Monday, September 15, 2014

Every day Hashem cries for people who can't learn Torah and try anyway

The Gemara in Chagiga (5B) states that Hashem cries for 3 people every day.
1. A person who could learn Torah but doesn't
2. A person who can't learn Torah but tries anyway
3. A leader who is haughty with the people

We can understand why Hashem cries over the first person, he should be learning Torah and isn't, but why does Hashem cry over the second person? At least he is trying to learn.

R' Schacter explained the Gemara as follows. Every person is unique with his own set of talents and abilities. Our mission in life is to figure out how to best use those talents in the service of Hashem. Some people have talents that can be used in learning while others have talents (art, music, business, people skills, etc.) that can be used to serve Hashem in other ways.

Based on this it is clear that Hashem is crying for the first 2 people for the same reason. They are not using their talents to serve Hashem. Just like the person with the talent to learn should be serving Hashem by learning, and therefore Hashem cries because he isn't learning. The person who doesn't have the talent to learn, should be serving Hashem NOT by learning but by using his talents to serve Hashem in other ways. Therefore when he does try to learn Hashem cries because he is not using the talents Hashem gave him.

This Gemara is telling us a very important principle in life that a person needs to understand what his talents are and based on that figure out what his particular mission in life is and we can't force everyone into the same mission.

IMHO this is the biggest problem in the religious world today on both sides of the spectrum. The real modern world (e.g. schools like Ramaz, Frisch, Yeshiva of Flatbush) causes Hashem to cry for person 1. People with the talent to go into learning are encouraged to do other things instead. How many modern parents encourage their children to sit and learn Torah? The Charedi world on the other hand causes Hashem to cry for person 2. In the Charedi world every boy is supposed to sit and learn no matter what his talents are and if your talents lie in other areas you are in big trouble in the Charedi world.

What we need is to allow people to serve Hashem based on their talents rather then simply pigeon-holing everyone into 1 thing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What are the challenges of a Kosher Parnassa?

The Mishpacha Magazine in English had an article this past week that people who earn a living need to make sure that they put fear of heaven before parnassa. While the overall message is a good one, I believe that the examples used were very poor and showed a complete lack of understanding of the real challenges a frum person has when working.

The 2 examples given of challenges were davening mincha with a minyan and not shaking women's hands. IMHO the author completely missed the point with these examples.

There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest challenge when working is the issue of stealing. I don't necessarily mean directly stealing money (although unfortunately that happens a lot as well, see for example Ocean County attorney admits role in Facebook scheme), what I do mean is stealing indirectly. For example, not working the amount of hours that you are being paid for, taking long lunch or Mincha breaks, wasting time at work, misusing company resources, etc. Chazal were very concerned abut this issue, so much so that they said (Berachos 14a, Shulchan Aruch Siman 90) that workers who worked high up in trees should daven mincha up in the tree so as not to waste their employers time by climbing down and then climbing back up.

If I had to suggest something related to arayos, it would not be shaking women's hands. I follow the psak of my Rabbeim that if a woman extends her hand you shake it as quickly as possible. I have found that in these situations, I am so nervous about this (thinking whether she will extend her hand or not) that this totally occupies my mind and I have no pleasure at all from the handshake, in fact it is almost painful. If there was an issur related to arayos that I would bring up it would be the issur of yichud. So many of the sexual abuse scandals that have come up in recent years would have been prevented if people simply kept hilchos yichud.

As with many things, it seems that the Charedi mindset is a chumra is always better especially if it is Bein Adam Lamokam. However, the fact is that many chumras are kulas in a different area. The 2 mentioned in the article are good examples.

While davening mincha with a minyan is an important thing, it is at best a chiyuv midrabbanan while stealing from your employer however, is an issur d'oraysa. If it takes you 10 minutes to walk to Mincha 25 minutes to daven (because after all you need to daven slowly with kavana etc.) and 10 minutes to walk back (45 minutes) you are probably stealing from your employer, as he may be willing to give you 10-15 minutes for mincha but not 45. We see this message clearly from Chazal as they permitted workers to daven mincha up in the tree so as not to cheat the employer and allowed workers to skip parts of bentching for the same reason. You see clearly from the Gemara in Berachos (14a) that Chazal were much more concerned about not cheating your employer which is a sin of bein adam lchaveiro and therefore has no kapara until you pay the person back then mitzvos bein adam lamakom like davening and bentching where they instituted leniencies for workers.

Regarding not shaking hands with a women, again the issue is not as clear cut as the author makes it out to be. While the Chazon Ish is machmir other poskim are lenient and they are lenient in part because of the concern for embarrassing the woman. If a woman sticks out her hand and you refuse to shake it, it can be very embarrassing especially in a public setting. Embarrassing someone is a very serious aveira, Chazal equate it to killing someone. In Parshas Vayeishev, Tamar is willing to be killed in order not to embarrass Yehuda and Rashi quotes Chazal who praise her for this. So in fact, you can say that someone who shakes a woman's hand is machmir in bein adam l'chaveiro.

Finally, I would like to take issue with the first story that the author wrote. He wrote that he was in a shul in Yersushalayim for Rosh Chodesh bentching davening next to a kollel avreich and while the avreich had kavana when he said חיים של פרנסה he had much more kavana when he said חיים שיש בהם יראת שמים. The point being that יראת שמים is much more important then פרנסה.

IMHO, you see from Chazal that they thought פרנסה was very important and in fact a prerequisite for יראת שמים.  The Gemara in Kiddushin (29b) states explicitly that a father who does not teach a son a trade is teaching him to become a thief. Unfortunately, today we see this too often where people have no way of making a living end up resorting to less then honest means to make money.

There is an obvious question that we can ask about davening for חיים שיש בהם יראת שמים. The Gemara states that הכל ביד שמים חוץ מיראת שמים, that יראת שמים is the one thing that is for sure in our hands and not in Hashem's hands. If so, how can we daven for יראת שמים?

The Maharsha asks this question on the Gemara in Berachos (10a). The Gemara tells a story about a group of thugs who were bothering R' Meir. R' Meir was going to daven that they should die, however his wife, Beruria, told him that instead he should daven that they do teshuva which he did, and they did teshuva. The Maharsha asks our question from above, how could R' Meir daven that the thugs should do teshuva, isn't that under the rubric of יראת שמים?

The Maharsha asks this question on a Gemara at the end of Moed Katan(28a) (that was just learned in Daf Yomi) as well. The Gemara states that Rava davened that he should become an ענו like Rabba Bar Rav Huna (his prayer was not answered). The Maharsha points out that ענוה should fall under the rubric of יראת שמים and therefore how could Rava daven for it?

R' Moshe Feinstein in Iggros Moshe (as well as others) answers that you cannot daven directly for יראת שמים, that is only in your hands. However, you can daven that Hashem should remove any obstacles that you have that may prevent you from achieving יראת שמים. Interestingly enough the example R' Moshe gives is parnassa, he says that the thugs were thugs because they had no parnassa, once R' Meir davened for them and they received parnassa they did teshuva. We see that Parnassa is a key blocker in achieving יראת שמים.

In fact, based on the above, it makes more sense to daven for parnassa then יראת שמים because יראת שמים can only come from you, while parnassa comes from hashem and is a prerequisite to יראת שמים and therefore it makes sense to daven for it.