb Chaim's kulot [lenient rulings]. When you reach the boundary line, all you can say is: "I surrender to the will of the Almighty."

With sadness in my heart, I shared in the suffering of the poor woman or the poor girl. She was instrumental in bringing him back to the fold and then she had to lose him. She lost him. She walked away.

--The Rav: The Wolrd of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Volume 2, by Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rummy & Shiur: Some Reminisces

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in the news last week with the release of his memoir "Known and Unknown." The title stems from a comment he made in February of 2002: "because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."

This statement is very clear and straightforward. I would like to use his statement to describe a difference between the philosophy of the shiurim of Rav Ahron Soloveichik and his brother Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik.

For a year I was in the shiur of a very well-known talmid of the Rav, and I still distinctly remember him at times, summarizing a sugya, saying "What we still don't know is how Tosfos learns this Tosefta," and things like that. When he was leaving a sugya, he mentioned the known unknowns, the items we were not able to figure out while studying the sugya. (Some might call it the glass half-empty approach, but I don't agree with that.) However, after completing a sugya with Rav Ahron, I always had a feeling "now I understand this Rishon, that shita...," a focus on the known knowns. I was happy knowing what I learned - or should I say what I knew.

And yes, I think I can even give an example of unknown unknowns from their grandfather Rav Chaim Brisker (though in at least one place I heard it attributed to their uncle Rav Velvel). Rav Chaim is quoted as saying "you cannot say a chiddush until you have gone through Shas." I think there is a lot in that statement, but one point definitely is that there is a lot in Shas, and until you know it, you cannot speculate with new ideas. Because you'll find that some are really old ideas. Some might be good and some might be bad; some are true and some are false. Until you reduce your unknown unknowns, you shouldn't be speculating.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rav Ahron Soloveichik on Brain Death

See Jewish Bioethics by Bleich & Rosner for a brief article. The following is his response to Rabbi Dr. Tendler's article in JAMA.

Jewish Law and Time of Death - JAMA, July 14, 1978--Vol 240, No.2

To the Editor.
The article dealing with brain death (238:1651, 1977) contains a serious misinterpretation of Jewish law pertaining to establishment of the time of death. The statement that "absent heartbeat or pulse was not considered a significant factor in ascertaining death in any early religious sources" is a manifest error In fact, the source to which the reader is directed by the footnote, Babylonian Talmud Tractate Yoma 85A, serves to establish precisely the opposite position. Jewish law recognizes the presence of any vital function, including heart action, as indicative of at least residual life. Termination of such life by means of "pulling the plug" or otherwise constitutes an act of homicide.

Moreover, a sharp distinction must be drawn between partial and total destruction of the brain. The authors state that the Harvard criteria signify that "when the criteria have been fulfilled, there is widespread destruction of the brain" and that "time must often elapse before
morphologic evidence of cellular destruction can be. detected." This cannot be equated at all with the state of decapitation.

Jewish law cannot be cited in support of brain death legislation presently before the legislatures of various states. Jewish law cannot condone the removal of life support systems from any patient in whom any vital sign is present.

RABBI AARON SOLOVEICHIK. Brisk Rabbinical College
Skokie, Ill.

The RCA's recent paper is here (in pdf form)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Korban of the Ger

I feel this post does not violate my declaration that I will not discuss geirus issues on this blog because Kerisos 9 says because of "ledoroseichem" we have geirus even when there is no Beis Hamikdash. And see Tosfos, Gittin 88b s.v. bemilsa. Bimhera yibaneh beis Hamikdash (Sukkah 41).

In Parshas Bo (12:48) vechi yagur itcha ger b'artzichem v'asah pesach laHashem, himol lo kol zachar.... Rashi brings a Mechilta: maybe anyone who becomes a ger should bring a korban pesach right away, talmud lomar v'haya k'ezrach ha'aretz....

What is the hava amina that a ger should bring a Korban Pesach right away?

Now, gerus requires milah, tevila and korban. See Rambam, Hilchos Isurei Biah 13:1-4. The Rambam says the source of korban for all of Klal Yisrael is at the end of Mishpatim (24:5). However, we can suggest that perhaps the Korban Pesach itself serves as a korban of geirus. Therefore every ger should bring one. The drasha teaches that they bring a different korban, not a korban pesach.

The Meshech Chachma (Bamidbar 9:7) does suggest this, that a Korban Pesach serves as a korban pesach in place of the regular korban of a ger.

And see Harirei Kedem II 57 about this.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Organ Transplant Controversy

Should organ donors be praised as heroes? Mickey Mantle said so. Luckily, I didn't grow up in New York in the '50s, so I can disregard Mick. Their donations can save over a dozen people and I am not questioning that. I do, however, want to make a few points.

Cadaver donors - I am not talking about live kidney donors or partial-liver donors - do not make a decision at the time of death to give anything. They made a choice earlier - or their family did - and sometimes the situation does come when, while they are are at least unconscious and at most dead according to some authorities, their organs are harvested. There is no "cost" to them to donate.

People who donate blood regularly help many people - as many as three people with one donation. Their donation is voluntary. They have to take time out to donate. They are inconvenienced - albeit minimally - but they consistently and voluntarily give up time and "a pound of flesh" (reviis dam is metamei lemais like basar, see Sanhedrin 4).

And to register on the international bone marrow registry can save lives even if you are never asked to donate stem cells or bone marrow (see this post). Kind of sounds like the spiel they always give you when you show up for jury duty.


My Rebbi zt"l discussed some of the classic questions about Akeidas Yitzchak. Why was it considered a test of Avraham and not of Yitzchak? If Hashem hates human sacrifice, what was His goal in asking Avraham to offer his som? Why doesn't the Torah say that Yitzchak returned with Avraham after the Akeida?

Please read his entire discussion in The Warmth and the Light. Briefly, he discussed dying for a cause and living for a cause. Some people are willing to die for a cause, but they are not willing to do little things every day for the same cause. Avraham did not let Yitzchak go to Yeshivas Shem v'Eiver until after the Akeida because he loved Yitzchak so much, he didn't want to be separated from him before the Akeida. Explaining the Ramban, my rebbi said that once Avraham saw he was willing to sacrifice Yitzchak because G-d said so, he realized he could make the smaller, everyday sacrifices regarding Yitzchak.

UPDATE: See here - The Hoffer wrote about this same piece this week. He brings more depth than I did.


Some people can set a big goal, to run a marathon. They take big chunks of time over half a year to train. Is it actually healthier for them to do this or to exercise on a regular basis, with probably shorter training sessions, but keep it up for the long term?

So which is greater - the organ donor or the regular blood donor?

I don't know.