Sunday, September 27, 2009

erev yom kippur

This has been a crazy busy week between rosh hashan and yom kippur, I did two selichos tours, one in Tsfat with the boys(actually 2, one with each class) and then to Jerusalem the next evening with the girls. We also built our sukkah, which we got from our friends who bought a new paper sukkah.

Hopefully I will get to writing those experiences, but now I will talk about today. Today started at 4:30AM. That's not as early as it sounds because we changed our clocks last night, so it only felt like 5:30AM. I've been getting up at 5:30 anyways for the past 2 weeks for selichos. Last night I had decided that I was going to go down to the nachal (stream) for an early dip in the mikvah (ritual bath). My plan was to daven (pray) at 6 and then go down afterwards, but I told my wife that if I happen to wake up at 4 then I would go then.
When I opened I eyes and saw that it was 4:30 I decided that it was a good time, and I was parked dopwn by the nachal by 4:45. It was very dark, but there was enough moon and starlight to see the path. The hue on top of the mountains was a deep purple and everything looked dark and menacing. I was thinking on the way down that I should have brought a knife with me in case any animals threatened me. After a couple seconds I realized that the only animal that might threaten me are wild pigs, and a knife won't help against them. Afterward, I realized that the jackals might also attack if they are in a bunch, but I didn't think about it then and I didn't have a knife anyways so it didn't matter.

I walked along the dark path for about half an hour until I got to the springs and the big pool. The only sounds I heard were my own sandals and animals crashing through the brush when i disturbed them. The only animals I actually saw were a jackal, an interesting looking animal that was bigger then a squirrel, maybe a weasel, ferret or really large rat, and some fish. There are some Persian fallow deer in the area, but I haven't see any.

I got to the springs at 5:10AM and it was getting much lighter. The water was perfectly clear and I saw some fish swimming about. I was in a bit of a rush because I had to get back to davening at 6, so I quickly jumped in and dunked 7 times and got out. It was so peaceful, with nobody else around. When I started walking back, I noticed that that the leaves on the trees had changed from dark black to light green and I could see the holy raspberries on the bushes.

About half way back I noticed a tent set up in a clearing with a small family cooking breakfast. It's surprising that I didn't see the tent on the way in, but it was dark.

I made it to shul before 6 and got home by 7.

After breakfast, I took the boys to buy our lulavim and esrogim, here you pay the same price as back home, the only difference being the currency.

I wish you all a g'mar chasima tova, an easy fast and a happy, healthy sweet new year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

sefer torah fundraiser problem

See bottom for update

Disclaimer: I have not consulted with any rabbinic people about my issue, so don't take this the wrong way.

I recently received a fund-raising request from my yeshiva high school alumni association. They are writing a sefer torah and dedicating it to the rabbeim. It is being marketed as a way to give back to the school and show appreciation for the hard work and dedication that they had put into your education and life. As it is a dormitory school, the rabbis are a very big part of your life and teenage-hood.

After I got the first mail from the alumni association, I got another email from a former classmate asking me to participate in buying a parsha with our class.

I really liked my high school and I liked the rabbis, not all of them obviously, but I got along well enough with most of them, which is not something most of my contemporaries from other high schools can say. I am still in contact with the high school and see one of the rabbis once a year, generally. I have donated in the past and I will continue to donate in the future, may God continue sending me parnasa.

I have a small problem with this particular fund-raiser though. I haven't ruled out participating in my class parsha, and I most probably will participate.

Here's my problem -
They are selling:
Entire Torah: Already Sold
Individual parshas: a bunch of them already sold
Special parshas within the individual parshas: A bunch already sold

If someone already bought the entire Torah, then he gets credit for writing a sefer Torah. The guy who donates a parsha is really not donating a parsha, because the guy who bought the entire torah already got that parsha. The guy who buys a special parsha or a pasuk is not really donating them either.

In other words, if someone buys a pasuk in a special parsha, that pasuk has already been sold to 3 other people, The Torah donor, the parsha donor, the special parsha donor and finally to the pasuk donor. I would think (and I could be wrong) that all of the donors aside from the original Torah donor are going to get credit for giving tzedaka, but not for writing a Torah.

I would like to hear from my readers what they think of this situation. As I mentioned above, I have not consulted with any rabbis about my issue with this yet and it is very possible that I am wrong and that everyone involved does get Torah writing points and not just regular tzedaka points (which are nothing to sneeze at).

I got a response from the yeshiva and I'm happy to tell you that my issue was unfounded. The head of the alumni association sent are sponsa to the exact same question from R' Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. The question asked went much farther then the question I asked and included the question, do you need to make a kinyan on the letter in the sefer somehow. The question indicated that most of the time when you purchase a letter in a sefer torah you do not make a kinyan on it. However, I have seen where the person sponsoring a letter has given the pen to the sofer and made him a shaliach in the writing. They also asked if someone who is not allowed to write a torah donates, does that pasul the entire torah.

If anyone wants to read the responsa themselves, please let me know and I'll forward it over (in Hebrew).
The answer is that when someone buys a parsha, they are not in actuality buying a parsha. The parsha is dedicated to them. However the way that it technically works is that you take all the money collected for the sefer torah project and combine it into one pot. If one person spends $1000 and another person spends $200 then the person with the $200 donation gets 1/5 of the amount of Torah writing credit then the $1000 donor. So if you want to know how much sefer torah writing credit you actually get, you add up the sum total of donations and divide the amount of your donation by it and that percentage is what you take with you as torah writing credit and the rest of the donation goes with you as tzedaka and harbatzas torah credit.

A groiseh yasher koach to the hanhala of the yeshiva, I recommend all of my readers donate to a sefer torah project.

Friday, September 18, 2009

shana tova

I want to wish all my readers a שנה טובה ומתוקה, a sweet and good new year. May this year be a year of health, wealth and happiness for all of us.

I have been very busy this entire year, with very little time to blog, as I'm sure you've noticed. God willing this coming year will be just as busy, if not more so.

Monday, September 14, 2009


It looks like I missed the JBloggers conference in jlem this year. I've
been pretty lax in my blogging recently and I hardly read anybody so I
didn't feel the pull to connect with my fellow bloggers. Maybe next year.

Normally I leave my house at 6 AM to beat traffic into Haifa, so I daven
when I get there. The shul on the Technion campus is mostly a sefardic
institution and they have been saying selichos for the entire month of
elul. Now that it is a week before rosh hashana, ashkenazim have started
saying selichos as well. After some inner debate I decided that it was
worthwhile leaving at 5:30 AM to get to selichos on time and I will hope
I don't get punished too horribly for saying sefardic selichos instead
of the regular ones.

I got to the shul 2 minutes late and someone was at the door saying
ashkenazim that way. They had a seperate minyan for ashkenazic selichos.
I had been worried about the singing and chanting, but this way there
were no worries. It was the familiar hum of reading the words as fast
you can possibly get them out, reading out loud together the key phrase
over and over with a single pizman other then the daily שמע קולנו. I
don't know if God forgave us because of the stuff we read, I'm not even
sure that anyone who was there knew what he was reading. But he
certainly forgave us because we showed we cared by getting up extra
early to ask.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

school politics

I'm on the school parent board again this year (like a PTA). I
considered leaving the board and making room for someone new. In fact, I
tried. I volunteered to be one of the class parents, we have 4 this
year. One of the class parents is supposed to be elected to represent
the class on the school board. I actually insisted on a correct process
this year where 3 people are voted as class parents and only one
represents the class on the school board. Last year, I was the only
volunteer and we had to convince 2 others to raise their hands. This
year 3 other people instantly put up their hands. Nobody had a problem
with 4 class parents. At the end of the meeting I asked the other 3 if
anyone wanted to represent the class and one woman said that her husband
really wanted to. I thought this would be a great way out of it. It is
so hard getting anything across and the culture is so different here
that I thought, "I tried for a couple years, and they'll be relieved
when I tell them that I'm not returning."

So I went down to the final meeting where we were talking about whether
to strike the system because a teacher wasn't given all the hours we
wanted and told them that 6th grade will be represented by another
parent. I was informed by the principal and a few other parents that
that is ridiculous and 6th grade can be represented by more then 1
parent. I explained to them that we had already agreed to 1 parent per
class and they rejected that with the explanation that at the beginning
of the year a bunch of parents join and then leave, so most probably the
other guy wouldn't stick it out.

At the meeting, most of the other parents actually agreed with me
(surprise) that we could not threaten to strike the system when the
school has more hours then it is supposed to and we only want 5 more,
which we can pick up from other classes here and there.

Last week I met with the principal and we worked out some of our
misunderstandings, so all is good.